Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday unveiled a new plan to achieve sustainable and equitable economic growth by 2030, amid gripes that his year-old Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration has yet to set clear policies for the country's development.
The initiative, tagged "Shared Prosperity", replaces the now-unachievable Vision 2020 target, which was for Malaysia to become a developed nation by next year.
"Shared Prosperity is an effort to turn Malaysia into a country that continues to develop sustainably alongside equitable growth at all levels of the value chain, class, race and geography till there exists harmony and stability among the people by 2030," Tun Dr Mahathir said in his televised address to mark PH's one year in government.
Instead of measuring people's well-being solely by gross domestic product, the new plan will focus on narrowing the wealth gap, and the urban-rural divide.
In his speech, the 93-year-old leader also touched on the National Economic Policy (NEP), the affirmative action policy that favours the majority bumiputera community, saying measurements of development and prosperity today are more complex than the NEP's benchmarks of eradicating poverty and raising equity participation.
According to Sunway University economics professor Yeah Kim Leng, this signals a shift towards a more redistributive and inclusive development strategy that does not fixate on income growth or a particular group.
"It is compatible with the NEP, with the difference being that all races are included in the recognition that wealth disparity within ethnic groups, as opposed to between ethnic groups, is the new narrative of the year-old government," said Dr Yeah.
During an earlier press conference with the foreign media, Dr Mahathir had said his government would focus on the economy in its second year, after tackling corruption in its first year.
"The fact is the previous government was totally corrupt. There is very little corruption now. People can do business with the government now without paying extra. That is a very important achievement that contributes towards the stability of the economy," he said.
He also told the foreign media that he will not see out the full term of five years and will step aside after fixing problems his coalition claims it inherited from the former Barisan Nasional government.
Although PH had agreed prior to last year's election that Dr Mahathir would hand over the reins to nemesis-turned-ally Anwar Ibrahim, who at that time had yet to be pardoned for a controversial sodomy conviction, there was no formal timeline to do so.
Those aligned with Datuk Seri Anwar, who was sacked as deputy premier in 1998 by Dr Mahathir and then jailed, insist that the Parti Keadilan Rakyat president should take over the post in a year.
Dr Mahathir told the foreign media: "We will make most of the corrections within... two years, and after that I think the others will have fewer problems to face."
When pressed on whether he meant two years in power or from now, he replied: "I don't know whether it is three years or two years, but I am an interim prime minister."