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KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 12): The government remains committed to supporting businesses and the gig economy in a bid to cushion the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, said Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz.

The government’s focus is clear as it would continue to support businesses, including small and medium enterprises and mid-tier companies, in key sectors that are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic. 

The support for businesses is also to ensure a stable and conducive environment for investments to come in and generate value-added returns, Tengku Zafrul said in his keynote address at the Malaysian Economic Summit 2020 today.

In addition, the government will also play its role in upgrading the gig economy as it is fast becoming an integral part of the nation’s growth and transform the traditional sectors as well as streamline supply and demand in the job market.

“However, we cannot do this alone. The ecosystem requires the support of businesses, financial institutions and other participants of the Malaysian economy to help us get to where we want to be,” Tengku Zafrul said. 

The ecosystem also warrants greater regional collaboration with Malaysia’s trading partners. In the current climate, he said Southeast Asia could become a preferred investment destination as businesses relocate due to global trade uncertainties.

“As I had stated in the recent APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] Finance Ministers’ Meeting, it is critical to share key learnings and ideas from the recent pandemic, to further support our respective economies, and to streamline our development efforts in finance, digitalisation and infrastructure, to increase the regional competitiveness and face the headwinds as a united front,” he added. 

Nonetheless, Tengku Zafrul said the pandemic would remain as a threat to the country’s socio-economic recovery, development and future growth as long as the Covid-19 vaccine is still not commercially available. 

As such, the upcoming Budget 2021 is an opportune time for the government to consider and adopt more sustainable ways to grow the economy and build future resiliency.

Budget 2021 will underline a combination of business-friendly policies, prudent fiscal management, and effective transformation tools to build the nation’s resilience against future economic shocks. This will put Malaysia in a better position to ride on the growth trajectory ahead, he said. 

The four key principles for Budget 2021 are caring for the people, steering the economy, sustainable living and enhancing public service delivery through data and digitalisation to improve efficiency of execution and collaboration with civil society, non-governmental organisations and agencies including government-linked companies and government-linked investment companies. 

On top of that, Tengku Zafrul said attracting quality investments that will add value to the nation’s economy, facilitate technology transfer and allow Malaysia to transition towards a high-income economy will remain as one of the government’s top priorities. 

He said Malaysia has seen signs of resilience despite the challenging environment, as the country recorded positive foreign direct investment amounting to RM696.5 billion as at end-June. 

He is positive the Malaysian economy will bounce back and grow a whopping 8% in 2021, adding this is testament that the nation is a good platform for businesses to thrive in the region by investing and capitalising on the country’s potential growth story. 

Furthermore, the government has seen Malaysian businesses in key sectors taking advantage of the opportunities brought by the changing trends, including health products and equipment, electrical and electronic, fintech, and e-commerce.  

Lastly, Tengku Zafrul said the government will play to its strength to move up the value chain, taking advantage of the nation’s strategic geographical location, agile workforce, prudent management of resources, excellent infrastructure, and its reputation in key sectors including Islamic finance and the halal economy.