Connecticut eyeing the local emerging market - Abdullah Ahmad




June 15 1997



After paying our respects to Nathan Hale, we were received by John Rowland the Governor of Connecticut, at his office in the Capitol in Hartford, the state capital, where we discussed for 30 minutes business opportunities in Malaysia and Connecticut, and a bit of everything else, including Malaysian and American politics.

Who was Nathan Hale? He was a 21-year old school teacher who became a spy for George Washington during the American War of Independence. Betrayed and captured, he was hanged by the British in Manhattan. He uttered these famous words before he died: "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

These words are inscribed on the granite base of Hale's statue in the atrium of the state capitol. A brave young man, he was declared Connecticut's national hero.

Last Monday I joined my colleague and old friend Dali M. Hashim, our Ambassador to the United States, for a day on his tour of Connecticut which was to last for nine days, including four days of road shows. Rowland said to Dali: "When the tour is over, you would have covered every city and town in our small state."

Connecticut is 5,544 square miles in area, making it the third smallest state in the United States. It has a population of 3.2 million which makes it the 27th most populous state. Dali was leading a Malaysian delegation to expand business between Connecticut and Malaysian firms in Connecticut, in Malaysia and jointly in other markets around the world.

This is a prelude to a drive which will be extended to other New England states to acquaint American businessmen and investors with Malaysia and its economic potential. The road shows are jointly coordinated by S.H. Hirth Associates of New York and Paddy Schubert Sdn Bhd of Kuala Lumpur, with the generous assistance of Malaysia Airlines.

In our honour, the Malaysian flag - which looks almost like the American flag - was flown on the top of the state Capitol. Our flag fluttered briefly then drooped as the wind flagged. Rowland said as far as he could recall this was the first time the Malaysian flag was ever hoisted at the Capitol since the present Victorian High Gothic-style State House was built in 1878. It was a great honour for us - just five days before the American Flag Day - June 14 is the anniversary of the adoption of the Stars and Stripes in 1777.

Why Connecticut? Dali told a luncheon meeting organised by the state's Council of World Affairs: "I have selected Connecticut as the starting point of this initiative (to promote business) because one word seems to characterise the nature of the state and the people of Connecticut: ingenuity."

"We in Malaysia, in our march forwards, have always adopted an open mind and with a deep awareness of the need to learn from others. Our need for ingenuity, creativity and innovation has been made all the more acute as Malaysia enters the Information Age and the creation of the Multimedia Super Corridor.

"As Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad says, we need American vision, creativity, entrepreneurship and skills to give life to the Multimedia Super Corridor."

I had visited Hartford twice before this trip. Connecticut is strong in financial services, insurance, manufacturing of aircraft engines and parts, helicopters, computers, pharmaceutical, medical and electrical instruments, electronics and submarines. Connecticut is the home of the United States Coast Guard Academy and an important United States Navy Submarine Base.

New Haven, the former capital of Connecticut, is the home of Yale University (founded in 1701). Yale is a famous institution of higher learning patterned after Cambridge and Oxford, second only to Harvard, founded by John Harvard of Cambridge University in 1639.

Dali's particular aim is to attract Connecticut capital and money to invest in Malaysia. We require at least RM 100 billion between now and 2005, RM 23 billion of which, from the private sector, to finance the enhancing of our telecommunications, roads, railways, airports and energy industries.

Dali's entourage included officials from Malaysian Airlines, Matrade, Mida, the Consulate-General and the Malaysian Tourist office in New York.

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