Investors want our neighbours and not us, says Rafidah

Senior minister for economy Azmin Ali’s remark that the country was being more selective in accepting investments is “the most stupid statement”, says former trade minister Rafidah Aziz.

(FMT) – She said the reality was that neighbouring countries were now more attractive in terms of their investment environment.

Last month, Azmin had denied that Malaysia was losing out on foreign investments to its neighbours, and said the country has become more selective in its investment agenda and wanted to attract quality investments.

Rafidah, who was Malaysia’s longest-serving international trade minister, responded: “That’s the most stupid statement to make. As if we have all these people wanting to invest (in Malaysia). My goodness, we don’t talk like that.

“People will say ‘go to hell’. Your neighbours are more attractive in terms of their investment environment, not because we are selective. The investors don’t want us.”

In January, it was reported that foreign direct investment inflow into Malaysia dropped by 68% in 2020, a larger decline compared to regional neighbours like Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Rafidah said she was sad to see how far Malaysia has fallen from being among the best “up there”.

In the past, she said, Malaysia was well respected and that every time she travelled for trade missions, corporate leaders would have high praise for the country.

“I felt so proud. Today, nobody talks about Malaysia. Our rankings are all at the bottom (but in) corruption, we are number one.”

Rafidah said during her era, the international trade ministry had brought in a number of companies to set up shop in Malaysia though some have now left the country.

She said in those days, trade missions would always return with “real” investments.

“We didn’t talk about it. We just went there (overseas) and persuaded them (to invest in Malaysia). Today, even before they (government delegations) leave or just a few days after they return they talk about (investments) in the billions.

“The problem is these are just expected investments, there are no real commitments.”

On the state of the economy and the direction of the country today, Rafidah said the government should develop a comprehensive, national recovery plan.

“Do it now, don’t wait for Covid-19 to end,” she said, adding Parliament should reconvene so the plan can be discussed.

She also said a thorough study on the impact of the pandemic on the economy, mental health, education, and productivity needs to be carried out.

“I am very worried, from primary to university, students have lost almost a year. That would impact productivity for the future.

“Other countries are online (studying) every day. Why can’t we? Because there is no preparedness by the education ministry,” she said, adding the ministry needs to do better in preparing for the future.