August 21, 2007
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.
Comments are closed.