Malaysia’s great potential just needs some tweaking

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad needs to ensure the economy gets back on track.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 13 – The Malaysia we are now in is more than the politicking, corruption and court cases against former leaders. There is so much potential here from the diversity and the people that we should take advantage of, with the right policies and direction.

The new National Economic Action Council (NEAC) announced by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is a step in the right direction. We can only hope that the objectives and steps it takes to boost the country’s economy are successful.

But there are some areas where all it would take is some tweaking and little boost for us to become a world hub or world leader. Here are some of them.

Islamic finance

Just a decade or so ago, Malaysia was at the forefront of Islamic finance, and demonstrating our capability in being recognised as world Islamic financial hub.

But we dropped the ball and others are fast catching up.

After all, our neighbour Singapore is recognised as a world financial hub. So, why couldn’t Malaysia carry through with the ambitious plans laid out and become the world’s Islamic financial hub?

We have all the facilities ready, we have the know-how. There should have been nothing to stop us from taking advantage of our status as a majority Muslim country and become a leader in Islamic finance?

Sadly, we failed because we only know how to start something but not how to make it work. Because our system has always been about having an idea, financing it with government’s money and then turn it into a white elephant.

World Halal Hub

Many Malaysians may see this as a joke, what with the over-zealous efforts of some religious bodies, but the halal industry is huge worldwide and it is continuing to grow.

As far back as 1974 Malaysia had been seen as a leader in the halal industry and in recent decades, there was still talk about Malaysia becoming a World Halal Hub, so what happened?

We dropped the ball again. We spent so much on facilities but we turned them into empty spaces.

The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) went from developing Islam to controlling the lives of Muslims. We made white elephants again. Even God don’t make white elephants, but Malaysia has become an expert in doing this.


This specialised field of science had started during the tenure of former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. There was huge potential in Malaysia establishing itself.

We had so many students learning biotechnology only to graduate without a job. Now those graduates are working in Singapore instead, helping their private sector and creating advances in the wider medical field.

This potential was killed because of politics, with Datuk Seri Najib Razak, taking over the helm of the country and abandoning some of Pak Lah’s initiatives, including Biotechcorp.

It’s not too late, we can still revive this if the current PM is serious about creating scientists and engineers and not limit it to the automobile industry only.

Knowledge-based economy and the Internet of Things

The Multimedia Super Corridor was established in the mid-1990s to boost Malaysia’s move towards a knowledge-based economy, otherwise known at K-Economy.

It didn’t take off the way it should have, but out of all the initial flaws, the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is the success story that we can be proud of.

But we still need to get this right. We were number two once behind India in the BPO industry, then other countries, especially the Philippines, started to move and we are now behind.

We would be great at the Internet of Things, being a hub for the what is now the way of life for billions of people around the world.

Dr Mahathir saw this 30 years ago but he retired,  and his successors have turned Cyberjaya into a housing estate. Still there are plenty of Global Service Hubs, Datacentres and other BPO operations running out of Cyberjaya.

The new Pakatan Harapan government just need to work things out with our MSC and we can get back on track.

Rubber technology

Malaysia was once the largest exporter of rubber in the world. With the Rubber Research Industry being a world-class organisation back in the day, we also took the lead in rubber technology, with the people, knowledge and facilities available.

We can reclaim that position as the facilities are still around. We just need the right people to get this going again. Not politicians. Definitely not a lawyer.

Plastic recycling

We are sitting on a goldmine here. We were a destination for plastic waste but nobody was doing anything with all the millions of tonnes of plastic sent to our shores.

Energy, Technology, Science, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin needs to be talking to Heng Hiap.

Talk to Heng Hiap’s founder, the Michaelangelo of recycling, that is Seah Kian Hoe. They can turn plastic into coal that burns more than coal itself.

They can turn plastic waste into oil that powers their own factory and more. We can probably power our whole country with plastic waste.

Yeo Bee Yin should then talk to Nuklear Malaysia. They have a technology that can combine plastic with rubber waste in the cheapest and most effective way, using radiation technology, and make lots and lots of resin.

Better use wastes to make resin then creating new plastic and new synthetic rubber for resin.

Affordable housing for the B40

The 1Malaysia Affordable Housing (PR1MA) scheme made former Umno minister, the late Jamaluddin Jarjis as rich as sin. So sinful that his mother is now suing his children, her own grand-children, for a share of his multi-billion-ringgit estate.

Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin needs to talk to young property gurus, such as Faizul Ridzuan.

Developers have obviously been building high-end properties only to cater for Chinese (China) buyers. Now that this target market has been restricted from buying, property developers are stuck.

Rich people not buying, poor people can’t even get a loan. There is definitely a bubble looming.

3rd national car

The tweak to make this work for the country is only if it is vehicular automation and electric cars we are talking about. The new Proton SUV’s vehicular automation technology is promising but we need more than that. We need to disrupt the industry.

Medical tourism

Malaysia was just rated number one in the world in terms of our medical services for expats. Now, how do we turn this into tourism?

Look at Thailand. State of the art hospitals and clinics next to hotels. Just like the Prince Court Medical Centre is at a touristy area in Kuala Lumpur.

Prince Court itself is like a hotel. That’s how we become a better medical tourism centre. Nobody wants to be stuck in traffic to get their treatment and not everyone wants to stay in hospitals when they can stay next door at a hotel.

And perhaps, we need to stop this protection of local doctors by allowing foreign doctors to practice here? Competition will make us much better.

Malaysian Technology Development Corp (MTDC)

The government must look into this agency. What have they been doing?

They gave RM20 million to a chocolate factory. They gave RM500 million to a VC in Middle East that probably does not exist anymore.

From what I learned, MTDC’s biggest success is from the collection of rentals from their incubation centres.

The question is, why is a technology development agency playing the role of a property management company?

I once took Ozi Amanat, an investor in Alibaba, PayTM, Paktor, Magic Leap and Spotify to visit MTDC and he laughed at how they were financing shampoo, soap and serai wangi industry.

“That’s not technology, that’s manufacturing,” he said. Malu aku!

– Mujahidin Zulkifli