The Unlikely Return of Cat Stevens

September 17, 2017

The Unlikely Return of Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens was giving us back the songs he’d taken away so many years ago. He was, after all this time, validating their worth again, and with it, our love for them.

Photograph by Matt Writtle / eyevine / Redux

Early in a Cat Stevens, a.k.a. Yusuf Islam, a.k.a. Yusuf/Cat Stevens, concert in Boston a couple of years ago, there was a hushed pause in the room as the then sixty-six-year-old performer waited for a stagehand to bring him a guitar in between songs. “I’m really happy to be here!” the singer suddenly exclaimed. It did not sound like ersatz show-biz banter; it sounded humble, childlike even, as if he himself were surprised by the emotion. It sounded like capitulation. The crowd, in response, rose to its feet en masse, producing a sound that was more than just a cheer. It was an embrace. It was an acknowledgment by artist and audience alike: Cat Stevens, a figure who, for all intents and purposes, had ceased to exist more than three decades ago, had come back.

For a long time, it has been hard to love the man once known (and now known again) as Cat Stevens. In the years since he formally retired from the popular music world, in 1978, his name has popped up in the media from time to time. He would be quoted, or seen in a video-clip interview, and it was difficult to accept the visage of the person whom he now presented himself as—to reconcile this cold, humorless, unhappy, and severe-looking man with the joyful, understanding, goofy, wise songwriter whose music we’d known and loved. For a long time, the man who’d changed his name to Yusuf Islam had completely disowned his artistic output as Cat Stevens—a confusing, dispiriting slap in the face to those it once meant a great deal to.

The man who was Cat Stevens ran Islamic schools for children, spreading the word of Allah, and acted as a spokesperson for Islam. After a while, he began making some children’s albums, but he wasn’t playing the guitar, and the music was not for his traditional fan base. In interviews, he sounded defensive and removed. Some remarks attributed to him seemed to be in line with some of the more distasteful prejudices of orthodox Islam.

Then, in 2006, came “An Other Cup,” his first album of commercial music in twenty-eight years. He’d dropped his adopted last name of Islam, and was now calling himself, simply, Yusuf. Something had shifted, certainly. How welcome it was to hear that voice with that guitar again, after all these years. Still, the album’s opening track, “Midday (Avoid City After Dark),” set a tone of unease, paranoia, and judgment that never really lifted. Elsewhere on the recording, there was a revisit to a much earlier composition (“I Think I See the Light”) and an interesting (if forced-sounding) reworking of a section of his “Foreigner Suite” (“Heaven/Where True Love Goes”), but the bulk of the album felt earthbound. Nowhere was there the joie de vivre that inhabited his best work. The follow-up, “Roadsinger,” in 2009, sounded fresher, but still unconvincing. Which was it—was he wary of us, or we of him? There seemed to be skepticism and distrust on both sides.

Some live performances began to appear here and there online. Yusuf was steadfast about not playing any old Cat Stevens material, save for a select few songs that he could justify in the context of his religious path, such as “The Wind” and “Peace Train.” He had collaborated on a musical called “Moonshadow” that featured actors singing some of his old songs and was having a run in Australia. It proved a critical and financial flop.

I paid attention to all of this because, unhip as this may be to admit, the music of Cat Stevens once meant a great deal to me. I did not grow up listening to it, per se (I was too young), but his music became the soundtrack to my adolescence when I watched “Harold and Maude” for the first time, and my world changed. I went out and got a guitar. I listened to Cat Stevens obsessively, played and sang his songs with friends, hunted down all of his albums. While it was clear that he’d lost his way artistically on later albums like “Numbers” and “Izitso,” the earlier, classic albums that he’s still known for (“Mona Bone Jakon” through “Foreigner”) were full of treasures that could be mined again and again. Indelible melodies, beautiful production, emotionally committed performances, and, most of all, a gentle wisdom, a repudiation of the status quo, a sense that we were not alone. Here was someone who was trying to make sense of life, too; he may not have had the answers, but he was looking for them, and we were encouraged to join him. Here was a friend.

Of course, I quickly learned that Cat Stevens had already ceased to be. My adolescent soul despaired, knowing that there would be no more Cat Stevens albums, no more Cat Stevens concerts. The man who had become a hero to me had long since retired from the music world.

