Enhancing Human Development Achievements in the State of Perak

Sep 6, 2016

Thank you for the very warm welcome and introduction.

Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri-Tan Sri, Puan Sri-Puan Sri, Dato’-Dato’, Datin-Datin,

Senior officers from corporate companies and government agencies,

Keynote speakers, presenters and panelists for today’s event,

Members of the media,

Distinguished guests. Ladies and gentlemen,

A very good morning to all of you. Selamat Pagi.

Perak’s Development Vision and People’s Aspirations

1.    It is good to be back in Perak, and to join in a dialogue that aims to find new and innovative pathways to a more prosperous and peaceful future; one that provides opportunity and ensures a life of dignity for all, and keeps our planet healthy enough to sustain us for generations to come.  I thank the Dialogue organisers for inviting me back to share some perspectives on how we can enhance human development achievements as countries get on with the job to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030, leaving no one behind

2.    The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which governments around the world adopted last September, cover all people, in all countries.  Even the wealthiest and most powerful societies have yet to conquer inequality, discrimination and environmental degradation.  And so all countries, at national, state and local levels, need to redouble efforts to achieve the goals.

3.    The 2030 agenda is an ambitious agenda.  But it is an achievable agenda.  As the UN Secretary-General has often said, we are the first generation that can end poverty, and may be the last that can take steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.  And we certainly can do much more for women and children, and for vulnerable and excluded groups living on the margins of our societies. 

4.    Perak shares the ambitions of the 2030 global development agenda.  The Perak Amanjaya Development Plan provides the state blueprint, and aims to measure development success not only by economic growth, but also by social development, improved well- being, and environmental sustainability, protecting the natural wealth of the state. It is worth noting that out of 43 state development indicators, five indicators measure economic and financial performance, while the remaining indicators measure social and environmental conditions and impact, demonstrating the State’s acceptance that monetary measures, such as GDP per capita, are inadequate proxies of development.

5.    in its scope, the state development plan reflects the state government’s engagement with community leaders, the orang asli community, academicians, entrepreneurs, youth, and women; and their hopes for a better future that is not exclusively centred on wealth accumulation. Their aspirations for a sustainable society are more intrinsic in nature.  They also value harmonious community relations, social cohesion and participation; growth in intellect and of morals. They prioritise equal access to opportunities and quality education for their children and to lead long and healthy lives.  They want to see local wisdom, ancestral heritage and identity preserved; and the conservation of resources and biodiversity. And they want to harness technology and innovation for economic and social progress, and avoid its misuse that might bring food insecurity, pollution of the environment and the erosion of character and ethics of the next generation.

6.    In sum, Perakians seek prosperity, peace, stability, a healthy planet and respect for their individual rights and freedoms, and their achievement in tandem with similar progress across Malaysia and the wider world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

7.    These aspirations of the people of Perak are shared around the world, in developed and developing countries alike.  It is clear from the first global survey on “the World We Want”, carried out by the United Nations to inform the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, that besides employment opportunities, people consistently rank education, health and good governance among their highest priorities. These multiple non-income dimensions have been a core part of policies for inclusion and tackling inequalities in almost every high income country, and increasingly in middle income countries.

HDR as an Approach to Measuring Human Wellbeing

8.    And it is precisely this need to enrich human wellbeing through the lives people lead, rather than assuming it can be dictated by economic performance, that led the economist Mahbub Ul Haq to develop the human development approach, from which the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen later based his work on human capabilities.

9.    The human development approach aims to disassociate the concept of economic growth as the sole proxy for human wellbeing. It is about “the expansion of people’s freedoms to live long, healthy and creative lives; to advance other goals they have reason to value; and to engage actively in shaping development equitably and sustainably on a shared planet.”[i] It is about expanding the richness of human life, rather than simply the richness of economy in which they live.

10. The approach, then, sees people as both the beneficiaries and drivers of human development, as individuals and in groups, and seeks to shift the paradigm and move the development focus from economic growth and basic needs, to human capabilities and freedom to live fulfilling lives.

11. The UN Development Programme (UNDP), in our effort to measure human development and wellbeing, and to promote people as the centre of the development agenda, has championed this approach for the last 25 years.  The first global Human Development Report was published by UNDP in 1990, and since, has become an annual flagship publication, widely anticipated each year.

12. The reports have had extensive influence on development debate worldwide.  They also have served as an inspiration and foundation for subsequent regional, national and sub-national level human development reports or to explore ideas, constructively challenge policies and approaches, and provide governments and citizens with different insights of local realities through multi-dimensional analysis of a range of critical issues.

