Determining how science could create wealth and jobs for the rakyat was the simple, farsighted instruction Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak gave me when I was appointed his science adviser several years ago.
In Malaysia and elsewhere, science is increasingly found at the heart of policy and decision-making.
Whether the issue is climate change, renewable energy, natural disaster prevention and mitigation, food security, or disease pandemics, policymakers want scientific advice.
But, rigorous, useful and timely science advice is not a trivial matter, and taking careful account of such advice in complex policy areas of interest to many different stakeholders is not always straightforward.
To complicate things even further, many issues are of an international nature, and can only be addressed in a meaningful way through collaboration between countries.
Such collaboration can take many forms, ranging from simply sharing of experiences to the establishment of very large multi-level organisations, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
Just as many governments around the world have recognised the need to inform their policy decisions with the best knowledge available, some promising initiatives have been started, including the move by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to establish his Scientific Advisory Board and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council.
Two weeks ago, Islamic Development Bank President Dr Bandar Hajjar likewise established a scientific advisory board comprising 10 leading experts on sustainable development.
Various collaborative platforms have also been established recently, such as the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA), the Apec Chief Science Advisers and Equivalents, the Commonwealth Scientific Advisers, and the Foreign Ministries Science and Technology Advisors Network. These are also part of a growing interest in science diplomacy worldwide.
In addition to the post of the science adviser to the prime minister, first instituted in 1984, Najib revamped the National Science Council two years ago to complement the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council for Malaysia which he established earlier in 2010.
Both platforms are intended to assist the government’s efforts to create a high-income economy, and to help raise Malaysia’s international ranking and competitiveness in science and innovation.
Council members, including nobel laureates, distinguished public officials, corporate leaders, academics and economists, advise the Prime Minister on wealth and job creation.
The council’s insightful international experience and advice greatly assists Malaysia in the development of policies and strategies. Both platforms are also fine examples of the so-called science-policy nexus.
In Malaysia we see science, technology and innovation as an engine for socio-economic development, creating jobs and increasing income levels.
And, we are most fortunate to have the necessary ingredients to make this case a model of success in national development.
Blessed with abundant natural resources, what we need now is a motivated and hardworking society with high moral values and discipline, and the proper application of science to serve our needs and aspirations for greater achievements.
In our case, science, and indeed the whole spectrum of knowledge must be developed and utilised as a tool to fulfill our aspiration of peace, prosperity, unity and justice for all Malaysians.
Today, many nations look to science as a means of overcoming the middle-income trap. Scientific advances and technological innovation are important drivers of economic performance.
The ability to create, distribute and exploit scientific knowledge and technology is a major source of competitive advantage and wealth creation, lifting the quality of life for all.
This too, was one of the main reasons the prime minister launched the National Transformation 2050 (TN50), envisioning Malaysia among the world’s top 20 nations in the next three decades. The Government has committed to a bottom-up approach to realise TN50, thus ensuring our future direction reflects the people’s aspirations and needs.
Last year, Malaysia hosted the INGSA South East Asia Government Science Advice workshop in line with the goal of strengthening science advice, particularly in developing countries.
This was INGSA’s first capacity building workshop in the region. The most significant outcome of this workshop was the establishment of the Asia chapter for INGSA.
The Asia chapter, led by one young, up and coming Malaysian academic, Prof Abhimanyu Veerakumarasivam of Sunway University will enlarge INGSA’s reach, promote information dissemination and access, raise awareness, support training, and encourage research.
Besides building the regional and inter-regional networks of science advice practitioners, the chapter will support regional policymakers and promote demand for science advice.
While scientific research should always have a place in a country’s national development plan, it is important to ensure that its outputs must have relevance to our needs.
For R&D to be relevant, science must stay close to national policies. And it is only through a formal science-policy nexus that this role can be delivered effectively.
Zakri Abdul Hamid is a former lecturer who has found a new interest in science diplomacy.
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ROUGHLY one in every 10 people on earth today lives in extreme poverty — defined as less than US$1.90 (less than RM8) per day. Of the 700 million or so people in these dire conditions, many reside in member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Indeed, one in every five citizens of OIC countries — 21 per cent — lives below that US$1.90 per day world poverty line, double the proportion found worldwide. Of the OIC’s 57 member states, 21 appear on a roster of the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs). And yet, OIC nations possess 70 per cent of the world’s energy resources and 40 per cent of its natural resources.
These statistics are particularly painful when we consider that they apply to a great and proud civilisation. For more than 1,000 years, the Islamic empire was the most advanced and civilised in the world, founded on Islam’s emphasis on learning, education, observation, and the use of reason.
Islam stresses the importance and respect of learning, forbids destruction, and develops in Muslims a respect for authority, discipline, and religious tolerance — teachings that inspired and nurtured high accomplishments in both science and medicine.
