Malaysia: Vision 2020 on Track? Nah, Bangsa Melayu, Not Bangsa Malaysia

April 21, 2017

Malaysia: Vision 2020 on Track? Nah, Bangsa Melayu, Not Bangsa Malaysia

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan

IT is sometimes disheartening to see the spat between Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Nevertheless, when a sitting Prime Minister is attacked, regardless by whom, of course he would react. What we see today is unavoidable.


There are some instances that require us to put aside our feelings about the spat. Vision 2020 is one of them. Despite the spat, Vision 2020 remains our national agenda.

Najib himself has not dismissed Vision 2020. Just a few months ago, Najib was quoted saying, “A lot of people asked about Vision 2020. The Government has put in place numerous programmes and the framework for us to achieve what we have aimed for. This includes the 11th Malaysia Plan and National Transformation Policy, aimed at ensuring that our country attains developed nation status in the year 2020. There is no issue about this and I want to stress that we are working according to schedule.”

Vision 2020 sets nine challenges. They are, in summary: establishing a united Bangsa Malaysia, creating a developed society, fostering a democratic society, establishing an ethical society, establishing a liberal society, establishing a scientific society, establishing a caring society, ensuring economic justice and establishing a competitive economy.

Image result for Tan Sri Nordin SophieMalaysia’s Late Strategic Thinker–One of a Kind

The drafting of the Vision is largely credited to the leadership of the late Tan Sri Noordin Sopiee. He made crucial contributions when he was Director-General of the Institute for Strategic and International Studies.

Today, quite a few people are questioning if we are still on track to achieve Vision 2020. I, too, have serious concerns.

When our research team looked into the issue, those concerns were confirmed. We found that the Economic Planning Unit, under the Prime Minister’s Department, has said that the average income per person has fallen by as much as 15% from US$10,345 in 2013 to US$8,821 in 2016. To be a high-income nation by 2020, our gross national income per capita (GNI) must be US$15,000. This means we must double our GNI in just three years. This is almost impossible.

IDEAS issued a statement on this, in which our Research Director Ali Salman said, “When our GNI was US$10,345 in 2013, the goal was realistic but challenging. Now it will be extremely difficult and with 2020 being just three years away we simply cannot afford to drop further down.”

One of the main reasons behind the drop in GNI is the currency depreciation that we suffered. The main lesson here is that we must stop giving excuses about the depreciation, and fix the situation so that our ringgit does not fall further.

Various people have commented on this matter. There are junior commentators who become childishly emotional, failing to see that critical voices are valuable contributions to push the country forward.

I hesitate to entertain them because there are so many out there who try a bit too hard to seek attention from their paymasters. Hopefully, given time and opportunity, these beginners will mature into adults, and then we can take them more seriously.

Image result for prof jomo kwame sundaram

Malaysia’s Top Economist

It is the comments by more worthy experts that worry me. For example, I asked Professor Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram what he thinks. Dr Jomo hardly needs an introduction. He has held various posts at the international level, and he is now the holder of the Tun Hussein Onn Chair at none other than ISIS.

I asked Dr Jomo if he thinks we are en route to creating a united Malaysia and a robust economy by 2020. Let me quote him directly here. On creating a united Malaysia, Dr Jomo said we are “off track because of the ethno-populist nature of the Barisan Nasional and its peninsular (and Sabahan) component parties”.

On creating a robust economy, he said we are “off track as we grossly understate the denominator. We pretend we have one or two million migrant workers although the minister says 6.7 million”.

He added that the recent depreciation of the ringgit by one third, which was not helped by the 1MDB scandal, has greatly diminished the numerator as well.

Image result for Malaysia's Vision 2020

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Impressive Infrastructure but at the expense of Quality Education and Human Resource.–Corruption at an all time high, thank you, Mr. Prime Minister Najib Razak

Image result for poverty in Kuala Lumpur

And this in Kuala Lumpur too: Crammed into a one-room flat at a people’s housing project in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, Abdol Wahab Musa’s family of 16 offer a glimpse of how the urban poor in the capital city make ends meet.–

Image result for poverty in Kuala Lumpur

We do have some big challenges that need resolving. We should conduct open conversations about this. From my experience, there are many people in government who welcome critical comments positively. We should all ramp up efforts to stop the country from getting even more off track, and everyone should contribute ideas where they can.

For starters, I think it would be helpful if the Government ensures that we are consistent when introducing or implementing policies affecting businesses. The Government has said they want the private sector to be the engine of growth.

Thus, hurdles preventing them from becoming the engine of growth should be removed. Otherwise businesses will never be able to play their role to help us make the economic leap by 2020.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs ( The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.


9 thoughts on “Malaysia: Vision 2020 on Track? Nah, Bangsa Melayu, Not Bangsa Malaysia

  1. Why no one want to start with Mahathir’s original per capita target per capita of US$25K when they talk of Vision 2020? After Najib took over and lower the target, THEY ARE STILL going to miss it. Compare to LKY, he originally set per capita for singapore in 2015 at much lower and exceeded it. How come, on both side of the divide they avoid it.

    All these talk of the highest, the best, catching up, but they run away from facts and truth. That is why con-men like Zakir Naik has it so good here, Hadi PAS can be just like UMNO and still be holy men, and opposition indulge in undisciplined math talking of black swan theory.

