NEW YORK: Fund managers overseeing more than US$8tril (RM26tril) in investments and business leaders of major corporations in the United States were given a first-hand account of the “Malaysian story” from the country’s number one salesman – Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
The Prime Minister, who is on a working visit here, had back-to-back meetings with different groups of potential investors throughout Thursday.
He started his day with good news on Barisan Nasional’s victory in Pengkalan Kubor and after a few quick calls home, went back to official mission mode in the Big Apple.
His first stop was a meeting at Invest Malaysia with 14 fund managers to give them an update of what he had been doing to transform Malaysia into an advanced economy by 2020.
The Prime Minister spoke about Malaysia’s growth rate of 6.3% in the first half of this year, which exceeded expectations, and double-digit growth in foreign direct investments (FDIs) last year.
“We have taken politically sensitive but economically necessary measures, such as the introduction of Goods and Services Tax next year, to meet our deficit reduction targets and ensure long-term economic stability.
“We will spend within our needs and not increase our debt and our fiscal deficit,” he said at the session organised by Bursa Malaysia, Maybank and Credit Suisse.
Blackrock Investment Management, TIAA-CREF, Lazard Asset Management and State Street Global Advisors representatives were among those who were present.
At a luncheon with chief executives of US companies, one of the speakers, Metlife CEO Steven Kandarian, gave a glowing report on Malaysia with Najib as the prime minister.
“Najib’s reform agenda is making Malaysia a more attractive place to do business.
“It is a country that welcomes growth, driven by private sector investments, and Malaysia offers improving business conditions in long-term economic policies,” Kandarian added.
On the rostrum, Najib underscored the message that Malaysia believes in free trade and being business-friendly.
At the US-Malaysia business forum later, Najib said he believed in strong pro-growth policies, being business-friendly and an open economy and fewer government regulations.
“Malaysia is focusing on some key challenges that can be obstacles to much higher levels of growth in Malaysia.
“For example, we must invest in new talent, we must increase proficiency in English in Malaysia and that is very important.
“We must increase our knowledge and technical competency in Malaysia,” he added.
However, just minutes later, a Malaysian businessman surprised the audience by choosing to speak in Bahasa Malaysia with no simultaneous translation.
It was not evidently clear why he did that, but a senior official in the Prime Minister’s entourage expressed surprise because the session was to have been entirely in English.
Asked about his meeting with the fund managers, the Prime Minister said potential investors wanted commitment from the Government that it would have the political will to continue with the reforms.
“They like the Malaysian story. They know our objectives and policies but they were gauging whether we have the political will to deliver the promises we have made.”
Najib, who attended similar sessions with fund managers during a working trip here last year, admitted that American corporate interest in Malaysia was on the rise.
He said while there was an increase in American FDIs in Malaysia last year over 2012, Malaysia was also keen to draw more US portfolio funds into Bursa Malaysia, which has emerged as one the world’s best performing stock markets.
He said the benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index had soared by 113% between 2009 and last month. Its market capitalisation grew by 168% while average dividends were up by 87% in the same period.
“We have a good story to tell based on our performance in the last five years,” he told the Malaysian media.