During Islam’s Golden Age, Muslims made immense contributions to the arts, sciences and to the cultural growth of humankind. Today, we can make far fewer such claims.
Of the three Muslim Nobel Prize recipients, all made their mark while working in industrialised countries. The knowledge-based economy predicated on science, technology and innovation (STI) is still an elusive dream for most parts of the Muslim world. And, as a consequence, we are relatively poor.
It is against this backdrop that the new president of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Dr Bandar Hajjar, embarked on a crusade to alleviate poverty when he assumed office in 2016. Poverty alleviation is an essential pre-requisite to achieving at least six of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by world leaders in 2015 for achievement by 2030, namely:
GOOD health and well-being;
CLEAN water and sanitation;
AFFORDABLE and clean energy, and,
IMPROVED industry, innovation and infrastructure.
Taking up its part in the vital poverty alleviation effort became the clarion call of the IsDB during its 43rd annual meeting in Tunis last week. Success in implementation is underpinned by the use of science, technology and innovation (STI), seen by the IsDB as “a key catalyst and pivotal driver of development”.
Zakri Abdul Hamid is Science Adviser to the Prime Minister, and a member of the newly established Scientific Advisory Board to the President of the Islamic Development Bank
firstname.lastname@example.org. News Strait Times
Retrieve from: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/04/355053/transforming-oic-states-member
Oceans cover about 70 per cent of the earth’s surface, and some 70 per cent of the oceans are beyond national jurisdictions.
These marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) — commonly called “the high seas” — are places where no country has sole management responsibility (areas beyond the authority of one country). Altogether, ABNJ make up 49 per cent of our planet, 64 per cent of the oceans’ surface, and nearly 95 per cent of the ocean’s volume.
ABNJs are rich in biological diversity, and proven to be an important source of novel genes and natural products. Given that so much biodiversity in the ocean remains unknown to science, there is a great potential for discovering new species and genes which could benefit our lives. The search, discovery and commercialisation of new products based on biological resources is known as bioprospecting.
An estimated 95 per cent of ocean life by weight is microscopic, with viruses constituting by far the most abundant ocean life forms. A rich source of proteins with a wide range of functions, viruses are perhaps the greatest reservoir of largely unexplored genetic diversity on earth.
Many deep-sea organisms (or “extremophiles”) have unusual molecular and metabolic characteristics that have allowed them to adapt and thrive in highly pressurised conditions. Understanding their biological make-up could have valuable applications in our world above.
The development of pharmaceuticals, enzymes, cosmetics and other products from marine sources is not new. In fact, back in the late 1960s, the shallow-water sponge was the source of chemicals that led to the development of an anti-leukaemia drug, and subsequently in the 1980s, the HIV drug.
Similarly, the venom of the cone shell resulted in the development of a synthetic compound used in a painkiller. Antifreeze proteins from cold-water fish and other organisms are used to improve the quality of frozen foods, such as ice cream, by inhibiting re-crystallisation and maintaining a smooth texture. These are, but, a few examples of the wide range of uses and applications of what are called “marine genetic resources” (MGRs).
The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the principal international legal instrument for the oceans, provides a framework that clarifies the nature of rights over different portions of the oceans and introduces some of the fundamental principles and duties of ocean conservation.
UNCLOS, however, has failed to address a number of matters, such as the conservation of marine species and ecosystems, particularly in ABNJs, and how countries can have access to and sharing of benefits arising from the development of these resources.
Provisions of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) also extend to marine biodiversity and are not overridden by UNCLOS. The CBD establishes that the responsibility of the states are “to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other states or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction”. Large gaps in our ocean governance system have long been known; addressing them has been a somewhat plodding process.
At the Rio+20 Summit in 2002, states committed to developing an international instrument under UNCLOS for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in ABNJs, and in 2005, the UN General Assembly established a group to study the issues.
In 2015, the UN General Assembly agreed to develop an internationally legally binding instrument (ILBI) under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in ABNJs. And, late last December, the General Assembly agreed to convene an inter-governmental conference to elaborate on the text of such an instrument.
Behind all these developments and activities are economic interests. The discovery of manganese nodules in the deep seabed, for example, was a catalyst for establishment of the legal regime governing ABNJ.
In the past, Malaysia has championed the interests of developing countries in issues related to the common heritage of humankind. A case in point is Antarctica. Research, development and bioprospecting in such areas are expensive and require high-tech skills which normally reside in industrialised countries.
When negotiations on the ILBI start this autumn in New York, Malaysia must insist that it has provisions for access to and the sharing in the economic and other benefits of genetic resources. This should include the participation of developing countries in future research undertakings in areas beyond national jurisdiction, technology transfer and capacity-building.
Negotiating the agreement on marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction will be the first global treaty process related to the oceans in over two decades. Its importance cannot be overstated, representing as it does a once-in- a-generation opportunity to transform the management of nearly half the planet.
