When the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak boasted in the Eleven Malaysia Plan that Malaysia had risen from the ranks of a low-income economy in the 1970s to a high middle-income economy with a national per capita income more than 25-fold from US$402 (1970) to US$10,796 (2014), and is well on the track to surpass the US$15,000 threshhold of a high-income economy by 2020, Malaysians are entitled to ask him whether he has forgotten that Malaysia was second in Asia after Japan in prosperity and income when we achieved Independence in 1957?
What were the reasons why other countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore which were poorer than us when we achieved Independence had not only caught up with us, but gone ahead, with Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and even South Korea becoming high-income countries some 20 – 28 years ago, a target we are seeking to achieve by the end of the 11th Malaysia Plan and Vision 2020?
In 1987, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore joined the ranks of the high-income countries, defined by the World Bank as a country with a gross national income per capita above US$12,746 in 2013. South Korea joined the list in 1995 for two years, dropped out for four years because of the Asian financial crisis and re-joined the ranks of high-income nations in 2001.
It is worth noting how these other Asian countries which were behind us economically compare with Malaysia’s 25-fold increase in national per capita income since 1970.
South Korea and Taiwan’s national per capita income would have increased at the highest rate, a stunning over eighty-fold increase, followed by Singapore and Hong Kong which registered an increase of over 50-fold and 34-fold respectively.
The increase in national per capita income for these countries would have increase manifold, even registering hundred-fold increase for South Korea, if comparison is made with the attainment of Merdeka in 1957.
Why has Malaysia failed to make full use of our excellent economic advantages and rich resource endowments, both human and natural, since Independence in 1957 and the formation of Malaysia in 1963 for the country to continue to be in the forefront in the world in economic development?
The answer to this question holds the key to the success or failure of the 11th Malaysia Plan and Vision 2020.