Shift to a green growth economy vital
Date : 14 July 2020
Reported by : Roslan Bin Rusly
Category : News
Letters: Malaysia's economy lost about RM2.4 billion a day as non-essential activities were halted due to the Movement Control Order (MCO). The pandemic highlights the weak links in our economy, with a heavy reliance on environmentally non-sustainable economic activities, undocumented foreign labour, low-skill labour-intensive economy, a large income gap and weak social safety nets.
These weak links, as underlined in the Shared Prosperity Vision (SPV) 2030, must be astutely addressed so that the exploitation of nature and labour will not hurt us again.
Before the start of the MCO, which saw the closure of schools and halting of non-essential economic activities, the Sungai Kim Kim toxic waste pollution caused by the illegal dumping of chemical waste had stopped classes and closed more than 100 schools in Johor last year.
This points to the need to reframe our development strategies in tackling the weak links.
On the positive side, there was significant evidence of environmental improvements during the MCO, demonstrating that the environment is capable of healing itself quickly, if we, as the vicegerents of Earth, are able to change.
This positivity suggests that while the Prihatin and Penjana economic stimulus packages are ready to help businesses and the rakyat in the short term, the government must also usher in positive systemic changes to improve our economy to be more healthy, sustainable and resilient.
We have gone through the Covid-19 pandemic together, and similarly, the country's environmental degradation can be tackled together.
An opportunity has presented itself for a reframing of Malaysia's development model to pave the way for long-term resilience by prioritising human, social and ecological resilience.
How we react today will shape our society for decades to come. Orthodox economic models that overemphasise financial capital, leaving natural capital and human beings in the rear view may be able to alleviate the symptoms of underdevelopment, but not real development issues.
Success as defined by limited quantitative indicators, such as gross domestic product (GDP), has to be reviewed. A thorough analysis needs to be undertaken to address these weak links to ensure we channel our resources towards building back better.
The weaknesses of the current economic model, which premised monetary profit maximisation and the exploitation of nature and labour, have been exposed.
There is a need for a paradigm shift to a healthy, sustainable and resilient economy that operates within ecological limits while ensuring that the basic needs of all are met for both the present and future generations.
Green growth strategy must be explored. Indeed, the concept of green growth has been advocated in different international venues, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, United Nations, World Bank, G8 and G20 meetings.
Within this framework, South Korea was the first country in the world to make green growth a national agenda.
In 2008, South Korea's emphasis on environmental sustainability for its fiscal stimulus and beyond was partly credited for their early recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. South Korea dedicated 80 per cent of its fiscal stimulus plan to green growth projects.
Its investments in clean energy technologies created an estimated one million new jobs. In the quest for long term and effective nation building, a development model based on sustainability provides a better alternative to the prevailing GDP-centred, extractive model.
Urgent action is needed to reframe Malaysia's development agenda to establish an empowering socio-ecological development model that prioritises shared prosperity and protection of nature that leaves no one behind.
Indeed, the 11th Malaysia Plan mid-term review had stressed sustainable development issues. Hence, a more prominent policy statement on environmental sustainability and green growth will better align the 12th Malaysia Plan and SPV 2030 with Sustainable Development Goals, which will ensure the prosperity of the rakyat in the future.
Gairuzazmi Mat Ghani
Department of Economics
Kulliyyah of Economics and Management Sciences
International Islamic University Malaysia