(updated 4:37pm / 7.8.2019)

After more than 60 years of independence, the consensus is that Malaysia has done remarkably well as a young, multi-ethnic nation that successfully transformed itself from an agriculture-based economy in the 50s to an industrialised one in the 80s and 90s. Since the mid-1990s, Malaysia set sights on becoming a developed nation by the year 2020, with a robust knowledge economy thriving in the digital era. But with 2020 on the horizon, the goal of attaining fully developed nation status may not be realised. Why is this so, and what have been the factors impeding our economic progress?

To answer this question, Perdana Leadership Foundation invited Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, Malaysia’s former (and longest-serving) Minister of International Trade and Industry who is also Chairperson of AirAsia X, to deliver a keynote on the subject, “What are the factors impeding Malaysia’s economic progress and how do we overcome them” at the 21st Perdana Discourse Series on 7th August at Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya. The Discourse Series is fully sponsored by DRB-Hicom.

In his welcome remarks, Tan Sri Azman Hashim, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Perdana Leadership Foundation, stated that the economy is the top concern of most Malaysians at present, with cost of living, household debt, a changing job landscape, income inequality, and global uncertainties such as the trade war between the US and China, all adding up to a volatile business and economic environment. Since the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, Malaysia never fully recovered its former glory as one of the most dynamic economies of the region, and it was time, he said, for Malaysia to “regain our lost economic footing”.

In her one-hour keynote, Tan Sri Rafidah outlined that economic progress should not be measured in numbers or statistics alone but should also be considered in a socio-economic context that includes intangibles such as inclusiveness and security. Tan Sri listed the current impediments to Malaysia’s economic progress, among them: a lack of focus and prioritisation on the most important issues; unnecessary and divisive politicization of national issues; xenophobia and parochialism; and corruption as well as vested interests. To overcome these, Malaysia needs a truly Malaysian agenda that builds upon what have been Malaysian in the past, spurred and driven by Malaysian consciousness and good values; responsible stakeholders to help the national agenda; institutional reform; good governance; and a growth agenda. The work on these have begun but it will take time before policies can show results, and she asked that the audience keep this in mind before they clamor for results.

The Discourse was attended by more than 150 participants, mostly university students, who got the golden opportunity to ask questions after Tan Sri’s keynote address. The discourse proceedings will be published in monograph format later this year.

The discourse also featured panelists who commented on the topic. They were PROFESSOR DR YEAH KIM LENG, Senior Fellow and Director, Economic Studies Programme, Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia, Sunway University, and PUAN SHAHNAZ AL-SADAT, Managing Director and CEO of Arise Asia Sdn Bhd. The panel session was moderated by DATO’ DR VASEEHAR HASSAN, Founding Chairman of RHB Islamic Bank & Author, “The Malay Leadership Mystique”.

At the event, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz also officially launched a publication of Perdana Leadership Foundation, “Revisiting Atas Angin: A Review of the Malay Imagination of Rum, Ferringghi, and the Penjajah”, written by Professor Dato’ Dr Ahmad Murad Merican as part of his Honorary President Resident Fellowship at PLF. The book reflects how the West was imagined, constructed, described, projected, and presented by the Malays in Malay text. This book is available for sale at PLF.


The Foundation is a non-profit organisation established in 2003 to document, disseminate, research, and archive materials related to the past Prime Ministers of Malaysia, and nation-building. The Foundation intends to become the premier institution for the study of Malaysia’s Prime Ministers and the central resource centre for research into national stewardship as well as a platform for reflection, debate, and discussion with distinguished figures in Malaysian leadership. Our Honorary President is the fourth and current Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. To date, we have digitised more than 500k materials, half of which are available for free through our website www.perdana.org.my. Membership of our Perdana Library is free, and members also get to enjoy the library’s physical facilities located in a cosy enclave in Precinct 8, Putrajaya.


DRB-HICOM Berhad (“DRB-HICOM”) is one of Malaysia’s leading conglomerates with core businesses in the Automotive, Services, and Property sectors. With more than 70 active companies in its stable and over 56,000 employees group-wide, DRB-HICOM’s aim is to continue adding value and propelling the nation’s development. In the Automotive sector, DRB-HICOM is involved in the manufacturing, assembly and distribution of passenger and commercial vehicles, including the national motorcycle. In Services, DRB-HICOM is involved in various businesses, including concession and financial-related services. In Property, DRB-HICOM is involved in the development of industrial properties.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Nurul Humaira Kamarulzaman
Tel: 03-88858960
Email: humaira@perdana.org.my

Mohammad Faridzuan Abd Rahman 
Tel: 03-88858953 
Email: faridzuan@perdana.org.my

To download the Press Statement, click here.