In October last year, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad spoke of Malaysia’s past recognition as an Asian Tiger and his confidence that the country would one day regain the status, so that it would stand alongside the other established Four Asian Tigers; Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea.
But how did these Four Tigers come into being?
Historically, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan rose to prominence in the 1960s, the decade when the global economy was rapidly growing following the slow recovery after World War II and the Korean War (1950-1953).
The opening of borders around the world were benefited by the strategic positions of these four countries, as the advantages of the technology and globalization, including major advances in air travel and telecommunications, were also theirs for the taking.
Now let’s break it down by each Asian Tiger, from 1 to 4.
Hong Kong, whose economy started to take off in the 1950s, is Asian Tiger 1. Many medium and large sized corporations came into the city because of its cheap labor and favourable tax incentives, leading to the new-found wealth that could fund the building of skyscrapers, public housings, and commuter train lines throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Asian Tiger 2 is Singapore, a country capitalizing on its reputation as a trade hub because of its impressive docks and strategic position in South East Asia.
Taiwan became Asian Tiger 3 when investments from its neighbour China was able to help build a futuristic city filled with skyscrapers, high speed trains, and strong education system, among others.
Asian Tiger number 4 is South Korea, a country regarded as one of Asia’s most advanced economies because of its venture in modern industries, such as electronics, robotics, and software development.
These four countries have different histories on becoming an Asian Tiger, but in the end, it all came down to good governance that practices corruption-free measures and conservative economic plans.
Currently, Malaysia is recognized as a developing country and one of the Tiger Cubs, alongside Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
If Tun Mahathir’s vision were to be fulfilled, what will it take for Malaysia to regain its status as an Asian Tiger, if it ever was one?