A Strong Economic and Business RelationshipQ: After Your Excellency took office following former Prime Minister Mahathir, could you explain about the changes that took place in MalaysiaA:
|H. E. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi |
Prime Minister of Malaysia
The basic policies have remained the same. People must remember that there has only been a change in leadership not a regime change. Barisan Nasional still forms the government, so there is a degree of continuity. I have inherited a healthy country from Dr. Mahathir, and it is now my responsibility to take this country forward. We have a target, Vision 2020, to become a developed nation by the year 2020. My personal goal is to develop the mindset of Malaysians. We now have wonderful facilities, but we must have a first class mentality to go along with the first class infrastructure that we possess. We must be competitive, adopt a culture of high performance and always look to value add. This is the sort of thing that I am looking to do. Q: We understand that former Prime Minister Mahathir was critical toward Europe and America and asserted the stett of developing nations and developing countries. Compared with former Prime Minister, what is your Government standpoint in relation to such former Government assertionsA:
Again there is no change to foreign policy. Our styles may differ, Dr. Mahathir is perhaps more direct than I am,but our stand on many things like Palestine and Iraq remain the same. As far as possible we want to be friends with everyone and an enemy to no one, but if we feel that something is not right, we will speak out about it. We will continue to maintain a pragmatic yet principled foreign policy.Q: We understand that Malaysia has been gearing up to attract direct foreign investment. Would you explain about the performances so far and investment conditions in Malaysia right nowA:
Last year, Malaysia approved US$7.7 billion of investments in the manufacturing sector, compared with investments totaling US$4.7 billion in 2002.Foreign investments accounted for 54 percent of the total investments approved in 2003. Currently, there are more than 5,000 foreign companies operating in Malaysia. I think Malaysia has a number of benefits that it can offer to foreign investors.
First and foremost, the combination of a cost-effective educated workforce, first-class physical infrastructure and a stable socioeconomic environment makes Malaysia one of the most competitive places in the world to do business. Investors and companies that have located to Malaysia found it ideal as a base in Asia, be it as an operational headquarters, distribution hub, centre for shared services or a place to do design and R&D. The quality of the labour force especially, is making Malaysia known as one of the best places to carry out high-value, knowledge-based activities at a very competitive cost.
Second, Malaysia is also undoubtedly rich in natural resources, making it an ideal investment for commercial-scale agro-based activities. We are one of the 12 most bio-diverse places on earth, which promises rich opportunities in biotech and herbal-based pharmaceuticals, amongst others.
Third, my government is committed to improve public services, strengthen financial markets and enhance the overall business environment, I believe that Malaysia will become an increasingly easier and better place to do business. For example, we have streamlined the processes for people who have to deal with the Foreign Investment Committee. Politically too, Malaysia is stable, safe and peaceful a necessity for any investor interested in managing country risks.
And finally, it must be said, that Malaysia is a very good place to live. We offer a very good quality of life.Q: We believe that Korea and Malaysia could carry out all sorts of projects ins third countries by cooperating each other. What is your view with regard to thisA:
Certainly. I believe that corporations from both countries can talk together and combine each others relevant expertise to ensure successful business ventures. Malaysian and Korean companies could collaborate to undertake projects in markets such as the Middle East, India, Africa, South Asia and Asean countries. There are many areas that both parties could pursue such as construction of roads and highways, high rise buildings, power plants, Formula-1 race tracks, water sewerage treatment plants and property development. These are opportunities that can be explored together. Q: Former Prime Minister Mahathir achieved high growth by pushing ahead an export-orientated industrialization policy. From now on, what is your Government policy direction to boost Malaysia status in the world economyA:
Malaysia has always been an attractive place for foreigners to invest. We had successfully carved a niche for ourselves as a low cost producer, primarily of electrical and electronic goods. Nevertheless, with competition from other markets, we are now faced with a new challenge of ensuring that Malaysia remains competitive. We must ensure that Malaysian enterprises moves up the value chain to concentrate on higher value added activities. The shift towards a knowledge based economy in the form of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and biotechnology is one such initiative to accelerate this readjustment. We also need to continue boosting our services sector, logistics, tourism, halal food, financial services, education and healthcare. And we are also promoting agriculture as one of the main engines of growth. These are all potentially lucrative areas for us.
