The 11th Malaysia Plan: What shall our new priorities be?

A timely mid-term review of the nation’s 11th Malaysia Plan reminds us that sweeping reforms and accountability are finally the order of the day.

With the main objective being for Malaysia to recover, rebuild and re-emerge as an Asian Tiger, our Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, said that the review is meant to respond to the people’s mandate by realigning focus and recalibrating our strategies.

Dr. Mahathir assuming the mantle of our executive leader once more, after more than 15 years away, sees new priorities and new emphasis for the next 2 years at least.

The review noted that income disparity across states continue to prevail, with cost of living rising. The goal to become a developed and inclusive nation by 2014 goes beyond attaining a high-level income level, it must be accompanied by higher purchasing power.

The 6 Policy Pillars upon which the whole 11th Malaysia Plan rests.

Notably, it was recognised that the aspiration of becoming a developed nation requires Malaysia to progress in many other dimensions, such as economics, politics, culture, psychology, spiritual and social.

This report however shall zoom into areas to do with technology and innovation, very briefly.

Under the Sixth Policy Pillar of Strengthening Economic Growth, it was recognised that productivity and competitiveness of industries have to be enhanced.

To that end, three Priority Areas were identified, one of which is accelerating innovation and technology adoption, as well as providing quality infrastructure.

SMEs are encouraged to move up the value chain with support from sectoral growth and implementation of structural reforms  – increasing export capacity, improving market efficiency, facilitating ease of doing business, modernisation of economic areas, fair competition and improved regulatory and trade practices.

BUT, of significance also is the use of innovation and technology to boost productivity and compete on the world stage, and there was special mention of 4th Industry Revolution (IR 4.0) or Industry 4.0 technologies to provide new business and wealth creation opportunities. In other words, IR4.0 technologies were earmarked as needed, especially by manufacturers, to remain competitive in the global value chain.

Notably, research and innovation have to be aligned to these areas of technology, whilst SMEs have to enhance capacity building and expand market outreach. By leveraging technology, this can be achieved.

There was cognisance that digital infrastructure has to be upgraded as we move along ahead with all these initiatives, and the report said, “Digital infrastructure will also be improved through expansion of fibre optic networks, together with commercial development of communication infrastructure, bridging connectivity to more households… “

The growing need for energy was acknowledged, along with the need to enhance efficiency of energy supply as well as strengthening energy security.

Also important, Human Capital Development

Under the fourth Policy Pillar, the review states that in order to generate skilled jobs with higher salary and wages, efforts will “be undertaken to encourage innovation, automation, adoption of new technology and commercialisation of intellectual property.”

In this regard, incentives under the Promotion of Investments Act 1986 will be revised in order to attract high quality investments.

After identification of critical industry skills by an Industry Skills Committee (ISC), a Critical Occupations List (COL) will be developed to address skills imbalances and job mismatch. This is expected to be a regular activity and the reports generated from these will guide Government intervention , and if need be, to reproritise fields of studies.

Critical skills shortage will be addressed through upskilling and reskilling programmes to equip graduates with specific industry-required skills. In order to address skills shortage on a more sustainable basis, the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and higher education curriculum will be continuously revised to keep pace with the dynamic requirements and demands of the industry.

For now, higher order thinking skills (HOTS) will be emphasised in primary and secondary school curriculum, emphasis will be given to review TVET programme offerings, implement harmonised accreditation system and strengthen TVET as the preferred education pathway

This is imperative especially in embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) where skills demanded by the labour market are rapidly evolving.

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) and monopoly entities

A national governance and policy framework will be formed to align these SOEs and entities with the broader national development agenda. The mid-term review also proposed for these organisations “to promote innovation and technology adoption in line with the 4IR to boost productivity as well as create greater market opportunities for domestic industries through export-driven and global  growth strategies.”

Last, but not least…

The use of the word ‘Industrial Revolution 4.0’ was used generously across the report, but it is only at chapter 15, where the phrase is defined and a 7-year national framework till 2025, outlined.

The framework outlines broad strategies and action plan covering financing, infrastructure, regulations, skills and technology to be implemented by ministries and agencies in collaboration with industry. The strategies and action plan will contribute towards higher adoption of the Industry 4.0 related technologies, particularly among SMEs.


(This report and accompanying images are adapted from the Eleventh Malaysia Plan Mid-Term Review that was released on 18th October 2018).