Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh, salam sejahtera
and a very Good Morning
Yang Berbahagia Dato’ Bong Hon Liong
President of the Federation of Hopo Association Malaysia
Mr Michael Chai Woon Chew
First World Hopo Community Convention
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. I am delighted to deliver the keynote address today at the first World Hopo Community Convention. I am pleased to have this opportunity to address this inaugural gathering of Hopo community leaders and delegates who have come from near and far. To the distinguished guests who have made the long journey from outside Malaysia to join us at this Convention, let me take this opportunity to bid you a very warm Selamat Datang or Welcome to Malaysia.
2. The Hopo community, which originates from the Teochew area in Southern China, has over the centuries migrated to other parts of the world including Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. A sub-group of the Hakka Community, the Hopo Community accounts for a quarter of the Hakka population in Malaysia. Members of the Hopo Community are no strangers to Malaysia, having settled in Malaysia and have been involved in tin mining, plantations, real estate development and manufacturing over the years.
3. However this is the first time that a world conventionisbeing organized for and by the Hopo community. I take this opportunity to congratulate the organizers, the Federation of Hopo Association Malaysia, and managers of the Convention the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Hopo Association, for bringing together such a large gathering from around the world to Malaysia.
4. The theme of the convention, “Promoting Trade, Tourism and Cultural Exchanges through Networking” is appropriate and timely. The global economy has been afflicted by the worst economic crisis in decades. Undoubtedly, this has been a trying period for all nations and communities. Difficult as it is, there is hope and opportunities abound – it is best reflected by the Chinese character for crisis, which you all are familiar with, which also represents opportunity.
5. The emerging signs of recovery in the region, led by China which recorded an annual growth of 7.9 per cent between April and June, open up new opportunities for businesses. Through networking in trade, tourism and cultural exchanges, businessmen and entrepreneurs can take advantage of the economic improvement to strengthen and deepen existing linkages and explore new businesses.
6. Recently I visited China, the first official visit I made after taking office in April. What I saw during my visit to China impressed me tremendously. The progress and transformation made in just over three decades, since opening up, is phenomenal. Malaysia has much to learn from the success and transformation of the Chinese economy.
7. The visit to China, in addition to retracing my father’s footsteps, the late Tun Abdul Razak who as Prime Minister was the first Head of Government from an Asean nation to visit China, was also to further expand, strengthen and deepen the bilateral relations. China is a major economic player in the region and a major trading partner for Malaysia. Bilateral trade between Malaysia and China reached US$39.06 billion in 2008 an increase of 10.3 per cent compared with 2007. In the first six months of this year, China was the largest source of imports for Malaysia and the third largest export destination for Malaysian goods.
8. People to people contacts have also grown. Malaysia is today a major destination for Chinese tourists. Last year more than 949,800 Chinese visitors came to Malaysia – the fifth largest number after Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei – the largest number from outside ASEAN. With direct flights and increased frequencies, the number of Chinese tourists to Malaysia this year could well exceed one million. China is also an important destination for Malaysian tourists.
9. Malaysia, a multi-racial and multi-cultural nation with our citizens from different ethnic background and religious beliefs, offers a unique opportunity for you to experience the many different cultures – all in one place. The rich cultural heritage, the diversity, the numerous attractions that cater to the exacting demands of holiday makers, Malaysia is a destination that offers you value for money. The options are endless — from the cool hill stations, to the beach resorts, from the ancient forests with their rich biodiversity to modern cities, white water rafting to sailing along the coast, from renowned diving sites to South East Asia’s highest peak – Malaysia has something for everyone. The tropical climate throughout the year means you can enjoy the outdoors and the numerous attractions anytime.
10. Malaysia’s diversity is a strength which has been acknowledged by the different communities that call Malaysia home, many of whom have been here for generations. Located on the ancient trade routes and a major trading nation Malaysia offers tremendous business opportunities and a harmonious and peaceful environment to live in. It is not surprising therefore that many expatriates who came to work here have opted to stay on and others have chosen to make Malaysia their second home. Yet others keep coming back year after year and spend several months at a time in this country.
11. The first class infrastructure combined with the enabling and business friendly government policies prompted leading multinationals to set up base and operations in Malaysia. Others have expanded their businesses and reinvested to take advantage of the incentives offered.
