Saturday, 1 March 2008

Wealth of Knowledge and Talents

A close friend recently had his co-authored paper published. Written on China and published in Hong Kong, the paper is a product of two Malaysians. Titled: The External Wealth of China: An Investigation from the International Balance Sheet Perspective (Sheng and Ng, 2008, Hong Kong Institute of Monetary Research, WP 01/08), the paper is very short and readable (i.e., highly non-technical), but insightful nonetheless as it emphasised on a new perspective of looking at economies.

The Paper

This short paper is actually based on a longer piece of work done on Malaysia two years ago by the authors. The unpublished draft of the original research is still available here: The External Wealth of Malaysia (Sheng and Ng, 2006). In my opinion, the original work is more in-depth, detailed and insightful, especially given that it was written two years ago.

Unfortunately, existing channels for publishing properly peer-reviewed papers are so limited and inadequate in Malaysia, the paper never had a chance to be published. It was eventually rewritten to emphasise on China instead of Malaysia and was submitted to the Hong Kong Institute of Monetary Research for publication as a working paper.

This makes me think of all the silly rhetorics on turning Malaysia into a Knowledge Economy and producing Nobel Laureates by 2057, and ponders the tragic irony that is the reality.

The Main Author

The irony alluded to above fits perfectly well into the life of the main author of the paper, Andrew Sheng. He is perhaps the most impressive self-made global technocrat from Malaysia alive today, and at the same time, the most locally under-appreciated one. Ask any Malaysians if they know who Andrew Sheng is, and chances are, you will get a blank stare.

Andrew Sheng is a Sabah boy who begun his career in Radio Malaysia. He then worked for close to two decades in Bank Negara Malaysia, and became a legend in the Central Bank for his brilliance and leadership quality. His highest position was as the Assistant Governor and Chief Economist of the Central Bank.

Unfortunately, his development was clearly arrested in Bank Negara and Malaysia overall. The position he held was as high as he could go in his own country. He was soon seconded to World Bank in Washington as a Senior Manager, and eventually given the position of the second in command of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the "Bank Negara" of Hong Kong. He was in the crisis rescue team for Hong Kong when the financial crisis unravelled in 1997, and was awarded the Silver Bauhinia Star for his service. Soon after, he was then promoted to be the Chairman of the Hong Kong Futures and Securities Commission, essentially becoming the chief regulator of the biggest financial market in the Asia.

Retired, he is now an adjunct professor in Tsinghua University, Beijing and Chief Advisor of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, contributing regular articles and short pieces in publications such as International Herald Tribune, IMF Finance and Development and Caijing Magazine.

One can't help but to wonder what he could have achieved, and the opportunities Malaysia could have given him if he had chosen to remain in the country. It is sad that the greatest Malaysians are often those whom are not in Malaysia.

Come to think of it, the title of the original paper is ironically apt: The External Wealth of Malaysia.




Benkaiser said...

I know who is Andrew Sheng for more than a decade even though I am only 23 yrs old.

1997 was turning point for my family which got me interested in economics and finance and that's how Andrew came to my attention. He is a brilliant man, indeed.

And yes, I agree with you that many Malaysians don't know who is he.

elegant lily said...

it is not exactly true that it is difficult to publish peer-reviewed papers in Malaysia.papers could be submitted to any international or regional refereed journals online or as electronic attachments in email to the respective journal editors.examples of appropriate journals that might be interested in publishing such papers as that mentioned in your blog include Asian-pacific Economic Literature, Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy and ASEAN Economic Bulletin, to name a few.

it is also not true to say that peer-reviewed publications are under-prioritised in Malaysia. Monash and Nottingham (Malaysian campus) heavily prioritise refereed journal publications. in fact promotions are based on such scholarly achievements.

if you are saying that there is a lack of think-tanks or research institutions where good ideas or working papers can be featured, you are right. Research on central banking is supposed to be 'outsourced' to SEACEN, but they don't seem to be very research active. MIER does not publish any scholarly research papers at all.There isn't any think-tank in Malaysia equivalent to institutions such as Institute of Fiscal Studies, which was extremely critical of Gordon Brown's budgets.

Anonymous said...

Hi Elanor, I would wish to read the unpublished paper "The External Wealth of Malaysia (Sheng and Ng, 2006)"; but the link you put up there doesn't seem to exist anymore. Not sure if you would mind to send me a copy of that paper? My email is Thanks in advance.