KUALA KUMPUR – It’s been almost 40 years since Malaysia implemented its Look East Policy with about 28,000 Malaysians have so far being the beneficiaries of learning Japanese technology and work ethics, thus giving a big boost to the country’s industrialisation.
Petronas vice-president for LNG Marketing and Trading (Gas and New Technology) Shamsairi Mohd Ibrahim (picture) looks back with fond memories of his four years in Japan pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering under the policy which he describes as a “very bold” policy to divert the focus of developing Malaysia and its people from Western-centric to Eastern-centric.
He said the policy had made a huge contribution to Malaysia’s path towards industrialisation with positive year-on-year growth, thanks to the strong support from Japanese investors.
“And look at Japanese foreign direct investment into Malaysia, they have consistently been investing in Malaysia without fail. This is how I see their contribution to the Look East Policy place us where we are today,” he told Bernama.
Shamsairi said from day one of the establishment of the national oil corporation, “the first drop of oil” was exported to Japanese companies and Japan loomed large, especially in the marketing of Malaysia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG).
“From our first LNG plant that we commissioned back in 1983, the whole volume has been taken by Tokyo Electric, at the time known as Tokyo Gas, supported by Mitsubishi Corporation. From an initial six million tonnes of export, today it has reached almost 33 million tonnes annually, giving consistent revenue to Malaysia to help the country develop and progress further,” he added.
Looking at the history of Japanese investment in Malaysia, Shamsairi said it started as far back as 1957 with textile being the first on the list followed by electrical and electronics as the mainstay and with a lot of space for the Japan’s industrial fraternity to leverage on, including pharmaceutical and petrochemical.
In Pengerang, Johor, the government has allocated some 25,000 hectares of land, of which Petronas has taken up only 6,300 hectares while inviting its Japanese partners to come and invest.
“Those manufacturing electrical and electronics have come to a certain maturity but there are other industrial areas that the Japanese continue to come to Malaysia. For example, in Penang there is Toray Textile and in Kuantan we have Kaneka which has been expanding and there are a lot of opportunities for Japanese companies to continue to grow in this country,” said Shamsairi.
On a personal note, the Petronas vice-president spoke about how being a Japanese “product”, he was about to sign up for employment with a Japanese company in Shah Alam upon graduation, but instead ended up working in Petronas.
He was a student leader in Japan at that time and when Petronas came to Japan to conduct employment activities, Malaysia’s then Ambassador to Japan Tan Sri Khatib Abdul Hamid asked him to consider seriously joining the oil company.
“It was a difficult decision because I have a mechanical background. To work with Petronas, the offer at that time was as marketing executive. So, it was two different fields but he was persistent in wanting me to be in Petronas and my parents, too, wanted to see me to be in Petronas and that was how the decision was made,” he said.
Shamsairi had nothing but praise for the Japanese work culture and value system which would be something alien to Malaysians who had the benefit of pursuing further studies in Western countries.
The Japanese culture is all about hard work, discipline, respect for each other and very focused on details and Malaysians studying in Japan will indeed experience a “different package” and challenge.
“Just imagine Japan that was destroyed in World War II, how they have come back and despite being a country with regular natural disasters like tsunami, earthquake, typhoon you name it, but has remained strong.
“The people are sober, whatever happens to them they accepted it and they know they just need to move forward,” said Shamsairi.