Ong Kian Ming: Malaysia may become Asia’s ‘sick man’ due to botched virus response

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Malaysia is on the verge of becoming a “sick man” nation like the Philippines in the 1970s due to the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, opposition lawmaker Ong Kian Ming said.

The Bangi MP noted how foreign investors shied away from the Philippines then because the country was under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

Malaysia now is heading in that direction because of the inability of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government to manage the Covid-19 pandemic on top of efforts to keep the coalition intact.

“Is Malaysia in danger of going down the same path and be seen as the new ‘sick man’ of Asia in the 2020s because of political ineptitude and the inability to manage the Covid-19 crisis under the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government?

Najjua Zulkefli/TMI

“The inability of the PN government to manage the third wave of Covid-19 cases has resulted in the second movement-control order (MCO) at the start of 2021,” he said in a statement today.

The Philippines in the 1970s under Marcos had political and economical strife with investors avoiding his dictatorship.

Malaysia’s drop in foreign investments is proven in figures from a recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) study, which showed that the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2020 tanked by 68%.

In comparison, neighbouring countries registered a lower drop, such as Singapore (-38%), Indonesia (-24%) and Thailand (-50%). The Philippines even saw an increase in FDI by 29% in 2020.

Ong said UNCTAD’s figures were on actual FDI inflows unlike the figures issued by Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz.

“These figures are actual FDI inflows to the respective countries unlike the FDI figures announced by the finance minister, Tengku Zafrul, earlier this year, which are only approved investments and not realised investments.

“At the same time, reports on some multinational companies moving their regional Headquarters (HQs) out of Malaysia to places like Indonesia have also created the image that Malaysia is no longer an attractive place for foreign investors,” he said.

Ong added there have been negative reports on Malaysia, but the government has done nothing to address these concerns and this has revealed Malaysia is not as competitive in the region.

“These reports play in a part in building the larger narrative that Malaysia is lagging behind our neighbours on many fronts – not being able to manage the Covid crisis, plagued by political instability, having an incompetent cabinet and flip-flopping on government policies in ways which damage the business environment,” he said.

The DAP assistant political education director also blamed International Trade and Industry Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali for the dip in investor confidence and stressed he was as useless as when he held the economic affairs post in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

“Just as he was inept at managing his portfolio when he was the economic affairs minister in the PH government, he is proving himself equally (if not more) inept in his current responsibility as international trade and industry minister.

“With this kind of economic and political leadership under the PN government, it would not be surprising if Malaysia finds itself being labelled as the new ‘sick man’ of Asia,” Ong said. – TMI