“Penang: A High-Income Model For Malaysia Through Inclusive Growth”(e/c)

Speech by Chief Minister of Penang, Malaysia, Lim Guan Eng At Oxford University, England.
Venue: T.S. Eliot Lecture Theatre, Merton College, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Date: 14th October 2015


1. It gives me great pleasure to once again to be at the TS Eliot Lecture Theatre at Merton College in Oxford University. The last time I was here was on the 29th of May, 2013, a few weeks after the 2013 general elections when I was hosted by the Oxford University Malaysia Club. This time, I have the honour of being hosted by the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University thanks to Datuk Seri Nazir Tun Razak.
2. Reading through the profile of this very new school in the hallowed halls of Oxford University, I cannot help but be amazed by its many accomplishments since its establishment in 2010. In the 3 years since the first class of Masters in Public Policy (MPP) students were admitted in 2012, you have now grown to a cohort of 119 students from 55 countries for the class of 2015, including two Malaysians (Mark Hew and Yew Ren Chung).

3. During this short period, you have also attracted a diverse group of world class researchers and scholars including Professor Sir Paul Collier, the author of the Bottom Billion; Professor Winnie Yip, director of the Global Health Policy Program here at Oxford and last but certainly not least, Professor and Dean Ngaire (“nyree) Woods, Dean of the school as well as an expert in the areas of global economic governance and global development.
4. MPP students are no doubt interested in not just learning about public policy but also discerning for themselves the types of public policies which are effective in different contexts. I want to share with you some of my experiences as Chief Minister of Penang in the past 7 years and in particular, some thoughts on how we put in place an “Entrepreneurial State” in order to achieve the status of a High Income economy through inclusive growth. And I shall approach this from the angle of good governance; dynamic smart economy that is sustainable and collaborative; social inclusion; talent building; liveability and the environment.

Penang Attaining High-Income Economy Status In 2015 Hobbled By The 30% Depreciation In The Ringgit.
5. A short introduction of Penang, the second smallest state in Malaysia with a land size of only 1,048 square kilometres and a population of 1.7 million people, with no natural resources but has progressed to achieve high-income economy status through good governance, rule of law, integrity in leadership and sheer human talent.
6. The World Economic Forum Human Capital Report defined a high-income economy as one whose Gross Domestic Product or GDP per capita reaches USD$12,467 or RM 40,841 based on the then exchange rate of RM3.27 for USD$1 in 2014. Penang was expected to achieve a GDP per capita of RM42,251 based on a population of 1,681,922 people and a GDP of RM71,063 million by this year 2015. Penang’s GDP per capita of RM42,251 would have exceeded the benchmark of RM40,841 to become a high-income economy.
7. However I wish to lay an important caveat that the precipitous drop in the value of the ringgit due to extraneous factors such as the 1MDB RM42 billion financial scandals on world currency markets, makes Penang technically not a high-income economy this year. Instead of RM40,841 as the benchmark to achieve high-income status, the drop in the ringgit means that the benchmark has been increased to RM50,000. Of course should the value of the ringgit recover, hopefully by next year when all the political and financial scandals are resolved, then Penang can be restored to our rightful status as a high-income economy.

Business of Government Is Not To Get Into Business
8. The term “entrepreneurial state” is associated with Ms Mariana Mazzucato, and she is now one of the key economic advisers to the newly elected leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn together with other economic heavyweights including Nobel Prize Winner, Joe Stiglitz; Thomas Piketty; and your very own Professor Simon Wren-Lewis, a faculty member at the Blavatnik School of Government.
9. Her primary argument is for a wealth-creating agenda based on collaboration amongst “wealth-creators” involving not just business but also workers, public institutions, and civil-society organizations. Ms Mazzucato makes a strong proposition that the state can lead the way in investing in risky areas especially in research and development, innovation as well as retraining and upskilling, which the private sector would not touch. This is a strong counterpoint to the current mainstream thinking that those who govern best govern least and let the private sector do its job.
10. In Penang, we are shaping a progressive economic policy that is investment-led, inclusive, and sustainable to create wealth through a public-private partnership that drives long-term growth and productivity. In many respects Penang is an entrepreneurial state except that we do not believe in becoming involved in market outcomes, especially competing with business in accordance with our mantra of “the business of government is not to get into business”.
11. In Penang as an entrepreneurial state, we see ourselves providing a catalytic role in providing public goods and services, basic communications infrastructure and spurring the development of key risky industries. But in other areas, especially where the private sector has a proven track record, the role of the government is to reinvent government and leave business to the private sector.

