ASEAN

ASEAN Regulatory Brief: Philippines Green Energy Initiatives, Myanmar Industrial Zone Land Use, and Brunei Companies Act Amendments

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Philippines: Tax incentives announced for companies going green

The Philippines Board of Investment (BOI) has announced that it is planning to introduce tax incentives for companies going green. The initiative under the Climate Incentives for Manufacturing (CLIMA) program will target firms in the manufacturing sector. To qualify, enterprises should promote energy efficiency and use technology that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. While the exact nature of the incentives are not known, they are likely to be in the form of capital equipment incentives and income tax holidays.

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Individual Income Tax in Malaysia for Expatriates

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HR-Payroll-Cover-300-230By Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: Ellena Brunetti

Revised and Updated by Bradley Dunseith

Malaysia uses both progressive and flat rates for personal income tax, depending on an individual’s duration and type of work in the country. As expatriates may fall into either tax category depending on their work, it is important to understand Malaysia’s basic tax structure. 

The Income Tax Act of 1967 structures personal income taxation in Malaysia, while the Malaysian government’s annual budget can change the rates and variables for an individual’s taxation.

In this article, we explain how expatriates should calculate their individual income tax in Malaysia. We highlight exceptions to tax rates and penalties for noncompliance.

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Biomass Industry in the Philippines

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Op-ed by Bob Shead

This article will attempt to describe the economic advantages and environmental efficiencies of biomass power generation in the Philippines.  The biomass industry in the Philippines, while still far behind fossil fuel-based power generation, is rapidly advancing.  The term biomass normally refers to biological material that can be used as fuel.  It can be something as simple as a wooden log or more complex like alcohol.  Biomass for millennia has been the primary energy source on the planet. Although it is considered that all fossil fuels such as coal and oil originate from vegetation, they are excluded from the definition of biomass.

Sources of Biomass in the Philippines

The Philippines has large and abundant supplies of biomass resources, including agricultural crop residues, forest residues, animal waste, agro-industrial waste, municipal solid waste and aquatic biomass.  The most common agricultural waste are rice hull, bagasse, coconut shell husk and coconut coir.  This use of commercially produced agricultural residues converted into biofuels is increasing in the Philippines, as fossil fuel prices continue to rise.  Rice husks are perhaps the most important underdeveloped biomass resource that can be fully utilized in a renewable and sustainable manner for generation of electrical power.

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ASEAN Market Watch: Thailand GDP Growth, Malaysia Manufacturing Sector, and Singapore Retail Sales

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Thailand: First quarter GDP growth fastest in four years

The Thai economy recorded its fastest growth in four years during the January-March 2017 period. This has been propelled by stronger exports, consumption and growth in tourist arrivals despite weaker private investment and public funding. According to a poll conducted by Reuters, gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to have expanded a seasonally-adjusted 1.2 percent in the January-March period from the previous quarter, when growth was 0.4 percent – the best pace since the final quarter of 2012. As per the poll, growth is expected at 3.3 percent in 2017, up from 3.2 percent in the previous year.

According to data from Thailand’s central bank, exports grew at 6.6 percent in January-March, private consumption at 2.9 percent and farm income grew at 20 percent. Exports comprise about two-thirds of the Thai economy. Tourist numbers rose to 9.2 million in the January-March period from 7.8 million in the previous quarter, when some tourism-related entertainment activities were curtailed following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October 2016.

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ASEAN Growth to Remain Resilient Despite Regional Vulnerabilities

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By Bradley Dunseith

In April, 2017, the World Bank (WB) released their biannual East Asia and Pacific Economic Update, entitled, “Sustaining Resilience.” As the title suggests, the WB anticipates growth in East Asia and Pacific, including ASEAN states, to remain resilient despite risks from global and regional vulnerabilities. In this article, we go through “Sustaining Resilience” and summarize the WB’s forecast for developing ASEAN states generally as well as their country specific predictions for economic growth.

About the report

The WB predicts that large developing economies will continue to grow moderately while smaller regional economies will benefit from the rapid growth of their neighbors as well as high commodity prices. The WB marked that poverty has continued to decline in most countries and will continue to fall with sustained growth and rising labor incomes. However, the WB report noted that global policy uncertainties means that countries must address macroeconomic vulnerabilities so as to prepare for external shocks to the economy. External shocks – such as changes in US policy – disproportionately affect smaller countries; as such, the WB report strongly recommends small economics to improve the efficiency of their public spending in preparation of needed structural changes.

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Trade Fairs in Thailand – Steps to Protect Your Intellectual Property

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By: South-East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk

Trade fairs are now a well-established part of the business calendar in Thailand, particularly in Bangkok, with a number of high-tech industries represented, as well as areas of the creative sector such as furniture and design. Trade fairs provide foreign businesses with the opportunity to present their innovations and ideas to potential business partners and customers, and allow them to learn from and collaborate with other innovators. There is, however, a risk, in that disclosing your innovations to the public leaves you exposed to copying and infringements of your IP.

