- Urges “Look East” policy; insists stability, peace, work ethics and greater private sector role crucial for rapid development
Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed walks on the red carpet whilst enjoying a traditional Sri Lankan welcome at the launch of new residential apartment complex in Hambantota yesterday - Pic by Lasantha Kumara
By Marisa Wikramanayake
Sri Lanka should look towards the East for a model on development as Malaysia successfully did, according to the latter’s iconic former leader Dr. Mahathir Mohamed.
“These are very interesting times for Sri Lanka because it is accelerating its development,” Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed said during his keynote at the Hambantota Conclave 2014 held at the BMICH in Colombo last evening.
The event was organised by the Urban Development Authority and the Board of Investment and showcased the potential investment opportunities to an audience of over 350 business people.
Dr. Mahathir Mohamed stated that when Malaysia was developing, its Government found that Japan and Korea were developing faster than Western nations were and opted to follow their lead. He said that the work ethics of a nation’s population had a large impact on how fast it would develop.
“We were looking for models of development that we could copy to increase the development of Malaysia,” he said. “The East presented a much better model for us.”
He also argued that stability was important: “A country that is stable and peaceful is much easier to develop than one that is in turmoil.”
He explained how the Malaysian Government opted to open up land, improve agriculture, industrialise and invest in technology but also create opportunities for investment where there previously were none by designating the archipelago Langkawi as a tax free island and a tourist destination.
“Tourism is a good business,” he explained. “It has many beneficiaries – from service providers, to taxes for the government and when people buy goods, then the retailers and wholesalers benefit as well.”
He also encouraged the private sector to be more involved in the nation’s development. “Infrastructure itself contributes to economic growth,” he said. “We should let the private sector develop the country with the government.”
He explained that Malaysia had followed this by privatising road transport, building a major highway and allowing tolls to be collected, enabling new towns and jobs to be created.
“We also have a system of cooperation between business and government,” he said. “Users pay but non users don’t pay; the companies gain sufficient money to develop the roads and the country then develops.”
MP for Hambantota Namal Rajapaksa welcomed Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, thanked him for his advice on development and noted that it would be useful for the Hambantota development plans.
“What Hambantota offers today is a unique centre for investment opportunities in a land known for being part of the ancient Silk Route and is now within waving distance of the modern-day Silk Route,” he stated.