The heritage enclave of George Town can be turned into an innovation hub if it houses universities and research institutes that help to retain the intellectual assets. Dr Shahid Yusuf, Economic Adviser in the World Bank Institute, said more people would want to come to Penang when these developments take place and this will require infusing the educational institutions with 15% to 20% foreign students.
Responding to questions at the Khazanah public lecture on ‘Malaysia: Tiger Economy under Threat’ at the main campus, he said there must be a change in mindset and culture to avoid Malaysia moving slowly innovatively.
“We need to identify some of the pitfalls. In Penang, things like changing the step-by-step process to become more innovative so that a creative culture emerges,” he added. He noted that Korean corporations like Hyundai and Samsung had a “determined and driven culture’ and the world recognition of their products followed later.
Shahid cited Korea, Taiwan and China as three countries that are moving fast innovatively and determinedly. “For Korea and Taiwan, external threats, wars act as pressures. So there is an intense need to drive the economy. Determination and need,” he explained.
He added that for China, they had the “we want to be number one” mentality and a “nationalistic spirit”. He said Malaysia needs to have the same kind of determination as the three countries where it should aim “to be the best than just okay”.
Earlier in his talk, Shahid said Malaysia can be an innovative hotspot in 5 – 10 years, defining hotspot as an urban area rich with technological findings and having the business capacity to turn some of these into commercial innovations. Among the ingredients for an innovation hotspot are strong political will, improving the quality of education, creating one or two elite universities, and a culture open to new ideas and supportive of technological change.
Meanwhile Philip Schellekens, Senior Economist for the Asia and Pacific Department of The World Bank, Bangkok, spoke on ‘Malaysia Economic Monitor: Repositioning for Growth’. He declared, “Malaysia has a high share of hi-technology exports but innovation efforts by firms are lacking.”
He said Malaysia must make its investment climate more attractive, and among the measures are: to provide hard and soft infrastructure for knowledge economy; improve the skills of the workforce; make growth more inclusive so that nobody is left behind; and manage public finances for long-term growth.
Some 50 people attended the lecture, including Wawasan Education Foundation chairman Dato’ Seri Stephen Yeap, WOU Acting Vice Chancellor Prof Wong Tat Meng, and WOU Council member Dato’ Seri Nazir Ariff