I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE THIS SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY IN NEW YORK CITY, USA ON SEPT 28, 2012
1. I would like to thank the Rafik Hariri Foundation and the UN Habitat for conferring on me this prestigious Rafik Hariri UN-Habitat Memorial Award.
2. I deem it a great honour especially as this award is named after a remarkable man whose leadership qualities and contribution toward the rehabilitation of the war-ravaged city of Beirut and Lebanon is incomparable.
3. I knew Rafik Hariri when he first visited Malaysia. We immediately became close friends and I visited Lebanon at his invitation to see the damage wrought by the fratricidal war. Rafik promised he would rebuild Beirut as it was before the war. And he delivered on his promise. I visited Beirut after the restoration and I felt sure that a great future awaits Lebanon under his leadership.
4. In many ways I was like him. I wanted to develop Malaysia just as he wished to develop Lebanon. But he was less fortunate because he did not have the stability of Malaysia. Nor was he given the time.
5. Here I would like to pay tribute to my predecessors who devised a formula for Malaysia’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious people to work together. My predecessors also set the stage for Malaysia’s conversion from an agricultural country to an industrial country.
6. My task was to ensure the peace and stability of Malaysia was fully utilised to grow and develop the country. For this Malaysia decided not just to look at the developed West, but more at the burgeoning economies of the East, principally Japan and South Korea. Look East became Malaysia’s slogan. It was not about industrialising as much as it was about acquiring the work ethics of these successful nations. I believe firmly that work ethics determine the success or otherwise of a nation.
7. A business-friendly policy was adopted and this stimulated investments both by foreigners as well as locals. We actually called this policy Malaysia Incorporated, despite general disapproval of Government/business collaboration. We were working for the 30% of the profit which belongs to the Government as corporate tax. Stress on labour intensive industries overcame unemployment almost completely.
8. The economy grew by leaps and bounds. With growth in Government revenue first class infrastructure was built. To hasten the progress, a policy of privatisation was adopted. Very quickly the country boasted of infrastructure comparable with developed countries.
9. Malaysia believes in no ideology. We are pragmatists. We do what can be done, whether capitalistic or socialistic. We promoted self-confidence by adopting the slogan “We Can”. We Malaysians can do what others can do.
10. I think I have said enough about Malaysia’s experience. It is no miracle. It is just about doing what everyone thinks should be done when we are in charge of our own destiny. I believe that any country can be run the way Malaysia and Lebanon under Rafik Hariri were run. The magic lies in devising a formula to keep the country stable and peaceful. Democracy is great but democrats must accept that they cannot win every time. Losing elections is something which must be accepted in a democracy.
11. Above all, leaders should not stay in power too long, even if they are popular.
12. I believe this award, the Rafik Hariri UN-Habitat Memorial Award is for Malaysia more than it is for me. Without the culture of sharing among the multi-racial, multi-religious people of Malaysia, without their love for peace and stability, Malaysia would not have been able to grow as it has done.
13. I believe my friend Mr Rafik Hariri noticed this during his visit to Malaysia. Violence breeds destruction. Only peace and stability can be a win-win formula.