Zakri Abdul Hamid is science adviser to the prime minister and a member of the Malaysian delegation that negotiated the UN Biodiversity Treaty during 1990-1992.
News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/04/351946/bioprospecting-high-seas
ONLY 25 of 100 countries evaluated by the World Economic Forum are positioned to benefit from Industry 4.0. Malaysia is one of them.
In a report, “Readiness for the Future of Production”, the researchers used new benchmarks, diagnostic tools and data to help countries understand their readiness for the future of production, as well as corresponding opportunities and challenges.
The assessment framework has two main components: “Structure of production” (a country’s baseline of production), and “drivers of production” (the key enablers that position a state to transform production systems and capitalise on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR).
There are 59 indicators across these two components. The report defines “readiness” as the ability to capitalise on future production opportunities, mitigate risks and challenges, and be resilient and agile in responding to unknown future shocks.
One example of companies leading the way into the future of production in Malaysia is First Solar, a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar energy solutions with more than 10GW installed worldwide.
This installed capacity produces enough clean electricity annually to power five million households, save more than 18 billion litres of water, displace seven million metric tons of CO2 per year, and reduce other air pollutants by 89 to 98 per cent.
This American company started operation in 2008 and Malaysia hosts the largest high-technology manufacturing site for First Solar’s advanced thin- film PV modules.
The 65ha Kulim High-Tech Park employs talent from universities and provides the community with high-tech jobs in the manufacturing sector.
Last week, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri led a delegation from Malaysia Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) to First Solar Malaysia.
“Strategic investments by global technology and manufacturing leaders like First Solar will help Malaysia realise its 4IR goal and our local talent will also gain from the exposure and become world class.”
First Solar Malaysia managing director Datuk P’ng Soo Hong said: “First Solar chose Malaysia as a base due to the ability to find and retain good talent, well developed and excellent infrastructure, political stability and pro-business government policies.
“Malaysia is firming up its position as one of the largest solar panel producing nations and overtaking much larger competitor nations as world-class companies start to expand their capacities in Malaysia.”
The government’s efforts to provide free education have contributed to the development of a skilled workforce in the country. Coupled with the population’s command of the English language, foreign investors in Malaysia can expect accessibility to a valuable pool of local talent to help further their business ambitions.
Recently, Malaysia secured 27th place in the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2018. It was ranked among the top 10 most talented competitive countries in Asia Pacific, beating South Korea.
Based on the “Malaysian Solar PV Roadmap” prepared by Might, Malaysia is on course to becoming a major player in the solar power industry, particularly in the manufacture of solar PV cells and modules.
Malaysia is the third largest manufacturer of PV cells and modules in the world, after China and Taiwan. Malaysia has an almost complete solar ecosystem of some 250 companies involved in upstream (producing wafers and cells) and downstream (inverters and system integrators) activities.
The Malaysian Investment Development Authority said the value of exports by solar manufacturing companies here was RM11.1 billion while local sourcing activities were valued at RM1.42 billion in 2016.
Manufacturers talk about the Fourth Industrial Revolution in terms of using new technologies such as sensors, robotics, and data analytics to gain insights into product use, improved productivity and improved competitiveness.
New techniques will change the products, processes, and relationships involved in every aspect of industry. Better customer experiences, higher levels of efficiency and more highly skilled jobs will be part and parcel of the 4IR journey.
The opportunity is clear, but this will disrupt traditional business models.
Our local high technology industry cannot, however, opt out. 4IR is upon us, whether we like it or not. The world turns, as always. But now it turns on a dime, or rather a computer chip.
Zakri Abdul Hamid is the science adviser to the prime minister and joint chairman of the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT). He can be reached via email@example.com
News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/03/349424/riding-wave-4ir
ON March 8, we were again reminded of our vulnerability to natural disasters with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake in Sabah. Although there was no casualty, more than 100 climbers on their way to Mount Kinabalu were temporarily halted.
Professor Felix Tongkul of Universiti Malaysia Sabah identified it as a new quake, not an aftershock of the 6.0 magnitude earthquake in 2015 which killed 18 people and left many others injured.
Natural disasters are becoming more frequent and intense, contributing to the displacement of people leading to humanitarian crises, with the poor most severely impacted.
Between 2001 and 2006, middle-income countries with rapidly expanding assets have borne the largest burden of such disasters, with losses equal to about one per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) — 10 times the losses inflicted on developed countries, relative to the economy.
In the Pacific’s small island developing states, climate change-related losses reach as high as eight per cent of GDP, with worse yet to come.
In Asia generally, climate change-related hazards increasingly will impact human health, security, livelihoods, and poverty. Rising coastal, riverine and urban flooding leading to widespread damage to infrastructure and settlements has been identified as one of the region’s 10 critical risks, gradually challenging Asia’s resilience and development gains.
Malaysia’s main climate change-related hazards are floods, landslides, thunderstorms, forest fires, and haze.
