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Jomo to Malaysians: A brave new world is coming, reorder the way you live

 | November 23, 2017

Economist Jomo Sundram says the fourth industrial revolution will bring massive changes and Malaysians need to reorganise the economy, rethink their approach to knowledge, and also get rid of corruption.


Jomo Kwame Sundram (right), after receiving Honorary Doctor of Letters degree, seen here with lawyer Yeo Tang Peng who also received an award from Wawasan Open University, Penang.

PENANG: Malaysia needs to reorganise the economy, and Malaysians need to reorganise the way they live, to meet the brave new world taking shape, according to Jomo Kwame Sundram.

The distinguished economist said the massive changes – brought by what is known as the fourth industrial revolution – would result in, among other things, some jobs being lost, life expectancy rising, more older people, and “growing difficulties in trying to maintain, let alone improve, standards of living”.

“But if we reorganise the way we live, including the economy, we can all be better off with technological change. Work rendered irrelevant by industrial revolutions – mechanisation, mass production and consumption, digitisation, nanotechnology, and much more – allows us to deploy more human resources, hopefully more pleasurably, for instance, with more time for care work and creative work.”

Jomo, who holds the Tun Hussein Onn Chair in International Studies at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, said there was also a need to reconsider the country’s approach to knowledge and education, and to effectively tackle corruption.

Jomo said this in accepting the Honorary Doctor of Letters degree conferred by Wawasan Open University (WOU) at its eighth convocation here for his “contributions to the academic community and to social development within and outside Malaysia”.

Saying the fourth industrial revolution would bring about many disruptions and changes, Jomo added: “To better prepare ourselves for this brave new world, we must reconsider our approach to knowledge and education.

“We need to think of education as a lifelong endeavour, involving formal, non-formal and informal education. We have to challenge our incremental or ‘savings account’ approach to knowledge acquisition, to begin to think of life more dialectically, as Lao Tze, Aristotle and so many others have taught us. We need to rediscover how Socrates posed the right questions to collectively learn how to solve problems.”

The fourth industrial revolution is the environment in which disruptive technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things , robotics, and artificial intelligence are changing the way humans live and work.

Jomo said, in preparing for these changes, the nation should “avoid” corruption.

“In Korea, president Park (Geun-hye) has been replaced by President Moon (Jae-in ) after millions marched against her corruption. And we all know about how Amazing Grace Gucci Mugabe brought about the downfall of husband Robert, the once heroic father of Zimbabwe.

“Let us hope this will send a chill through the hearts, if they have any, of others who share her graceless penchant for expensive handbags and jewellery.”

In thanking WOU for the award, Jomo praised the university for playing a leading role in providing continuing education to Malaysians and others specifically through quality distance learning.

“As a former university teacher who continues to inhabit the world of ideas, and this is the first time I have received such recognition in our own country, I am deeply humbled by this honour, and proud to join your community.”

WOU Chancellor Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah presented the degrees and awards to 688 graduates today.

Jomo is also a visiting senior fellow at Khazanah Research Institute, visiting fellow at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University, and an adjunct professor at the International Islamic University in Malaysia. He was assistant director general and coordinator for economic and social development of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, United Nations, from 2012 to 2015, and assistant secretary-general for economic development at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs from 2005 to 2012.


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