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Speech by Lim Guan Eng during the launching of the Rebranded Career Assistance & Talent (CAT) Center new website on Saturday, 30th July 2011: 

Using Penang as a gateway to China through ACFTA (ASEAN China Free Trade Area) 

Good Morning

It is a great pleasure to be up here in Penang Hill, breathing in fresh air while addressing you this morning for the launching of the Career Assistance and Talent (CAT) website. The Career Assistance and Talent (CAT) Centre was rebranded recently to replace the Career Assistance and Training Centre that was set up in the midst of the 2009 economic crisis to assist the retrenched and unemployed workers.

Penang experienced considerable economic growth after the recovery from the 2009 global economic crisis achieving estimated gross regional product (GDP) growth of 8.1% in 2010 after a decline of 1.9% in 2009. This year's growth is expected to sustain with a forecasted 6.3% increase for this year.

Similarly, for the past one-and-a-half years, Penang has benefited from the robust economic growth, not only in investments but also increase in income as well as job creation for the people of Penang. Amongst some recent achievements:-

  1. Penang ranked top in terms of investments approved in 2010. With a total of RM12.2 billion investments approved for the State, Penang accounted for 36% of the total foreign direct investments (FDI) approved for the country in that year. For the first five months of this year, Penang ranks second with RM4.49 billion of investments, of which foreign investments accounts for 28% of FDI approved for the country.

  2. Penang Government's Competency, Accountability and Transparency (CAT) Governance was commended by Transparency International in 2010 for anti-corruption efforts.

  3. Three straight years of budget surpluses by the Penang state government earned mentions from the Auditor General's Report as the best financially managed state in Penang.

  4. Penang was voted as the top 8 islands in the world that "You must see before you die" by Yahoo Travel in February 2011.

  5. The Penang International Airport registered the highest arrivals growth amongst the other airports in Malaysia in 2010, recording a 25% increase with 4.1 million arrivals compared with 3.3 million in 2009.

  6. Penang tops in Malaysia in Green Initiative, as the first state in Malaysia that has implemented the "everyday is no free plastic bag day" ruling in shopping complexes, hypermarkets, pharmacies, fast food restaurants and chain outlets. The State authorities are going all out to make Penang cleaner and greener through various projects such as coastal cleaning and spring cleaning @ George Town World Heritage Site.

  7. Penang is the safest state in Malaysia with the highest reduction of 27% in crime index amongst all states in Malaysia. For the first 6 months of this year, Penang again topped the country in reducing crime by another 26%.

  8. Penang is the most liveable city in Malaysia with a vibrant art and culture.

For this reason, Penang is an ideal place not only to live but to work and play. We want to transform Penang into an International City and intelligent city that reaches world-class standards so that we can scale the heights of a high-income economy. Only an international city can we enjoy the benefits of agglomeration - the networking avenues and skills specialization only available in cities.

The new investments today no longer look for sizeable supply of manual labour force. On the other hand, these new investments require knowledge-based, specialised and skilled human resource. To cater for these investments and their requirements, Penang hopes to be both the sweat shop of manufacturing to the smart shop of knowledge-based industry. To succeed, Penang must be a talent hub.

Penang had experienced a "brain drain" phenomenon in the past decades. Today, we are putting in all efforts to create a reversed situation, to measure up to the ever increasing demands and expectations for knowledge-workers by the investors. The CAT Centre is the mechanism that has been set up to attract and retain talents in Penang. As a start, a website will be set up to reach out to talents from within and outside Malaysia.

Efforts will continue to be put in to make Penang a liveable city as well as an intelligent city to retain the talents in Penang. As an intelligent city, Penang will evolve towards a strong integration of the 6 dimensions of intelligence as follows:-

  1. Human intelligence as the basic unit relates to people in Penang: the expertise, inventiveness and creativity of the individuals who live and work in Penang.

  2. Collective intelligence refers to the capacity of human communities to synergistically evolve together through integration, competition, cooperation and collaboration in knowledge and innovation.

  3. Digital intelligence is a prerequisite in this modern internet world where broadband is available to the population for communication infrastructure, digital spaces, and online problem-solving tools.

  4. Institutional intelligence applies to the techniques and technologies that support and enhance decision and management processes according to rule of law and competent leadership. No point having smart citizens if the leadership is stupid as that will only drive smart people away.

  5. Integrity intelligence refers to adherence of moral and ethical principles.

  6. Residual intelligence refers to the advantages Penang has from its 40 years of experience with top cutting edge technology companies.

Nevertheless, we need to reinforce and strengthen these intelligences to make Penang the preferred location for investment and workplace as illustrated in our latest taglines "My Penang, My Choice" and "My Penang, My Workplace"

For Penang to succeed in transforming itself into a high-income, international and intelligent city, the hollowing out of Penang's economy must be reversed. Three critical areas deserve attention.

One - building, retaining and attracting human talent. Human talent is the fuel of the 21st century. Making Penang a talent hub that stresses on performance, productivity as well as proficiency in English and technology is a prerequisite for a high-income economy.

Two - establishing Penang as a centre of excellence for science and technology. There is no doubt that creativity and innovation generates prosperity and investments. The formation of the Penang Science Council is an important step to rekindle interest in science, nurture scientific minds, mentor technopreneurs and inspire innovation. Amongst the major projects is the RM128 million Penang Tech Centre that demonstrates the state government's commitment to rely on science and technology as an engine and catalyst for growth.

Thirdly is taking full advantage of globalization in connecting and networking with other international partners across borders. Penang's position as a cosmopolitan city with 200 years of international exposure is valuable. Further the implementation of the ACFTA (ASEAN China Free Trade Area) agreement is considered one the world's largest free trade agreements.

As of January 2010, it encompassed 1.9 billion people, had a combined GDP of US$6.6 trillion and total trade amounted to US$4.3 trillion. Under the ACFTA, more than 9,000 products imported from China to Malaysia are duty-free while China will reduce tariffs on more than 7,000 products from ASEAN.

Besides manufactured goods, the agreement also covers services and investment. Hence, there are opportunities for many MNCs to increase local content of their products to be above 40% to take advantage of the ACFTA so that products can be shipped from Penang, Malaysia into China.

Let everyone including MNCs and SMEs consider Penang as a reliable location that protects your investment and yet serve as a gateway to China through the ACFTA.

I would like to thank the companies that are participating in the CAT website, the talents who have come forward to share their stories as well as all the guests who are present today. With this, I officially launch the Penang Career Assistance and Talent Website. Thank you.

*Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary General & MP for Bagan



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