WHEN Malaysia was ranked 12th worldwide in the World Bank's recent Doing Business 2013 Report, it was widely recognised as a fine achievement, given that we are a young country compared with the likes of Germany, Japan and Switzerland, which were 20th, 24th and 28th respectively.
“Malaysia is to be commended for its ongoing efforts to reduce the costs of doing business. This will help the private sector drive growth, especially if Malaysia can build on its success by continuing to tackle long-term challenges, such as improving the quality of education,” said Annette Dixon, World Bank country director for Malaysia.
Indeed, this is not an overnight feat. Malaysia's success to date is driven by business-friendly policies and infrastructure as well as the determination and passion of Malaysians.
These factors have propelled the nation from a dependency on its rich natural resources in the 1970s, to becoming a prosperous, multi-sector economy that boasts home-grown businesses that are now significant players on the world stage, such as financial group CIMB Bhd and conglomerate YTL Corp Bhd.
Global success is not attained through sheer good luck and short-term actions. Instead, it is built upon sound foundations laid decades ago by founding fathers who put in place the infrastructure and policies necessary to support healthy competition and sustained growth.
In the United States and Britain, for example, the foresight of many generations before had brought about development that has led to these nations' early industrialisation and tremendous growth.
Despite a later start, Malaysia's story is no different. In the early days, the country's leaders stimulated economic expansion through state investment in industry and infrastructure, expanding the drivers of growth beyond a dependence on natural resources.
Through careful planning, policies have been introduced and implemented to increase Malaysia's income per capita and competitiveness.
A recent example was the conscious effort by the Government to liberalise sectors such as financial services and healthcare to allow greater foreign participation, elevate industry standards and improve our competitiveness.
Talent is a pillar of economic growth, with education as the foundation that supports the development of our workforce. As such, several initiatives have been introduced to help up-skill Malaysia's local talent and attract Malaysians abroad and foreign talent who can transfer skills and expertise to the Malaysian workforce.
The Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) includes several sector-specific inititiatives such as the National Talent Enhancement Programme (NTEP) and the MyProCert programme, which seek to increase the employability of Malaysia's graduates through on-the-job training and professional certifications.
The NTEP has so far provided on-the-job training for 347 people, accelerating the development of a skilled workforce via partnerships that pave the way for industry attachments. Launched in October 2011, MyProCert has 11 partners, including Oracle, Scicom and SAP. The target is to attract the participation of 1,250 professionals. To date, 946 have enrolled.
The two-year-old Talent Corporation Malaysia Bhd (TalentCorp) was set up to address the availability of talent needed to support the country's economic transformation. Among other things, it looks outside the country's borders to fulfil those needs by attracting foreigners and Malaysians alike to contribute to Malaysia's emerging transformation story.
A TalentCorp initiative that has received positive feedback from international corporate leaders based here is the Residence Pass-Talent (RP-T) programme.
This is open to certain expatriate professionals, enabling them to work in Malaysia for 10 years.
The initiative has helped make Malaysia an expatriate-friendly destination, and has contributed to attracting foreign talent here.
Commenting on the programme, Adachi Yoshikazu, president and CEO of Nomura Securities Malaysia, described it as a good scheme and said it would attract more talented people to Malaysia because they would enjoy the flexibility of having a 10-year pass.
General Electric Asean CEO Stuart Dean, who has chosen to base the company's regional corporate headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, commended Malaysia on this programme, saying it had helped ease mobility in and out of the country tremendously.
The programme makes it easy for Dean to enter and depart from Malaysia as he no longer needs to have his passport manually stamped or to complete embarkation forms.
With a comprehensive talent development strategy and a framework that facilitates doing business, Malaysia has the building blocks for success and is poised to play an increasingly influential role on the world stage. Embracing the Malaysian spirit
Government support, however, can only propel a nation so far. It's the people who drive the success of any country.
The out-of-the-box thinking and drive seen in such places as Silicon Valley, where individuals have gone against the grain to create and bring to market innovative products and services that have shaped the world, are testament to this.
There is no doubt that Malaysians too have that kind of determination, entrepreneurship and tenacity. Malaysians indeed embody the can-do spirit needed to leverage the infrastructure and support provided to scale greater heights.
Conglomerates such as the Genting Group and Sunway Bhd have been around for decades and their founders are no doubt a source of inspiration for Malaysian start-ups.
The good news is that the Malaysian entrepreneurial spirit is alive and kicking. Among the more recent successes are mobile communications technology provider Macrokiosk, and food and beverage players OldTown White Coffee and PappaRich.
These businesses were founded in the 1990s or early 2000s by individuals with vision and a passion to share their unique offerings with the Malaysian public. These companies have expanded overseas and are the nation's next generation of brands on the cusp of international success.
Malaysia today truly represents a land of endless opportunities for small start-ups, medium-sized corporations and large conglomerates alike, whether home-grown or from abroad. Malaysia's conducive business environment offers tools and support for businesses to succeed, allowing them to leverage opportunities to grow and enhance their knowledge.
As Malaysia continues to climb the ranks of competitive economies worldwide, it will continue to see multinational corporations establish and grow their presence here, while at the same time seeing its home-grown brands thrive, building a name for themselves at home and abroad.