Finance Minister Receives Backlash Over Post On Foreign Investment
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Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz was unfortunately put on blast by several business leaders in response to his social media post on foreign direct investments (FDI) and domestic direct investments (DDI) in Malaysia.

In his post on LinkedIn, Tengku Zafrul stated that Malaysia had recorded a total of RM109.8 billion in approved investments involving close to 3,000 projects for the first nine months of 2020. The finance minister added that through Penjana Kapital, the government recently facilitated the commitment by 8 international venture capital fund managers to invest up to RM1.57 billion into Malaysia startups – which is set to create 1,800 high-skilled jobs in the process.

Tengku Zafrul then ended his post with a friendly, “How’s that for investors’ continued confidence in Malaysia?” While some of the comments that followed were positive, a few responses from business figures raised some probing questions.

“I am very sorry to make this comment, but representing a sizable community of foreign investors, the EU, we currently receive a lot of concerns regarding Malaysia as a viable investment destination,” wrote Sven Schneider, Chief Executive Officer at the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EUROCHAM) Malaysia. “Until today, the Honorable Minister was not even able to meet with us and listen to the concerns of our corporations. Without these inputs, your Ministry certainly cannot address the problems on the ground. Besides, it really needs more than a few nice words and window-dressing.”

Christian Angell Isaksen, CEO of Malaysia-based start-up Collectr Sdn Bhd, questioned the Finance Minister’s pooling of FDI and DDI in his statement, stating that it does not provide an accurate barometer of FDI in Malaysia. “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,” he added. “I understand that investment is about more than only jobs, but then I don’t see the point in highlighting it.”

Kuala Lumpur

(Image: The Malaysian Reserve)

Azizi Khan, Senior Vice President, Head of Digital Enablement AmBank Group, also commented to say that Malaysia is not keeping up with fostering local fintechs, with many choosing to go overseas to “make it” instead. “We can go industry by industry and the message is the same. How then do we expect FDI to come in?” he questioned.

The finance minister’s post was linked to a news article which expanded more on Malaysia’s position as a place for business in the global community. In the article, Tengku Zafrul referred to a report by EY that cited Kuala Lumpur as a key location for multinational corporations and the international business community, as well as a Bloomberg report that ranked Malaysia fifth among emerging economies as a key destination for investment and business.

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