Siti Suriawati Isa:The Creative Economy in Malaysia (8)

8. FINAL REMARKS ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF
MALAYSIA’S CREATIVE ECONOMY

The fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or
primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source
of conflict will be cultural. The clash of civilisations will dominate global politics.
(Huntington 1993, 22)

8.1 Conclusion and Recommendations

The twenty-first century has seen ICT affect all aspects of human life, the contemporary global
market is considerably competitive and complicated. Customers are more demanding and
require fresh, new, and unique products and services. Traditional sectors, particularly the
cultural sector, have to adapt to this transformation to remain competitive and relevant.
Failing to do so may affect their chances to grow, and present the danger of extinction. Hence,
this has made the word creativity popular, with ICT playing a significant role in creating and
maintaining creative sectors. Many governments have confidently highlighted creative sectors
at the centre of their economy reformation, but these sectors are substantially unpredictable
and high risk, with low success rates in developing countries. In general, the idea and concept
of creative industries—and now, creative economies—are not fully tested in developing
economies and their resilience to global issues is unknown.
However, UNCTAD and many other commentators believe that the close link between culture
and creative sectors means that the cultural wealth of developing nations offers substantial
potential for developing their creative sectors. Developing countries in the Asian region are
seen by most commentators to be the next economic powers, particularly in light of the rapid
economic growth of China and India. With majority of the world’s population living in Asia,
many scholars believed the twenty-first century will be the Asian region’s opportunity to
become the new world superpower (refer Mahbubani 2008). However, ICT progress in this
region lags behind that of developed countries. Recognising this, many developing countries
government are developing and upgrading their ICT facilities. Mega projects such as China’s
World Media Centre, UAE’s Dubai Internet City, Hong Kong’s Cyberport, and Malaysia’s MSC
were established in the late-1990s and early-2000s to promote ICT development. These
government projects attracted local and foreign investors, and have encouraged key economic
transformation in other related projects, from content, creative, and entertainment industries,
to the knowledge economy more broadly. With the combination of cultural wealth and ICT
rapid growth in developing countries today, UNCTAD and others recognise the potential of
developing countries in generating their economy through these sectors. Thus the concept of
the creative economy is seen as an appropriate option for developing countries to close their
economic gap with developed countries.
UNCTAD’s broad definition of creative economy encourages developing countries to develop
creative sectors that until now have been monopolised by developed countries. This caused
debate among scholars because the creative sectors according to UNCTAD are becoming
“diluted”. Regardless, many developing governments are following UNCTAD’s 2008 creative
economy model. Malaysia is one of the developing countries that have supplemented this
model with some local elements. Although there currently is no clear Malaysian definition and
policy on this concept, both content (animation, film, content digital and television series) and
cultural (arts, museums, and handicrafts) industries are identified as part of creative sectors
(Abd Aziz, Amin & Isa 2010). The Malaysian Deputy-minister of MICC, Datuk Joseph Salang,
states that the policy on Malaysia creative industries is expected to be ready by mid-2010
(Bernama 2010). Importantly, the development of these sectors is not new in Malaysia, being
initiated more than a decade ago. However, in Malaysia the general public is not familiar with
the term of the new repackaged concept of the creative economy. Many are more familiar with
cultural tourism than creative industries, not least the creative economy. This is because
cultural tourism was been developed first in Malaysia followed by creative industries, and
more recently, the creative economy. The creative economy has an encouraging future in
Malaysia, since the country has many traditional cultural resources. However, the challenges
also are significant, since competition from other countries, particularly Malaysia’s neighbours,
is fierce.
The first of three sections in this chapter offers conclusions about the development of
Malaysia’s creative economy within the wider context of the global creative economy. The next
section provides recommendations, before this study’s limitations are discussed in the third
section.

8.2 Creative Economy Development in Malaysia

All four research questions of this project have been addressed in the previous chapter.

Culture plays an important role in the development of Malaysia’s creative economy. Also,
government policymakers and two organisations involved in this research acknowledge by the
importance of ICT, as its involvement in the creative economy strengthens their products and
services to becoming more competitive. Malaysia’s cultural resources are her major strength,
and aspects of ICT have been used to support cultural institutions like museums in expanding
to the next level. Recognising the mixture of global and local—or glocal—Malaysia is now
attracting global market attention by marketing a glocal identity to build a better position in the
region and worldwide.

