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Ease of doing business in Malaysia improves: World Bank

Event professionals can leverage new report to boost business and counter negative perception.

Malaysia has moved up the ranks in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, rising from 15th to 12th place out of a total of 190 countries.

The ‘Doing Business 2020’ report is an annual study conducted by the World Bank that ranks the business-friendliness of 190 economies measured over 12 key areas including starting a business, dealing with construction permits, enforcing contracts, employment regulation, taxation and trading across borders. 

Malaysia’s improved standing places it third after Singapore and Hong Kong for ease of doing business within the East Asia & Pacific region. 

Gerard Leeuwenburgh, general manager for Malaysia at Informa Markets, says the report is something that Malaysia should leverage. “Malaysia is a great place to do business and organise business events. It would be good for Malaysia to capitalise on this.”

Dee Dee Quah, director at Medical Conference Partners, says such rankings help to build industry confidence from within as well as from outside the country, and has far-reaching benefits.

“We’re better able to win international conferences and bring them to our shores, and this helps stimulate local and regional knowledge, as well as the network and business opportunities for all of us in this region.”

She adds: “The ripple effect continues to the next level, beyond the immediate healthcare industry, providing exposure and branding to Malaysia’s drug and medical device manufacturing companies, thus creating long-term sustainable business.”

As a business events professional, Leeuwenburgh feels that Malaysia’s strong point is the supportive environment it provides for companies to do business. 

“The infrastructure for business events in Malaysia is professionalising and government is working together with industry stakeholders to push for growth.”

Meanwhile, Quah credits Malaysia’s strong and growing economy for facilitating business dealings in the country.

“Having a growing and stable economy helps us to attract sponsorships, speakers and delegates which are the indicators of a successful international conference,” she says.

Adding to this business-friendly environment is the anticipated tax incentives for conference organisers to be delivered by the Malaysian government in 2020.

“This is a most welcome tax relief. The medical associations I work with are excited to bring more international medical conferences to Malaysia in the coming years between 2020 and 2025,” Quah says.

The advocacy work of industry associations, like Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS), provides further push for the industry. 

“MACEOS is very active in lobbying the government and emphasising the importance of the event industry for economic growth, and the government seems to acknowledge this,” Leeuwenburgh reveals.

Malaysia also stands to gain from better reputation management to counter its image as a strict Muslim country with corruption problems.

Already, Leeuwenburgh is beginning to see some regional headquarters of big multinationals shifting their operations from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.

For Leeuwenburgh, it is simply a matter of perception. “In reality, Malaysia has a very open business culture with strong ties to China, India and the Muslim world. Also, it is an affordable and very friendly country with an English-speaking population.

“In certain sectors, Malaysia already plays or has the potential to play a leading regional role. In my opinion, Malaysia has all the ingredients to become a more important MICE hub in Southeast Asia.”