Japanese Road Show to discuss opportunities in ASEAN

From 25-28 April 2012, the Economic Ministers from ASEAN countries and the Secretary-General of ASEAN will attend a road show in Sendai and Tokyo, Japan, to discuss opportunities for Japanese businesses looking for new opportunities in Southeast Asia.

During the road show, the Ministers will hold dialogues with politicians, bureaucrats and business leaders, participate in symposia, tour Japanese companies and factories, and visit the sites affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Issues to be discussed include the overview and status of trade and investment in the region, and there will be a presentation on the prospects of ASEAN regional integration by the ASEAN Secretariat, ADBI and Denso International Asia, a Japanese company operating in Thailand.

The ASEAN Road Show aims at building strategic economic partnerships between Japan and ASEAN countries in public and private sectors and enhancing and promoting trade and investment in East Asia region. It is organized by the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), with support from the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and Tokyo’s ASEAN-Japan Centre.

For further details, please see: ERIA

Biotech entrepreneurship flourishing in Malaysia

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Support programs are developing a strong industry but access to qualified staff remains an issue, says Geneflux Director and biotechnology entrepreneur Dr. Prashanth Bagali

by Jon Southurst

It’s been over four years since the Malaysian government formed the Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation (BiotechCorp), an agency tasked with turning Malaysia’s infant biotechnology sector into a global competitor. BiotechCorp is achieving this with a comprehensive array of programs providing everything from education to entrepreneurial support, investment, training and marketing. Large companies and niche players alike would get the kind of assistance they needed to expand internationally. Geneflux™ Biosciences is one company that took its concept global with a focus on local issues under BiotechCorp’s guidance. Dr. Prashanth Bagali, its Director and co-founder, spoke to us about his company’s experience and the challenge for Malaysia in the 21st century’s preeminent scientific sphere.

The term ‘biotechnology’ refers to the science of life itself. It includes research and techniques involving living organisms from microorganisms to plants and animals, to serve specific applications in improving human health and agriculture. At its cutting edge is genome mapping, cell fusion, gene detection, gene transfer and embryo manipulation. It’s a prestigious, high-value industry with rewards in intellectual property, international sales and reputation among the world’s scientists.

The national interest in biotechnology started as early as the 5th Malaysian plan (1986-1990) but was given due recognition and emphasis starting from the 8th Malaysian Plan (2001-2005).  Before 2007, healthcare biotechnology in Malaysia was an embryo itself. The existing industry was driven by traders, equipment suppliers and reagent vendors, with less than 100 local patents filed of any international importance. That was around the time BiotechCorp was just beginning, and it was into this scene that entrepreneurs Dr. Bagali and partner Ir.Balagaru Naidu arrived to set up a business.

Biotech entrepreneurs and Geneflux founders, Dr. Prashanth Bagali & Balaguru Naidu

Biotech entrepreneurs and Geneflux founders, Dr. Prashanth Bagali & Balaguru Naidu

Geneflux Biosciences registered in 2007 with a focus on the research and development of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) based testing kits, a faster way to detect and analyze small quantities (or volume) of DNA or RNA without the need for full cloning. Their kits would be available at affordable prices to developing countries in Asia and Africa, vital in combating diseases affecting those regions. (more…)

World Bank Group to open office in Singapore

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The World Bank Group (WBG) has announced it will set up a new office in Singapore, its first outside Washington DC. It said the new branch will employ over 70 people within three years, including director Bert Hofman, the bank’s current Chief Economist for the East Asia region.

The WBG office’s main purpose is to advance private-sector investment for infrastructure projects in East Asia’s developing regions, with ready access to Singapore’s large commercial banks and established companies. Channel NewsAsia reports it will also provide services through its Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), which has experience with complex infrastructure projects and supports investments into and from Asia “by issuing risk guarantees to equity sponsors, banks, funds, and other financial institutions.”

source & article: Channel NewsAsia

‘Wave’ of FDI flows into Malaysia in 2011

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There has been a ‘wave’ of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Malaysia this year, totaling RM31.7 billion (US$10.6 billion) to the end of July 2011. More than half of this has flowed to the manufacturing sector and the top sources are Japan, Singapore, the Netherlands and Taiwan.

