Monday, October 01, 2007

Budget 2008: Knowledge Economy

Knowledge economy is a big subject. My Oriental Daily column is limited to 700 characters. Hence I tackled the subject in my article last week from the type of investment the country appears to be attracting.

For the past 10 years, the Government has proclaimed that Malaysia needs to be come a knowledge economy. However, besides the "statement of intent" made in the Budget 2008, no particular policy raised appears to leads towards a knowledge economy, particularly from the foreign investment perspective.

As a developing country, we are dependent on technological investments from developed countries to catalyse and expedite our progression towards a knowledge economy. In the 1980s, it was investments from Intel, Motorola, Dell, Western Digital, Sharp and their likes that propelled us to become a manufacturing force to be reckoned with. However, in recent years, we have not seen much of such investments coming into Malaysia.

Instead we are getting investments from the oil-rich countries. These investments are certainly welcome. However, at some point in time, after the "boom" created via investments in the property and construction sector reaches the next phase, where will the factories and businesses that will "occupy" these properties come from? Without attracting the knowledge-based investments which will bring not just a construction boom, but also employment, skills and technological know-how, as well as the creation of entirely new secondary supporting industries, how can we "move on" to become a knowledge-based economy and set ourselves apart from the likes of Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and China?

These were some of the questions I raised my article "知识经济开空头支票" or "Empty Promises on the Knowledge Economy" last week.

知识经济开空头支票
潘俭伟

去年,首相阿都拉通过第九大马计划刻意宣布要把我国发展为知识经济国。其中最大原因是全球化的高度竞争,让我国的外来直接投资额遽跌。从1996至2005年期间,我国的外来直接投资跌45%至39亿美元,反观新加坡却增加超过一倍至210亿美元。

为了扭转颓势,政府的目标看来锁定吸引中东投资。最近政府所推动的伊斯干达发展区(IDR)计划吸引到42亿令吉来自中东的投资额。首相也通过明年度财政预算案提出一些能够吸引更多中东投资的政策,其中包括给国内推出回教证券的证券行享有税收优惠。

政府希望吸引中东投资及资金当然没错。但是,鉴于中东资金来自石油飙涨所赚取的收入,除了能够投资股市、地产与建筑领域,就不会带来其它的经济效应。其实,我们应注重各别投资所能带来的乘数效应,进而带动国家经济发展。

马来西亚曾吸引全球著名的科技巨贾,包括英特尔(Intel) 、摩托罗拉(Motorola)、戴尔(Dell)到我国研发及生产最新的科技。这类外来投资不只
带来大量的资金,也带来了大型工厂并制造上万个就业机会、高科技与知识转移,以及协助许多中小型供应与承包商成长。

但是,在过去10年,我们的生产工艺显然落后他人。举个例子,邻国新加坡目前正积极吸引首创新产品的投资商,就如最新的PS3主机与Xbox使用的电子晶片制造商。法国的Soitec半导体公司,亦在新加坡投资7亿新元设立其首个岸外晶圆生产基地。这是属于高科技、高精度的晶圆工艺。新加坡成了Soitec在亚洲设立唯一海外生产基地的国家。

我要进一步争辩,若我们能吸引这类高科技公司到马来西亚投资,其它投资基金包括来自中东的资金,很自然就会引入我国。反之,即使我们能够在短期内吸引到中东资金,却吸引不到或无法建立这类高科技企业来推动国家经济发展,现有的投资基金迟早也会退出我国的。

所以,我们有必要在全球化时代,通过划时代的工艺把全球投资给吸引回来。否则,政府所构想的知识经济根本就是一张空头支票!
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