Tuesday, December 16, 2003

"The government sees its role in providing a conducive environment for business to operate"


Tarikh/Date : 16/12/2003
Tajuk/Title : THE M.I.G.H.T. CONSULTATION 2003





Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

1. Good morning, and thank you for inviting me to say a few words at this impressive gathering of industry captains and technology leaders. I am pleased to be here today to share my thoughts with you and to listen to you, on issues of critical importance not only to your companies and industries, but also to the nation as a whole.

2. Over the past few years, I think it is fair to say that we have achieved a good understanding of the challenges that we face in becoming a developed nation. We have formulated strategies to meet those challenges, not least is the establishment of M.I.G.H.T. itself, which has endeavoured to "Serve The Nation In Shaping Competency In High Technology Towards Sustainable Development".

3. I believe the time is ripe for us to act upon that understanding of the challenges, and to bring about tangible results in Malaysia's technological development. This work is vital as it will determine our standing in the global value chain, as well as shape the capability and well-being of future generations of Malaysians. Indeed, we must move forward on concrete technology advancement if we aspire to be an economically competitive nation and an internationally respected people.

Ladies and gentlemen,

4. Every business and industry is well aware that we now operate in an extremely demanding economic environment. The stakes are higher. The risks are greater. Economic cycles are getting shorter, and as such, businesses go through good and bad times more frequently. Competition is more open, oftentimes more unrelenting and brutal than ever before. Events with systemic impact, such as the Asian financial crisis, September 11th and S.A.R.S., occur enough times to make us more accustomed to extremes. Given this scenario, one can be sure that only the resilient and responsive survive and thrive in this new age of business.

5. Part and parcel of this demanding environment is what people refer to as the `china factor'. China's entry into the world trade Organisation (W.T.O.) represents one of the greatest challenges for developing nations to contend with, given china's low labor costs, vast market size and growing science base. But beyond the challenges, china also presents immense opportunities for Malaysia. In the past decade, china's role in the region has reversed from that of net exporter to that of net importer. The challenge, therefore, is not only to keep up with china competitively, but also to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by china's growth and expansion.

6. As such, in order for us to be resilient to external shocks, for us to thrive through intense business cycles, and for us to be competitive in the wake of china's rise, we need to develop a more diversified economic base, and to grow more internationally competitive local industries. Technology plays a critical role in the achievement of both these aims. Accordingly, we must not be content with being mere adopters and users of technology, but must increasingly strive to be adapters and creators of technology.

7. The M.I.G.H.T. consultation today is especially important in that context. In terms of diversifying our economic base, it is vital for us to ascertain, with a critical eye, our progress in the new growth industries and in the technologies that we have identified, and will identify, for development.

8. Perhaps, in reviewing our progress to date, we will find the imperative to further refine our strategy. With our constraints in size and resources, we need to focus our efforts intelligently on technologies in which we may distinguish ourselves or be able to use to best advantage, rather than attempt to be a jack of all trades. Based on such criteria, we could then move more aggressively into the selected technologies, and yield more results with every development ringgit invested.

9. In terms of becoming more competitive, we must increasingly apply technology to improve our ways of working, to create better methods of production, and to invent new products and new service concepts. In short, we must be more innovative.

10. Malaysian firms can no longer afford to compete on low labour and land costs. As an economy we cannot be comfortable supplying commodities and basic manufactured goods. Survival and success increasingly depends on our capability to add value at a higher and higher rung of the value chain.

11. The implications are clear. Companies which do not innovate and which do not find their unique competitive advantage will continue to compete on cost. An economy that depends on such companies will find its sustainability largely eroded, especially with more and more developing countries joining the global marketplace. We have little choice but to innovate and to add value, lest we are forced to struggle and to survive on smaller and smaller margins.

Ladies and gentlemen,

12. The government is fully committed to developing the nation's competitiveness by enhancing its economic and technological capabilities. In line with this, the government sees its role in providing a conducive environment for business to operate, in strengthening the country's human capital base, in promoting science and technology, and in encouraging innovation.

13. First and foremost, the government will continue to maintain macroeconomic and social stability, so that business and investment can flourish. We will provide quality `hard' and `soft' infrastructure, as well as ensure good public service delivery. In terms of foreign investors and non-national human resources, the government continues to welcome those with significant knowhow and cutting-edge technologies. Where it should, the government will work with the private sector in catalysing the development of new industries, while always encouraging the private sector to take the lead to drive growth.

14. Secondly, the government aims to strengthen the country's "software", namely, the capacity and talents of its people, especially in science and technology. We hope to increase our ratio of researchers and engineers five-fold by 2010, from 15 for every 10,000 workers now, to 75 for every 10,000 workers in 2010. We will promote a diverse mix of science and technology workers, from laboratory specialists, to technology brokers, to technology evaluators. Here, i would like to emphasise the need for Malaysia to review our "brain- gain" programs aimed at attracting talented Malaysians overseas back to home shores. To be more independent in the global economy, we need to have an indigenous base of talent in science and technology working in the country.

15. Finally, where it can, the government will play its part in strengthening the national innovation system. Successful commercialisation of technologies depends not only on the `discovery' of new knowledge, but also on having `linkages' to enable that knowledge to be translated into useful applications. Linkages between government, industry and academia are crucial in this respect. These linkages also extend to international partnerships. It is noteworthy that the spirit of partnership in M.I.G.H.T. transcends borders. The Langkawi international dialogue and other technology partnership initiatives between Malaysia and other nations, led by M.I.G.H.T., are commendable and should continue to be supported.

Ladies and gentlemen,

16. The government's role in economic development is clear and we will do all that we can to enable our industries to grow and flourish. But before us stand various key challenges. It is my hope that M.I.G.H.T. will continue to add value to industry in Malaysia by bringing people together in smart partnerships, working jointly on technology development, guided by clear targets, specific deliverables and achievable milestones.

17. On that note, i congratulate M.I.G.H.T. for successfully organising this event. I wish your deliberations success in leading us to winning strategies to enhance our competitiveness. It is now my pleasure and privilege to open the M.I.G.H.T. Consultation 2003. Thank You.