The Najib administration intends to make Malaysia a high-income country and that alone with the end goal. Here is the problem: a project is supported not because it is viable, but because it increases the gross domestic product (GDP) — or the gross national income (GNI) depending on context — of the country.

The latest case in point is the 1Malaysia email, which the PM has said that it will increase the GNI by RM39 million… by 2015.[1]

Let me say that this is mindless. It is so because while it does increase the GDP, it will increase it only temporarily. Without viability, it cannot sustain economic growth and make permanent a state of high-income. The focus on the GDP is as good as a project producing a million toilet bowls just because it increases production and hence the GDP, never mind that there is no requirement them.

One commits to a project because there is a need or demand for it. It should not be done just for the sake of increasing the GDP and the GNI. These statistics are not financial statistics. They are macroeconomic statistics for good reasons. Do it for the sake of increasing the GDP frequent enough and soon business failures will be the norms. Given that the government is at the center of it, so too will be the events of bailout.

The GDP and the GNI are descriptive statistics, not prescriptive statistics like the way PEMANDU is using it. These macro statistics are descriptive because only organic growth are sustainable. Once one makes these macro statistics prescriptive, then we will get the nonsense like “a particular project contribute to the GNI by so and so ringgit.” We will get PEMANDU.

Financial statistics can be used prescriptively to ensure viability of a project. Macroeconomic statistics mostly do no such thing. The GDP, for instance, measures what have been spent and says nothing whether a project should be invested in or not. Dig a hole for RM50 million and fill it again for another RM50 million, then the GDP will increase by at least RM100 million. The question whether that action is productive cannot be known through the GDP.

All the more outrageous is that the 1Malaysia email project is projected to contribute RM39 million by 2015 to the GNI. Ladies and gentlemen, the GDP of Malaysia for last year was more than RM600 billion. That is RM600,000 million, just in case the contexts of million and billion need clarification. The GDP numbers are so big that they are usually rounded up to the nearest billion. RM39 million will not typically register in any general statistics.

Yet, the 1Malaysia email project’s celebrated point is its contribution to the GDP.

That is a good joke.

My suggestion is this: take out the reference to individual projects’ contribution to the GDP.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

[1] — This is followed by the RM250 million investment by Pensonic Holdings Bhd to build its manufacturing hub and international distribution network over 10 years. The project will see a GNI impact of about RM500 million and create 850 new jobs by 2020.

The third project comes under the Malaysia Administrative Modernisation and Management (Mampu), which will invest RM3.26 million to improve the electronic services provided by the government and is expected to create 155 jobs.

The fourth project will come under the communications content and infrastructure national key economic area. It involves Tricubes Bhd, which will invest RM50 million, to develop a web portal for all Malaysian citizens above the age of 18 by 2020.

The 1Malaysia email project is expected to contribute RM39 million in GNI by 2015. [7 new ETP projects with RM901m in investments. Roziana Hamsawi. Zaidi Isham Ismail. Business Times. April 20 2011]

One Response to “[2351] PEMANDU’s GDP folly”

  1. on 20 Apr 2011 at 18:15 Bobby

    Just read an article “Immigration boosts wage growth in Britain”.
    Remembered you wrote something on that before.
    Wonder how that can apply to Malaysia.

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