Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s economic blueprint marked a distinct push for mega projects, but has consistently proven problematic for Malaysia.
Over time, it became increasingly evident that these mega projects were more beneficial to a privileged inner circle rather than the Malaysian community at large.
Among his more controversial pursuits was an undue emphasis on highway developments. His car-centric approach primarily benefited toll collectors, casting aside the broader advantages of a more sustainable transport model.
Now, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has the opportunity to move away from Mahathir’s short-sighted vision and offer a much better economic model by embracing the overarching advantages of more innovative transport methods.
Pillar 1: rail-centric transport
A shift towards rail-centric transportation offers myriad advantages, from increased passenger and cargo transport to fostering regional growth with a transit-oriented development (TOD) of affordable homes.
Such a development offers the opportunity to redesign and reshape many urban centres outside the Klang Valley.
These new developments, which can be tailor-made to meet the needs of contractors and the requirements of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), should be championed by Anwar as the first pillar of his government’s economic transformation.
In this regard, the prime minister must prioritise taking control of Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) and merging it with the Railway Assets Corporation (RAC).
This will allow his government to use these strategic national assets as the backbone against which multiple sectors of the economy can be allowed to grow.
Connecting the missing dots to promote rail transportation for both passenger and freight movements should be the next piece in this economic puzzle.
Pillar 2: going green
To complement these rail-building opportunities, Anwar should look to develop hydrogen-powered rail systems, buses and freight vehicles as part of a new green energy development strategy.
Such initiatives would position Malaysia at the forefront of green transport solutions, heralding a new age of renewable energy, sustainable development and environmental consciousness.
With these two pillars in place, Anwar’s green agenda will easily outperform Mahathir’s grey vision of cars, highways and heavy industries.
Pillar 3: going agro
Investing in green hydrogen road trams and other vehicles is not only cost-effective but will also allow the prime minister to champion a “go green, go agro” mantra which would serve the Madani administration well.
Anwar could package his green transport policy with measures to make the agricultural sector more self-sufficient and sustainable.
Neglected by many previous prime ministers, agriculture is nothing new to Anwar, having been his domain long before he went full-time into politics.
There is, therefore, no better person who can be torchbearer for the food security agenda and propel the lucrative food industry sector into sustainability.
By focusing on green transport, green energy and green fingers, Anwar’s government will be able to offer new initiatives and prioritise the collective well-being of Malaysians and its businesses, especially the nation’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The three economic pillars can also form a support structure for various initiatives, including –
- human resource training via TVET
- digital economy
- green energy research and development
- entrepreneurship programmes
- financing schemes
An inclusive economic plan, which extends key initiatives to Sabah and Sarawak, will truly usher in an era of wider population participation, economic transformation and growth.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.