Business leaders say initiatives at federal and state levels needed to draw high-tech investments
MALAYSIA needs to start reviewing its investment policies if it wants to continue attracting foreign investors into the country.
Johor South SME advisor Teh Kee Sin said the country was facing stiff competition from others in the region, namely Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Some 25 years ago, he said, Malaysia had been first choice for many Japanese electrical and electronics (E&E) giants looking to set up operations outside Japan.
“Johor benefitted the most from the influx of these Japanese manufacturers, especially in the Pasir Gudang, Senai and Batu Pahat industrial areas,” he said.
But by the early 2000s, the majority of these companies relocated to other countries, especially China and Vietnam, due to lower operating costs there, he added.
Teh was commenting on initiatives as announced under Budget 2023 to attract E&E companies to relocate their operations to Johor.
“The focus should be on attracting high-technology and high-investment investors into the state and not labour-intensive companies,” he opined.
“Incentives should also be given to encourage existing companies to re-invest and expand their operations in Johor, especially in research and development (R&D),” he said.
He added that several Japanese E&E companies in Pasir Gudang had relocated their R&D centres to Singapore, causing some 200 local engineers to lose their jobs.
Iskandar Malaysia Johor Chamber of Commerce and Industry secretary-general Md Salikon Sarpin concurred with Teh, saying Johor needed to attract more high-tech investments.
“Johor needs to act fast to attract more manufacturers producing smartphones, medical devices and high-end electrical home appliances,’’ he said.
Salikon, who is also Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI) southern region executive councillor, said attracting high-technology investments would lead to the setting up of their R&D centres in Johor.
“Malaysia should look at how Thailand has developed its automotive industry and gained the nickname ‘Detroit of the East’,” he pointed out.
Salikon, who was Johor Commerce and Industry committee chairman from 1994 to 2000, said Johor could attract Singapore-based E&E companies to relocate their operations to the state.
Meanwhile, Johor investment, trade and consumer affairs committee chairman Lee Ting Han said the state government was still waiting for details from the Federal Government on ways to attract E&E companies to relocate to Johor.
“Hopefully, we will get the details once the new federal government is formed,’’ he added.