Malaysia's economic policies to focus on income inequality: Mahathir

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks at a press conference after chairing a special Cabinet meeting held to discuss the government's "Shared Prosperity" plan on Sept 14, 2019.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks at a press conference after chairing a special Cabinet meeting held to discuss the government's "Shared Prosperity" plan on Sept 14, 2019.PHOTO: BERNAMA

Malaysia's economic policies will focus on reducing income inequality, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday after a special Cabinet meeting held to discuss the government's "Shared Prosperity" plan.

These will include measures such as skills training for low earners and raising revenues for poorer states like Perlis, Kedah and Kelantan, and in rural areas.

"We need to raise earnings but not just by raising salaries alone," said Tun Dr Mahathir at a press conference. "We need to uplift the abilities of our workers so they're more productive."

The Shared Prosperity economic plan was unveiled in May as a needs-based approach to achieving sustainable and equitable economic growth by 2030. It aims to provide a "decent standard of living for all Malaysians" across race, geography and class.

It marked a shift to a more inclusive development strategy that cuts across all ethnic groups, a departure from the country's decades-old National Economic Policy that favours the majority Malay community.

Dr Mahathir's announcement came as main opposition parties Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) signed a political cooperation pact to unite against government policies they say sideline the Malay Muslim community.

While the Prime Minister did not mention the Malays specifically, they stand to benefit the most from these measures as they make up the majority of low-income groups and those living in rural areas.

Two of the poorer states singled out for assistance, Perlis and Kelantan, are currently administered by Umno and PAS, respectively.

 
 

Kedah is governed by Dr Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan coalition, with his son Mukhriz Mahathir the Menteri Besar.

Dr Mahathir also said the government will end the practice of indiscriminately handing out licences, contracts and approved permits (APs). The so-called AP system was originally intended to help Malay entrepreneurs gain a foothold and advance in business, but has been open to abuse.

"We will prioritise results more than (giving) opportunities," he told reporters, explaining that some of these opportunities had been wasted in the past.

He said that instead of using these contracts to further their skills in a certain sector, some companies sold off the contracts to others for a quick buck instead.

The Prime Minister said this year's Budget, set to be announced on Oct 11, will emphasise the provision of vocational and skills training to keep up with higher-end jobs.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 15, 2019, with the headline 'Malaysia's economic policies to focus on income inequality: Mahathir'. Print Edition | Subscribe