In time, his music, too, would fade from my consciousness. As I grew and matured, so did my musical tastes and sensibilities. I might reach for a Cat Stevens album on rare occasions, to remind myself of something that I’d once treasured, sometimes surprised that a song or album held up as strongly as it did, but his music was no longer a living thing for me. I paid attention when he came out of retirement with the two Yusuf albums, and listened to each of them a handful of times with attendant hopes and (it seemed) inevitable disappointment. It was hard to get excited about his music now. The voice was the same, but the spirit was changed, different, unwelcoming.

Nevertheless, when it was announced, in late 2014, that he was going to perform in America for the first time in thirty-eight years, I put my misgivings aside and became a teen-ager again, queueing up for tickets on the phone the morning they went on sale. I did not listen to his latest album, “Tell ‘Em I’m Gone,” nor did I look for any news about the kinds of shows that he’d been playing of late. I simply drove up to Boston to see my old hero, expectations dimmed to almost nothing. I imagined that there I would see Yusuf Islam, delivering a respectful program of his latter-day music, with perhaps one or two old favorites thrown in as crowd appeasement. I wasn’t going for Yusuf Islam. I was going to pay homage to the singer who had once meant so much to me, for the chance to simply be in the same room with him for the first (and what I assumed would be the last) time.

It has taken some time for me to think clearly about what it was like to be at that show. What happened there was more than just a good concert given by a group of well-rehearsed, talented musicians, backing a pop icon on a comeback tour, though it was partly that. It was more than just a nostalgic trip down memory lane, as a sold-out crowd sang along to songs that many (including myself) never expected to hear played live again, though it was partly that, too. Without resorting to hyperbole, being there, for me, was an unexpected catharsis, something like seeing a ghost.

I didn’t know, until I got there, that the singer was now billing himself with the ungainly but revealing name of Yusuf/Cat Stevens. Was he now acknowledging his former self? This was a surprise, the first of many that the evening would hold.

The once and future Cat Stevens walked onstage to a tremendous ovation (no surprise there) and launched into a solo performance of “The Wind.” O.K., in some way, this was what we’d all come for, and here he’d already given it to us. All the latter-day Yusuf stuff would follow, we’d give him some hearty applause at the encore, and that would be that—or so I thought. What was this, though? He was wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket—not the austere, devotional garb he’d worn in the (admittedly not so recent) appearances that I’d seen him do online. And the stage set—it was elaborate, whimsical, evocative of the old Cat, whose tastes sometimes crossed the line into outright silliness. Most significantly, though, he himself seemed engaged, connected, and—hardest to believe—lighthearted.

“Here Comes My Baby” and “The First Cut Is the Deepest” followed, two pop hits from the infancy of his career, both secular love songs, both jarring surprises. “Thinking ‘Bout You” followed, a more recent song of love and devotion, but it was buoyed by an energy and commitment that sustained the freshness of what had come before, and served as a bridge to the first real shock of the night, as the singer made his way to a piano at the side of the stage and, unaccompanied, launched into the opening strains of “Sitting,” and the crowd seemed to collectively gasp before erupting into joyous, grateful cheers. Here he was again. Cat Stevens. Questioning, seeking, proudly admitting that he did not have the answers, but that he was on his way to find them. Our companion, our friend, had returned.

It was the first of what would be many goosebump-inducing moments in the generous, two-part concert. He followed it with “Last Love Song,” from 1978’s obscure (and mostly uninspired-sounding) “Back to Earth,” the mere fact that he was exploring and reclaiming obscurities from his back catalogue speaking volumes. By the time he reached the end of the first set, closing it with “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out,” the message was clear—something had happened. He was giving us back the songs he’d taken away so many years ago. He was, after all this time, validating their worth again, and with it, our love for them. After insisting for so many years, as Yusuf Islam, that there was only one way, only one truth, one law, one path, he’d relented. He was giving us permission, again, to do and think and live how we wanted. And he seemed genuinely happy saying and singing it.

The second set held even more surprises, as song after song from the old œuvre was brought back to life. “Oh Very Young,” “Sad Lisa,” “Miles from Nowhere” (I have my freedom / I can make my own rules / Oh yeah, the ones that I choose). They were presented, for the most part, as set pieces, with hardly any improvisation at all, but that didn’t matter. The faithful Alun Davies was there on lead acoustic guitar, as he has been since 1970. Matt Sweeney was a welcome addition on electric guitar, adding a pinch of verve and danger to the mix, but if old concert footage is any indication, Cat Stevens was never one for taking too many risks onstage musically, choosing instead to eschew spontaneity in deference to the arrangements on his studio recordings.

