Dr M: Growth and high-income targets should also fill people’s pockets

The Malaysian PM said that the yardstick for economic success was purchasing power of the people and not just GDP which does not have much meaning to the common man

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, says the people’s pockets – that is purchasing power – are the yardsticks to measure economic success, not growth figures as that does not impact the standard of living.

He says economic policies based on gross domestic product growth and on achieving high income alone does not trickle into the marginal population’s economic circle, for whom GDP growth does not have much meaning.

That was Dr Mahathir’s way of teasing and lambasting the Najib Razak regime which banked heavily on growth figures and successful economic stories while a majority of Malaysians were complaining of the erosion of their purchasing power.

“In this post-modern era, the measure of development and prosperity has become more complex. Therefore, we should not measure shared prosperity solely based on the GDP which does not have much meaning for the common people.

He said that prosperity should be measured by what the people own as a whole in terms of salary, household income, ownership of financial and physical assets, savings, participation in the supply chain, the value of the divide between urban and rural communities and other components.

The Prime Minister spoke at a special address delivered on Pakatan Harapan’s first anniversary in power.

He says his government will address the wealth gap between the classes, races, regions and supply chain and will introduce an economic model that was more structured, progressive, high-value and knowledge-based.

Malaysia will also become a key economic centre in Asia and to achieve this he outlined seven key core approaches which among others included reforming the country’s labour market.

“The process to improve the capability and skills of Malaysian workers requires radical changes to ensure that we can produce a more productive workforce that can earn a high income.

“Programmes provided by the government to upgrade capabilities and skills will be ‘holistically’ reviewed to produce a workforce that is competitive, productive and relevant to the industries and global demands of today and the future,” he says.

“High income does not mean luxury. The reality is even though GDP and revenue increase, the country’s wealth is not felt by the people because high income with an unchanged productivity level leads to an increase in the cost of goods, services and cost of living. High income alone won’t increase our purchasing power.”

He lambasted the previous regime for the plunge in integrity and spike in corruption in Malaysia, saying the people followed the example of their past leaders.

In an interview to the local media, Dr Mahathir said Pakatan Haparan’s popularity fell lately because many people fed with corruption money were not happy.

He says the past government’s delivery to the people was ineffective and insincere, leading to widespread leakages and abuses.

“The past leaders also used the ‘bumiputera” name for personal interest and wealth,” he says.

Besides the seven strategic thrusts announced today, the Prime Minister says the government has also identified other catalysts such as a progressive fiscal policy, a high level of governance and integrity, a desired outcome of education, higher quality Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), and competitive financial support capital.

He said the government will strive to ensure the effective delivery of government institutions, monetary stability, comprehensive and inclusive Big Data, and knowledgeable civil society to support the goals and programmes of Shared Prosperity to achieve the best success.

The Prime Minister said the country’s business and industry ecosystems need to be improved to remain relevant and meet future economic requirements.