Guan Eng says digitisation push won’t hurt traditional industries

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng says the government is hoping to work together with private businesses to get their buy-in to embrace digitisation to complement traditional ways of production for mutual economic benefit. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng says the government is hoping to work together with private businesses to get their buy-in to embrace digitisation to complement traditional ways of production for mutual economic benefit. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 — Embracing new technology is meant to expand the economy, not hurt traditional businesses nor displace human workers with artificial intelligence, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said in the US today.

Lim, currently in Washington DC attending a forum on “Unlocking the Potential of the Digital Economy”, said the government is hoping to work together with private businesses to get their buy-in to also embrace digitisation to complement traditional ways of production for mutual economic benefit.

In his speech, a copy that was provided to Malaysian press, the minister said the government does not possess the expertise in every field.

“The government should take a back seat, focus on providing a transparent regulatory environment that offers a level playing field, provide matching grants to such enterprises but invest in critical research and development that the private sector is unable or unwilling to undertake,” he said in his speech.

Lim also stressed on the importance of taxation in the digital economy, saying revenue from it could be channeled at supplementing income aid towards employers, encouraging them to hire and bolster the issue of displacement.

“Digital taxes or benefits from economic growth brought about by the new digital economy must sustain part of the old economy so that we can engineer a gentler, softer and kinder landing.

“In short, the digital economy need not be a threat or cruel if the government can adopt gentler, softer and kinder policies that are sustainable and embrace its benefits,” he said.

Lim also gave an assurance that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government is committed in introducing new policies as catalysts for development while driving the digitisation in certain sectors and pushing for the enhancement of innovative capabilities in creating home-grown products and services.

The PH government recently managed to pass a Bill that would see a 6 per cent digital tax be imposed on foreign digital services providing services here.

Other initiatives seen to bolster the economic digitisation has also been carried out by the PH government, such as regulating broadband price caps and pushing for further internet penetration, and the introduction of the Malaysia Digital Hub through the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation.

Lim had said during his speech the hub would act as community nodes for entrepreneurs to obtain support such as market access, intellectual property protection, access to investors and talent up-skilling.