KUALA LUMPUR: Asean members must increase resilience and act as an unified bloc in economic and geopolitical matters to achieve their Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali said while Malaysia was committed to implementing the SDGs, there were concerns that external factors that would undermine growth, such as the United States-China trade war, global trade uncertainties as well as geopolitical developments would have adverse repercussions on the region.
“Asean countries must consolidate their strength in view of their shared values and work in concert to withstand these challenges,” he said at the Malaysia SDG Summit 2019 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, today.
The two-day summit is themed “Accelerating Progress on the SDGs: Whole of Nation Approach”.
Azmin commended United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Stefan Priesner and the UN Country Team in Malaysia for their continuous engagement with the ministry and other ministries as well help Malaysia to fulfill its commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“This is indeed a global imperative that requires united action through an integrated and holistic approach,” he said.
Azmin said since the Pakatan Harapan government took office about one-and-a-half years ago, they had undertaken institutional reforms that were also in line with SDG No 16 — establishing Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
“Our efforts have been recognised as one of the most striking changes in Malaysian public policy from the previous administration,” he said.
Azmin said, in line with SDG No 1 to end poverty in all its forms everywhere, the country was taking a holistic approach in poverty eradication measures by focusing on healthcare, housing and education as these were three of the main areas impacting the B40 group.
“At the same time, we will strengthen the fundamentals of our economy to generate sustained robust growth to boost the purchasing power of the people and provide a decent standard of living by 2030,” he said.
And, as for measuring the poverty line, he said, they had taken a comprehensive view with the introduction of the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) in the MidTerm Review of the 11th Malaysia Plan.
“Over time, as the Malaysian economy grows, the MPI takes into account demographic factors, education, health, cost and standard of living to provide a clearer picture of the socioeconomic needs and challenges of society,” he said.
Azmin said one of the fundamental criteria to fulfil the SDGs was the provision of affordable housing, and Malaysia was firmly committed to build a million affordable homes for the B40 group within the next 10 years, driven by active and strong long-term private-public partnership.
Moreover, he said there was also a need to reverse the trend of large imports of food as the country’s food import bill last year was more than RM50 billion, which did not bode well for efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in food production.
On a related matter, Azmin said studies showed that an estimated RM12.42 trillion a year would be required to achieve the SDGs.
“It is no exaggeration to say that this target cannot be reached without substantive private sector involvement,” he said.
Hence, he said, efforts should be made including devising creative fiscal incentives to draw greater participation from the private sector.
“In this regard, the Malaysia Development Bank has taken the initiative to establish the Sustainable Development Financing Fund (SDFF) worth RM1 billion in March of this year to encourage more companies to adopt sustainable practices in their business strategies, plans and programmes.
He said in Budget 2020, the allocation for SDFF had doubled to RM2 billion to support sustainable and green initiatives that were directly linked to the 17 SDGs.
“Also, just two months ago on the side lines of the 74th United Nations General Assembly, Malaysia launched the “One WASH Fund”, which is a joint financing initiative by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Islamic Development Bank,” he said.
Azmin also said no government could do it alone and that achieving the SDGs requires all levels of society to contribute and establish partnerships to implement the goals effectively.
“In this regard, we recognise the important role played by academia, civil societies and individuals in supporting the 2030 Agenda.”
Hence, we are constantly striving to leverage on non-government actors working closely with people on the ground and their expertise to complement the government’s efforts.
“To this end, “Together4SDGs” has been established as a platform to coordinate efforts by various non-state actors, in line with the government’s initiatives,” he said.
Meanwhile, Priesner said Malaysia had got a lot of things right in its development path, including a track record of reducing poverty and fostering improved access to public services.
“Malaysia has been an early starter with regard to the Agenda 2030, building the SDGs into planning, establishing policies and incorporating them into budgetary provisions.”
“This is the correct way to take the SDGs forward since they touch on all aspects of core government business.”
Priesner said the recently launched Shared Prosperity Vision, with a timeframe that coincided with 2030, provided an excellent opportunity to ensure that everybody would be able to benefit from Malaysia’s development.
“As such, Malaysia may provide lessons for the region and beyond to demonstrate how integrated policies and programmes can ensure that nobody is left behind, while considering the sustainability aspect so that future generations enjoy the same quality of life.”