Korea, Malaysia Cementing Cooperative Ties
I would like to express my appreciation to The Korea Times for giving me this opportunity to address its esteemed readers on the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of the National Day of Malaysia.
The first National Day of Malaysia in the New Millennium will be marked by a month-long celebration with parades, processions and special cultural events. The theme for the National Day celebrations this year ``Because of you, Malaysia,'' reflecting the feeling of gratitude of the Malaysian people of diverse race, religion and culture, for being blessed with peace, prosperity and achievements of excellence since our independence 43 years ago.
Malaysia welcomes the summit meeting between President Kim Dae-jung of the Republic of Korea and Chairman of the National Defense Committee of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong-il, in June this year. It has been Malaysia's long standing position that differences between the two Koreas must be resolved through peaceful dialogue and that positive measures be taken by both sides in developing a conducive atmosphere for the establishment of permanent peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.
Malaysia hopes that the Summit would contribute towards the descalation of tension in the region and pave the way for the ultimate reunification of the Koreas in line with the aspirations of the Korean people. We believe that peace and stability would not only bring immense benefits to the two Koreas but also to the East Asian region and the world at large.
While the Republic of Korea and Malaysia have taken our own separate measures to overcome the recent economic and financial crisis, our countries have recovered rapidly and are back on the path of sustained growth. The Malaysian economy has rebounded to register a growth of 5.6 percent in 1999 from a contraction of 7.5 percent in 1988. Economic recovery has continued to gain further momentum with a strong GDP growth rate of 11.7 percent in the first quarter. Growth has been broad-based driven by aggregate demand and supply.
While all sectors of the economy have registered positive figures, growth has emanated mainly from the manufacturing and service sectors. The level of manufacturing output has now exceeded the pre-crisis level for the third consecutive quarter. Output growth in the manufacturing sector increased strongly by 29.7 percent in the first four months of 2000, with double-digit growth both in the export-oriented as well as the domestic-oriented industries. The manufacturing and service sectors have begun creating new capacities as well as replacing existing capacities to meet demand for new products and services.
Inflation has remained low at 1.4 percent and the labor market environment has stabilized. Total exports in 1999 were $84.52 billion, an increase of 13.9 percent in comparison to exports of $74.18 billion in 1998. Imports for the same period were $64.49 billion, an increase of 16.9 percent over 1998. In the first five months of this year, the external sector continued to remain favorable. Total trade for this period was 69.54 billion with a total export of $38.00 billion and imports valued at $31.54 billion. This enabled Malaysia to register a trade surplus of $6.5 billion. The current account surplus is projected to register $11.2 billion in 2000 or 14.2 percent of GNP. External reserves today stand at $34.0 billion which is sufficient to cover 5-8 months of retained imports. This amount is 6.5 times the short-term debt. Our external debt continues to show a declining trend. Current indications are that the real GDP growth forecast of 5.8 percent for 2000 will likely be exceeded. With the recovery underway, Malaysia is now focused on sustaining our growth in the medium to long-term.
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties between Malaysia and Republic of Korea in 1960, relations between our two countries have been close, warm and friendly. …