KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia should take advantage of its position as the Asean chair in 2015 to promote trade competitiveness among other Asean countries, says World Bank country director for South-East Asia Ulrich Zachau.
In an interview with StarBizWeek, he said that with the chairmanship of Asean, Malaysia could seek commitments from other member countries to undertake the same policy measures.
“For example, Malaysia has an Internet portal for services regulation, which not all other Asean countries have. If Malaysia seeks commitment from other countries to do the same, it is simply a measure to make it transparent and clear for everybody what services regulations are in the books,” he said.
This would serve as a discussion and debating tool, and ultimately could lead to the harmonisation and streamlining of such regulations, thus making Asean trade friendly.
“It’s going to be a win-win situation for all of Asean if the community as a whole can do that. As chair in 2015, Malaysia has the opportunity to promote that shift,” Zachau said.
Malaysia could also kick-start mutual agreements to allow qualified professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers to work freely across the Asean region.
“It would mean improved opportunities for services to move freely within Asean and, at the same time, Malaysian firms that depend on these services as inputs can also access them from Asean firms,” he said.
Zachau added that Malaysia needed to bridge the mismatch between the skills of Malaysian graduates and the skills needed by the global market.
“In our report this year, we found that currently only half of all the firms have structured inductions with the universities. This is an area Malaysia has room to grow,” he said.
Businesses needed to communicate their needs to the educational institutions so that the latter could adjust the education curriculum accordingly, he added.
Malaysia also could further accelerate the shift from exporting relatively lower value-added products to higher value-added products.
“The value-added component of the growth has increased but there is a huge scope to increase that even further. An example could be increasing hospital tourism, rather than just plain tourism,” he said.
Zachau is confident Malaysia has what it takes to reach its target of becoming a high-income nation by 2020, dependant on the actual implementation of measures and policies that it intends to put in place.
Malaysia had built a reputation for clearly articulating its policies, approaches and planned reforms and then measuring, monitoring and implementing them, he said.
According to the World Bank’s Malaysia Economic Monitor released yesterday, the country’s economy is expected to grow by 5.4% in 2014 and 4.6% in 2015.
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