Malaysia: Bridging the Development Divide
Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to be here with you today to mark this important milestone.
The opening of the World Bank’s Malaysia Knowledge and Research Hub is the start of a new chapter in the relationship between Malaysia and the World Bank Group.
More than 60 years ago, the World Bank’s first mission report on Malaysia noted the country’s potential for growth, but also skepticism that “rates of economic progress” and “employment opportunities” would be sufficient to keep up with population growth. Since then, Malaysia has transformed from a country with a soaring poverty rate of over 50% in the 1960s to a country of remarkable growth, with poverty standing at less than 1% today.
Malaysia became one of the world’s most successful development stories through rapid economic growth that reduced poverty and created shared prosperity. Development is most successful when countries can determine the trajectory of their development, and Malaysia is no different. Providing universal access to health care and education has been one of the keys to the country’s long-term growth.
This office opening recognizes not only this extraordinary journey, but also the long and productive relationship between Malaysia and the World Bank. Countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Korea recognize that their relationship with the World Bank is valuable long after they stop borrowing from us. The relationship allows us to continue to learn from each other and share what works.
We have a lot to learn from the Malaysian development experience. Our new office will help us more systematically tap Malaysia’s know-how and local best practices, including in key areas such as poverty reduction and developing a competitive trade regime and financial sector. In particular, Malaysia’s knowledge of Islamic finance could be very useful to many of the World Bank’s member countries. We and others will also benefit from the country's experiences with regional partnerships, such as ASEAN.
We are able to share that knowledge not only with Malaysia's neighbors but also globally. This is an advantage of the World Bank Group--our global-local value proposition, sharing the best of what works and adapting that to local circumstances in countries around the world.
Our presence and collaboration through this hub will not only expand the reach of Malaysia’s successful development experience, but will also help generate new research on critical global issues. This is the first time the World Bank Group has established a global knowledge and research hub like this, and it offers great potential for cooperation between the WBG and local research institutes.
Importantly, the new hub will also allow Malaysia to leverage directly the global knowledge and expertise of the World Bank Group to facilitate its ongoing transformation into a high-income, inclusive economy.
Malaysia is already a very competitive country, ranking 18th out of 189 economies in the World Bank Group’s Doing Business Index—an annual measure of regulations that enhance or constrain business activity. But Malaysian officials want to become even more competitive. To help make this goal a reality, this office recently convened World Bank Group experts and Malaysian policy-makers to discuss how the Doing Business indicators are measured and ways Malaysia can become an even better place to do business.
We hope to continue our conversations with Malaysia on issues such as the underlying driving forces of a competitive economy and a healthy business environment. Experience shows that long-term investors gravitate to countries with good regulatory frameworks and strong public institutions that are accountable and transparent.
As the global economy shifts toward East Asia and the Pacific, it’s important that Malaysia and the World Bank Group remain strong partners. During the last decade, the region’s share in the world economy tripled to about 19 percent. This share is projected to increase to over 30 percent by 2030 and to 50 percent by 2050.
Our continued engagement has the potential to help tackle some of the toughest global challenges, such as climate change and ending extreme poverty. As the region most vulnerable to climate change, but also responsible for the fastest increase in CO2 emissions, the region will likely determine whether the world will be able to contain the increase of global temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius.
Ending extreme poverty is still a major challenge globally, but also in ASEAN countries. For example, Myanmar has the lowest life expectancy and the second-highest rate of infant and child mortality among ASEAN countries. Ending poverty in Myanmar will require international solidarity and support.
The range and complexity of today's global challenges require a coordinated international response across multiple policy areas.
One of our key vehicles for facilitating the international community’s response to these challenges is IDA, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest. IDA draws on the comparative advantages of the entire World Bank Group to bring a unique and powerful set of services to the most challenging circumstances.
Not only does IDA help countries identify solutions to global challenges and invest in inclusive societies that promote opportunity and growth, IDA is an essential tool for resilience and crisis response, and has a country-led and performance-based model that delivers lasting results.
Malaysia already has a track record as a strong development partner to IDA, having joined its regional neighbors of Japan, Korea and China in contributing to the record $52 billion replenishment of IDA in 2013. We were pleased to be joined by Malaysia at our recent replenishment meeting in Paris for the next funding round for IDA.
The scope of today’s development challenges makes it all the more critical that we capitalize on the experience and contributions of partners such as Malaysia to accelerate the development of others, including neighbors such as Myanmar.
I want to thank all of you who worked so hard to make this office a reality. It’s always a lot of work to accomplish something like this, but this is an important step in our ongoing collaboration with the people of Malaysia. We look forward to working together through our new Knowledge and Research Hub to find best practice solutions to help others benefit from the Malaysian experience of growth and progress. And we further welcome Malaysia’s partnership in IDA, as we work to give the world’s most vulnerable a chance at a better life.
Thank you very much. Terima kasih.