Malaysia’s Minister of International Trade and Industry, Mustapa Mohamed, announced the figures and said government initiatives such as the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) had attracted international interest. Domestic investment had also improved, with RM4.3 billion ($1.44 billion) also going to manufacturing projects.

Business Times reports a breakdown of manufacturing investments shows RM6.5 billion ($2.2 billion) went to electronics and electrical products, RM2.4 billion ($804 million) to basic metal products, RM1.7 billion ($570 million) to chemicals and chemical products, and RM1.1 billion ($369 million) to food manufacturing.

Mustapa also said the figures reflect a shift towards high-value-added, more capital intensive (investment per employee) industries as Malaysia became less competitive at the lower-pay end against countries like China and Vietnam. He promised more new opportunities and growth areas as the ETP chases its 2020 goal of RM1.2 trillion ($40.23 billion), 92% of which the government wants to come from the private sector.

Total investment in Malaysian projects, including both foreign and domestic, was RM47.2 billion ($15.8 billion) in 2010.

source & article: Business Times

The Economist: good policies creating a strong Penang

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“A combination of low cost and high technology” is the in-a-nutshell reason The Economist gives for the beginnings of Penang’s success in the healthcare and electronics industries. Penang state and its neighboring region on the mainland now account for 21% of Malaysia’s GDP as a result of its technology focus, as well as a strong rule of law, intellectual property protection and ease of doing business.

The road to technology riches was paved in the 1970s when Penang became Malaysia’s first free-trade zone, but the article also credits Penang’s current government for freeing up the local economy further by removing economic privileges and combating corruption and waste. For its part, the federal government has also invested heavily in Penang with massive infrastructure upgrades such as a duplication of the bridge to the mainland and extensions to the main seaport and international airport.

Penang has historically enjoyed a strategic trading position thanks both to its physical location between China, India and Southeast Asia, and the well-connected multi-ethnic mix that reflects this. High-tech industries have created a skilled local workforce of technicians and engineers, the capital Georgetown is enjoying a revival, and foreign companies are moving in once again.

source & article: The Economist

Senai Hi-Tech Park will help transform Malaysia, says PM Najib

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Iskandar Malaysia-based technology park aims to lead Malaysia into an advanced future as it signs another new investment and production deal.

Johor’s Senai Hi-Tech Park (SHTP) would be a “key driver” for high value technology industries and Malaysia’s aim to transform itself into an advanced, innovative nation, says Prime Minister Najib Razak.

PM Najib spoke yesterday at a signing ceremony for SHTP and Solexel (M) Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of California-based solar cell manufacturer Solexel Inc. A new memorandum of understanding between the two will see an aggregate investment of RM2.8 billion (US$944 million) over the next five years, and create 2,300 jobs.

Senai HTP & Solexel signing ceremony

Solexel will manufacture crystalline silicone solar cells at a new 100-acre facility in SHTP’s Industrial Zone Phase 1, and is capable of producing one gigawatt of cells per year. The company will also conduct R&D operations and help create a local supply chain for chemicals used in solar photovoltaic (PV) cell and semiconductor manufacturing.

Senai Hi-Tech Park will be 1,000 acres total at completion, and is Malaysia’s second dedicated high technology zone after Kulim Hi-Tech Park in the country’s northwest. Kulim’s success at attracting international investment was the impetus for creating the SHTP project last year and the project’s developers are negotiating major deals with foreign investors.

Both parks aim to spur the local high-value economy and create employment for Malaysians in more advanced industries. Calling itself a ‘third-generation technology park’, SHTP is located next to the redeveloped Senai International Airport in Johor state’s Iskandar Malaysia special economic region, across the water from Singapore.

 

 

Could Indonesia overtake Thailand as an auto manufacturer?

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Will Indonesia overtake Thailand as the automotive manufacturing center of Southeast Asia? Thanks to increased investment from overseas carmakers, government incentives and a growing domestic demand for vehicles, many think so.

Thailand has traditionally been the country of choice for international manufacturers. Despite its own large middle-class customer base and strong production figures (1.64 million vehicles in 2010) it faces new pressure from rising costs and a new government-set minimum $10 daily wage for workers. Companies produced a total 650,000 vehicles in Indonesia and sold 764,000, but forecasts predict both numbers could top a million by 2013.

