Speech at ISEAS-SERI Forum, July 3, 2010 Singapore.

Ambassador K Kesavapany, Director, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS)

The Honourable Mr. Lim Guan Eng, Chief Minister of Penang

Professor Dr. P. Ramasamy, Deputy Chief Minister of Penang

Members of the diplomatic core, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the second Penang Outlook Forum jointly organised by ISEAS and the Socio-Economic and Environmental Research Institute (SERI), Penang, which I head.

The inaugural Penang Outlook Forum was held in George Town, Penang, a year ago on 1st and 2nd June 2009 with a focus on “Restructuring and reshaping Penang.”
This year’s focus is “Penang in Asia.”

Historically, the importance of Penang in Asia cannot be overestimated. Penang was a major port and commercial centre, a place to which dreamers from all over world flocked, and where new ideas were allowed space, and new cultural impulses were born.
Being essentially cosmopolitan and rich in heritage, Penang has the potential to carve out a new role for itself regionally and internationally.

As the global economy undergoes a major transformation after the financial crisis nearly two years ago, and as the Malaysian economy is at a crossroads, Penang needs to search for its place not only in Malaysia but in Asia.

For the last four decades or so, Malaysia and, particularly, Penang, have been exporting consumer products targeted at the lower middle class in the United States and other advanced economies. But in the next decade or so, consumers in the United States, Japan and Europe will not be able to consume as much as they used to. Doing more of the same is not a good choice.

We must re-orientate ourselves towards the growing Asian economies and position Penang as a provider of unique value propositions for Asia, away from the old mould of being provider of cheaper consumer goods.

Today’s Forum intends to take a fresh look at some of these unique value propositions such as heritage, green and liveable city and new technological ventures.
Today’s event brings together key officials from Penang and I would like to record my appreciation for the presence of the Chief Minister and his deputy Professor Ramasamy, Dato’ Lee Kah Choon of InvestPenang, Dato’ Rosli Jaafar, General Manager of Penang Development Corporation, and Mr. Jaseni Maidinsa, CEO of Penang Water Corporation, and all other paper presenters and participants from Penang.

ISEAS serves as a great role model for SERI. And, I would like to take this opportunity to thank ISEAS and Ambassador K. Kesavapany for his continuous support for collaborative work between ISEAS and SERI, as well as his team including the organisers Ambassador Tan Keng Jin and Dr. Johan Saravatnamuttu, Malaysian specialists Dr. Ooi Kee Beng and Dr. Francis Hutchinson.

Last but not least, SERI and I would like to thank all of you for participating in this Forum.

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