Industrialists challenge Zafrul’s rosy picture of investor confidence

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Industry leaders and professionals pounced on Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz yesterday on social media, where he had boasted about investor confidence in Malaysia.

Zafrul said on LinkedIn that foreign and domestic investments in Malaysia totalled RM109.8 billion in the first nine months of 2020.

Bernama

“How’s that for investors’ continued confidence in Malaysia?” he said.

The question, which appeared rhetorical, drew quite a few answers, not all of them agreeable.

European Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sven Schneider was the first to jump into the conversation. He said contrary to Zafrul’s statement, European investors had many concerns about Malaysia being a “viable investment destination”.

It will take more than “a few nice words and window-dressing” to fix the problems, Scheiner said.

“Until today, the Honourable Minister was not even able to meet with us and listen to the concerns of our corporations,” Schnieder said.

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“Without these inputs, your Ministry certainly cannot address the problems on the ground.”

Engineer Alfred Soong pointed out that Malaysia had just lost out to Singapore, where Hyundai is investing RM1.6 billion in a manufacturing plant.

“We lost out to Singapore, a country that has higher labour cost than Malaysia for Electric Car Manufacturing for Hyundai, costing $400 milliion alone lost opportunity,” said Soong, who posted a link of the report on Hyundai in Singapore.

Collectr Sdn Bhd CEO Christian Angell Isaksen challenged the minister’s figures and his method of calculation.

“I don’t really see how this is good news. First of all, you are pooling FDI and DDI in your statement, which doesn’t really provide a barometer of FDI at all. How much of the RM110 billion is FDI? The last years Malaysia has received up to USD12 billion (approx RM48 billion) in FDI every year, how does it compare now?” Isaksen said.

I also don’t really see how close to RM1.6 billion in investment yielding 1.800 jobs is great. That basically means the cost of each job is close to RM900.000. I understand that investments are about more than only jobs, but then I don’t see the point in highlighting it.”

Unless there are “predictable solutions and incentives to attract new start-ups and at the same time keep the existing ones” he said he feared Malaysia will lose out to every other Southeast Asian country.

North South Initiative executive director Adrian Pereira also took a crack at Zafrul over foreign worker policies.

“The Malaysian economy has artificially benefited from forced labour, human trafficking and various non-compliance of laws involving foreign workers.

“We continue to see various investigation reports from private and public entities, local and international, about this in almost all sectors.

“Benefiting from the exploitation of others means the income generated is illicit. I would even say haram (forbidden)” he said on LinkedIn.

Adrian also called on the government to take action on the matter.

“Please do help trace the profits made from such companies, be it government-linked companies (GLCs), global supply chains or small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and return the money to the victims or else we will never be a truly competitive nation,” he added.

Others brought up the lack of unicorns – start-ups exceeding US$1 billion (RM4 billion) in value – in Malaysia, as well as its failure to nurture financial technology, or fintech companies.

Former premier Najib Abdul Razak also weighed in with his own comments on Facebook, saying that Zafrul had been slammed by netizens and foreign investors.

“He was slaughtered because many assumed he was dishonest, trying to hide the real situation and give a wrong picture in relation to foreign investments.

“In other words, many are not happy with his attitude that is considered syiok-sendiri’ (self-praise),” Najib wrote.