Very Busy and Good Economic Outlook

By Wong Chen

I have been extremely busy of late. In addition to my usual scope of work as an MP, as Chairman for (a) a select committee, (b) MDV, (c) APHR Malaysia, (d) an APPGM, and the Asia Pacific Representative for IPU Science and Technology Working Group; I have in the last month or spent a lot of time doing work for my political party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

I am the organising chairman for Keadilan 25th Anniversary celebrations. These celebrations are expected to take place for some months in different venues. The job is a very big one. I have to deal with fundraising, organising, managing and coordinating activities related to this important Silver Anniversary for my party. To date, I have organised a lunch, a whole day carnival and lastly a high tea. I have another event to organise soon for the older reformists, known as Otais, who first took to the streets in 1998.

This additional role has been taxing on my time and management skills, but ultimately it is an honour to serve the party. It has also reminded me on the original reasons for joining the party 15 years ago, and most importantly, reminding me of our reform agenda.

I have publicly stated on many occasions, my unhappiness with the lack of reforms of my own Unity Government. However, I am cognisant of the workings of realpolitik in a unity government and that reforms will take a much longer time under such circumstances. I am also aware that for the majority of public, economic improvements are more important than political reforms.

It is on the matter of economics that I am happy to report some improvements in the last few months and that these improvements should manifest itself fully by year end.

In the last 3 months or so, I have met a flow of serious multinational investors. Β This phenomenon is also recorded by global business media coverage such as the New York Times, Bloomberg, Reuters and the Financial Times. In fact, Financial Times is sending a senior journalist next week for 3 days to conduct several interviews, including myself.

Just three days ago, I met Amazon Web Services for breakfast, and then I met Standard and Poor, for lunch. My Special Select committee on International Relations and Trade have also, been exceptionally busy meeting corporations, Chambers of Commerce and trade diplomats.

The message is clear, the US China trade tension is spurring a boom in South East Asia and Malaysia is ahead of Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and even Singapore as the preferred destination for investors. Most of the flow of investments is led by semi-conductor corporations and data centres. These are expected to land in the period of Q4 this year to Q1 next year. It is also often said that the stock market is a barometer of the economy, predicting what will happen six months ahead. Thus the current surge in Malaysian equities in Bursa Malaysia is seen as many good economic things to come.

On the political front, we now have solid political stability after a year of uncertainty. We have ample and superior energy infrastructure compared to Vietnam, and we are much more cost competitive than Singapore. All these are also resulting in the Ringgit entering a period of stability. Another plus side is our forward looking policies on renewable energy, but its implementation still needs work.

While reforms are slow, high-profile legal actions to bust political corruption have happened. So far, there are no notable major political corruption scandal from the Unity Government to date. On the very recent incident of a government award without open tender involving a spouse of a minister, the Prime Minister has said that a full investigation will take place. This unsavoury practice can be corrected with new and better guidelines.

While the economic outlook is good, we cannot rest yet. We still need to work on improving education, TVET, work permits, foreign labour, and MM2H. We need to sort these out efficiently without corruption and abuses of power.

Bottomline, we are in a better economic state than a year ago. With a more robust economy, we hope that this will also result in fundamental governance and anti-corruption reforms soon.