"Globalisation must serve us and not we humankind serve globalisation."
Globalisation must involve the whole world and not just those countries with developed or developing markets, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Ironically, globalisation is presently concerned only with opening up existing markets and maximising profits.
"A globalisation which involves only a fraction of the world… that involves only capital flows and predatory assaults on the weak by the strong…that benefits the few and destroys many…is not globalisation. And a hurried grab at the spoils is not globalisation," he asserted.
He added that we could only become a global community if the international community developed the whole world, slowly at first but more rapidly later. Globalisation must be thought of as sharing the world’s wealth in raw material, capital, labour and technology. If the world was to be a global entity, then there should not be abject poverty in some parts and "obscene wealth" in other parts; all must be reasonably well off.
Globalisation and the free market should not mean capital flows only and even if it does, it should accept some form of regulation to avoid any economic turmoil. Malaysia will continue to oppose this current interpretation of globalisation, the Prime Minister maintained.
In his keynote address, Dr Mahathir said globalisation must be implemented at different pace in different countries to "equalise the forces." Those who are rich should change first while the others can follow according to their capacities, pausing to make correction, learning from those who had changed earlier, he urged.
He also said that for globalisation to succeed, it must be planned carefully and the planning must involve everyone from every part of the globe. "This is globalisation in the service of mankind. Globalisation must serve us and not we humankind serve globalisation," he added.
Dr Mahathir also called for a rethink on capitalism and its push for a total free market. The latest ideas by the capitalists to create a new heaven on earth through globalisation could well bring about the same misery that would force people to rebel against it, he advised.
"Can we be sure that globalisation will not go the way of other great ideas of the past? Half a century or maybe a century down the road, will we be still lauding and practicing absolute capitalism in a globalised world?"
Dr Mahathir believed the capitalist wanted the borders of independent countries brought down and a single policy and system for the whole world be adopted so that unregulated capital could move freely to make even more capital. He then suggested that the World Trade Organisation allowed a degree of regulation when the competition was not between equals.
"Certain practices must be allowed. There is no necessity to have only a few big companies. Let there be many companies, big and small. Let them compete with handicaps. If you can accept it in golf, why not in trade?" he quipped.
Dr Mahathir also expressed fears of increased social unrest should countries lose their independence as a result of globalisation. "Foreign owners are not interested in the social problems of countries…They want to maximise profits. So, when the local economy is controlled by foreigners, it is likely that social unrest will increase," he cautioned.
Like most developing countries, Malaysia has established programmes for wealth distribution in order to solve social problems. The programmes undoubtedly affect the productivity and efficiency of businesses but it helps to avoid racial tension and disruptive activities which can damage business even more, he explained.