low cost out of Bangkok we landed at a no-frills airport
next to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia.
Avis online delivered, and we drove to Shah Alam, the emerging
knowledge capital of Federal Selangor. Next morning we headed
to KL city, the spectacle of Petronas Towers and the skyway.
The stainless steel and glass facade and the suspended bridge
42 floors up are testimony to the legacy of oil and natural
gas. Completed in 1998, for US$1.6 billion and built by
the National Oil Company, it lifted tourism 88 floors above
street level, as economic policy sought to diversify away
from commodities: tin and rubber.
The towers are home to the 1999 movie: Entrapment; Bollywood
movie: Don; and the video game Hitman 2. In 1997, a French
urban climber made his way up the outside of the building
using bare hands and feet, Spiderman Robert, as he was called,
was arrested on the 60th floor for the illegal act. Tower
One is fully occupied by the National Oil Company.
At sunset we drove to Port Klang, on the Straits of Malacca.
Malaysia is one of the largest exporters of semi conductors,
electrical gadgets and appliances, and is keeping rapid
pace in the race for supremacy in the manufacture of high
tech products and software for export.
But even more mind-boggling was the agriculture sector.
The massive highways and well-articulated service plazas
that spread over Malaysia, offered stark companionship to
the miles upon miles of palm plantations. They are huge
manufacturers of palm kernel oil, and exotic fruits.
So I sat in my seat belt and wondered!
How is all this relevant in the financial plans of the average
citizen? It is certainly evidence of a well-diversified
economic plan. Malaysias development since its independence
to current status is the result of what they called the
NEP, or New Economic Policy.
Economics at work
Malaysias banking sector is a developed mix of old
systems and innovative systems that cater to the socio-religious
paradigms of a global population. Developed on the banking
systems of the western hemispheres economic models,
it has grown beyond those boundaries to cater for all the
idiosyncrasies of a working and industrious population.
In addition, I was told that the Arab sheiks and their families
now find KL a shelter from the arid desert during the summer
months. No doubt the banking sector was innovating to hold
some of that wealth.
Malaysias insurance sector has aggressive billboards
that loudly brand innovative products not yet available
in the west. The sector seems to focus on lower profitability,
and user-friendly models to grab international market share.
Such innovative products are now entering the UK.
I was beginning to think that somehow we Trinis had been
left behind. This was a world of innovation!
But I needed to double checkreturn to the Petronas
Towers! It hosts the Suria Shopping Mall. I watched to see
what shoppers were buying. Native street sense hints that
mall activity is a good visible indicator of affluence.
What is the difference?
The mall was six or seven stories high and too long. All
of the global brand name stores were upfront, and large.
Almost everyone held brand name shopping bags. The mall
was crowded; a TV show was being filmed live, fashionable
young women walked briskly, busy with the shopping...
So we took the scenic route home along the Straits of Malacca.
The sunset offered a sombre rainbow, of no interest to the
youth who sat on a boat on the waters edge. And I sat in
my seat belt and wondered!