A stable Government draws investors
Legendary former Malaysian leader Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said Sri Lanka could reach the level of Malaysia’s development much faster if the country could retain the political stability that it enjoys today.
“When governments are changed, as happens in all democratic countries, there comes changes in policy. Changes of policy is always unsettling for investors. So stability is important for foreign investment and investment is crucial for the growth of a country.”
Dr. Mahathir, the man behind Malaysia’s success story was in Sri Lanka last week attending the conclave and flagging off a number of key Malaysian investments here.
His mission was to deliver the keynote speech at the Hambantota conclave, a forum held at BMICH to create awareness on the future development plans for the greater Hambantota area, an aspired economic hub under the President’s vision of developing a robust economy.
During his stay, a number of Malaysian investments; a condominium project in Hambantota, a mixed development project at Katunayake EPZ and a transport terminal project in Colombo were flagged off by the Malasia’s iconic leader.
The Sunday Observer caught up with Dr. Mahathir at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, shortly after an exchange of documents between the Transport Ministry and a leading Malaysian company, formalising a joint collaboration to build an integrated transport terminal in Pettah. (See business pages) Excerpts of the brief interview,
There is stability in the country now due to good leadership, you have a lot to catch up but I think they are doing a good job. For example I visited Hambantota yesterday where the city is being totally transformed.
The last time I came here, from the airport to the city, we were compelled to go through a lot of traffic jams. Now there is a fantastic highway where we could travel at very high speed and there is no traffic jams. Much progress have been done in the last five years.
And I think this is a remarkable achievement and I think you are going through a very exiting time in Sri Lanka. I am quite sure very soon Sri Lanka will be much better developed than this.
In the future you will see a lot of tourists, business people and investors coming to Sri Lanka from Malaysia.
Investors whether domestic or foreign will only invest when there is stability, especially political stability. Consistent policies by government is crucial, we see that happening in Sri Lanka now, it is a stable country now.
You don’t have terrorism and also the government has been consistent in its policy to develop Sri Lanka.
Because of that we are convinced that investors coming to Sri Lanka will get full benefits of a government that does not change in 180 degrees, but continue with a policy which will attract investors into the country.
Malaysians are interested in Sri Lanka. We had good relations since British times and I think exchange of knowledge and experiences would be useful for both of them.
Q:Malaysia’s economy stands at ten times bigger than Sri Lanka. In terms of strategy are we on the correct path to reach higher?
You can establish that level much faster than we did, provided that you sustain your stability.
Q:You were the longest serving leader in Malaysia, do you think such political stability is essential for countries like Sri Lanka to develop?
When somebody does not perform he should be changed but if you think the performance of a person is good, retain him. Changing governments is not a solution to all problems.
You may get a worst government if you change the one that is present. When a person is accomplishing things, he should be given the support he deserves.
I have met some Ministers and Government officials and I think they are keen to carry forward the development program and they are friendly towards investors. Elimination of bureaucratic red tape is crucial for attracting investors.
When governments are changed as happens in all democratic countries, the changes of government means change of policy, changes of policy are always unsettling for investors. So stability is important for foreign investment and investment is crucial for the growth of a country.
The situation in Sri Lanka is very conducive for foreign participation in economic development. Of all regions in the world, South East Asia are perhaps more stable for investment. Malaysia was not expected to develop, the country was divided by not only race but by religion, culture, language and economic issues. The 60 percent of the indigenous people in Malaysia were the poorest of all.
But within 30 years the country transited from a poor nation to a middle level income country. Today we have over 20 million tourists coming to Malaysia.
When there are investment it creates jobs for the people, increases their income and contributes to the development of the country.
When Malaysia wanted to industrialise we had no expertise, no capital and no management skills. For that we had to invite foreign investors, to create jobs for our people and to grow the economy. Earlier Malaysia’s exports were made up of 80 % of raw material, today we export 80 % of manufactured goods.
Our main target was to earn foreign exchange through exports.
Some people think if you let people do anything and everything that they wish for that is good governance. But this may lead to chaos. Good governance is knowing where to limit the freedoms.
In Malaysia the government does not hesitate to limit freedoms within the law. The law shows as to how far you are free to do certain things.
I think Sri Lanka has achieved a lot in terms of infrastructure, there will be incidents which are of minor origin, but major challenges like terrorism has practically stopped, the country is now stable and people are more free.
It is an interesting time for Sri Lanka, since you are in an accelerated development phase. Malaysia went through a similar phase that lifted it to the current level of development today. Our target is to become a developed nation by 2020.