Sunday 21 Jul 2024
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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily on January 30, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is seen lacking in concrete ideas and clarity on economic policies amid administrative flip-flops eight months after the Pakatan Harapan took over the government.

Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd chief economist Manokaran Mottain (pic) said greater clarity on policies will reduce market confusion.

“In Malaysia, we came into a new era ... dawn of a new era. It’s been eight months but we have not seen the sunlight,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Kingsley Strategic Institute’s Malaysia Economic and Strategic Outlook Forum 2019 here yesterday.

“Much can be done. There is no clear direction on the construction sector, for instance. There is too much divergence from the ministers. Hopefully, they can come out with some changes in the economic environment given that we are going through a tough time,” Manokaran said.

Nevertheless, he expects the country to see firmer economic policies by May this year.

“Hopefully they can come out with some changes in the economic environment given that we are going through a tough time,” added Manokaran.

He also noted a need for communication between the government and the investing fraternity.

With more clarity on policies, this will reduce the confusion in the market, which will then prevent the market from further dampening, he said.

Earlier at a panel discussion, Manokaran highlighted that the current slow wage growth is still insufficient to help Malaysia achieve high-income nation status by 2023, adding that the labour productivity is still below par.

He said there is a need for wage growth to be more than 3% compared with the current average 2.4%.

Noting the need for highly skilled labour in Malaysia, Manokaran said the high-skilled jobs are around 25% in Malaysia, compared with 50% in the US.

“We need more initiatives from the government. People look into more incentives on how to transform job structure from the low-skilled jobs to high-skilled. We talk about it, but no action has been taken,” he said, adding that Malaysia has to reduce its dependence on foreign labour.

Meanwhile, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking said he is hopeful that the ongoing negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will be concluded by the end of the year.

The negotiations are progressing well and are more than 50% completed currently, he said.

Leiking, however, stressed that certain unforeseen issues that had emerged may delay the talks.

He said the Asean countries are working to include the best terms for each country in order to come out with a “high standard” agreement.

“The agreement will encompass various issues such as the trade war, and it will be of a much higher standard than many other agreements that we have entered into before,” said Leiking.

When asked about government adviser Tun Daim Zainuddin’s proposal for a merger of the international trade and industry and the foreign affairs ministries, Leiking said: “It is always good that there is an innovative proposal, but it doesn’t mean that it is going to happen. It can only [be decided by] the prime minister”.

“I don’t know the intrinsic information over the proposal. But I look at it this way. Look at the cabinet as a singular unit that we are together with the prime minister presiding over all ministers.

“I think both ministries are doing very well with their respective duties,” said Leiking, when asked whether he is open to the idea.

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