    Lets face the, we have a national disease of running away from the truth because of the third rail politics of race and religion. We are the cliche of Jack Nicholson’s famous saying “you want the truth? You can’t handle the truth”..

  2. Whilst the non-Malay communities by and large are realistic in outlook, the Malay community generally likes flattery , and embellish themselves with artificiality , and thus are preoccupied with Pretensions : Eg, PM always say openly that Malaysia as a whole is a First class (or a world class} nation ……? ? Really ?

    Most economic Scientist say otherwise ….. (you be the judge ) – to me comparatively non-Malays are highly Productive, Malay community lack too much of material advancement , because of lack of interest in the Sciences…. –

    I stand corrected, as we can see the programms currently undertaken by authorities seem to be more scientific oriented , hope they are in the right direction….. ? ?

  3. PS = Indulging in ( self ) Flattery is not not good, not healthy….we have to be more Practical = comparatively the Chinese Community is very practical. See how Amazing , China currently building the trans-railway track (Endeavour) from Tibet to Qinhing , a distance of 1,500 kilo meters , and building 150 bridges on the most difficult Terrain in the world, high altitude with lack of oxygen…..

    It MUST be the 8th wonder of the world ! !

  4. Quote:- Najib himself has not dismissed Vision 2020. Just a few months ago, Najib was quoted saying, “A lot of people asked about Vision 2020. The Government has put in place numerous programmes and the framework for us to achieve what we have aimed for. This includes the 11th Malaysia Plan and National Transformation Policy, aimed at ensuring that our country attains developed nation status in the year 2020. There is no issue about this and I want to stress that we are working according to schedule.”


    If that is so, then wait till 2020 comes around and if it really becomes impossible, then have another “Vision”, or “Transformation” or any catchy soundbite, whether it be for 2050 or 2222.

    Bringing in TN50 now, even before 2020 comes around is already saying Vision 2020 is not possible. What if by some divine miracle Vision 2020 is realized, wouldn’t TN50 looks silly?

    Najib has no interest in seeing Vision 2020 coming to fruition for the simple reason that it would actually glorifies Mahathir and not him. So Vision 2020’s failure is assured.

    TN50? The human race itself may have gone extinct by then.

  5. In Africa a man had to spend a night in open savanna land. He set up a fire to keep the animals away and took a nap with one eye open. Then suddenly there was a noise. A lion was about 50 meters from him. He spotted a tree in a distance and took off. Fortunately for him the tree had two branches high enough for him to hang on and escape from becoming dinner for the lion. He ran as fast as Bolt and managed to reach the tree in time. Instead of going for the lower branch he aimed for the higher branch but missed it. But God bless him he caught the lower branch on his way down and escaped becoming dinner for the lion. He lived to tell his story. Always aim high and if you miss you will still be just below the best.

  6. We are a nation of slogan shouters. We shout in tandem with what the Umno leaders shout. Sometimes the slogans mean nothing but to glorify the idiots who frame them.

    It’s getting uglier by the day but we continue regardless because that’s about all we can look forward to.

    While prices of goods and services go up, the quality of life goes down faster than you and I can shout, “Jack Robinson”.

    It’s no joy and with GE 14 lingering in the horizon, the cyclical “wayang kulit” is beginning in earnest. Only yesterday I received a text asking me to attend a dinner ceramah in town.

    The charade is gaining momentum and I am getting bored and frustrated. When will it end? Perhaps when the only ray of hope extinguishes.

  7. Events of the past few decades have by now impressed upon even the most casual observer of Malaysian politics that ethnonationalism led by UMNO constitutes a grave and deadly threat to the political stability and nation building of Malaysia. Rather than witnessing an evolution of stable state-communities with a common identity as Malaysian, we are seeing a succession of situations involving competing allegiances in which people have illustrated that an intuitive bond felt toward an informal and unstructured subdivision by ethnicity is far more profound and potent than are ties that bind them to the formal and legalistic state structure in which they find themselves.

    Bang Din speaks of his pessimism and buddy CLF likes to call Malaysia FUBAR. Yes, bro, Malaysia is out of working order; seriously, perhaps irreparably, damaged. You know Malaysia is finished when the old racist dictator who started and engineered the demise of the nation now leading the pack claiming he could save the country. He has a new recipe of Malay supremacy?

    The dream of the opposition to out-vote UMNO in the next election is much more of an impossible dream than mine trying to recruit Lam Shu Jie, the super young Malaysian scientist who discovers possible alternative to antibiotics to kill superbugs, to my small lab. Anyone wants to bet she will not return to Malaysia? Talking about brain-drain and the demise of a nation.

  8. Quote:- “Anyone wants to bet she will not return to Malaysia?”

    She may or may not return to Malaysia, (stranger things have happened), but there is a chance she may go to Singapore, as a lot of brilliant disenchanted Malaysians do. Singapore has always been the next-best-thing to home for them and since Singapore is now pushing for World wide recognition in many fields fueled by the strong Sing Dollar, with Nobel prize winners gracing her shores, I don’t see why not?

    In Western European countries you will always be a tolerated outsider, and being brilliant merely lowers the tolerance threshold.

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