Envisioning Malaysia 2050

Professor Datuk Dr Asma Ismail FASc presenting the Foresight Narrative to YB Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation accompanied by Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Azhar bin Haji Yahaya, the Secretary General of MOSTI.

The Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) embarked on the Envisioning Malaysia in 2050 Foresight initiative in 2015. The aim of this flagship study is to look at the big picture of the future we desire and share insights and expert knowledge towards building a strategic vision for Malaysia towards 2050. In sharing this study with ASEAN partners, we hope that it would pave the path for a foresight initiative for the ASEAN region.

The foresight initiative by ASM, brought together nine national Think Tanks and institutions to form a Foresight Alliance to carry out the study. This was done to adopt an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to the study.

The study involved consultation sessions with participation of international and local experts and stakeholders representing the quadruple helix.

The world is changing rapidly given the challenges of the 21st century like global economic crisis and the disruptive technologies. The 4th Industrial Revolution speaks of a new era of the fusion of the cyber, physical and biological worlds. It fundamentally changes the way we live, work and relate to one another. In the 4th IR, the only certainty is UNCERTAINTY.

Looking at the global front, mega trends such as rapid urbanisation and demographic shifts serve as game changers that would have far-reaching impacts on individuals, society, industries, and nations. At the same time, the world is facing unparalleled risks that need to be mitigated and complex challenges that need to be tackled effectively. These include extreme weather events and data fraud that are among the top global risks in terms of likelihood as identified by The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Perception Survey 2016.

According to the United Nations (UN), the world’s population is expected to grow to 9.7 billion in 2050. A growing world population and increasing economic development will cause a sharp rise in global demand for water, food and energy, placing further pressure on the natural environment. Severe water stress is expected due to a projected 55% increase in water demand. By 2050, it is estimated that 60% more food will be required to feed the world.

Almost 70% of the global population is expected to be living in urban areas with nearly 90% of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa. Given the rapid urbanisation rate, sustainable development challenges will be increasingly intense in cities, particularly in the lower-middle-income countries where the pace of urbanization is fastest.

According to the UN, the global ageing population i.e. those above 60 years old by 2050 would be around 21%. By 2050, it is projected that the number of older persons in the world will exceed the number of young for the first time in history. This also means the number of students in universities towards 2050 will be getting fewer.

As we study the 2050 visions done by other nations, there seems to be common themes that surface and those are sustainability and the importance of science, technology and innovation (STI).

National initiatives such as the National Economic Policy, Vision 2020 and National Transformation Programme, have all been introduced and a positive socio-economic transformation has come about with better quality of life. To date, Malaysia has targeted around 225 policy outcomes from 51 active National policies that have a timeline up to 2035. This shows that we do not lack in policy framework but desired impacts and outcomes can only be derived from good implementation.

As a nation, we are committed to becoming a developed nation by year 2020. Internationally, we have pledged to support the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. Through the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 agreement, we are committed to reducing Greenhouse Gases (GHG) emission intensity (per unit of GDP) to 45% by 2030, relative to emissions intensity in 2005.

We have also rolled out our national transformation initiative towards 2050 known as TN50, with the aspiration to be amongst the top 20 countries in the world in economy, happiness as well as creativity & innovation. It seems to be a tall order but it is not impossible to achieve.

ASM has proposed a vision of a Progressive Malaysia 2050.

The prehistoric features of our cultural, civilisational and technological evolution speak of how knowledge was shared and applied through collaboration. Dr David Wood, one of the panellists for the ASEAN 2050 Forum, mentioned that the future is about collaboration and that a collaborative economy is our future. Our forefathers have been practising collaboration and collaborative economy for a long time. They may not have had the internet, but they communicated and shared information and best practices. They displayed trust and trustworthiness. To collaborate is the indigenous instinct and knowledge of our ASEAN forefathers that we can draw upon to do our foresight.

In our quest to describe the proposed vision, we studied 3 landmark documents that were written in different eras by different great minds. As we studied the Rukun Negara, Vision 2020 and TN50 we found one consistent word that reflected the forward thinking spirit of the Nation. And that word is PROGRESSIVE. As such, the proposed 2050 vision for Malaysia is encapsulated as a Progressive Malaysia 2050 that is harmonious, prosperous and sustainable.

While the attributes of Progressive Malaysia 2050 are well aligned with the aspirations of the TN50 initiative, the keywords used are more relevant to societal well-being compared to the economic sense.

Harmony instead of happiness index. Peace and harmony is more relevant to Malaysia’s multi-cultural, multi- ethnic and multi-religious society.

Prosperity instead of economic growth to reflect inclusivity for all strata of society.

Sustainability as the end game and that creativity and innovation should be used to enhance sustainability so as to leave a legacy for future generations.

Nine key drivers were identified for a Progressive Malaysia 2050. The evolution and interplay of these drivers will significantly influence our journey.

Four possible scenarios have been identified for Malaysia in 2050. In addressing future scenarios, Leadership and Governance along with Economic Growth and Equitable Distribution were identified as the two most dominant drivers of change that are critical in charting Malaysia’s journey towards 2050.

The four possible scenarios for Malaysia 2050 are:

Trapped in Misery – Weak Leadership, Weak Economy

Disarrayed in Prosperity – Weak Leadership, Good Economy Quadrant 3: Contented in Complacency – Good Leadership, Weak Economy

Synergised in Harmony – Good Leadership, Good Economy

Which scenario Malaysia would find itself in 2050 would be determined by how well we prepare ourselves today. Of course, we all desire to be in the preferred future (Synergised in Harmony) in 2050 and this would be dependent on all Malaysians forging it.

As an Academy of Science we highlight the need to leverage STI towards a Progressive Malaysia 2050 bearing in mind the societal well-being aspect.

The Emerging Science, Engineering and Technology (ESET) studied five technology areas, which are Biotechnology, Digital Technology, Green Technology, Nanotechnology and Neurotechnology.

The first output of the ESET study is Malaysia’s Emerging Technology Timeline towards 2050 that showcases 95 emerging technologies and their interlinkages based on Malaysia’s strengths and needs. The second output is a technology tree that comprises of 21 Impactful Emerging Technologies to Elevate Malaysia’s Well-Being, Wealth Creation and Governance.

The key output of the Foresight study is the ‘Trends and Attributes Map’.

Moving inwards is a journey forward in time. We trace the lines according to the nine key drivers of change and bear witness to their evolution and interplay. Serving its purpose as a navigational chart, the map allows us to explore our possible futures and offers us insight into plausible timescales of significant milestones. By being aware of such information, it can assist us in leveraging future opportunities and mitigating possible risks. We need to undergo a mindset change and this can be done via transformational shifts for the 9 drivers.

It is imperative, to redefine our landscape based on a balance between humanity and technology. Transformational shifts must be rooted in Malaysian values and heritage. The vision of Progressive Malaysia 2050 must be driven by the people who are ultimately the custodians of the Nation’s harmony, prosperity and sustainability.

By PROFESSOR DATUK DR ASMA ISMAIL

.Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2017/11/300406/envisioning-malaysia-2050

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