I refer to Ong Kian Ming’s media statement dated Feb 4, 2022, where he launched several ad hominem attacks on Miti leadership, zeroing in on Mohamed Azmin Ali.
First, it is rather unbecoming of Ong to make unprovoked personal attacks which also shows up his loss of focus on the issues that should concern the rakyat and the nation. While we in Miti are busy working on how best to further enhance the attractiveness of Malaysia as a regional investment hub, it is rather sad that Ong has chosen to occupy himself in trying to score political points instead.
Rather than engaging in the polemics of one-upmanship, Ong should focus on the economic recovery efforts of the government and how such efforts are crucial in enhancing the welfare and well-being of the rakyat.
It is therefore both puzzling and disappointing that Ong has responded so negatively to Miti highlighting the Milken Institute report stating Malaysia’s position as “the most attractive investment destination for foreign investors among emerging Southeast Asian countries”.
This report is effectively third-party validation from a global think tank that has conducted independent research, placing Malaysia in a favourable light with great prospects of attracting foreign investments. Isn’t that cause for celebration and opportunity to use for our investment promotion efforts? Would Ong rather celebrate only when foreign think tanks and analysts give Malaysia the thumbs down? Is it too much to expect Ong to welcome such positive news, if not for our sake, at least for the sake of the rakyat? He is, after all, a wakil rakyat.
Secondly, the achievements and efforts by Miti can be seen from the trade and investments figures published by the relevant agencies. The figures speak for themselves. Numbers don’t lie. Engaging in sophisticated arguments won’t change facts. For that matter, the issues raised by Ong have been thoroughly answered in Parliament by the minister and by myself as well. We have also dealt with them via press statements and during the numerous engagement sessions with the stakeholders, chambers of commerce, NGOs and other relevant bodies.
Nevertheless, for the benefit of the public, we would like to reiterate the following efforts and initiatives:
In the past year, Miti has taken swift action to ensure that we maintain, as utmost priority, economic stability and growth. In managing the pandemic, lockdown measures were introduced as a primary global response. As Malaysia strove to strike a balance between the lives and livelihoods of the rakyat, Malaysia too adopted such measures which were necessary at the time to curb the spread of Covid-19.
In order to expedite the reopening of the economy, Miti introduced the Public-Private Partnership Industry Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (Pikas) to complement PICK where more than one million workers were vaccinated. Industry associations and business chambers hailed Pikas as pivotal in the recovery of the manufacturing sector that contributes 22.9% of the nation’s GDP.
The Pikas model has now been replicated by ProtectHealth to provide booster vaccination for workers. This is vital to minimise the disruptive effect on supply chains, considering Malaysia’s crucial role in the global network.
Consequently, Malaysia’s stellar trade and investment performance in 2021 was made possible due to these difficult yet necessary measures taken during the lockdown. Malaysia’s trade performance has hit an all-time high, surpassing RM2 trillion, signifying that Miti and its agencies, under the leadership of Azmin, have successfully placed Malaysia on the right trajectory of economic recovery and growth.
Malaysia’s exports in 2021 reached a record-breaking figure of RM1.24 trillion, moving Malaysia well within reach of the targeted exports under the Twelfth Malaysia Plan of RM1.25 trillion by 2025. This is further affirmed by our investment performance in 2021, exceeding RM220.8 billon for manufacturing and services under the purview of Mida, a historic high for Malaysia.
The present leadership, a strong sense of shared responsibility and an enabling ecosystem of empowerment in Miti allows the ministry to remain steadfast in its resolve to catalyse economic growth for Malaysia, particularly in the following areas:
1. Embed environmental, social and governance (ESG) as a core pillar of national investment aspirations (NIA)
Integrating ESG factors into investment is a growing imperative that can drive long-term value creation, integrate our businesses into international networks, and encourage sustainable business practices across our region and attract more investors. Miti’s work to mainstream ESG agenda in impact investment and sustainable trade space has begun and the Ministry will continue to push this forward.
