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Dr Mahathir pushes Look East Policy for post-pandemic recovery

He says Malaysia should adopt good practices from China, Japan and South Korea, and discard those that are unsuitable.

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Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad at his office at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya, in this file picture.
Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad at his office at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya, in this file picture.

Malaysia must examine the growth strategies and models of China, Japan, and South Korea to accelerate its own economic development, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

He said the Look East Policy, introduced in 1982 during his first tenure as prime minister, could serve as a platform for exploring the development models of the Asian giants and charting new possibilities and opportunities as the government addresses the setbacks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mahathir added that Malaysia should adopt good practices from these countries while dismissing those that are unsuitable for Malaysia.

“We discarded those that were unsuitable, but those which were suitable for Malaysia, we took and we tried to benefit from the waves of development that were seen in those countries, in particular Japan,” he said, noting that Japan rebuilt itself after the Second World War to become the second largest economy in the world before the more recent rise of China.

“Therefore, there must be some merit to Japan’s actions. We desired to gain knowledge from Japan. To accomplish this, we have this Look East policy,” he said today during a question-and-answer session commemorating the 40th anniversary of Malaysia’s Look East Policy.

Mahathir said the Look East Policy had been a success and should remain a cornerstone of Malaysia’s development strategies and programmes.

“In my opinion, brilliant policies and effective programmes can only be fully implemented and their goals attained if their executors have the proper attitude and sense of responsibility,” he added.

Today, over 400,000 Malaysians are employed by close to 1,500 Japanese companies operating in Malaysia. The Look East Policy has been instrumental to Malaysia’s industrialisation efforts and contributed significantly to the country’s overall economic growth.

Mahathir also expressed hope that the 40th anniversary would provide a new impetus to the Look East Policy and Malaysia-Japan relations as a whole, as well as an opportunity to examine the Japanese education system from the pre-kindergarten to university levels.