It was touching to hear the singer-songwriter still tinkering with that beautiful failure “Foreigner Suite,” still trying to get it right. Classics such as “Where Do the Children Play?” and “Trouble” brought with them a great sadness; confronted with the simplicity, the naïveté even, of the sentiments in these gentle lyrics, it was impossible not to think of how the world has changed and darkened since these songs were written and last performed. Even “Moonshadow,” that lullaby of Buddhist acceptance, carried with it the sting of longing for less dire times.

Being at that concert, hearing those songs again, sung with conviction by that man, was like being allowed to spend a night in one’s childhood home, with everything back the way that it was from some preëxistential, innocent moment—with even one’s family members frozen in time the way that they were decades ago. For me, it was eerie, spooky, unsettling, like Emily’s return from the dead in “Our Town.”

At the end of each of these old songs, there was that same sustained applause that followed his aside, early in the show, about how happy he was to be there. It’s a sound I keep coming back to in my mind when I think about the experience of being at that concert, a sound distinct from any that I think I have ever heard. It was an entity, a palpable force, as though the emotion behind every voice and every pair of hands could be heard. There was a sort of desperate celebration to it. It was the sound of reconciliation, of gratitude, of forgiveness.

Yusuf/Cat Stevens has a new album coming out this week, called “A Laughing Apple,” and more tour dates have been announced. I have not heard the new recording yet, but news of its release has led me to reflect on that night, when it felt as though this shape-shifting performer had brought someone we once loved back from the dead, a phantom from another time, and with that act offered tacit acknowledgment that we’re so much better together than we are apart. It’s a notion as naïvely idealistic as any he ever gave us; an echo from the past, finding its way to us past a wall that is, miraculously, no longer there

Howard Fishman is a writer, performer, and composer based in Brooklyn,  New York.


A Britisher in Philadelphia: Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to the Republicans

January 27, 2017

A Britisher in Philadelphia: Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to the Republicans

The first foreign leader to visit Donald Trump, Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to Republicans on her country’s special relationship with the United States, bringing back memories of Ronald Reagan and Dame Margaret Thatcher.  Listen to this eloquent leader who is a “conservative”, not a populist. We are not sure about political leanings of President Donald Trump except to note that the 45th President of the United States is all about America First and Making America Great Again.–Din Merican

Your Weekend with The Best of Bread (1973)

April 16, 2016

Your  Weekend with The Best of Bread

It is indeed great to play songs of a bygone era for your weekend entertainment, our friends. Enjoy your Freedom but never take it for granted. It has to fought and defended  against those who abuse their electoral mandate at home here in Malaysia and elsewhere. We also dedicate songs by Bread to our good friend, Haris Ibrahim, who may have to go jail for sedition.

Bread, a vocal group of 1970s, led by singer and composer, David Gates, makes good music. You can look back to 46 years and reflect on what the world was like then. Technology and the Internet  have transformed our lives and changed the way communicate to another. No Facebook,no Twitter and so on, way back then and we were spared the agony of having to bear the twitts of our fawning Inspector-General  Police.

Our beloved Prime Minister, Najib Razak would have had an easy time with the 1MDB scandal,  and the unfolding lies and spins, the latest one being the statement by the youthful looking Saudi Foreign Minister. Forget all that, just enjoy your weekend with Bread.–Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican

1MBD Scandal: Seeking the truth is a crime, only in Najib’s Malaysia

July 19, 2015

WATCH and LISTEN to this Youtube –PKR’s Wong Chen

COMMENT: Well done, Joe for your article. I am at loss for adjectives, phrases, words, and labels to describe whatKamsiah and Din 2015 CNY is happening in Malaysia. Our government and public officials are not trying to resolve the 1MDB financial scandal with the facts so that we can begin to solve the sovereign fund’s massive debt problem (Rm42 billion is not peanuts by any measure).

We have read statements from the Prime Minister, his ministers and public officials, the Public Accounts Committee Chairman and opposition politicians but they all add to nothing on the IMDB’s situation. Confusion reigns when facts and fiction are one and the same thing.

As far as the government is concerned, its priority is to ensure that the Prime Minister Najib’s political career is protected since his defenders have a vested interest  in ensuring that he remains in power. A lot of goodies is available for their picking. As a nation, we are not going Greece’s way any time soon, only heading in that direction.

