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Malaysia: A fresh start

   Jan 31, 2019
Credit : GMI Post

Ten months since historic elections that rocked the nation’s political landscape, Malaysia, once again headed by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, is focused on restoring the transparency and rule of law to the country, which was hounded by several allegations of corruption during the nine-year tenure of Najib Razak.

As the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition rebuilds Malaysia’s reputation around the world, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah reaffirms Mahathir’s commitment to transparent governance, confident that the policy will ensure the economic prosperity of the nation: “There will be no more ‘direct negotiations for government contracts and tenders.’ We want to embrace the idea of open candor to the fullest,” he stated.

Given that the coalition is led by Mahathir and his erstwhile political rival, Anwar Ibrahim, this new united front provides much needed reassurance to governments and businesses, both domestic and foreign.

The American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) welcomes the fresh commitment to open governance, stressing that it will attract more American foreign direct investment to the country, which possesses abundant natural resources and highly skilled workers.

AMCHAM Executive Director Siobhan Das said: “American companies have found a very exciting and cooperative environment to base themselves in the region. They’ve thrived, mutually and symbiotically, with Malaysia.”

Similarly, companies from other parts of the world have adopted a favorable view of Malaysia’s vision and choose for their operations to use the country as a launch pad to the rest of the ASEAN region.

Amid this resurgence, Malaysia can resume its project to build a knowledge-based economy and prepare for so-called Industry 4.0.

Among those gearing up the Fourth Industrial Revolution are the country’s law firms, which are contributing to building the knowledge-based economy by providing their partners with further education and training.

Multi-disciplinary practices, like Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill (LHAG), have adopted this strategy in order to offer extensive services and in-depth expertise to all their clients.

“We want to develop a system that is not just for us, but for the future of our youth. We want a country that is stable, modern and progressive. This is a government made up of very successful and business-friendly people. We, at LHAG, are doing our part to support and contribute to the government’s push towards a better Malaysia,” Partner Dato’ Nitin Nadkarni said.

Meanwhile, specialized law firms, like Wong Jin Nee & Teo (WJN&T) have identified the nation’s smaller companies as its main clientele, mindful that SMEs are the foundation of stable and successful economies.

“Over 98% of Malaysian businesses are classified as SMEs. They are the backbone of the economy. While we serve many international clients, we do not put our own SMEs in the backseat because they are the ones lacking in services. We need to help them move up the value chain. We help educate them and make them realize the importance of intellectual property,” Founding Partner Teo Bong Kwang said.

As Malaysia steps up its efforts to regain its economic strength and move towards Industry 4.0, both the private and public sector have increased their investment in improving their technology, developing entrepreneurship and providing workers with the new skills required by a another generation of businesses.

Starting off as a semiconductor manufacturer in the mid-1990s, when Malaysia was dubbed as one of Asia’s Tiger Cub Economies, SilTerra was synonymous with innovation. More than three decades later, the company remains at the forefront of its sector because of its ability to quickly adapt to the ever-changing demands of the industry.

Today, the Malaysian company, with offices also in Taiwan and Silicon Valley, develops emerging technologies, like silicon photonics and advanced power, which go into biosensors, DNA sequencing chips, micro-mirror displays, and high efficiency power devices, among others.

The Malaysian government has continued its support for initiatives like the Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd, which brings together tech experts and offers funding for early stage start-ups to develop Malaysia’s tech entrepreneurship. Since its incorporation under the Ministry of Finance in 2003, the fund has helped more than 900 local startups and has achieved the highest commercialization rate of all similar government initiatives.

Among the world’s fastest growing markets, Malaysia highlights its various races, cultures, languages and religions as an advantage to foreign companies looking for a base of operations in Southeast Asia.

One company in particular, Global Ikhwan Service & Business Holdings (GISB), has shown that it is possible to thrive in an increasingly globalized business environment without having to turn its back on cherished Islamic values. In doing so, the company is able to provide a fresh perspective about the world view of Islamic-led businesses.

“Our company’s main goal is not necessarily to benefit from our businesses, but to provide services to others. Profits come when they come. Our success has stemmed from putting the needs of others before our own,” GISB CEO Lokman Hakim Pfordten said.

Among the top ten home-grown distribution brands in Malaysia and a major distributor of audio goods in Southeast Asia, VinnPower has expanded rapidly in the past eight years and has found its products on the shelves of the Hypermarket and Electronic retail chain.

“We have grown because of the partnerships that we have formed throughout the years. We designed our own brand, Vinnfier, and also designed products for the own distribution of other brands. These relationships we have formed are built on trust. In Southeast Asia, we have become experts,” VinnPower Executive Director Alan Wong said.

As the Mahathir-led coalition completes its first year in government, the world remains highly enthusiastic about the trajectory of the economy, still confident that the nation will regain its status as an important, credible voice in the region grappling with many challenges, both geopolitical and economic.

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