WHILE saving human lives and rebooting the economy are two utmost priorities for government consideration when developing post-Covid-19 stimulus packages, we must not forget Nature. Society needs to change its outlook and give prime importance to halting the environmental deterioration increasingly obvious all around us, and to preserving and sustaining our home.
This is a critical moment for businesses to demonstrate leadership, to turn this challenge into an opportunity and establish business models with a laser sharp focus on sustainability. This doesn’t mean smaller profits. It does mean innovation — doing things faster, better, cheaper, and using fewer resources while achieving greater output.
It means deployment of technologies connected within the Internet of Things, automation, machine learning, real-time data and monitoring, big data analytics and more — circular economy solutions. The Fourth Industrial Revolution innovation underway will save energy, decrease waste of food and materials, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They will contribute to development, to human wellbeing, and to long-term success for companies that pursue them.
A hot-button issue when discussing sustainability is the palm oil industry. Malaysia and Indonesia are jointly responsible for about 86 per cent of global production, and oil palm is the oil crop with the highest yield per hectare — an indispensable part of the 21st Century sustainability strategy.
Palm oil is an important ingredient in a range of products, including biodiesel. And, following the European Union’s Biofuel Directive in 2003, palm oil production in Malaysia and Indonesia accelerated, which contributed to deforestation as plantations expanded to meet rising demand.
And as a consequence, our peatlands — where much of the deforestation happened — were burnt and degraded, releasing enormous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In the light of these insights, the EU passed legislation in 2018 that bans South East Asian palm oil as a feedstock for biodiesel and reduces its use for any purpose to zero by 2030.
Caught in this sustainability-driven seesaw are palm oil producers and most critically, large numbers of smallholders across the region who depend on this crop for their livelihoods.
Just after independence, Malaysia’s poverty level was 47 per cent. Today it is less than 5.0 per cent, thanks largely to oil palm. Our debt to this industry is great. But the priority today is to stop deforestation, to take care of the forests that remain, their precious biodiversity and the dwindling wildlife in them.
South East Asian companies must find ways to increase yield in the areas already in use and the sustainability of the whole palm oil supply chain, to maximise uses of the industry’s residue, and to diversify income streams for local farmers and communities.
This challenge is keeping companies viable, innovating to help local societies prosper, and putting a stop to deforestation and runaway carbon emissions. It can be done. The role of policymakers and government is fundamental to encouraging and enabling these sustainable business opportunities and practices.
Likewise, platforms such as the Malaysian chapter of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD) are critically important, allowing member companies to share solutions that have shown their value and efficacy, saving precious time and effort.
There is compelling evidence that companies prioritising the environment, social responsibility and good governance enjoy sustainable financial performance. Investors, stakeholders and potential customers expect, in some cases demand, that companies and their boards perform well with respect to, for example, water management, biodiversity, or labour exploitation in their supply chains. Effective performance with respect to sustainability issues is now a competitive advantage.
Forward-looking businesses will pursue the enormous opportunities that true sustainability has to offer. By recognising emerging mega trends such as the accelerating de-carbonisation of the economy, or the need for agricultural innovation to safeguard food security for a growing world population, companies will gain an enormous advantage over less sustainable competitors.
It is up to industry shakers and movers to lead by example, and for all industries of different kinds to engage with and use the BCSD Malaysia platform for sharing sustainability practices, leverage the knowledge and reach of the global organisation’s international network, and to apply that in a range of areas, from climate and energy or food and agriculture to human rights.
I invite firms to join the BCSD Malaysia. Together, we will
transition to a more sustainable future for business, society,
and the environment — for Malaysia.
The writer is the newly appointed chairman, Business Council on Sustainable Development (BCSD), Malaysia and Ambassador and Science Adviser, Campaign for Nature
KUALA LUMPUR (May 21): The Malaysian chapter of the Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD) has been launched.
In a statement, BCSD Malaysia said it was launched today during a roundtable session attended by over fifty C-level representatives of large Malaysian companies.
The local chapter of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) — a CEO-led organisation of over 200 forward-thinking global companies, representing combined revenues of US$8.5 trillion and 19 million employees — aims to connect companies, sectors, and different stakeholders to deliver results that companies alone cannot deliver.
With the wealth of knowledge and expertise of WBCSD, it brings a collective business voice to engage with policymakers and regulatory authorities, and contribute to progressive policy development in Malaysia, said the statement.
BCSD Malaysia said Prof Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid will take on the role of director and chairman of the board.
Zakri has had a career in science as a researcher, educator, administrator, diplomat, and also as a former science adviser to the prime minister of Malaysia. He is currently ambassador and science adviser to the Wyss Campaign for Nature.
