ASEAN Market Watch: Malaysia Manufacturing, Philippines Economic Freedoms, and Singapore SME Digitization

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Malaysia: “Most attractive manufacturing market” status retained

Malaysia retains the top position as the most attractive manufacturing market of choice for future relocations according to the new Cushman & Wakefield “Manufacturing Risk Index 2017” report. The “Manufacturing Risk Index” is an annual survey of the manufacturing sector, which considers investment policies, costs, and risks including political, economic, technological, and environmental risks for their assessment. Malaysia’s ranking is attributed to its infrastructure quality, trade, and logistics performance. 

The report also highlights Asia Pacific’s varying degrees of innovation such as automation and smart manufacturing which offers diversity for manufacturers. Almost half of the top 15 positions in the index are occupied by Asia Pacific countries. ASEAN countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, and Indonesia are ranked 12th, 14th, 19th, and 20th respectively. Based on the overall assessment, cost remains the most significant criteria for relocation currently, with further changes anticipated as the manufacturing industry moves to Industry 4.0, which incorporates automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies.

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Philippines’ Finance Secretary Recommends 7 Percent Corporate Income Tax Cut

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By: Dezan Shira & Associates

The Philippines’ Finance Secretary, Carlo Dominguez, has recommended a corporate income tax rate of 25 percent, reduced from the current 32 percent.

The proposal would be implemented as part of the Government’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP). Dominguez made the announcement at the 5th Manila Times Business Forum in Davao last Friday. 

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Thailand in 2017: a Changing Investment Landscape

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By Harry Handley

Bangkok2016 was a challenging year for Thailand, both economically and socially. The death of the much-loved King, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, clouded a year also blighted by political instability, water shortages, and bearish domestic business sentiment. Although official figures have yet to be released, Thailand’s GDP growth for 2016 is expected to be 3.2 percent, the third lowest in the ASEAN bloc (after Brunei and Singapore).

Despite low business confidence from locals, foreign businesses continue to be attracted by Thailand’s strategic position between China and India, access to the ASEAN free trade area, and the incentives offered by the Board of Investment (BOI). 2017 has been touted by some as a pivotal year for the Thai economy and ‘the year of concrete national reform’, with a major election on the horizon, either at the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018 dependent of the progress of the royal succession. As such, it is important to review the state of the market at present and identify the key factors that may affect foreign businesses, both incumbents and potential entrants, in Thailand in 2017.

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ASEAN Regulatory Brief: Building Fines in Myanmar, Air Cargo Subsidies in Indonesia, and Quality Inspection in Laos

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Myanmar: Hefty Fines for flouting building regulations

From April 1, building owners in Mandalay will face hefty fines if their buildings violate government regulations or have been constructed without a valid permit. As per the Mandalay City Development Committee (MCDC) building rules section 10 (a), (b), (c), the new fine rates for buildings constructed beyond the permit stipulations or without approval are US$10.89 (K15,000) per square foot for reinforced concrete buildings and US$7.26 (K10,000) per square foot for brick nogging buildings. The penalty for business and contract buildings will be US$10.89 (K15,000) per square foot, while for other buildings it will be US$5.81 (K8,000) per square foot.

Earlier, builders violating the norms could easily pay a small fine and continue flouting guidelines. The MCDC hopes that the new fines will force builders to construct in accordance with the regulations. In some cases, the fines can be higher than the value of the building depending on the violation. The MCDC also stipulated that buildings for business use should include parking lots, fire extinguishers, and automated fire extinguishing systems.

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Getting a Grip on Malaysia’s Rubber Glove Industry

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By Alexander Chipman Koty

rubber glovesAbout 133.6 billion pieces of rubber gloves – 63 percent of the world total – came from Malaysia in 2016, as the Southeast Asian nation has carved a niche in the industry. Exports were worth an estimated RM 14.3 billion, continuing the country’s streak as the world leader in rubber glove production for over two decades running. 2016’s revenues represent 14 percent growth over the RM 12.1 billion accumulated in 2015.

The global rubber glove industry is expected to maintain strong annual growth of 8 to 10 percent over the coming years, including demand for an estimated 55 billion additional gloves over the next five years, primarily driven by increasing consumption in emerging markets. Malaysia could be the largest beneficiary of this increasing demand, as export revenue from rubber gloves is projected to reach RM 15.2 billion in 2017.

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Electrifying Laos: Opportunities for FDI in 2017

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By Zolzaya Erdenebileg 

While Laos is still one of the poorest members in ASEAN, the country has posted strong growth rates for the past ten years, typically oscillating between seven and eight percent. This places Laos among the fastest-growing economies in ASEAN. The country is rich in resources, particularly agriculture, forestry, hydropower, and minerals. However, infrastructure is still underdeveloped and poverty rates are high. Efficient management of national resources is key to unlocking Lao’s development potentials, and any instability in governance will pose higher risk for potential investors.

