M'sian trade minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz says Anwar's govt has 'restored political stability' & will be 'investor-friendly'

He said that a strong Malaysia is important for China-Asean ties.

Kerr Puay Hian | March 10, 2023, 11:47 AM

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At the CGS China-Asean Business Leaders Summit held on Mar. 9 in Singapore, Malaysia's International Trade and Industry (MITI) Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said political stability had eluded Malaysia over the past three years.

However, since the recent general election in November 2022, he believes that the new unity government under Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has restored political stability.

Change at the top

"Well, now I serve as the Minister of International Trade and Industry, and the government has restored political stability that has eluded Malaysia over the past three years," Zafrul said.

Zafrul was previously a political opponent of Anwar's Pakatan Harapan coalition, serving as the Minister of Finance under former prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob of Umno. He ran for a parliamentary seat in the 2022 general election and lost to Dzulkefly Ahmad.

However, after Anwar made a surprising alliance with Umno to form the unity government, Zafrul was brought in as a minister in his cabinet, after taking a seat in the Dewan Negara / Senate, the upper house of Malaysia's parliament.

Malaysia wants to be stable & investor-friendly

Zafrul said the unity government's priorities include addressing the high inflation which is pushing up the cost of living, and assisting vulnerable groups.

However, there were some good news, with Zafrul noting that Malaysia's GDP growth of 8.7 per cent in 2022 was the highest in 22 years, outperforming expectations, and Malaysia is the fastest-growing economy in the region.

He said while Malaysia is optimistic that they will be able to keep the economy growing this year, albeit at a more moderate pace of 4.5 per cent growth, challenges to attract investment funds are increasing.

These include post-pandemic geopolitical tensions, persistently high-interest rates and disruptive supply chains.

"Against this backdrop, MITI is determined to reposition Malaysia as stable and investor-friendly, committed to ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) principles, and be a competitive economy in South East Asia," Zafrul said.

A strong Malaysia is crucial to China-Asean ties: Tengku Zafrul

Zafrul also spoke about Malaysia's commitment to Asean, how China is Malaysia's and Asean's largest trading partner, and that Asean members should work together on their trade with China.

"It is my firm belief that Malaysia and Asean are inseparable. A stronger Malaysia is crucial to the stability of Asean, and this has a bearing on China-Asean relations."

In a dialogue after the speech, he discussed the importance of foreign investment and how China's ByteDance, owner of TikTok and Douyin, investment in Malaysia has created jobs there.

Amazon Web Services and Tesla to invest in Malaysia

On Mar. 2, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced that it would be launching a new infrastructure region in Malaysia as part of a public-private partnership with the Malaysian government, The Star reported.

AWS also confirmed that it intends to invest at least RM25.5 billion (S$7.64 billion) in the country by 2037.

Prime Minister of Malaysia Anwar Ibrahim told Malaysia's parliament on Mar. 7, "It was because of political stability and clear policies that Amazon chose Malaysia to set up their base."

Tesla, the electric car company, also recently announced their decision to invest in Malaysia.

Zafrul previously claimed that Tesla's decision was based on Malaysia's strong electrical and electronics ecosystem to support the manufacture of electric vehicles.

However, Zafrul's speech about political stability in Malaysia came on the same day that news broke of former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin being hit with corruption charges.

Muhyiddin was detained on March 9. Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has denied that the charges are politically motivated.

Top image via Image via Mothership Yen Zhi Yi