MALAYSIA has travelled far on the road to economic growth and shared prosperity. Using its natural resources, the country not only eliminated absolute poverty from 49% in 1970 to less than 1% in 2014, but also lifted the incomes of households at the bottom 40% of the income bracket. The Gini Coefficient — a measure of income inequality in an economy — dropped from 55.7 to 42.1 over the same period, implying that gaps in incomes were narrowing. This road is now leading towards a developed country, with a vibrant and growing middle class where aspirational households have access to relevant education and training, higher income opportunities, more savings for retirement and a safety net to protect the vulnerable from shocks.
Underlying this journey to developed country status is a series of structural reforms that have formed the bulk of the national development plans, most recently the 11th Malaysia Plan. The quest moving forward is therefore to sustain and finance this process. The 11th Malaysia Plan is budgeted to cost RM246 million between now and 2020. Taxation choices will matter a great deal for Malaysia’s prospects in this journey, more so in an environment of low or volatile oil and commodity prices and a global and regional economic slowdown.