In 2014, we experienced unprecedented flooding with more than 500,000 people affected, 21 lives lost, more than 3,000 houses destroyed, and over RM2.8 billion in damage to public infrastructure.
Last October, extreme rainfall triggered a landslide at a Penang construction site, killing 11 people.
In 2015, this and neighbouring countries were enveloped in a severe episode of transboundary haze, presenting serious health risks.
Disaster risk reduction has been integrated into Malaysia’s overall national development plans over many decades, with science and technology applied in regulations, policies, guidelines, standards, procedures and early warning systems operated at state and local levels. Involved agencies include the Meteorology, Drainage and Irrigation, Minerals and Geoscience, Public Works, and Environment Departments. The private sector and scientists from academia are also deeply involved.
Concerns about the increasing frequency and impact of disasters, however, have prompted several new national initiatives. One of these is the establishment of a Scientific Expert Panel (SEP) to provide timely and evidence-based advice to the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma).
This panel has been officially endorsed by the National Science Council, chaired by the prime minister, and is complementing and enhancing Nadma’s efforts as a national coordinating agency.
Fostering relevant scientific and technological innovation and capabilities is a vital contribution to mitigating the impact of catastrophes, as is strengthening the science-policy interface and robust evidence-based reporting.
We need to carefully harness this potential to reduce disaster-related harm to people both directly and to our economy, with a specific focus on protecting the poor in vulnerable situations.
To quote former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, “Climate change harms the poor first and worst — the poor are the most vulnerable and have the least resources with which to adapt”.
SEP members are helping formulate the National Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) — identifying and prioritising actions to build resilience and to reduce the exposure and vulnerability of communities.
This includes, for example, how to promote sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices, thereby strengthening adaptation to extreme weather, drought, floods and other disasters.
To be effective, we need to promote public-private and civil society partnerships, and to build capacity to innovate and to share information at local levels to enhance recovery processes.
There is no single approach for reducing risks across all settings and there is an urgent need to understand specific disaster risks in national and local level contexts.
Effective measures must consider the dynamics of vulnerability and exposure, and their linkages with socioeconomic processes, sustainable development and climate change.
FOR disaster prevention: big data and analytics, in conjunction with improved weather and flood forecasting modelling, will allow future disasters to be accurately predicted;
FOR disaster mitigation: advanced flood walls can contain waters, preventing damage to infrastructure and assets,;
FOR disaster preparedness: drones can provide real-time, on- site situation information linked to public warning systems;
FOR disaster response: robotics can support relief and clean-up efforts, accessing areas too dangerous for humans; and,
FOR disaster recovery: reusable ecohomes can provide quick, easy way to build temporary housing, using waste from the disaster zones.
It is primarily in cities and towns that the most effective disaster resilience can be built. National, state and local governments, academia, civil society, business and other stakeholders will each play a significant role translating science into action.
It is our hope that the STI Plan for DRR enhances cooperation between stakeholders, improves information, communications and knowledge sharing, and empowers our greater use of technology to protect lives and our hard won economic progress.
The writer, Zakri Abdul Hamid is a science adviser to the prime minister, co-chairs the SEP with the director-general of Nadma. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/03/346768/harness-science-reduce-impact-catastrophes
Protecting nature is no longer deemed a whimsical luxury. It is an economic, cultural and ecological necessity.
Increasingly, conservation is accepted as part of mainstream policymaking because nature provides us with so many essential services — pollination, pest control, food security, medicine and preventing the spread of diseases.
Think about the importance of pollination, for example. Most of the world’s food crops and wild flowering plants depend on pollination by bats, birds, bees and butterflies, which are, therefore, guarantors of human food security.
Intensive agriculture, pesticides, pollution, invasive species and climate change pose threats to pollinators and, therefore, to human wellbeing. In addition to pollination, bats consume large numbers of harmful insects, thereby reducing damage to crops, the need for chemical pesticides, and the spread of malaria, dengue fever and other diseases.
Growing awareness of these animals’ vital role, thanks in no small part to a landmark Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) assessment report on pollinators launched in Kuala Lumpur in 2016, has encouraged nations to take steps. The United Nations even recently declared May 20 as World Bee Day.
In addition to their vital services, animals are also the bedrock of a multi-billion-dollar global ecotourism industry.
Animals are simply beautiful and fascinating, and their contribution to national economies is considerable. Tourism is booming worldwide with more than 1.1 billion foreign trips made in 2014 and one of the most vibrant sectors is eco-tourism, the branch that includes wildlife watching.
Ours ranks among the world’s most biodiverse countries with large numbers of endemic species, part of internationally renowned hotspots such as the Coral Triangle and Sundaland — home to elephants, monkeys, orangutans, tigers, tapirs and rhinoceroses.
Naturally, Malaysia’s share of the tourism business is big — around 25 million tourists every year, many of them attracted by this country’s aquatic and terrestrial wonders.