However, the two case studies demonstrate that policymakers should refine their policies in

order for both creative and cultural sectors to grow in the country. While Malaysia has rich
natural and cultural resources, their policies in this area are weak and not innovative enough
to compete with developed countries. Malaysia undoubtedly has all of the right elements to
become a global market leader, particularly in ethnic unity, provided they can improve their
policies. By being more imaginative with their policies, the government can move their
economy to the next level. The development of tangible and intangible ICT facilities should
also be improved and applied nationally across the cultural sector. Also, policies in creative
sectors remain unclear. Malaysian government and private sector have failed significantly in
allocating resources in remote and rural areas, instead allocating the bulk of funding and
infrastructure to metropolitan regions. Despite forming a special ministry to concentrate on
remote and rural areas, enforcement and implementation of policies are significantly weak.
Consequently, the Malaysian cultural tourism sector lags behind ICT-related fields like the
creative sector. Immediate measures should be implemented by the policymakers and
stakeholders in this matter because cultural tourism and the creative economy are important
for the development of the country. The government should strengthen their cultural policies
and produce clearer policies for creative sectors. This will raise Malaysia to a better regional
and global position.

Many contemporary producers acknowledge the importance of ICT in assisting them to

provide the products and services required by the market. Government, non-profit
organisational bodies, and traditional institutions are also applying ICT in day-to-day
administration, and in offering their products and services. Many cultural producers and
services use ICT to cater to the market demand, especially in attracting younger generations.

Although, the demand for traditional culture is strong, cultural producers applying ICT to their
products and services are gaining more attention from the market. At the same time, culture
plays an important part in ICT development. A strong cultural background will help individuals
to become more imaginative. Therefore, culture and modern elements like ICT are necessary
in any products and services that aim to remain competitive in a modern market.
LCP and PERZIM are strong industry examples of how culture and ICT have been used to
make their products and services more competitive in the market. Although there are many
potential improvements still to be implemented, these two organisations are the market
leaders in animation and museum sector in Malaysia and the surrounding region. Other
organisations in Malaysia and developing countries can use them as a role model to create
and implement more innovative ideas, in order to be different and unique in the market.
The cultural and creative industries need each other to make their products and services
competitive and sustainable. Without creativity, culture may face the possibility of extinction,
while individual creativity normally depends substantially on cultural background. The
combination of these two elements provides the best experience and satisfaction for
customers. Malaysia is rich enough in both elements to become competitive in creative
economy sectors, but there are many aspects of these sectors that need further study.

8.2.1 Cultural tourism in Malaysia


Over the last two decades, cultural tourism has become the most important tourism activity in

Malaysia. The visitor experience is the most significant element in cultural tourism sector due
to the intangible nature of the products and services. While the term, experience industries is
employed by some authors when describing the cultural tourism sector, cultural tourism is
more extensively utilised in Malaysia, and therefore is the preferred term for this research.
Two Malaysian cities hold the title of UNESCO World Cultural and Heritage site—Malacca and
George Town—and two parks designated UNESCO World Heritage Nature sites—Sabah
Kinabalu Park and Sarawak Niah Cave. The Malaysian tourism industry heavily depends on
their rich multiethnic and religious culture since they gained their independence from the
British in 1957.

But Malaysia’s multiethnicity and religion may also be threatened if careful measures are not

implemented in regards to delicate issues set in play by extremists and some western powers.
Violent racial tension already has occurred in Malaysia in 1961, and the government is taking
all measures to prevent a reoccurrence. Recently, some desperate politicians have used
ethnic and religion issues to increase their popularity, and to gain global attention and
sympathy. As a result, some western powers are pressuring Malaysia to govern according to
western standards, which shows that some individuals and countries question Malaysia’s
status as a democracy. They endeavour to impose their own order on developing countries,
and believe that western democracy can work in all countries, which fail to acknowledge what
has happened in China, Iraq, and Russia. This has made engendered anti-western sentiment
in many developing countries.

