Statement by the Economic Club of Kuala Lumpur (ECKL)

As it worsens, the COVID-19 pandemic is both revealing and creating extraordinary challenges to our nation’s health care system and public health infrastructure.

Since the beginning of the pandemic more than 18 months ago, there have been more than 1.3 million confirmed cases, and more than 11,000 deaths across the country. With the number of new cases increasing recently, the pandemic is also creating a substantial economic loss, with millions of Malaysians experiencing unemployment and food and housing insecurity.

Against this backdrop, the Economic Club of Kuala Lumpur (ECKL) supports the call of the Prime Minister for bi-partisan support in our fight against the COVID19 pandemic. Political stability is very important in our fight against a pandemic. We are aware that the road to recovery of this country is not an easy journey. Therefore, we believe that with the support, efforts and focus of all parties to restore and return this country we love to a healthy path of development and growth is not impossible.

We believe that if the political situation is not stabilise to aid the recovery process, it is the Rakyat who bears the burden. The Rakyat stand the most to lose from such political instability and lack of focus on their well-being. MPs and both sides of the House should put their differences aside and come together to put the Rakyat’s wellbeing front and centre. After all, Members of Parliament as elected representatives, are mandated by the people of this country to serve them. Their interests and that of the country should be paramount above all else.

ECKL also welcomes the increase in the COVID-19 Fund ceiling to help meet additional needs in overcoming the COVID-19 crisis in terms of strengthening the healthcare system, improving assistance to the people, and supporting business sustainability. ECKL had also recently submitted recommendations for re-opening the economy to the Minister of Finance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for parliamentary reforms to take place. The Parliament is a living institution that should be the centre of a rapidly changing national public life. Practices of Parliament should reflect the changing needs. Malaysia adopted the Westminster Parliamentary framework of government at its independence in 1957 and the first Parliament convened in 1959.

ECKL believes that strengthening parliamentary reforms by ensuring that the number of Government and Opposition MPs in the Parliamentary Select Committee is more balanced will ensure that all Members of Parliament can play a more effective check and balance role through their involvement in these committees.

The proposals by the Government to limit the term of office of the Prime Minister to only two terms, an Anti-Party Hopping Bill and the implementation of Undi 18 without waiting for the implementation of automatic registration through Constitutional Amendment is welcomed by ECKL as timely as it promotes transparency, accountability, and due diligence. We hope that the members of Parliament from both sides of the divide will come together to give bi-partisan support to these constitutional amendments.

ECKL believes that the proposals are practical ideas and should be supported for the good of the country and the Rakyat.

Regardless of the deep policy disagreements, Parliament must operate with mutual respect, decency, and civility – all of which are foundational to forging collaborative solutions. The Parliament is the ultimate avenue for the policymakers to uphold the interests of all Malaysians.

ECKL believes there is more that unites us than the political and ideological differences. As elected officials, Members of Parliament all have a responsibility to address challenges confronting their constituents and the nation, as well as strengthen the institution itself.


Issued by
Datuk Seri Mohd Iqbal Rawther
The Economic Club of Kuala Lumpur
14 August 2021


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ECKL: Customisation of policies, programmes needed to support economic sectors

KUALA LUMPUR, July 13 — There is a need for customisation of policies and programmes to enable the identification of sectors or regions where more support is needed amid lockdowns being implemented in the country, said the Economic Club of Kuala Lumpur (ECKL) today.

Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar said the third Movement Control Order (MCO) and subsequent Full MCO had stifled the recovery, resulting in the World Bank lowering its economic growth outlook for Malaysia for the second time to 4.5 percent in 2021 — down from the 6.0 percent growth forecast in March 2021.

“The pandemic has had an asymmetric impact on sectors and regions. For example, the food and beverage sector experienced higher closure rates, particularly in the northern states where vendors largely rely on tourists from Kuala Lumpur and Selangor to patronise their food trails.

“Other manufacturing sectors have experienced particularly high closure rates in East Malaysia,” he said during his welcome address at the Malaysian Economic Summit 2021 held virtually today. Abdul Wahid, who is also Bursa Malaysia Bhd chairman, said the government’s efforts to ramp up vaccination rate should be lauded as it would allow the lockdown to be lifted as soon as possible to save the economy and people’s livelihood.

Currently, about 11.6 million doses have been administered. A total of 3.6 million people, or 11.2 percent of the population, have been fully vaccinated while eight million, or 24.6 percent, have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

At the current rate of 337,000 doses per day, Malaysia could have some 70 per cent of the people fully vaccinated within 100 days or by end-October 2021.

