Malaysia

The incorporation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs into the national development plan-- Eleventh Malaysia Plan 2016-2020 –and Malaysia’s approach to the SDGs demonstrate the same neoliberal biases, aims and agenda of all development plans since 2009. Will it belie the same fetishes for GDP or market/corporate stratagems instead of real socio-economic development plans? Does it package structural adjustment and austerity plans in the guise of ‘rationalizing’ and ‘integrating’ limited resources, funding and collaborative programmes? Will the imaginary crisis of a ‘middle-income trap’ continue to occupy the policy agenda, as opposed to the real crisis of the increasing income divide between the few who have and the many who have not?

This report looks at the incorporation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs into the national development plan-- Eleventh Malaysia Plan 2016-2020 –and asks whether Malaysia’s approach to the SDGs will demonstrate the same neoliberal biases, aims and agenda of all development plans since 2009. Will it belie the same fetishes for GDP or market/corporate stratagems instead of real socio-economic development plans? Does it package structural adjustment and austerity plans in the guise of ‘rationalizing’ and ‘integrating’ limited resources, funding and collaborative programmes? Will the imaginary crisis of a ‘middle-income trap’ continue to occupy the policy agenda, as opposed to the real crisis of the increasing income divide between the few who have and the many who have not?

The Paris Agreement adopted by the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on 12 December, was the outcome of major battles on a multitude of issues, especially between developed and developing countries.

Developing countries by and large had these negotiating objectives.  They wanted to (a) defend the Convention and not let it be changed or subverted; (b) ensure that the Agreement is non-mitigation centric with all issues (including adaptation, loss and damage, finance and technology, besides mitigation) addressed and in a balanced manner; (c) ensure differentiation in all aspects be reflected, with the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities; (d) ensure that developed countries enhance the provision of finance and technology transfer’ (f) ensure that ‘loss and damage’ is recognised as a separate pillar apart from adaptation and for (g) legally binding provisions, especially on the developed countries.

Given that most of their population lives in rural areas, the rural economies in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) will need to undergo structural transformation in order to reach the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has said.

In its latest Policy Brief (No. 46 of February 2016), UNCTAD has proposed that the LDCs engage in poverty- oriented structural transformation of rural areas, encompassing the upgrading of agriculture, the diversification of rural economic activities and the strengthening of synergies between both.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on principles to guide sovereign debt restructuring processes on the afternoon of 10 September.

This landmark resolution was submitted to the General Assembly by South Africa (current chair of the Group of 77 and China developing countries). It was initiated by Argentina in the wake of the vulture funds lawsuit by an international hedge fund against the country.

China will remain as a developing country in the UNFCCC framework and will remain in the Like-minded Developing Countries group (LMDC) as well as the more general grouping of developing countries, according to the head of the Chinese delegation, Su Wei, taking part in the Conference of the Parties that opened in Lima on Monday.

Su Wei made this confirmation in answer to a question during a side event on “Perspectives on the 2015 Paris deal: Options on the road from Lima to Paris” organised by the Third World Network and the South Centre at lunch time at the Conference Centre on the first day of the COP20.

The annual United Nations climate treaty conference kicks off in Lima, Peru, against the backdrop of several key events in the climate change arena.

These include the most recent release of the Intergovernmntal Panel on Climate Change's Summary for Policy- Makers relating to the Synthesis Report of its Fifth Assessment Report, the US-China joint announcement of their post-2020 actions on climate change, and the US$9.7 billion pledged to the Green Climate Fund.

Malaysia Petroleum Resources Corp
(Photo: etp.pemandu.gov.my)

According to government data, Malaysia is said to be on the way towards achieving all eight MDGs; commitment is reflected in the Tenth Malaysia Plan (2011-2015). But Malaysia’s development trajectory has hitherto primarily been driven by a combination of low worker wages amidst high revenues for petroleum, palm oil and rubber commodities and foreign direct investment in the manufacturing sector. In other words, very little of the profits in the form of oil royalties, for example, have gone towards developing the states that produce a large bulk of the oil, such as Kelantan, Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak, but which happen also to be the poorest states in Malaysia.

And while the government announced its motto to be “People First, Performance Now” and its goals to reduce crime; fight corruption; improve student outcomes; raise living standards of low-income households; improving rural basic infrastructure; and improve urban public transport, it appears that while lip-service has been paid, little pertaining to the structural and systemic inequities, inequalities and injustices of the political or social economy have been dealt with or addressed with any substance.

Malaysia’s inadequate financial, technological and market infrastructure and human capital have been pinpointed as reasons why it cannot compete in economically higher-value-added products and services.

In 2012, the all-consuming question has been, “who will lead Malaysia after its 13th general elections?” So much so that questions of substance as to what policies and principles will be in place and how and in which direction the country will be governed after the polls, have been downgraded. Fears of losing electoral and political support by instituting – or championing – drastic changes have prevented crucial questions from being addressed. Even reformist-minded politicians have not been able to articulate a different development trajectory and model than that of the incumbent government. However, a bright spot has emerged: a nascent ‘green’ movement steered by grassroots civil society leaders but empowered by tens of thousands of ordinary citizens who have not been cowed from rallying onto the streets of Malaysia to make their concerns known about the world they want.
Explosion at the Fukushima
nuclear power plant in Japan.
(Photo: Aliran)

More than thirty non-governmental organizations have come together to warn against Malaysian government’s plan to build two nuclear reactors without consulting the public. Some of the supporters of the statement are the Consumers’ Association of Penang, Third World Network, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Tenaganita, TERAS Pengupayaan Melayu, Women’s Aid Organization, Centre for Independent Journalism and Stop Lynas Coalition.

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