Meanwhile, Prof Datuk Ir Dr A Bakar Jaafar will be a director as well as honorary treasurer.
He is an engineer by profession, an environmental scientist by specialisation, and a maritime expert.
He is currently a professor at UTM Perdana Centre, Razak Faculty of Technology & Informatics, and director of the UTM Ocean Thermal Energy Centre.
Bakar is also chairman of the board of the Malaysian Green Technology & Climate Change Centre.
Zakri said research had shown that companies embracing sustainability are successful in the long term.
“Hence, it is imperative for stakeholders from different industry backgrounds to engage with other stakeholders and competitors and use BCSD Malaysia as a platform to share sustainability practices.
“Malaysian companies should take advantage of this opportunity to leverage on the knowledge of the global organisation and its extensive international network to apply many of the ongoing initiatives in climate & energy, human rights, food and agriculture, circular economy, finance and many more,” he said.
BCSD Malaysia will be headed by executive director Roberto Benetello, who previously held several senior management positions in the private sector, working for fortune-500 companies and start-ups in Italy, UK, Spain, and Malaysia.
Benetello said companies cannot become sustainable overnight.
“It takes time to develop a deeply rooted sustainability culture and leadership. Equally, it takes time to acquire sustainability know-how, develop methodologies and tools, and ultimately come up with sustainable solutions that work.
“This is why a platform such as BCSD Malaysia is so important. It allows member companies to share best practices in a pre-competitive space and focus on worthy solutions that are likely to have already proven their value and efficacy somewhere in the world,” he said.
WHILE saving human lives and re-booting the economy are two utmost priorities for governments to consider when developing their post-Covid-19 Stimulus Package, they must not forget Nature.
After all, the root cause of those zoonotic diseases such as Covid-19 is the destruction of wildlife habitats, a fact endorsed by most of the scientific community. Meaning, our human activity facilitated the virus’ jump from wildlife to us. And, as we contemplate the post-pandemic world to come, the voices of scientists need to be heard far and wide.
“The process that leads a microbe, such as a virus, from a population of vertebrates such as bats to humans is complex, but driven by people,” says Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the panel of UN experts on biodiversity.
“The rate of global change in nature during the past 50 years is unprecedented in human history, and the most important direct driver of change in nature is land use change,” she adds. This message was reinforced recently by four renowned IPBES-affiliated experts: Josef Settele, Sandra Díaz, Eduardo Brondizio and Peter Daszak.
In an eloquent commentary, they suggested that post Covid-19 stimulus measures “must save lives, protect livelihoods, and safeguard Nature to reduce the risk of future pandemics.”
“There is a single species that is responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic — us. We have a small window of opportunity, in overcoming the challenges of the current crisis, to avoid sowing the seeds of future ones,” they said.
They argued that government stimulus plans needed to include sustainable and nature-positive initiatives.
“It may be politically expedient at this time to relax environmental standards and to prop up industries such as intensive agriculture, long-distance transportation such as the airlines, and fossil-fuel-dependent energy sectors, but doing so without requiring urgent and fundamental change, essentially subsidizes the emergence of future pandemics.”
Three of the commentary’s authors — Settele, Díaz, and Brondizio — also led the comprehensive 2019 IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which found that one million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction within decades.
They warned that 1.7 million unidentified viruses known to infect people are estimated to exist in mammals and water birds.
Any one of these may be more disruptive and lethal than Covid-19. With that in mind, the authors recommend three essential considerations for Covid-19-related stimulus plans.
Countries should a) streng-then environmental regulations; b) adopt a ‘One Health’ approach to decision-making that recognises complex interconnections among the health of people, animals, plants, and our shared environment; and c) prop up healthcare systems in the most vulnerable countries where resources are strained and underfunded.
“This is not simple altruism,” they argued.
“It is vital investment in the interests of all to prevent future global outbreaks. The programmes required will cost tens of billions of dollars a year.
“But, if you get one pandemic, even just one a century, that costs trillions, so you still come out with an incredibly good return on investment.
“Business as usual will not work. Business as usual right now for pandemics is waiting for them to emerge and hoping for a vaccine. That’s not a good strategy. We need to deal with the underlying drivers.”
The authors contend that the world could build back better and emerge from the current crisis stronger and more resilient than ever, “but to do so means choosing policies and actions that protect nature, so that nature can help to protect us.”
That compelling narrative underlines the urgent necessity to support the Campaign for Nature, launched in 2018 by the Wyss Foundation and National Geographic Society to set aside 30 per cent of the Earth surface as protected areas by 2030. Habitat loss is widely regarded as the world’s top cause of species extinction. To save those species, their homes and those of other species on which they depend must be protected — and quickly.
