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Malaysia Provides Access to Toilets and Safe Sanitation Everywhere in the Country: Study

Malaysia's Rise, From Buckets and Hanging Toilets, to Universal Sanitation

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Malaysia
Malaysia has developed a lot in terms of its infrastructure and sanitation. Pixabay

What can Malaysia teach Southeast Asia about water resources? A new study shows that Malaysia has been able to spread access to toilets and safe  sanitation to nearly 100% of the partial island nation. After some trial and error, its experience offers some lessons for others around the world, particularly at a time when places from California to South Africa are increasingly worried about how well they will be able to manage their water resources in the long run.

Water access improves

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The ocean is seen in Penang, Malaysia, a nation that improved sanitation faster than most. VOA

In recent decades Malaysia has increased citizens’ access to water thanks to a mix of top-down determination from the government, partial privatization, and clearly defined roles and rules for all stakeholders, author Dorai Narayana writes in a new book chapter. As a British colony until 1957, Malaysia used to see most urban inhabitants commonly use buckets or open defecation, which contributed to waterborne diseases. However after independence local authorities
started to pay more attention to sanitation, introducing septic tanks and piped water supplies.

National Government Leadership

Then the national government took over responsibilities in 1993. As the nation started to urbanize and develop quickly, it regulated the sector but allowed more private companies to deliver services, according to Narayana.

“Guidelines and standards were established, and a system to check and approve all new sewerage built by private developers was introduced,” he writes. “This resulted in a vast improvement in the quality of developer-built systems.”

A consultant in the sanitation and wastewater sector, Narayana analyzed Malaysia for the book Water Insecurity and Sanitation in Asia, published last month by the Asian Development Bank Institute and the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Investment in infrastructure

Malaysia has made a fast transition from a developing nation to an upper middle-income economy, using its new wealth to invest in infrastructure like sanitation.

Malaysia
A new study shows that Malaysia has been able to spread access to toilets and safe sanitation to nearly 100% of the partial island nation. Pixabay

Narayana writes that it was a “drastic move” and “largely a top-down approach” for the national government to take over from local governments, but it mostly worked. At the same time Malaysia has been ruled largely by the same party since independence, making it easier for the national government to concentrate and wield power.

Private Companies became involved

It has loosened some of that power to allow private companies into sanitation.

“With the federalization and privatization, the country saw spectacular improvements in sewerage management,” Narayana, who is based in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, writes. “Unprecedented amounts of funds were invested for the repair, refurbishment, and upgrading of the dilapidated sewage treatment plants.”

However the government makes sure to include strict regulations to go along with private investment. When it allowed Indah Water to sell services for instance, it required the company to empty septic tanks on a regular schedule and renovate all related infrastructure to the point of operating condition. Also when companies build new real estate developments the law requires them to build internal sewerage infrastructure as well.

This matters to the government because it wants to promote sustainable use of resources, from water to energy to recycling, according to Malaysia’s deputy secretary general at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Hairil Yahri Yaacob. He argued that this issue has been overlooked amid the world’s focus on the economy, even though resource sustainability is also an economic issue.

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“What we have to realize is that there is opportunity directly linked to sustainability,” said Yaacob in a statement.

As with the economy, sanitation is a day to day concern that affects everyone. It is not something people love to talk about but in this tropical nation, public and private sector work on sanitation has led to measurable improvements in the lives and well-being of most Malaysians. (VOA)

Next Story

Growing Sustainable Business Models

Creating business infrastructures that are sustainable is very important

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Business
Sectors from retail to energy have seen old business models challenged and, in some cases, upended. Pixabay

BY TAPONEEL MUKHERJEE

As we move ahead with the next phase of growth and dynamic changes in sectors across the spectrum from consumer-related businesses to infrastructure in India, a focus on long-term sustainable business models that can deliver both growth and cashflows will be essential.

Sectors from retail to energy have seen old business models challenged and, in some cases, upended. As businesses, investors and the government look at the next phase of growth, a focus on the sustainability of the business in the medium to long-term is vital, besides promoting new business models and technologies.

Regardless of what sectors we look at, the two fundamental questions to ask are whether the business can realistically make profits? And, who will pay? These two questions need to be asked by investors and policymakers alike.

Business
For an energy business, the ability to pinpoint the infrastructure needed and the funding source will be vital even as India looks to transform its energy production combination with a much more significant focus on renewables and natural gas. Pixabay

The above discussion applies across the spectrum from energy to retail. For example, when pricing the sustainability of models in the energy space, a focus on the entire supply chain is crucial. For instance, a focus on the cost of energy production is important when one looks at the business model, but if there are significant changes required to the grid and the distribution networks, then the question in terms who finances the concomitant infrastructure changes assumes great importance. Mainly, low-cost energy that can’t be consumed isn’t a sustainable business model.

The focus needs to be on a model that can price in all the costs involved and, more importantly, access the financing required. Access to the funding required immediately translates into creating business models that focus on the source, price and availability of financing. For an energy business, the ability to pinpoint the infrastructure needed and the funding source will be vital even as India looks to transform its energy production combination with a much more significant focus on renewables and natural gas.

The same argument applies to brand building space. Creating a disruptive consumer brand is one that has attracted attention. While creating a great product is a critical component, as consumer-facing businesses will admit in selling to consumers, one of the biggest drivers along with product quality, if not the biggest, is the distribution network. Therefore, as investors look at the Indian market, a focus on understanding businesses that have deep and entrenched distribution networks will be crucial towards creating sustainable and profitable companies in the long run.

To further elaborate on the point above, a great product will appeal to a consumer if the value delivery in that consumer segment is over and above what the market offers. However, the long-term sustainability of the business is primarily driven by the capacity to reach a broad consumer base through an extensive distribution network to create the economies of scale required. Strategies that allow for the creation of extensive distribution networks and ensuring that the costs involved are priced into the model is essential.

Business
The next phase of investing and policymaking in India needs to have a renewed focus on creating India centric business models. Pixabay

Mainly, the focus must be not just on what can be sold, but more importantly, how? Consumption habits in India, including the propensity to consume online, can be significantly different from those in other markets. Success in India may be driven through the capacity to create India-centric business models. While it is true that for new models there is a significant challenge in pinpointing exact business models that will work, the critical aspect that needs to be kept in mind is a constant focus on profitability and cashflows is required in addition to innovation.

Additionally, regardless of what sector one is in, it is essential to realise that India is a very different market from the more developed economies. While India is a large market at an aggregate level, per capita incomes are still significantly lower than some other developed economies. Therefore, business models, whether in infrastructure or consumer side, need to price in the complex dynamics that at times can be the difference between success and failure in India.

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The next phase of investing and policymaking in India needs to have a renewed focus on creating India centric business models. For sustainable cashflow generating profitable models, having a broad view of the market structure and pricing in all the costs involved will be crucial. (IANS)