This strong anti-western attitude has swept through most Muslim countries. The image of the

west has been tarnished among the Muslim countries, particularly after the invasions of
Afghanistan and Iraq. Prior to these invasions, other incidents around the world had made
Muslim countries sceptical about the west, whose constant involvement in the internal issues
of other countries has made the developing countries become more protective. Global culture
or western (“Americanised”) culture is not welcomed by many governments in Asia, including
China, India, Malaysia, and Singapore, who initially resisted globalisation. However, they soon
realised globalisation is inevitable. Even when some of these countries try to censor popular
global websites or implement strict controls, there are always ways where people can access
to these websites. Censorship or strict controls in these countries prompt people to become
more technologically creative. Therefore these countries use the different approach of
blending global and local cultures into glocal culture.

The marriage between western and local culture have been applied by many governments in

Asia, including Malaysia. Normally, these countries maintain close relationships to their former
western colonisers. History shows that western countries colonised many countries by
becoming involved with their internal affairs, before slowly invading them. Using this tactic,
Britain colonised Malaysia (then known as Malaya), the Dutch colonised Indonesia, and
France colonised Africa. Hence, numerous historical sites and artefacts in many countries in
Asia and Africa have a background in western colonisation, which some people feel should
not be promoted. These groups feel that promoting colonial history offers a favourable view of
the colonisers. Therefore, any transformation of Malaysian cultural institutions requires care,
sensitivity, and even creativity. While cultural tourism growth in Malaysia is soaring, the
implementation of creativity in Malaysian museums is proceeding at a slow pace.

Any changes Malaysia’s museum sector take place through a time-consuming, complicated

process involving several stages. The majority of these institutions are administered by the
rules and regulations set by state or federal government agencies. Some rigid policies not only
affect the attendance rates, but also create difficulty in implementing change. For example, Kedah—the archaeology museum located in the oldest site in the country—is managed by the
state government, while administration and overlapping ministerial issues have left the
Merbok’s archaeological museum abandoned and unattended. Now, due to its poor condition,
the museum cannot be opened to visitors (Kasiman 2010). Malaysian archaeologists are still
finding new items on this site, which dates back to the eighth-century. This example highlights
wasted Malaysian government resources that were invested substantially in developing the
facilities and other infrastructure. Although the country has many tourism attraction products
with significant potential to attract local and international tourists, their main weakness lies in
poor administration and management of creativity. The museum sector in Malaysia needs
continuous support from the government, private companies, and the public, and a major
transformation to become competitive in the tourism industry. As Florida (2005) argues,
creative industries need creative governments, creative leadership, and creative communities
benefit a country’s socio-economic sector. This is what Malaysia market players,
policymakers, and stakeholders fail to keep up.

Compared to the animation sector in Malaysia, the museum sector in Malaysia is moving at a

slow pace, perhaps thirty years behind other developed countries like Canada, the US, and
the UK. Only in the last decade have Malaysian museums shifted their roles to become
modern government or privately-owned. They have begun to adopt some modern applications
such as ICT applications, and introduce new activities to provide memorable experience to
their visitors, particularly younger generations. The combination of traditional culture and ICT
can probably satisfy all types of market, and will attract a significant number of visitors. To give
an optimal maximum experience to visitors, and to make their products and services more
tangible, the museum sector needs significant ICT support. As a cultural institution compared
to other museums in Malaysia, PERZIM raised new and fresh ideas to attract tourists by
combining traditional and ICT elements. Their museums now remain competitive with other
tourism attractions in Malaysia and the region. Although they have close cultural similarities
with other neighbours—including Brunei, Indonesia, and Singapore—PERZIM’s museums
attract significant number of tourists from these countries, and consistently generate unique
and different programs and activities. The Malacca state government is effective in using all of
their resources and advantages.

As well as PERZIM’s proactive development in becoming modern museums, one of the main

reasons for PERZIM museums to receive substantial number of visitors is due to their
strategic location between Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur International Airport and
Singapore. Compared to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Georgetown and the two
UNESCO World Natural Sites in Sabah Kinabalu Park and Sarawak Niah Cave, little

promotion was available because of their distance from Kuala Lumpur.

