IN a digital age, with commodities and wealth moving at the click of a mouse, it is brutal reality that if we cannot keep up, we will be left behind. But Malaysia’s economy can handle brutal competition. How? With the right policies and not least, with urgency!
First and foremost, we need to send the right signals to entrepreneurs and investors by being a business friendly economy. Entrepreneurs and investors thrive in economies that observe the rule of law, that help them do business with ease and speed, and that value innovation and intellectual capital. Hong Kong, Singapore, Britain and Australia are the epitomes of this business-friendly economy.
For successful entrepreneurs like T. Ananda Krishnan, Tan Sri Robert Kuok and Ranhill’s Tan Sri Hamdan Mohamad, what matters to all of them is whether their business ideas would be implemented quickly enough and without hassle in Malaysia, especially when compared to Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai or Mumbai.
How easy is it to do business in Malaysia? Could they or anyone set up businesses quickly and even online? Or are there walls of bureaucracy and incomprehensible regulations? Does Malaysia have a favourable corporate tax structure? Is it consistent? All these answers hit at the heart of Malaysia’s “friendliness” as a place to do business.
Second, relating to specific industries, the country must decide which are the best policies that will drive growth and continue to promote them. By pushing the 4G spectrum, the Malaysian Government has unleashed the powers of the digital age.
Benefits of WiMAX
The benefits of a nationwide WiMAX mobile Internet network will be countless, when individuals and businesses can finally “engage” fully with the global marketplace on a mobile device. Research shows that a mere 10% increase in broadband penetration increases GDP (or gross domestic product) by 1.5%.
A nationwide 4G spectrum will attract investments into the industry from technology players large and small. Malaysia’s manufacturing companies could soon be making new generations of WiMAX phones or CPEs (customer premise equipment) for the likes of Samsung.
Technological innovation would take off too. I can imagine new start-ups by whiz kids all around Malaysia, exploiting the spectrum to create new online content from e-commerce like Alibaba or Baidu, to entertainment and social networking sites like Youtube or Facebook.
In the case of YTL, our WiMAX plans have already attracted job applicants from America, China and India, as well as Malaysians living and working abroad. In fact, the CEO of YTL Communications, Wing K. Lee, is an American with many technology patents to his name and many more pending.
I like to believe that we are helping to reverse the brain drain. But the simple reality is when any Malaysian business offers exciting employment opportunities, people will come to work in Malaysia. And when intellectual capital pays its dividends, there will be better salaries and improved living standards.
The other “right” policies that come to mind, relate to the retail sector. In 1999, we persuaded the Government to drop duties on branded goods and the Government responded quickly. By implementing duty-free shopping for luxury items and encouraging the building of Bintang Walk, the Government created a “snowball effect” that subsequently transformed Jalan Bukit Bintang from a tired and unsafe area to a centre for retail that is frequented by more and more tourists every year.
In the past 10 or more years, investments poured into Bukit Bintang, resulting in new shopping malls like the Pavilion and new hotels. Property values also shot up from RM200 per sq ft (psf) in 1999 to RM2,000 psf today. Foreign investors have also ploughed billions into this street.
Last month, CNBC showed “A New Malaysia” to millions around the globe. This is indeed a great accolade for what the private sector has done to improve the image of Malaysia globally with the Government’s support.
Last week, the New York Times recommended YTL’s Starhill Gallery Kuala Lumpur as “one of the 31 places to go in 2010.” In fact, it reported that “jetsetters in the region are heading these days to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital that’s quietly evolved into one of the area’s coolest and friendliest cities.”
Without the two simple and yet practical government policies, one cannot imagine all these wonderful things happening to Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia as a whole.
Is it time for “brutal competition?” Absolutely! We have no time to wait. And to thrive, let the right policies dictate!
● Tan Sri Francis Yeoh is managing director of YTL Corp Bhd.