Market observers spell out prerequisites for Malaysia to return as Asian tiger

KUALA LUMPUR: Enhanced technology, a strong workforce and critical technical skills are among the requisites needed for Malaysia to roar once again as one of the “Asian Tigers”, trailing the path of the awakened “Sleeping Dragon”.

Market observers opined that Malaysia must strengthen its technological capacity, as well as its workforce by increasing the wages of skilled workers and putting emphasis on technical-oriented skills to regain the Asian Tiger economic status.

Sunway University Business School Professor of Economics Dr Yeah Kim Leng said Malaysia needed to adapt upon technologies such as artificial intelligence, renewable energy and the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) which had propelled other Asian countries such as Singapore and South Korea to greater heights.

Higher wages for skilled worker will benefit the economy in the long run, resulting in increased purchasing power, especially among the middle income group.

“We need to upskill our workers, enhance our research and development, as well as reduce our dependence on unskilled foreign workers. By reducing our reliance on foreign manpower and implement technology, we could offer higher wages for the semi-skilled local workforce,” he said.

Yeah added that the nation needed to capitalise on the young workforce, who possessed technological capabilities, in order to compete with other developed nations.

“If we do not capitalise this window of opportunity, we would be stuck as in 10 to 15 years from now, Malaysia will turn into an aging nation,” he said.    

On top of that, Yeah pointed out that sectors such as renewable energy, green technology, artificial intelligence, as well as Industry 4.0 must be emphasised in order to move at a faster pace.

“If not, we will continue to lag behind,” he said.

In retrospect, Yeah said Malaysia was once a strong economy but had fallen out to countries like South Korea and Singapore by not keeping pace in technology adaptation, causing it to lag behind in the value chain.

“We had brain drain in certain sectors due to the unconducive environment, and we had relied on the commodities such as palm oil and oil and gas to boost our economy.

“This had caused us to fail in attracting advance foreign direct investment that focused on technological advancement,” he said.

Inter-Pacific Securities Sdn Bhd Head of Research Pong Teng Siew, who shared the same sentiment, said work ethics among the Malaysian workforce needed to be improved in order for the country to compete on the global stage.  

"While upgrading our technical skills, we also need to brush up our work ethics. I can tell you that I am impressed with how fast they (China) move to get things done. We need that kind of culture, which is one of the defining characteristics of manufacturing in China. They can move very fast and they are willing to work practically overnight to get things done. I am not sure that people are willing to do that here," he told Bernama.  He added that education reform might be useful to amplify the technical skills of the workforce.

"We need more technical-oriented skills, not necessarily academic, I have to emphasise that point," said Pong.  He added that Malaysia would be able to record a faster economic growth of six per cent to regain its Asian Tiger status, stating that the government would need to sort out near-term issues such as national debt and the US-China trade conflicts.  

"The Tiger economies do not grow at 8.0-9.0 per cent growth pace anymore. To be frank anything like 6.0 per cent is already very good to qualify as the Tiger economy.

“A rapidly growing economy (now) is different from that of 1990s. We do not see many countries growing at more than 6.0 per cent anymore, 7.0 per cent is extraordinary a high pace," he said.
Malaysia will likely benefit the spillovers from the US-China trade conflicts as China-based manufacturers will look for new markets.

"We are well placed to gain the spillovers. I think it is the question of how much, we do not know yet how much the potential is. Certainly, the spillovers could come our way.  "I think it is difficult for the US to find a replacement supply chain platform if they wish to get rid of China because only a few places in the world can get things done as quickly as China. When they (China) put their mind on it, they can work really fast," he said. - Bernama

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