NEW YORK, Sept 27 — Malaysia has notched major socio-economic achievements while at the same time managing and sustaining its resources, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“Since gaining Independence in 1957, Malaysia has successfully diversified its economy, from one that was initially commodity-based to that which is now more driven by robust manufacturing and services.
“The Malaysian economy expanded by 6.2 per cent on average every year between 1971 and 2018 while our per capita income rose by more than 20 times, to reach about US$9,300 in 2018.
“Equally important, our inflation rate has been stable and kept below 4 per cent on average during the same period while enjoying full employment since 1992.
“Our absolute poverty rate fell from about 50 per cent of households in 1970 to a mere 0.4 per cent in 2016, under the old poverty line.
“We obtained these socio-economic achievements while managing and sustaining its resources,” he said at a side event of the United Nations General Assembly here entitled “Environmental Stewardship in Addressing Poverty to Achieve Sustainable Development for All”.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia’s forest cover was currently at 55.3 per cent or 18.3 million hectares of our total land area, exceeding Malaysia’s initial commitment of 50 per cent at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.
“This represents the nation’s will and commitment to conserve and sustainably manage our forest, its flora and fauna.
“Our forest cover today is even far higher than that of most large European countries including France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said despite Malaysia’s economic growth and rapid urbanisation, maintaining its forests and making existing agricultural land more productive to meet increasing demand could not have been achieved without sustainable development policies.
“Various laws have been enacted, such as the Land Conservation Act, 1960, Wildlife Protection Act 1972, and the National Forestry Act 1984 — all instrumental legislations that have provided the legal framework covering every aspect including land use, wildlife protection, administration and conservation of forest,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said renewable energy has also been given a renewed focus in Malaysia.
“We have set a target of 20 per cent electricity generation from renewable energy sources by 2025. Current incentives, such as the Green Technology Financing Scheme and the Green Investment Tax Allowance, will be continued to incentivise the growth of renewable energy,” he added.
The prime minister admitted, however, that Malaysia still faced challenges from its growing socio-economic development needs although it has put in place various efforts to prevent environmental loss.
‘“The increasing population of Malaysia brings with it an increased demand for food, water and other infrastructures which places pressure on our natural resources and environment.
“The impact of climate change further adds to this pressure. Extreme changes in rainfall patterns as well as extended dry spells affect our forests ability to store and produce fresh water, sea level rises that lead to peculiar flood incidents and pollution.
“In the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020), substantial resources have been allocated to implement a wide range of actions to address climate change as well as to further enhance our conservation and restoration efforts.
“We need to ensure the earth will be able to exist in its best form to provide the services and environment that humans need.
“Thus, we need to responsibly use and protect our natural resources and environment by conserving and do things sustainably.
“This effort needs to be adopted by all people at all levels for us to succeed, especially in addressing the impact of climate change.
“We believe that the unsustainable use of natural resources and neglecting the environment, have much to do with these changes,” he added.
Dr Mahathir said that on the global front, Malaysia took its commitment to conservation seriously and was proud to be a signatory to an extensive list of global treaties on conservation, wildlife, forestry and the environment.
“Malaysia sees these Multilateral Environmental Agreements as a key part of its formula for balance in the sense of its responsibility to the planet, its responsibility to its people to ensure their right to food, clothing and shelter, and balance in the right at its people to rise out of poverty, and to seek long-term, sustainable and shared prosperity for the country,” he added.