©The Sun (Used by permission)
by Datuk Abdul Wahid Omar
We have definitely progressed a lot since Independence. From my point of view,
our achievements are even more remarkable because they are not just confined to
the physical aspects but also include quality of life. Testament to this is our
achievement in reducing poverty levels from 75% in the 1950s to the current 5%
with hard-core poverty afflicting only 1% of the population. Complementing that,
we also have a sizeable middle-class population in the country today.
In TM itself, the company has progressed by leaps and bounds. From its humble
beginning as a government department, TM has grown into an emerging leader in
Asian communications with a presence in 13 countries regionally and globally.
TM has also played its role in contributing towards Malaysia’s progress - from
the initial years under the British government to the Japanese occupation, the
Emergency, and the years leading to independence. Throughout the years, TM has
continued to provide Malaysia telecommunications infrastructure and technology
and contributed towards nation-building.
As we reflect on our achievements, we will realise that we are capable of much
more. Globalisation is already knocking at our doors and the world is becoming
more borderless. We are looking at a future where new technology will enable
greater interaction, the creation of new business models and also new businesses
which transcend boundaries. This is for real and this is the future we are
heading towards. A big portion of this future is made possible by technology and
Therefore, in charting our course for the next 50 years, one the most important
strategic assets that we must have is a reservoir of skilled and intellectual
As we move towards a knowledge economy, one that is powered by information and
communications technology (ICT), ICT knowledge and adoption could be a
differentiating factor in making Malaysia stand out against the competition.
Indeed, I foresee Malaysia embracing the digital economy, one that is supported
completely by an electronic payment system.
We need to see greater adoption of ICT and usage of ICT applications in people’s
daily lives not only within the Klang Valley but also throughout the country,
bridging the wealth, rural-urban and also digital divides.
We could look at the Multimedia Super Corridor as a good model which can be
replicated in other parts of the country. On that note, the launch of the
Iskandar Development Region (IDR) in the south, the Northern Corridor Economic
Region (NCER) in the north and the Eastern Corridor on the east coast is
certainly a step in the right direction. Hopefully, this will be accompanied by
a similar drive in Sabah and also Sarawak.
At the same time, we also need to see our home-grown companies stepping up their
game and embracing competition. As a player in a borderless world and as we inch
closer towards market liberalisation, the best way for us moving forward is to
ensure local companies are strengthened now when protection is still tolerated.
The training grounds are already in place - we have foreign companies operating
in our market and likewise, Malaysian companies operating regionally and
In this regard, I believe innovation is a key factor that will ensure we rise
competition. This is especially relevant to us as we do not have the benefit of
a huge domestic market like the US, China and India. One example is our
home-grown AirAsia where they applied a proven “blue ocean” concept into a new
region, exploited that concept and in many ways did it even better than the
original concept, excelling domestically and internationally.
The future will also see people becoming more environmentally conscious.
Environment-friendly businesses will flourish. Hence, we need to see our
businesses, particularly those related to the environment, begin focusing on
environment-friendly products and renewable sources of energy. Malaysia has
already started our research and development in bio-energy fuel. In line with
this, biotechnology will also become crucial. For Malaysia, we can see this in
terms of a modernised agriculture which can result in higher production and
yield, paving the way for us to excel in food production.
These are some of the aspects that we need to see in our businesses as we
continue our journey to the future. They must be supported by strong pillars.
Firstly, a sound education system. Not only to build our human capital resources
but also to attract foreign students to study in Malaysia. Exposure to and
interaction with a mix of cultures helps to nurture a generation that is open
and global in perspective.
Secondly, the political stability which we have enjoyed thus far but perhaps one
which also has greater multi-ethnic integration.
Thirdly, business-friendly policies, with very minimal restrictions on the
foreign flow of investment such as those propagated in the IDR.
Finally, the many learning points that we have gained over the years should not
be taken for granted. We definitely should carry them with us into the future -
the peace, stability and security that we have upheld since independence, the
principle of sharing, having great leaders, hard work, having a sound legal
system, poverty eradication - these are some of our well-tested ingredients for
success which we should still use as we make our next leap of progress over the
next 50 years.
Datuk Abdul Wahid Omar is TM group chief executive officer.