Despite this proximity, the substantial numbers of visitors to PERZIM’s museums face
congestion and pollution during the peak times of weekends and public and school holidays.
The city is becoming congested with people and traffic. Also, compared to MoV, the effect of
PERZIM’s changes on their museums is considered minimal. Thus, a more substantial
transformation is needed to ensure competitiveness and sustainability. New features such as
souvenir shops, cafes and libraries should be considered, following the examples of museums
in US. While there are several museums in Malaysia that have shops and cafes (for example,
National Museum and Sarawak Museum), the number are insignificant. The Malaysian
government has to be flexible and offer more autonomy to museum management to plan their
direction, rather than follow strict rules and regulation from multiple government agencies. The
current model limits their creativity in expanding, and to make the best decisions for their
museums, particularly when these museums normally have to report to more than two
stakeholders. The traditional management style of the museum needs to change to make the
museums transform into efficient modern museums. While Malaysian museums have ample
collections of artefacts, they lack imagination and creativity in comparison to the rest of the
world.

8.2.2 Digital content sector in Malaysia


Since the late-1990s, creative industries have been regarded as the new economy model for

most governments in Malaysia. Recently, however, the relevance of this concept has been
called into question because of confusion surrounding the concept and its many definitions. In
countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, the creative industries are defined
differently, without including culture, particularly cultural tourism. With rapid changes in
technology, and recent global trend in creative industries development, however, these
countries have implemented major changes. More key players are started to include culture
and cultural tourism in their creative industries definition over the past decade (refer to
Cunningham 2002; Hartley 2005). There is even movement in UK to use the term creative
tourism (see Roadhouse 2006; Smith 2007), which acknowledges that culture can play a
major role in generating income, in particular by attracting international tourists. However,
since developing their own creative industries, most developing countries like Malaysia
consider culture and part of tourism activities as part of creative sectors. Developing countries
supplement their own local cultural elements with creative industries adapted from models
produced by developed countries. Thus, the development issues that they now facing may be
different to those faced by developed countries.

This is a competitive sector and products are easily to imitate. Although the first case study

highlights claims that LPC is involved in creative industries through animation, franchising and
merchandising, what they produce is not wholly original. This is secondary creativity because
creatives had produced similar products in Malaysia as early as 1978 (Mahamood 2001, 131;
Muthalib 2007). Nevertheless, animation products from Japan and the US are perhaps not
entirely original, because their products are inspired by other sources. Ironically, among the
earliest animated film—German animator, Lotte Reiniger’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed
(1926)—was inspired by Indonesian and Malaysian shadow puppet plays (Citizendia 2011).
The creation of purely original products is possibly unachievable, since creativity itself
normally relates to culture. While Malaysian animation products may not be examples of firstclass
creativity as Keane (2010) argues, almost no product can fit into this category. This
argument also applies to human culture where similarities can be seen from one community to
the other.

There are always markets for traditional and modern products and services. In the music

industry, the singers who sell millions of albums throughout the world are not necessarily
those who have a good voice, but rather produce good songs crafted with the latest
technology and marketed effectively. Singers like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber are two
examples of singers who may not have the best voice, but have managed to make a
significant impact on the music industry. These singers are imaginative in using modern
technology to produce their songs and to improve their voice. The same applies to films like
Avatar, which had a huge impact on the global film market by using advanced technology.
While not as effective in terms of acting and storytelling, these films have success with certain
audiences, particularly younger generation that appreciate technological innovation.
Developed countries have advanced technological facilities compared to developing nations
like Malaysia. One major problem Malaysia faces its Internet speed connection. Malaysia
Today (2009) identifies the country as having one of the slowest internet speeds in the world,
although in comparison to its regional neighbours, Malaysia’s position is fair. This problem has
discouraged companies from Australia and the US from investing in Malaysia. In recognising
this problem, the Malaysian government is looking seriously to upgrade the country’s Internet
infrastructure. One step is to investigate options to rent a direct line of internet connection to
Malaysia rather than stopping over in a number of countries (Azharuddin 2009). MDeC’s
multiple roles include assisting government and private companies in producing with the best
ICT solutions, actively marketing Malaysian products and services to the world, and
encouraging collaboration between local and international companies. MDeC brought LCP to
several major world events, and help them build new networks with companies from China,
and South Korea. MDeC also helped LCP market their animation series and 3D film to several
countries around Asia. This strategy is not without issues however.

