Wednesday, November 12, 2014

High-income status meaningless if people stay poor, Daim says

By Syed Jaymal ZahiidNovember 11, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 — Achieving high-income nation status will be hollow if most Malaysians still cannot afford their own homes or put food on their table, former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin said today. 

In an indictment of the government’s development plans, Daim said the apparent rise in income inequality in Malaysia showed Putrajaya lacked the right policies to grow household income despite boasting of steady growth.
“It is meaningless that in our drive towards a high-income country, many of our brothers and sisters, sons, and daughters, neighbours still earn less than the poverty level.
“It is meaningless to thump our chest and proclaim that we are becoming a high-income developed country, if many of our brothers and sisters cannot afford to own a decent home,” Daim said in his keynote address on the launch of the book “The Colours of Inequality” here.

Last week a joint paper by the Universiti of Malaya (UM) and Khazanah Research Institute revealed that income inequality in Malaysia is worsening despite the national household income survey (HIS) showing the opposite.
The paper titled “Is inequality in Malaysia really going down?” observed that the value of residential property purchased by high-end buyers has grown more rapidly than the property purchased by low-end buyers over the years.
Daim noted today that home ownership has become a major problem for average Malaysians whose wages have remain stagnant for 20 years.
“Financial asset, or a lack of it, is a serious issue. Majority of Malaysians, across all ethnic groups, have extremely limited savings. This exposes them to great risks if emergencies occur.
“Property ownership is a cause for great concern with many Malaysians, especially those below the age of 40... housing has now become a financial asset class; in fact it has become an instrument of speculation, rather than something for us to live in,” he said.
The former finance minister then said the nation’s progress must not be measured solely in financial terms, but also needed to include the well-being of its citizens.
Putrajaya has launched various transformation programmes as part of its bid to make Malaysia a high-income and developed nation by 2020.
According to the government, the country’s gross national income (GNI) per capita has increased from US$7,059 (RM22,860) in 2009 to US$10,060 (RM32,600) last year, leaving the country with six years to hit the US$15,000 (RM48,577) target in 2020.
Tun Daim Zainuddin (right) and author of ‘The Colours of Inequality’ Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid during the launch of the book at the International Islamic University of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, November 11, 2014. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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