The brightness of the glittering Twin Towers of Malaysia, the one time tallest buildings of the world is telling many success stories of Malaysia and how it has been transformed into one of the Asia’s wealthiest nations.
The serene beauty of the sky-high towers with a celestial background of shining stars in a clear dark night in the far distance, propelled my thoughts back into the good old Malaysia where, while Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was criticising the western capitalism, how cleverly he applied the open economic strategies which made Malaysia to trade all over the world and its entrepreneurs to become international players.
Dr. Mahathir’s open economic strategy with a clear vision and a mission triggered my memories back into my effort “Strategic Post-Conflict Economic Development Initiative” as an awareness program to transform into Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged economy into one of the South Asia’s best. Dr. Mahathir’s strategies are well reflected in his macro – economic strategies by adopting the open economic policies with the realization in mind that the world trend of Globalization and Liberalization is irreversible. We are living in an era of Globalization & Liberalization, a deeply imbedded neo-classical economic thought and its applications everywhere in the globe.
This overwhelming tide of G&L is reinforced and accelerated by the wide spread of Boeing and Airbus jets, Information Technology and the better and efficient shipping facilities which made the entire world into much smaller and less distant than ever.
The current Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong once said far back in the late nineties when he was the deputy Prime Minister, “It is better to embrace globalization and liberalization proactively, at our own pace, than face the prospect of one day being swept away by the floodwaters of competition.”
His realization of embracing the globalization and liberalization might have been inherited into him by the strategies of former Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew who in his long tenure, changed Singapore from a sleepy colonial outpost to a prosperous high-tech enclave and applied better open economic policies to make use of the Globalization and Liberalization in Singapore’s favour.
Now Singapore’s per capita GNP is higher than that of its erstwhile colonizer, Great Britain. It has the world’s busiest port and is the third-largest oil refiner and a major center for global manufacturing and service industries. And this move from poverty to plenty has taken place within one generation. In 1965 Singapore ranked economically with Chile, Argentina and Mexico but today its per capita GNP is four or five times of theirs.
Lee Kuan Yew managed this miraculous transformation in Singapore’s economy while maintaining tight political control over the country. Malaysia and Singapore better managed their economies in Southeast Asia than any other countries in facing the new trends of Globalization and Liberalization.
Dr. Mahathir’s strategies have eventually made Malaysia into a Southeast Asian economic superpower with number of megastar Malaysian entrepreneurs.
Tan Sri Ananthakrishnan, who owns the Twin Towers of Malaysia and several other conglomerates is a role model for many Malaysian entrepreneurs who have given real meaning to the present day Malaysia by transforming Malaysia into one of the Asia’s wealthiest nations. Tan Sri Anantha krishnan, a Jaffna origin Malaysian who had a humble beginning as a smalltime bookmaker in Australia and later as a polished dealmaker with a degree from Harvard Business School, became a sophisticated oil trader with connections to many of the Asia’s political and petroleum industry elite with interests in oil and gas fields in the United States.
Tan Sri Anandakrishnan later went further into orbit, with the successful launching of MEASAT – 1, the Malaysia’s maiden telecommunication satellite. Tan Sri Ananda krishnan’s success provides a compelling testimony to Dr. Mahathir’s economic policies and their successful implementations.
Though, today, Dr Mahathir stepped down from power, Malaysia boasts a diversified and modern economy, which weathered the Asian financial crisis in1997-98 better than many of its peers. Malaysia’s success has been by diversifying away from the export of palm oil and rubber to the assembly of electronics with the steady provision of political stability by the resolved ethnic divisions by Dr. Mahathir.
Dr. Mahathir’s keen stewardship of the economy has spawned in various projects and the latest was the Multimedia Super Corridor – a “knowledge-based economy master plan” to upgrade the Malaysia’s electronics industry into a hi-tech application industry. The knowledge-based economy master plan which encourages the new trend of Business and Knowledge Process Outsourcing is a new dimension of Globalization.
Southeast Asia first experienced a new and different wave of Globalization from Japan by the transferring their locations to more labour – intensive and resource – intensive Asian countries so that Japan could continue to form the international cooperation. By this Japanese initiative of Global – localization most of the Asian countries are generally favourable towards the Globalization trend. The born-again WTO from the old GATT is permanently positioned to look after the liberalization.
The trend of Globalization and Liberalization is indisputably irreversible. Therefore, it is really a great challenge to developing countries. Singapore and Malaysia are successful in tackling the Globalization and Liberalization because they were well – prepared.
These Southeast Asian tiger economies, all went through series of distinctive stages of economic transformation with certain common characteristics.
Lee Kwan Yew and Dr. Mahathir Mohammed had clear long term visions and strong political leadership skills how to make use of the globalization in their countries’ favour. In Malaysia and Singapore there are strong and efficient technocrats who have the ability to chart the vision into planning with the capability to get things done in a much effective way.
The value system which they have reinvented over a short span of time after the independence produced many successful women entrepreneurs in Malaysia and Singapore. Malaysia and Singapore successfully defined the paths for the emergence of indigenous entrepreneurs by encouraging small and medium size enterprises.
They overcome the problems of relatively shallow and weak entrepreneurial group in Malaysia and Singapore compared with well equipped and well experienced thick and abundant entrepreneurial group in developed countries.
They altered their countries’ entrepreneurial strength for an equal match of the game if confronted each other directly and instantly. They looked after the private sector until they can stand alone to compete against international challenges to become themselves multi-nationals. They realized well in advance the strength and competence of the private sector which is the main market player in determining a country’s eventual competitiveness.
Though Malaysia and Singapore had constraints, they realized the importance of Government Leadership in the very beginning itself. Their governments identified and developed the countries’ long-term competitiveness. They have given meaning to the leadership which can contain not only vision, imagination and direction but also commitment, dedication and thorough follow-up.
They have given real meaning to the ability to translate political leaders’ visions into realizable planning and policies and made eventually their countries as the richest nations of Asia and beyond.