10TH ASEAN MINISTERS MEETING ON RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND POVERTY ERADICATION
I warmly welcome Your Excellencies to Kuala Lumpur for the 10th ASEAN Ministers Meeting on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication On behalf of the Government and people of Malaysia I would like to wish you all Selamat Datang.
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate ASEAN which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary It is indeed a historic milestone for us celebrating the success in building an ASEAN Community that is rule-based people-oriented and people-centred in promoting regional cooperation and contribute towards peace progress and prosperity in the region.
In the face of globalisation free trade and social media influence the challenges we are facing today are certainly different and more complicated than 50 years ago. As the world becomes more inter-dependent it is difficult for one nation to survive by isolating itself. We depend on each other on many aspects including defence and food securities while business value chains are located in many countries instead of only one. Therefore it is more important than ever for us to continue working together towards our goals as outlined in the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 under the theme of One Vision One Identity One Community.
Ladies and gentlemen
ASEAN combined GDP for 2016 was 2.55 trillion US Dollar making us the 6th largest economy in the world The share of ASEAN exports within the total world exports has also increased to 7.2% in 2015. ASEAN continues to be the preferred destination for investment with FDI flows of 96.72 billion US Dollar in 2016 With a population of 634 million ASEAN is a community of opportunities not only for ASEAN people but also for those outside the region
Despite all these there are still many challenges that we need to address such as poverty unemployment and lack of basic infrastructure. For your information in 2015 the percentage of ASEAN Member States’ population living below their national poverty lines had reduced from 31% in 1990 to 14% in 2015. However the rate is still considered high despite the various measures taken to eradicate poverty. Meanwhile the un-employment rate in 2016 is approximately 4.1% with youth un-employment at 12.9% This is indeed alarming as youth should be more employ-yable due to their adap-ta-bility to changes especially in terms of new technology.
We are also facing challenges in terms of infrastructure development Some areas mainly in the rural still lack basic infrastructures such as clean drinking water and electricity. Based on ASEAN Statis-tical Report on Millennium Development Goals 2017 in 2015 only 81% of ASEAN population has access to clean drinking water source while access to electricity is approximately 85%. All these challenges have contributed to the common phenomena among the developing country which is rural-urban migration The migration can lead to the high-density population in an urban area which incurs productivity losses and causes poor quality of life.
Ladies and gentlemen
In realising the over-arching goals of an ASEAN Community 2025 that envisioned a more inclusive community the ASEAN Ministers Meeting on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication is the best platform for collaborative effort towards shared growth. The theme of this meeting Rural Transformation Enhancing Human Capital Towards a Resilient Rural Community resonates with ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community goal to build a resilient community with enhanced capacity and capability to adapt and respond to social and economic vul-ne-rabilities disasters climate changes as well as emerging threats and challenges
In 2016 the statistic has shown that 50.1% out of 634 million people live in the rural areas a significant decrease from 63.5% in 1997 when we formally established the ASEAN collaboration in the rural development and poverty eradication . While the increased migration from rural to the urban areas can be considered a norm especially in developing countries more efforts are needed to develop the rural areas to make it more attractive for the population especially the youth to stay and make a living.
In this context development should not be limited to just physical and economic only While I am not denying the impact of infrastructure development human capital development should not be neglected as well as it can be the main engine of growth We must leverage the existing human capital resources towards a holistic approach to rural development. This approach is reflected in Malaysia’s policies on rural development where we gave equal emphasis on infrastructure and human capital development One of our major initiatives is of course the Rural Transformation Programme that was launched in 2015.
Known as RTP this programme emphasis on six focus with 19 initiatives The initiatives include human capital and youth development entrepreneurship and development of infrastructure. Our objective is to enhance the overall economy of the rural areas to ensure that rural folks enjoy similar opportunities as those in the city. The prime mover of RTP is the Rural Transformation Centres or RTCs These RTCs provide new economic social and educational opportunities for rural residents.
RTCs offer skills training microcredit and health services as well as opportunities to take part in high value-added agricultural activities. Besides that the RTCs are also equipped with ICT facilities that enable rural residents to access key government services over the Internet Interestingly most of the RTC complexes are located in existing under-utilised government facilities that we have fully refurbished. In addition to the RTCs we are also creating over 200 mini-RTCs to extend the reach of government services to all communities These mini-RTCs act as local hubs for economic and social activities connecting remote communities with better economic opportunities and bringing government services closer to their homes
This is Rural Transformation Programme the Malaysian way
Ladies and gentlemen
Development of infrastructure can lead to increase of economic activities in the rural areas This translates into higher income for the rural population This also means that we must pay equal attention to the development of human capital or we will fail to capitalise on one of the most important assets that could be the key to narrow the gap between the urban and rural areas. In this regard education and skill enhancement training as well as capacity building programmes for rural communities should be given a priority. Through this the rural population can lift themselves out of the vicious circle of poverty increase well-being and become less vul-nerable to external shocks. For example rural communities should be given the opportunity to venture into entrepreneurship taking advantage on the surge of social media and internet connectivity.
Ladies and gentlemen
Poverty eradication continues to be a priority not only in the ASEAN region as stated in ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint 2025 but also globally as outlined in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Efforts to eradicate poverty require multi-dimensional approach not only in terms of income but also en-compasses health education and living standard Therefore there is a need to have sustainable holistic and inclusive strategies that include the development of human capital.
At ASEAN level we have developed strategies and action plans for rural development and poverty eradication such as promoting human capital development economic self-reliance and sustainable live-li-hood I sincerely hope that not only the officials are involved in the strategies and plans but also the communities. This is because exchange of views as well as exposure to new technologies and cultures can foster creativity and spark innovation among the rural communities. In this regard I welcome the continuous efforts towards effective Public Private and People Partnership engagements This integrated and participatory approach can ensure an inclusive rural development.
Ladies and gentlemen
The development gap among us is something that we all have to acknowledge However I believe we can work together towards developing resilient rural communities We should embrace our diversity and learn from each other’s experience and good practices. It is my hope that we can achieve our goals in rural development and eradication of poverty without compromising our ASEAN values which make us unique As we progress we should not neglect our moral values and beliefs for the sake of development
On that note ladies and gentlemen it gives me a great pleasure to officiate the 10th ASEAN Ministers Meeting on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication.