Malaysia Update | August 16, 2018

Malaysia Update | August 16, 2018
Authors: Kim Yaeger, Tina Jamaluddin, Emma Tabatabai, and Alex Nguyen
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
October 16-18: 2018 Malaysia Business Mission
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

New Government Makes Steady Progress Through First 100 Days

Through its first 100 days in power and completing its first session of Parliament, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government made steady progress on delivering on its major campaign pledges made during the general election season. The most notable pledge that was passed during this parliamentary session included the formal repeal of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act 2014 after it was zero-rated on June 1. The GST system is being replaced by a Sales and Services Tax (SST) system. The Sales Tax Bill 2018 was passed by Parliament on August 7 with the sales tax set at 10 percent and the Services Tax Bill 2018 was passed on August 8 with the services tax set at 6 percent.  The SST system could be implemented as early as September 1. The PH government completed another pledge on the last day of the parliamentary session by repealing the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 that was passed earlier this year in April (see the next Council's Take).

Outside of Parliament, the PH government moved forward with another campaign pledge by intending to cancel major infrastructure projects that were awarded to foreign countries under the Najib administration, deeming that the projects were unfavorable to Malaysians. Prime Minister Mahathir announced in June they would scrap the Kuala Lumpur – Singapore High Speed Railway and has moved forward with canceling the East Coast Rail Link and two gas pipelines that are backed by China. The PH government also made additional headway on key campaign promises to root corruption, promote transparency, and institute reforms by making government agencies and government linked-companies more independent. Agencies such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Election Commission (EC), the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the National Audit Department will now operate more independently from the Prime Minister’s Office and report to Parliament. The MACC and EC plus the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), and the police force were identified first by the Institutional Reform Committee for further examination to promote check and balances.

However, there is concern on whether the PH government will be able to deliver on its other campaign promises including erasing debts levied on FELDA farmers, deferring study loan repayments, and implementing a medical care scheme for lower-income groups. The larger-than-estimated debt and the abolishment of GST has forced the government to reevaluate its fiscal finances as it tries to remain within its fiscal deficit target of 2.8 percent of GDP. Questions also still linger whether the PH government will be able to stay united within its four-party coalition and ultimately govern better than past administrations in the long term where observers say much of the new government’s focus thus far has been blaming the previous administration for many of the country’s current issues. Overall however, Prime Minister Mahathir and his government have said they have been satisfied with their first 100 days and have stressed it will take time to carry out its promises, planned reforms, and overall agenda.

Malaysian Parliament Passes Bill to Repeal Anti-Fake News Act

On August 16, the Malaysian Parliament passed a Bill to repeal the controversial Anti-Fake News Act 2018. According to the Star, the Bill states that the Act is no longer relevant because fake news can be dealt with under existing laws such as the Penal Code, the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. Parliament debated the bill for about three hours before passing it by a simple voice vote. Prime Minister Mahathir and the Pakatan Harapan Party campaigned on the promise to repeal the law, and were able to follow through within their first 100 days in office. Interestingly, Prime Minister Mahathir was accused of fake news after authorities said they were investigating him over what they said were false claims that his plane was sabotaged, to prevent him from going to Langkawi a day before nomination day.

The bill’s first reading was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong. This development directly follows an announcement on May 28 by Malaysia’s Communications and Media Minister Gobind Singh Deo of his intentions to repeal the Act. The Act was originally passed on April 2, despite the controversy that its provisions could be used to restrict content from critics of the electoral process, under the guise of restricting the dissemination of fake news (see here for the Council’s previous Update on the passage of the law).

The swift action taken by the Malaysian government to repeal the controversial Act may be promising for businesses, who have been wary of the potential ramifications of the Act. There is great political pressure to follow through on the repeal, which indicates implementation will be swift as well. The new Bill does still allow for cases currently under review by the Act to be investigated or prosecuted, even following the abolishment of the Act, which somewhat reverses the repeal. However, there were no cases prosecuted under the law and little reason to believe any cases will continue.

Bank Negara Malaysia Sees Significant Reorganization

On July 15, the new leadership of BNM unveiled a reorganization of the central bank. Although some reorganization is typical of new bank governors, these changes are particularly substantial. Governor Nor Shamsiah has taken more direct power over the Bank's core economic functions and appears to be positioning herself for a more active managerial role. Additionally, regulatory roles have been separated into their own section within BNM and the criminal enforcement offices have been elevated in stature. The new organizational structure can be viewed here and the previous structure can be viewed here. A summary of the key changes are below:

  • The position of Chief of Staff, a role created by Governor Muhammad bin Ibrahim in 2016, has been eliminated. The chief of staff was responsible for the governor's office, strategic communications, and strategic management departments. The elimination of this role is meant to ensure direct and unfiltered reporting to the new Governor.
  • Monetary Stability, under Assistant Governor Marzunisham bin Omar, and Financial Markets & Currency, under Assistant Governor Norzilla bte Abdul Ariz, are both no longer overseen by a Deputy Governor. Both Assistant Governors departments now report directly to the Governor. Monetary Stability oversees macroeconomic issues and monetary policy, while Financial Markets & Currency manages financial system liquidity, market operations, and foreign exchange.
  • The departments of Regulation and Financial Development, previously under Deputy Governor Jessica Chew Cheng Lian have been separated from each other. Deputy Governor Chew now oversees all Financial Stability and Regulation functions. This includes offices that handle financial institution supervision, market surveillance, and prudential policy. The Financial Development offices have been moved to Deputy Governor Abdul Rashed bin Abdul Ghaffour's remit. In addition to development policy, he will also handle the bank’s internal management and criminal enforcement functions.
  • The Financial Intelligence and Enforcement Department (FIED), which used to be under an Assistant Governor, has been bolstered to higher priority and will now report directly to Deputy Governor Abdul Rashed. FIED is led by Abdul Rahman bin Abu Bakar, and handles investigations into financial mismanagement, terrorism financing, and money laundering. This change is an apparent effort to strengthen BNM’s ability to counter financial crime. Within FIED, and in conjunction with the Anti-Money Laundering & Counter Financing of Terrorism department (AML/CFT), a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has been established to analyze financial intelligence relating to money laundering and terrorism financing. 
  • The Payment Systems Policy Department has been split into a Payment Development office within the Financial Development and Innovation Department under Deputy Governor Abdul Rashed and a Payments Oversight Office under Deputy Governor Chew.
  • A Cyber Security office has been established under the IT Services office, run by Nazrul Hisyam bin Mohd Noh, which is housed in a new IT and Finance Department. IT Services was previously in the Human Capital Department.

Governor Nor Shamsiah has kept a low public profile since assuming office and avoided public speeches. In addition to the internal restructuring and building her team, she has been focused on monetary policy issues and working with the rest of the government to address 1MDB-related investigations.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 

National Affairs
Malaysia's Council of Eminent Persons won't be dissolved yet: PM Mahathir
71% approve of Dr M as PH Govt reaches 100th day in power
New law to govern ministers
Daim tipped for advisory role
Khairy wants open probe over Guan Eng's claim that RM18bil of GST refunds 'robbed'
A double-edged sword
MITI forms task force to monitor US-China trade war
Minimum wage at RM1,500 receives mixed reactions
Pompeo takes Indo-Pacific vision to Mahathir's Malaysia
Malaysian PM appoints new Khazanah board
Gov't taking proactive steps to increase FDI
Malaysia's stand on CPTPP to be made clearer soon

Customs
Malaysia reviewing national automotive policy, may impose curbs on car imports: PM Mahathir
Malaysia should ratify CPTPP for new economic opportunities
GST refund shortfall more than we thought: Malaysia finance minister
Service Tax Bill 2018 passed by Dewan Rakyat
Pakatan keeps its word, bill to repeal GST passed
Parliament passes Sales Tax Bill 2018
+ Najib: GST more effective and transparent tax system than SST

Defense & Security
New Malaysian Government Reveals Su-30MKM Readiness Woes
Malaysia Shuts Down Saudi-Supported Counterterror Center
Promoting Singapore-Malaysia Maritime Cooperation in the Eastern Strait
US-Malaysia Defense Ties in Focus with Air Force Exercise

Energy
Petronas to explore for new O&G reserves — ministry
Natural gas and renewable energy to fuel a sustainable future
Malaysia LNG exports hit 4-year low on pipeline issues
Petronas keen to invest in Philippine LNG hub
Petronas launches new vendor devt scheme with 18 partners
Mestecc is ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change

Financial Services
Repeal law for minister to grant tax exemptions
DFIs need to ensure long term financial sustainability
Khazanah's mass resignation unlikely to affect equity market
iPay88 says it may exceed 200pc online transactions target this year
Malaysia: Insurance scheme for low income groups to be tabled in Oct
Entire board of Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah resigns, leaves leadership decision to PM Mahathir

Food & Agriculture
Malaysia to clarify bird flu outbreak to Indonesia following poultry ban
Minister: Malaysia needs university that focuses on agriculture
Agriculture and Domestic Trade ministries to tackle issue on beef price
Malaysia's farming policies will be revamped, says minister
Malaysia's food security ranks No. 2 in South-East Asia
Malaysia leads CPOPC this year
Malaysia's F&B sector embraces digital tech

Health & Life Sciences
Allianz Malaysia partners with 11street to make insurance more accessible, affordable
Have health insurance for all, MMA tells government
Putrajaya to implement health insurance gradually, deputy minister says
Time to revamp Malaysia's healthcare system, says ex-DG
Health Ministry urges hygiene, may 'take action' against places with frequent HFMD outbreaks
Malaysia has highest rate of diabetes in Asia
Health Minister: Some 4.2mil Malaysians living with mental health issues
Australia's Healthscope to sell Asian pathology operations

ICT
Govt may limit Internet access for teens under 17 after midnight
Telcos, users seek win-win solution over broadband prices
Malaysia promotes digital trading and market places within Asean
ICT training program seeks to bridge the gap of digital competency
Malaysia Parliament passes Bill to repeal Anti-Fake News law
Bill to make it compulsory for new houses to be installed with Internet facility
Malaysia legally well-equipped to address internet abuse issues

Infrastructure
Malaysian PM heading to China with mega-projects in focus
Malaysia seeks KL-Singapore HSR delay pending review
Dr Mahathir says wants to cancel ECRL, two gas pipeline projects — AP
Azmin to meet Singapore counterpart by end month on HSR

Travel & Tourism
AirAsia to launch Kuala Lumpur-Silangit direct flight in October
Malaysia confident of meeting 33.1 million tourist arrivals target in 2018

 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
National Affairs

Malaysia's Council of Eminent Persons won't be dissolved yet: PM Mahathir The Straits Times 16th Aug 2018
The council set up to advise the new Malaysian government on economic and financial issues will not be disbanded this weekend, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday (Aug 16). The five-man Council of Eminent Persons was established on May 12, three days after the Pakatan Harapan government swept to power in the general election. It was tasked with helping the government fulfil its 100-day election pledges and advising on major issues affecting the economy including the goods and services tax, national debt and state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

71% approve of Dr M as PH Govt reaches 100th day in power The Edge Markets 15th Aug 2018
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has an approval rating of 71% among Malaysians as at August this year, according to a post-election survey by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research. Compared with the election month in May when he scored a rating of 83%, Dr Mahathir’s current approval rating is at its lowest. However, the figure still beats the highest rating of 62% achieved by Dr Mahathir’s predecessor Datuk Seri Najib Razak during his tenure as Prime Minister between 2013 and May 2018.

New law to govern ministers NST 10th Aug 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: PUTRAJAYA is pushing for specific legal provisions that will minimise the exposure of those holding public office to corruption and abuse of power. The plan is to lump politicians with civil servants, and have them governed under a proposed law — Public Officials Misconduct Act.

Daim tipped for advisory role The Star 9th Aug 2018
PETALING JAYA: As the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) wraps up its work, speculation is rife that the chairman, Tun Daim Zainuddin, could be appointed as adviser to the government.

Khairy wants open probe over Guan Eng's claim that RM18bil of GST refunds 'robbed' The Star Online 9th Aug 2018
PETALING JAYA: Khairy Jamaluddin wants an open investigation over Lim Guan Eng’s claims that RM18bil of GST tax refunds had been "robbed" and for any guilty parties to be brought to "justice".

A double-edged sword the star 9th Aug 2018
PETALING JAYA: The narrower tax coverage for services under the sales and service tax (SST) come Sept 1 is set to be a double-edged sword, as it will boost consumer demand while at the same time lowering government revenue.

MITI forms task force to monitor US-China trade war NST 8th Aug 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: The International Trade and Industry Ministry (MITI) has set up a task force in July to monitor and assess the developments of the United States-China trade conflict. The task force will also focus on formulating strategies to mitigate the trade protectionism impact and act as a focal point for stakeholders to present their views, comments and feedback, the ministry said in a statement today.

Minimum wage at RM1,500 receives mixed reactions The Edge Markets 3rd Aug 2018
The minimum wage rate of RM1,500 expected to be gazetted this month has received mixed reactions from different organisations within the country. Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) president Datuk Abdul Halim Mansor said it fully supported the increase in minimum wage increase over the next five years, provided there was no pressure on any parties, especially employers. "MTUC is still fighting to raise the minimum wage rate for employees to no less than RM1,500. We made a decision on this (minimum wage increase) through surveys conducted with the National Wage Legislative Technical Committee and the discussions at the MTUC Delegates Conference.

Pompeo takes Indo-Pacific vision to Mahathir's Malaysia U.S. 2nd Aug 2018
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began a four-day visit to Asia to promote a U.S. vision of transparent, private sector-led investment with a stop in Malaysia, which has ordered a review of the sort of massive Chinese projects Washington questions. Pompeo arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday evening en route to ASEAN regional meetings in Singapore. He will meet Malaysia’s 93-year-old prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad on Friday morning, to congratulate him on an unexpected May election victory that returned him to power on a pledge to clean up government.

Malaysian PM appoints new Khazanah board Financial Times 30th Jul 2018
Malaysia has appointed a brand new board of directors at Khazanah Nasional, the country’s $39bn sovereign wealth fund, less than a week after senior management offered to resign en masse, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office released on Monday. Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister, will be the fund’s new chairman after Najib Razak, former premier, stepped down following a shocking loss in the May elections. The managing director replacing Azman Mokhtar, whose term would have expired in the first half of next year after 14 years at the fund, has not been appointed yet.

Gov't taking proactive steps to increase FDI The Star Online 6th Aug 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: The government will continue to take proactive measures to increase foreign direct investments (FDI) by giving more attention to high-quality investments which can stimulate the economy.

Malaysia's stand on CPTPP to be made clearer soon NST 7th Aug 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government’s stand on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will be finalised by the Cabinet soon. Minister of International Trade and Industry ( MITI) Ignatius Darell Leiking said Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad had been looking into the matter.

Customs

Malaysia reviewing national automotive policy, may impose curbs on car imports: PM Mahathir The Straits Times 30th Jul 2018
KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, REUTERS) - The Malaysian government is reviewing the national automotive policy, which may include imposing conditions on the import of foreign vehicles. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said in Parliament on Monday (July 30) that while the government agrees with the practice of free trade, other countries worldwide impose conditions for their own markets.

Malaysia should ratify CPTPP for new economic opportunities BorneoPost Online 26th Jul 2018
Malaysia should ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as the pact is the best platform for local companies to access economic opportunities in a new region, says Mexican Ambassador to Malaysia. The envoy said he encouraged newly-minted International Trade and Industries Minister Darell Leiking and Malaysia to ratify the CPTPP, a revision of the original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement which the United States withdrew from in January 2017.

GST refund shortfall more than we thought: Malaysia finance minister Channel NewsAsia 16th Aug 2018
The shortfall in Goods and Services Tax (GST) refunds totalled RM19.2 billion (US$4.7 billion) as at May 31 this year and not the RM17.9 billion stated last week, Malaysia's finance minister Lim Guan Eng said on Monday (Aug 13). Lim had earlier reported that the previous administration had failed to pay input tax refunds within two weeks after submission of proper documents. He said verified records of the Royal Malaysia Customs Department show that GST refunds stood at RM19.2 billion as at May 31 this year. 

Service Tax Bill 2018 passed by Dewan Rakyat Hemananthani Sivanandam Martin Carvalho Rahimy Rahim & Loshana K Shagar 8th Aug 2018
The Service Tax Bill 2018 was passed in the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday (Aug 8) without much hassle, unlike the Sales Tax Bill 2018 the day before. Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the Service Tax would be beneficial to the rakyat, unlike the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which was a burden. With the abolishing of GST, Lim said local and state governments can now benefit, as they no longer need to pay the 6% tax for projects. “Before this, any road project, even longkang (drainage) upgrading projects would need have the 6% added.

Pakatan keeps its word, bill to repeal GST passed The Star Online 8th Aug 2018
Pakatan Harapan’s promise to abolish the Goods and Services Tax (GST) materialised with the passing of a bill to repeal the consumption-based tax. Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, in his wrapping up address in Parliament on Wednesday (Aug 8), had promised a thorough investigation on some RM18bil of the input tax credit under the GST which he claimed was “robbed” and “misappropriated” by the Barisan Nasional administration. “It is a very heavy responsibility. We want to know how it has happened for three years in a row.

Parliament passes Sales Tax Bill 2018 The Edge Markets 7th Aug 2018
The Sales Tax Bill 2018 was passed in the Dewan Rakyat today with a resounding majority by voice vote, despite arguments put up by Barisan Nasional backbenchers. The Bill, read for the third time by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng before it was passed, forms part of the Sales and Services Tax (SST) regime that will be implemented from Sept 1 this year. The other Bill is the Service Tax Bill 2018 that will be debated by Members of Parliament tomorrow, together with the the Goods and Services Tax (Repeal) Bill 2018, which when passed will mark the end of the GST chapter in Malaysia. According to the Sales Tax Bill, a 10% sales tax would be charged and levied on any taxable goods manufactured in Malaysia and sold, used or disposed of by a registered manufacturer. It also applies on taxable goods imported into Malaysia by any person.

Najib: GST more effective and transparent tax system than SST NST 8th Aug 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who introduced the Goods and Services Tax (GST) during his administration, stands firm that the tax system is better than the Sales and Service Tax (SST).

Defense & Security

New Malaysian Government Reveals Su-30MKM Readiness Woes Aviation International News 6th Aug 2018
Malaysian Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu of the new Pakatan Harapan-led government revealed to his parliament on July 31 that only four of the 18 Sukhoi Su-30MKMs of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) 11 Squadron are airworthy. He added that the previous administration had terminated the original maintenance contracts, and the new government is looking at engaging local contractors. In a response, the RMAF said that, since 2007 and the delivery of the first batch of Su-30MKMs, the budget allocated by the government has been lower than the expected figure required to maintain the entire fleet.

Malaysia Shuts Down Saudi-Supported Counterterror Center BenarNews 6th Aug 2018
Malaysia Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis shake hands on the sideline of the 17th Asian Security Summit of the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, June 3, 2018. The Malaysian government has closed the Saudi-backed anti-terrorism center named after the kingdom’s ruling monarch, members of parliament were told on Monday.

Promoting Singapore-Malaysia Maritime Cooperation in the Eastern Strait The Diplomat 6th Aug 2018
Late last month, in response to Malaysian Defense Minister’s Mohamad Sabu’s suggestion to strengthen security cooperation in the eastern Singapore Strait near Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks, Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen remarked that “even joint patrols with our agencies and their agencies, I completely agree with that.” This exchange seems encouraging during a time of what some might construe as turbulence in bilateral ties, particularly in the context of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s remark about reviewing the price of water Kuala Lumpur sells to Singapore.

US-Malaysia Defense Ties in Focus with Air Force Exercise The Diplomat 30th Jul 2018
Over the past week, the United States and Malaysia held another iteration of a decades-old bilateral air force exercise. The holding of the drills was yet another demonstration of continued cooperation on the defense side between the two countries amid the new change in government in Malaysia that just took place in May. With respect to exercises, these include Malaysia’s participation in multilateral ones like Pacific Partnership and the Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) as well as bilateral ones such as Exercise Keris Strike. These interactions have largely continued on during the Trump administration, albeit with some minor changes. (See: “The Real Test for US-Malaysia Relations in the Trump Era”). And further questions had been asked about the future shape of defense cooperation following a new government coming to power in May in Malaysia (See: “What Does Malaysia’s Shock Election Result Mean for its Future?“).

Energy

Petronas to explore for new O&G reserves — ministry The Edge Markets 14th Aug 2018
National oil company Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) will continue its efforts and cooperation in exploring for new oil and gas (O&G) reserves locally and internationally, especially deepwater reserves, said the economic affairs ministry. “However, this (the exploration) will involve high costs due to the complexity and risks that Petronas has to face. “The discovery of new reserves will hopefully extend the duration of the country’s O&G reserves and ensure the supply of resources is guaranteed,” the ministry said in a written parliamentary reply dated Aug 8 to member of parliament for Kuala Terengganu Ahmad Amzad Mohamed @ Hashim.

Natural gas and renewable energy to fuel a sustainable future BorneoPost Online 12th Aug 2018
Natural gas and renewable energy could potentially fuel a sustainable future in the power and energy industry, the Malaysian Gas Association (MGA) and Shell Malaysia said. Exploring potential strategies to help the nation achieve its COP21 commitments, the MGA and Shell Malaysia recently co-hosted an industry talk on Shell’s ‘Sky Scenario: Meeting the Goals of the Paris Agreement’, in the presence of Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeo Bee Yin, with close to 100 industry leaders.

Malaysia LNG exports hit 4-year low on pipeline issues Free Malaysia Today 8th Aug 2018
Malaysia’s exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) fell to a four-year low in July as domestic gas pipeline issues plaguing the country since January took their toll, according to industry sources and Thomson Reuters data. Natural gas supply from the Sabah Oil and Gas terminal to the Petronas LNG Complex in Bintulu was cut in January following a gas leak in the 500 kilometre pipeline which transports gas from Kimanis in Sabah to the Bintulu plant in Sarawak for processing. While the pipeline has been repaired, Petronas is still awaiting the necessary approval from authorities to resume operations at the pipeline, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Petronas keen to invest in Philippine LNG hub The Edge Markets 1st Aug 2018
PETROLIAM Nasional Bhd (Petronas) has held initial discussions with the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) to invest in a planned US$2 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) hub in the Philippines, says the country’s Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi. State-owned PNOC is spearheading the LNG project. “Petronas [has] expressed interest in our LNG hub … to invest in it. It is looking to partner PNOC. We are especially keen to leverage Petronas’ expertise in commercial trading,” Cusi tells The Edge in an interview in Kuala Lumpur.

Petronas launches new vendor devt scheme with 18 partners The Star Online 31st Jul 2018
Petroliam Nasional Bhd has launched a new vendor development scheme to nurture local entrepreneurs to overcome high-entry barriers to the oil and gas industry and create a pool of vendors who can generate value. The national oil company said on Tuesday the scheme, called VDPx, would be under the company’s existing vendor development programme (VDP). It will carried out togther with major industry players in the country. Petronas said this was was part of its initiative to boost the capabilities of local companies in Malaysia’s oil and gas (O&G) industry. Under the VDPx, the six petroleum arrangement contractors (PACs) and 12 O&G service and equipment (OGSE) companies, will replicate Petronas’ VDP programme, to reach out to more local vendors and further amplify its benefits to the industry as well as the nation.

Mestecc is ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change NST 8th Aug 2018
PUTRAJAYA: The Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change now prefers to be known by its acronym, MESTECC.

Financial Services

Repeal law for minister to grant tax exemptions The Edge Markets 10th Aug 2018
The legal provision that allows the finance minister to exempt companies or individuals from paying tax at his discretion should be repealed, a tax lawyer said. S Saravana Kumar, a partner of Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill (LHAG), said Section 127 (3A) of the Income Tax Act 1967 (ITA) must be removed to avoid issues of abuses of the tax law. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a tax seminar here, Saravana said Sections 127(3) and 127 (3A) both allow the finance minister to give tax exemptions. He said Section 127(3) could be maintained because tax exemption under this provision is only granted through a gazette order that has to be tabled in Parliament.

DFIs need to ensure long term financial sustainability The Star Online 9th Aug 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: Development financial institutions (DFIs) need to diversify sources of funding to be sustainable in the long run and not be dependent on fiscal support to deliver their mandates, said Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) Governor, Datuk Nor Shamsiah Yunus.

Khazanah's mass resignation unlikely to affect equity market NST Online 8th Aug 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: The resignation of the entire Khazanah Nasional Bhd’s board members will likely not have any impact on the local equity market as it is mainly influenced by regional bourses, said Hermana Capital Bhd Chief Executive Officer and Chief Investment Officer Datuk Dr Nazri Khan Adam Khan. “In fact, the effect is relatively muted. So far, we do not see any big fluctuation in stock prices related to companies where Khazanah has invested in, which include CIMB Bank Bhd and Axiata Group Bhd,” he told Bernama.

iPay88 says it may exceed 200pc online transactions target this year NST 8th Aug 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: iPay88 Holding Sdn Bhd, an online payment services and solutions provider, expects to exceed its projected growth of 200 per cent in online transactions on its payment gateway systems this year.

Malaysia: Insurance scheme for low income groups to be tabled in Oct Asia Insurance Review 6th Aug 2018
The Health Ministry is in the final stage of drawing up a health insurance protection scheme for those in the B40 group (bottom 40% in terms of income) to help them obtain affordable treatment at government and private hospitals. Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said the proposed insurance protection scheme would be tabled in the 2019 Budget to Parliament sitting in October, reports the Bernama news agency.

Entire board of Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah resigns, leaves leadership decision to PM Mahathir AsiaOne 26th Jul 2018
The entire Khazanah Nasional board of directors have submitted their resignation letters after reaching a unanimous decision that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's administration should determine the company's new leadership structure. Singapore's The Straits Times reported on Thursday (July 26) that Khazanah managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar and eight other members of the sovereign wealth fund's board decided to resign after a special board meeting on Tuesday (July 24).

Food & Agriculture

Malaysia to clarify bird flu outbreak to Indonesia following poultry ban The Edge Markets 16th Aug 2018
The director-general of the Department of Veterinary Services Malaysia (DVS) Datuk Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam will travel to Indonesia to explain to his counterpart there about the recent bird flu outbreak in Tuaran, Sabah, after Indonesia, banned the import of poultry from Malaysia. Speaking to reporters in Parliament yesterday, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Sim Tze Tzin said after the first bird flu case in Tuaran on July 27, DVS had taken all necessary steps to contain the outbreak, and as at Aug 11, no new case has been recorded. “The whole issue is being professionally handled. There is no reason to panic, especially the stock market. It is unfair to most of the poultry operators in Peninsular Malaysia, because it only happened in one place, [so] it is unfair to think this is a major outbreak and punish everyone. The bird flu has been contained, [and]

Minister: Malaysia needs university that focuses on agriculture | Malay Mail Malay Mail Online 8th Aug 2018
Malaysia needs a university that focuses on agriculture in a bid to produce experts and specialists in the sector for the future, said Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub. He said there was a need to rethink whether to establish a new agricultural university or restore Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) back to its early days where the emphasis was solely on agriculture. Salahuddin said the university’s function would be to enhance skills, knowledge and technology in agriculture to graduates and farmers, quite similar to the Chulalongkorn University and Chiangmai University in Thailand.

Agriculture and Domestic Trade ministries to tackle issue on beef price | Malay Mail Malay Mail Online 29th Jul 2018
The Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry (MOA) and the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (MDTC) will find a suitable mechanism to ensure the price of beef remains at reasonable rate, especially with the Aidilada approaching. Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub said a committee involving both the ministries had been set up to look into the matter. “The role of the (Agriculture and Agro-based Industry) ministry is to ensure there is sufficient supply ((because), where there is enough supply, there’lll be no issue of manipulation.

Malaysia's farming policies will be revamped, says minister The Sun Daily 28th Jul 2018
Malaysian farming policies will be revamped to focus more on agricultural sciences so it can cultivate higher production, said Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub. He said he wants institutions of higher learning including Universiti Putra Malaysia to lead the charge to transform farming into a high yield and high-income sector for farmers and fishermen. Salahuddin said gone are the days when farming was a backwater industry, adding that smart apps would be tapped to modernise the sector.

Malaysia's food security ranks No. 2 in South-East Asia The Star 26th Jul 2018
The food security level in Malaysia ranks second among South-East Asian nations, says Deputy Agriculture and Argo-based Industry Minister Sim Tze Tzin. "Based on studies done by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Malaysia ranks 41 out of 113 countries on the Global Food Security Index.

Malaysia leads CPOPC this year The Straits Times 26th Jul 2018
PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysian government, via the Primary Industry Ministry, will lead in proposing and implementing initiatives of the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC), as chairmanship rotates to Malaysia, this year. "This year, the CPOPC chairmanship rotates to Malaysia. So, we'll be taking the lead role in promoting the interests of oil palm producing nations," said Primary Industries deputy minister Shamsul Iskandar Akin. He highlighted the global palm oil industry is consistently subjected to anti-palm oil campaigns in the EU, particularly by Western non-governmental organisations and even lawmakers there.

Malaysia's F&B sector embraces digital tech NST 8th Aug 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: The future of Malaysia’s food and beverages (F&B) industry remained resilient to external adversities and recession-proof as manufacturers increasingly adopt digital technologies. The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) chief executive officer Datuk Azman Mahmud said as of March 2018, the agency had approved 2,154 F&B manufacturing projects with investments of RM51.2 billion.

Health & Life Sciences

Allianz Malaysia partners with 11street to make insurance more accessible, affordable BorneoPost Online 29th Jul 2018
Allianz Malaysia is embarking on a new partnership with online marketplaces, 11street. This collaboration aims to provide Malaysians with some peace of mind by offering protection that caters to our varying needs through the insurance products that are now available on the online shopping platform. In a press statement, Allianz Malaysia said, together, Allianz and 11street are making purchasing insurance more convenient and seamless by offering three comprehensive products that suits the customer’s needs.

Have health insurance for all, MMA tells government Free Malaysia Today 6th Aug 2018
The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) today voiced reservations over a proposed insurance scheme for the B40 group, suggesting instead a compulsory social health insurance for all. “An insurance scheme targeted at a particular segment of the population may not be sustainable,” MMA president Dr Mohamed Namazie Ibrahim said. While the middle- and high-income groups were largely covered by private health insurance provided by employers or employee health benefit schemes, he said, they would be vulnerable if they lost their jobs and the accompanying health cover.

Putrajaya to implement health insurance gradually, deputy minister says | Malay Mail Malay Mail Online 5th Aug 2018
The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government will implement a national health insurance system in stages over the next few years to cover poor people, Health Deputy Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said today. He said at the moment, 20 to 30 per cent of the population buy health insurance. “The upper and middle class income groups have some form of health insurance coverage. “The government needs to find a way to cover the B40 groups. If we can provide protection for the B40, almost all the population would have insurance coverage,” he said, referring to the bottom 40 per cent of income earners known as B40.

Time to revamp Malaysia's healthcare system, says ex-DG Free Malaysia Today 1st Aug 2018
A former top health official today offered suggestions on how to overhaul the country’s healthcare system and wean it off public funds. Former health director-general Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said he had three ideas to improve healthcare in the long run. The first was to form an alliance with public and private healthcare sectors, the second was to strengthen primary care (typically outpatient treatment) and third, a new national healthcare financing system. He said if there was an integration of the private and public sectors, overcrowding would be lessened, resources might be shared and general practitioners would be more eager to open up clinics in rural and underserved areas.

Health Ministry urges hygiene, may 'take action' against places with frequent HFMD outbreaks The Star Online 31st Jul 2018
The Health Ministry may take action against premises that record a high frequency of the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) outbreak. Its minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said places such as childcare centres and other premises should be monitored for such outbreaks. "If the outbreaks happen more often in these places, then we may consider taking action. "But what is more important is that the public and owners of such premises must give importance to cleanliness," he said in reply to a supplementary question raised by Wong Kah Woh (PH-Ipoh Timur) during the Ministerial Question Time in Parliament on Tuesday (July 31).

Malaysia has highest rate of diabetes in Asia Channel NewsAsia 30th Jul 2018
Malaysia has the highest rate of diabetes in Asia and one of the highest in the world, probably next to Saudi Arabia, said the National Diabetes Institute (NADI) executive chairman, Dr Mustaffa Embong. About 2.5 million adults aged 18 and above in Malaysia have diabetes, he said. “According to NADI records, statistic suggests that almost half of Malaysians do not know that they have diabetes.

Health Minister: Some 4.2mil Malaysians living with mental health issues The Star Online 30th Jul 2018
Some 4.2mil Malaysians are suffering from some form of mental health issues, said Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad. "Based on the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 study by the ministry, the prevalence of mental health issues among adults above 16 years old is 29.2%, or 4.2mil Malaysians," he said in a written reply to a question raised by Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR – Permatang Pauh) in Parliament. He added that some 2.1mil women had some form of mental illness. "However, the percentage refers to those with mental health problems and not mental illnesses," Dr Dzulkefly noted.

Australia's Healthscope to sell Asian pathology operations Reuters 29th Jul 2018
Australian hospital group Healthscope Ltd said on Monday it will sell its Asian pathology business for A$279 million ($206.5 million) to entities controlled by funds which are managed by TPG Capital Asia. The Melbourne-based company had flagged the sale of the operations which consist of 39 pathology laboratories across Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam in May.

ICT

Govt may limit Internet access for teens under 17 after midnight The Star Online 14th Aug 2018
The Government is looking into measures to limit Internet access for teenagers under 17 years old after midnight until 6am, as implemented in Japan and South Korea. Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said it was part of its efforts to curb addiction to videogames and social media among teenagers in the country. “There are also gaming providers that prevent users aged under 17 from accessing games after one to two hours ... These are among the steps we are looking into to ensure game addiction could be brought under control,” he said during an question-and-answer session at the Dewan Rakyat.

Telcos, users seek win-win solution over broadband prices The Malaysian Reserve 9th Aug 2018
The Communications and Multimedia Ministry is committed to providing a “winwin” solution to telecommunications companies in the market and consumers following the government plan to reduce the price of the broadband service in the country, the Dewan Rakyat was told yesterday. Minister Gobind Singh Deo (picture) said the ministry is confident that telcos, that provided quality service at low prices, would be able to attract more customers which would translate into profits for the company. “Some people say the profits of a telco will drop if the price of the broadband service is reduced. That’s not true. “On the contrary, if we are more competitive and offer a better service package, the customers will come and the customer base will expand and profits will rise,” he said.

Malaysia promotes digital trading and market places within Asean NST 8th Aug 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is enhancing trade with ASEAN countries amid the US-China trade war given the region's market potentials of 642 million people.

ICT training program seeks to bridge the gap of digital competency Networks Asia 1st Aug 2018
Huawei has launched the iTalent@Digital Solution for National Information Communications Technology (ICT) Talent Development to prepare the workforce for the digital age. Witnessed by Centre of Technical Excellence Sarawak (Centex) Malaysia, the state government of Sarawak Malaysia and other guests, Huawei provides insights on ICT talent supply and demand, national ICT competency standard and curriculum design and development to assure the talent pool build up.

Malaysia Parliament passes Bill to repeal Anti-Fake News law The Straits Times 16th Aug 2018
The Anti-Fake News Act, which was passed about five months ago, has been repealed with a simple voice vote. Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin in his winding-up speech said there were sufficient laws to deal with fake news. "We don't need new legislation. We already have existing laws, such as the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and others that can deal with this phenomenon," he told lawmakers on Thursday (Aug 16).

Bill to make it compulsory for new houses to be installed with Internet facility The Edge Markets 2nd Aug 2018
The Communications and Multimedia Ministry plans to formulate a Bill to make it compulsory for all new housing projects to be installed with Internet facility. Its Minister, Gobind Singh Deo said through the proposed Bill, the Internet facility would be categorised as a utility, just like electricity and water supply at home.

Malaysia legally well-equipped to address internet abuse issues The Edge Markets 1st Aug 2018
Malaysia has a broad legal system to address the negative issues arising from the increase in Internet usage in the country, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind  Singh Deo said today. He said that besides the regulations under the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), which handled various Internet abuse complaints, the other laws included the Penal Code which had detailed sections to address the matter.

Infrastructure

Malaysian PM heading to China with mega-projects in focus Channel NewsAsia 16th Aug 2018
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad begins a visit to China Friday (Aug 18), seeking to renegotiate or even cancel major Beijing-backed projects signed under the country's scandal-plagued former regime. The 93-year-old leader, who returned for a second stint as premier following a shock election win in May, has railed against a series of deals struck with Chinese state-owned companies by the administration of toppled leader Najib Razak. His government has suspended China-backed projects worth more than US$22 billion, including a major rail link, and Mahathir has pledged to raise the issue of what he views as unfair terms related to some of the deals on his five-day trip.

Malaysia seeks KL-Singapore HSR delay pending review The Star Online 15th Aug 2018
Months after the Malaysia signalled that it was rethinking the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) link, Malaysian Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, who is in charge of the project held an official meeting with his Singapore counterpart last Saturday. Azmin told The Straits Times that his meeting with Singapore's Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan in the Republic was "official... good and productive". "I explained Malaysia's position on the project. The Minister for Infrastructure will have to bring it to Singapore's Cabinet," Azmin said.

Dr Mahathir says wants to cancel ECRL, two gas pipeline projects — AP The Edge Markets 13th Aug 2018
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he will seek to cancel China-backed Malaysian infrastructure projects such as the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and two gas pipelines, to reduce Malaysia's debt, The Associated Press (AP) reported today. "Malaysia's prime minister says he will seek to cancel multibillion-dollar Chinese-backed infrastructure projects that were signed by his predecessor as his government works to dig itself out of debt, and he blasted Myanmar's treatment of its Rohingya minority as 'grossly unjust'.

Azmin to meet Singapore counterpart by end month on HSR NST 8th Aug 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: Minister of Economic Affairs Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali will be meeting his Singapore counterpart by of the month to discuss details of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR).

Travel & Tourism

AirAsia to launch Kuala Lumpur-Silangit direct flight in October The Jakarta Post 2nd Aug 2018
Low-cost carrier AirAsia will inaugurate in October a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia to Silangit International Airport, the main gateway to popular tourist destination Lake Toba in North Sumatra.

Malaysia confident of meeting 33.1 million tourist arrivals target in 2018 | Malay Mail Malay Mail Online 27th Jul 2018
Malaysia is confident of meeting its target of 33.1 million tourist arrivals this year on expectation of higher visitors from Japan and other main markets. According to the Tourism Malaysia website, Malaysia is also eyeing tourism receipts of about RM134 billion from the number of arrivals. In 2017, Malaysia registered 25.9 million tourist arrivals, contributing RM82.2 billion to the revenue. Tourism Malaysia Senior Director, International Promotion Division Asia/Africa Datuk Musa Yusof said Singapore, Indonesia, China, Brunei and Thailand were the country’s top five major markets last year in terms of the number of tourist arrivals.