IDEAS held our very first Malaysia Outlook Conference 2021 from 2 to 4 February 2021, discussion 3 main themes namely economy, politics and social. It was held on Zoom and featured prominent guests as speakers for each theme.
YAM Tunku Zain Al-‘Abidin Tuanku Muhriz delivered the opening remark for the event while the opening speech was delivered by Tricia Yeoh, CEO of IDEAS. The title of the conference on the first day was “Economic Outlook in 2021 for Malaysia and the World”. Moderated by Laurence Todd, IDEAS’ Director of Research, he was joined by two speakers namely Dr. Razeen Sally, Visiting Associate Professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore and Datin Amy Moris, CEO of Maybank Kim Eng.
Dr. Razeen Sally firstly talked about COVID-19 crisis and the global economic outlook as well as the policy responses around the world. He also touched on the global shifts shaping post-vaccine future such as more government interventions and the surge of unilateralism at the expense of global cooperation. International trade in 2020 saw the deglobalization and rise of protectionism. According to him, energy sector was also impacted by COVID-19 as the world saw the biggest energy demand contraction in 70 years.
Datin Amy Moris mentioned that net-zero emissions interest is picking up fast while data and science driven reporting is consolidating. According to her, Malaysia’s CO2 emissions has also doubled in 20 years, from 1999 to 2019. She listed 3 ESG risks for Malaysia’s macro outlook in 2021 namely carbon risk, labour risk and values and valuations risk. Lastly, she also highlighted the fact that companies with higher ESG scores have lower cost of capital.
On the second day, Aira Azhari, Manager for IDEAS’ Democracy and Governance Unit moderated the session. The title was “Political Outlook 2021: What’s in store for Malaysia and the World?” and the two speakers joined her for the discussion were Prof. Meredith Weiss, Chair of Political Science in the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany, State University of New York and Prof. Wong Chin Huat of Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development, Sunway University.
Prof. Weiss started off by explaining relational clientelism and related it with the politics of Malaysia. Among the consequences of relational clientelism in Malaysia were transactional politics rather than far-reaching democratic accountability and the amplification of communal politics. She suggested that, in order to make politics in Malaysia more policy-focused, unlimited research and drafting support for MPs and strong civic education are needed. Efforts also should be made to make voters understand what they can expect from policy-making.
Prof. Wong Chin Huat stressed that there would be new normal for Malaysia politics. They are hung Parliament, post-election coalition governments, differentiated coalitions at federal and state levels and kings acting as kingmakers. He not only mentioned a numbers of threats for politics in Malaysia such as public disillusionment towards democracy, low voters turnout, suppression of freedom, more vote-buying, party-hopping and realignment but also listed out opportunities like 8 million new voters, realistic manifestos and parties stronger need for product differentiation. Prof. Wong suggested among others legislative reform, set up of shadow cabinet and decentralization and local democracy as means for professionalized and policy-driven politics.
On the third day, we had a special session with Tan Sri Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia on Public Health entitled, “Society after COVID-19: What will change and what have we learnt?”. CEO of IDEAS, Tricia Yeoh was the moderator of the day. According to Tan Sri Dr. Jemilah, COVID-19 highlighted a few issues such as there is a need for adequate living spaces and our strength and fragility lie in our interconnectedness. She also mentioned the lessons we could derive from the crisis are xenophobia is very harmful in our effort battling COVID-19 and that pandemic started in community could be ended with solutions in community. Main challenges in public healthcare addressing COVID-19, according to her are on improving our community engagement and solving dichotomy between private and public healthcare.
In her closing remark, Tricia Yeoh mentioned that although we need to demand for the government to provide good policies and good policy-making measures, we also need to mobilize ourselves as 2021 will definitely be a difficult year for us.
For those who missed the webinar session and would like to watch it, the video recording of the webinar is available below.