Seminar on “Vision 2020: Are we there yet? Reflections on Mahathir’s – and Malaysia’s – unfinished Business”

In this seminar, Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid shared his insights on the administration’s current challenges and future priorities at this historic juncture.

Malaysia in Transition Seminar Series

Monday, 20 January 2020 – Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid spoke at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute to share his assessments of Vision 2020. Dr Muhammed is Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Economic Advisor, and prior to assuming his current position Dr Muhammed led the Council of Eminent Persons’ (CEP) secretariat and served as Director of Research at the Khazanah Research Institute. Dr Muhammed completed his PhD at the Institut d’études Politiques de Paris, France. He wrote ‘Colours of Inequality’ provided an alternative perspective in understanding inequality in Malaysia. 

Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid (right) shares his insights on the administration’s current challenges and future priorities. Dr Francis Hutchinson moderated the session. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Muhammed prefaced his seminar with a brief description of the historical context in 1980s which shaped the formulation of Vision 2020. Vision 2020 established roadmaps to propel Malaysia into the ranks of developed economies by the year 2020, as well as the objective of national unity across different races. Dr Muhammed opined that Malaysia achieved remarkable economic progress during the past 30 years, and would have already attained the high-income nation status had the Malaysian Ringgit not experienced sharp depreciation in 1998 and 2015. Dr Muhammed however commented that the social aspects of Vision 2020 remain distant, with racial identities remaining as a source of contention and fissure among Malaysians.

Dr Muhammed stressed that the Pakatan Harapan administration remains committed to the ideals of societal cohesion as articulated in Vision 2020, while being cognisant that social cohesion is dependent upon an equitable distribution of economic resources. Shared Prosperity Vision (SPV) launched in 2019 is a ten year plan to promote social cohesion among Malaysians through a reduction of economic inequalities, in particular through reforms in taxation and the labour market. Lastly, Dr Muhammed shared about the recent economic trends in the Malaysian economy pertaining to Foreign Direct Investments and large scale mega projects.

In the question and answer session, one participant sought Dr Muhammed’s opinions on whether the Malaysian bureaucracy is overstaffed and should be downsized. Another participant inquired if the Pakatan Harapan administration would reconsider the scope of Bumiputra benefits. Dr Muhammed also responded to a range of questions including Muafakat Nasional, the Kimanis by-election, the Shared Prosperity Vision, amongst others. The seminar drew close to 90 participants from diverse backgrounds including academia, businesses, civil service, and the public.

The seminar was very well-attended. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)