NB: This speech was delivered at the launch of the Penang Paradigm at the Town Hall, George Town, on 23 February 2013.

Firstly, I would like to welcome everyone to the launch of the Penang Paradigm, which is the Penang Institute’s proposed 10-year development plan for the Penang Government. The ultimate vision is to create an international and intelligent state that embodies the principles of holistic development in order to forge a “balanced society” by the year 2023.

The Penang Paradigm was of course not produced overnight. Lots of research, discussions and thinking have gone into this document. Many rounds of consultations were held with civil society, government agencies, academics, and of course today we are here to present it to the people of Penang for public consultation and feedback.

Subsequent to this launch, a public exhibition will be held for two weeks in both George Town as well as Seberang Perai. We encourage as many people as possible to come, view and to revert with feedback.

Now, the Penang Paradigm is by no means a revolutionary proposal. In producing this document, we were greatly aware that there was no need to attempt to reinvent the wheel. After all, there are many success models out there in the world, and the best thing we can do is to learn from them, which is exactly what we have done.

We have studied why economic strategies work, and more importantly, why they don’t. We have then applied our analysis to the interesting case of Penang, which is an economy that has seen many ups and downs over the years from its heydays as a regional entrepôt to its late-20th-century glory-days as a leader of industrialisation in the country.

This analytical process is important, because any comprehensive and long-term solution must necessarily be cognisant of not only what has been proven to work, but also what has been proven to fail.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We find ourselves today at a crossroads. We are essentially caught in a transitional phase of the global economy, in which the world is struggling to come to terms with, on the one hand, the decline in Western consumerism, and on the other, the voracious appetite of the emerging markets in East Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. As an export-oriented economy built upon the demands of Western consumerism, Penang now needs to rethink its strategy.

At the same time, a very interesting development is emerging. If there is one thing the recent Global Financial Crisis has taught us, it is that economics is only one part of the equation. The North American housing and financial meltdown, coupled with the European sovereign-debt crisis, has reinforced the need for greater fundamentals. We have now seen how, without responsible regulation, unfettered capitalism can cause an implosion of greed and financial ruin. In other words, good and clean governance is necessary to ensure stability, predictability and efficiency.

In the aftermath of the crisis, the world has also learned another lesson, and that is that economic growth alone is unable to generate lasting prosperity. As the Occupy Wall Street Movement has pointed out, often the benefits of development are reaped by the one per cent, leaving the rest of the 99 out in the cold. More importantly, it has also been proven that greater social justice and a more equitable income distribution will lead to a stronger economy, as access to healthcare, education and economic opportunities will improve in tandem.

At the same time, justice is not only important socially but also environmentally. In this world of finite resources and ever-increasing competition over those resources, a sustainable development agenda is required to conserve energy and minimise our damage to the environment. If we do not take great care of this, there will be no world left for our children.

Hence, the Penang Paradigm is an attempt to understand these global factors, localise it in the context of Penang and indeed Malaysia, and to formulate proposals that will propel us into the next phase of our future: which is an international and intelligent Penang based on a balanced society which encapsulates material prosperity, political empowerment, social progress, intellectual creativity, environmental sustainability and cultural vibrancy.

Finally, I would like to end by thanking everyone involved in this comprehensive project, with particular reference to my colleagues at the Penang Institute who have been working tirelessly for the last few months in putting this together.

Thank you.

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