Economy snapshot

Laos is forecasted to have reached a growth rate of 6.8 percent in 2016. In 2017, the economy is expected to improve at a slightly faster rate with seven percent. This will make Laos the third fastest growing economy in ASEAN, behind Myanmar and Cambodia. Inflation remains steady at a projected 1.6 percent and 2.3 percent in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Laos runs a negative current account balance, at about 16 percent of GDP in 2016.

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ASEAN Market Watch: e-Commerce in Thailand, Q4 Growth in Indonesia, and Myanmar-Thailand Bilateral Agreements

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Thailand: Strong growth expected in e-commerce market

Analysts say that Thailand’s e-commerce market is expected to grow around 20 percent this year as more consumers shop online. At present, only three percent of consumers shop online, underlining the significant growth potential for the online market. Thai retailer Central Group only had one percent of its revenue come from online sales. The increased online sales expected this year are attributed to growing internet and smartphone use as well as improved logistics and e-payment systems. Quality and reliability of online shopping services will further help the sector.

The Electronic Transactions Development Agency predicted that the e-commerce market in Thailand will be worth US$7.1 billion (THB 2.52 trillion) this year. Thailand has around 41 million internet users, and 41 million Facebook, 33 million Line, 7.8 million Instagram, and 5.3 million Twitter users. Analysts have further stated that omni-channel strategies, meaning a balance between physical retail stores and online shops, would benefit the country.

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An Introduction to Doing Business in Singapore 2017 – New Publication from Dezan Shira & Associates

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An Introduction to Doing Business in Singapore 2017, the latest publication from Dezan Shira & Associates, is out now and available for complimentary download through the Asia Briefing Publication Store.

As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) continues upon its path towards closer economic integration in 2017, Singapore’s role as the de facto financial and commercial capital of Southeast Asia will be unassailable. Having already established its competitive niche as a destination for establishing regional headquarters, branch offices and holding companies in Asia, Singapore’s legal and tax regimes continue to be among the most business-friendly in the world.

Offering foreign investors access to a highly skilled workforce, English-speaking business environment, immense logistics and transportation capacities, and over 70 double taxation avoidance agreements (DTAs), Singapore has firmly established its role as the gateway to ASEAN, China, India, and the whole of emerging Asia for foreign investors. 

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Investing in the Philippines: What to Expect in 2017

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By Alexander Chipman Koty

ManilaThe Philippines garnered substantial international attention in 2016, owing largely to President Rodrigo Duterte’s unexpected rise to power, his litany of controversial remarks, and contentious war on drugs campaign. Lost in the Philippines’ political drama, however, was the country’s strong economic performance. The Philippines posted a robust 6.8 percent GDP growth rate in 2016, outperforming popular investment spots such as China (6.7 percent) and Vietnam (6.2 percent). This follows years of sturdy growth under the previous Aquino administration, where growth averaged 6.2 percent per year.

FDI into the Philippines also increased in 2016, reaching US$6.2 billion in net inflows through the first 10 months of the year – a 22.2 percent increase over the US$5.1 billion accumulated over the same period the previous year. In 2015, total FDI amounted to US$5.7 billion. Intercompany borrowings accounted for almost two thirds of net FDI inflows (US$3.9 billion) in 2016, up 34.9 percent from US$2.9 billion in 2015. Despite improved FDI, the Philippines continues to lag behind fellow ASEAN countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand in this regard.

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ASEAN Regulatory Brief: Money Lending in the Philippines, Palm Oil Tax in Malaysia, and Visa Policy Review in Indonesia

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Philippines: Central bank tightens rules on money lending

In a move to fight money laundering, the Philippines’ central bank Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) tightened rules on money service businesses (MSBs). MSBs include remittance and transfer companies (RTCs), money changers, and foreign exchange dealers. As per the new rules, large payouts of more than US$10,036 (PHP 500,000) or its foreign currency equivalent in any single transaction with customers will only be allowed via check or direct credit to deposit accounts. Money changers and foreign exchange dealers will be allowed to sell foreign currency in an amount not exceeding US$10,000 and not exceeding US$50,000 per month per customer. Exemption will only be given once an application is made to the BSP depending on the nature of the business.

RTCs and MSBs will also need to notify the BSP when they commence operations as well as for new accreditation of remittance of sub-agents. The new rules will limit MSBs’ ability to transact in cash while also placing a cap on the amount of foreign currency that can be sold to money changers. The development comes after anti-money laundering investigators said that around US$81 million stolen from a Bangladesh central bank was transferred by a Philippines remittance company.

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