Monday, January 13, 2014

COMMENT: Malaysia now truly open for business

By Habhajan Singh

The administration has finally found the courage to lead. The timetable to roll out the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a clear indication that it is time for action.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak is finally putting two major polls behind it — the 2013 General Election (GE) and the Umno elections that concluded recently.

For the last two years, perhaps longer, the nation has been in a quagmire. On the political front, nothing much was happening. The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), comfortable with their usually wide victory margins, were pushed back after the 2008 GE.

The present administration wanted to transform the economic, government and political landscapes. But you could sense hesitation, and opposition even from within the fold. They were constrained, politically, following the significant advance made by the federal Opposition under the leadership of the evereloquent Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

On the business front, major decisions were left hanging. Many foreign leaders and business folks had begun postponing visits. They wanted to see more certainty on the ground before committing their money. “We are postponing some visits. Let things clear out,” one diplomat told The Malaysian Reserve some two years ago.

In the meantime, some significant changes have taken place. One major milestone came in 2009 when Umno approved constitution amendments to allow for a wider grassroot leaders’ participation to elect its leaders. It was a significant change. Umno, after all, is the most dominant party in the ruling BN.

Looking at the result of the party polls, it is easy to dismiss the changes. Well, the present line-up may not have altered much, but the ground has certainly shifted away from some power brokers. That is a significant.

It looks like Malaysia is now truly and finally open for business. The Budget 2014 speech of Najib is a clear indication of that.

THE MALAYSIAN RESERVE, 28 September 2013