LANGKAWI: Malaysia welcomes business delegations at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition 2019 (Lima 2019) to explore opportunities to collaborate with Malaysian companies.
To this end, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the government would continue to facilitate investment projects and business partnerships as well as provide platforms for the aerospace and maritime industries.
He said the Defence Ministry was in the midst of preparing its first Defence White Paper aimed at informing the public of its priorities and future plans to bolster defence and security of the country.
The white paper, said Dr Mahathir, reflects the government's commitment to a more regular cycle of defence policy and continued encouragement of local defence firms to collaborate strategically and manufacture hardware locally.
"The Defence White Paper is a significant contribution to the Malaysian defence landscape for several reasons. It represents a strategic outlook on defence.
"The paper is also a preview of the core elements of the country's defence strategy which lists the strategics interests of national defence and security, the framework within which defencec and security issues exist, the various tools and approaches used to bridge many interests as well as conceptualising the ideal roles of the miliatry as well as the various government agencies.
"As a comprehensivem responsible long-term plan for Malaysia's defence, the paper reiterates the need to develop an indigenous knowledge, research and technology based defence industry to support the Malaysian armed forces. The objective of achieving this vision is driven by key defence policy attributes, namely to deveop and enhance the local defence industrial capabilities, to achieve self-reliancce in defence technology and to prepare for global competition in selected niche areas strategy."
Dr Mahathir said this when launching Lima 2019 at the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre (MIEC) today.
He said the introduction of the Defence White Paper was indeed timely, adding that Lima re-emphasises the contribution of the defence industry to socio-economic development of the country.
"As a spin-off to other sectors of the economy, a strong and credible defence industry further reinforces the two main pillars of national security - economic well-being and political stability."
Dr Mahathir said exependitures on both defence and commercial sectors in the aerospace and maritime industries were expected to increase based on rising demands for security, defence and commercial needs.
He said, in 2018, the defence expenditure in Southeast Asia was estimated to be more than US$35 billion (RM142.32 billion)., while the commercial sector, with the expansion of low cost carrier business, accelerated the activities for aerospace manufacturing, training, tourism and maintenance, repair and overhaul industries.
"The original equipment manufacturers are forecasting that by 2037, more than 4,200 new aircraft valued at US$650 billion will be delivered to this region.
"Under the 2019 Budget, Malaysia has allocated a total of RM5.9 billion for the security sector which covers defence, public order and enforcement. The investment is the security sector will involve equipping the armed forces with state-of-the-art technologies and weaponry.
"Modern security threats require Malaysia and other countries to continue to upgrade and modernise their strategic assets. We plan to make Malaysia a leading aerospace nation in Southeast Asia and an integral part of the global market," he said, and touched on Malaysian companies which were already making key aerospace products for global companies such as Airbus, Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Safran, Honeywell and Thales.
Dr Mahathir said total export of aircraft and associated equipment and parts last year was valued at RM8.48 billion, an increase of 20.7 per cent compared to the previous year.
"It is forecasted that our aerospace industry will continue to expand as 11 new aerospace investment projects worth RM816.3 million were approved in 2018 and expected to generate more than 1,500 employment opportunities."
Touching on the shipbuilding and ship repair (SBSR) industry in Malaysia, a subset of the maritime industry, Dr Mahathir said it was currently employing more than 15,000 people with an export value last year of RM1.29 billion, an increase of 20.3 per cent from 2017.
After his opening speech, Dr Mahathir and the other guests at Lima 2019 were treated to a show of force from several squadrons of Royal Malaysian Air Force aircraft, including the Sukhoi Su-30MKM Flanker, the F/A-18D Hornet, Hawks, A400M Atlas and the Nuri and EC725 helicopters.
Later the prime minister witnessed the handing over of the first Flanker to undergo a life extension programme to the RMAF. He was also recognised for his role in bringing industrial and economic benefits to Malaysia through his encouragement of international aerospace partnerships, receiving a memento from BAE Systems in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the service of the company's Hawk aircraft in the RMAF.
Dr Mahathir then toured several booths at MIEC, witnessing several contract signing ceremonies