©The Sun (Used by permission)
by Shah Hakim Zain
Fifty years is a long time, and for some, it is a lifetime.
No doubt, when we achieved independence 50 years ago, our forefathers could not
have imagined that we would be where we are today. As it was then, the task of
trying to visualise today where we will be in 50 years seems equally daunting.
In 1957, we, as a nation, grappled with the issues of reducing child mortality
rates, ensuring every Malaysian had access to power supply and potable water,
combating malaria and even fighting the communist insurgency. These were basic
survival issues which at that time may have seemed larger than life. And as a
nation in its infancy, these issues must have seemed insurmountable.
But what we had then were leaders who put the nation above themselves. They were
visionaries who developed and implemented plans, and stayed true to the course
with their final objectives always in mind.
When I speak to our older generation, especially those who were involved in
politics and government in the early days after independence, I am struck by the
determination and fortitude with which they continued to forge ahead in building
Although they admitted to being scared and lost at times, they kept their
resolve, and obstacles that were perceived to be insurmountable were overcome,
all with the aim of ensuring successive generations’ future happiness and
security. This will always be their legacy.
The debt of gratitude we owe to them and all those who came after them for
making the nation what it is today cannot be measured.
Being Malaysian, we tend to always look at the glass as being half empty when
there are so many things that we should be thankful for. We could have easily
gone astray along the way and ended up like the few turbulent African states
that are embroiled in civil unrest, or even some other Asean states that have
failed to progress or worse, moved backwards.
Today, the issues facing us going forward into the next 50 years may seem
equally overwhelming. Furthermore, the world has become a “smaller” place. Like
it or not, we are all affected by global issues such as conflicts, suppression
of certain states, global warming, the state of the world economy; issues that
we as a nation have little or no control over.
This is further complicated by local problems such as politics, and the racial
and religious divide. As some other countries and nations around the world
continue to build on their capabilities, we could be left far behind if we
remain caught up in our local issues and not look outwards.
As technological progress gathers speed, evidence of this “shrinking” world will
be ubiquitous. However, as a nation, we are far from ready, especially in terms
of knowledge and infrastructure, to benefit from this development and, more
importantly, to stay competitive.
Today we are witnessing “colonisation” of a different nature. The dictates of a
global economy have entailed the opening-up of markets where barriers to trade
are slowly but surely being eradicated.
The ability to remain competitive is key, and in such a climate, the economic
powerhouses - be they nations, multinational corporations or private equity or
asset management organisations - by reason of their vast resources, tend to have
a distinct advantage. Their constant forays into companies in weaker economies
in the name of investment and expansion is a testimony of their might.
This will go on in one way or another, and if we are not able to capture
knowledge and prepare ourselves for what we will face in 50 years’ time, we will
surely fall victim to such “colonisation” yet again.
If you cannot imagine where we will be in the next 50 years, one thing that is
certain is that we cannot continue to do the same things in the same manner
today if we want to stay relevant.
Therefore, it is important for us to have a clear vision of where we want to be
50 years on and to implement strategies and stay the course, no matter what.
In fact, we have the potential to leapfrog over other countries by being a
technology and knowledge leader, not just in product technology but also in
To do so, we will have to invest in technology and knowledge ownership, and with
the right combination of foresight and vision, eventually emerge as a true and
effective global country in 50 years time.
Shah Hakim Zain is Scomi Group chief executive officer.