Globalisation fuels increasing polarisation

Marzunisham: Let's remind ourselves that in this globalised world, it is important for the contented to appreciate the struggles of the discontented, and for the discontented to not lose sight of the potential of globalisation. Photos by Mohd Suhaimi Mohamed Yusuf

(From left): World Bank Group senior director Dr Shanta Devarajan, Datin K. Tilagavathi and University of Oregon assistant professor of economics Woan Foong Wong at the awards ceremony for The Sundaran Memorial Prize for Young Malaysian Researchers during the World Bank Group's conference on 'Globalisation: Contents and Discontents'.

World Bank Group lead economist in macroeconomics and fiscal management global practice Richard Record was present at the conference.

World Bank's country director for Brunei, Malaysia, Phillipines and Thailand Dr Mara Warwick was also at the conference.

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KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 15): There is a growing sense of discontent and injustice towards the trend of globalisation in recent years, and Malaysia is not spared from these challenges, according to Bank Negara Malaysia assistant governor Marzunisham Omar.

Marzunisham said it is no surprise that the accusations of free trade causing job losses and disproportionate depression in wages have shifted from economic text book to the forefront of policy discussion currently.

"The next decade will be even more challenging, with rapid technological advancement, poised to accelerate job displacement and potentially worsen income inequalities. Malaysia faces this similar challenge, as we liberalise our economy over the years, there were industries and workers who were affected by rising competition," he said at the World Bank Group's conference on "Globalisation: Contents and Discontents" today.

"As our economy evolve, we moved out from uncompetitive sectors and industries, while new opportunities open up," he added.

Nonetheless, Marzunisham said policies were implemented to facilitate these industry transformation while assisting the displaced worker;, this include enhancing upskilling programs, strengthening social safety net and ensuring sustainable fiscal redistribution.

He added that the world once envisioned using globalisation as a beacon of unity, but it has fuelled increasing polarisation in recent years

"Let's remind ourselves that in this globalised world, it is important for the contented to appreciate the struggles of the discontented, and for the discontented to not lose sight of the potential of globalisation. 75 years after Bretton Woods, the creation of a safe, fair and mutually beneficial global system is still not an easy pursuit, it is nonetheless a necessary one," he said.

Marzunisham also said globalisation has led to trade and financial integration, and has contributed to the unprecedented economic growth and prosperity.

"Global output has increased more than six fold in the past 50 years. A billion people have been lifted out of abject poverty in just one generation," he said.

"Although the gains from globalisation are vast and widely acknowledged, its fruits have not been equally shared by all, the growing sense of discontent and injustice among the marginalised have led to a retreat from globalisation and multilateralism in the recent period.

"This reminds of what the late Kofi Annan said: 'Globalisation is a fact of life, but I believe we have underestimated its fragility'," he added.

Marzunisham noted that the retreat from global integration and multilateralism today serve as a wake-up call for policy makers to reflect on the realities of globalisation, to re-examine policies choices and to recalibrate the way forward.

"With rapid technological advancement, globalisation has become increasingly polarising force. The social political and economic issues at hand are more pressing than ever," he said.