Begging To Differ On Malaysia's Tech Future

Mark L. Clifford's commentary ("Is Malaysia just high-tech dreaming?" Asian Business, Sept. 1) contains inaccuracies. The prominent caption reads: "Malaysia--Its Silicon Valley clone lacks one key ingredient: A freewheeling business climate." The fact is that Malaysia's business climate is as freewheeling as any in the fast-growing region of East Asia.

Clifford says that Malaysia needs "an estimated 30,000 foreign laborers" for its Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project, "yet its strict Muslim community has reservations about allowing in so many foreigners." Fact: Malaysia already has a staggering number of foreign workers, to the tune of 2 million known illegals from a variety of countries as well as those who arrive legally with permits--or unknown illegals. Because the country's population is only 20 million, this must be one of the biggest foreign-worker percentages in the world. Fact: Any reservations about limiting the influx of foreign workers, which is only natural, is true not only in Malaysia's "strict Muslim community" but also across all of the country's racial and religious communities.

Clifford's depiction of how "the free flow of ideas is restricted in the press, television, and cinema," and how this impacts on MSC plans, is also off-key. Malaysia is not the only country that seeks to stem the flow of violent and pornographic material. Political commentary, particularly in the vernacular press, is freer than many foreign observers realize. Policies are also changing: Where satellite dishes were earlier disallowed, they are now permitted, to a certain size. The proposed MSC goes much further--the area will have cyberlaws and other special provisions that will make it a more comprehensively competitive location than any comparable place in the world.

Evan Mason

Ampang, Malaysia

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