KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 17): Malaysia lost RM47 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) value to corruption last year alone, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
She said a similar amount, of about 4% of GDP, was lost to corruption annually since 2013, according to Transparency International Malaysia.
"What can we do with RM47 billion? It is more than we spend on education and is almost double the amount spent on healthcare in 2017. Imagine what we could do if we had access to these funds; if they were spent on improving our potholed roads, easing congestion in our public hospitals or providing scholarships for the deserving to advance their education?
"Imagine if the most vulnerable of our society — our women, children, the poor — did not have to rely on bribes and ‘knowing the right people’ to get services they need," she said in her keynote address at the United Against Corruption: Anchoring Anti-Corruption in Good Governance forum, here, today.
Dr Wan Azizah said that contrary to popular belief, corruption does not only occur at the highest levels of government.
"A PricewaterhouseCoopers report in 2016 showed that bribery and corrupt activities amongst private entities in Malaysia rose from 19% in 2014 to 30% in 2016. Go further down, and you will find more examples even in mundane daily activities such as trying to bribe away a traffic summons," she said.
Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said the government changed overnight last May but it would take much longer for the government to address the corruption that had become endemic in various institutions.
"I am under no illusion that changes will occur overnight but I am confident that this new coalition that came together to bring down the previous kleptocratic regime will work together through these growing pains to implement long-lasting institutional reforms that will serve to protect the interests of the rakyat (people)," she said.
Moving forward, she said, the government would need to empower the enforcers, update the code of conduct covering all Members of Parliaments and civil servants, ensure that integrity vetting was set as a standard for those who seek to be in positions of power and prevent backdoor lobbying by industries.
She rebuked the doomsayers’ make-believe idea that a government that is focused on an anti-corruption drive instead of the economy would lead to lower economic growth.
“I am here to say that the two are not mutually exclusive. Our continuous efforts to improve accountability and transparency serve to attract sustainable investments that will help us grow and not just the ‘fly-by’ investors who inject and withdraw capital on the basis of the Federal Reserve’s interest rates," she said.
Dr Wan Azizah said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and she had been working very hard through the Cabinet Special Committee on Anti-Corruption, of which the Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption Centre (GIACC) is the secretariat, to come up with new policies and initiatives to combat corruption.
"We are also drafting a five-year National Anti-Corruption Plan under GIACC that will serve as a holistic blueprint in our ongoing fight against corruption and have agreed to contribute RM500,000 to the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA), which will go a long way towards helping anti-corruption champions and their families who have been hurt or killed,” she said.
She said these efforts had begun to bear fruit where, among others, Malaysia is ranked fourth out of 12 Asia-Pacific economies in terms of market accountability and transparency, according to the Asian Corporate Governance Association report this year.
She also said that the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) reported a 379% increase in approved manufacturing foreign direct investments between May and September, while Moody’s had maintained Malaysia’s debt ratings with a view that the economic outlook was stable.
"These are indicators that the economy is progressing," she said.