While Malaysia has a highly skilled and talented workforce, a more enabling environment is needed to help businesses achieve their potential, economist Prof Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram said.
Speaking to reporters at the Malaysia-China Outlook Forum 2019 on Monday, Jomo said there was no question that Malaysians had the talent required to capitalise on business opportunities.
Citing the palm oil industry as an example, he noted that Malaysia only started refining palm oil in the 1970s, and quickly moved on to become the world’s most efficient refiner within a decade.
“It is not that we don’t have the talent – what we need is a more enabling environment to support our businesses,” he said after addressing delegates on US-China relations and world economic tensions.
Jomo said the government and the relevant agencies should encourage Malaysian companies to pursue promising business opportunities in areas such as solar panels or innovations in the food business, instead of remaining focused on traditional forms of businesses.
“Malaysia is among the biggest source countries for solar panel exports, but it is produced mainly by foreign firms operating here.
“It is not a complex technology – we can definitely do it.
“There just needs to be an effort made towards this,” he said.
Given the rising global temperature, he said, there was huge potential for the technology.
In terms of creating an enabling environment for this, Jomo said the authorities should be encouraging the use of solar panels in Malaysia instead of still heavily relying on resources such as coal for power generation.
At the moment, only 2% of Malaysia’s electricity is generated by renewable energy sources such as solar energy, as it remains highly dependent on fossil fuel resources such as oil, coal or natural gas.
“There is a lot to think about in terms of creating the right environment to help our businesses move forward,” he said, adding that companies could also benefit from advice on how to negotiate better deals.
On innovations in the food business, Jomo said many Malaysians suffered from protein or iron deficiencies, and businesses could come up with innovations to address this.
“We must change the way we produce food, and pay more attention to the welfare of the people.
“It is not easy, but we can enable this,” he said.
The forum, organised by Star Media Group Bhd, was also attended by China’s Ambassador to Malaysia Bai Tian, Star Media Group chairman Datuk Fu Ah Kiow, as well as Star Media Group independent non-executive director Chan Seng Fatt and non-independent non-executive director Datuk Dr Mohd Aminuddin Mohd Rouse, and Malaysian Investment Development Authority chairman Datuk Abdul Majid Ahmad Khan.
The forum was sponsored by LBS Bina Group Bhd, while Sheraton Petaling Jaya was the official venue and the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia was the working partner.