PETALING JAYA: Suggestions are pouring in from stakeholders to the newly-formed Economic Action Council (EAC) on what can be done to get the country’s economic, financial affairs and welfare of the people on track.
In welcoming the formation of the council, business communities and the public hope that their plight would be taken into consideration and addressed.
In order to improve economic growth during this period of volatility, the EAC should focus on ways to reduce the cost of doing business, enhance industries competitiveness and boost productivity, said Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Datuk Soh Thian Lai.
“The cost of doing business is most important because this has spin-off effects on other things, and if costs are too high, the cost of living will be high and will cause hardship to the rakyat, and also affect our exports.”
He suggested the council should focus on introducing initiatives to lower the cost of living and it will improve the well-being of the people by allowing the public to have better purchasing power.
“The EAC should also improve investors confidence both in terms of direct domestic investment (DDI) and foreign direct investments (FDIs) by focusing on creating a conducive and friendly business ecosystem,” he said.
He also urged the body to find ways to improve the currency value as most raw materials are imported.
“If the ringgit is strengthened to about RM3.4 to RM4 compared to the US dollar, it will be good for imports and can further reduce the cost of production.
“The lowering of costs can also be passed down to consumers,” he said.
SME Association of Malaysia president Datuk Michael Kang said the EAC should focus on building up the economy and investor confidence.
“They need to immediately lay out the transition period or temporary economic policies before preparing for the master policy.
“Other issues that should be addressed include further improving the economy, boosting tourism and focusing on small and medium enterprises,” he said.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said it is imperative for the EAC to revisit the tourism fundamentals for a healthier and sustainable tourism environment that would be regionally competitive once again.
Among the key initiatives, he said, are new tourism attractions and enhanced infrastructure, high end tourism vehicles, increasing direct flight connectivity to secondary cities and towns apart from Kuala Lumpur, upskilling of manpower as well as reviewing and modernising tourism rules and regulations to keep up with the business landscape.
“This also includes engagement and transparent discussions with tourism industry players such as MATTA. The tourism industry contributes about 15% to the national economy and provide employment opportunities to about 3.2 million people,” said Tan.
United Malay Economic Action Council chief executive officer Ahmad Yazid Othman said the body hopes the council will work on re-jigging the procurement process to enable more participation by businesses and more transparency in deals.
“The reality is a lot of bumiputra deal with government-linked companies and the government.
“We heard a lot of complaints previously that upon completion of projects, the payment is still not made,” he said.
Malaysian Indian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Ayoob Khan Muhamad Yakub said: “The council should focus on smaller business owners and work to resolve pressing issues such as the labour shortage and difficulty in getting bank loans.
“Small business owners such as restaurant operators are facing problems such as lack of foreign workers and financial issues.
“It’s hard to get loans from banks for small businessmen,” he said.
Malaysian Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Datuk N. Gobalakrishnan believes that the council can advise policy makers to help steer the nation’s economy.
“Largely, we want the national economy to be given a jumpstart because like it or not, things are not moving as they should.
“We hope that there will be special plans for Indian businesses as well,” he said.