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.
Indonesia: Largest car market in ASEAN
In 2016, 3.16 million cars were sold in the ASEAN region, according to the latest data from ASEAN Automotive Federation. Around 1.06 million cars, 33 percent of the total car sales, were sold in Indonesia. Thailand follows at second place with 768,788 cars. However, Thailand leads in terms of car production among the ASEAN countries. The country produced 1.94 million vehicles, accounting for almost 50 percent of total ASEAN manufacturing. Indonesia produced 1.17 million cars in 2016.
Industry experts believe Indonesia’s dependency on foreign investment for the automobile sector and the lack of components manufacturing industry will impede its manufacturing capabilities in comparison to Thailand’s current manufacturing capacity. Unlike manufacturing, car sales will continue to see a growth in Indonesia due to a growing economy and increase in purchasing power. Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam follow Indonesia and Thailand in terms of car sales.
Malaysia – EU trade to grow by 20-30 percent
Malaysian and EU authorities expect the proposed Malaysia-European Union (EU) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will increase trade volumes from 10 percent to 20-30 percent. The growth is based on EU’s existing FTA with South Korea, which grew by 35 percent in the last five years. Both South Korea and Malaysia have similar EU trade volumes. Both parties are pushing to implement the agreement by the end of 2017. The countries met at the ASEAN Regional Seminar on Transit and Transshipment along with eight ASEAN member states.
Malaysia’s trade with EU has moved away from being a participant country to sharing best practices, especially in the area of export control after they implemented the Strategic Trade Act (STA) 2010. The act is an export control law that encourages exports of strategic items. Both parties also focused on trade laws, transit and transshipment regulations, regional cooperation, and challenges in building strategic trade controls. EU is Malaysia’s third largest trading partner, with the last three years witnessing a positive trade balance and a growing number of EU companies investing in Malaysia.
Malaysia: World’s best country to invest
According to a recent report by Y&R’s BAV Consulting, The Wharton School, and US News & World Report, Malaysia leads as the best country for investments. The report based on a survey of business decision-makers on corruption, dynamism, economic stability, entrepreneurship, tax environment, innovation, labor force, and technological expertise ranks Singapore a close second. Industry experts believe robust growth, stable inflation rate, and low unemployment rates in the past few years provide a conducive environment for investors.
Industries such as services, infrastructure, manufacturing, tourism, education, and construction which are the focus of the 2017 Budget and 11MP Economic Plan, are expected to attract majority of the investment. Industry experts believe the country has a shortage of scientific and technical workforce that can still discourage few investors. The average annual labor productivity growth between 2011 and 2015 was 1.8 percent, less than 11MP target of 3.7 percent. Investors seeking to produce for exports and operating in free trade zones will find Malaysia an efficient economy, while on the other hand, accessing local markets will still be challenging for investors due to non-transparent tender processes.
By: Dezan Shira & Associates
An Introduction to Doing Business in ASEAN 2017, the latest publication from Dezan Shira & Associates, is out now and available for complimentary download through the Asia Briefing Publication Store.
What happens in and around ASEAN is one of the key factors increasingly impacting upon China and India trade flows, as well as the rest of Asia. While the ASEAN trade bloc has been in existence since 1967, it has really shown its importance in trade and commercial business flows since the rise of China over the past three decades, and through its response to China’s changing domestic demographics. Those changes – an aging and increasingly consumer demanding China – have been skillfully adapted by ASEAN to place the future of global manufacturing, and where it takes place, firmly within its own orbit.
Simply put, free trade agreements that came into effect with China and India in 2010 changed the face of Asian trade and production, and are continuing to do so. For example, bilateral trade figures between China and ASEAN’s Big Five of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand have multiplied by factors of 500 percent since the agreement was signed. With the smaller ASEAN nations of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam coming into line with their own compliance of ASEAN customs duty reductions at the end of 2015, the entire bloc offers close to zero import-export tariffs for much of emerging Asia, including the giant markets of China and India, possessing some 500 million middle class consumers between them. ASEAN therefore represents a massive trade bloc possessing free trade agreements of global strategic importance. The question of accessing ASEAN for the benefit of North American, European and other global purchasing and manufacturing executives is a key function of this report.