12. While Malaysia has achieved considerable progress, there is still a need for the country to move to the next level of economic development. I have set in motion, efforts to formulate a new economic model that will help Malaysia move up the ladder from the upper middle income level to the ranks of the high income level. This new economic model will be based on innovation, creativity and high value. We intend to shift our reliance from a manufacturing base dependent on semi skilled and low cost labour to one that is based on high technology and a modern services sector dependent upon skilled and highly paid workers.
13. This requires policy changes, adjustments and removal of bottlenecks and roadblocks. Work on these has already begun. I recently announced the full liberalisation of 27 services sub-sectors. These include tourism, construction and business services. I encourage members of the Hopo Community to take advantage of the opportunities available to you with the opening up of these sub-sectors. Malaysia is a viable investment destination and the Hopo community, with your worldwide network, together with your knowledge and expertise can join forces and collaborate with your Malaysian counterparts.
14. Members of the Hopo Community in Malaysia, who have been here for generations, can act as ambassadors and help promote the country as a destination for foreign investments and tourism. With your knowledge and network, the Hopo Community in Malaysia can act as the local partner for joint ventures and promotional activities in the country.
15. New and additional opportunities are available in the regional corridors such as the Iskandar Region in Johor, which is three times the size of Singapore; The Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy or SCORE and the East Coast Economic Region with its Special Economic Zones and focus on high technology, knowledge based activities and the services sector.
Ladies and Gentlemen
16. The government is committed to providing domestic and international investors increased opportunities to invest in the growing Malaysian economy. Towards this end, the guidelines of the Foreign Investment Committee have been reviewed encompassing; the acquisition of equity stakes, mergers and takeovers;treatment of fund raising by listed companies; andacquisition of properties.
17. Listing requirements on the local stock exchange, Bursa Malaysia, have also been eased. The question of free float and liquidity is being looked into, we have revamped the fund raising framework with more efficient rules and broadened the ease of financing through the merger of the main and second boards of the exchange and re-positioning Mesdaq as a sponsor-driven market for a wide range of companies. We have also allowed for foreign listings. Two companies from China, Xingquan (pronounced SING CHUEN) International Sports Holdings and Multi Sports Holdings Ltd have already taken advantage of this offer and listed on Bursa. I understand more are in the pipeline.
18. Malaysia, located at the centre of the vibrant East Asian region with its good communication links to the region and beyond, is an ideal gateway to the larger Asian consumer market. Its position as a regional hub is further enhanced with the signing of the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that creates the world’s biggest free trade area with 1.7 billion consumers. Asean-China trade has been on the rise and trade volume is expected to grow further with the FTA in place. Malaysia with its multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-racial population, offers a unique advantage for businesses and entrepreneurs venturing into China and other nations.
19. I would like to assure entrepreneurs and investors from China and those among the Hopo community worldwide that you are most welcomed in Malaysia. My Government is pro-business and market friendly and will facilitate, enhance and make it easier for you to do business here. We have improved the public delivery system and shortened approval processes. Efforts are continuing to make the environment even more business friendly.
20. On taking the oath of office in April, I said that my government would focus on people and I spoke of my hope that Malaysia would move forward under the theme “1Malaysia, People First, Performance Now ”
21. 1Malaysia means promoting national unity. It means realizing the potential of our diversity that is also our strength. It means accepting fellow Malaysians, regardless of colour, creed or religious belief. It also means accepting the circumstances that brought Malaysians together as a nation and respecting the rights and responsibilities of each community that call this country home. The diversity of its population has made Malaysia unique in many ways including a business, tourism and gastronomical paradise and home to hundreds of festivals and traditions.
22. Malaysia has made good progress, in the last 52 years as an independent nation, and its achievements are acknowledged among economists and fund managers in the developed world. But despite the achievements, we cannot rest on our laurels as the road towards higher growth and development is still long. We have set our sights to be a developed nation by 2020.
23. I invite you to join us in our journey towards a developed nation that also offers exciting possibilities. The businessmen and entrepreneurs among you can join forces with Malaysians to undertake projects in Malaysia, China, and even in third countries. You have your respective strengths – whether it be capital, technology, raw materials, market size, purchasing power, logistics or distribution network – you can leverage on these, form partnerships or strategic alliances.
24. Keeping in mind the theme of your convention that includes tourism and cultural exchanges, I encourage you to explore the sights and sounds of this country. Experience the many cultural adventures that await you. From the natural attractions to the food, the music, culture and the people, you will not be disappointed.
25. And with that I declare the first World Hopo Community Convention open.