The New Straits Times  

25 Jan 2018
Malaysia has a compelling brand story. And, it is a narrative of an emerging Asian giant that has the right ecosystem for investors who want to grow regionally. Some 1,000 investors gathered at Invest Malaysia 2018 in Kuala Lumpur looking for the golden eggs that businessmen are wont to. And, Malaysia has a slew of nests where the investors can find them. Plus, incubators to hatch them, too. Malaysia’s numbers show it. In just nine months of last year, the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority had approved total private investments amounting to RM113.5 billion involving 3,886 projects. During this same period, Malaysia approved Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of RM36.4 billion, signalling a business-friendly environment.

Of the 190 countries surveyed, Malaysia ranked 24th in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2018. In comparison to ASEAN, Malaysia ranks second after Singapore, two notches ahead of Thailand (26th), but way ahead of Brunei (56th) and Indonesia (72nd). As for Asia, Malaysia is ranked fourth after Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Malaysia also scored well in the World Bank’s Distance to Frontier reading, a measure of the distance of the economy of a country to that of the frontier economy, a term used to describe a best performing country. The World Bank also commends Malaysia for implementing 23 reforms in improving business regulations, a total higher than the per country average of 15 reforms in the East Asia and Pacific region. Many investors see Malaysia as the gateway to ASEAN’s 600-million strong market, being situated at the heart of the regional grouping. And, this enables global companies setting up shop in Malaysia to grow regionally. Just in manufacturing alone, 1,598 foreign investments worth RM119.5 billion went into the sector between 2013 and 2016. Malaysia also hosts a robust pool of talent, a product of multilingual and multicultural human resources.

Malaysians are an enterprising lot, too. The list of Malaysian companies going global is a growing one. Heading the list is Malaysia’s only Fortune 500 company, Petronas, which went global just over a decade after it was established. It has given the Seven Sisters a run for their money, not in the duck ponds (as our shallow waters are known in the industry) of Malaysia but in the global playing fields of the oil majors. The world’s largest producer of sustainable palm oil, Sime Darby Plantation, is home-grown, too. Two other Malaysian entities — Top Glove and AirAsia — have earned top ranks in the world. Malaysia is speeding away from the analogue world, too. The country’s new economy now boasts of Malaysia Digital Hub, Digital Free Trade Zone and Malaysia Tech Entrepreneur Program, to name a few. To help nurture the digital ecosystem the government has set up a government-owned agency, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, and the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre, the latter a one-stop center to grow creative entrepreneurs. Initiatives such as these have earned the country some impressive international accolades in the digital indices. It is an opportune time for investors to start looking for the golden eggs.

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