One of the key notions in this column has been the ability to adapt to change. Adaptation to change is not just about survival, but the core fundamentals of emerging as a leader that sets the trends, and nor merely sailing with the winds of change.
Whether or not the sentence above reminds you of the golden days of German rock bands, the point is that Malaysia in must now transition from a nation that adapted to global trends, to an economy that has the ability to set those trends ourselves.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) forecasts Malaysia to be within the top 25 largest economies in the world by the year 2050.
While this is a good indicator of the growth of our economy, it is based on GDP per capita (PPPs), which therefore requires us to fill in the blanks on fair distribution of wealth in view of our economic growth over the next three decades.
One of the key ingredients to achieve this is the sustainable participation of all walks of life in the Malaysian economy. Whether or not you are a business owner or employed, every Malaysian must be given fair and equitable access to economic participation, but also an environment to develop capabilities and talents in their careers and achieve greater social upward mobility.
To propel ourselves to greater heights, it is important to grow our regional and global presence within the economic arena. I’ve mentioned in numerous articles in this column that achieving sustainability in a liberalised economy is the best bet forward, and economic policies should be geared to assist businesses and people from gaining assistance.
Conventional economic theory dictates that managing our “comparative advantage” is key, i.e. we should venture only into areas that we have a significant advantage over, such as labour costs, logistics and raw material availability.
However, as conventional economic borders are quickly diminishing and business modes changing, conventional wisdom may also need a system update. Economic policy must also gear towards developing such comparative advantage as the diversification allows for faster reallocations should our economic dependancies become obsolete due to rapid economic disruption.
Apart from consistent, forward looking economic policies, the government has implemented countless initiatives to guide business and individuals seeking opportunities to participate in the new economic order, spurred by the fourth industrial revolution.
Examples include the continuous investment and robust development in digital technology, including the establishment of the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ).
The education sector is also going through numerous upgrading in teaching philosophies, such as increased gap bridging and integration among universities and industry players. Programmes such as the CEO@Faculty Programme, 2u2i and efforts to enhance skill levels through Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) are also in progress.
The agricultural sector is also shifting gears. While our comparative advantage in rubber and palm based products remains intact, we are also looking to specialize in higher yield premium agro products such as seaweed, herbs, swift’s nests and our king of fruit, the durian.
It is for this reason that the administration shifted the automotive industry towards gradual liberalisation, through the National Automotive Policy 2014. The automotive sector, despite its size, has always been a prime mover of technology spin offs for the use of other sectors. The massive technology consumption in manufacturing processes assists other industries that consume the same materials and processes, such as plastic, rubber, metal and composites as they spin off the technologies to elevate all sectors.
It is also for this reason that the automotive industry is witnessing a transformation from a domestically driven market to a globally thinking market leader. We will continue to work with both local and global experts and organisations, and allow high value to penetrate our borders. After all, those borders are slowly diminishing anyway.
It is better to be the worst of the best, rather than the best of the worst.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.