|Laman Webantu KM2A1: 4502 File Size: 19.8 Kb *|
TJ KB: Singapura Tewaskan M'sia dalam Lumba IT
19/5/2001 1:51 pm Sat
Malaysia ketinggalan dalam perlumbaan IT dengan Singapura. Banyak
syarikat IT dunia seperti Microsoft dan Cisco berpengkalan di Singapura
atau mempunyai lebih ramai pekerja di sana. Malah ada yang berhijrah dari
MSC Malaysia ke Singapura kerana tertarik dengan pelbagai kemudahannya.
Padahal negara Singapura lebih sedikit penduduk dan pelepasan cukainya
tidaklah sebanyak mana. Puncanya adalah kerana ia mesra-manusia dan mampu
mengubah diri untuk mengikut selera pekerja dan syarikat IT. Inilah kunci
kejayaan Singapura dan unit ekonominya amat agresif memasarkan negara.
Hanya sedikit (kurang 50%) syarikat bertaraf MSC berpindah ke MSC.
Microsoft dan Oracle mengekalkan ramai pekerja di KL kerana ia lebih
hampir kepada pelanggan. Yang menariknya fokus Microsoft di sini cuma
bidang latihan dan pencegahan cetak rompak sahaja. Mungkin tiada
langsung Unit R&D Microsoft di sini. Mungkin itu sebabnya Bill Gates
asyik terlewat sampai ketika panel MSC bermesyuarat kerana tumpuan
di tempat lain lebih mustahak.
Di Kuala Lumpur hanya KLCC bertaraf MSC - bukannya semua. Walaupun
ada 464 syarikat layak, hanya 182 sudah berpindah. Cuma 69 buah
syarikat sudah berpindah ke Cyberjaya, 35 buah termasuk Bloomberg LP
berada di KLCC dan selebihnya 78 lagi berada di sudut utara MSC.
Masalah kos menyewa, logistik atau lokasi berjauhan adalah antara
punca mereka memilih untuk tidak berpindah.
Ini berbeda dengan Suntec City Singapura, di mana terdapat kompleks
beli-belah, pusat persidangan, kafe berinternet, pawagam dan laluan
tren/LRT bawah tanah yang mudah dan cepat. KLCC mungkinm serupa
tetapi ia tidak mampu disewa oleh syarkat IT yang kecil-kecil.
Menurut pengarah Sun Microsystem Malaysia, teknologi berwayar fiber-optik
MSC yang dipasang 3 tahun sudah itu kini terpupus dengan perkembangan
teknologi tanpa wayar (wireless) yang amat memesat sekarang. Ini bermakna
kerajaan dan Telekom mungkin perlu berbelanja mega lagi untuk menarik
pelanggan sedangkan talian fiber yang ada masih lengang kekurangan data
(dan tentunya wang) lalu lalang. Nampaknya Malaysia tidak akan terkejar
kerana degil untuk belajar dari kesilapan. Pelaburan MSC dan Telekom mungkin
berakhir dalam rugi yang berpanjangan kerana tidak ada orang secukupnya
yang menggunakan kemudahan.
-Terjemahan Ringkas Kapal Berita-
(Published in the June issue of Bloomberg Markets.)
Kuala Lumpur May 18 (Bloomberg) -- In 1996, Bill Gates said he was thinking
of moving Microsoft Corp.'s Asia-Pacific headquarters to a technology park
that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad planned to carve out of the jungles of
Five years later, just seven Microsoft workers toil in a three-room office
in the unfinished area, which is known as the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC).
Bulldozers rumble along dirt roads, and the lack of restaurants means bringing
lunch is practically the only option for office workers.
''They say we will get a McDonald's later this year,'' office director Salwana
Ali says hopefully.
What of Microsoft's Southeast Asia headquarters? It's in Singapore, where 110
employees work in a cluster of skyscrapers that house 180 technology and
financial companies. The buildings, dubbed Suntec City, include a bustling
hopping mall, a convention center, Internet cafes, a movie theater and a sub
Singapore and Malaysia-political and business rivals ever since Malaysia ejected
Singapore from its federation in 1965-are slugging it out again. This
time the arena is a virtual one: Both states are offering tax breaks and other
incentives to foreign technology companies that locate there. The Southeast
Asian nations want to transform themselves from low-cost manufacturing
centers into economies that produce technological innovation.