NIA, a guiding document to attract investments, will support and enhance economic complexity, create high-value job opportunities, extend domestic linkages, increase inclusivity and further advance cluster development. NIA will be central for Malaysia to deliver on its commitment to become a net-zero nation by 2050. NIA will equip industries to benefit from ESG-compliant practices and leverage on greater market access opportunities.
Despite detractors urging otherwise, it is stressed that policy documents such as NIA must not be rushed as it requires extensive deliberation and consultations. This will ensure a thorough and forward-looking policy that is robust and responsive to the ever-evolving investment climate and dynamic needs of the country.
2. Continue to advocate for a pragmatic, business-friendly approach on protecting jobs for the rakyat
To address the issue of manpower shortages raised by the industry, Miti has continuously consulted with ministries and agencies, industry associations and chambers of commerce. Miti has been pushing for industry players to employ more local workers. Miti also implements various programmes and initiatives to hire more Malaysians and reduce the high dependency of low-skill foreign workers including through automation initiatives and incentives; industry 4WRD programmes; reskilling and upskilling programmes; matching of job seekers through initiatives with other government agencies, including with the Social Security Organisation, and other initiatives to increase local workers involvement in the job market.
3. Drive efforts to advance regional economic integration
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific (CPTPP) are key enablers for Malaysia in revitalising the domestic and international business activities, post-pandemic. In ensuring local SMEs derive benefits from these FTAs, Miti has conducted no fewer than 50 engagement sessions attended by thousands of stakeholders including governmental orgainsations and NGOs, MPs, the private sector and institutes of higher learning. Miti has actively reached out and apprised relevant stakeholders regarding the utilisation of RCEP.
On the CPTPP, the cost-benefit analysis is close to conclusion. Once finalised, it will be presented to the Cabinet and made public thereafter. On Malaysia-EU Free Trade Agreement, Malaysia continues to engage the EU informally but progress has been limited due to differences in areas such as government procurement, competition, intellectual property rights as well as trade and sustainable development.
On the Malaysia-European Free Trade Association Partnership, negotiations are ongoing, with the next session scheduled in mid-2022. It is to be underscored that the UK’s priority is to conclude its accession negotiations into the CPTPP, and explore potential FTAs with countries that have already concluded such Agreements with the EU.
Miti has taken significant steps to combat the unprecedented economic impact of the pandemic and accelerate recovery by taking a whole-of-nation approach. The path for Malaysia to exit this crisis may not be linear, but we are on the right track to sustain our sterling trade and investment performance. With shared responsibility and collective determination, Miti is confident that the nation will emerge stronger than ever.
In championing trade and industry matters, Miti has always spearheaded policies and strategies aimed at ensuring sustainable socio-economic growth. During the peak spike of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia and despite the unwavering challenges, obstacles and criticisms all around, Miti continued shouldering a central role in enabling essential economic sectors to operate.
Continuation of economic activities during the lockdown did not only secure provision of supplies and necessities for the rakyat, but also minimised the disruption to global supply chains, which were pivotal in navigating the country on to a path of vibrant and sustainable economic recovery. Miti also constantly engaged with industries to ensure adherence to health and safety protocols, cognisant of the need to ensure continuation of business operations.
Last but not least, while we value diversity of views and welcome constructive criticism, we have no truck with those bent on making frivolous, vexatious and personal attacks against the Ministry. Indeed, we welcome suggestions and recommendations from NGOs and civil society organisations or even from the opposition but we won’t tolerate baseless or insidious allegations prompted by the desire for political advancement. For the sake of the country, for the sake of the rakyat and for the sake of our economic future, we should get our priorities right and work together.
Miti will continue to fulfil its responsibility in driving the nation’s trade, industry and investment agenda. Success is a collective effort founded upon true grit, exemplary determination and unwavering commitment. The present leadership, a strong sense of shared responsibility and an enabling ecosystem of empowerment in Miti allows the ministry to remain steadfast in its resolve to catalyse economic growth for Malaysia, and ensure strong and sustainable recovery in the long run.
Lim Ban Hong is deputy minister of international trade and industry.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.