By KT Leong
The Perak Makmur Summit took place on March 9 at the Royal Perak Golf Club.
The Perak Makmur Summit is a gathering of leading experts, industry leaders, intellectuals and government officials who came together for a one-day summit to have an open discourse with the advancement of Perak in mind.
With the Covid-19 pandemic now in the endemic phase, the organisers hope that this summit will be held every other year.
The summit was organised by the think tank KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific and co-organised by Perak academy and the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI) Perak. It was sponsored by Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLK).
Welcoming speeches were made by by Tan Sri Michael Yeoh, the President of KSI, Mr. Jean-Francois Chaveriat, the Chairperson for MICCI Perak, Dr. Adib Vincent Tung Bin Abdullah, the Chairman of Perak Academy and a special appearance by YB Sivanesan Achalingam, the Perak State EXCO Member.
The opening keynote address was delivered by Dr. Maisarah Ahmad, Chief Executive Officer of Institut Darul Ridzuan, representing YAB Dato’ Seri Saarani Bin Mohamad, the Menteri Besar Perak Darul Ridzuan.
The summit was broken down into 4 sessions, the first session, with the topic of “Revitalising Perak’s Economy and Charting the Future – Cultivating the Ideal Investment Climate” had a panel consisting of Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Lee Oi Hian, the CEO of KLK, Datuk Redza Rafiq Bin Abdul Razak, the Chief Executive of Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Perak (PKNPk) and Dr. Ahmad Shair Abdul Aziz, Senior Manager of InvestPerak. It was moderated by Dato’ Wei Chuan Beng, Senior Executive Director of KSI.
The panel discussed what should be the short and long term goals of making Perak prosperous. The discussion talked about what’s upcoming for Perak, such as how Tanjung Malim may soon become the epicentre of the automotive industry with the involvement of Proton. As well as the advantages that Perak has, such as an abundance of mineral resources and 5G coverage.
But discussions were kept realistic. For instance, Lumut is a deep water port and has the potential to be a maritime industrial development area, but it is unlikely to be an alternative port to Klang.
The talks also focused on what is doable, such as widening the roads from Ipoh to KL or small but significant expansions to the Ipoh Airport.
There was also concern over the brain drain of Perakians moving to other states and countries to find work.
The second session was on “Good Governance, Public Policy and Transparency – Crucial Ingredients for Development”, which had the panel of YB Tuan Haji Razman Bin Zakaria, the ADUN of Gunung Semanggol, Dr. Jeyakumar Devaraj, Chairperson of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), Dr. Muhammad Mohan, President of Transparency International Malaya and Ms. Kamala Mahlini P. Jeganathan, the Chairperson of the Perak Bar Committee. This discussion was moderated by Mr. Zaim Mohzai, Director of External Relations for KSI.
While initially beating around the bush, the discussion eventually became more frank about the issues of transparency and corruption, while still maintaining civility. They acknowledged that there was quid pro quo behaviour, but focused more on how it could be overcome. For the short term, people need to speak out when they encounter irregularities because investigations and actions can’t be taken unless the irregularities are reported first. There is also a need for more transparency in order to determine if the irregularities are simply the result of bureaucracy or illicit behaviour. For the long term, the younger generation needs to be educated so as not to accept immoral behaviour. In studies performed by several bodies, it was found that a high percentage of students said that if presented with the opportunity to receive a bribe, that they would take it. Nonetheless, the panel acknowledged that corruption is both systemic and cultural, and that it will be difficult to overcome.
Is it the giver’s fault or the receiver’s? An anecdote was given whereby a contractor had tendered and won a contract worth over 30 million ringgit. Everything was done above board. However, once he had won the contract, he found that he had to go through many avenues and departments. If he did not “show his gratitude” and got things moving, he would have lost the contract and would have had to pay a penalty. While the receiver simply accepted what was offered in thanks.
The third session was on “Education and Reskilling: Ensuring the Readiness of Perak’s Workforce”. This was panelled by Prof. Ts. Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim bin Abdul Mutalib, Vice-Chancellor and CEO of Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS, Ir. Assoc. Prof. Ts. Dr. Leong Kah Hon, Honorary Secretary for the Institution of Engineers Malaysia (Perak Branch), Prof. Dr. Abdul Raheem of Quest International University Perak, Prof. Dato’ Dr. Md. Amin Dm. Taff, Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Dr. Vincent Kwok Liang Chian, Director of Fairview International School Group, Prof. R. Gopinathan, Dean, Faculty of Education of University College Fairview (UCF) and Mr. Lee Chalkly, Campus Principal of Tenby Schools Ipoh. This was moderated by Mr. Voon Zhen Yi, Research Director of KSI.
This session covered a wide range of topics. The most sought after job skills in 2024 and beyond won’t be technical skills, but soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity and problem solving. As such, schools need to focus on producing well-rounded individuals and not just robots who obey.
For this, attitudes on what constitutes success need to evolve. If a student’s only measure of success is getting As and As can only be gotten by memorisation of instructions by teachers and creativity or individuality are punished, then robots are a natural result.
With the advent of technology like ChatGPT, these human robots may find themselves becoming obsolete, sooner rather than later.
As such, teachers also need to be re-skilled from the traditional “all-knowing guru” to coaches who can bring out the best in their students.
The panellists were also more accepting of tools like ChatGPT, which will only become more powerful in future. Rather than discouraging or banning AI like ChatGPT, such as when phones and calculators were once discouraged or even banned, the panellists further emphasised the need in creating more well-rounded individuals who are open-minded and therefore, are able to take advantage of new technologies rather than be replaced by them.
There was also emphasis on the importance of real world experience, in addition to placement programmes.
The fourth and final session was on the “Future Ready Perak – Ushering Digital Transformation and Innovation”. This was panelled by YBs. Puan Halizah binti Sipun, Deputy State Secretary (Development) / Director, Perak State Economic Planning Unit, Dr. Maisarah Ahmad, Chief Executive Officer of Institut Darul Ridzuan, Mr. Fabian Bigar, CEO of MyDIGITAL Corporation, Ir. Prof. Dato’ Dr. Ewe Hong Tat, President of Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) and Mr. K. K. Kong, Managing Director of Maqo Solar Malaysia. This was moderated by Dato’ Dr. Lim Si Boon, EXCO, MICCI Perak.
This was a quickfire panel whereby the State acknowledges the importance of digital transformation and the development of a digital blueprint for Perak. It talked about the importance of digitisation. Not as buzzwords but as ways to improve the lives of Perakians and everyone else, through digitisation.
For instance, using renewable energy sources like Solar Energy to save money. But with digitisation, this could be made more efficient. Imagine going to work in a solar powered electric car. The car charges while you’re at work. After you get back home, you can plug in the fully charged car (minus the electricity it took to get you home) and back-charge into your house. That means your house gets the electricity that’s been charging up in your car all day. Saving you even more money. This can be done through digital technology.
Perhaps due to the brain drain, which has helped to result in an ageing population; Perak faces a somewhat unusual problem in that its population does not fully embrace digitisation. But with 5G coverage, it’s hoped that “digital nomads” can be attracted to Perak and the general brain drain be reversed.
In conclusion, the Perak Makmur Summit had been an event with frank discussions that attracted attendees from Perak and beyond. From university representatives and those from the medical industry, as well as those in the shipping industry from Lumut and economists from Kuala Lumpur. As the first event, it could be further refined but was overall quite an interesting summit.