Ascertaining and verifying facts takes a back seat. Cover-ups, yes. Those who seeks facts are made to look like criminals. So any attempt to get to the bottom of the scandal is a crime.  Are we as  a nation  a bunch of perverts? I am beginning to realise that we indeed are. We can no longer  distinguish between right and wrong. Those who we put in positions of high responsibility and trust have failed us by sucking up to Najib.

Those of us who speak up and offer constructive non-partisan views are damned. The Inspector-General of Police, for example, is interested in arresting those who seek to expose 1MDB’s mismanagement of borrowed funds. We are branded prophets of doom because we cannot acknowledge that our economy is “fundamentally sound” and we will be a developed nation by 2020 under Najib. We imagine that our leaders are corrupt and self- serving when they are paragons of virtue and symbols of probity. My MCA friend, for example, labeled us unpatriotic  and ungrateful (tak bersyukur) for not appreciating Najib as a transformational leader.–Din Merican

Seeking the truth is a crime, only in Najib’s Malaysia

Those who allege tampering of documents would have to prove it in Court through subject matter experts taking the witness stand

DIGP Khalid Abu BakarHis mission: Protect his political master, that is Patriotism

It appears that apologists for the Najib administration are trying to imply in the mainstream media in particular that opposition leaders, an UMNO leader and The Sarawak Report Editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown met with ex-Petro Saudi International director Xavier Andre Justo, 49, apparently in Singapore.

If so, it would seem to indicate that something positive, on their part, did take place in search of the truth on the scandal-ridden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Such meetings by themselves are not a crime. There must be a law before there can be a crime. No law, no crime. Nullum crimen, nulla poena sine praevia lege poenali (there exists no crime and no punishment without a pre-existing law.)

The apologists would like the people to believe that the meeting or meetings with Justo was actually part of a conspiracy, based on tampered documents, to bring down Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. In law, those who allege tampering would have to prove it through subject matter experts taking the witness stand in Court, not in the media.

The theories of the apologists, to digress a little, don’t explain the Wall Street Journal Report of Friday 3 July which alleged that nearly USD700 million entered Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s personal banking accounts at AmBank Islamic private banking services.

Najib himself has never denied the allegations.

Instead, his lawyers have merely sent a letter to the WSJ demanding to know whether the American paper stood by its story. The letter was in fact sent after the WSJ had issued a statement confirming that it stood by its story and that it would vigorously defend any law suit launched against it over the said allegations.

new-najibHe is corrupt to help UMNO

Najib meanwhile keeps saying that he would never steal (for himself) the people’s money, that he had never used any monies (meaning AmBank) for personal purposes, that he would not be so stupid as to steal government money and keep it in the country in his personal accounts, and that he would never betray the people i.e. steal their money and use it for personal purposes.

The jury is not out on the WSJ report.

Away from that little digression, the Thai Police have confirmed in a media statement that Justo did confess that he tried to “blackmail” his former employers and that he handed over company documents in his possession to certain parties. These documents were not tampered. The Thais are holding him on the basis of a Police report lodged in Thailand by PetroSaudi, alleging that Justo was trying to blackmail it and extort RM10 million using company documents he had in his possession.

Justo, in a statement after his arrest, claimed that he wanted to claim the balance of RM15 million in compensation promised to him by the company before his departure under somewhat unhappy circumstances.

If Justo did sign a non-disclosure agreement with the company, the onus is on it to take him to Court. The state would not take action on behalf of any party, in civil suits.

The company did indicate in an earlier media statement, in conjunction with Justo’s arrest and detention, that it paid him RM15 million in compensation after they had to dismiss him on the grounds of “misbehaviour”. Misbehaviour would merit summary dismissal, not compensation.

Interestingly, the Thai Police have confirmed that they would not hand over any material on the Justo case in Thailand to Malaysian authorities.

Also, they are keeping him in detention for another 60 days — perhaps in protective custody — pending final resolution on the case.

Malaysians feeling down with negativity in Local News and Politics

July 12, 2015

Malaysians feeling down with negativity in Local News and Politics

by Dina

If Malaysians are feeling depressed with all the negativity in local news and politics, it could partly be their own doing as they are both consumers and producers of news, say media observers and academics.

For nine years, just before the watershed 2008 general election when the ruling Barisan Nasional lost its hold on two-thirds of seats in Parliament, Malaysians have been bombarded with almost daily headlines of negativity and divisive politics through numerous platforms.

Social media and instant messaging applications now take the Internet further and expand its reach faster as people make use of these tools to spread and share news and information, verified or not, about the country’s political and corporate players as well as the latest and on-going scandals.


