12 February, 2010

National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM) Dinner


YB Dato’ Mustapa bin Mohamed
Minister of International Trade and Industry

YB Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen
Minister of Tourism

Tuan Syed Ali Alattas
President NCCIM

Vice Presidents and members of NCCIM

Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Salam 1Malaysia,

1. I would like to express my appreciation to NCCIM for inviting me to this special occasion tonight. We gather tonight at the beginning of a defining year for our country.

2. The rapidly developing economic environment mandates that Malaysia continues the correct process of transformation. We must consider the consequences if we stand idle and fail to match with the changing global economic conditions. Tonight, I would like to share my thoughts on several principles that will underlie the new Malaysian economy, how the government can help the business community and how the private sector can play its role in positioning Malaysia for decades to come.

3. I have introduced major initiatives that the government is taking – 1Malaysia, the Government Transformation Program which details out the NKRAs, the 10th Malaysia Plan and New Economic Model that will be announced soon. It is clear that we can no longer rest on the methods and approaches of the past. We will need policy changes but also a change in our national overall mindset to achieve our goal of a high-value, high-income and high-skill economy that can compete on the world stage. With the rise of economic powerhouses such as China and India, Malaysia has real opportunities; but we will only be able to take advantage of them if we raise our economic game; enhance our competitiveness and excel in the sectors the future will require.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

4. As we look out together towards Malaysia’s future, I believe there are a series of principles that must guide our nation and our national economy.

5. First, we must be a nation that puts a premium on innovation and creativity. We are all aware that businesses that succeed are those that look ahead; innovators that look beyond the short-term challenges and seek to chart new paths to growth. We must also be innovators of the new economic sub-sectors whether in information technology, green technology or finance, to spark new areas of economic growth for our country.

6. With regards to creativity, I have also stressed to the government to demonstrate value creation within the government’s processes, systems and policies. In addition, the government will also do its part to unleash such creativity and will back those who want to move into new sectors of the economy, through measures such as the green technology financing program.

7. But the government can only do so much, and I recognize that the government is not always the best driver of creativity and innovation for the nation. So moving forward there must exist a strong partnership between the public and private sectors; collaborating in ways that are mutually beneficial and create opportunities, jobs and prosperity.

8. Second, we must take advantage of new, non-traditional markets. Initiatives are in place, for example, to advance the economic integration of ASEAN member states. To what extent are Malaysian businesses, especially those in the manufacturing sector are aware of ASEAN initiatives, the desired AEC, and the opportunities that this poses?

9. While the Government continues to carefully manage our international economic linkages, I also call on the NCCIM and trade organisations to help bring a greater awareness and understanding of global challenges and opportunities to the business community and to society at large. The 10th Malaysian Plan recognizes this, and is based on a growth trajectory driven by the private sector. I strongly stress upon the business community to understand the implications of a more integrated regional economy and to seriously look into the matter – the changes a Malaysian company must make to remain competitive in this current economic landscape.

10. Let’s consider the ASEAN-China FTA that started at the beginning of this year. This agreement will mean significant inflows of investment and goods into our markets. This can be a real opportunity for Malaysia and Malaysian business, but only if we are fully equipped to take advantage of it. We must consider opportunities such as increasing the base of our current trading relationships, capiltalising on each other’s strengths in win-win sectors and thirdly is the investment and trading opportunity that has emerged in a market of almost 2 billion.

11. The third principle I want to touch on is delivery, accountability and performance. This is a concept that must be fully integrated into the government, but I am sure is a concept that is already familiar to the business community. Indeed, I have been inspired by many of you who focus on maximizing the performance of your organizations to get the best results possible. This is a new paradigm that I am introducing to government – getting results for the rakyat; People First; Performance Now.

12. Allow me to share a story. In the case of the Immigration Department, I have already given the Department due credit for the remarkable turnaround in the time taken for the renewal of passports. I have challenged immigration – and other departments – to emulate this success. This requires that government workers understand the wider context of their actions. In the case of Immigration, their role is not just as a security division of the government, but also as agents of economic growth. This sounds strange. But in fact it is a remarkable shift in behavior and purpose. Immigration officials now see visa applicants through that prism. No longer do they think in national security terms but in terms of how this person will contribute to Malaysia’s growth. Transformation is needed across all levels in the Department so that we welcome knowledge workers based on their credentials and not by race or country of origin. Government must be sharper; our focus must be on delivering results, the outcomes rather than the outputs.

13. I introduced the blueprint for delivery in key areas of Malaysian life only a few weeks ago, setting out in the Government Transformation Programme, or GTP. The blueprint lays out how – very specifically – we will reduce crime, improve access to education, enhance rural infrastructure, provide better urban transport systems, support low-income families and tackle corruption in our country. The blueprint was developed through a remarkable series of policy labs and public consultations. The labs themselves were an effort to reform government by engaging a broad spectrum of perspective in the formation of policy.

14. A fourth principle for our success will be the courage and the judgment to take the difficult decisions we will need to grow as a nation.

15. As business leaders, you know that tough times often lead to tough choices. As a government, we will not shirk these choices. Indeed, I believe it is because of the decisions we have made – stimulus packages, economic liberalisation, investments in the right areas and budget savings – that Malaysia will return to growth in 2010 with a lower budget deficit. This has come about by choice, not chance.

16. We will face more such choices in the coming months and years. Let me assure you that we will always support business growth, we will support families and Malaysians who need help most, and we will introduce any difficult reforms sensitively and with an eye on maintaining stability. As an example, whether it is subsidies or broadening the tax base, we must consider whether we would want to put off these choices to another time or for our future generation. We must act now – decisively and strongly – to prepare Malaysia for success.

17. Finally, I believe that the values, the vision and the commitment behind 1Malaysia will be vital to the long-term strength of Malaysia. Business cannot succeed and economies cannot be strong when our society is divided. We will not succeed in the new global era if we do not extend opportunity to all according to their needs and look to utilise the talents of all our people, not just some.

18. This entails not only bridging gaps across cultural and religious groups, but ensuring fairness across all areas of Malaysian life to establish level playing fields. For instance, the Government Transformation Programme does not see different groups of Malaysians; it sees and serves 1Malaysia regardless of background. And NCCIM is in a great position as an umbrella body to serve that same purpose but in the Malaysian business context.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

19. The remarkable future that we can achieve together in Malaysia if we spark innovation, bring public and private sector expertise together in the common good, focus on delivery, have the courage to make the right choices for our country, and maintain our commitment to 1Malaysia. We have ambitious plans, but they are developed in the full knowledge that we can meet our goals as a talented, innovative and skilled nation.

20. In this regard and appropriately at the NCCIM Dinner 2010, I want to ask for your support and your ongoing commitment to our nation. I encourage you to make change happen and inspire others through your actions. I call on you to be bold, innovative and creative, to join me as agents of change under the NCCIM umbrella. In true spirit of 1Malaysia, the NCCIM will maximize its opportunities when it anticipates, innovates and collaborate to rise to the occasion.

Thank you, and I wish you all a very prosperous Chinese New Year.

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