Malaysia

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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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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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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ASEAN Market Watch: Indonesia Seeks Engineers, ASEAN ICT Masterplan, and Singapore-Malaysia High Speed Rail

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Indonesia faces shortage of engineers

Indonesia’s annual shortage of around 30,000 engineers is becoming a key obstacle to its infrastructure development plans. Currently, Indonesia has 57 million skilled workers but it would need 113 million by 2030 to meet the country’s requirements. Around 20 percent of Indonesia’s six million university and postgraduate students pursue Islamic studies, with most students ending up with unrelated jobs.

According to a 2015 national labor force survey, less than ten percent of Indonesia’s 250 million citizens have a university-level education. Of those, only eight percent choose an engineering study and more than half of these graduates work in different fields, such as banking. The government believes that the country needs a more skilled workforce if they are to keep up with other ASEAN countries and meet the Master Plan for Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development’s (MP3EI 2025) ambitious targets, which will be difficult to achieve with substantial infrastructure gaps.

Achieving Indonesia’s infrastructure development goals, which range from sea projects, airports, highways, and power plants, necessitates a technical workforce. The government is taking steps to establish more industry-oriented engineering colleges, technical institutes, and state-funded scholarships. The last few years have seen improvements, with 57 percent of Indonesians completing education after primary school in 2015, compared to 40 percent in 2002. Furthermore, the share of college-age Indonesians attending universities has risen from 20 percent to 25 percent over the last decade. However, economists believe that Indonesia still needs to do more to meet its infrastructure development goals by 2025.

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ASEAN Regulatory Brief: Philippines Contractualization Law, Cambodia Customs Seal, and Malaysia Foreign Worker Levy

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Philippines: Policy on labor contractualization approved

The Philippines government approved a new Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) regulation, Order No. 168 on contractualization, after it was submitted on December 29, 2016. The new law amends the provisions of the labor code and legalizes subcontracting or outsourcing labor through third party agencies. This will allow principal employers to hire contractual labor, but only through service providers. These providers will be responsible for regularizing workers rather than the employer. Higher financial requirements will be imposed on service providers to eliminate unreliable subcontractors and ensure payments for laborers. The government believes that the change will address issues of labor abuse.

Several labor groups have opposed the directives, believing the change will only further legitimize contractualization in a different form and not eliminate it. The groups are lobbying for direct hiring and to prohibit third party hiring by banning fixed-term employment. They have asked President Rodrigo Duterte not to implement the directive and to issue an order banning all forms of fixed employment contracts, thereby fulfilling his campaign promise of eliminating contractualization. In the first five months of Duterte’s term, the government regularized 25,000 contractual workers, which is less than 10 percent of the total workforce.

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An Introduction to e-Commerce in Malaysia

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By Harry Handley

In recent years, the Malaysian government has worked tirelessly to achieve their goal of becoming a high-income nation by 2020. Through the government’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), a number of key service industries have been heavily promoted and subsidized in order to make this goal become a reality – one of which is e-commerce.

Despite almost 70 percent internet penetration in 2015, only five percent of Malaysian businesses had an online presence. Many leading experts believe that the Malaysian e-commerce market is at an inflection point and may be about to experience a serious boom period. Along with rising incomes, growing smartphone and internet penetration is expected to increase the proportion of online retail spend in Malaysia from 0.5 percent of total retail spending (2014) to five percent by 2020.  This makes it an interesting time to assess the state of the market, in terms of government initiatives, consumer trends, incumbent players, and opportunities for foreign firms.

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ASEAN Market Watch: Malaysia Hiring, Indonesia Retail, and Philippines VAT Waiver

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Malaysia: Hiring in manufacturing sector improves

Malaysia’s manufacturing sector continued to register growth despite a 47.2 Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) reading in November, which is a little lower than September’s reading of 48.6. A score of 50 indicates improvement in the sector. The Department of Statistics (DoS) in mid-November issued an Industrial Production Index (IPI) showing industrial growth of 3.2 percent year-on-year, mainly from manufacturing and electrical sectors. Sub-sectors such as petroleum, chemical, rubber, plastic products, electrical and electronic products, non-metallic mineral products, and basic metal and fabricated metal products drove growth.