But long-term and high-tension exposure to online news and information can be negative. “Naturally that there would be a sense of tension in the air,” Lina Esa Osberg, a life coach said.While the media has a role in bringing information to the public, Osberg said, other realities also impacted people’s reactions to the news.

“Malaysia is no longer a prosperous country economically. This is not the fault of Malaysia alone. The world is going through an economic crisis. And Malaysia is a part of it. The middle class is diminishing. The working class is not getting enough to fulfill their daily needs.

“But at the same time, the rich seemed to be more extravagant in their ways of living, and have no qualms about flaunting it. Malaysians see more and more scandals about those in power, and those who were entrusted with public monies squandered the same monies without guilt, remorse, or adverse consequences,” Osberg said.

Throw Malaysian news and politics into the mix and people’s reactions can get more complex.But why is it so hard to disengage? Dr Tessa Houghton, Director at the Centre for the Study of Communications and Culture at University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, said Malaysians themselves were contributing to the 24 hour news cycle which has become “infinite”.

There is constant “supply and demand” of news and information, she said, as people respond to output by news organisations, which in turn respond to their readers.

“Digital media now mean that we have the means to effect a 24 hours news cycle – the news hole has become infinite. Most news organisations try to keep pushing out as much content as possible, as quickly as possible.Because this is what people respond to, they’re basing their decisions on web analytics of what their readers respond to. And social media is the same, the more you up date, the more attention you’re likely to get.Both the producers and consumers of information get easily sucked in to this endless stream of information,” she added.

It becomes addictive to receive and aggregate news – at the expense of the need to analyse, reflect and act on the information – and this can lead to a sense of feeling overwhelmed. Yet, it is not easy to disengage for some people who fear missing out.

Malaysians, however, are as capable of critical thinking as anyone else, Houghton said, but these are skills that have to be learned and practiced constantly. The barrage of news and politics daily may not help create room for such reflection.

A bigger problem, said another academic, is the weakness in national leadership and lack of information transparency.Zaharom Nain, Professor of Media and Communication Studies and Houghton’s colleague at the Nottingham campus, said the daily onslaught of information was due to little clarification by the powers that be that could potentially resolve many current issues.

Bad news is a constant, and the perpetrators are not punished.“Where justice is not done, where injustice is so evident and blatant, many Malaysians now despair and give up hope.  There is lack of leadership, there is (increasingly) less credibility,” he said.

Zaharom does not believe that the Internet played a huge role in disseminating information.“The Internet only conveys the bad news generated by Malaysians themselves… that has impacted the nation. It’s the lack, indeed failure, of leadership,” he said.

Amid the constant flow of negativity, Tariq Ismail, the grandson of Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s second Deputy Prime Minister, is worried that Malaysians have “lost the ability to read and the ability to understand one another”.

Tariq is active on social media with his views on politics. He founded Aura Merdeka Ikatan Sejagat (AMIS), a lively Facebook group that discusses everything and anything under the sun. But he feels that social media and the Internet cannot be wholly blamed for the hostility.  Instead, the root causes are the content creators themselves: the politicians and the elected representatives who have forgotten that they are representatives of the people.

“When idiotic statements are made and singling out a single community it will create distrust, and the lack of accountability regarding these statements has made the citizens of this land angry. This is not healthy,” Tariq said.

“A nation is not built in a day. It is a continuous process which requires dialogue and compromise. Fortunately, our basic foundation is still intact. We still have the federal constitution and various bodies that hold this nation together. We have a collective responsibility to not only to ourselves but to all the communities that make Malaysia.”

Malaysia’s Top Economist and Mr.Transformer speaks

June 24, 2014

Malaysia’s Top Economist and Mr. Transformer speaks

I missed this one dated June 20, 2014, posted in Malaysiakini because Dr. Kamsiah and I were away in Taipei. Reading it, I thought the authorities in Taiwan should have appointed Dato Seri Idris Jala as their chief propagandist.  So here it is:

idris guitarSenator Dato’ Seri Idris Jala is a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and CEO of Malaysia’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU), an organization tasked with ensuring Malaysia meets the goals set forth under the National Transformation Programme (NTP).

He spoke with The Prospect Group about the Economic Transformation Programme’s (ETP) goals for 2014, which includes Gross National Income (GNI), investment, and job creation, and ensuring Malaysia’s economy is resilient in the face of global uncertainty.

Q: What are the ETP’s main focal points for 2014?


