COME AND INVEST IN MALAYSIA – WHAT SAY YOU?

Kudos to our prime minister for his speech at Invest Malaysia 2018. It was sort of a short history lesson from 2009 to the present. This is an annual event for the global investing audience to persuade them to invest and showcase the opportunities our beloved country offers.

In this article, I would not like to discuss on the figures quoted but rather focus on the content of the speech itself. I am sure that the people who drafted the speech are much younger than me and I would like to offer some “fatherly advice”.

The first advice is, to persuade and motivate investors to invest in our beloved country, we should try to reduce negativities, avoid raising legacy issues and pinpointing someone on our past shortcomings and worse, shortlisting it. This conduct may be viewed as something akin to inferiority complex when the resultant actions are through overcompensation in exaggerated aggressiveness.

The drafters may have overlooked that the prime minister was a member of the cabinet when those shortcomings occured. This does not help in lifting the profile of the prime minister and may leave a bad taste to some.

We should avoid talking about domestic political squabbles since this is an investment forum. The audience would be more interested to know about how we are moving on political stability and hear on steps to be taken.

I think we have missed the opportunity to showcase our call for moderation and our ‘wasatiyyah’. The use of phrases and words such as ‘we are watching you’, baseless nonsense, bad mouthing neighbours and sarcastic blog do not exhibit act of moderation or inclusiveness.

Giving an example of more Singaporeans popping over for some authentic Johor mee rebus for a game-changer project is not approriate. Game changer really changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way.

I am glad there was mention on 1MDB. There were indeed failings and lapses of governance and a valid cause for concern. There were detailed investigations involving multiple lawful authorities which led to the company’s board being dissolved, its management team changed and its operations reviewed.

But what were the actions taken against the perpetrator(s) or were there none? The lack of action will surely give rise to credibility issues and concerns on law enforcement.

It is not correct to state that India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates followed suit on the implementation of GST. These countries have their own peculiar reasons.

Further, there are other areas that investors have in their checklist. The strength and quality of human capital; tax incentives; geo-political factors; competitive advantage; preferential tariff regimes; the cutting of red tape; level of corruption; political and country risk; exchange rate stability; levels of foreign exchange reserves held by the central bank; public sector transparency, including an impartial system of courts and law enforcement.

I have a feeling that the more experienced and seasoned attendees would be interested to know what is the latest status on Vision 2020. A few words on this would have helped as this is a promise that Malaysia made thirty years ago.

Last but not least, international investors do not look at short time span. We may have glossy figures currently but what is in store for the next ten or twenty years are more relevant.

We should potray to them our confidence and strategies for the future. We must tell them that we are shooting for the stars and not shooting ourselves in the foot.

What say you…

Saleh Mohammed

– MAIL BAG

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