“It is therefore our hope that as the vaccination rate increases, we can uplift and do away with the broad-based lockdown and instead have more targeted Enhanced Movement Control Orders only in highly infected or affected areas,” he said.
He noted that many might complain that the stimulus packages introduced by the government were inadequate.

“But without the broad-based tax such as the Goods and Services Tax, the government’s resources are rather limited with a fiscal deficit of 6.2 per cent of GrossDomestic Product (GDP) in 2020 and expected to widen further to 6.8 per cent in 2021 compared to the earlier official forecast of 6.0 per cent,” said Abdul Wahid.

He pointed out that the government had been prudent and introduced initiatives that did not unnecessarily put a strain on its fiscal position but at the same time, cushion the people from the worst effects of the economic downturn.

“It is a delicate balancing act. But too wide a fiscal deficit and high government debt level may risk a downgrade in credit rating, resulting in higher borrowing cost and potentially weakening the currency.

“Having said that, the saving grace is that our current account in our balance of payments for the first quarter of 2021 remained healthy at RM12.3 billion or 3.3 per cent of GDP, and our BNM international reserves of U$111 billion is sufficient to finance 8.2 months of retained imports,” he added.

Abdul Wahid said the banking system also remained well capitalised with core equity tier one ratio of 14.8 per cent, sufficient buffer against unexpected risks.

To-date, the government has introduced eight economic packages, from the Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package (PRIHATIN) in March 2020 to the most recent, National People’s Well-Being and Economic Recovery Package (PEMULIH), last month.

These packages are collectively worth RM530 billion, out of which a significant RM83 billion is in the form of direct fiscal injections.

The one-day virtual summit was organised by KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific.


Original article available at

Opportunities and Challenges in 2021 for Private Equity in Asia

On 26th March 2021, the Economic Club of Kuala Lumpur and KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific organised a webinar discussion Opportunities and Challenges in 2021 for Private Equity in Asia. Speakers include Mrs. Lim Hwee Hua, Co-Chairman of Tembusu Partners, Mr. Ganen Sarvananthan, Co-Managing Partner of TPG Capital Asia, and Mr. Syed Yasir Arafat bin Syed Abdul Kadir, Chief Executive Officer of Ekuiti Nasional Berhad (Ekuinas). The webinar was co-moderated by Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, Chairman of Bursa Malaysia who is also Chairman of the Economic Club of Kuala Lumpur’s International Advisory Council, and Mr. Jonathan Ong, Treasurer of ECKL.

The following keypoints were made by speakers during the webinar:




Expanding economic pie will ensure fairer, more inclusive growth for all

LETTER: A panel of experts has proposed a short and long term solutions to the economic challenges and policies faced by Malaysia during a virtual Roundtable on “Expanding Malaysia’s Economic Pie — Where, What and How?”, organised by The Economic Club of Kuala Lumpur (ECKL) and the KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific (KSI), last Tuesday, February 23rd.

The panel comprised Tan Sri Andrew Sheng (Distinguished Fellow at Asia Global Institute of the University of Hong Kong), Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar (Chairman, Bursa Malaysia and Chairman, ECKL International Advisory Council) and Datuk Dr Madeline Berma (Commissioner, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia).

The session was moderated by Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon (Chairman, Royal Selangor International Sdn Bhd). The panel discussed Malaysia’s economic challenges and proposed various recommendations for policymakers.

The panel agrees Malaysia is badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Malaysia’s economy has contracted by 5.6 per cent Gross Domestic Product (GDP), making it the worst contraction since the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis.

Consequently, Malaysia’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita has declined from RM45,212 in 2019 to RM42,531 in 2020. According to a recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report, Malaysia’s foreign direct investment (FDI) has dropped by more than two-third to RM10.1 billion in 2020, making it the worst drop in the region.

Malaysia’s FDI has remained stagnant relative to its neighbours such as Singapore and Vietnam. While the fiscal deficit has expectedly widened to 6 per cent GDP, the current account in Malaysia’s balance of payments recorded a surplus of RM62.1 billion in 2020, making it the highest surplus since 2011.

The panel agrees with what many economists have described as a “K-shaped recovery” with a widening gap between the high-income group and the middle- and low-income groups. Such issues are compounded due to the various layers of homogeneity in Malaysian society.

Income inequalities also exist between Malaysian states and territories, where median income can range from RM3,563 in Kelantan, RM5,873 in Sarawak, to RM10,549 in Kuala Lumpur (statistics 2019).