13. It is for tehse reasons that many state and local governments have embarked on their own human development reporting process, adapting innovative methodologies and indicators so that sub-national analyses and findings can be used to tailor development strategies to local realities. Through rigorous human development analysis at the state and local levels, local inequities and deprivations can be measured and be better understood by governments to design, target and implement development programmes more effectively.

14. This approach is especially useful as countries pursue the 2030 agenda with its main aim to leave no one behind.  It enables countries to focus attention, based on sound evidence and data, on laggng regions and states, and population groups that need improvements in both life experiences and life chances.

15. To-date, over 20 global reports, 29 regional reports and 660 national reports, as well as a range of sub-national reports in some 140 countries have been produced.

16. At the same time that the global Human Development Report advocates a new perspective of human development, the global HDR has created and developed composite indices to assess multiple dimensions to measure wellbeing. Some examples include, Human Development Index (HDI), Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI), Gender Development Index (GDI), Gender Empowerment Measurement (GEM), and more recently, the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).

17. All of these indices were created to emphasise that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country or state. For instance, the HDI is a measure of average achievement in key dimensions required for human development; a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and a decent standard of living.

18. As poverty, like development is multidimensional, the multidimensional poverty index or MPI builds upon this and identifies deprivations in the same 3 key dimensions as the Human Development Index, but considering overlapping deprivations suffered at the same time to assess the prevalence and intensity of poverty.  This is key to helping address the furthest behind first.

19. Malaysia’s adoption of a multidimensional poverty index for the first time in the 11th Malaysia Plan is important.  Using the MPI can help the effective allocation of resources by targeting those with the greatest intensity of poverty, and to assess changes over time.

20. In short, the HDR produces policy-relevant information, from which evidence-based policy decisions can be taken to reduce various forms of social, political and economic exclusion that keep people from realising their capabilities.

21. Beyond the report, equal emphasis is given to the process underpinning the production of the report. This is key because local capacities can be developed and enhanced through utilising the human development framework for policy making purpose; as well as by observing key principles of the HDR process, including enssuring focus on priority national challenges and emphasising participatory and inclusive preparation; independent and high quality analysis; and sustained follow up of recommendations and monitoring of impacts.

22. The process values innovation, mixed methodology and robust consultations. Even in selection of its theme, analysis of distinct, current and locally relevant development issues may involve themes as diverse as economic reform and public finance, poverty and inequality, gender, human security and conflict, youth empowerment, democratic governance, public health, and social inclusion.  The theme identified should be a pressing development challenge, which if creatively tackled, will unlock significant development gains.

The Malaysian NHDR Experience

Ladies and gentlemen,

23. This was the case for Malaysia’s first national human development report, with the title “redesigning an Inclusive Future, which was released in 2014.  Recognising that forging growth and development that is inclusive and leaves no one behind is essential to achieving viison 2020, the report was prepared as a contribution to the preparation process for the 11th Malaysia plan, the last five-year plan to chart the road to 2020.

24. The NHDR for Malaysia therefore emphasises multidimensionality in bringing clarity to the concepts revolving around inclusive growth and employs a participatory research methodology in its analysis. Through active national stakeholder consultation, a full report capturing key findings, consensus-based targets and implementable policy recommendations was put forward in a clear and user-friendly manner, accessible to stakeholders and the wider public. The report and its findings were submitted to the National Development Planning Committee (NDPC) and to EPU for the 11th Malaysia Plan discussions. The report and its findings also spawned many discussions in academic institutions and in the general public, including a Youth Development Policy Debate, on the issues raised and the recommendations, enriching the national development discourse.

25. In terms of innovation of content, Malaysia’s national report incorporated some new elements in Malaysia’s development discourse.  For example, it offered new insights on inequality in wealth and in capability, and along multiple dimensions.  It also offered new thinking on addressing the needs of women, minorities and other vulnerable groups; on the role ofncivil society/non-governmental groups in the development process; the legal framework for development; on human rights; and the government delivery system.  The analyses and recommendations were important inputs in defining Malaysia’s way forward to 2030.

26. The research undertaken in the report also fed into UNDP and EPU’s ongoing work at the time to develop Malaysia’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), where analysis on multidimensional deprivations and mapping in the country were customised to reflect local conditions.