RM1.2 Billion Fish Farm Industry From The Benefits Of Reinventing Government
12. Let me illustrate this with an example which may surprise some of you.
13. Many of you who have visited Penang or are familiar with Penang would associate Penang with a number of things – a rich, diverse culture and peoples; a thriving electronics and electrical (E&E) industry; and of course, our wonderful food. But very few of you would think of fish farming when you think of Penang. It would surprise you to learn that this industry grew from basically nothing in 2008 to a RM1.2 billion ringgit (180 million pounds) industry 7 years later!
14. Much as I would love to claim credit, this amazing transformation was done without spending a single penny but merely dependent on reinventing government. The previous government benefitted its cronies with one or two chosen individuals being given thousands of hectares of sea, which they then sub-let to genuine operators under the classic rentier system. This is described by some as predatory capitalism.
15. We stopped this crony capitalistic practice and gave permits only to owner-operated fish farms up to a maximum of 8,000 square meters each. Rental was fixed at RM3,600(550) pounds annually. Furthermore, we instituted a check list system where approval must be given if all the boxes were ticked. And the outcome of approval must be given within 3 months. This is how a billion ringgit fish farm industry was born out of nothing at all.
16. This wasn’t rocket science at work. This is putting into practice our principle of CAT governance combining “Competency, Accountability and Transparency”, which was introduced immediately upon taking office. We merely enabled the fish farming industry by giving the licenses to genuine owner operators, we empowered them by making the permit approval process much more transparent and the result was the enrichment of these firm farm operators and their employees as well as the state government!