Malaysia’s multiethnic culture has seen the domination of Malay films provoke argument

particularly by non-Malays about whether the industry is presenting the country fairly to the
world (Hoo 2006). This issue must be addressed carefully by the government because of its
sensitive nature. Other minorities in Malaysia like the Chinese and Indians already have
options to watch Chinese or Indian films produced from China and India. Limited buying power
in Malaysia and competition from Chinese and Indian films mean that it may not be cost
effective for Malaysian Chinese and Indians to produce their own films. Also, there are many
Malaysian Chinese and Indian producers producing television series for local television
channels. The main concern in the event that the Malaysian film sector is controlled by
minority ethnics—Malaysian Chinese or Indian—is whether the films will represent Malaysia
faithfully. Therefore, Malaysia’s film and music sectors face a significant dilemma where their
markets are small and segregated by the ethnic minorities. This creates difficulties for uniting
the Malaysian people, and it is not surprising that even though they were born and raised in
the country most Chinese and Indian in Malaysia cannot effectively speak Malay. Some of
Malaysian people are having identity crisis, and consequently opt for the comfort of western
culture.

The question of national identity arose in Malaysian animation because of the government’s

directive and public opinion that local cartoons should be of high quality and contain eastern
cultural values, mainly to counter the negative values contained in foreign animation. In order
to project didactic values and moral lessons, local animation producers have turned to
traditional literature for inspiration, and have opted for non-violent visual presentations. The
intention of many governmental policies, including the National Culture Policy, is to achieve
racial harmony, therefore characters in Malaysian animation are often multiracial, representing
the three major ethnic groups of Malays, Chinese and Indians. Apart from the depiction of
rural scenes with Malay houses on stilts amid huge rice fields, urban landscapes that feature
recognisable buildings and the LRT system in Kuala Lumpur act as symbols of a progressive
country. But local companies who do not want to follow Malaysian government rules and
regulations have to find their own financial resources. For example, Igloo Digital Arts—a
pioneer of 3D animation technique and computer games in Malaysia—finance their projects
through outsourcing. Their products have limited Malaysian cultural features since they are
catering more for the global market (Fig. 8.2.2). As a result, their name is less popular than
LCP in Malaysia.

Figure 8.2.2: Computer game character by Igloo Digital Arts

(Igloo Digital Arts 2011)

Even though promising local and international markets may help boost the production of

domestic animation, many improvements must be made by local animators and producers if
they are to succeed internationally. Apart from striving for technical finesse, they have to solve
cultural dilemmas in the creation of characters and stories, for it is indeed a serious challenge
to animate for an international market while maintaining a Malaysian identity, and still adhere
to government directives. Popular Malaysian cartoonist-turned-animator, Khalid (2001, 154)
faced cultural differences when his Kampung Boy characters was adapted to television, and
when he collaborated with companies in the US and the Philippines. There is an obvious
influence of traditional literature in Malaysian culture, as many animated television series and
films were inspired by folktales and written literature (Mahmood 2001, 131). Malaysian
animated cartoons also deal with contemporary subjects, incorporating renditions of daily life.
On the other hand, the influence of foreign animation manifests itself through the use of the
superhero characters and plots, as well as through the adaptation of formalistic features and
characters. All of these factors contribute to the form and content of Malaysian animation, in
the process lending it a Malaysian identity.

8.2.3 Other important issues

This project also identified a number of other important issues relating to creative economy

development in Malaysia.

Piracy and copyright problems


Piracy and copyright issues were mentioned briefly in earlier chapters. The UNCTAD Report

(2008) identifies piracy and copyright as the significant problems faced by developing
countries in terms of their creative economy. Piracy remains a major threat for many
developing and developed countries. Copyright theft lost the US film industry USD$3-billion in
2002, and the rapid development of IT makes this problem even more challenging to control
(Yar 2005). Figures from International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) identify piracy levels
exceeded more than 90 per cent in developing nations including China, Ukraine, Indonesia,
Columbia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Pakistan, Kuwait, Romania and Bolivia, and industry
stakeholders regard this phenomenon as an “epidemic”.