An Introduction to Doing Business in ASEAN introduces the fundamentals of investing in the 10-nation ASEAN bloc, concentrating on economics, trade, corporate establishment and taxation. We also include the latest development news in our “Important Updates” section for each country, with the intent to provide an executive assessment of the varying component parts of ASEAN, assessing each member state and providing the most up-to-date economic and demographic data on each. Additional research and commentary on ASEAN’s relationships with China, India and Australia is also provided.
- An introduction to ASEAN
- Country profiles
- Case studies: ASEAN as a platform for Asian growth
Our practice, Dezan Shira & Associates, has taken giant steps into the ASEAN market through the establishment of offices throughout the region, in addition to the creation of a unique alliance of firms. That, coupled with our existing long experience of handling foreign investment into China and India, puts us in a unique position of truly understanding how Asia works and how to maximize its free trade benefits.
Asia Briefing Ltd. is a subsidiary of Dezan Shira & Associates. Dezan Shira is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Singapore and the rest of ASEAN. For further information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.dezshira.com.
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Dezan Shira & Associates Brochure
Dezan Shira & Associates is a pan-Asia, multi-disciplinary professional services firm, providing legal, tax and operational advisory to international corporate investors. Operational throughout China, ASEAN and India, our mission is to guide foreign companies through Asia’s complex regulatory environment and assist them with all aspects of establishing, maintaining and growing their business operations in the region. This brochure provides an overview of the services and expertise Dezan Shira & Associates can provide.
An Introduction to Doing Business in ASEAN 2017
An Introduction to Doing Business in ASEAN 2017 introduces the fundamentals of investing in the 10-nation ASEAN bloc, concentrating on economics, trade, corporate establishment, and taxation. We also include the latest development news for each country, with the intent to provide an executive assessment of the varying component parts of ASEAN, assessing each member state and providing the most up-to-date economic and demographic data on each.
Human Resources in ASEAN
In this issue of ASEAN Briefing, we discuss the prevailing structure of ASEAN’s labor markets and outline key considerations regarding wages and compliance at all levels of the value chain. We highlight comparative sentiment on labor markets within the region, showcase differences in cost and compliance between markets, and provide insight on the state of statutory social insurance obligations throughout the bloc.
Malaysia: Exports in January register strong growth
Malaysia’s exports in January accelerated from the previous month due to high shipments and strong demand from China. Exports rose 13.6 percent with a value of US$15.76 million from a year earlier, according to the Department of Statistics. Analysts say that global trade is also strengthening, with demand for manufactured products from China, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and South Korea. Electrical and electronic goods, which account for more than one third of Malaysia’s exports, increased 11.4 percent from a year earlier, while palm oil and palm based products climbed 23 percent.
Exports to China, Malaysia’s largest trading partner, increased to 31.6 percent year-on-year in January, followed by 18.8 percent to Singapore. Analysts believe that demand for electronics will lessen in the second half of the year, slowing the country’s growth. However, the country’s central, Bank Negara Malaysia, stated that it expects stronger exports and steady domestic demand to keep up with economic growth.
Philippines: Regulation holds banks responsible for late tax payments
The Department of Finance (DOF) on February 15 announced a new rule under the Bureau of Revenue (BIR) which will penalize banks and not taxpayers for late or unremitted tax payments made through credit, debit or prepaid cards. The regulations amends the Revenue Regulation (RR) No. 3-2016 which made taxpayers liable if their authorized agent bank (AAB) failed to pay the BIR their tax payment on time.
The regulation is mainly to benefit self-employed and small business owners who line up for several hours at BIR to pay taxes. As per the new rules, taxes paid by cards will be deemed already paid on the date and time shown on the confirmation receipt issued by AAB. The AAB will then be liable for any delays in depositing to the BIR. The DOF is also pursuing other tax reforms such as lowering personal income tax while raising excise tax and reducing value added tax (VAT)
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.
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.
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.