“Every year we wait, we put more species in peril,” says Brian O’Donnell, director of the Campaign for Nature, who advocates globally for more conservation areas.
The writer is the founding chair of IPBES, and ambassador and science adviser to the Campaign for Nature
Zakri Abdul Hamid
EASILY overlooked but enthusiastically greeted by the country’s research and scientific community was the confirmation of a “centralised research management agency”, announced on Oct 18, by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in a mid-term review of the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP).
Long overdue, such a mechanism is widely seen in scientific circles as a key to spurring the innovative research and development (R&D) needed to enhance our national prosperity. Countries that spend too little, or unwisely, in these areas can find themselves in the economic backwaters.
Malaysia’s public investments in research, including at universities and research institutes, began during British colonial days in 1900 with the establishment of the Institute of Medical Research. Since then, more and more Public Research Assets (PRA) have been established, and they are critical to bringing new products and services to market.
Establishing a central agency to spearhead, facilitate and oversee R&D was an idea in the original 11MP, launched in 2016, but it failed to launch due to a tug of war resulting from the competing interests of ministries and numerous stakeholders.
For instance, the then-Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation took a strong position that such an agency should fall under its purview. They had a compelling case, but the complex, multi-sector nature of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) today touches on the portfolios of many other ministries, such as agriculture, health and environment, to name but a few.
Among several feasibility studies for a centralised research management agency was a 2011 assessment by the National Science and Research Council. Co-chaired by Senior Prof Datuk Dr Khalid Yusoff and Emeritus Prof Dr Jalani Sukaimi, and supported by the New York Academy of Sciences and a stellar international advisory panel, the study took stock of the productivity and efficiency of PRAs, identified gaps between expectations and performance, and benchmarked PRAs against those of countries of comparable means.
It also noted that since at least 1986, when Malaysia introduced its first national STI strategy in the 5th Malaysia Plan, R&D has been critical to the country’s development.
The 9th Malaysia Plan in 2006 greatly increased funding for new programmes to build R&D capabilities and improve development and commercialisation of new technologies.
In the 10th MP, policymakers introduced a number of priority changes, including partnerships with leading global research institutions, a focus on areas where Malaysia holds a competitive advantage, incentives for multi-national corporations (MNCs) to establish research centres, and support for high-tech small and medium enterprises.
None of the national plans, however, articulated specific operational roles for PRAs. Rather, the study found, such institutions were simply expected to align with and contribute in our key economic areas. The study underlined the absence of a coordinating body that can effectively implement the R&D priorities by funding, managing, coordinating, monitoring and evaluating investments.
The challenge is largely rooted in a somewhat chaotic multitude of plans and institutions related to R&D funding, programmes and policies. Each new Malaysia plan has typically created new funding and commercialisation programmes, just as new national strategies have often created new PRAs (for example, the National Biotechnology Policy led to the creation of the Malaysian Genome Institute, Agro- Biotechnology Institute, and the Institute of Pharmaceuticals and Nutraceuticals).
The constant spawning of new programmes and PRAs resulted in competition for resources, influence and control and, in some cases, overlapping and conflicting direction from different ministries. Furthermore, many PRA officials complain that they must continuously respond to changing R&D priorities, which makes it difficult to build and maintain core R&D capabilities in areas of strategic importance. Add to this, is the complaint that the PRAs are not catering to the needs of industry.
The Economic Planning Unit (EPU) is charged with disbursing and tracking Malaysia’s R&D investments. It long used expenditure as a primary metric to evaluate PRA “performance”. To better reflect the true performance of a PRA, EPU evaluations now include publications, patents, and, among universities, numbers of PhD students/graduates. Unfortunately, these short-term outputs fail to recognise important long-term benefits and other impacts among Malaysian stakeholders.
Malaysia needs more effective systems for the awarding of funds, for tracking the technical progress and performance of funded projects, to identify problems and take corrective action, and to monitor long-term impact.
A centralised research management agency was strongly endorsed by other studies, including that by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2016 and one by the EPU in 2017. The agency could be parked at the EPU or it can be a stand-alone organisation like the highly successful National Science Foundation in the United States.
Seven years after the idea for such an agency in Malaysia was first advanced and embraced is a long time to wait. The time for action is now, and we look forward to seeing this new partner flourish on the scientific scene, sooner rather than later.
The writer is the former chairman of the National Science and Research Council and a distinguished fellow of the Global Federation of Competitiveness Council
COMMENTS are often made on the need for countries to invest in research and development (R&D) if they aspire to make progress on their socio-economic development.
R&D activities empower scientists and researchers to develop new knowledge, techniques and technologies.