Training Human Talent To Avoid Unemployable Graduates
17. Of course, Penang is much more than just fish farms. We are Malaysia’s most industrialised state with more than 95% of our GDP derived from manufacturing and services. Even though we are a small state making up only 5.5% of Malaysia’s population and less than 0.5% of its land mass, we punch above our weight by contributing 7.4% to the nation’s GDP, 7% of the total port container traffic and 12.3% of foreign tourist arrivals. Penang also contributes about 22% of Malaysia’s balance of trade surplus in 2014. Our economic growth rate is expected to be 6.2% this year despite the travails of the present economic climate.
18. Penang has long been part of the network of global cities. We were established in the 18th century as a trading port by the British and prospered initially through trading spices, then rubber and tin. Today we are an open economy and a favourite destination for foreign investors. From 2008 to 2014, we managed to achieve RM48.2 billion (7.5 billion pounds) worth of investments, which is 93% higher than the RM24.9 billion (3.8 billion pounds) invested from 2001 to 2007. Penang’s economy also consistently outperforms Malaysia when the global economy is growing and is supposed.
19. With over 4 decades of electronics products industrial experience, Penang is the most industrialised state in Malaysia and have been labelled the ‘Silicon Valley of the East’. For example, Intel runs one of their global R&D hubs in Penang with over 2,000 local engineers doing R&D alone, and Penang was Intel’s first offshore manufacturing facility, set up back in the 1970s. Besides, Citibank runs their global credit transaction services from Penang with an annual transaction value of USD7.2 trillion. If we can fulfil Citigroup needs, Penang can indeed be one of the future global Business Process Outsourcing(BPO) Hubs. We are also the main medical tourism hub in Malaysia and houses the regional headquarters for B Braun, the German medical device company.
20. One of the reasons why we are able to punch above our weight is our human capital. They are the key drivers for much of our economy especially in the services sector and also in the high value added manufacturing sector.
21. But human capital is a highly scare resource. In Penang, our unemployment rate is running at a national historic low of 1.2%, despite a net migration rate, with worker shortages our main concern. Despite our low unemployment rate, the major employers in the state are constantly complaining about not having the workers with the right kinds of skills and aptitude – the issue of correct training to avoid the problem of unemployable graduates.
22. To address this issue, my government recently launched a sponsorship agreement together with the Penang Skills and Development Center (PSDC) to support a German Dual Vocational Training (GDVT) program in the state. While I am sure many here are familiar with the German vocational training system which does on the job teaching and training in the factories, this is a truly unique program within the Malaysian education system.
23. Not only does the Penang state government come out with RM 2 million to sponsor the fees of these students, they also obtain a monthly stipend of the minimum wage of RM900 from the participating companies. Indeed they are paid to study. This dual concept of learning while working, generated a world-class workforce in Germany. By partially funding this training program, we want to demonstrate that a world class vocational program can be a proven path to high income and high value added jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector.
24. Developing human capital does not only happen in university classroom or in the workspace. The best brains in the world needs to be stimulated, challenged and nurtured from the earliest stage. To this end, we facilitated the creation of the Penang Science Cluster (PSC), a state government initiative in collaboration with the private sector, to establish Penang as a center of excellence for science and technology by creating a science-based culture to inspire and encourage innovative thinking especially among the younger generation.
25. The PSC is the main organizer of the annual Penang International Science Fair (PISF) held in a sports stadium, the largest science fair in Malaysia. Its successful work with kids teaching them robotics, is a testimony to the co-operation between the public and private sector as well as civil society. The one big difference is that the state government after providing seed money and helping to lead the scientific initiative, will then withdraw and allow the private sector to sponsor and run it compatible with industry needs of the skill-sets and the type of technology required. Through these unique partnerships and collaborations, a new generation of scientists and innovators can be enabled, companies both large and small can be empowered to reach deep into the talent pool and students and employers can be enriched as a result.
26. The area of human capital development is one where the state can play an entrepreneurial role. Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) has been largely ignored by the private higher education sector because of the perception that it is unprofitable, that there is no market among fee paying students for these programs and that TVET is associated with poorly performing students. In Penang, we know that to win the future we must invest boldly in education and indeed show that a profitable and sustainable market for TVET can exist.

Making Policy Ideas Work
27. Ideas for good governance and progressive policies are not created by accident. Inputs are needed from various stakeholders, practitioners, public officials, civil society agents and think tanks. Any progressive agenda only succeeds if the policy ideas work. We have established a state think-tank, Penang Institute headed by Dr Lim Kim Hwa from Cambridge University, that explores new ideas and how to make them work.
28. We are also working with international organisations such as Aga Khan Trust for Culture, to introduce community based urban regeneration projects which have changed the landscape of George Town, a UNESCO world heritage site. Today, tourists throng the streets of George Town, soaking up the “unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia” – the very reasons George Town was inscribed by UNESCO.
29. In this, the state government plays a role of enabling George Town heritage city by combining the ancient and the modern, heritage with science. Tech starts-up want to operate in the heritage area in their belief that the unique atmosphere can help to inspire innovation and creativity. To give the tech start-ups an additional boost, the State Government launched an accelerator programme known as @CAT at an elegant historic building within the George Town’s heritage enclave offering very low rates for coding classes, students and start up entrepreneurs to gain access to mentors and shared services. @CAT hopes to accelerate tech start-ups by applying the three new fields of Big Data Analytics (BDA), cloud computing and Internet of Things. We spent RM20 million (3.2 million pounds) without expecting any returns but are confident that we can create new synergies in the future for new and existing industries.

