PM: Putrajaya must do more for ease of business in Malaysia

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks to the press after chairing the third Economic Action Council meeting at the Prime Minister’s  Office in Putrajaya June 11, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks to the press after chairing the third Economic Action Council meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya June 11, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, June 11 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad admitted today that doing business in the country remains tough and said his government must work harder to reduce administrative barriers.

Citing the construction sector as an example, he noted that developers must sometimes undergo up to sixty processes to get a particular project fully approved.

“When we evaluate even when we have a one-stop centre, doing business is still very much difficult,” he told the press after chairing the third Economic Action Council meeting here.

The issue was among the two matters deliberated by the high-powered council that Dr Mahathir formed to spur the economy, following complaints that the economy stagnated after Pakatan Harapan took power last year.

Dr Mahathir said the Chief Secretary has been instructed to identify and formulate solutions to ease the business process.

“We want to try and reduce as much as we can,” the prime minister said.

Malaysia rose nine rungs to 15th place in the World Bank’s flagship Doing Business report for 2019, indicating a significant improvement of local conditions for starting and running businesses in the country.

The country was 24th in the previous edition of the annual series that is now in its 16th year. Singapore remains second overall, behind New Zealand.

The latest results are predicated on the country’s pursuit of reforms, although these predate the arrival of the Pakatan Harapan government; according to the report, its data was current up to May 1 whereas the new administration was voted in over a week later.

It is unclear if the prime minister’s admission today meant the situation has changed since, but PH’s first year rule had been marked by widespread industry complaints that doing business has been difficult after the new government introduced more regulation.

Some of these regulations were ostensibly intended to safeguard industries against corruption and punish errant companies.

Dr Mahathir said Putrajaya needs to reduce red tape and smoothen regulation if it wanted to draw more investments.

“We will look into the time taken to give approval in the construction sector to reduce the processes and expedite approvals.

“This could contribute to growth,” he said.