Infringement of innovations may not necessarily be straightforward ‘counterfeiting’ – i.e. exact product, packaging and brand imitation. It is more likely that competitors could be using, intentionally or otherwise, a certain part of your product or innovation. It is therefore advisable to be as diligent as possible and to get to know competitors’ products well. In the light of this, a practical and realistic approach must be taken when preparing for and attending trade fairs in Thailand. IP owners must also be patient and pragmatic, as it is unlikely that immediate action can be taken against an infringer. There are, however, steps that IP owners can take before, during and after the event to best protect their IP.

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ASEAN Regulatory Brief: Malaysia Cabotage Policy, Philippines Tax Reform, and Laos Land Concessions

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MALAYSIA: Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan exempted from cabotage policy

With effect from June 1, 2017 the states of Sarawak and Sabah as well as the Federal Territory of Labuan will be exempted from the cabotage policy. As per the erstwhile policy, only Malaysia-flagged ships were permitted to transport cargo from Peninsular Malaysia to these three territories and vice versa. As a result foreign vessels carrying freight bound for the three territories had to stop at the port of Klang in Selangor state in Peninsular Malaysia in order to transfer the goods to domestic ships for onward shipment to Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan.

The Malaysian transport ministry has announced that the exemption will however not apply to freight transport between Labuan and the states of Sarawak and Sabah. While the domestic shipping industry has protested against the government’s move to end the cabotage policy, it has been welcomed by the local administrations. It is believed that the policy had led to higher prices of commodities and as a result a higher cost of living in the three territories. Observers have stated that now it will be possible to ship goods directly to Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan without having to transfer at a Peninsular Malaysian port.

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The Philippine Economic Zone Authority – Incentives and Assistance

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Op-ed by Bob Shead

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is a Philippine Government agency, attached to the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry, and is the agency tasked to promote investments, extend assistance, register, grant incentives to and facilitate the business operations of investors in export-oriented manufacturing and service facilities inside selected areas throughout the Philippines, known as PEZA Special Economic Zones.

PEZA oversees and administers Philippine tax exemptions, and other beneficial incentives to foreign investors, developers and operators of, ready to occupy, environmentally friendly, secure and competitively priced Special Economic Zones (see below for a list of Philippine Economic Zones).  PEZA also assists investors who locate in service facilities inside selected areas in the country (areas named as PEZA Special Economic Zones); these are usually Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) companies.  Other activities also eligible for PEZA registration and incentives include establishment and operations within the Special Economic Zones for tourism, medical tourism, logistics and warehousing services, economic zone development and operation and facilities providers.

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Labuan: Offshore Opportunities in Malaysia

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By Bradley Dunseith

Labuan is an offshore, Malaysian island, which has the benefit of low tax regimes while still retaining the protection of Malaysia’s laws and regulations. This means Labuan entities benefit from nearly all the Double Taxation Agreements (DTAs) Malaysia has signed with over 70 countries while profiting from tax exemptions under the Labuan International Banking and Financial Center (IBFC).

Considered the ‘pearl of Borneo,’ Labuan is located off the coast of the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah and borders Brunei by sea. The territory is strategically located in close geographical proximity to financial capitals like Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. Labuan is technically comprised of seven islands – Labuan Island proper and six smaller satellite islands – and enjoys tropical weather. Labuan offers multiple ferry connections to mainland Malaysia and Brunei; its airport is served by two daily flights to Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur and one daily flight to Kota Kinabalu, the Sabah state capital. The island has a deep sea port and is planning to further develop its airport. 

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ASEAN Market Watch: Singapore Innovation Fund, Philippines Credit Rating, and Myanmar Tourism

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Singapore: Innovation fund created to fuel growth

As part of its bid to fuel economic growth, Singapore’s government is setting up a S$1 billion (US$718 million) fund to help innovative companies to develop their businesses and expand overseas. Billed as the Makara Innovation Fund, the project is a collaboration between the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) and local private equity firm Makara Capital. According to IPOS, the fund will invest S$30 million (US$21.5 million) to S$150 million (US$107.5 million) each in 10 to 15 companies with globally competitive technologies over the next eight years.

According to Bloomberg’s 2017 innovation index, Singapore ranked sixth ahead of the U.S. and Israel. According to Bloomberg estimates, Singapore has the third-largest number of patents granted per one million inhabitants, trailing only South Korea and Japan. As per latest available data from 2015, Singapore had 10,814 applications for patents, the largest number of any Southeast Asian nation, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization. According to IPOS, the agency plans to double the number of intellectual property experts in Singapore to 1,000 over the next five years and will train 4,000 people a year. It will also assist companies in using intellectual property as collateral for financing. IPOS expects these initiatives to add about S$1.5 billion (US$1.07 billion) in value to Singapore’s economy over the next five years.

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