Rafidah says ability to anticipate future trends vital for trade promotion

Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at her residence in Bukit Damansara May 30, 2018. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at her residence in Bukit Damansara May 30, 2018. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 — Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz says the ability to anticipate future trends is vital for trade promotion and agencies such as Matrade under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) should constantly take pre-emptive steps in its policy-making to stay ahead and future-proof its functions.

Being pre-emptive, she said, meant thinking and staying ahead of the game so that the functions of Matrade (Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation) could be made relevant anytime, anywhere and in any circumstance.

“If you cannot think three steps ahead, then you are going to lose out,” the former Miti minister said in a special interview with Bernama in conjunction with the production of a book to commemorate Matrade’s 25th anniversary this year.

Matrade was set up as a special agency to spearhead the export of Malaysian products and services in 1993 when Rafidah was at the helm of Miti.

Today Matrade provides a host of services to Malaysian and foreign businesses, including helping local exporters penetrate overseas markets, bringing overseas trade enquiries to Malaysian businesses and co-ordinating and facilitating business networking between foreign and Malaysian businesses.

In the last one and a half years since Ir Dr Mohd Shahreen Zainooreen Madros was appointed as Matrade chief executive officer, the agency has been actively brainstorming and mapping out strategies for the agency to be more dynamic and fulfil its roles and functions, including areas that may have been overlooked, as laid down by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation Act 1992.

In the interview, Rafidah said the only way for Matrade officers to be able to understand the changes happening around them, whether domestic, regional or global, was to pre-empt new changes as a result of new developments happening all the time.

Stressing the need to have strategic planning at all times, she said sometimes the developments or changes may just be an initial movement but they could trigger massive changes later on.

As such, one has to be always aware of the on-going developments by keeping abreast of them in order to be able to pre-empt possible changes that may arise, she said.

“Unless you have this strategic planning meeting with the agenda that tells you how to future-proof Matrade and future-proofing means realigning your strategies, changing the situation and pre-empting future developments, you can’t be relevant. If the support system is not strong, not effective, not relevant to the needs of your clientele, what’s the point?”

Rafidah also touched on the importance of understanding the far-reaching effects of promotional efforts for Matrade officers.

For those in trade or investment promotion, she said it was important for them to look beyond the job or salary as “the rewards don’t come to us directly but the rewards go to the rakyat and the nation.”    

In stressing the point, Rafidah drew reference to herself in saying that she was still serving the nation in another capacity although she had retired from government service 10 years ago.

She revealed there were people who still came up to her to thank her for her services when she helmed Miti.

“But I always tell them that it’s not me alone but my officers as well,” she said, adding that as a team, “everyone is part of the support system for thousands and thousands of people out there.”

Rafidah recalled telling her officers that when they were attending to the private sector in matters like answering enquiries or facilitating business-matching, they were actually serving the country.

“Otherwise, who is going to pay income tax and pay your salaries? If you had helped companies to grow and expand, (that means) you were helping the country,” she said, adding that this also translated into helping to create job opportunities for the people.

“Those are the spin-offs. And that means your contribution (to the country) is really big. You may not realise it but without you, nothing would have happened (to those companies). You have to think like that all the time,” she said, adding that one cannot be mediocre but has to have high benchmarks if one wanted to really serve the country well. — Bernama