It’s a viewpoint widely shared given the economic examples of countries such as South Korea, where about 4.3 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) is spent on R&D, and China, where R&D spending hit a record high of 2.19 per cent of its GDP last year.
A recent study found that a one per cent increase in R&D spending could grow the economy by 0.61 per cent. This means that the more a country invests in R&D, the faster its economy will grow.
Although Malaysia’s stated ambition is to spend two per cent of GDP on R&D by 2020, today we spend about 1.3 per cent of our GDP on R&D and it’s highly unlikely that we are going to achieve our target soon.
We all have a great stake in the government’s efforts to reassess the ecosystem of our R&D governance to ensure that science, technology and innovation (STI) effectively contribute to our socio-economic development.
In last year’s budget speech, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng announced a RM400 million allocation to the Ministry of Education (MOE) to be relayed to the country’s five research universities: Universiti Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
These funds are intended for the universities to further enhance R&D through collaborations with agencies, both locally and overseas, for high-impact research and innovation.
This is a welcome gesture despite the budgetary constraints that the country is facing. Putting a substantial amount of R&D money into public research universities is common worldwide.
In fact, in some countries there are dedicated ministries of higher education and research established to foster R&D. These include Algeria, France, Indonesia, Jordan, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. And in Japan, there’s MEXT – the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
In Malaysia, significant R&D funding is also channelled through the Energy, Science, Technology,Environment and Climate Change Ministry (MESTECC).
According to an announcement made by MESTECC Minister Yeo Bee Yin, during last year’s World Engineering, Science and Technology Congress, at least 50 per cent of 2019 R&D funds allocated to her ministry will be spent on experimental research.
“If Malaysia wants to be a leader in creating new technology that is needed by the society and is profitable, we have to work towards the direction where R&D is no longer limited to the academia.
“Instead, it will be done through collaboration with the industries,” she said.
“As a government, we are not here to make money, but to create an ecosystem that encourages industries to thrive and allows talents to grow,” she said.
“R&D in Malaysia focuses on academic research, but the outcome of the research is not used in related industries. This has deterred the development of advanced technologies and products.”
Indeed, the MOE and MESTECC are not the only ministries that administer R&D funding. Also involved are the ministries of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Health, and International Trade and Industry, to name a few.
In most cases, the problems to be solved are not stand-alone but cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary. Ministerial silos need to be dismantled and a common platform established to catalyse, promote and facilitate cooperation among researchers from academia, government research institutes and the private sector.
A study commissioned in 2011 by the then-National Research and Science Council proposed a centralised research management agency (RMA).
This was strongly endorsed by subsequent studies, including one by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2016, and another by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) in 2017.
The RMA would manage allocations of research funding based on an efficient and transparent selection of proposals and evaluation of results, and to reform and modernise public research institutes based on an assessment of their mission, competencies and governance.
The agency could be parked at the EPU or be a stand-alone, like the highly successful National Science Foundation (NSF) in the US. Created by the US Congress in 1950, the NSF is an independent federal agency to promote the progress of science, advance national health, prosperity, welfare, and national security.
The NSF supports basic research to create knowledge that transforms the future. This type of support is a primary driver of the US economy. The setting up of the RMA was even announced by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his mid-term review of the 11th Malaysia Plan last October. It now needs to see the light of day.
Long overdue, such a mechanism is widely seen in scientific circles as a key to spurring the innovative R&D needed to enhance our national prosperity. Countries that spend too little, or unwisely, in these areas can find themselves in the economic backwaters.
We look forward to the creation of this important mechanism, and in turn to the greater fulfilment of Malaysia’s creative and economic potential.
The writer is a senior fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR: Wyss Campaign for Nature (WCN) dan National Geographic Society (NGS) melantik bekas Penasihat Sains Perdana Menteri, Prof Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid sebagai Duta dan Penasihat Sains kepada ‘Kempen untuk Alam’.
Kempen peringkat global anjuran kedua-dua organisasi berkenaan yang berpangkalan di Washington serta disokong lebih 100 pertubuhan pemuliharaan alam sekitar terkemuka dunia bertujuan menggalakkan ketua-ketua negara menyokong program memulihara alam semula jadi berasaskan bukti-bukti saintifik, secara besar-besaran.
Kumpulan Industri-Kerajaan bagi Teknologi Tinggi Malaysia (MIGHT) dalam kenyataan berkata, Kempen untuk Alam secara khususnya akan menggesa pemimpin-pemimpin dunia supaya: –
• Melindungi sekurang-kurangnya 30 peratus daripada muka bumi menjelang tahun 2030.
• Berusaha menggembeleng dana untuk memastikan Kawasan-kawasan Dilindungi (Protected Areas) ini diuruskan sebaik mungkin.
