Grand-Ballroom, Shangri-La Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. 18 December 2019
Six industry stalwarts inducted into MIM’s Court of Emeritus Fellows.
Former finance minister and chairman of the Council of Eminent Persons YABhg Tun Daim Zainuddin once again graced the TAR Lecture Series stage to present his keynote address.
In 1996, YABhg Tun Daim Zainuddin had spoke about “Managing Technology for Growth and Development” at the 17th Tunku Abdul Rahman Lecture Series.
Then being the economic advisor to the Malaysian government, his foresightedness was prevalent as he emphasised the need for our workforce to be technologically fluent to compete in the next century.
This time, at the 29th TAR Lecture Series held on December 18th, 2019, YABhg Tun Daim Zainuddin openly shared his wisdom and insights on what the future holds for Malaysians and the nation.
He has earned the distinction of being a hard-driving technocrat and reputed as one of Malaysia’s ablest economic architects. So, it was only apt that his address was titled “The Future of Malaysia: Building a Sustainable Ecosystem for All”.
The TAR Lecture Series is a prestigious event inaugurated by the Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM) in 1970 to commemorate the premiership of Malaysia’s 1st Prime Minister, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.
It is used as a platform to foster thought-leadership, encourage interaction and incubate strategies for future leadership skills. It aims to showcase some of the most sought-after and forward-thinking leaders from around the globe, sharing insights on challenges and issues of a dynamic and globalised economy and society.
Since its inception, the series has showcased leaders and dignitaries, including Malaysian constitutional monarchs and Prime Ministers, as well as esteemed, local and international high-profile individuals.
In his welcoming speech, MIM Chairman, YBhg Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas had this to say about YABhg Tun Daim Zainuddin.
“More recently, it was a case of who do you turn to when the going gets tough, which came with the change in government and the daunting task of dealing with an entrenched administration of 61 years.
“Bending it to a new will, required a Council of Eminent Persons to deliberate and make recommendations in a time frame of 100 days as the first order of business.
“And, of course, our Prime Minister turns to YABhg Tun Daim Zainuddin.”
Tun Daim’s Life Before Politics
He was one of 13 children born to a clerk in the Kedah state service and a homemaker mother. He had his early education in a Malay school, before going to the Sultan Hamid College, where Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad himself had attended.
Since YABhg Tun Daim Zainuddin did not know about his selection into Brinsford Teacher College in England, he sought to become a lawyer.
He went to Lincoln’s Inn, London before being called to the British Bar in 1959 at the age of 21.
He kicked off his career with Pillai and Co and then Shearn and Delamore in Kuala Lumpur before moving to a legal firm in Kota Bharu.
He then became a Magistrate and after that the President of the Sessions Court in Johor, Deputy Public Prosecutor in Ipoh, before resigning and returning to Kuala Lumpur to join Allen & Gledhill in 1965.
However, it was his foray into business that made him a household name.
He set up Syarikat Maluri Sdn. Bhd with two partners and the Taman Maluri project his launch pad into property development. He also saw opportunities in packaging snack foods, stevedoring and even the making of manhole covers and telephone posts.
Later, he bought a 30% stake in the United Estates Project, that came to be known as Sime Darby-UEP, developer of Subang Jaya.
In 1984, he was picked by Tun Dr Mahathir to helm the Finance Ministry.
Tun Daim’s Idea of a Sustainable Ecosystem
In his keynote address, YABhg Tun Daim Zainuddin pointed out that Malaysia’s total agro-food import bill for 2018 was more than RM52 billion, contributing to high food prices, leading to a jump in living costs.
However, in the government’s Shared Prosperity Vision (SPV2030), he said there was no serious allocation for the agriculture sector in the 2020 Budget.
He said modern precision agriculture – applying information and communications technology – would improve Malaysia’s self-sustainability level, food security and food safety.
It would also help to lower food prices so Malaysians can have their living costs reduced.
YABhg Tun Daim Zainuddin said his proposal for creating income through modernising agriculture was the way forward to rejuvenate Malaysia’s growth, ease poverty and reduce dependency on imported goods.
“People had very high expectations of the new government but you can see that in the last couple of months, they are frustrated that things don’t seem to be moving.
“What we want most importantly is to have a healthy life, for productivity and income to go up, and for cost of living to go down.”
He added: “Automation and robotics mean that less labour is required, and fewer people forced into triple-D jobs–dirty, dangerous and demeaning.
“Farming then becomes a high quality occupation, one that generates a good steady income and one that does not require hours of hard labour in the fields.”
His plan of focusing on smallholders and farmers would allow Malaysia to work towards poverty alleviation and eradication.
“We must identify ways to improve their incomes whether through commercialisation of waste products, downstream activities, reduced production costs or diversification of crops.
“Besides the farmers themselves, the modernised agriculture sector will create jobs along the supply chain,” he said, citing researchers, analysts, drone manufacturers and food technicians as examples.
He said more is needed to be done such as the removal of roadblocks for farmers who lack access to land and financing.
“It’s very difficult to get land because it’s a state matter. Acres of idle land are just being wasted.
“I’ve written to the state governments asking to give land. Some were very encouraging and replied ‘yes’ while some didn’t even reply.”
In his proposal was also the creation of a government agency to address these issues.
“I’m confident if the government does this, enough people will want to go into this sector and we’ll be able to reduce our food costs and there will be excess to export.
“We will be able to reduce our food bill by 30% in three years.”
Court of Emeritus Fellows
On the same afternoon at Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur, guests witnessed the conferment ceremony of MIM’s newest Court of Emeritus Fellows.
This is the highest category of MIM membership, awarded to outstanding individuals who have contributed significantly to the field of management and leadership.
“Leadership has become increasingly difficult, complex and multi-faceted in today’s globalised world. We wish to recognise the strong and effective leadership these individuals have showcased not only in their organisations, but across their industry,” said MIM Chairman, YBhg Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas.
The recipients were:
1. Nestle Malaysia Chairman, YAM Tan Sri Syed Zainol Anwar Syed Putera Jamalullail,
2. Penang Police Chief (Rtd), YBhg Dato’ Seri A. Thaiveegan Arumugam,
3. YTL Corporation Berhad Executive Director, YBhg Dato’ Yeoh Soo Min,
4. Bintulu Port Holdings Berhad Group Chief Executive Officer, YBhg Dato Mohammad
5. Key Accounts Management, Asia Pacific for AECOM, YBhg Datuk Zainal Amanshah and
6. Melaka Manipal Medical College’s Chairman of the Board of Governors, YBrs Dr Arun Kumar.
The conferments were presented by MIM President YABhg Tun Mohammed Hanif Omar and witnessed by YABhg Tun Daim Zainuddin.