Launch of the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2016

Apr 28, 2016

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,

Good morning and a warm welcome to the official launch of UN ESCAP’s Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2016 here in Kuala Lumpur.   This launch event is one of 24 simultaneous regional launches of ESCAP’s flagship publication around Asia and the Pacific. Thank you for your interest and for participating in today’s event.

I also take this opportunity to thank Professor Datuk Dr. Mohamed Ariff for joining us again this year to present his review of the Survey, with particular reference to Malaysia’s Economy: Performance and Outlook. Professor Datuk Dr. Mohammed is a longstanding partner of UN ESCAP in launching this flagship product, and also has served as consultant to a number of other UN agencies.  We are privileged to have Professor with us once again this year.

We are also pleased to have with us Mr. Zheng Jian, Associate Economic Affairs Officer from the Macroeconomic Policy and Financing for Development Division of UN ESCAP, to present the key findings and recommendations of the Survey.

Most of you here today are quite familiar with The Asia-Pacific Economic and Social Survey as UN ESCAP, through this publication, 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 focus of ESCAP’s Survey this year is “Nurturing productivity for inclusive growth and sustainable development” Coming on the heels of the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs), it offers countries in this region options for reaching national development goals, including the 2030 targets.

Inclusive and sustainable economic growth is essential for the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and improving the quality of people’s lives.  For this reason, the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2016 prioritises the revival of robust and resilient economic growth in the region, and improvement of the quality of that growth by making it more inclusive and sustainable.  This, the Survey argues, could be achieved by a further rebalancing towards domestic and regional demand, driven by broad-based productivity gains, increases in real wages and enhanced skills for workers, and better infrastructure.  The Survey also identifies the important role of fiscal policy in reviving economic growth and emphasises that fiscal initiatives should be underpinned by sustained reforms and an efficient tax system that delivers the necessary revenues and promotes equity.  Action along these lines, the Survey suggests, would, among other things, nurture inclusiveness, equality and social stability - key principles in ensuring the successful implementation and achievement of the SDGs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 2030 Agenda has been launched in much tougher times than those which prevailed when the Millennium Development Goals were adopted at the dawn of the new millennium.  Global economic growth is far from robust.

The ESCAP Survey acknowledges that achieving growth that inclusive and sustainable will be a challenge for countries in Asia-Pacific – indeed all countries – in light of fragile global economic conditions, rising inequalities, demographic changes that see some societies rapidly ageing while others have as many as two-thirds of their population under the age of 26, an expanding middle class and rapid urbanisation, and an increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters.

A policy direction built on evidence to deliver national goals, including international commitments like the SDGs, and staying the course with a firm eye on the prize of shared prosperity, peace and justice and protection of the planet and our natural heritage will be imperative.

Malaysia is to be commended for moving proactively to integrate the SDGs into its planning framework, and for prioritising growth, anchored on people. Building on its achievements in poverty reduction, Malaysia stated its commitment to focus over the next five years on the Bottom 40 percent, addressing persistent inequalities, especially on regional, ethnic and gender dimensions; and to improve human capability, strengthen institutions, coordination among them, and governance, and to pursue a low-emission development pathway.

The Economic Planning Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department, as the focal point for implementation of the SDGs, has also carefully mapped the 11th Malaysia Plan thrusts and game-changers to the goals and targets of the 2030 agenda; and will use the 11th Plan as the main vehicle for delivery of the SDGs in these next five years. We welcome this move as the elements of inclusivity, resilience and sustainability are firmly embedded in the 11th Malaysia Plan.

The SDGs that comprise 17 goals, 169 targets are very ambitious; and they are universal.  They apply to countries at all levels of development. They are integrated in nature and will require ministries and agencies at the federal, state, district and local levels, as well as all other stakeholders of the development matrix - to work coherently and cohesively across institutional silos, sectors and geographical regions.  And the Agenda demands investments of all kinds: public and private, national and global, in both capital and capacity. All available resources must be drawn on for the new agenda.  So we need bold approaches, and strong and broad coalitions around the SDGs.

I believe the findings, analysis, and recommendations made in the ESCAP Survey 2016 will be very useful to us as policy makers, academia, think tanks, businesses, civil society and members of the media - all actors for national development - and that it will stimulate dialogue and thinking about development solutions as Malaysia and other countries in Asia-Pacific take action to accelerate development for shared prosperity, and to expand opportunity and choices and improve the lives of the region’s citizens, and protect our planet.

The United Nations Country Team in Malaysia and across the Asia and Pacific region stand ready to partner with governments, the business community, and civil society to ensure achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

I invite you to view the video message by Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP in conjunction with the launch of the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2016.

Thank you.

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