Penang the gateway to Southeast Asia

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Tun Dato Seri Utama Ahmad Fuzi Bin Haji Abdul Razak prepares to strike the ‘betel’ at the official launch of the ‘Penang Week: Entrepreneurship & Energy.’

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

Fifty years since it began its journey from being a “traditional seaport economy” to what has been hailed as the “Silicon Valley of the East,” the northwest coastal state of Penang takes center stage at the Malaysia Pavilion: Net-Zero Carbon Rainforest Canopy Pavilion of the ongoing World Expo, until Jan. 22 (Saturday) for the connection to the world through the UAE and particularly via Dubai.

Interviewed after the afternoon launch of the “Penang Week: Entrepreneurship & Energy” on Monday, Penang State-Trade/Industry/Entrepreneur Development Executive Councillor Dato Haji Abdul Halim Bin Haji Hussain told Gulf Today it is but wise to establish the connectivity of Penang to the world through the UAE and specifically through Dubai as the emirate is “the center for trade for the MENA (Middle East and North Africa)” while Penang and Malaysia have become “well-connected to Southeast Asia, home to (approximately) 600 million and to the world.

“This is where the synergy we want to work. Dubai in the UAE is the gateway to Middle East and North Africa; Penang is the gateway to Southeast Asia. That connection (between Dubai and Penang will further boost) all of the goods and services we could offer.”

Penang is currently host to a multi-ethnic 1.77 million. Majority traces their roots to the “mercantile Chinese” of Fujian, Guangdong and Hainan as well as the “hardy, industrious Indians from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Sri Lanka,” including the “emigrants from all over the region: Achehnese, the Javanese, the Bugis, even the Siamese and the Burmese,” according to the “Simply Penang: Effortlessly Charming” by David ST Loh.

On Monday, Hussain said the decision to traverse, concentrate on and progress by way of Science and Technology (S&T) was reached by the state leadership in 1972. This year was dubbed as the “Golden Industrialization 2021. The decision was so as S&T was the frontier to trek, with the enthusiasm to develop human resources and talent through a robust educational system benchmarked on world-class STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics), without sacrificing their heritage, culture and traditions.

“That is the niche we have become. We have the talent pool. Penang has become the preferred destination for over 350 multinational companies since 1972 when the establishment of Malaysia’s first free trade zone in the State drew key investments from eight MNCs as the pioneering investors.

“These are now supported by over 4,000 manufacturing-related SMEs (small-medium enterprises) which steadily accumulate a wealth of business intelligence and technical experience. We have become the vibrant regional electrical and electronics manufacturing hub. We are promoting medical tourism. Six out of the 30 international companies in the field of producing medical apparatus, equipment and gadgets have chosen Penang as their site. Over 50 per cent of Malaysia’s revenue in the medical field comes from Penang since 2008,” he said. In his welcome address, Hussain stated: “The UAE is one of Malaysia’s biggest trading partners in the Middle East and West Asia. Bilateral trade reached $5 billion (Dhs18,365 billion) in 2020 despite the repercussions of the COVID19 and the global economic slowdown. Thus, with Penang’s participation in Expo2020 dubai, we look forward to stronger ties between our countries and strengthening this bond in the future. Beyond this World Expo2020 Dubai, we certainly have much to offer to each other, with both the UAE and Penang, Malaysia serving as international business hubs in our respective regions.

Penang Week launch was officiated by Penang Head of State Tun Dato Seri Utama Ahmad Fuzi Bin Haji Abdul Razak.

He highlighted, among others, in his keynote address the State’s and its people’s competitiveness: “In 2020, Penang generated $74 billion (Dhs272 billion) of export and $26 billion (Dhs95 billion) of trade surplus. This represented 32 per cent and 60 per cent of Malaysia’s total respectively, punching well above its weight…Penang’s conducive environment has not only led the country in attracting foreign direct investments, but also created more and more success stories of locally-employed engineers-turned-technopreneurs, founding and building companies that have grown internationally-renowned in their own right…To remain competitive in the global arena in the new normal circumstances, the Penang State government is committed to being the leader, enabler and the propeller by offering a competent platform for players across different industries to scale and thrive. Importantly, we acknowledge that incorporating a tripartite Public-Private-People partnership is crucial in paving the way to becoming a high-income economy and creating quality jobs.”

According to Hussain, throughout the week, interested parties may walk-in or drop by the Business Centre of the Malaysia Pavilion. Pre-arranged business-to-business initiatives or matching had been scheduled.

A total of eight government agencies namely the State Economic Development Division, Penang Development Corporation, InvestPenang, Penang Global Tourism, Penang Port, Penang Halal International, Penang International Islamic Technology College, Federal Agricultural Manufacturing Authority as well as 11 private companies specifically in the areas of jewellery, food and beverage, electrical and electronics, as well as logistics, are participating.

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