Think Tank (4/2022)
Nurul Izzah Anwar, Member of Parliament (MP) for Permatang Pauh, Malaysia, presenting.
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Economic Challenges in Post-Pandemic Malaysia: Policy and Governance Perspectives
05 Jul 2022

The RSIS Malaysia Programme hosted Nurul Izzah Anwar, Member of Parliament (MP) for Permatang Pauh, Malaysia, to speak at a seminar on “Economic Challenges in Post-Pandemic Malaysia: Policy and Governance Perspectives” on 5 July 2022.

Ms Nurul Izzah provided an overview of socioeconomic challenges in post-pandemic Malaysia and the policies needed to address these issues, particularly in areas of social protection, employment, public health, and education.

Pressing economic challenges include inflation, high household debt, unemployment and underemployment across the skills spectrum, food insecurity among precarious groups, and disruptions to education for vulnerable youths. In the long term, such issues compound structural socioeconomic inequalities with negative impact on public health, social mobility, and intergenerational equality.

While noting a range of policies addressing these issues, she addressed key institutional obstacles to their implementation. These include a lack of cohesion between welfare schemes and between agencies which affects fiscal coordination; a lack of institutional memory; and a lack of targeted and evidence-based policies. Overall, these obstacles impair the government’s machinery to deliver welfare expediently, cost-effectively, and to those most in need. For example, during July and August 2021, only 19 per cent of the Bottom 40 (B40) group received food assistance. The lack of fiscal coordination is also seen in the proliferation of social assistance programmes, growing from 95 in 2012 to 137 in 2020, while the overall budget for such programmes has fallen.

To ensure efficacy in policy and governance, she therefore stressed the need for policy to be directed by evidence, for better coordination between agencies, and for better institutional memory to ensure administrative efficiency and programme continuity. The pilot Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) study initiated by the Permatang Pauh MP to measure inequality in her constituency is an example of such policy-directed research. She also noted the study is set to be replicated in other districts across Malaysia.

Other areas for improvement include prioritising investments in human capital to tackle gaps in public health and nutrition, unemployment and underemployment, educational disruptions, and cradle-to-grave social protections to meet the long-term needs of an ageing nation.


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