The Dearth of Penang & Malaysian Industries


Rip Van Winkle (Rip) woke up staring at me and asked, “Hullo. How long have I gone sleeping this time?”. I replied whilst observing him, “About 5 years and welcome to Vision 2020”.

Rip placed his hands on his cheeks and said, “Only 5 years? Not 50? 100? 500? Is the situation that bad?” My prompt answer was, “As predicted.”


The CEO Speaks session organised by InvestPenang entitled, Growing the “Powered by Penang” brand conducted today unveiled 4 of the Captains of their industries in Penang who had hired some of our local best talents. I was not informed as to who will be speakers but when I was given the leaflet, I was very optimistic this would turn out to be a good day for a 2-hour session and for myself to sell to the floor as a management consultant for the next job.


The speakers themselves are talented “young” people, engineers that I had heard about for the past 2-3 decades. Those who worked with them often shared their bosses personal histories, success-failure stories and credentials. The moderator itself was one time the youngest among the top 3 contenders for the Penang Chief Minister’s post who is now the Special Advisor to the Chief Minister.

Seated just below my table at start were: Whong Poh Choon of QDos Group, CB Chuah of Pentamaster, Lee Kah Choon the moderator who was flanked on the left by KC Lau of Inari-Amerton Bhd. and Chu Jenn Weng of Vitrox Corporation Bhd.

After the CEOs filed out one by one to present that talk, one particular slide from the speakers – caught my mind. A slide taken off from InvestPenang about the balance of industry contributors of 471 “SMEs” (small-medium enterprises) for which all the named companies above with the CEOs are belonging to that said category, supporting or being subcontracted by the 177 MNCs (multi-national companies).

In my mind, a company making close to RM 1 billion a year would naturally has exceeded the RM 50 million turnover a year benchmark that “restricted” the companies being Small-Medium Industries or Enterprises (SMIs/SMEs) to qualify them for government assistance. But in retrospect, that sum is nothing compared to the Captains of the industries of the World where the powerhouses in China and America are often based at.

I would then picked up my phone and texted, “hi, are you free to meet after 5?” to the former key-man, principal engineer Dr Teoh Ping Chow, now teaching the younglings at Wawasan Open University to which he immediately responded.

We then met and discussed for good 3 hours, with me establishing some key-facts on my Motorola turnaround contribution with 13 USM Professors under BJIM, my Penang Economic Outlook – in which will spell the dearth of Corporate Penang and Malaysia.

Other than IT, primary resources, food and beverages – our ambitious transportation plans will connect to nowhere from residence into commercial hubs into a future-non-existent semicon-, industry sectors whose “cheese” have moved to Brazil, Russia, India, China, other developing countries, the Philippines, Romania and further back, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia where the cost of manufacturing will be as what KFC buns used to bring simply way high margins allowing them to open rapidly (50 sen sales price for 0.017 sen a bun internal cost).

“We need to have our very own first MNC within these 5 years”  – that’s my statement.



I was trained on numbers as an accountant. I have good respect for other fields including engineers, doctors and lawyers which put things into perspective that we need body being a physical structure, peace of mind and examination of soul.

Without engineers, there will be no progress and development.

It is not because of a specific Government that we will all be lynched but it will be because the current world economic is such that price inflation will cost everything to go up and “sweatshops” industries will offer existing technologies at lower and lower market value for increased quality.

The tradespeople of the Free Port Penang (pre-1970s) who had turned into future Engineers and IT Engineers for the Free Trade Zone (1980s-2000), will have to then become the road-builders for transportation hubs, property development (2010s) to which no one has internal money in their pockets to sustain commercial interest. The Industry is dead, because the world have not been innovative and creative enough other than eating vitamins of social-media world to sustain our body. We do not have steaks to fill our body. We will be pale, tall, thin stalk of elves who will work for Santas for the lowest of cost provided. We need to have balance food – greens, reds, purples, yellows, and everything else.

China’s One Belt, One Road and Russia’s own reformation will kill the Five Tigers because any socialist world would want to take care of their own first, by the billions.

“Let me go back to sleep and don’t call me up until 2050.” said RIP.

Quickly Dr Teoh updated on his side of the world and there we have is an idea – which might save our industries, our primary resources – rubber, palm-oil, heavy industries – the cusp of new-tech that would make Alfin Toffler and Jules Verne proud.

Rip Van Winkle had then decided to put off his sleep and time to whip the industry around. We need another Nestle, another Intel, another Airasia and Petronas – or we will see the funeral wakes of Fairchild, Western Digital and even Intel in Malaysia.





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