MALAYSIA'S Gross National Income (GNI) per capita target of US$15,000 (RM45,750) by 2020 may be met earlier, possibly by two years, if it continues to grow at the same pace as in the last two years, said Datuk Seri Idris Jala.
The target was set as part of a plan for the country to become a high-income nation by 2020 under a 10-year Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) that kicked off in October 2010.
GNI per capita, a measure of the country's income per person on average, grew by 45 per cent to reach US$9,700 (RM29,585) in 2011 from just US$6,700 (RM20,435) in 2009.
"We're well on track to achieve that. If we continue to grow at the same pace, we may even be able to achieve a high-income economy earlier than 2020," Idris, the architect of the ETP, said in a two-and-a-half hour session here yesterday with reporters, analysts and investors on the ETP's progress.
He said the target may be reached as early as 2018, but he was also quick to add that this was dependent on many factors, including external developments.
He said more Malaysian businesses should be encouraged to invest overseas as this helps increase the country's GNI. Net income from Malaysian enterprises abroad is included in the calculation of GNI.
"When Malaysian companies invest abroad, don't call them traitors. It's important that they do this as our net factor income from abroad is in negative territory," Idris, who is CEO of Pemandu, a unit under the Prime Minister's Department that oversees the ETP, remarked.
Malaysia completed the second year of its ETP having recorded 152 entry point projects (EPP), out of which 149 projects have been announced with total committed investments of RM212 billion.
"The projects are progressing well. Of the 152 EPPs, 93 per cent are already under way, with 36 per cent currently operational," he said.
There has been RM20.6 billion in realised investments as of the third quarter this year. This constitutes the bulk of some RM29 billion that were committed for investment in the first two years of the ETP.
Idris said there had been "huge pent-up investments" in the first year of the ETP and that going forward, it would be important to "phase them out properly".
Under the ETP, the country expects to attract RM1.4 trillion investments by 2020. "The good news is that the pipeline investments are very good ... they will be realised over the next few years. I'm not worried about the pipeline," he said.
Asked to comment on concerns that the ETP's momentum may falter should he decide to leave Pemandu, Idris pointed out that the ETP extends beyond personalities and must be institutionalised.
He also rubbished a recent online news article that claimed the country had exceeded its self-imposed debt-to-Gross Domestic Product level of 55 per cent in the third quarter. He said the article had featured inaccurate calculation as it compared federal government debt against last year's GDP value instead of the estimated GDP value for this year.
"We will not go past 55 per cent. The article is intentionally meant to mislead people," he said.