In Malaysia every year, key sectors such as music, film, and publication lost million of ringgit

to piracy. The more popular the music, film or publication, the more piracy occurred for these
products. Currently, the popular Malaysian animated film, Geng: Pengembaraan Bermula—
which earned six million ringgit at the box office—is facing piracy problems. Pirate companies
not only reproduced the DVD, but also copied the original packaging, including the hologram
sticker from the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism (MDTC). This
sticker is supposed to difficult to forge, and serves as MDTC’s endorsement of an original
product. This alone demonstrates that pirate companies themselves are becoming creative
with IT. According to the Managing Director of LCP, the pirate version of the DVD is on sale
even at authorised shops all around the country (Mahmud 2010).

This is not a new problem in Malaysia. The music sector in Malaysia has waged a long battle

with piracy. While the Malaysia government has tried to improve their policy and enforcement
on this issue, piracy is still the major challenge for the country. Joint efforts by the local
enforcement authorities, including the police force, MDTC and customs are occasionally
conducted, and in 2008, Malaysia joined WIPO to protect the sectors directly involved in IP
products and services to strengthen their creative industries. But the subjectivity and
intangible nature of creative economy products and services mean that it is hard to control
copyright and patenting, and to register IP. This problem also relates to the weaknesses of
implementation and enforcement by Malaysian local authority.

Implementation and Enforcement weaknesses

The local authorities such as the police and customs play a significant role in enforcing

government policies. At the same time, private companies must also work together with the
government to smooth implementation and enforcement. The public can play an active role
too particularly in reporting any misconduct, and not supporting the illegal activities. If the
government, private and public work together, they will become stronger in exchanging useful
information, and will be able to stop the crime from happening. The Malaysian government
faced criticism for not being transparent enough with their decisions, particularly in the
tendering process for granting megaprojects to private companies. In addition, government
staff members are accused regularly by the public of being passive and unmotivated.
However, this stigma is slowly changing as improvements in ICT are implemented in Malaysia.
Major transformation has been apparent in government services over the past five years.
Today, Malaysia has many consumer NGOs protecting local consumers, and many
associations exist to protect manufacturers and producers. Since the 1990s, policy
implementation and enforcement by Malaysian government agencies has improved. ICT
growth has made policies much easier to implement and enforce, and the government
occasionally offers incentives and salary increments to government staff and enforcement
agencies to discourage misconduct like accepting bribes to improve their lifestyle.
Lack of funding

Funding is one of the major problems of developing nations in developing new sectors like

creative economy. Developing nations face a dilemma about whether to promote their creative
activities or other important traditional sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing for the
country’s socio-economy growth. Therefore, most developing countries use cultural tourism as
an important resource to develop their creative economy, which requires less financial
assistance, since culture is an existing natural resource, whereas other sectors may need
more funding to build facilities and infrastructures. The Malaysian government has allocated
significant funds for the development of creative sectors, but compared to developed countries
the facilities and infrastructure of the creative economy in Malaysia still need major
improvement.

Censorship

Most Malaysians value their culture, especially in the face of western and globalisation

influences. This is evident in the significant response from audiences of music and television
programs with strong Islamic influences. All local and imported content products marketed in
Malaysia need to pass the censorship board. Obscene lyrics, materials, and scenes are
censored or banned in Malaysian market. For example, almost daily the local newspapers
feature stories about technological advancements, and the government's efforts to make
Malaysia an international centre for multimedia development and distribution. Yet they are
also filled with editorial comments and quotations from government officials cautioning the
populace about the importance of safeguarding the moral values of their society. While the
Malaysian censorship board is less strict than those in other Muslim countries like Iran, Oman
and Saudi Arabia, products from Iran facing even stricter rules and regulation at home are
more successful in the market compared to those subject to Malaysia’s less strict rules and
regulation. The rapid development of global ICT means that censorship can only applied on
electronic and printing media, while content on the Internet is rarely subject to censorship.
Some non-Muslim (and some Muslim) creatives in Malaysia feel this censorship rules and
regulation impede their creativity. While Malaysian culture openly recognises their major
religions—Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu—and ethnic divisions—Malay, Chinese and Indian—
some with liberal beliefs may find it hard to practise their creativity. This group of people
regularly criticise the strict rules and regulation imposed by the Malaysian government. Some
practise their creativity outside Malaysia, while others protest using other means including
Youtube and Facebook.

