PETALING JAYA: The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) will announce a trade policy and roll out Industry 4.0 initiatives to drive the manufacturing sector and economic growth.
The ministry will also consolidate incentives dished out by various investment promotion agencies under a single body to harmonise the various goodies given to industries to establish operations in the country.
Deputy minister Dr Ong Kian Ming said the international trade policy would look at the strength of Malaysia in terms of being able to export to certain countries and that a deep diagnostic survey of the top 15 countries Malaysia exports to has been done.
“This diagnostic has helped us identify the strategic areas that we need to focus on in terms of our international trade policy, so with the view of the US-China trade war at the back of our mind, this is an important development in Miti.
“As and when the policy is ready to be announced or at least portion of it, the minister will announce,” he told StarBiz in an interview last week.
He said trade needed to be looked at from a holistic perspective and while the private sector is driving trade, the government has to have a strategic role because of the need to facilitate trade through various programmes.
“When we negotiate a FTA (Free Trade Agreement), we talk about tariff and when we talk about government to government arrangements that can make it easier for goods and services to be exported, all this require government intervention and government strategic direction,” he said.
The study on a trade policy looked at the strengths and weakness of countries Malaysia exports to and asks where the government can play that strategic role and help our businesses to export more.
The harmonisation of the role investment promotion agencies (IPAs) play into the national Committee on Investment would be to avoid proliferation of agencies and incentives given to industries.
“In the last 10 years under the previous administration, there has been an increased number of agencies or IPAs, like the different economic corridors, emergence of IPAs such as MDEC, Bio Tech Corp and a few others.
“One of the priorities for Pakatan Government is for us to refocus our IPAs, so that there is more cohesion, no overlap and there is no incentive chasing by going to one IPA to another by playing off one agency against the other,” he said.
“All these agencies and their powers of approving investment will be consolidated under the National Committee on Investment (NCI).
“This committee has always been there but we want to make sure that all the investment applications, in terms of incentives and grants, come under NCI which is currently chaired by Mida. We want to make sure that Mida be given the recognition as the main promotion agency.”
“For every incentive given out, Mida will do a cost benefit analysis. The benefits are quantified via the number of jobs produced, the economic multiplier, whatever investments that we approve fits into the larger picture of how it can benefit the country’s economy,” he said.
A key policy that is getting off the ground soon is the promotion of Industrial Revolution 4.0 (Industry 4.0). The Government in Budget 2019 allocated RM5bil to get Malaysian companies ready for Industry 4.0.
“The devil is in the details and I am working with the relevant officers as well as agencies to make sure that whatever policies that are announced by the minister, the rollout and implementation process is done in a way that is transparent and efficient way and takes care of the needs of the industry players so that the SMEs that will be applying for the Industry 4.0 programmes won’t come back to Miti and say they were excluded or not informed,” he said.
This is being done to ensure that the manufacturing sector remains strong and robust. It’s share of GDP is about 25% of GDP but accounts for 70% of trade.
“We want to make sure our SMEs and other players in the manufacturing sector can increase their productivity. One of the ways is to do it is through the Industry 4.0 initiatives,” he said.
On spurring economic growth this year, Ong said the ministry would look to continue attracting high quality investments into Malaysia, especially from China.
“In 2018, China continues to be the largest source of FDI for Malaysia and we do want to reach out to Chinese companies, especially high-quality investments, that would definitely bring about positive economic impact to Malaysia,” he said.
Ong said Miti would be working with industries to address their main grouse which is the supply of foreign labour.
“This is where we work closely with two ministries that are spearheading the new foreign labour policy, which is the Human Resources Ministry and Home Affairs Ministry (Home Affairs Minister) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has already prepared industries to get ready for multi-tier levies.
“If you want to employ more foreign workers, you have to pay a higher levy,” said Ong.
> See Page 2 for Q&A
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