News Analysis By Nor Baizura Bari
DAVOS (Switzerland): (Jan 29) — Despite having his trip cut short, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak succeeded in his dual mission to promote both Malaysia and ASEAN as preferred investment destinations.
And, reassured international investors convinced by the strong case Najib presented in highlighting Malaysia’s competiveness on its own merit and its strategic position within South East Asia (SEA), sounded out their long-term commitment to Malaysia and ASEAN.
Although temperatures were below freezing point, Najib managed both in warming and winning the hearts of these investors who reaffirmed their commitment to continue to operate and expand in Malaysia such as Royal Vopak, Novartis and Lafarge.
Najib, who is also the Finance Minister, took time to personally meet the corporate leaders of six companies — BAE, Lloyds, Royal Dutch Shell, General Electric, Nestle and Standard Chartered Group, which were looking at investing more in the country, as well as, in the ASEAN region.
At a business luncheon hosted by Malaysia, Najib took the time to explain to the international community on the current economic situation in Malaysia and the pre-emptive measures that were in place to cushion the impact of the current challenges.
His presence at Davos was seen as timely as it gave the opportunity for him to reassure investors that the government would strive to keep the economy on the growth trajectory which is crucial given that their fortunes were tied to Malaysia’s long-term economic growth.
It was pertinent that he gave them a first-hand view of Malaysia’s economic standing despite being affected by the global slump in crude oil prices and the weakening ringgit.
More importantly, Prime Minister pointed out that Malaysia was not in a crisis but that there were challenges to overcome for which Malaysia had taken pre-emptive and prudential steps to rein in operational spending without jeopardising development expenditure.
This is in view that the latter was pivotal to an expansionary economic growth.
“Of course, we are concerned with the headwinds but we believe in strong fundamentals. The market will make its correction and in due course, we will overcome strong headwinds and we will be back on track,” he said.
Najib also spoke of some success stories of the country’s economic achievement, as well as, the achievement made by Malaysian giants in the international arena.
As chair of ASEAN, he spoke of the immense opportunities for the international community stemming from the regional grouping’s potential with a consumer base of 620 million and that Malaysia can serve as an ideal gateway particularly to the untapped economies within Southeast Asia.
Overwhelming support also came from local industry captains with 39 of them coming all the way to Davos including Khazanah Nasional Managing Director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar, PNB Group President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tan Sri Hamad Kama Piah Che Othman, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd Chairman Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, Axiata President and CEO Datuk Seri Jamaludin Ibrahim.
On bilateral matters, Najib met his Netherlands’ counterpart Prime Minister Mark Rutte and particularly discussed updates on the MH17 tragedy investigation.
Prime Minister also met Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, India, Chandrababu Naidu, who, among others, discussed measures to step up bilateral ties in all aspects including the technology, economic, trade and military sectors.
Najib’s remaining works were then continued by Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and Minister’s in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar with them following up with the investors and sending clear message about the ASEAN agenda.
Mustapa met with 11 top company representatives including Cargill Incorporated, the Boston Consulting Group and various companies representing healthcare, machinery, logistics and food industries.
He also hosted the Malaysia Night at the Malaysian Pavilion, which saw overwhelming responses from 1,500 guests with half being made up of this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) participants.
Despite all this, the ‘presence’ of the Prime Minister was solely missed, the Malaysia night was packed for three hours as the guests took the opportunity to savour every Malaysian cuisine served such as nasi lemak, sate, nasi briyani, sambal udang, as well as, the infamous ‘teh tarik’.
The commitment by the Malaysian government was further cemented with the presence of iconic personalities such as world famous fashion designer hailed from Kelantan, Datuk Zang Toi and Master Chef United Kingdom 2014 winner Ping Coombes, founder of MERCY Malaysia Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood, as well as, a video recording of number one world squash player Datuk Nicol David.
These are seen as part of endorsement towards government’s efforts.
“We have seen strong interest and confidence in Malaysia from the international business community here, specifically as a base for growing their business into ASEAN,” said Mustapa, who managed to surprise the guests on a lighter side of him during the Malaysia night.
As for Abdul Wahid, Malaysia’s participation at WEF is worthy in terms of investment and efforts.
He suggested that Malaysia should have more voice in the future of WEF and get involved in as many sessions and discussions as possible.
“Overall, it is a productive, successful and meaningful WEF,” he said.
There were more than 280 sessions, held at the annual forum, focusing on addressing global challenges, to see the leaders reshaping the world and how they can navigate the change.
As for Malaysia, they did their best in presenting their case at the WEF.
At the end, it is not all ‘gloom and doom’ for Malaysia. –BERNAMA