KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today unveiled a list of Malaysia's successes in managing rapid urbanisation, an achievement he said is backed by strong economic fundamentals.
Speaking before almost 200 international delegates at the 9th World Urban Forum, Najib said the Malaysian experience mirrored that of Asian and African trends, as highlighted in the New Urban Agenda adopted at Quito 2016.
"The world’s urban population is expected to almost double by 2050, with cities hosting close to 70 per cent of the globe’s population.
"This growth will be concentrated mainly in Asia and Africa, with Asia projected to have more than half of the world’s mega cities.
"Our experience in Malaysia reflects those trends, as we had an urbanisation rate of under 30 per cent in the 1970s; yet today that figure is already over 75 per cent and is expected to exceed 85 per cent by 2050."
Najib said despite the challenges, Malaysia's growth had been supported by strong economic fundamentals.
"The Economic Transformation Programme my government put in place in 2010 has delivered 2.26 million jobs, over one million of which are high-income jobs."
He noted out that pro-active economic measures have kept inflation and unemployment rate low.
"Inflation and unemployment have been kept low. We have brought the deficit down from 6.7 per cent in 2009 to 3 per cent last year. Thanks to strong pro-active measures, we recovered quickly from the global crisis of 2008 to 2009, and we have had years of healthy growth.
"The World Bank reports that “the Malaysian economy is progressing from a position of strength”, which puts us in a good place as we formulate our National Transformation 2050 – or TN50 – initiative."
Najib expressed hope that the efforts would culminate in another success story , with Malaysia being among the top 20 leading nations by 2050.
However, Najib said that as with urbanisation, humanistic values and people-centric development should not be neglected.
"In this mission we will not forsake our values. We seek a just, inclusive and sustainable society in which no Malaysian is left behind.
"On that note, may I mention that in the World Economic Forum’s latest report, Malaysia was ranked first out of all Asian emerging economies for inclusiveness, and that is a record which all Malaysians can be proud of."
Among others, he named Klinik 1Malaysia, exemptions under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Small and Medium Entrepreneurships (SME), as efforts to cushion any arising difficulties faced by the people due to urbanisation.
"We have put in place an extensive range of programmes to provide hundreds of thousands of affordable houses; assistance to those on low income; very cheap medical care through our 1Malaysia clinics; exemptions to GST for essential food items; training courses and initiatives; and incentives for businesses, especially the SMEs that are the backbone of our economy.
Najib also said Malaysia had been experiencing a greater shift in transport following the setting up of Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) lines and said plans are afoot for Rapid Transit System which would link Johor Baru and Singapore.