• Dalam memulihara kepelbagaian bio (biodiversity), langkah-langkah sewajarnya harus diambilkira agar kepentingan kaum-kaum pribumi tidak diabaikan.
Dilaporkan, Mesyuarat Perjanjian Kepelbagaian Bio Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu (UN Biodiversity Treaty) dijadual berlangsung di Kunming, China pada Oktober depan dijangka turut membincangkan perkara berkenaan.
Mesyuarat itu bagaimanapun ditunda ke tahun 2021 mengambil kira pandemik COVID-19 yang belum ada kesudahannya.
Mengikut kenyataan itu, malapetaka COVID-19 yang semakin meruncing dan telah meragut ribuan nyawa setakat ini, menuntut masyarakat antarabangsa supaya bertindak secara proaktif menangani pandemik berkenaan.
Laporan Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) pada tahun 2019 menunjukkan, besar kemungkinan wabak coronavirus seperti COVID-19 turut berpunca daripada kegiatan manusia mengganggu habitat hidupan liar. Tindakan mereka itu dikatakan telah membebaskan virus yang boleh mendatangkan penyakit kepada manusia.
Sementara itu, Presiden dan Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif (MIGHT), Datuk Dr Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman, berkata pelantikan Prof Zakri adalah yang terkini diterima sepanjang khidmat cemerlang beliau di peringkat kebangsaan dan antarabangsa.
Antara anugerah yang pernah diterima oleh Tan Sri Zakri termasuklah Midori Biodiversity Prize (2018), ASEAN Biodiversity Hero (2017), dan Anugerah Merdeka (2015).
Zakri yang juga Ahli Bersekutu Kanan MIGHT pernah menyandang jawatan Pengerusi Bersama organisasi ini. Beliau kini adalah Pengerusi Atri Advisory, sebuah syarikat perunding yang menasihati kerajaan, badan antarabangsa dan sektor swasta mengenai pembangunan lestari dan pemuliharaan kepelbagaian bio (biodiversity).
Pengarah Kempen untuk Alam, Brian O’Donnell, berkata Zakri dipelawa menyertai kempen ini kerana kewibawaan beliau sebagai Pengerusi dan Pengasas IPBES yang dianggotai 134 buah negara, selain pengalaman beliau sebagai Ahli Lembaga Penasihat Sains, Setiausaha Agung Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu, Ban Ki-moon.
Sementara itu, Prof Zakri berkata, pengiktirafan itu bukanlah bersifat peribadi. Ia lebih kepada bagaimana dunia melihat Malaysia menguruskan sumber semula jadinya dengan bijaksana.
“Sebagai sebuah daripada 17 negara terkaya dengan kepelbagaian bio di muka bumi ini, kita bertanggungjawab memulihara dan menggunakannya secara lestari. Negara ini telah lama proaktif menangani isu-isu global sejak Sidang Kemuncak Bumi (Earth Summit) lagi yang berlangsung pada tahun 1992,” katanya.
As part of foresight & futures thinking in MIGHT, we look at the risk and vulnerabilities as well as opportunities that could be derived from any scenario. The COVID-19 crisis is one such scenario, and like all major crisis that preceded it will change the economic landscape of the future. However, with the crisis – there is also opportunities for entirely new industries to emerge and the strengthening of certain industries as well.
If we look at the technology development perspective, there is no doubt that this crisis will favour some technologies and will probably even accelerate creation of new industries. There is a need to recognize the signs and invest in technology that are well-positioned to benefit from and post crisis.
We need to look at technologies that support but not limited to the following objectives:-
Creating resilient industries – Making Malaysia industry resilient is key towards ensuring that they will survive come what may and continue to support national growth. Therefore, there is a need to monitor technologies that enable local resilience.
Increase self-sufficiency – As one country after another is closing its borders in the attempt to stop the pandemic, it has given more weight to the fact that it is better to rely on local systems, to be self-sufficient and create a system that rely less on global trade.
Rethinking business supply chains – As we embrace globalization, supply chain has become more complex and spread out across the world. Production has become more efficient but more prone to disruption. Perhaps global sourcing that place an emphasis “Just-In-Time”, “Lean-Manufacturing” which seek to reduce inventories and workers, needs a rethink.
The following are the 10 technology areas that I think that would enable the creation of new industries as well as help strengthen existing industries in alphabetical order.
- 3D printing – 3D printing technology could help build a distributed manufacturing base that would enable to produce critical parts locally in Malaysia.
- 5G communication networks – What the crisis have shown us that high-speed connectivity is critical in a world that works through the internet rather than through physical presence.
- AR & VR – Video conferencing and virtual collaboration will become both more popular and more sophisticated after this crisis. The use of AR & VR enables remote operation and production.