While Malaysia’s Gini coefficient has improved from 0.399 in 2016 to 0.407 in 2019, there are still pockets of poverty which have proven difficult to resolve, particularly in rural and interior areas which are more difficult and costlier to access.

Between 2016-2019, median income has only increased by 1.8 per cent for the B40, 4.1 per cent for the M40, and 4.5 per cent for the T20. Therefore, policies meant to address inequality have not brought about the desired outcome.

Covid-19 risks worsening inequalities for the B40 and M40, especially with regular sources of employment and income generation being disrupted. The pandemic has created a “new poor”, where those who were not poor before the outbreak (and may have even been in the T20 and M40 as well as the higher end of the B40) have fallen behind the poverty income line.

Many small and medium and enterprises have already wound down, and the unemployment rate are increasing further including poverty rate and the debt-to-gross According to the Statistics Department of Malaysia (DoSM) 2020 data, the incidence of absolute poverty decreased from 7.6 per cent in 2016 to 5.6 per cent in 2019, but the incidence of relative poverty increased from 15.9 per cent (2016) to 16.9 per cent (2019).

Despite Malaysia’s dominant economic position in Asean, its economic size has declined from third in 2010 to sixth position in 2020; Malaysia has been overtaken by the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

While the pandemic has exacerbated the structural challenges of the economy, these issues have persisted prior to the pandemic. A key stumbling block is Malaysia’s young but rapidly ageing population coupled with declining productivity rates. One of the major reasons for the slowing labour productivity is that that Malaysia has not invested enough in our youth.

It is hope that IR4.0 can reverse the declining productivity growth. This decline in productivity growth if not reversed will have an adverse effect on expanding the economic pie to have inclusivity. The panel also suggested that perhaps a new social compact be drawn up to move the country forward for sustained economic, productivity and inclusive growth.

These are some of the issues that has prevented Malaysia from breaking through the middle-income trap, afflicting most neighbouring Asean countries.

The panel lauds the recent policies of the government such as the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint and the to be launched 12th Malaysia Plan. However, the execution of these policies is extremely important.

The panel are in consensus that Malaysia needs to grow the economic pie to ensure a fairer and more inclusive growth for all Malaysians. Additionally, the government needs to work closely with the private sector, civil society and academia to promote innovation in order to create opportunities and jobs of the future.

Moreover, predictability and certainty in government policy is necessary to attract and retain FDI back into the country. Therefore, Malaysia needs both ‘whole-of-government’ and ‘whole-of-society’ approaches to address challenges of the 21st century.

The panel has proposed short and long-term recommendations for the policymakers.

Short-term solutions include:

  1. Focus on effective implementation of the existing policies and initiatives.
  2. Further reopen the economy.
  3. Address the grievances of the industry associations particularly shortage of labour in key sectors (e.g. manufacturing, plantation)

Long-term structural economic changes include:

  1. Leverage Malaysia’s true strength in social technology to attract and retain FDI. By acting as a nimble, agile and innovative country, Malaysia can compete in speed and scope. In addition, Malaysia should leverage its rich diversity to capitalise on the three largest markets — China, India and the Muslim world – to attract more investments.For Malaysia to expand the economic pie, it is crucial to focus on attracting more investment to create more business and employment opportunities. Therefore, we must review economic policies to make Malaysia more competitive
  2. Introduce a cradle-to-grave approach to Malaysia’s human capital development policy. The planning should be done at the individual level from birth to primary education to secondary and TVET to tertiary education to entrepreneurship and employment. However, the concept of cradle-to-grave employment is no longer valid these days. Today’s society is more geared towards the gig economy, part-time and freelance work, etc. In developing human capital policies, this new trend must be taken into consideration as this growing labour trend has the potential to have real economic effects by addressing dysfunction in the labour market and providing transparency about jobs of the future.
  3. Transform the civil service by developing international talent for organisational sustainability. In addition, civil servants should be exposed to the private sector through secondment and in turn, senior corporate figures should be appointed to the civil service.
  4. Strengthen the mechanism for fair and equitable distribution across income groups, ethnicities, regions and supply chains. A needs-based Equitable Opportunity Act should be enacted so that any policies aimed at promoting fair and equitable distribution across diverse segments and backgrounds can be enforced across both the public and private sectors in an effective and equitable manner.
  5. Embedding Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) framework for all segments of society including corporations, government, civil society and individuals. In line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Malaysian Digital.




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