TOKYO: Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Sunday (Jun 10) he was convinced that his country will be successful like Japan provided that Malaysians possess the same Japanese work ethics.
He was speaking to Malaysians during a three-day working visit to Japan - his first overseas trip since entering office - that included attending the 24th International Conference on the Future of Asia, or Nikkei Conference.
Dr Mahathir said when the Look East Policy was first formulated when he was prime minister back in the 80s, it was not just about drawing investments from Japan or going to study in the country.
"It's about acquiring also the Japanese work ethics, the Japanese sense of shame whenever they fail to deliver what they have promised to deliver," he said.
The prime minister also shared with some 250 people present at the dinner about what the government was doing to rehabilitate Malaysia from a debt of some RM1 trillion.
Elaborating on what he admired about Japan, Dr Mahathir recounted the story of what he saw in Japan when he first came to the country back in 1961 – a country destroyed by war.
"I watched the Japanese people work and work very hard to rebuild their country, and sure enough the result was that Japan very quickly became one of the biggest economies in the world. From a defeated country, a destroyed country, Japan was able to rebuild itself at a fast rate and effectively.
"I found that why the Japanese succeeded in rebuilding their country was due to their work ethics, their value system. If you have the wrong way of working, if you are not hardworking and you don't take pride in your work, you will fail," Dr Mahathir said.
He said the Japanese took pride in making high quality products that were able to compete successfully with those produced by other countries.
"But in Malaysia we don't have this value system, we don’t feel ashamed if we come up with sloppy products which are of poor quality ... whether what you do is good or not does not seem to matter," he said.
Touching on other matters, Dr Mahathir said the government appreciated the gesture by Malaysians to help the government reduce the debt level through the special fund set up for this purpose.
The government would do its best to resolve the financial situation without hurting the country, he said, adding that it would take some time to put everything in order as it would not be an easy task.
Unlike before, he said, money would not simply be disbursed to everybody and that financial assistance would be targeted at those who were eligible.
"We don't want to inherit bad habits," he said, adding that there was no room for hanky panky including in the private sector under his administration.
Dr Mahathir underlined that efforts to eradicate graft was a priority of his government.
"If corruption is eliminated, we can save some 30 per cent of our money with which we can do many other things," he said.