Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Report (1) from Malaysian Insider


Road to progress began with riddle, Melaka CM reveals

October 20, 2010
Ali Rustam sought to model Melaka after the city-state of Luxembourg. — file pic
MELAKA, Oct 20 — Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam’s intent to declare the historical state fully-developed at exactly 8.10pm today has raised eyebrows and drawn both applause and laughter at the extent he will go to create a record — think 20:10, 20/10, 2010.
Mohd Ali, however, is unperturbed by what others think. For the veteran chief minister, it is the results that matter most, as he revealed in an interview with The Malaysian Insider.
His idea of a fully-developed state is one modelled after the tiny European city-state of Luxembourg — clean, progressive, high-income with people of good moral character and a sustainable economy with a healthy workforce and where at least 40 per cent of the population has a college or university education.
The vision came to him 10 years ago, he said, soon after taking the chief minister’s office.
“Melaka lacks natural resources,” Mohd Ali pointed out, when asked what drove him to seek a developed status.
He was faced with a dilemma — how to develop a state a quarter the size of Selangor and without natural resources.
He took it as a challenge.
If a tiny city-state like Luxembourg could compete globally and maintain economic independence despite being handicapped by its lack of natural resources, so could Melaka, Mohd Ali disclosed.
And so he moved to draw up plans to turn Melaka into a sustainable, knowledge-based economy that could weather the global trends, following a roadmap secured from the Organisation of Economic Co-operative Development (OECD). 
He started concentrating on building up the sectors that capitalise on Melaka’s rich history as a centre of civilisation and melting-pot culture, namely tourism.
The sector received a boon two years ago when it was jointly awarded the coveted Unesco World Heritage City status, together with George Town in Penang.
Today, tourist arrivals in the state have increased four-fold, from 1.7 million in 2000 to 8.9 million last year, Mohd Ali boasted, rattling off the figures from the top of his head.
Eighty per cent of them are domestic, the CM admitted, but the tourism boost has spilled over into other sectors — including shopping, food, healthcare, education, recreation and green technology. This not only bolstered the state economy but also moved it in the direction he envisioned 10 years ago.
New mega malls such as Dataran Pahlawan and Hatten Square have sprung up in the last five years in Melaka Raya, which used to fringe the city but has become the new centre.
Four hospitals have also been built in the same area, which draw in a large number of “medical tourists” from Sumatra, Indonesia.
Hundreds of budget inns have mushroomed in the last five years to cater to this new type of tourist.
Budget hotelier, Johan Ramli, claimed there were some 3,000 rooms within the one square kilometre of land.
“It’s convenient. Everything is within one to two minutes’ walking distance,” the 63-year-old added.
Various colleges have also been set up, the latest being the Melaka-Manipal Medical College, which is expanding its city campus.
A new solar production plant will be opening in the state by year’s end, creating 2,000 new jobs. Of those, 700 to 800 will be for engineering positions, Mohd Ali said as he disclosed that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will be officiating the launch on December 15.
He was doubly proud that the state had attracted RM2.2 billion in foreign direct investment from US solar cell maker, SunPower for the project.
“The next step is to transform Melaka into a green city, fuelled by green technology,” Mohd Ali said.
For the CM, the remaining challenge is to lower the income disparity levels between the urban and rural areas in the state, noting the city: rural ratio was 1.37: 1.89.

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