Satu daerah satu industri (SDSI) is the latest buzzword in Malaysia. I saw it on TV3 last night. It sounded so grand and so exciting and as if it's the latest in-thing. To Malaysians, it maybe but to people living in Thailand, this so called latest promo is old hat. The Thais had been promoting their one tambon one product (OTOP) for the last few years. So, what's new?
Someone says copying is the best form of flattery and in this particular context, it makes much sense. You don't really have to come out with new ideas. Do what has been successful elsewhere and do it better. You will come out on top. The Japanese in the 1950s were copiers. They copied everything and before they make them better, they just copy them. But look where they are now.
I remember Pehin Aziz, the former Minister of Education when he was the Minister of Communications. He said to me, at that time I was still a very junior officer, why reinvent the wheel? The wheel is already there. What we have to do is make the wheel better. We have to leapfrog ahead of the people we copy from. Copying in this context again makes much sense. The whole world is full of copycats. We learned from one another. Otherwise we won't be able to go anywhere. We are not big enough to be innovators and the amount of R&D spending is just too small to make any impact on the industry.
There are a number of countries that we can emulate, countries with similar sizes as us - Bahrain, Singapore, the UAE (Dubai etc), Luxembourg etc. The Bahrains of the world has long since diversify from oil and gas. Its oil and gas only contributes some 20% to GDP compared to ours which is exceeding 60%. It diversifies into the heavy industries and financial services - turning itself into the Singapore of the middle east. We all have seen Singapore, turning itself from a non-resource rich country into one which is the financial hub of the south east asia region. Dubai grows rich into tourism and financial services and Luxembourg is pure financial services. Catch that word - FINANCIAL.
Is it too late for us? I don't think so. The one thing about money is that it is fickle. It can be here today and gone tomorrow. Look at our wallets! So, we can still attract the money to come to Brunei. We have done so through the International Financial Center at Finance Ministry. We have started our fledgling capital market by introducing the government's bonds. But we have to do more. We have to remember that the oil and gas won't last forever. When that eventually runs out, we better have a standby industry or industries taking its place quickly.