- Agriculture Technology – Technology to support precision agriculture and better harvesting to ensure food security and the sustainability of food and agricultural systems.
- Digital twins – Digital twins enable the realization of industry 4.0 can be used to run simulations before actual devices are built and deployed remotely.
- Drones – The use of drones would enable medical and other supplies to be safely transported to and from crisis areas. During the “restricted movement” time, drones could patrol areas and observe crowds and traffic more efficiently.
- Food & groceries delivery systems – The current crisis has highlighted the importance of food and grocery delivery. As restaurants and shops are closed, people are discovering food and grocery delivery services as an alternative.
- IoT & Sensors – This is almost a no brainer. Anything that is “Smart” will require the use IoT and sensors. Mobilized together with some of technology listed in this list will provide solutions during and post crisis.
- Robotics – Crisis such as this is what robots should be built for. Robots can help doctors’ distance from patients and help those in isolation cope. The use of robotics would also enable local production and thus promote resilience for Malaysian manufacturing industry.
- Recycling & urban mining – To be sustainable, local economies require local feedstock, and all recycling and upcycling technologies can help achieve that especially technology used to recycle rare and valuable metals from waste materials.
Image by congerdesign from pixarbay
IN reasserting the importance of science and education in Muslim-majority countries, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as chairman of the recently concluded KL Summit placed them as the first two commitments of seven priority goals, namely: COMMITMENT to implement pragmatic solutions, improving the current situation of the ummah, and expanding the outreach of economic development, science, technology and innovation for the benefit of future generations; and, REAFFIRMING the commitment towards building an ummah that lives a fulfilled life with dignity and prosperity, and possessing the highest level of education and skills, advocating peace and justice, and contributing to the international community.
There were many issues raised by the delegates during the summit. However, one pertinent issue that would assure our faith is the time when Muslims were recognised for their advanced civilisation. They were wellversed in all fields of knowledge, including the sciences and engineering.
London-based Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation chairman Professor Salim al-Hassani said among the modern products introduced by Muslims since the Islamic Renaissance were the use of catgut sutures (absorbable suture)to stitch wounds by the celebrated doctor Al-Zahrawi, the discovery of coffee in Yemen in the ninth century, the introduction of algebra in the ninth century by Persian mathematician Al-Khwarizmi and the study of modern optics pioneered by Muslim physicist Ibn al-Haitham.
Prophet Muhammad popularised the use of the first toothbrush around the year 600. Using a twig from the miswak tree, he cleaned his teeth and freshened his breath. Substances similar to miswak are used in modern toothpaste.
But that was a long time ago. Today, as asserted by Dr Mahathir, “many Muslim countries are in a state of crisis, helpless and unworthy of this great religion”.
For example, 21 of the 48 least developed countries in the world are Muslim-majority countries.
In conjunction with the KL Summit,the Indonesian Institute of Science, the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology, the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences of Pakistan and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey agreed to establish a virtual Centre of Excellence (COE).
COE is aimed at bringing together organisations from Muslim-majority countries and experts from renowned universities and research laboratories to share knowledge and facilities.
However, a more inclusive process needs to be formulated to encourage their participation. We should also think big and think out of the box. Two things need to happen: one, political will (which was amply demonstrated by the heads of government during the summit), and two, big-time funding.
We should emulate the success of industrialised countries in forging international collaboration on a grand scale.
One example is CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, that has 20 European member states. It has been a world leader in particle physics for half a century, and is host to the world’s biggest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider.
The Muslim world must realise by now that the way forward is to jointly mobilise resources to provide the necessary infrastructure for Muslims to pursue education and carry out world-class research in their home countries.
It is no wonder that the three Muslim Nobel Prize winners in the sciences, Abdus Salam of Pakistan, Ahmed Zewail of Egypt and Aziz Sancar of Turkey, did their seminal works in Western countries.
The writer is a senior fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia and a fellow of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences
KUALA LUMPUR: Penubuhan Pusat Kecemerlangan (COE) sempena Sidang Kemuncak Kuala Lumpur 2019, mampu mengembalikan kegemilangan dan kecemerlangan Islam dalam bidang sains, teknologi dan inovasi.
COE bakal menggabungkan kumpulan pakar daripada universiti terkemuka, makmal penyelidikan dan korporat dari negara Islam.
Gabungan organisasi berfikiran sama daripada negara anggota ini, akan berkongsi pengetahuan dan kemudahan secara aktif dalam aspek penciptaan dan reka bentuk bersama, melalui keupayaan serta inisiatif kapasiti yang praktikal.
