Launch of the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2015

May 14, 2015

Yang Berbahagia Professor Datuk Dr Mohamed Ariff, Professor of Economics and Governance at the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF)

Government officials,

Friends from the Media,

UN Colleagues

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Selamat Sejahtera and Good morning!

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the official Malaysia launch of UNESCAP’s 2015 Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific, which is part of a larger global launch of ESCAP’s flagship publication.  Thank you for joining us.  The 2015 Survey is being launched today in more than 35 locations around the world and I thank Professor Datuk Dr Mohamed Ariff for agreeing to review the Survey, with particular reference to the context of Malaysia.

Many of you are familiar with the Survey, which has been monitoring regional progress, providing cutting-edge analyses and guiding policy discussion on the current and emerging socioeconomic issues and policy challenges to support inclusive and sustainable development in the region since 1947.  The special theme of this edition of the 2015 Survey, which we launch today, argues that “development is about more than growth and poverty”.

It presents UNESCAP’s outlook and prospects for the region, and outlines a policy agenda to address the current and foreseeable challenges, in order to sustain economic dynamism, while ensuring that growth is inclusive and environmentally responsible.  It also introduces a new multidimensional index of inclusiveness that captures the economic, social, and environment dimensions of development. The Index allows comparative scoring of the multidimensional aspects of inclusiveness across different time periods, thus assisting policymakers to better review and monitor progress on inclusive growth.

We believe the findings, analysis, and the Index should be very useful to you as policy makers, academia, and members of the media - all key stakeholders in the development of the country and region; and particularly useful to Malaysia in benchmarking and setting targets as it leads the ASEAN region this year in the run up to the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community and the creation of the ASEAN Post-2015 vision.

In addition to the momentous developments planned for ASEAN this year, 2015 is a year of particular significance also in terms of global policy making. In September, UN member states will adopt the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs) that will succeed the first ever 15-year global development agenda called the Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs will be universal, applying to developed and developing countries alike; and promises to be a more ambitious and all-encompassing set of goals.

A set of 17 proposed goals and related indicators have been developed, which take account of the priorities and concerns of people from every part of the world and from all walks of life, identified through an unprecedented process of consultations and thematic debates undertaken by the United Nations system.   As of March 30, 2015, more than 7.4 million people voted in the UN’s “My World Survey”. More than 3 million were from the Asia-Pacific region, weighing in heavily on the global development agenda for the next 15 years, and assigning high priority to inclusive development that narrows the gaps between the “haves” and the “have-nots” and leaves no one behind.

The ESCAP Survey for 2015 of Asia and the Pacific reinforces the importance of inclusive development - in a way amplifying the voices of millions of citizens of Asia and the Pacific.  It advocates going beyond reducing inequality in income to also promote equality of opportunity through broadening access to quality education and healthcare services, and addressing rural-urban, geographical and gender gaps, as well as gaps across vulnerable groups and communities for improved well-being for all.

It also urges a change in the growth dynamics, seizing the opportunity that the regional economic growth outlook is primarily influenced by domestic and intraregional factors rather than external factors; and to improve the quality and availability of infrastructure; reduce excessive commodity dependence; broaden access to financial services, especially in rural sectors; foster decent employment and also address persistently high levels of vulnerable employment; and to better manage environmental and climate-related challenges, among other policy recommendations, for a more sustainable development path.  The Survey also underscores the interconnectedness amongst the various policy responses required and the need to pursue the appropriate mix in a simultaneous and coherent manner for transformative impacts for people.

There is of course, enormous diversity and different levels of development across countries and sub-regions, which must be considered.  Based on the UN Country Team’s engagement with Malaysia in development planning and policy over the years, we know that Malaysia recognizes inclusive growth as essential to sustainable development, and building on its previous national development plans, is set to amplify inclusive development and the well-being of its people in its next 5-year plan – the 11th Malaysia Plan - that will chart the course for achieving high-income and developed status by 2020.

We hope that this publication by UNESCAP and its recommendations will spur discussions here in Malaysia, among policy makers and other stakeholders as Malaysia sets to launch its next critical five-year development plan, and as well at the regional and subregional level.  The United Nations development system remains a steadfast partner to help ensure developmental gains are safeguarded, built upon, and sustained into 2020 and beyond for shared prosperity and a sustainable future.

With these brief words, please allow me to invite our honoured presenter, Yang Berbahagia Professor Datuk Dr Mohamed Ariff of ICEIF, to present the key findings of ESCAP’s 2015 Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific, after we view the video message by Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP.

Thank you.

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