Time for Malaysia to become an Asian Tiger once again — Ahmad Shahir Abdul Aziz

AUGUST 12 — Recently, the prime minister announced Malaysia would become an “Asian Tiger” once again. I believe this plan has been part of his ambitions since the first day he took office after Pakatan Harapan took over the government in the 14th general election.

Looking back at history, it proved to be a vision that is possible to achieve. During Dr Mahathir’s first tenure as Prime Minister, Malaysia transformed from an agriculture-based economy in the 1960s into an industrialised one in the 1990s.

This statement was further fortified by the fact that Malaysia’s GDP contribution in 1965 was largely contributed by agriculture sector which accounted 31.5 per cent, compared to manufacturing sector which contributed only 10.4 per cent.

Nevertheless, the figure swept in 1995 with the manufacturing sector becoming the prominent contributor to the economy, contributing 32.2 per cent compared with the agricultural sector’s 13.1 per cent.

With the injection of large amounts of foreign investment, Malaysia has grown substantially between early – to mid – 1990s with the average GDP growth was 8.7 per cent per annum and the unemployment rate was only 2.5 per cent. Moreover, Malaysia witnessed a significant achievement in 1996 in reaching 10 per cent GDP growth, almost double that achieved in 2017, which was 5.5 per cent.

Indeed, during that era, Malaysia was known as “heaven” for foreign investors due to its competitive advantages. 

Neighbouring countries, such as Vietnam and Indonesia, were not among the top choices for foreign investment as both were politically unstable, lacked basic infrastructure and had weak investment policies. In contrast, Malaysia began adopting liberal economic policies and developed basic infrastructure to fulfill the requirements of investors. Thailand, on the other hand, found certain challenges in English, being a barrier for communication between locals and foreigners.

As time went by, those countries have changed tremendously, and investors now have many options in this region. In other words, competition among Asean member states has become stiff.

Looking forward, there are pressing issues we need to address to achieve the Asian Tiger vision. Grooming our talents in line with industrial revolution technology (Industry 4.0) has become an integral part to creating high-tech companies with competent workforces. 

On top of that, the availability of excellent infrastructure, such as high-speed internet and world-class industrial parks, is critical to attracting quality investment and making Malaysia a hub for high-end production. 

* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.