So far, Singapore, with 4 million people and a $21,484 gross domestic product
per capita, is winning. Though Singapore has a population that's less than
one-fifth of Malaysia's and though its Economic Development Board is offering
less attractive tax breaks, many investors prefer its educated, English-
speaking workforce and its higher quality of life.
The city-state got $4.1 billion in manufacturing-related foreign investment
last year. Malaysia's supercorridor, by contrast, cleared just $1.1 billion
n in manufacturing- and technology-related foreign investment, even though it
offers investors fast and unlimited immigration, exemption from corporate
income tax and other lavish breaks. The supercorridor stretches from Kuala
Lumpur's Petronas Twin Towers-the tallest buildings in the world-to the city's
new international airport 30 miles south, the largest airport in Asia.
''The MSC,'' Mahathir said in a 1997 speech, ''will be a region with the
infrastructure, laws, policies and practices that will enable companies to
explore the information age without any of the usual constraints that frustrate
The rivalry between Singapore and Malaysia-with 23 million people and a gross
domestic product per capita of $3,480-has become fiercer with the collapse
of Internet company stocks and the attendant U.S. economic slowdown. Such
products as semiconductors, disk drives and personal computers make up 50
percent of Malaysian and 60 percent of Singaporean exports.
The U.S. is the largest market for both countries, accounting for about 20
percent of these exports. With sales of these products down, fewer U.S.
companies are setting up regional offices in Asia.
Both countries have already felt the fallout. Malaysia's electronics exports
tumbled to about $4.4 billion in March from $5.8 billion in September 2000,
prompting the dismissal of 13,000 electronics workers, according to the
government. The Malaysian Trade Union Congress, the country's largest trade
union, says that as many as 90,000 more electronics workers could lose their
jobs by the end of the year.
In Singapore, where labor costs are 50 to 70 percent higher than in Malaysia,
Member of Parliament and head of the National Trades Union Congress Lim
Boon Heng says he expects more than 12,000 workers to lose their jobs this year
ar because of reduced electronics exports.
''Diversifying our economy is a key pillar of government policies. If we can't,
our economic development won't be as good as we'd like,'' says Ko Kheng
Hwa, managing director of Singapore's Economic Development Board.
Singapore would also like to create more homegrown companies. To encourage
greater risk taking and entrepreneurship in a population sheltered by decades
s of strict government control, the board started a $1 billion venture capital
al fund and eased bankruptcy laws so that failed entrepreneurs can in some
cases have their debts wiped out.
Singapore is advertising itself in foreign publications as a tech center where
ere all of the residential and commercial buildings are wired for broadband
and where the standard of living is one of the highest in the region.
''Singapore has done a good job of positioning itself as an island of stability
amidst some unpredictable neighbors, and stability is important for foreign
companies,'' says Joseph Sweeney, regional research director at Gartner
Group Ltd. in Hong Kong.
Singaporean officials have also been wooing some foreign companies away from
m Malaysia. BizTone.com, which enables companies to manage finances and sales
operations over the Internet, moved its headquarters to Singapore from Malaysia's
Multimedia Super Corridor last year. BizTone made the move after Economic
Development Board officials repeatedly approached founder and Chief Executive
Darryl Carlton at conferences and offered him reduced taxes and research grants
if he made the move.
Carlton, an Australian, complains that the breaks haven't materialized yet.
''I feel like I'm dealing with a typical government bureaucracy that overpromises,''
says Carlton, who moved, along with 20 of his 80 employees. A board spokeswoman
declines to comment.
Malaysia is countering with five- to 10-year corporate tax holidays, open
immigration for foreign technology workers and the waiving of import duties
for companies that move to its technology park.
Prime Minister Mahathir has personally backed the Multimedia Super Corridor
in dozens of speeches and trips abroad as a means of creating new technology
jobs for Malaysians. His government has poured more than $3.7 billion into
the project so far and is expected to spend $10 billion by the time it's
completed in 2010. Mahathir said in March that the supercorridor hadn't brought
in as much investment as he had hoped and that policies regarding the park
need to be reviewed.