Studies have shown that wild animals can generate far more income alive than dead. The meat and gills of a Manta Ray, for example, might bring US$500 (RM2,000). A living specimen can, however, contribute tourist revenue of millions of dollars over its lifetime.
To protect our natural heritage, and corresponding economic interests, we must not only act at home but must also engage internationally.
There are five international conventions working towards the protection of biodiversity: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Heritage Convention, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).
Malaysia is a party to the first four, but, curiously, not to CMS. Negotiated by world governments in the late 1970s, CMS coordinates global action to conserve land-based, aquatic and bird wildlife that cyclically and predictably crosses international borders.
Migratory species are an integral part of the world’s fauna, but are threatened due to climate change, pollution, habitat loss, illegal trade and poaching.
CMS has 124 parties, including Brazil, India and other G20 countries and the list continues to grow with the United Arab Emirates being one of the newest recruits. These countries recognise that conserving migratory species is the responsibility of all Range States and that the convention provides a platform through which to collaborate.
Malaysia, notwithstanding its rich wildlife, has yet to join, despite having signed the regional instrument for marine turtles of the Indian Ocean concluded under CMS.
Certainly, Malaysia is committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed at a United Nations summit in September 2015 and attended by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Among the tools at Malaysia’s disposal to turn good intentions into real achievement on the ground is active membership of the biodiversity-related conventions, because a clean and flourishing environment is a prerequisite for sustainable development.
Many of the species in Malaysia occur here and nowhere else. Malaysia therefore bears a duty to ensure their survival. But many species also migrate through Malaysia, and the country has a shared responsibility as one link in the chain of the life cycles of marine turtles, whales, dolphins and dugongs as well as countless birds.
Malaysia succeeded in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the precursors of SDGs, to which the Malaysian government is also committed.
CMS is of direct relevance to the implementation of SDGs, in particular, goal 14, relating to life below water, and goal 15, life on land.
Surely it is time for our country to accede to CMS, to complete Malaysia’s membership in the set of international environmental agreements, and to fill an important gap in the Convention’s global coverage.
Tan Sri Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid, is science adviser to the prime minister and the founding chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/03/344196/animals-good-our-health
AS the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) continues to gather steam, Kuala Lumpur hosted one of the most enlightening conferences in recent weeks, one in which experts considered the relevance of an ancient institution to modern challenges.
Sponsored by the Higher Education Ministry, the conference considered the Islamic practice of waqf— the endowment of a charitable foundation or property held in trust and used for a charitable or religious purpose — and its relevance to 4IR.
In the words of the Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh: “Waqf is an economic system led by the people, for the people. It leads to the creation of the third sector that complements the public and private sectors.”
The big question is how this age-old Islamic institution could be engaged to alleviate poverty and advance economic prosperity, in particular among the 57-member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), many of which are among the world’s poorest.
Equally intriguing, is how we might enrich the principles and practices of waqf through technology.
In an eloquent keynote address, Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah explained that the concept of waqf preceded trusts and endowments.
A donor endows a waqf with an asset and, in doing so, makes an irrevocable transfer of that asset, while also stipulating the intended charitable use of the funds it generates.
A waqf institution then spends its revenue in perpetuity on the fulfilment of public needs, according to the wishes and conditions established by the donor.
Once registered as waqf under Islamic law, the asset can no longer be inherited, sold or given as a gift, a permanence that reflects the original sense of waqf, which means “to freeze” or “to stop”.
Only generated revenue can be channelled to stipulated beneficiaries.
Islam is the first religion to develop a comprehensive legal framework to promote, guide and foster endowments and charitable trusts and, “waqf undoubtedly stands as one of the greatest contributions of Muslim civilisation”, Sultan Nazrin had said.
“Throughout the Islamic world, and across many centuries, waqf has led to the completion of magnificent works of architecture, and has allowed vital services, including education and healthcare, to be financed, organised and maintained, for the benefit of hundreds of thousands of individuals, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”
It was intriguing to learn from his remarks that the law governing waqf was borrowed by the English following the Crusades in the Holy Land (1095-1291), when they became acquainted with Islamic jurisprudence and culture.
Sultan Nazrin gave the example of Merton College at Oxford University, established with a financial endowment in 1264.
This endowment, of course, has facilitated centuries of scholarship, learning and teaching, safeguarding and fostering the freedom of thought and expression so essential to the university system today.
On the other side of the Atlantic, one of the world’s most famous university endowments is that of Harvard, which last year paid out US$1.3 billion (RM5.1 billion) — a sum, the sultan noted, larger than the government budgets of Afghanistan, Montenegro and Barbados.
“This endowment, which has facilitated so much discovery and learning, is ultimately modelled on the Islamic waqf system.
“It is a testament to the contribution that the concept of waqf has made to progress and development worldwide, and it also demonstrates the immense potential of the waqf instrument to generate funds for international public good.”
