Malaysia’s Najib to headline Jeddah Economic Forum

Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, will deliver the keynote address at this year’s Jeddah Economic Forum.

The Forum, held annually since 1999, has become one of the world’s foremost economic conferences, bringing together heads of state, business leaders and policy makers to discuss global challenges.

Najib, who also serves as Finance Minister, has overseen an economic transformation in Malaysia in recent years.

Since 2010, the Malaysian economy has grown by an average of 5.3 percent a year.

Notwithstanding global economic headwinds, official data released earlier this month confirmed Malaysia’s economy grew by 5 percent in 2015 – beating market expectations and out-performing neighbouring Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.

Since coming to power, Najib has implemented a series of reforms that have strengthened and diversified the Malaysian economy, including the introduction of a goods and services tax, which has insulated the country’s revenue base from, falls in the global oil price.

In 2012, Najib introduced a minimum income guarantee that helped lift 2.9 million Malaysians out of poverty. Overall, the poverty rate has declined from 49.3 percent in 1970 to 0.6 percent in 2014, effectively doing away with hardcore poverty.

Under Najib’s stewardship, unemployment has been cut and 1.8 million new jobs created.

Malaysia is also on the cusp of graduating from the ranks of middle income developing nations and crossing the $15,000 GNI per capita threshold to join the tier of high income nations – a goal which Najib has made this the centerpiece of Malaysia’s 2016-2020 economic program.

The speech at Jeddah builds on Najib’s growing international profile. Najib chaired the ASEAN group in 2015, culminating in November’s ASEAN and East Asia summits. ASEAN’s November 2015 ‘Kuala Lumpur Declaration’ marked the formal creation of the ASEAN Economic Community – bringing together 625 million people and a combined economic output of $2.6 trillion.

Malaysia under Najib has also forged closer economic and security ties with the United States and has signed up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, President Obama’s signature trade initiative.

Dubbed the “Davos of the Middle East”, the Jeddah Economic Forum has previously been addressed by former US Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, former British Prime Minister John Major, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, HRH the Prince of Wales, World Economic Forum President Klaus Schwab and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mohammed Yunus.