August 21, 2007

Jeffrey Sachs

Posted in Economics, Malaysia at 4:07 am by egalitaria

This has been quite a period of celebrity speakers coming to Kuala Lumpur. August Merdeka month, mah.. lots of big names turning up at our doorstep, leaving but a shadow behind when September, October and November creep up towards us.

Jeffrey Sachs, head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and advisor for the Millennium Development Goals, came to speak at an Economic Planning Unit (EPU) event last week. He spoke very highly of Malaysia, stating that there is hardly any poverty left to take care of. There were some excellent points made, the fact that Malaysia needs to seriously consider building walkways and paths to cycle in the city, lest our public becomes fat and lazy driving around in cars alone. Also that we can be a good example to other countries.

However, I felt like he was glossing things over, definitely sugar-coating us for the successes we have had without much focus on how we can improve. I asked him a question, quoting from his very chapter in a book I am reading. He says the following.

A successful development strategy should include 3 components:

1. A time path of public investments suited to the national circumstances.

2. An economic policy framework to support private-sector economic activity.

3. A political framework to ensure the rule of law and macroeconomic stability.

I asked Jeffrey to analyse Malaysia based on these three criteria, especially with regards to No. 1 (seeing that Malaysia has spent a lot of its resource money on mega projects and big buildings) and to No. 3 (seeing that Malaysia still has issues with corruption and the increasing Gini coefficient/larger gap between the rich and the poor).

He swerved away my question completely and didn’t answer it! I was quite disappointed. But then again, he was in the hands of the Good Government that invited him over.  And yes, he is still an amazing developmental economist. Left of the centre, in the very least, and that puts him in my good books.



  1. alwyn said,

    wow, didn’t realise he came…i loved his “End of Poverty” and would’ve liked to meet him in person.

  2. egalitaria said,

    yeah and he was pretty good, except like i said, heaping praise on malaysia. 🙂 well i think he will be coming back and forth malaysia cos he is heading the centre in UM.

  3. Sebastian said,

    Hey I heard him speak at the World Life Science Forum earlier this year. He got a standing ovation at the end of the speech. But my subsequent interactions with people who know him revealed that, this guy is really not much more than a good speaker. They don’t seem to buy the impressive speech he gave about the UN millenium development goals…

  4. egalitaria said,

    Wah really? What was it that they didn’t buy? He’s a renowned developmental economist internationally though! Interesting.. tell me more..

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