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 Malaysia can work with Japan in navigating the halal and Islamic banking and financial economics landscape. FILE PIC
Malaysia can work with Japan in navigating the halal and Islamic banking and financial economics landscape. FILE PIC

CONFUCIUS said: “If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for 10 years, plant trees. If your plan is for 100 years, educate children.”

I started my primary school education half a century ago. Primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education in those days focused on preparing children and youth to navigate their future life. More crucially, until the great digital transformation generated by information technology (IT) in the 1990s, life in those
days was reasonably structured.

Every child, through formal education, was groomed to deal with problems he or she would encounter in adulthood, including obtaining a good education, graduating from school, making a living as a financially independent individual in the form of an employed or a self-employed
person, getting married, starting a family and afford to have
“my home” and a high quality
of life. Hence education had broadly installed several milestones to gauge children and young adults’ achievement in their learning process in a formal setting.

However, since the early 1990s, the IT revolution has influenced the dramatic flip from a reasonably structured life to an unstructured one. Thus, education in a formal setting emphasise more on how to make children and young adults do better in examinations to achieve a higher income and social status.

Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker underlined that “the accumulating evidence on the economic benefits of schooling and training also promoted the (importance of human capital in policy discussions). This new faith
in human capital has reshaped the way governments approach the problem of stimulating growth and productivity”. Hence formal education is one of
the vital channels in accumulating human capital.

This will remain crucial in driving the development process in industrialised countries and the developing world.

Asia is home to about 50 countries where its more than 4.5 billion inhabitants generate US$31.58 trillion in total value-added output.

It is about US$7,350 in terms of income per capita. This is, to a large extent, influenced by the miraculous progress in Japan, the impressive rise of China and
the emerging India in recent years. These countries are becoming stronger in reshaping the world’s economic future. Leaders, businessmen, academics and public intellectuals from all over the world are giving more attention to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. 

Malaysia has been placing emphasis on learning from Japan since the launch of the Look East Policy in February, 1982. Since then, we have learned enormously from Japan in the last 37 years. Since my days in Japanese universities, I am often asked this question: “Does the Look East Policy benefit Malaysia’s social and economic progress?” There is plenty to acquire from Japan but Malaysia Baru can now offer knowledge and practical experiences to Japan too. This ought
to be the goal of the Look East Policy 2.0.

What is the new game plan? It is a two-way traffic of mutual cooperation. Malaysians can learn Japanese work ethics and business management skills, as well as production techniques, human interactions for maintaining social harmony, culture of reconciliation instead of conflict resolution, and other social cultural elements in strengthening mutual respect in public and private spaces.

On the other hand, Malaysia, as a pluralistic society with a majority Muslim population, can work with Japan in navigating the halal and Islamic banking and financial economics landscape. Our country has accumulated knowledge and practices in breadth and depth. Halal encompasses industries, such as food, travel, fashion, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and technology. Islamic banking and finances include sukuk, takaful, madarabah, muharabah, musharaka and other products.

Furthermore, multiracial Malaysia can support Japanese companies in strengthening their market penetration in China, India and the Muslim world. In this connection, ministries, such as finance, economic affairs, international trade and industry, human resources, and education can spearhead cooperation with their Japanese counterparts. The Economic Affairs Ministry can coordinate the proposed new mutual cooperation. Industry 4.0 drives amazing but convincing transformation from automation to cyber-physical systems in our daily lives.

The Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, launched in October, is aimed at strengthening ecosystems in terms of labour efficiency and quality of life in the coming period. Positive influences generated by globalisation are well documented, but I am cautious of its “shadows” that could create threats to our wellbeing.

However, I am optimistic that human resources development, knowledge and experience sharing by Malaysia and Japan will reduce uncertainties.

Concerted effort by citizens of both countries is ultimately the key to painting a positive outlook in the new game plan.

Both countries require a 30-year time frame for the next generation to mutually learn applicable experiences successfully. Last but not least, the success of this game plan ought to point to the achievement of peace, stability and sustainable development anchors at pluralism.

This endeavour of riding the wave of bilateral cooperation is worthy of pursuit by our generation and for future generations too.

The writer is professor at Reitaku University, Tokyo, Japan, since 1983 teaching Southeast Asia studies, international economics and integration, development economics and Asian economy


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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