Among the many other excellent points raised by Sultan Nazrin was the need for a better system for the governance of waqf, especially in Malaysia where, we were told, only two per cent of some 13,500ha of waqf land had been redeveloped.
Hopefully, the establishment of a Chair in Waqf Studies at Universiti Malaya, announced by Idris during the conference, will contribute to a better understanding of waqf and how its potential could be harnessed to improve the lives of citizens.
One of the most pressing issues in need of waqf support in today’s world is science and technology. The use of new technological solutions, such as blockchain technology, will enable the prudent tracking and monitoring of waqf donors, beneficiaries and businesses.
Inevitably, 4IR will herald in unprecedented technologies that will revolutionise traditional ways of creating value.
Digital connectivity will be useful to open up new opportunities for innovative business models, as well as research and development-related investments, to unlock the full potential of waqf assets.
As the sultan astutely observed: “Technological advances are being made every day, and emerging breakthroughs, in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, nanotechnology and biotechnology, will no doubt further enhance the potential of the waqf system in ways that we cannot imagine today.”
Tan Sri Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid is science adviser to the prime minister and chairman of board of directors, Universiti Malaya.News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/03/341460/waqf-can-boost-science
SOME exciting news about our local aerospace industry was shared this month at the Singapore Airshow 2018.
International Trade and Industry Ministry deputy secretary general Datin K. Talagavathi revealed a forecast that Malaysia’s aerospace sector this year would rake in RM1 billion in new investments and generate about RM12.7 billion in revenue, reflecting the upward trend in our manufacturing of aviation-related electronics, aircraft frames and aircraft engine components.
Congratulations are due to the key roles the ministry and many others have played in this development.
Through its National Aerospace Industry Coordinating Office, for example, the ministry has been actively promoting world class industrial aerospace parks, such as the KLIA Aeropolis, Subang Aerotech Park, UMW HighValue Manufacturing Park in Serendah, Selangor, and Senai Airport Aviation Park in Johor Baru to potential investors.
“We are optimistic the aerospace industry will continue to be vibrant and thrive in years to come, given that the Asia Pacific is expected to have the highest growth in new aircraft delivery for the next decade,” Talagavathi said.
Indeed, Airbus foresees the delivery of 35,000 new aircraft, of which 41 per cent are bound for the Asia Pacific, while Boeing targets 41,000 new aircraft, with 39 per cent heading for Asia.
There is clearly a huge demand for aviation services in the Asia Pacific.
In our region to date, the industry has produced more than 200 companies and employed more than 21,000skilled workers, with the creation of another 1,000 jobs this year anticipated.
Major local companies include CTRM Aero Composite, the sole manufacturer and supplier of engine covers (known as fan cowls) for the Airbus A350; SME Aerospace, which offers comprehensive metal fabrication, machining, treatments and assembly of aerospace parts and components; and UMW Aerospace, which makes fan cases for the Rolls-RoyceTrent 1000 engine, further positioning Malaysia as a trusted producer of aero engine parts.
The list of multinational companies that have recently established or expanded their operations in Malaysia includes Airbus Group, Spirit AeroSystems,
Safran Landing Systems, Honeywell Aerospace Avionics, Singapore Aerospace Manufacturing, GE Aviation and UTC Aerospace Systems.
Talagavathi said the ministry, through its agencies, would continue to develop local small- and medium-sized enterprises to be part of the aerospace global supply chain.
“(The ministry) targets to increase the gross national income to RM454 million by 2020 and create 4,100 job openings by 2020.”
The heady news about the aerospace industry does not arise as an afterthought.
It is a calculated move initiated by the Malaysian Investment Development Authority 20 years ago.
It began with the launch of the First Malaysia Aerospace Industry Blueprint in 1997, followed by the formation of the Malaysian Aerospace Council in 2001.
A Second Malaysia Aerospace Industry Blueprint, launched in 2015 and better known as Blueprint 2030, firmly placed the aerospace sector as an important component of the Economic Transformation Programme introduced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
In developing both plans, the ministry relied substantially on the expertise provided by the Malaysian Industry-Government Group on High Technology (MIGHT).
Blueprint 2030 aims to capture five per cent of the global maintenance-repair-overhaul market share, while striving to make Malaysia the number one manufacturer of parts and components in Southeast Asia.
Given the above, it is incumbent on Malaysia to build and strengthen its human capacity in the aerospace sector.
It is in this context that the Aerospace Malaysia Innovation Centre (AMIC) was formed in 2011 to foster Malaysian aerospace industry competitiveness.
The core business of AMIC is to undertake research and technology projects in collaboration with our industry and universities.
Jointly funded by the government and industry, AMIC is spearheaded by Airbus Group, Rolls-Royce, CTRM, Mara and MIGHT.
A significant feature of AMIC is that the research and development, conducted by a university consortium, will encourage local industry’s participation and base priorities on industry needs.
