NB: This press statement was released on 16.03.2012.

With the ambitious goal of lifting Malaysia out of the middle-income trap and turning the country into a developed and high-income nation by 2020, the Federal Government through the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) had in September 2010 launched the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).

In many ways, the ETP is a departure from the past in terms of its action-oriented nature and its proactive engagement of the private sector through rigorous workshops and “labs” as well as its focus on the resultant 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs). Its ultimate aim is to double our gross national income (GNI) per capita to USD15,000 by 2020 and creating 3.3million jobs from an estimated RM1.4 trillion worth of investments, almost all of which is supposed to be generated from the private sector.

In line with Pemandu CEO Datuk Seri Idris Jala’s motto of “big results fast”, Pemandu has claimed that, one and a half years in, most of their targets have been surpassed. For example, last year’s GNI figure of RM841 billion had exceeded the target of RM797 billion, while RM94 billion worth of private investments were recorded against the target of RM83 billion. The statistics for job creation is also expected to reach its target.

However, there has also been much debate about the viability and success of the ETP. Critics such as the not-for-profit research institute REFSA (Research For Social Advancement) have recently released a series of articles attempting to debunk and deconstruct the ETP, pointing out many discrepancies and what they believe to be “creative accounting” on the part of Pemandu. However, Pemandu in turn has issued responses to defend and deflect the criticisms levelled at the ETP.

We at Penang Institute believe that the differing views and opinions that are emerging are a sign of a healthy democracy. Therefore, to further encourage and facilitate deeper discourse and policy discussions in Malaysia, Penang Institute is hosting a public forum on the ETP, with details as below:

Date : 6 April 2012 (Friday)

Venue : Wawasan Open University

Time : 8.00 pm – 10.00 pm

Moderator : Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid

As we would like all views to be represented fairly, we wish to invite one representative each from Pemandu and NCIA (Northern Corridor Implementation Authority), as advocates of the ETP, while the critique will be led by REFSA CEO Teh Chi-Chang and YB Liew Chin Tong, Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera. To ensure neutrality, the forum will be moderated by Penang Institute Visiting Research Fellow Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid, who is also a Senior Analyst at ISIS (Institute of Strategic and International Studies).

This forum represents an opportunity for both sides to engage face-to-face in a public forum, where each party will have the chance to clear the air once and for all on the disputed aspects of the ETP.

Malaysians are looking forward to the opportunity to witness a mature and policy-oriented public discussion between all the relevant parties on a very important topic, and we trust that the good people at Pemandu and NCIA will see it fit to respond positively to our invitation.

Zairil Khir Johari, Penang Institute CEO