Malaysian officials offer a stump speech that sounds much like Singapore's.
''We have a stable economy, a stable political environment, a multilingual
population, and we are an ideal gateway to China and India,'' says Ahmad Bakri
Shabdin, a vice president at the company that runs the park.
He says Malaysia has an edge over Singapore or Hong Kong because it's
integrating technology into everyday life through seven state-ordered programs,
such as a paperless government and electronically linked hospitals.
''We need a government initiative like this to push us to develop a new
competitive edge; we can't remain an agricultural society,'' he says. Agricultural
exports make up 6.1 percent of the country's total exports and consist mainly
of palm oil, timber and rubber.
As the global economy slows, the payoff looks more remote. Song Seng Wun,
regional economist with G. K. Goh Holdings Ltd. in Singapore, says Malaysia's
unemployment rate could double to 6 percent by the end of the year if layoffs
continue at the current pace.
''If our technology policies succeed, our schools would be better and we'd
be more ready to adapt to a changing world,'' says Raymond Tang, a Malaysian
fund manager at CMS Dresdner Asset Management in Kuala Lumpur. ''Progress of
the MSC is critical for all this, but now we are behind.''
A branch of Kuala Lumpur's Multimedia University-opened in the tech park in
1999-has 6,000 students, but so far, only 153 have graduated from the
information technology program.
One area of the technology park is on schedule: Putrajaya, the government
headquarters and the prime minister's residence. It includes a gleaming office
tower with space for 20,000 workers and a pink marble mosque rising from a
man-made lake. Prime Minister Mahathir has moved into the residence, as have
about 10,000 federal workers.
Mahathir himself may be one of the biggest deterrents to foreign investors
in the country he has ruled unchallenged for 20 years. A vocal critic of
globalization, he blamed financier George Soros-whom he called a ''rogue trader''
- for the almost 50 percent decline in the ringgit during the 1997-98 Asian
Mahathir has hardly mellowed since then. On Feb. 28, at an international forum
in Hainan, China, he proposed a global tax on rich nations to subsidize
poor countries, and in a May 1 speech, he complained that globalization is
causing job losses in Malaysia.
''If you're a multinational, won't his comments make you think twice about
the risks of investing in Malaysia?'' asks author David Ticoll, who runs a
Toronto technology research and consulting firm, Digital4sight.
While many companies have signed up for the technology park's tax, duty-free-
import and immigration benefits, only a few have moved to the area; just 182
of the 464 businesses approved for the benefits of the park have moved there.
Thirty-five companies, including Bloomberg L.P., have moved to the Petronas
Towers in Kuala Lumpur, which is the sole city location that's officially
part of the technology park.
Just 69 companies have moved to Cyberjaya-as the center of the technology park
is called-while 78 have moved to the northern part of the park, according
to park spokeswoman Rodhiah Ismail.
Among those companies, many are grabbing the tax breaks and then setting up
only a token presence in Cyberjaya. Microsoft's seven workers focus mainly
on training and copyright protection, while the company maintains a staff of
70 people in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
Oracle Corp. plans to move only about five of its 200 Kuala Lumpur-based staff
to an incubation center in the park, says Finance Director Steven Tung.
The remainder will stay in Kuala Lumpur, where they are closer to Oracle's
customers, he says.
Most of the new jobs Mahathir sought to create with the tech park haven't
materialized. Nokia Corp., which moved its 200 employees to the technology park
from Kuala Lumpur in February, hasn't hired any new staff, says Managing
Director Hannu Karavirta. The best part of being in the park, he says, is that
Nokia can bring in as many foreign workers as it likes.
NTT MSC Sdn, a subsidiary of Japan's Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. that
set up a 100-employee, $25 million regional office in the park, brought most
of its senior staff from Japan. ''It's difficult in Asia to find skilled
workers, so it is very important to be able to bring in our own workers with
out limitations,'' says President and Chief Executive Officer Hotta Akio.
