Malaysia targets high-income status by 2020

9 May 17

Malaysia is on track to become a high-income nation by the end of the decade, according to a senior government official.


Malaysia’s national news agency reported today that Dato Sri Idria Jala, who heads the Pemandu unit within the country’s prime minister’s office which oversees public management, said the nation’s gross national income per capita hit $10,570 in 2015 – 15% short of the high-income threshold.

Jala added that the country would have hit that target in 2015 if its currency, the ringgit, had not depreciated against the dollar.

“As long as Malaysia’s exports grow and despite the current weakening of the ringgit, we are still on track to achieve the target in 2020,” he stated.

Jala is the CEO of Pemandu, a delivery unit formed in 2009 to manage and drive progress in the country’s government and economic transformation programmes. Delivery units are small, highly skilled teams tasked with delivering on policy priorities and popularised by former UK prime minister Tony Blair.

He was speaking at the launch of a World Bank report highlighting the successes of Pemandu, which Jala described as “catalytic” in achieving the country’s transformation goals, including its transition out of middle-income status.

The report applauded the unit’s design features and methodology, ability to work with service delivery agencies and outside stakeholders, and success at attracting top talent from the private sector.

However it also flagged the challenges Pemandu faced, which included the omission of important technical elements in the design of certain projects and issues with performance data quality, noting that the lessons learned will be useful for other countries looking to implement a similar initiative.

“Countries worldwide struggle with how to provide services – education, health, water, electricity, transport, telecoms – to their people affordably,” said Ulrich Zachau, World Bank country director for southeast Asia.

“This report distils lessons from Malaysia’s strong record and experience in improving public sector management that can be useful throughout the region and beyond.”

However, other sources have also urged caution with governments looking to adopt delivery units. The UK’s Institute for Government recently found that they fail just as frequently as they succeed, and need the right conditions in place if they are to live up to expectations. 

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