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November 15, 2008

Coping with Global Slowdown:
Malaysia to scrap import duties

Malaysia will remove import duties on raw materials and intermediate goods for manufacturing and ease licensing requirements to help businesses cope with the global economic slowdown, Reuters quoted the trade minister as saying Friday.

Muhyiddin Yassin said 438 products including iron and steel, petrochemicals, textile, food and machinery used in domestic manufacturing would be exempted from import duties ranging from 5 to 30 percent. He said the exemption is temporary but would remain in place for as long as needed.

To spur foreign investment, Muhyiddin said the government will abolish the requirement that manufacturing projects worth more than 2.5 million ringgit ($714,286) be vetted by the ministry before a licence is issued. Instant approval will be granted to all projects except for those related to security, safety, health, environment and religion.

"The objective is to reduce the cost of doing business for the manufacturing and construction sectors," he told reporters.

"There are projections that the (global economic) slowdown can stretch for up to a year. We are very concerned. We are taking these measures to help companies and businesses deal with a very difficult situation."

Muhyiddin said the government will unveil further plans to liberalize the services sector this month as well as more incentives for manufacturers to ensure they can weather the economic storm.

The Malaysian government recently cut its growth forecast for 2009 to 3.5 percent, from 5.4 percent, and said it would inject 7 billion ringgit ($1.9 billion) into the economy next year to boost spending.

The growth of the manufacturing sector, a mainstay of the economy, is expected to slide to 0.8 percent next year compared with the original forecast of 4.3 percent.

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