Tun M: Collaboration will be key to success of Malaysia Inc2.0

  • Highlights successful global Malaysian firms Fusionex, Sedania, iflix, Les' Copaque
  • 70% of workforce SPM leavers, reskilling key for SME shift to new technologies

Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad trying on a pair of VR glasses that AirAsia is using for its passenger check-in. The architect of Malaysia's tech ambitions also aims to ensure that bureaucratic procedures and requirements do not stifle innovation and progress. [pix from @chedet]

As the comeback “kid” 93-year young Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is also bringing back his concept of Malaysia Incorporated, determined to make it a reality this time round.

He used the keynote speaker platform at the April 4 Perdana CEO Forum 2019 to reinforce the concept with his speech, “Malaysia Inc 2.0: Government & Business Driving Development and Growth”. The forum had a strong technology focus with its Fourth Industrial Revolution theme.

As the architect of Malaysia’s technology ambitions and driver of the 1996 launched Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Vision, Mahathir highlighted some Malaysian tech and digital content companies that are succeeding on the global stage. “These firms include Fusionex International, Sedania, iflix, and Les' Copaque which is the creator of the popular Upin & Ipin series.”

For Malaysia Inc 2.0 to be successful, Mahathir emphasised the need for public-private collaboration instead of being confrontational. “The public sector must not put up bureaucratic roadblocks that hinder potentially beneficial projects or economic progress. The Government needs to ensure that bureaucratic procedures and requirements do not stifle innovation and progress.”

While it is known that Malaysia Inc is modelled on Japan’s rebuilding efforts after the Second World War, Mahathir, a huge admirer of the Japanese work ethic and devotion to quality and service, emphasises that no copy paste approach was taken. Rather, he says, “We did not copy the Japanese wholesale but adapted some key practices which we felt were suitable to the workings of the Malaysian economy.”

He clarified that this does not mean Malaysia is a company. “Rather, just like a firm is divided into different departments that work together to achieve the organisation's mission and vision, the nation too, has different sectors that need to work together to achieve the country's big, ambitious goal: becoming a fully developed country with a robust dynamic economy.”

Yet, standing in way of Malaysia developing this robust and innovation based economy is the sobering reality of a workforce where 70% only have the equivalent of a high school education.

With this being the reality on the ground, Mahathir emphasised the need to increase productivity and reduce the reliance on cheap, low skilled labour. “Reskilling them for the new economy is crucial as the government is also intent to reverse the trend of manufacturing companies remaining labour-intensive instead of investing in new technologies.” This labour intensive reliance is especially prevalent among Malaysia SMEs, he notes.

Another important tenet for Malaysia Inc’s success is more open and frequent communication between the public and private sectors. Mahathir said that in addition to “business owners being more in tune with the government’s economic plans and goals”, these discussions will also “remind the private sector of its social welfare responsibilities.”

With the elimination of the cancer that is corruption being a key election promise of the coalition that Mahathir led to power in May 2018 it was no surprise that he also made a passionate please to the private and public sector to do away with bribery and corruption. “I urge all business leaders to do your bit. At the very least by not doing deals with companies that are involved in corrupt practices.”

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