To say Vision 2020 is terrible is ‘most unfortunate’, says economist

Its modernist approach should be recognised, but its demise was unavoidable, says Jomo Kwame Sundaram

KUALA LUMPUR – It is unfortunate that many Malaysians consider Vision 2020 to be a terrible vision, seeing its objectives were well-intended and the main circumstances that led to its failure were largely unavoidable. 

Prominent economist Prof Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram singled out the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and 1998 as the root cause of the vision’s downfall, being immediately followed by a political crisis in the country.

Prof Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram says the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and 1998 was the root cause of Vision 2020’s downfall, being immediately followed by a political crisis in the country. – SAIRIEN NAFIS/The Vibes pic, November 12, 2020

“The commitment of Vision 2020 to create a ‘Malaysian nation’ was the first time anything as such was articulated since our independence, when the constitution offered a similar (promise). 

“Unfortunately, it was abandoned with the financial crisis of 1997 and later the political fallout and split between then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his deputy Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. 

“I fully acknowledge it has not been realised, but to throw the baby out of the bath water, to say it was a terrible vision to begin with – I think it is most unfortunate,” he said. 

The former member of the all-powerful Council of Eminent Persons was speaking as a panelist at a webinar titled “Beyond Vision 2020: Growth with Equity in the New Decade”, hosted by the Sekhar Institute, The Vibes, and Petra Group today. 

Vision 2020, introduced by Dr Mahathir in 1991, was heavily promoted in its early years of inception. 

However, things derailed when the region was hit by one of the worst financial crises on record, followed by the sacking of Anwar as deputy prime minister in September 1998 and his subsequent imprisonment. 

The latter of the two saw massive protests on the streets and the start of the Reformasi Movement, as the rakyat denounced Dr Mahathir’s action. 

Jomo said that despite Vision 2020 not achieving its goals, it was important that Malaysians recognise its modernist approach, which he described as being an improvement on the Rukun Negara and New Economic Policy.

He said that all its objectives — including establishing a united, harmonious, democratically matured, ethical, and prosperous society — were commendable. 

Commenting on the current political state, Jomo said it was a pity that Malaysia’s politicians are primarily concerned with their own self-preservation. 

“Various measures are being taken to preserve their survival. This is no longer a time when you can actually have a useful discussion of some of the larger considerations that need to be focused on,” he said.

By : Amar Shah Mohsen – The Vibes

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