Our focal point for 2014 is to make sure we implement. We have to implement what we promised under the ETP as well as the GTP. The public wants results and the way in which we have to fulfill those results is to execute the initiatives within the 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) that will achieve big results fast.

Q: What are your 2020 GNI, investment, and job creation goals?

By the year 2020, we would like to have become a high-income economy that fulfills the GNI targets of $15,000 per capita. That is our long-term goal. To do that will require a lot of investment; something like $444bn is needed to propel the Malaysian economy to grow. We also need to create 3.3m jobs; you have to create a lot more high-paying jobs so that the citizens can benefit. So those are the three true-North targets: gross national income per capita, private investments that will drive it, and jobs that are created. The good news today is that, from when we first began, in four years, we have been able to grow our total GNI per capita by 50%. We are at the halfway mark today. So we are very pleased with the progress made on the GNI target. With regard to job creation, we are supposed to create 3.3m jobs, and we have created 1.3m jobs in the four-year period. So that is really very good.

We have met more than 60% of the investment targets, signifying we are well on the way to achieving this as well. My view today is that we would like this coming year to continue in the same way as we have experienced over the last three years. That means that everything is on the right trajectory. If things continue the way that they are, we will fulfill our targets before 2020.


Q: In terms of time frame and the trajectory you are on today, when do you anticipate these goals will be achieved?

I think we should reach our targets by the year 2018. But, as you know, the world is not linear. If you look back over the last four years, it has been a good run for us, but we are subject to what happens in the global economy. We have to build in a lot more resilience within the Malaysian economy to face any global crisis or any global slowdown to ensure we can weather storms that happen between now and the year 2020. It has been a very good run for the last four years.
Q: In a world of constantly changing economic realities, how can Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) adapt?

Adaptation is a very important requirement moving forward for Malaysia. So what we want to do in Malaysia moving forward is to ensure we build enough resilience in our economy.Let me begin by saying we must implement proper fiscal reforms. Public debt in our case should not exceed 55% of our GDP. Now there are many countries that have gone to 80%, 90%, 100%, and even 190% public debt to GDP. So if you make sure that you grow the economy and make sure the government debt is below the 55% threshold, we believe that is the way to go. You cannot and should not over leverage, so we are really focusing on that.The second thing about being resilient as an economy and being able to face any un-foretold difficulties with the global economy is to make sure we do not have a fiscal deficit that exceeds 6%. We have been steadily reducing our fiscal deficit. When we first started, our fiscal deficit was 6.6%. We have since cut that down to 5.8%, and then to 4.8%, and last year we reached 3.9%.

The other aspect of making sure we can adapt is obviously to make sure we have the right competent talent. A competent talent pool means that whatever structural changes take place in the economy, people are able to be mobile and will do what is needed to produce products and services that can compete in the world outside.

The other is that we made changes in the way the civil service operates. We have become a lot more efficient and the good news today is that we have been able to improve the ease of doing business. It is very easy to do business in Malaysia. The World Bank assessed Malaysia in 2009 at number 23. We then moved to number 18, and then to 12, and last year, for the first time, we moved to number 6 overall in the world in terms of the ease of doing business. So if it is easy for investors to put money and investment in Malaysia, and at the same time the government is fiscally prudent and we bring in all the fiscal reforms, and we have a talent pool in the country, then we can adapt very quickly to changes that are happening.

Q: How does this philosophy play into the ideology that Malaysia should move away from being a primary resource based economy and into a higher value added service based economy?

If you look at the history of Malaysia, we were an agrarian economy during independence in 1957 and then we moved into a more commodities play. So what we are now doing is making sure that our manufacturing arm grows a lot bigger and we have started doing that. In fact, when it gets down to palm oil, we are now telling the industry it is fine and good for us to do a lot more primary products and selling that as crude, but it is much more important for us to start producing downstream products such as oleo chemicals and we gave a lot of incentives to allow this to happen as evidenced by the establishment of more refineries. That is happening as we speak today, the downstream component has to come in. At the same time, between now and 2020, we wanted to see that we increase the services sector of the GDP to become more than 60% and we have been growing that rapidly. You can see today that tourism is big for us, financial services are big, the health sector as a part of the economy is also growing, and the education sector. So all of these all together, they will become, by the year 2020, at least 60% of our GDP. So I think for the first time doing this, we will have to diversify the economy so that we do not rely entirely on the commodities play, but we get into the downstream part of the same sectors and at the same time we grow the services sector. I think if you add the two together, the Malaysian economy becomes more resilient.