The Jakarta Globe reports:

Indonesia is already expecting more than $1 billion in investment in the automotive sector starting this year. Nissan recently announced a $250 million expansion plan; Suzuki has announced an $800 million expansion; Chrysler a $100 million expansion; Daihatsu just carried out a $246 million expansion; and BMW a $12 million expansion. India’s Tata also expressed interest in building a production base in Indonesia.

 

Peugeot and General Motors have also announced plans to assemble vehicles in Indonesia. The government also intends to provide tax breaks for investments over Rp1 trillion (US$117 million), though no formal arrangement has been made yet.

Indonesia’s auto manufacturing base is in Bekasi and Karawang, near Jakarta and the government-set minimum wage of $8 may see Thailand-based companies chase lower costs. As always, Indonesia’s infrastructure inadequacies will be an issue and the country would need to address them before it could become a serious global export leader, an analyst said.

source & article: The Jakarta Globe

 

Clark International Airport becoming an important Philippines hub

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Two big wins for the Philippines’ Clark International Airport: FedEx will return to the Philippines and plans to use the airport as its hub, while surging low-cost carrier AirAsia will build a passenger base there for its new local affiliate, AirAsia Philippines.

At 2,367-hectares, Clark International Airport is about four times the size of Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, about 90 minutes’ drive away. It is located within the Clark Freeport Zone and industrial area on the site of a former US military base.

AirAsia Philippines plans to start flying in October to Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Bangkok with a fleet of four aircraft, before expanding out to other Asian destinations. Its parent company, AirAsia, already flies between Clark and Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu, which will continue alongside the new services.

FedEx’s main Asian hub is at Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou, and is the company’s largest outside the United States. Before relocating there, it operated out of another Philippines economic zone (and former US base) at Subic Bay but found itself unable to expand operations to meet customer demand. The loss of FedEx was a blow to the Subic Bay and administrator Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, which lost 600 jobs and around P160 million (US$3.76 million) a year in revenues.

sources & articles: Malaya Business InsightThe Star

Indonesia to give tax holidays to major foreign investors

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Indonesia is considering tax holidays for major foreign direct investors, targeting new and existing businesses in an attempt to bump the country’s FDI up to a total Rp240 trillion (US$28.2 billion) by the end of 2011.

Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo said details of the plan were still being discussed, but would probably feature 5-10 year tax breaks for investors in the base metals, telecommunications equipment, oil refinery, petrochemicals, machinery and renewable energy industries.

The new plan would also cover businesses which had been in operation less than a year. Projects such as a $6 billion joint venture by South Korea’s POSCO, a $4.5 billion petrochemical complex by Honam Petrochemical Corp (also of South Korea) and a $8-9 billion oil refinery from Kuwait Petroleum Corp were said to be waiting for an announcement on foreign investor tax breaks before going ahead.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) into Indonesia in Q2 is already up 21% on the same period last year, thanks mainly to the mining sector. The government is also mulling plans to give tax holidays to smaller investors employing 100-300 people, determined to take Indonesia’s economy into the global Top 10 by 2025 and making much-needed improvements to the country’s infrastructure.

Singapore tightens conditions for foreign workers

Foreign white-collar workers looking for a share of Singapore’s prosperity may soon find the going a little tougher. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong used part of his National Day speech last week to promise concerned citizens that conditions for employment passes would become stricter, with higher salary and qualification requirements.

As sectors of Singapore’s economy soared in the past year, so did threats of inflation and housing prices, causing many locals to worry whether they’d be able to compete for even average-salaried office jobs to pay for it all. These concerns rattled Singapore’s ruling party, the long-serving People’s Action Party, which recorded a record low (though still relatively high) 60% share of the vote at the most recent elections.

In his speech, PM Lee cautioned Singaporeans against becoming xenophobic towards foreign workers and reminded them the country would remain open to immigration. The raised minimum monthly salaries for the three types of employment visa (Q, P1 and P2) represent a 12-14% increase and will now be: S$2,800 (US$2,318), S$4,000 (US$3,311) and S$8,000 (US$6,623) respectively.

source & article: Xinhua (via philstar.com)

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