• Madani Sahari

Shared prosperity future

The official launch to signify Malaysia’s role as host for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation 2020 (Apec 2020) took place yesterday, officiated by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. In his speech, the prime minister stated the importance of the cooperation, citing that it accounts for more than 80 per cent of Malaysia’s total trade and more than 70 per cent of our foreign direct investments in the manufacturing sector.

Apec is also unique, in which its voluntary, non-binding and consensus-based decision-making principles instill meaningful results in global trade and investment. While the Bogor Goals, idealised in 1994, focused on improving free and open trade and investment, we have also come to the point where faith in economic liberalisation can only be restored when it is inclusive to all levels and allows participation of all players.

It is for this reason, the prime minister advocated that the concept of shared prosperity, introduced during his speech in Papua New Guinea last year, be echoed across the Apec economies. Malaysia took this first step by introducing the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, launched last October, to create an economy that is balanced and sustainable. Since Malaysia hosted Apec in 1998, there have been numerous global phenomena that affected not only Apec economies, but also the world markets.

Firstly, the global population saw a steep increase from 5.9 billion to 7.7 billion in the past two decades alone, creating a higher sense of urgency in achieving sustainable development goals as we move towards the future. Secondly and more importantly, the quick rise of the digital economy has made market access cheaper through the bridging of communication. However, the technology is not necessarily accessible to all walks of life.

This imbalance of access is not only about the ability to access the affordability, ease of use and speed of the technologies within the digital economy, but also about the opportunity loss that further widens the gaps between the digital haves and have-nots.

As technologists, we must believe that shared prosperity should run on the principle of “shareability” of technology. The conceptualisation, design and implementation of products and services must also have built-in features that improve the access of the technologies so that they do not cause further economic disparity and imbalance. For example, higher- end smartphones have applications that enhance users’ productivity.

However, the pricing of certain models inhibits the access to such productivity enhancements — therefore the real beneficiaries of this productivity remain within the spirit of traditional economic models, which global citizens may have lost faith in. In engineering, we learn concepts such as “design for manufacturing”. Perhaps, it is also important to introduce “design for shareability” into technology.

Next year, Apec economies will sit down to chart its future direction by launching the Post 2020 Vision for Apec to ensure its continued relevance and become more inclusive than before. To this end, having our leaders pave the way for inclusivity is not enough. It also depends on the hard work, creativity, innovation and resilience of our local players to take the challenge and include themselves in a global market that demands more and more competitiveness, but yet allows access to more players due to the reduction of trade barriers as a result of the digital economy.

As we are in the last month of 2019, it is time for us to reflect on our success and failures in the past ten years and look into new thinking, solution and mindsets in the spirit of inclusivity and shared prosperity that will be enshrined in Apec.

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