Freedom Works
30. In addition, the state government is also rejuvenating the historical central market of Sia Boey into be a Heritage Arts District with RM 100 million (15 million pounds) which will include a public art museum. Learning from the successful urban regeneration of Southbank in London, the aim of this project is to preserve and upgrade the heritage market and buildings but at the same time introduce artistic venues into the center of life in the city. Using art and culture as a catalytic economic driver is a first in Malaysia.
31. I believe that all these initiatives are important to provide an inclusive growth platform for those who are talented in this creative sector. No doubt Penang has such hidden talents as Jimmy Choo, the world renowned shoe designer, is a Penang boy. However whilst talent is universal, opportunity is not.
32. We must try to match talent with opportunity. To succeed, a government must grant freedom. Not just freedom of expression but freedom of equal opportunity, freedom to be the best they want to be and realise their potential! Also freedom from undue interference from the government.
33. Freedom works in Penang and is one of the key elements how a small economy can harness the energy, expertise and entrepreneurship of our people. The only way to escape the middle-income trap is through innovation, investing in education and rules-based institutions. In Penang we have the 3Ts of establishing creative clusters with Talent, Technology and Tolerance of new ideas.

Social Inclusion
34. In a fast growing economy like Penang, the government must always be aware that there will inevitably be those who fall between the cracks and do not enjoy the full benefits of a competitive marketplace. As part of our plan to eliminate hardcore poverty, soon after taking office in 2008, my government has put in place an income top-up scheme that would give families whose total earnings are below the Poverty Line Income (PLI) of RM790 per month (or approximately 130 pounds) a top-up payment of between RM100 to RM790 per month. In other words, if a household earns RM500 monthly, RM290 will be every month. With this one move, hardcore poverty has been effectively eliminated in the state.
35. However, we are aware of the unintended consequence of cash handouts as it cultivates a dependency culture and most importantly it does not break the cycle of poverty. Therefore, my government is ending unconditional cash transfers and transitioning towards conditional cash transfers whereby those receiving aid from the State must also ensure their children are in good health, getting the right vaccinations, children attending schools and achieve improved school grades.
36. To support the talented but needy students to pursue their dreams, we have also launched the RM40 million Penang Future Foundation Scholarship programme with a simple proviso that the scholar has to work in Penang. The work can be in the private as well as the public sector. This is the classic example of Penang state government’s belief in enabling and empowering talents.
37. In addition to this, this may come across as a bit of a surprise to some of you but we also made rubbish collection as part of a strategy to provide decently paid jobs to those at the bottom 40% households. It has been often repeated in Malaysia that no citizen would want to work in 3D jobs that are dirty, difficult and dangerous such as rubbish collectors. But when we offered jobs at RM1300 per month (which is RM400 more than the minimum monthly wage of RM900) for the job of a rubbish collector, we have 10 times more applicants than the 2,500 positions available. And all these were Malaysian applicants, not foreigners. So instead of awarding contracts to private contractors who would then employ foreigners as rubbish collectors, we asked the Seberang Prai Municipal Council to take back these jobs from private contractors and offer them instead to locals by directly employing them at a higher salary. The plan worked and even though we are spending 40% more than before or extra RM30 million, but at least we can say that we are feeding 2500 families rather than allowing the profits to be enjoyed by the private contractors.