Kumpulan Industri-Kerajaan Bagi Teknologi Tinggi Malaysia (MIGHT) yang bertindak sebagai sekretariat sementara COE, menegaskan pusat itu juga berfungsi sebagai platform bebas mempromosikan diplomasi sains dan saling melengkapi.
Dalam kenyataannya semalam, MIGHT berkata, kerjasama itu seterusnya akan menyumbang kepada Agenda Pembangunan Bangsa-bangsa Bersatu 2030.
“Ini akan mendorong transformasi umat Islam sebagai pemain utama dalam bidang sains, teknologi dan inovasi serta mengembalikan kegemilangan Islam,” katanya.
Selain MIGHT, COE adalah inisiatif tiga pengasas dan ahli lain iaitu Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia (LIPI); Pusat Pengajian Kimia dan Biologi Antarabangsa Pakistan (ICCBS) dan Majlis Penyelidikan Sains dan Teknologi Turki (TUBITAK).
Penubuhan COE sempena Sidang Kemuncak Kuala Lumpur itu, disaksikan Perdana Menteri, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad; Presiden Turki, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dan Presiden Iran, Dr Hassan Rouhani.
Mengulas lanjut, MIGHT berkata, COE akan memberi penekanan kepada keperluan asas dan kualiti kehidupan iaitu Keselamatan, Makanan, Kesihatan dan Kesejahteraan, Mobiliti, Tenaga, Utiliti dan Maklumat serta yang berkaitan.
“Kemajuan teknologi dalam bidang itu berpotensi besar untuk memenuhi keperluan asas umat Islam serta menerokai inisiatif projek yang mempunyai masa depan, hasil kerjasama yang tinggi.
“Apabila perancangan ini diterjemahkan ke dalam aktiviti perdagangan, ia akan meningkatkan pekerjaan, merangsang pertumbuhan ekonomi serta memacu produktiviti di kalangan negara anggota,” katanya.
Katanya, kedudukan itu juga akan membuatkan pasaran lebih berkembang serta membuka peluang besar untuk perdagangan dan pelaburan kepada negara anggota.
Menjelang 2050, bilangan umat Islam dijangka meningkat kepada 2.76 bilion atau 29.7 peratus daripada penduduk dunia, termasuk negara di luar kategori 50 negara majoriti Islam.
“Pada 2018, jumlah perdagangan eksport antara lima negara berjumlah AS$32.48 bilion (RM134.2 bilion).
“Hanya kira-kira satu hingga tujuh peratus daripada jumlah eksport setiap negara yang didagangkan di dalam kumpulan, dengan Indonesia yang paling tinggi (7.31 peratus) dan Turki paling rendah, pada kadar 1.31 peratus.
“Jadi, ada peluang yang mencukupi bagi negara masing-masing meningkatkan perdagangan di antara satu sama lain,” katanya.
Malaysia has been pursuing an export-oriented industrial development strategy since the early 1970s and is not likely to deviate from this strategy in the foreseeable future. Since Malaysia’s high-tech manufacturing industry contributes over 36% to the total merchandise exported in 2018, it’s relevance to the Malaysian economy is paramount. However, the growth trend of Malaysia’s high-tech exports in the past 7 years has been sluggish. With the cessation of most E&E-NKEA projects in 2018 and the ending of the third industrial masterplan (IMP3) in 2020, the need to put in place new plans and policies to reinvigorate the existing high-tech sectors, as well as seeking out new and emerging sectors is ever more urgent.
Malaysia embarked on an export-oriented industrialization strategy in the early 1970s. The strategy entailed the reliance on foreign direct investments to achieve high economic growth. Through the establishment of industrial free-trade-zone, export incentives, and generous investment incentives for foreign manufacturers to offshore their manufacturing facilities to Malaysia, the strategy resulted in a significant inflow of foreign direct investments (FDI) into the manufacturing sector. Since then, Malaysia’s export-oriented industrialization strategies, guided by various industrial development policies (such as IMP1, 2 and 3), has resulted in significant economic growth throughout the 1980s and 1990s. To further strengthen exports, especially in high technology related industries, Malaysia’s has embarked on a Knowledge-Based Economy the 1990s, with the establishment of the multimedia super corridor and the creation of Vision 2020. Today, Malaysia exports USD247.32 billion (2018) worth of merchandises to the world, of which, 36.54% or USD90.36 billion are high-tech merchandises. This is testament to the success of Malaysia’s export-oriented industrialization strategy and reflects the importance of high-tech export performances for Malaysia.