AMIC will train local talent with aerospace technology courses at the Master’s and PhD levels.
Last year, AMIC achieved a major milestone with its first collaborative project results, delivering for Rolls-Royce what are called “scalable fixtures”, adaptable to variety of fan blade types.
The project, which falls under AMIC’s “Factory of the Future” research, was earmarked for rapid development and began with two key objectives: to improve aircraft fixtures and to develop Malaysia’s capabilities in developing innovative aerospace design and fixtures. It has found success in both goals.
AMIC manifests the aspiration of Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh and the concept of “commonalities and collegiality” — a framework of collaboration and sharing facilities among academic and private sector researchers to improve our economic position by creating and producing products for the world.
When it comes to our place in the world aerospace industry, all Malaysians can proudly share widely-held and well-justified hopes for sky-high results.
Tan Sri Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid is science adviser to the prime minister and joint chairman of the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology. News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/02/339099/aerospace-industry-soars
GLOBALLY, 800 million out of 7.6 billion people suffer from hunger. Although the number has decreased in recent decades, roughly one in 10 people goes to bed hungry every day, many of them from developing countries.
In a tragic irony, an estimated 30 to 40 per cent of food in developed countries is lost to waste. Malaysia, a prosperous developing country itself, is not spared of this notoriety. We are touted as the most obese country in Southeast Asia. The food left-over during Ramadan every year is evidence enough of our indulgence.
Food security is a concern in Malaysia as it is everywhere. Indeed, it ranks among the world’s greatest challenges. It is ranked second among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the United Nations 2030 Development Agenda which proclaims, “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”.
By 2050, the world population is expected to reach 9.2 billion — meaning an additional 1.6 billion people to feed, 200 million people more than today’s population of China. To ensure food availability for everyone in 2050, the world needs to increase food production by 70 per cent. Faced with dwindling agricultural land, less water for irrigation, rising energy and labour costs, and major grain crops already reaching yield plateau, it will be a daunting task.
Under the Transformasi Nasional 2050 agenda championed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, economic planners and policymakers have deliberated in great depth a wide range of issues and concerns about our food security status.
Further discussions should be welcome and continue unabated to address all issues and concerns comprehensively.
Last November, Malaysia’s National Professors Council and Indonesia’s Association of Professors convened more than 250 participants in “Forum Pertanian IPIMA 2017” (IPIMA Agriculture Forum 2017) to discuss imminent challenges and collaboration in agriculture, which also highlighted the bilateral food security issues.
Equally commendable, Universiti Putra Malaysia Alumni Association, under the able leadership of Perlis royal Datuk Seri DiRaja Syed Razlan Syed Putra Jamalulaill, organised a seminar on Agriculture and Food Security 2050 last month, engaging distinguished agricultural practitioners, both active and retired, to reflect on our future food security.
Will Malaysia prevail to meet these challenges by 2050? By then, it is expected that Malaysia will have added 9.7 million to its present population of 31 million. In 2015, food import bills hit RM45.4 billion, while exports were RM27 billion, giving a deficit of over RM18 billion. If such a trend persists, Malaysia is likely to face a food crisis in the future.
We may be able to grow or produce food locally at high self-sufficiency levels, but that does not mean the country has attained the desired food security status.
Food security is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organisation as “when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food preferences for an active and healthy life”.
In 2013, the International Conference on Food Security deemed food security as a multifaceted issue with four dimensions: availability, access, utilisation and stability. This led to the establishment of the Global Food Security Index (GFSI).
The GFSI informs food systems around the world with a common framework for understanding the root causes and risks of food insecurity, at the core of which are affordability, availability, quality and safety.
Thus, GFSI provides a measure of food security at country level, as influenced by culture, environment and geographic location.
Last year, Malaysia ranked 41st with a GFSI score of 66.2, while Singapore was 4th with 84. Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar ranked 55th, 79th, and 80th, with scores of 58.5, 47.3 and 44.8, respectively.
About 60 per cent of 113 countries experienced declines in food security scores last year compared with 2016. Malaysia declined by 3.2 points, followed by Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, and Singapore by 1.0, 0.7, 0.7 and 0.6, respectively.
When natural resources and resilience are factored into the GFSI, Singapore drops 15 ranks, from 4th to 19th (49.2) because of the dependence on food imports and its susceptibility to environment-related events.
However, Malaysia drops only two spots in rank (52.1), largely due to lower dependency on food imports.
Universiti Putra Malaysia Adjunct Professor Dr Heong Kong Luen carried out an analysis of countries with high and low GFSI scores, and pointed out major issues that drag down Malaysia’s and other Asean countries’ scores seem to be related to quality and safety.
The quality and safety index for Malaysia is 71.1, compared with scores of France, Australia, and Singapore of 88.7, 86.4, and 78.3, respectively. Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Laos record much lower scores of 56.8, 54.0, 44.1 and 31.0, respectively.