38. To have inclusive growth, we must also ensure sustainable growth to the environment. The State government has also promoted recycling and was the first state in Malaysia to ban the distribution and use of free plastic bags. As of 2014, Penang has already reached a recycling rate of 32.8% which is the highest in Malaysia. By 2020, we aim to achieve 40% recycling rate, which is twice the national target of 20%. We also intend to lay dedicated bicycle lanes throughout the state
39. As you may have guessed, our economic success, our liveability factors and our care to the society have attracted many to Penang. Similar to the UK, affordable housing in a land scarce place like Penang is in short supply. We have set aside a public fund of up to RM1 billion to build affordable housing in the state. And we are able to pay for these affordable housing scheme because we auctioned off a piece of land on Penang Island via an open tender to the highest bidder! Indeed, we are praised by the Auditor General Malaysia and singled out by Transparency International for our transparent open tender government procurement system.
40. We could afford many of these progressive schemes aimed at the bottom 40% only because we were able to improve government finances significantly. Our cash reserves have increased by 50% and our debt has been reduced by 90%, budget surpluses recorded annually since we took over the state government in 2008. From 2008 to 2013, our total surpluses came up to RM453 million, from which we have spent RM287 million on social welfare programmes to help the needy and other vulnerable groups within the state. We spend up to 12% on our annual budget on these socially inclusive programs.
41. Further the low unemployment rate is translated to households in Penang enjoying household income growth of 7.6% annually between 2012 and 2014. As a result of these progressive policies, our Gini Coefficient has been reduced from 0.42 in 2009 to 0.37 in 2012, an improvement of 11% over 3 years. While Penang’s Gini coefficient is better than Malaysia’s rate of 0.42, we still have some ways to go before we reach the Scandinavian levels of income inequality.

Enabling, Empowering And Enriching the People
42. Penang has consistently been rated one of the most liveable cities in Asia – the 8th in Asia according to ECA International and of course the most liveable in Malaysia. We have the best street food in the world. We have a UNESCO World Heritage site in George Town. We are committed to making Penang the first bicycle and green state in Malaysia en route to being the premier destination to invest, learn, work, play and eat.
43. The present debt crisis have shown that income inequality can not be solved by free markets. Free markets are said to be better than the state in provision of goods and services except a pro-market “rule of law”. However, investment public goods such as infrastructure, basic social services, research and development, innovative technologies can only be done by the “entrepreneurial” state, provided that the state exit at the earliest opportune moment to prevent undue interference. We are still learning to grapple about when to exit so as not to throw good money after bad or divert resources for other worthwhile ventures.
44. In the short time which I have been given, I have tried to paint vignettes of how Penang’s development is based on certain principles that are based on good governance and transparent decision making which enables them with skills and education, empowers with rights and responsibilities and enriches the people by sharing in economic wealth.
45. Whilst we are focused on providing a better life for our voters, we realise that we can only win the future by investing in education. Whilst embracing the challenges of globalisation, we will not shy away from preparing the young for the future as well as prepare the future for young.
46. I hope that in the course of your MPP program, you will get a taste of what it’s like to be involved in public policy, perhaps via your summer internship programs, in a tangible manner. I would like to invite to see for yourself what we have done in Penang.
47. Thank you and good luck!


—Mandarin Version —

槟州首席部长林冠英于2015年10月14日在英国牛津大学(T.S. Eliot Lecture Theatre, Merton College) 主讲“槟城:通过包容性增长(Inclusive Growth)为马来西亚打造一个高收入典范”,全译如下:


我感到非常荣幸能够再次来到牛津大学Merton College的TS Eliot 讲堂。我上一次来这里是2013年5月29日,当时2013年大选刚过几个星期,牛津大学的马来西亚俱乐部邀请我过来。这一次,我是接获牛津大学布拉瓦尼克政治学院(Blavanik School of Government)的邀请,还要多谢拿督斯里纳西尔敦拉萨。


这段时期,你们也吸引了许多世界一流的研究人员及学者,包括The Bottom Billions 的作者Paul Collier; 牛津大学全球健保政策学科主任Winnie Yip 教授,以及全球经济政策及发展专家担任院长。





“企业型政府”这个名词与Mariana Mazzucato有关,她目前是工党领袖Jeremy Corbyn的主要经济顾问之一,以及其他经济专家包括诺贝尔奖得主Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty 以及你们的教授Simon Wren-Lewis.
Mariana Mazzucato 的论述点是财富创造议程立基于“财富创造者”的合作,不只是生意人,也包括工人、公共机构及公民机构。她提出了一个强而有力的论述,那就是一个政府可以在高风险的领域如研究及发展、创新、培训及再培训方面引领投资,这些是私人领域不会碰的。这与主流思潮“管得最好的就是管得最少的,让私人界自己包办”完全不一样。