8.2.4 Malaysia’s position in the global creative economy


While developed country definitions of creative economy may differ from those of developing

nations, all agree that culture and creative industries are significant elements within the
concept of a creative economy. The Malaysian definition of a creative economy is similar to
other developing countries, which use the UNCTAD definition, and also with some countries in
Europe, while Australia, New Zealand lean towards the definition of creative industries in used
in the UK. Applying the model of domains of creativity described by Mitchell et al. (2003),
Malaysia’s creative economy development since establishing the MSC has involved all four
domains. This is based on Malaysia’s recognition that to become a developed country they
have to develop their creative sectors like other developed countries.

This research argues that Malaysia and other developing countries do not have to follow the
developed countries model, because what works for one country may not work for another.
However, the models used by developed countries can influence the creation of new models
in developing countries. Hence, when most developing countries included cultural tourism and
heritage as part of their creative economy, they are playing to their advantages and strengths.
While some scholars may not be happy with the inclusion of cultural tourism and heritage in
creative economy sectors, it is not entirely wrong to do so. With more sectors promoting
multidiscipline research and work, this inclusion is timely. However, there is little research on
the connection between tourism, ICT, and the creative sector. In tourism alone in 2009, a
special issue of the top-tiered journal, Tourism Analysis focused on the close link between
tourism and technology. This idea was taken from the first Annual Conference of the Travel
and Tourism Research Association (TTRA) in Europe, and was based on the realisation that
tourism and technology constitute the two main economic drivers in Europe (Dimanche & Jolly
2009). The journal published six papers that examined the close relationship between mobility,
technology, and tourism from their unique perspectives.

Moreover, the key player in the global creative economy is the private sector, which is

primarily comprised of SMEs. The 2001 World Bank Review establishes the significant role of
SMEs as a core element in fostering economic growth, employment, and poverty alleviation.
In developed and developing countries, the SMEs sector is identified as the foundation for
economic growth. Although there are differences within SMEs groupings in the literature, there
are many similarities: these companies are considered flexible enterprises (Levy & Powell
1998) they are generally constrained by availability of resources (Fariselli, Oughton, Picory &
Sugden 1999; Swartz & Boaden 1997); and they have less access to technological
information than larger organisations (De Berranger & Meldrum 2000). There are many global
problems identified with SMEs companies, hence, they tend to harbour a distrust of
government initiatives (Harrer, Weijo & Hatrup 1988; Bannock 1992; Yap, Thong & Raman
1994). All of these problems happen because of unclear aims and objectives, lack of support,
poor value for money, and lack of understanding of the nature of, and constraints experienced
by small businesses (De Berranger & Meldrum 2000).

Malaysia SMEs face similar problems, and the government assists them by giving financial,

training and other support. In creative sectors, the government established the MDeC, among
others, to look after the SMEs companies involved in creative sectors. Over the past fifteen
years, the growth of SMEs companies involved in content products and services increased
significantly. Some began by imitating popular content products like animation and anime from
Japan, and film and music from the US; this is a global rather than local phenomenon. For
example, rap music now belongs not only to African-Americans; almost all countries in the
world have their own rap groups. Youtube offers evidence of rap groups in Palestine, China,
and India. The creative economies of developed countries in the region—including the
creatively advanced Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan—also began through
imitation. Globalisation now means that one culture does not exclusively belong to one ethic
group. Mixed culture can be seen and felt all over the world, especially in large metropolises
like Dubai, Jakarta, London, Kuala Lumpur, New York, Singapore, and Tokyo.

8.3 Recommendations


From the discussion made in this chapter, I would like to make recommendations relating to

this topic. These recommendations hopefully will be able to assist the stakeholders and other
researchers to strengthen and have better understanding on the concept of creative economy,
and inspire future research relating to this under-researched topic.

Government and Private sectors


The Malaysian government should become proactive in supporting the development of the

creative economy by producing policies that are more transparent and less political.
Continuous support should be given for the development of this new sector and more
dialogue, seminars, and workshop are needed to raise public awareness. Proper training and
exposure for government and private staff will benefit this sector.