Park officials sometimes unintentionally alienate the big companies they're
seeking. ''Without my knowledge, my mobile phone number was put on the Sun
listing on the MSC Web site, and I was getting several calls a day from
contractors pitching work or from students with inquiries,'' says Govinathan
Pillai, managing director of Sun Microsystems Inc. in Malaysia.
Pillai also worries about the slow pace at which the park is being built.
The fiber-optic cabling that was state-of-the-art when it was first installed
three years ago looks dated compared with the wireless technology now available,
The scene couldn't be more different in Singapore's Suntec City. Founded in
1995 as an office center and shopping mall, the privately run area is just
one of five or six locations in Singapore where technology companies are
A main attraction of Singapore is simple: money. Stephen Tan, a Malaysian who
started magazine subscription service Asiasmart.com in the Kuala Lumpur
technology park, says he was happy with the park's benefits but frustrated by
a lack of funding. ''I had to move to Singapore because that's where the investors
are,'' Tan says.
About $5.5 billion in private venture capital is managed from Singapore, according
to the Economic Development Board, versus $500 million from Malaysia,
says the Malaysian Venture Capital Association.
Singapore also outstrips Malaysia when it comes to government funds for new
business. Malaysia's government started a venture capital fund last year with
$131 million, of which just $7.2 million has been disbursed, according to
an April report from the prime minister's office.
In Singapore, the Economic Development Board says the money in its $1 billion
technology fund is almost fully invested in 47 private venture capital funds,
including AsiaTech Ventures, which is based in Hong Kong and invests throughout
Government backing encouraged Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist Draper
Fisher Jurvetson to put its Asian headquarters in Singapore last year. The
Economic Development Board put $100 million into a $690 million Draper fund
aimed mostly at Europe and Asia, says Draper's Asian partner Finian Tan.
Cisco Systems Inc. made Singapore a regional headquarters in 1998 in part
because of a government program that reduces taxes on Singapore-sourced income
to 10 percent from the customary 25.5 percent. Cisco has boosted its staff
since then to about 400 from 40, says spokesman William Oei.
Dell Computer Corp. opened a so-called Web farm-a center that hosts its
Internet site-in February 2000 under a program in which the Economic Development
Board subsidizes 30 to 40 percent of the new investment.
Though Singapore says it wants to move away from manufacturing, it's also
throwing money at new electronics factories. Last year, the Economic Development
Board invested $285 million in 58 projects. It owns 15 percent of a new
$3.6 billion semiconductor plant that United Microelectronics Corp. of Taiwan
is building. Vice President Chris Chi of UMC says the government investment
helped his firm choose Singapore for the plant over rival locations in the
U.S., Germany and China. Singapore's skilled semiconductor workers were also
a draw, he says.
'I Felt Courted'
Development board officials actively seek new investment for the island by
making trips to trade shows and by lobbying executives personally. Before Johan
Erikkson opened a small office in Singapore for the Asia affiliate of Sweden's
IconMediaLab International AB, he paid the board a visit. ''I really
felt courted,'' says Erikkson, the company's director of development, who was
asked what it would take to get his business.
When the Singapore office opened, board officials called to offer the company
tax-free status for five years if it made Singapore its regional base. A
few months later, Erikkson took them up on their offer, choosing to upgrade
the Singapore office instead of offices in Malaysia and Hong Kong. Erikkson
says his employees also prefer Singapore's lifestyle.
Lifestyle, in fact, may be Singapore's trump card. Investors say Singapore
has more Western conveniences: 32 Starbucks cafes to Kuala Lumpur's 10, for
instance. Singapore's airport is just half an hour from downtown versus a full
hour for Kuala Lumpur. And its multiracial, English-speaking population makes
people from throughout the region feel at home, whether they're strolling
through its Little India neighborhood or eating dim sum in its Chinatown.
''If I'm going to take someone away from their family for a week, I want them
to be comfortable,'' says Steven Winters, regional vice president of customer
service at U.S.- based data storage company EMC Corp., which put a $3 million
regional training center in Singapore this year.
With its lack of shops, restaurants and, most of all, residents, Malaysia's
new technology city will be hard-pressed to match Singapore's appeal.