Malaysia aims to be in top 10 in World Bank index

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EASE OF DOING BUSINESS: Malaysia is a competitor, collaborator and mentor

THERE is a quiet and understated revolution taking place in the world -- and Malaysia is one of the countries at the epicentre of this transformation.

I am talking about the efforts of the World Bank (WB) and many countries around the world working urgently and assiduously to improve the "Ease of Doing Business."

The scale and scope of this undertaking and its global socio-economic impact are little understood. Let me try to put it in perspective using the Malaysian experience through the government's Special Public-Private Sector Taskforce to Facilitate Business -- Pemudah, the driving force comprising a Public-Private Partnership for change.

Recently, Pemudah hosted a five-member delegation from the Russian Agency for Strategic Initiatives, which reports directly to President Vladimir Putin. They were earnestly motivated to learn from the Malaysian experience to improve Russia's standing in the WB Index.

While Malaysia's ranking is currently 18th out of 183 countries, Russia is 120th. Their mandate is to move to 20th position within the next five years.

Pemudah co-chair Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon's able central presentation of what it takes to succeed was followed by a broad-ranging discussion with Pemudah's private and public sector representatives. At the end of several hours, the head of the Russian delegation expressed his "deeply" felt appreciation for what they learned from Malaysia.

Days later, the global news media announced Russia had signed on to the World Trade Organisation, after 18 years of negotiations. This heralds a new economic era for Russia and the world.

I had lived and worked in Russia in the early 1990s and I cannot emphasise enough the significance of all of this to the wellbeing of Russia and its people in a more integrated world. Russia's US$2 trillion (RM6.1 trillion) economy (ninth largest) is expected to benefit with increased growth of 11 per cent in the years ahead.

Milton Friedman talked about a digitised "flat" world and new supply chains. That flatness is increasingly an economic reality with the great powers of the world such as China and Russia joining the WTO.

Interestingly, the day Russia signed on, so did Vanuatu, a comparative dot in the ocean off Australia, but of no less significance. The interconnection of nations in a more seamless, credible, predictable and stable economic environment is the global foundation from which all nations can prosper.

Pemudah had also hosted a large delegation of high-level government people from Sudan -- a country with significant internal issues which, in spite of this, has sought to maintain the vision of being a leader in the WB index. Sudan's delegation was articulate, earnest, open and very engaging -- absorbing every detail of the Malaysian approach.

On a larger scale, at a recent capacity-building programme organised by the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority and the Islamic Development Bank for investment promotion officials from its member countries, Datuk Saw Choo Boon and I participated in a panel session on "Doing Business And Investing Across Borders". The participants from 30 countries practically "bombarded" us with questions on the Malaysian Pemudah experience. The desire and keenness to learn and improve were evident.

There are many other stories to tell. Suffice to say that this ground-level energy being applied by a large number of countries in the WB radar screen is collectively exhibiting itself as a rapidly rising undercurrent -- or should I say 'groundswell' -- of transformational change towards a better business environment.

Rules, regulations and practices that inhibit the ease of doing business and, therefore, sustainable global economic growth are giving way to modernised governance and proactive support that ultimately benefits all in this 21st century. It is "top-down" facilitated undertaking by the WB that has yielded the critical "bottom-up" country-by-country revolution now taking place.

What is happening is nothing less than profound and it is one of the most significant game-changing efforts underway in the world today. And Malaysia is -- all at the same time -- the competing, collaborating, mentoring and helping model, the way forward for the rest of the world, as it seeks the goal of achieving a "top 10" position in the WB index.

Apec leaders at the summit in Vladivostok on Sept 2. Russia’s signing on to the World Trade Organisation heralds a new economic era. AFP pic


Writer is immediate past president of the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce

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