At the same time, Malaysia is also working at reducing the costs of doing business here. We hope to achieve this by implementing measures aimed at eradicating corruption, improving public service delivery system and reducing bureaucracy. As I have mentioned above, Malaysia is working towards building an innovative, resilient and competitive society. Thus, strong emphasis needs to bee placed on programs aimed at capacity building and nurturing creativity and innovation amongst Malaysians. We believe that all these would ensure Malaysia ability to offer not only a highly skilled labour force, but also workers who are able to produce first class international deliverables. Q: Could you touch upon the prospect of comprehensive relations between Korea and MalaysiaA:
Malaysia and Korea currently enjoy a strong economic and business relationship, especially looking at our trading and investment linkages. Presently, there are more than 200 companies with Korean interests operating in Malaysia in various fields such as manufacturing, trading, construction, engineering services and ICT. Korea is also consistently ranked as Malaysia top ten investors in the manufacturing sector since 1980s. Malaysia also welcomes more Korean companies to invest either in joint-venture with Malaysian partners or on their own. We would like Korea to view Malaysia as a gateway to the ASEAN market, which offers Korean business huge potential with its combined population of more than 530 million and GDP totaling US$750 billion. Nevertheless, there is a lot of rooms to strengthen the Korea-Malaysia relations. During my recent visit to Korea, I had expressed my hope that existing cooperation could be extended to other promising areas, such as ICT, education and tourism. For instance, Koreans could take advantage of Malaysia push to be an education hub. We would encourage Koreans to join our many institutes of higher learning, which offers a wide range of courses from technical to academic subjects. This year, some 2,695 students from Korea were enrolled in Malaysia private higher education institutions in Malaysia. In the realm of diplomacy, Malaysia and Korea can look forward to closer cooperation in regional processes such as the ASEAN + 3 summit meetings and the ASEAN Regional Forum and thus contribute to greater regional peace and prosperity. Q: Please comment on the level of IT exchange between Korea and Malaysia.A:
Korea has successfully established itself as one of the world leaders in technology, a fact proven by the country number 9 ranking under the World Economic Forum Technology Index. Malaysia wants to emulate Korea success and there is much that we can learn. Thus, I encourage cooperation between the two countries at all levels, not only government-to-government, but the private sector as well. There is a huge window of opportunity for Malaysia to attract South Korean technologies to work together with local conglomerates and our IT agencies in many suitable areas. We have had several Malaysia-Korea events, among others, the Malaysia-Korea ICT Business Seminar 2004 in September 2004. I understand that the Korean delegation of ICT companies was interested to seek possible business partnership, joint venture and technology collaboration with the Malaysian ICT business community. I also understand that they are currently active participation and exchange of ideas from both countries in areas such as digital content development and delivery, games development and animation. I believe such exchanges should be further strengthened and promoted in the future. Q: What do you think about mutual cooperation in the IT fields between Korea and Malaysia, and what fields is Malaysia interested in cooperating with KoreaA:
Malaysia places great emphasis on the development of the information and communication technology (ICT) industry to support its goal of leapfrogging into the knowledge-based economy. Effective usage of knowledge and information has become more and more important for a country's economic development, and thus, there is a need for Malaysia to ensure that we learn from countries that posses advance experiences in the IT area, such as Korea. For instance, Korea is a clear leader in broadband penetration. Thus, Malaysia can learn Korea experience in broadband deployment, with relevant services providers and best practices from its Government and private sectors. We can also learn ways to improve efficiency, quality control as well as marketability of our products from Korea, such as learning the Koreans use of 3-D prototyping software for a range of industrial applications. On the other hand, Malaysia can offer its Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) to Korean businesses, which provides an environment to expand businesses, undertake research and develop new products and technologies at competitive costs. The products or services could then be exported to other countries, especially in the Asean region. Thus, MSC can be used by the Koreans as the regional technological hub to springboard into other markets.
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