Malacca developed status self-declared, says OECD official
By Clara Chooi
Ali RustamKUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 — The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has confirmed that it had not endorsed Malacca’s developed state status, despite the declaration by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak made during a grand celebration on October 20.
OECD representative Jon Hall explained to The Malaysian Insider via email that the media could have misunderstood OECD’s role in the issue, pointing out that the organisation was not in the position to make such an endorsement.
“The OECD did not endorse the Malaccan declaration, mainly because we are not in a position to do so.
“As I tried to stress in my speech on Wednesday (October 20), there is no official definition of a developed country (at least none that I am aware of) so the OECD are in no position to set the criteria,” he said.
Hall, who managed the OECD-hosted Global Project on Measuring the Progress of Societies, was present during the celebration held on the auspicious 2010 hour on 20.10.2010 at the Stadium Hang Jebat here.
During the event, Najib had declared Malacca a developed state via tele-conferencing from Kuala Lumpur to a fan of thousands gathered at the ceremony, amid much pomp and pageantry.
Despite the celebration however, an email war broke out between OECD officials shortly after, with questions on whether the organisation had rightfully endorsed such a status on the small southern state.
OECD is a grouping of the world’s 33 richest countries with the highest GDP. The country with the lowest per capita GNP in the OECD is Turkey at US$13,000 while that of Malacca had already reached US$14,261. Malaysia itself has aimed to achieve developed nation status by 2020.
In a press event prior to the celebration, Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Ali Rustam had claimed that the state had achieved its developed-state status after it met with the 32 criteria set by the OECD to qualify as a developed economy.
He had also pointed out that this initiative was a part of a 10-year development plan for the country’s second smallest state, known as Melaka Maju 2010.
According to news reports, Hall had said during the event that Malaccans had higher than the OECD’s minimum levels in virtually all indicators.
In his email response however, Hall noted that although he had been present during the event, he was not aware if there were any claims made at the time that the OECD had official endorsed the developed-state declaration.
“As most of the proceedings and press conference were in Malaysian (Bahasa Malaysia), and I did not have an interpreter, I do not know whether anyone claimed that the OECD had endorsed the declaration.
“One journalist did say something like that to me in question and I pointed out that we had not endorsed anything although we were pleased that statistics had played a strong part in the debate.
“Perhaps there has just been a misunderstanding in one of the newspapers,” he said.
Hall also clarified that the OECD had no such criteria set to determine what made a state “developed” and pointed out that the declaration was purely an initiative of the Malaccan government.
“The criteria you mention were set by the Malaccan statistics office and benchmarked against OECD member countries — all that work was done by the Malaccan authorities although they used the OECD data where possible, I believe,” he said.
Hall however agreed that he had been in contact with the Malaccan authorities on their initiative and work over the past few years.
The authorities, he added, had wanted to provide some statistical evidence of the state’s development and goal towards reaching a developed state status by 2010.
“They felt that one way would be to benchmark themselves to the OECD averages, which to me, seems as a reasonable approach as any so long as they picked a selection of indicators (not just income-based ones) and had a public debate,” he said.
Hall said it was for the locals themselves to decide whether they were or were not developed, not bodies like the OECD.
“And this is what the Malaccan authorities did, or appear to have done, and they even ran a survey of the public to see what the Malaccans themselves thought about their development status,” he said.