Examples of Sub-national HDR

27. A similar process around core development challenges would be beneficial at the state level.  As the State of Perak strives to achieve its state development vision to improve the socio-economic development and quality of life of the people fairly and equitably, multiple avenues and approaches will need to be pursued to generate new ideas, exchange experiences, leverage technology and partnerships to achieve the planned results.  Examining pressing economic, social and environmental issues through a human development lens will put new options and new solutions on the table.

28. The value of undertaking rigorous analysis of this nature, and the process of participation and engagement that also enriches the development discourse and the democratic process is well established, which is why they are becoming more and more used at state and district levels.  Sub-national reports have been produced in several countries, most prominently in India, where they are used in many states to probe specific local challenges and to collect socio-economic indicators mandated at the provincial levels by national development plans since 2004. There have been many good practices, a few worth mentioning here.

29. In Nagaland, India, (I believe the Chief Minister is here with us) three district-level human development reports have provided insights into the benefits of traditional practices, which advocated co-existence between man and nature. Recognising its data systems were weak through one study, the State implemented recommended remedial measures for scientific data collection and authentication, which were institutionalised by the Directorate of Economics and Statistics. Further to that, the state set as a priority the engendering of State and District plans.  A gender budgeting manual tailored to local conditions was prepared, and departments’ budgets are audited to assess whether they are gender neutral, gender friendly or gender sensitive, with the aim of achieving gender equality targets.

30. The Gender Budget Initiative has impacted women’s lives in several ways. From a clear evidence base, investments are made in protective services and rehabilitation schemes for women’s homes and care institutions for victims of atrocities, and in pensions for widows and destitute women; as well as in social services schemes to support the education and health of women; and in economic services, such as training and skills development, and provision for credit, infrastructure, marketing and other areas, which are critical to women’s economic independence and autonomy.

31.  In other countries, capacity building and data systems improvement are key components that come with the SHDR. Training of state-level statistical officers in human development concepts and statistics; human development planning and monitoring; strengthening of statistical systems, and in particular the availability of relevant data at disaggregated level, have proven highly beneficial, helping countries to better frame and prioritise development outcomes and outputs, and track the performance of the states or districts with regard to national and internationally agreed development goals.

Opportunities for Perak and its People

32. Drawing from these examples and the benefits they have yielded in other countries, Perak may consider this as an approach to probe persistent and pressing development challenges as it pursues the state development vision.  The process can assist in generating important disaggregated data to improve understanding of the challenges faced by the state, the design and targeting of the state’s response, and enable more robust monitoring and evaluation and reporting systems to track performance and progress on priority development goals.   

33. The gaps highlighted as a result of such analysis can also help the state government in resource planning and prioritisation of action plans so that manpower and budgets can be allocated for the most pressing human development issues over the short- medium- and long term and target the furthest behind first.  Through the process, human development capacities in multiple dimensions can be cultivated within state government, thereby enhancing competencies in innovating and delivering government products and services to meet the needs of the people of Perak.

34. For the people of Perak, the SHDR would present the opportunity to participate in the policy-making process through its bottom-up methodology. Over time, it strengthens democratic dialogue, transparency in development planning and expenditure, and accountability for results.

35. As Malaysia makes its big push towards advanced nation status in 2020, and to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030, attention will need to be focussed on vulnerable population groups and groups lagging behind, and on regional and urban/rural disparities, so that human development achievements can be more equitably experienced across the country, lifting the country as a whole.  Acceleration of progress to 2020 and beyond will require clear targeting, and assessments of synergies and trade-offs across development actions, based on solid evidence and data, so investments can be placed where you get the most bang for the buck.

36. Strengthened human development analysis may be one tool in the box, as much as this Forum, the Pangkor Dialogue, is another for the exchange of experiences and building partnerships for development solutions.

37.Indeed, the link between the two processes could be beneficial.  A state level annual human development reporting process would effectively complement the Pangkor Dialogue platform and IDR’s work in supporting state policy, planning and development. Annual human development analysis of core development challenges would provide insights that can be used to refine and scope issues discussed in this forum.  The HDR process may offer Pangkor Dialogue a systematic methodology and rationale to tailor its themes and aspects of the Forum’s agenda around specific human development issues that are globally relevant, yet of particular state interest, and to funnel knowledge and experiences of the global community towards collective idea outputs that are more directed and focused in solving issues and achieving shared goals.

38. UNDP stands ready to support the state authorities as it continues its journey to Perak Aman Jaya – Peaceful and Progressive Perak.

Thank you.

i HDR 2010

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