SECOND LANGKAWI INTERNATIONAL DIALOGUE SMART PARTNERSHIP FOR GLOBAL COOPERATIVE PROSPERITY, Langkawi, 30 July 1996
The phrase "smart partnership" reminds me of events that took place in Europe more than 500 years ago, when Johann Gutenberg teamed up with Johann Fust to perfect the first moveable-type printing press. Fust, a prominent goldsmith lent Gutenberg substantial sums of money to pursue his invention. Unfortunately, the partnership went sour as Gutenberg failed to complete his invention on time. Fust sued for the money with interest, obtained judgment and seized Gutenberg's invention and equipment.
This particular partnership between capital and innovation did not have a good ending for one of the partners. Nevertheless it does provide a useful starting point for us to consider how this venture could have become a "smart partnership." What the failure of the partnership of the two Johanns reveals was the absence of compromise on the part of one of the partners. Gutenberg, most probably, had no intention to renege on his part of the bargain. Yet, due to circumstances beyond his control, he could not honour his obligation within the prescribed time, while the financier was in no mood to give his partner any indulgence.
Real partnerships must transcend purely legal arrangements to incorporate elements of good faith, fair play and trust. In a global village partnership has to be multicultural. Being so, all partnerships cannot flourish in the absence of the spirit of give and take, mutual respect and trust. In this regard, we hope that a meeting of this nature will marry opportunities for profitable ventures and enriching cultural engagement.
Partnerships in the context of todays's world are invariably linked to the rapid technological advancements being made in various fields. In some areas they become obsolete even before they are disseminated fully to the intended audience. This is perhaps more apparent in computer hardware and software technology than in any other field. This obsolescence is a big challenge for technology management.
In the global context, the creation of technological products and their dissemination in society has its own challenges. Technology itself is not value-free. It carries the imprints of the culture that gives birth to it. The social ambiguity of technology becomes more pronounced when it crosses international borders. By social ambiguity, we mean the uncertainty of the impact on society that is generated by technological innovation. A clear example is the impact of the Internet on the world of information and the society using it. In certain parts of the world, social conflicts can occur as a result of a perceived notion of a given technology. Under these circumstances, recipient cultures must employ ways and means to modify such technology rather than wholesale importation.
This brings us to think of social adaptation of technology that is, how best a technological innovation can be socially adapted without losing its essence and causing a conflict. This is yet another important challenge in technology management. All too often we hear of the problems faced in technology transfer. For instance, there is a widespread feeling that the transfer creates a sort of dependency among the recipients. In other words, during the course of such a transfer, either an adequate adaptation of technology fails to occur or its perceived notion is distorted.
To my mind, these problems are not insurmountable. In this regard, we have to develop new approaches whereby social awareness of technological innovation does not lag behind. At the same time, issues of obsolescence and adaptation must be addressed.
In the international arena of technology, a great play of mind and money is not only possible but highly desirable. We have known for decades that collaborative research offers the best solution to some of our problems. This is clear in areas such as aerospace technology, genetic engineering, and telecommunication. More recently, offshore technology growth has shown great promise both for the financiers and the developers.
A synergy of mind and money at the international scale is what we welcome in our land. Malaysia has been extraordinarily receptive to such a smart partnership in a large number of tech nological endeavours. It has welcomed both minds and money in a bid to serve as a power-house of technological innovation in this region. We will continue to support this form of partnership because it is an idea that carries the promise of prosperity for all partners.
Be that as it may, countries in the South must realize that they could only take full advantage of this form of international partnership if it is approached from a position of self-confidence. This would mean that its successful realization is contingent upon political stability at home founded upon democracy and civility. Economic fundamentals must be enhanced through appropriate macroeconomic strategies, and human resource and technology development. Countries of the South need to step up regional linkages and South-South cooperation, not as adversaries to the North but as a pre-requisite for a meaningful dialogue and productive engagement. But while growth is fundamental, and our development efforts must be geared towards the promotion of growth, we must also realize that there is good growth and there is bad growth. We must therefore take extreme care to avoid the sort of growth where the rich get richer while the poor remain poor; growth which multiplies social dislocations; growth which undermines cultural identities; and growth which destroys the environments and squanders the wealth of future generations.
A partnership that is truly smart must take into account these "social costs" and their management should be the concern of the private sector as well as the public sector. It is not smart, in my view, for businesses to seek to cut corners, or to circumvent and undermine regulations intended the protect the interests of the society at large in order to increase profitability. On the other hand, the public sector, whilst it must be pro-business, must remain firm and vigilant in the performance of its functions, lest our amicability be abused.
Although we conceive the idea of partnership principally to promote mutually beneficial economic and business linkages, those linkages should not be the end all and be all of our relationship. Instead they should be vehicles for even stronger and wider bonds transcending political and cultural divides between peoples and nations. These partnerships should act as bridges towards a common global future, where humanity strives forward, not by competing against and overcoming his fellow men, but by genuine cooperation and mutual support.