Reviving Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor

The BBC have an article about how the government are trying to revivie Malaysia’s MSC and Cyberjaya. The MSC, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, was intended to tempt technology companies to Malaysia to build on its growing success as a hi-tech manufacturing centre. If Malaysia are serious about attracting people to their MSC they have to address a number of “serious business cultural issues”
I was in Malaysia in 2000 trying to set up partnerships with the govt and local businesses in the area of e-commerce and training. As part of my stay I spent a considerable amount of time in Cyberjaya, which struck me at the time as being something out of a William Gibson novel. Cyberjaya rises out of the jungle and occupies space similar to that of Waterford City, it has highways running in every direction and the odd lonely office building. In 2000 all the signposts were in place but unfortunately the roads were not so every time you went to visit a company you literally had to lay a trail of breadcrumbs in order to find your way back. The people there were enthuastic, young and technically sound the problems they faced however were not of their creation but more of a glass ceiling that exists above them, above this ceiling resides the lethargic bureaucratic night mare that is the government/state departments.
Malaysia’s telecoms industry for example is dominated by lethargic government-linked companies. There is precious little competition and no one seems to be prepared to take responsibility for the problem. Malaysia’s Communications Minister Lim Keng Yaik declined to be interviewed by the BCC about the internet crisis that has seen internet connectivity stagnating for the past few years (Damien Mulley might see similar parrallels). His office told the BBC that the internet was not his responsibility. The trouble is it certainly it is not anyone else’s.
The reality of doing business in Malaysia is that unless the board of your business is not related in some way to govt ministers you face an uphill battle to sort out immigration visa, connectivity, awarding of contracts etc. In private conversations with Malay and Chineese business people I was painted a picture of nepotism and cronyism that would make the findings of Ireland’s Tribunals look saintly and amateurish.
To a certain extent it is part of their culture so long standing ethnic and cultural values should not be abolished just because Western foreigners desire it. If however they want serious investment then the key Govet/Dept officials have to stop asking the questions “What’s in it for me ?” and start looking at the bigger picture. To tar everyone in the govt with the same brush would be unfair but from where I am standing a major shakeup is needed so as to introduce a more open and transparent system. Only then will the vision of Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed be realised.

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