The unveiling of Malaysia’s much-anticipated 2019 budget last Friday by the Minister of Finance, Lim Guan Eng comes at a challenging time for the country. On the external side, Malaysia’s exports are facing growing headwinds – as opposed to the fair winds of recent years – due to heightened trade tensions and slower global growth. On the domestic front, a new emphasis on addressing the stock of government debt and contingent liabilities is likely to narrow fiscal space and prevent public investment from driving economic activity as it did before. In this situation, Malaysia will depend more on private consumption and investment to support economic growth in the next few years.
To mark this year’s End Poverty Day, the World Bank has released its biennial Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report “Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle”, which documents the dramatic reduction in extreme poverty achieved from 1990 to 2015. In the span of 25 years, the share of people around the world living in extreme poverty line fell from 36% to 10% (from 1.9 billion to 736 million), despite the global population growing from 5 to 7 billion.
Malaysia wants the digital economy to play a central role in the next chapter of the country’s development—that much is clear. However, what may be less clear is why taxation should be part of the policy mix that will help deliver the country’s digital economy ambitions. This is important because taxes raise the cost of doing business rather than reducing it.
Over the years, Malaysia has demonstrated great improvements in enhancing upward social mobility as the country continues to advance toward becoming a developed nation. However, this success has not been evenly distributed among the population. A 2016 Khazanah Research Institute study found that 24% of children born to low-skilled parents in Malaysia remained low-skilled as adults. Likewise, 46% of children born to parents in the bottom 40% of the national income distribution remained in the bottom 40%.
Working in public health brings me close to the stories of brave patients and dedicated medical staff. Very often we also conduct quantitative and qualitative assessments of case studies. In recent years, our work in Malaysia engages a public health concern that has gripped the world – HIV. Our findings have given us hope of winning the fight against the disease.
Malaysia is a remarkable country by many metrics, highlighted by the Growth Commission as one of the world’s fastest growing economies. It has transformed itself from a low-income, agriculture-oriented economy, to a modern, trade-oriented one that is on the cusp of reaching high-income status within the next few years. To most economists, especially those looking from the outside, Malaysia appears to be doing very well. Growth is strong, at 5.9% last year and projected at 5.4% this year. Inflation is low, at just 1.8% in May 2018, and incomes are high, approaching the magic US$12,055 threshold that marks an exit from the middle-income status that so many see as a trap.
In November 2016, we published the “Practical Guide for Measuring Retail Payment Costs”, an innovative methodology that can be customized to country needs and circumstances, without losing the international comparative dimension.
The guide enables countries to measure the costs associated with retail payment instruments, based on survey data, for the payment end users, payment service/infrastructure providers, and the total economy. The guide also enables countries to derive projected savings in shifting from the more costly to the less costly payment instruments.
Across the digital economy in Indonesia, both IT giants and smaller companies have the same complain: digital talents are hard to find. Obert Hoseanto, an Engagement Manager from Microsoft Indonesia, said the company recently contracted only five people for an internship program, out of a pool of hundreds of applicants.
But those applying for jobs are also struggling, with many realizing the difficulties of meeting the needs of their employers. Natali Ardianto is learning the ropes at tiket.com, a thriving start-up, “by doing”, he said. “Only 30% of the curriculum of my education was useful for the company I joined,” he explained.
A recent workshop held by the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs and supported by the World Bank strived to develop a better understanding of this skills gap, by bringing in insights from the private sector, education experts, and global practitioners.
In the infrastructure domain, “price” is a prism with many façades.
An infrastructure economist sees price in graphic terms: the coordinates of a point where demand and supply curves intersect.
For governments, price relates to budget lines, as part of public spending to develop infrastructure networks.
Utility managers view price as a decision: the amount to charge for each unit of service in order to recover the costs of production and (possibly) earn a profit.
But for most people, price comes with simple question: how much is the tariff I have to pay for the service, and can I afford it?