Manufacturing sales also improved to US$13 billion, a 1.1 percent year-on-year expansion. The Monster Employment Index (MEI), which records online hiring, stated that manufacturing was the top growth industry, with online recruitment in that sector expanding by 1 percent year-on-year in August. Local recruits also expect hiring to pick up in the short to medium term, with manufacturing a key sector to benefit the most. In addition to manufacturing, robust growth is also expected in IT and retail industries.

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Donald Trump in the White House: Implications for the Future of the TPP and Free Trade in ASEAN

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By Dezan Shira & Associates

US president-elect Donald Trump’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is well-known and the future of the trade deal is now on tenterhooks. For the supporters of the TPP, Trump’s victory has meant that their worst fears are now going to unfold. Opponents of the trade deal are rejoicing at their expectation that Trump will now move quickly to fulfill one of his most controversial campaign promises – to abandon the TPP. Any prospects of the US renegotiating the TPP are not only bleak but also impractical – the trade deal was seven years in the making, meticulously negotiated and involved compromises from several countries on both sides of the Pacific.

Professional Service_CB icons_2015RELATED: Pre Investment and Market Entry Advisory from Dezan Shira & Associates

Implications for ASEAN

So now if the US does ultimately withdraw from the TPP, what implications will this have for free trade in the ASEAN region? Before analyzing this, it should be kept in mind that TPP’s potential failure is unlikely to have any significant immediate economic impact on the region. It was not a trade deal in force, but only offered prospects of newer free trade rules coming into effect in the near future. Instead of being a step backwards, it is more a lack of further progress as far as development of free trade in the region is concerned.

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ASEAN Regulatory Brief: Singapore GST Audits, Philippines Dormant Bank Accounts, and Malaysia-China Bilateral Ties

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Singapore: Tax Authority to Step Up GST Audits

The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) stated they will step up GST audits for large businesses in 2016 and 2017. While large businesses form only 2 percent of the GST taxpayer base, they contribute more than 50 percent of revenues from GST. Although large businesses have complex business arrangements and high-value transactions, most of them outsource finance functions to locations outside Singapore, which may not be fully compliant with Singapore’s GST rules, and thereby increasing risks of error.

Companies that are found to have discrepancies during the audit will attract fines of up to two times the tax underpaid and a 5 percent late payment penalty. The IRAS has encouraged GST taxpayers to participate in its Assisted Compliance Assurance Programme (ACAP) to avoid audit exemption and one-off full waiver of penalties. Large companies operating in Singapore, including multinational corporations, should ensure they are compliant with all relevant rules and regulations related to GST.

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ASEAN Market Watch: Malaysia CIT Reduction, Indonesia Ease of Doing Business, and Cambodia Rice Exports

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Malaysia: Corporate Income Tax to be Reduced for Profit-making Companies

In the forthcoming Assessment Year (AY) 2017, beginning January 1, 2017, as well as AY 2018, companies registering an increase in revenue, compared to the previous AY, will be eligible to pay a reduced rate of corporate income tax (CIT) on the increased amount.

As per the new measure, companies increasing their annual revenue by at least five percent over the previous year will get a one percent reduction in the 24 percent CIT rate on the incremental portion of taxable income. The tax cut will rise on a sliding scale to four percent in line with revenue increases of 20 percent or more. For example, if a company increases its chargeable income from RM 10 million in AY 2016 to RM 12 million in AY 2017, the income tax rate for the first RM 10 million will be 24 percent, and the income tax rate for the additional RM 2 million will be 20 percent.

In addition, a tax incentive has been introduced for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) whereby the income tax rate on the first RM 500,000 (US$120,222) will be reduced from the current 19 percent to 18 percent with effect from AY 2017. The changes are part of the Budget 2017, which will also include incentives for other sectors like hotels and insurance. Despite these incentives, analysts have stated that the tax reduction is still not attractive as compared to other ASEAN countries.

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