Malaysia’s high-tech export performance for 2018 is commendable, with a total high-tech merchandise export value of USD90.36 billion, and a year-on-year growth of 22.0%. From a global perspective, Malaysia commands 2.90% of the world’s total high-tech merchandise exports in 2017, up by 0.27% from 2016. In 2017, Malaysia is ranked the eleventh (11th) largest exporter of high-tech merchandises in the world (in terms of export values), up by 1 ranking position from 2016. Despite two consecutive years of declines in high-tech exports during 2015 and 2016, Malaysia has since recovered with two consecutive years of positive, double digit year-on-year growth of 17.2% in 2017 and 22.0% in 2018.
Figure 1 Overview of Malaysia’s high-tech merchandise export performance. (Note: The World Ranking and % of World Exports data reported herein are for year 2017, due to the absence of China’s export data at the time of writing this report.)
Despite the uncertain growth path over the last 7 years, Malaysia’s overall compounded annual growth rate CAGR (2010-2017) in high-tech exports remains positive at 1.73%. However, when benchmarked against the rest of the world, the growth of Malaysia’s high-tech exports is much slower than the world’s growth of 2.67% (CAGR 2010-2017). This could be an indication that Malaysia’s high-tech industry is struggling to keep-up with the rapid expansion of the world’s market for high-tech merchandises.
Malaysia’s high-tech merchandises was exported globally, reaching a total of 190 countries in 2018. Most of Malaysia’s high-tech exports were destined for East and South Asian destinations, specifically Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, and India. Collectively, these 9 destinations imported 70.39% of Malaysia’s high-tech export merchandises worth USD63.60 billion. Among them, the largest importer of Malaysia’s high-tech exports in 2018 was Singapore, followed by Hong Kong, amounting to USD15.52 billion and USD15.42 billion, respectively. Other major importers of Malaysia’s high-tech exports include the U.S.A, Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico, Australia, and France, totalling USD20.80 billion or 23.02% of total exports.
Malaysia’s high-tech merchandises consist mostly of electronics integrated circuits, telecommunication devices, and computer office machines, which account for 87.64% (or USD79.19 billion) of total high-tech merchandise exported in 2018. They include microprocessors (or CPUs), other integrated circuits (ICs), light-emitting diodes (LEDs), computers, semiconductor medias (such as SSDs), and storage units (such as HDDs). However, most of these top exporting merchandises are intermediate products (parts and components) that need to be further value-added to produce the intended final products.
From a global perspective, China is leading the global export of high-tech merchandises (2017). With a total export value of USD654 billion, China is way ahead of her nearest rival Germany, followed at a distance by South Korea, the U.S.A, and Taiwan.
Figure 2 World ranking of high-tech merchandise exports, in terms of export values.
In 2017, Malaysia’s world ranking in high-tech exports is at position 11, an improvement by one position from 2016. However, this transition from position 12 to 11 should be seen as a recovery, as oppose to an improvement, since Malaysia was consistently ranked at position 11 over the last 7 years, with the exception of 2016. Overall, countries that appear to be on the uptrend on the ranking board are Taiwan, Vietnam, France and South Korea. Among those on the down trend are Japan, the U.K., and Switzerland.
The most notable change in 2017’s ranking is Vietnam, which leapfrogged 4 positions from position 14 in 2016 to position 10 in 2017, surpassing the U.K., Malaysia, Switzerland, and Mexico. Together with Mexico, these are stellar examples of developing countries pursuing aggressive high-tech export strategies and appear to be moving much faster than Malaysia. Vietnam for instance, experienced a phenomenal growth in high-tech exports with a CAGR (2010-2017) of 42.97%. Its high-tech exports grew from USD6 billion in 2010 to USD74 billion in 2017, a 12-fold increase within a 7-year period. In 2017, Vietnam finally overtook Malaysia in terms of high-tech exports by a slight margin. Majority of Vietnam’s high-tech exports are telecommunication devices, focusing mostly on mobile telephones. In 2017, 40.16% of Vietnam’s high-tech exports were mobile telephones, amounting to USD 29.76 billion. That said, Vietnam’s export of electronics integrated circuits is also growing rapidly at a rate of 49.66% CAGR (2010-2017). If Vietnam is to continue its current growth trajectory, there is a strong possibility that Malaysia’s current leading position in the exports of electronics integrated circuits, will be overtaken by Vietnam within the next 8 years.
In summary, Malaysia’s 2018 performance in the export of high-tech merchandises is commendable, and a new milestone was established. However, Malaysia’s lacklustre growth performance over the last 8 years is hampering it from competing effectively against many fast-moving emerging economies, like Vietnam. Besides competing economies, there is also a need for Malaysia to keep-up with the world’s growth in demand for high-tech merchandises. Moving forward, Malaysia should review and renew its high-tech export strategies, as well as rejuvenate its high-tech exporting industries, in order to meet the growing challenges in exporting high-tech merchandises to the world.