I arrived this afternoon and headed back to the office for several appointments. During the journey back I managed to read the recently released annual World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report (GCR).
In the 2016-2017 GCR, Malaysia is ranked a highly commendable 25th out of 138 global economies. I am pleased to note that Malaysia has again been recognised as the most competitive amongst other emerging markets in Asia. We are still ahead of economic giants in the likes of the Republic of Korea, Iceland and China and this is even more remarkable in a tumultuous global economic climate.
In our push towards Malaysia reaching high income status by 2020, we need to be able to better other economies in attracting and retaining investors – in short, to be competitive. And our policies are working. We are now 4th in the world, up from an already praiseworthy 5th – in protecting our investors here in Malaysia. Malaysia is also held in high regard among investors for ease of doing business and we have managed to uphold our very enviable 6th ranking as it is easy to comply with the Government’s requirements for doing business in Malaysia. Here, we are not only business-friendly but our policies also encourage and nurture start-ups. Today, four days is all it takes to start a business in Malaysia – advancing our ranking to 15th from 24th previously.
As we seek to increase our nation’s revenue and improve the people’s wellbeing, we must avoid being penny wise and pound foolish like one of my predecessors – in that we must also cut unnecessary spending. Since I took office as Prime Minister, I have set out to cut the nation’s budget deficit. And our 8th ranking in efficient government spending reflects our success to that effect.
The Government’s initiative in efficient spending has also managed to consistently reduce the fiscal deficit and our GCR ranking of 69th in the world, up from 85th – is an acknowledgement of that fact. And conflicting to unsubstantiated lies spread by some, the Government is not going bankrupt. That is far from the truth as our climb to 84th from 92nd is a testament to the Government’s ability to manage our Budget and debt.
For Malaysia to become even more competitive, it is imperative for the Government to provide an attractive environment for talent, as well as one which enables them to thrive. Contrary to the belief of some – Malaysia has not been affected by a brain drain and I am proud to say that Malaysia’s efforts to offer an environment which nurtures innovation and creativity has proven to be fruitful. We are 8th and 11th respectively in our ability to retain and attract talent.
With that being said, we must admit that the drop in overall rankings was also due to external and domestic factors, some of which are beyond the ambit of the Government. But we must rectify what we can and some of those contributing factors which we can improve upon are, among others, the slight decline in the quality of our education system where we have fallen to 12th from being 6th in the world. I noted that we have also dropped from being 12th to 19th in the world in the aspect of math and science education.
To compete, we must continuously produce talent and with regards to education, the Government is fully aware that science and technology will play a huge role in the changes our children will face. The Government recently launched blueprints for education and higher education, which make clear that science, technology, engineering and mathematics – or STEM – must be integrated with the humanities, social sciences and entrepreneurship in an interdisciplinary manner.
Capital is vital for businesses and one aspect we must strive to continuously improve in order to remain competitive is the accessibility to our loans. For Malaysia to remain competitive, it is never enough to just maintain the status quo. We must continuously raise our benchmark. This is demonstrated in the fact that although we dropped a mere 0.1 points from 4.8 to 4.7 in our score with regard to the ease of access to loans, we plunged to 25th in the world, down from 2nd.
This calls for more work to be done and for us to raise the benchmark. In this increasingly competitive world, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We must remain committed in dissecting the causes and make immediate improvements. I am committed to make Malaysia more competitive and I have been clear on this stand with my domestic policies. And even as external factors are partly responsible for our slip to 25th in the world from an even more respectable 18th last year in the GCR, there are many positives that can be taken away from this. I have always maintained that our New Economic Model’s aim is to catapult Malaysia into a more competitive, productive and investor-friendly destination. And as Prime Minister, my policies both domestic and abroad aim to deliver this and ensure that we put the people’s needs first.