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TJ: MSC Yang Gagal Berperanan
By Kapal Berita

9/10/2000 11:40 am Mon

TJ Ringkas (point sahaja):


MSC bolehlah dikira sebagai satu usaha bercita besar untuk mewujudkan satu bangsa yang celik IT dan mempunyai kuasa ekonomi ilmu digital, yang sering disebut sebagai K-Ekonomi. Dengan mengekspot hasil teknologi, ia diharap dapat berperanan menyumbang hasil untuk tahun yang bakal mendatang.

Infrastruktur dan kemudahan:
-US$10 billion
-Backbone: 2.5-10GB/s talian fiber

Resepi Aplikasi dan Masakan:
-Kerajaan elektronik
-Pembelajaran jarak jauh
-Tele Perubatan
-Kad Pintar serbaguna
-Kilang kawalan jauh
-Pemasaran tidak Bersempadan
-'Kelompok' R&D

- Bebas Milik asing
- Bebas Guna Pakar Expatriat
- Lepasan CUkai
- Undang2 Siber

Perkembangan Negatif:
- Ucapan anti Barat
- Tuduhan Spekulator Asing
- Angin2 Kawalan Modal
- Pemantauan internet

- Cuma US$475 juta menjelang 2001
- 7,300 peluang kerja (sahaja?)
- hanya 1/4 syarikat berpindah ke MSC
- Kurang kemudahan asas
- Sebahagian besar syarikat bertaraf MSC tidur.

Kritrik IAP:
- Bidang terlalu banyak.
- Biar sedikit asal
- Komitmen tempatan kurang
- Tenaga pakar tempatan kurang
- Sistem pendidikan lebih berteori
- Kurang Sokongan kewangan

- MESDAQ 2 syarikat dalam 18 bulan sahaja - MSC Venture Capital 20 juta=7 syarikat saja - Cetak rompak
- Harga perisian mahal
- Isi Cepat Basi (Outdated)

- Kajian Semula di perlukan untuk MSC

Rencana Asal:

Multimedia Super Corridor not performing to cue

The Asian financial crisis and insufficient local interest and skills have all conspired to slow Malaysia's leap to a knowledge-based future, according to Business Asia, a publication of the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) -- a big, bold initiative conceived by Mahathir Mohamad half a decade ago to catapult Malaysia into the information age -- is languishing in limbo, a victim of heavy official oversight and slack investor interest. Unless it gets a new lease of life, the country's ability to meet the challenges of globalisation -- and the government's burning ambition of achieving the leap from a production- to a knowledge-based economy -- will be compromised.

While greeted with considerable scepticism when first mooted in the mid- 1990s, the futuristic project made much sense. A prolonged manufacturing- driven boom in Malaysia had been steadily pushing up production costs, eroding the economy's competitiveness. The prime minister and his policymakers concluded that to continue growing strongly, the economy had to move up the value chain. And fast. The MSC -- a 15x50-km zone stretching south from central Kuala Lumpur, and designated for the creation, use and distribution of information technology products and services -- was to spearhead the climb.

The government set about trying to turn the largely greenfield site into an Asian Silicon Valley. It pledged an initial US$10bn for basic infrastructure, including a 2.5-10 gigabyte fibre-optic communications backbone, and stipulated the "flagship" applications to be pursued: electronic government; distance learning; telemedicine; multipurpose smartcards; remote manufacturing; borderless marketing; and R&D "clusters".

Acutely aware that little if any progress was possible without the help of big players in the global high-tech industry, the authorities devised an attractive incentives package to woo them. This exempted investors from the restrictions on foreign ownership and expatriate employment applicable to other parts of the economy; offered generous tax breaks and competitive communications tariffs; and promised MSC infrastructure contracts to companies willing to use the zone as a regional base. Bureaucrats busied themselves drafting a series of "cyberlaws" to encourage the development of the corridor and protect investors and their products. Dr Mahathir set up an MSC "international advisory panel" that included the bosses of technology and new economy giants such as Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Oracle, Compaq and Sun Microsystems. Its members applauded the prime minister's vision, and most committed themselves to setting up operations in the zone. It seemed poised for take-off.

Then the Asian crisis struck. While the MSC was largely spared the public spending cuts that forced the cancellation or dilution of numerous other large projects, it was adversely affected in other ways. Scores of small, local companies granted MSC "status" found themselves deprived of anticipated funding almost overnight.

More ominously, the early enthusiasm of some of the major multinationals waned. One reason was Dr Mahathir's transformation into a seemingly hostile sponsor. The increasing frequency and vehemence of his anti- Western outbursts -- blaming foreign "speculators" for the downturn and accusing overseas companies of preying on Malaysian businesses weakened by it -- and his imposition of capital controls gave them pause for thought. The government's repression of domestic critics, which involved monitoring Internet traffic, was also seen as less than conducive to the sort of innovation supposed to flourish in the corridor.

The Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC), the official agency overseeing the MSC, continues to talk up the project. It says the number of MSC-status companies has grown steadily to 362 -- 40% of them foreign- owned -- undertaking a wide range of activities, among them software and hardware development, Internet-based business, systems integration, and telecoms and networking.

But other figures released by the MDC, based on the business plans of the companies under its supervision, are hardly flattering. By 2001 they will have invested no more than US$475m, and generated a maximum of 7,300 jobs -- modest numbers when measured against rival high-tech zones elsewhere in Asia. Worse, independent MSC-watchers say only about one-quarter of the approved firms have actually moved into the corridor. Most are resisting pressure to do so, not least because it still lacks essential facilities such as housing, shops, schools and public transport. Indeed a sizeable proportion of the companies are effectively dormant, according to industry analysts.

So what's gone wrong? Members of the international advisory panel attending its fourth annual meeting last month in Cyberjaya -- one of two "intelligent" cities slowly taking shape in the MSC -- highlighted numerous shortcomings. For starters, too much is being attempted with too little resources, so more focus is required, they said. Some suggested that prioritising two or three of the seven flagship applications -- most of which are unique to Malaysia -- would be a sensible move.

Others felt there was insufficient commitment to the project on the part of Malaysian firms, and warned this would have to change if foreign companies are to play a bigger role. The problem stems partly from the limited appreciation among local businesses and other potential consumers of the benefits technology could bring.

But there are other reasons, too. One is a severe shortage of indigenous knowledge workers. The MDC touts low salary levels as a big plus for investors -- the pay cheques of Malaysian managers are on average about one-fifth and one-third those of their Hong Kong and Singaporean counterparts respectively -- but it is a double-edged sword. A lot of local talent has migrated as a result to more remunerative and vibrant high-tech hubs now mushrooming across the region and beyond.

The MDC insists the dearth of qualified Malaysian professionals is a short-term problem and will be more than adequately addressed when two state-run universities in the corridor (that are now operational) begin turning out engineers, researchers and other specialists. Still, the education system generally, which has long favoured memorisation over inquisition and creativity, will have to become far more attuned to the needs of an increasingly IT-based economy.

Another obstacle to the emergence of a critical mass of homegrown technology companies is lack of financial support. Malaysia's conservative banks, conditioned to underwriting investments by old-economy manufacturers and property developers, have been acutely risk-averse since the recent recession. Some have so-called venture-capital units, but few of these possess the capacity to assess the creditworthiness of seed and early-stage start-ups, so tend to shy away. There is also little scope for them to exit such investments.

The MESDAQ, a new stock exchange modelled on the tech-heavy NASDAQ in the US, and launched 18 months ago, has secured just two listings. Here, too, the government is trying to plug the gap. MSC Venture Corporation, an MDC offshoot set up in mid-1999 with a M$120m (US$31.6) war-chest, has injected little more than M$20m into seven companies. Staffers attribute the modesty of the outlay to the poor quality of many of the business plans they receive. Nonetheless, MSC advisory panel members pointed out that government-backed funds are often ill-equipped to identify worthy initiatives, and made a case for the introduction of tax and other concessions to attract more discerning overseas funds that have established a strong presence elsewhere in Asia. The persistence of copyright piracy, and the local authorities' ambivalent attitude to it, is a major disincentive to investment in the MSC for big and small companies alike.

In mid-year Dr Mahathir appeared to condone the practice, warning that makers of high-technology products would continue to be victims of counterfeiters until they reduced prices to levels local consumers could afford. On the other hand, crackdowns on end-users of illegal software and audiovisual goods have intensified, and tougher laws targeting manufacturers are now on the statute books. Still, the problem in Malaysia is less the quality of its legislation than the willingness and ability of government agencies to implement it. Moreover, given the speed of the technological revolution, concern is being expressed, even in official circles, about the risk of existing cyberlaws quickly becoming outdated.

Insisting numerous gaps and inconsistencies are already apparent, Othman Yeop Abdullah, the MDC's executive chairman, has called for a major review. Is there any positive message in all this? Well, there seems little doubt that the MSC, a project which was to have provided a good deal of the momentum for Malaysia's much-needed advance up the technological value chain, will be rather more modest than originally envisaged. That is no disgrace. The question is whether the authorities can recognise this and adapt MSC strategies accordingly. Failing this, the country's much-vaunted leap into the future could be little more than a hobble.