槟城在很早以前是就世界声城市网的一部分。18世纪时,槟城因为英国的商业港口而兴都,也通过香料、树胶及锡矿贸易而兴盛。今天, 我们是一个开放经济体,也是投资者的首选地。2008 -2014年期间,我们成功吸引482亿令吉的投资额,比起2001-2007年期间的249亿令吉投资额高出93%。在全球经济成长的同时,槟城经济也在国内持续领先。

过去40多年,我们累积了电子电气工业的经验,槟城成为大马最工业化的州属,也被誉为“东方的矽谷”。例如:英特尔在槟城设立全球研发中心,聘用2000名本地工程师,1970年槟城也是英特尔第一个岸外制造工厂。此外,花旗银行也在槟城设立全球信贷服务,年交易额价值达7.2兆美元 。如果我们能满足花旗银行的需要,槟城也能成为未来其中一个商务外包中心。我们也是大马首要的医疗旅游中心,德国医疗器材公司B.Braun的区域总部也设在槟城。

我们能够“小岗位成就大事业”,主因就是我们拥有人力资本。人才是槟州经济的主要驱动器,特别是对服务业以及高附加价值的制业业而言。虽然槟城失业率创全国历史新低1.2%, 我们面对人力资源短缺问题,槟州主要的雇主不断地投诉具技能的工人不足,这是对症下药提供培训避免毕业生失业。

为了应对这个问题,槟州政府最近与槟城技术与发展中心联办德国双元制教职计划 。我确定你们都很熟悉德国的双元制教职计划 ,就是在工业内同时进行在职学习及培训,这也是马来西亚教育系统里独特的计划 。
州政府不只拨出200万令吉赞助这批学生的费用,这些学生每个月还可以从参与的公司获得900令吉的最低薪金。 这意味着他们领钱读书。这从教职计划源自一流员工的德国。我们要证明这种世界级的双元制教职计划可以成为高收入及高附加价值的工作,特别是在制造业。




我们也与国际组织如阿加汗文化基金会合作,以引入社区基础的城市复兴项目,改变联合国文化遗产城乔治市的景观。今天, 游客聚集在乔治市的街道,正如联合国科教文组织所描述:乔治市的独特建筑及文化景观在东亚及东南亚是无与伦比的。



我相信这些计划都是包容性增长的一部分,它提供一个平台给那些创意领域的人才。无疑槟城卧虎藏龙如:世界顶尖的鞋子设计师周仰杰Jimmy Choo就是来自槟城。但是,人才处处有,机会却不是。


槟城是实践自由的地方,也是让这个小小经济体善用人民的活力、才干及企业精神的关键因素。如果我们要逃离中等收入陷阱,我们必须创新、投资在教育,以及建立的法规上的机构。在槟城成立的创意圈,我们有3T:人才(Talent)、工艺(Technology)及新概念的包容(Tolerance of new ideas)。









槟城持续被ECA International列为亚洲第八名的宜居城市。我们有全世界最美味的街头美食。我们拥有联合国世界文化遗产城。我们立志打造槟城成为全马第一个脚车绿州,能让人们踏遍投资、上学、工作、玩乐及饮食目的地。

目前的债务危机已经显示自由市场不能解决贫富悬殊的问题。自由市场可说是比政府分配商品及服务好,除了亲市场的“法治”。但是,公共货物的投资如基建 、基本社会服务、研究及发展、创新技术只能通过企业才干型州属才能出现,州政府也必须在适当时机退出市场以避免不适当的干预。我们还在学习什么时候才是政府放手的良机,以免赔了夫人又折兵,、花钱来填无底洞,或把资源转移到其它更有价值的事业。



林冠 英