PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia is just a few years away from realising its long-held dream of achieving a high-income nation status by 2020. To get there, a substantive roadmap with effective development strategies must first be put in place.
Fundamental data is needed to ensure that these strategies are well targeted and the Census Distributive Trade (CDT) supplies essential information for the formulation of national plans and economic policies.
The survey was first implemented in the 1970s and has been carried out every five years starting 2003.
The goal was clear: to obtain comprehensive and detailed information on the structure of the distributive trade sector, which sets the benchmark for rebasing the Index of Distributive Trade and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
This information can be used to assist in various economic planning activities, such as for analyses, projections and in business development plans.
With the CDT, the Statistics Department may successfully assess the growth of the distributive trade and identify the many sub-sectors that have contributed to it.
For instance, under the 10th Malaysia Plan, the services sector was found to have contributed 55.2 per cent to the country's GDP growth.
Having information at hand about the largest contributor to the GDP, the Government can evaluate the sector's potential and strategise suitable economic stimulus activities, in order to push it to achieve 61.1 per cent of the GDP for 2015.
The CDT will also reflect the health of the sub-sectors that it aims to study and its importance is greatly emphasised, as it is listed as one of the 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) in the Government's Economic Transformation Programme.
Data from the 2008 CDT showed that a total of 281,721 establishments were operating in the distributive trade sector, growing by 4.9 per cent annually as compared to 201,846 establishments in 2001.
The gross output generated by the distributive trade sector then was RM179.6bil and an average annual growth rate of 20 per cent was registered between 2001 and 2008.
As many as 1.46 million (1,468,970) people were employed in the distributive trade, of which 74.4 per cent or slightly over a million people (1,092,449) were full-time employees.
Of the total number of paid full-time employees, the clerical and related occupations category employed the most workers with 542,488 persons (or 49.7 per cent), followed by general workers (201,474 persons or 18.4 per cent), and those in technical and supervisory roles (187,499 persons or 17.2 per cent).
Salaries and wages disbursed in 2008 stood at RM22.5 billion (S$8.8 billion), registering a 15.6 per cent average annual growth over two censuses.
The average annual salary per employee in the distributive trade sector was RM19,287.
With the CDT, policy makers and the public would also have an idea on where the economic sub-sectors had thrived best.
In the 2008 census, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur dominated the distributive trade sector, accounting for 32.2 per cent or 90,593 establishments.
These two locations also accounted for he highest gross output with 37.3 per cent (Kuala Lumpur) and 27.9 per cent (Selangor) respectively.
This year, the Statistics Department will be implementing the CDT, which zooms in on the retail trade, wholesale trade and motor vehicle sub-sectors.
The second of this two-part series on CDT will be published next Friday.