BANGKOK: Asian countries must shift from merely being “technology parrots,” consumers and manufacturers to become innovators of home-grown technologies, National Economic Action Council (NEAC) executive director Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said.
Speaking at the Sixth Hitachi Young Leaders’ Initiative Conference here yesterday, he said Japan was now the only Asian country that could claim to be a nation of technological innovation, while South Korea was catching up fast.
Mustapa said Asia must breed a new generation of workers who were both skilled manually and had the intellectual capacity to master and re-apply knowledge in creative and innovative ways.
“They must be resilient and easily adaptable to changing global circumstances. They must have global appeal.”
“Only then, they can be described as ‘knowledge workers’ in the truest sense of the phrase and become real contributors to economic growth,” he said.
Mustapa said the most basic requirement in producing such knowledge workers would be to provide appropriate education and training.
“Fortunately, Asians and the much spoken of ‘Asian values’ have put on a much stronger emphasis on education than our counterparts in the West or anywhere else.
“This has proven to be an advantage as Asia is becoming increasingly recognised as a primary source of good talent in various fields,” he said.
He pointed out the enormous gap between the West and the East in terms of economic development and progress.
He said the collective objective of Asian countries should be to strengthen the region and improve the lives of the people in it.
“We must work towards narrowing the gap and elevate the quality of life for our people. This can be done if we capitalise on our strengths as a region. If we work together, we can achieve wonders, “ he added.
Mustapa said the dream of the “New Asian Century” had been interrupted by the Asian economic crisis and other events over the last few years but it was still not dead.
“Asia can, and must, return to its old footing and we can become the engines of global growth, as we once were.
“But the onus is not just upon the governments of the day in the various Asian nations.
“Since this is a long-term objective, the burden must also be carried by those who will inherit these countries, the younger generation of every nation in Asia,” he added.
Top university students from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand are taking part in the five-day conference and panel discussions.
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