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Mahathir revives Look East policy to join ranks of economic giants

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he would revisit his "Look East" policy as he strives to build an economy that can reach the heights of more advanced Asian neighbours. Dr Mahathir, accompanied by his wife Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali and officials from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, arrived in Tokyo on 10 June for a three-day working visit to Japan.

He said the Look East Policy he initiated in 1982 was not just about studying and working in Japan, but more importantly adopting the work ethic and value system of the Japanese.

Addressing more than 250 Malaysians at a dinner in Tokyo on Sunday night (June 10), the Malaysian Prime Minister said while much of the values in the West had deteriorated over the years, good values were still being practiced in the East.

"When I came to Japan in 1961, the country was in shambles from the war and I watched the Japanese people work very hard to rebuild their country and eventually became the second biggest economy in the world," Dr Mahathir said.

He said the reason for Japan's success is in their work ethics and value system. Being laid back and not diligent in their work would have guaranteed failure.

"The Japanese have a very strong sense of shame. In the old days, if they were ashamed or did something wrong, they would commit hara-kiri. This feeling of not wanting to be ashamed for whatever you do is a strong incentive to do the best they can."

"In Malaysia we don't have this value system. We don't feel ashamed if we produce a product of shoddy quality. We should have this sense of shame in Malaysia," Dr Mahathir added.

He said if Malaysians here can emulate this work ethic and bring it back home, Malaysia will be like Japan within a short space of time.

There are 5,500 Malaysians in Japan registered with the Malaysian Embassy, of which 2,900 are university students and the rest professionals and entrepreneurs.

Earlier, the prime minister told the audience about the changes being undertaken by the new government after winning the 14th general election (GE14) last month.

"This time around things are not going to be so easy. We have to really create a new government and we have never experienced a change of government over the last 60 years of independence.

"The people expect us not only to take over as the government but also to change things — the values we have, the laws, to remove restrictions on the people, and reduce bureaucracy," he said.

 
Source: Nikkei Asian Review, NST Online