One concern Malaysia and some Asean countries may immediately address is the overuse and misuse of pesticides.
Studies in Indonesia and Vietnam find that heavy use of pesticides in rice production did not translate into yield increases.
It is timely to review our approach to sustainable agriculture using science and modern technologies in addition to taking into account the role of traditional knowledge.
Also, we need to learn and apply valuable lessons from many case studies worldwide of successful efforts to stem and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss, the subject of major reports to be launched next month by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
A more environment-friendly agriculture landscape would enhance Malaysia’s score on the global food security index.
The writer is science adviser to the prime minister and chairman,
National Professors Council
News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/02/336821/sustainability-2050-food-challenge
IT was one of those tragic news moments forever remembered — I was at a conference in Hawaii on Dec 8, 1980 when a bulletin came in from New York that John Lennon had died, shot at the entrance to his Manhattan apartment building.
TIME magazine’s headline said it all: “When the Music Died.” Like many ardent Beatles’ fans, I was dumbfounded and left with a profound sense of loss.
It was déjà vu all over again to be similarly shocked beyond words in recent days by the loss of two long-time friends and colleagues.
Most recent was the death of Fidel Castro’s eldest son, Fidel “Fidelito” Castro Diaz-Balart on Feb 1. Reports said he had killed himself, after suffering from depression in his last few months.
Fidelito, 68, a father of three, was scientific adviser to the Cuban government and vice-president of Cuba’s Academy of Sciences.
He studied in Cuba and Russia (where he received two degrees, including a doctorate in physics, and was fluent in English, Russian, French and Spanish), and was considered an expert in nuclear energy, nanotechnology and the biopharmaceutical industry. He regularly attended global scientific conferences and was involved in the creation of a new nanotechnology research and development centre in Cuba, which became part of an extensive global network. In Kazakhstan just last year, he was promoting renewable energy and Cuba’s innovative technologies.
The internationally-recognised excellence of his and Cuba’s scientific achievements, especially in the field of medical science, is all the more remarkable given the decades-long animosity between Washington and Havana that inhibited collaboration between Cuban scientists and their US colleagues so near.
Three weeks earlier, Kenyan-born Harvard professor Calestous Juma had died after a long battle with cancer. Calestous, 64, was remembered for his contributions to the study of technology and innovation in Africa. In 1988, before embarking on distinguished public service and academic careers, he founded the African Centre for Technology Studies in Nairobi, a pioneering group that married government policy with science and technology to spur sustainable development and foster distinctly African perspectives on science.
He received international recognition for his scholarly work, winning the 2017 Breakthrough Paradigm Award and the 2014 Lifetime Africa Achievement Prize. He also earned induction into the United States National Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of London, World Academy of Arts and Sciences, and African Academy of Sciences, among other honours.
Beyond gratitude for our friendship, I owed much to both men, whose interests converged with mine on a number of international platforms.
I worked closely with Calestous in the late 1990s when he was the founding director of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montreal and I was elected chair of the CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA). It was during this time that I realised the crucial role that scientific consensus and advice could play in informing policymakers to develop sound strategies, plans and programmes in sustainable development.
Increasingly, international relations and diplomacy — once confined to diplomats and career civil servants — now involve academics, corporate figures and civil society leaders. This broadened perspective and engagement is especially important as the global community grapples with the reality of climate change and complex interlinked problems of water and sanitation, energy, healthcare, food security and biodiversity loss.
Calestous was as instrumental in advancing this evolution in policy-making as he was in convincing our then scientific colleagues to elect me and Sir Robert Watson as co-chairs of the governing board of the UN’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). Conducted from 2001 to 2005 and involving 1,360 experts from 95 countries, it remains the largest-ever audit of biodiversity and the condition of and trends in the world’s ecosystem services.
The then UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, in his Millennium Report, hailed the MA as “an outstanding example of the sort of international scientific and political cooperation that is needed to further the cause of sustainable development”.
The MA gave birth to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in April 2012, which I had the honour of chairing during its first three years.
I became friends with the junior Castro when I was working at the United Nations University in Tokyo. Fidelito had an uncanny resemblance to his famous father. Physically imposing, but, gentle and soft-spoken, he was, like Calestous, a natural “thought leader” who often spoke out on the needs and aspirations of scientists from the developing world. He was also a frequent lead speaker at the annual meetings of the Science for Society Forum in Kyoto, the scientific equivalent to the World Economic Forum conceived by the former Japanese minister of finance, Koji Omi.
It is not unreasonable to conclude that the leadership, friendship and camaraderie extended by these two iconic figures helped to advance the scientific enterprise, fostered international collaboration and promoted world peace through science diplomacy. All of us are left poorer by their unexpected departure.
Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid is science adviser to the prime minister and chairman of the National Professors Council. News Straits Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/02/334720/when-music-died