Interview: Zainal Amanshah

How does Greater Kuala Lumpur (GKL) as an investment destination fit into the context of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP)?

ZAINAL AMANSHAH: The results of the ETP and Government Transformation Programme (GTP) have done much to convince local and international investors that Malaysia is serious about its transformation. Within the ETP there are 11 sectors and one location that make up 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs). The one location – GKL – has a solid plan to make GKL a top-20 city in terms of economic activity and liveability by 2020. Under the NKEA it is our objective to attract 100 large global multinationals to set up their regional operations within GKL. To date 40 companies such as Linde, Darden, Oleon, Promat and Philips have chosen GKL to house their regional aspirations.

Which value-added industries are being earmarked for investment within the GKL region?

AMANSHAH: Within the GKL NKEA we are promoting six key sectors: financial services, business services, oil and gas, health care, electronic and electrical, and wholesale and retail. We are also encouraging multinational corporations (MNCs) to set up what we call “control tower” activities in GKL. This would involve bringing in either top decision makers or making GKL a regional location for their decision-making, centres of excellence, training, research and development, or treasury management activities.

What are the intended and unintended consequences of the Global Incentives for Trading Programme (GIFT) for GKL?

AMANSHAH: The goal of GIFT is to promote GKL as a hub from which to conduct offshore regional trading by providing incentives. Companies registered under the programme enjoy a flat corporate tax rate of 3% of chargeable income. To date, 15 oil-trading companies have already registered. After the 2013 general election the programme was expanded by the prime minister to include trading with resident and non-resident companies. As a result of this, we now have more oil traders based in GKL.

How does the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) act as an enabler to strengthen the position of GKL as the global city of choice?

AMANSHAH: TRX, a financial hub to be situated in the heart of GKL city, will generate an estimated RM3.5bn ($1.1bn) in foreign direct investments. Some 100 top global companies are expected to be based at TRX, which will create 500,000 jobs when completed.

The purpose of developing TRX is to create a strong business network that will leverage on GKL’s financial sector to create a comprehensive financial hub. Furthermore, with the anticipated creation in 2015 of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the exchange is poised to become a central trading post for all countries participating in the AEC.

What programmes are being designed to address human capital requirements for industries in GKL?

AMANSHAH: To help realise Malaysia’s goal of becoming a high-income nation, the country will need a complementary workforce to accommodate demands for staffing. The government has adopted a two-pronged strategy to achieve this end. The goal is to create a pool of highly talented individuals who will serve domestic needs and also the need of MNCs that are considering establishing themselves in Malaysia. While incentives are in place for those MNCs to bring in foreign talent, local people provide local knowledge and on-the ground know-how, and provide unique value to organisations.

To address concerns made by MNCs regarding the immigration process and obtaining visas for expats, the government introduced a 10-year residence pass for expatriate corporate leaders, and in April 2013 the Immigration Department launched an Expatriate Services Division, which provides a direct point of contact for the immigration needs of top foreign talent.