Rather than work independently, private and government organisations need to collaborate in

developing this sector to achieve their plans at a faster pace. The stronger their connection is,
the faster this new sector will grow. To evolve effectively, a newly implemented concept like
the creative economy requires a close relationship between market players and government
stakeholders. This closeness allows each party to understand each other better, and they can
plan the future of the creative economy together, and devise a quality product and service that
is attractive to the local market. The full support of locals contributes to a strong foundation for
the products to go international. However, local products must be competitive and at par with
other products in the market.

Thus, it is important for Malaysia to have highly qualified human resources. At the moment,

the country is having difficulties to retaining their professionals because of the competitive
global job market, particularly in developed countries. The other main reason Malaysia tends
to lose its professional human resource is because of strict citizenship rules and regulation.
Unlike countries like Australia, India, and the UK, Malaysia does not allow their citizen to have
dual citizenship. Thus, some Malaysian professionals—particularly those who have successful
career outside the country—have relinquished their Malaysian citizenship. Meanwhile,
professionals from Australia, India and the UK maintain their dual citizenship and serve both
countries. This creates a drain of highly skilled human resources from Malaysia to other
countries. Therefore, the government needs to re-examine its policies on this matter.
Public

Malaysians often can be the hardest people to predict and satisfy. They are known to be

critical of local products, but tend to have high respect for international products, particularly
from the developed countries (refer Muthalib 2007). Local animation still lacks an adult
audience, as the medium is still seen as catering only to children. Animation for adults is still
far odd, as the general consensus is that Malaysian animators are still not capable of
producing acceptable films. Even with the expertise, there currently is no local market (Khalid
2001; Mahamood 2001; Muthalib 2007). Thus, the Malaysian public needs to show faith in,
and support their local products and services. Like Indonesian and Indian viewers, Malaysians
should be more patriotic and embrace their local products and services. Public support will
help this sector to expand significantly. Malaysian trust of local products will help other
markets to trust the products.

8.3.1 Recommendations for future researchers


The novelty and lack of understanding of the Malaysian creative economy exposes many

areas that still need further attention. Future researchers should examine issues surrounding
this topic, perhaps from different points of view, and consulting different people, including
policymakers and the public. This will allow more comparisons and can provide useful
knowledge in the literature. Different methodology approaches should also be applied to
obtain robust data relating to this topic, and the mixed method is highly recommended in order
to gain quality research findings. Future research could also work to construct definitive
models and theory regarding the growth of creative economies in developing countries.
Since cultures play a significant role in Malaysia, solid research into Malaysian culture and its
relation to creative sectors—for example, the acquisition of technical skills from the west and
the region; a clear vision of the messages conveyed in content; and the awareness that
animation, like cartooning, is a legitimate artistic field—needs to be approached seriously.
Feedback from viewers and visitors should also be studied to understand the market better.
Established models or theories from other fields like economy, marketing, and management
may be tested in order to build a strong theory for the concept of the creative economy.

8.4 Study Limitations


Time constraints dictated that this study could only conduct two case studies in Malaysia.

Apart from personal interviews, other research methods were not possible because they
require longer periods of data collection. Comparison between the two organisations in
Malaysia with two case studies in Hong Kong and Canada could only be done through
electronic data collection, therefore secondary data was examined. Also, the numbers of
respondents were small, and only organisation staff members were interviewed. Hence, the
opinions visitors, viewers, and other stakeholders were not included in this study. Future
research should include these groups, and other local competitors, including George Town,
Penang and Sarawak Museum, and other international museums to gather more reliable and
robust data.

Thus the major problem in doing this topic was obtaining reliable data, particularly about the

Malaysian animation and cultural tourism sectors. Despite this, the case study approach in this
research obtained a rich data set from the organisations involved. Data relating to this topic is
significantly limited in the literature, and to date there are no strong academic discourses.
The limited data from these case studies restricted this project’s ability to generalise about
wider trends or build new theories. The findings of this thesis are based on the experience of
two organisations, and offer greater knowledge about the development of a creative economy
in Malaysia. This study will add to the significant gap existing in regards to this topic in
Malaysia and other developing countries. As one of the first research studies examining the
issues of the creative economy in Malaysia, this research makes a significant contribution to
an emerging field of academic enquiry.

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