Malaysia has achieved significant milestones through well laid out initiatives under the National Transformation Programme (NTP) towards becoming a high-income nation and was now with an upside bias in meeting the goal, say economists.
MIDF Amanah Investment Bank Bhd's Chief Economist Dr Kamaruddin Mohd Nor said economic diversification through various National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) and Entry Point Projects (EPPs) had proved fruitful in catapulting Malaysia towards high-income nation status.
He also said Gross National Income (GNI) at end-2016 stood at US$10,010 compared to US$8,230 in 2010, and 18.5 percent lower against the estimated high-income target of US$12,272 by 2020.
"This is a commendable achievement, as between 2010 and 2016, Malaysia had narrowed the gap towards the high-income target from 33 per cent to 18 per cent.
"With a more balanced and synchronised recovery in the global economy, there is an upside bias in meeting the goal," he told Bernama.
Kamaruddin said the NTP had also helped generate over 2.26 million jobs over the past six years.
A report by the Performance Management and Delivery Unit under the Prime Minister's Department said, from the beginning and throughout the implementation of various NTP initiatives, the goal of achieving high-income nation status was not all about income.
It said "inclusiveness" in the wealth creation journey was equally crucial, ensuring that high per capita income would include as many people as possible in that process.
Kamaruddin said income inequality was one of the important socioeconomic issues that needed to be addressed at the core, as the income level of the bottom 40 percent household income group (B40) through various programmes, had experienced the greatest growth compared to other income strata since 2009.
A 19 per cent median monthly income growth had been recorded by the B40 group since 2009, with the faster pace of growth in the bottom strata, reducing the income gap.
Meanwhile, Director of Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said in another interview that while Malaysia was on track to be a high-income nation, it should continue to transform and not be complacent as other economies are moving ahead.
He said there is a need for some rethinking, reviews and renewals on policies to check the direction the nation was heading and if it was on the right trajectory.
"The New Economic Model (NEM) should be revisited. Protectionism in the current NEM should be reviewed and revised, as we are competing against those who do not have protectionism policies in their economic models.
"Protectionism also drives monopolies and corruption. This will in return, result in higher prices of goods and the poor losing out further while creating a wider income disparity," he added.