The interesting thing about our ministry is that we have a big ecosystem with several different agencies. Our mission statement that I’ve introduced called the three S’s; search, seek and secure. I do want to add a fourth S, to service them.
Asean Business Leaders: Can you please give an overview of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) and what would be
the main priorities to be taken under your leadership?
Darell Leiking: The ministry of international trade and industry, is to me the heart and soul of the nation. Why? Because besides the minister of foreign affairs, you have the minister of MITI who ensures that the economies from all over the world can work together and invest in to Malaysia. This is the role the prime minister has entrusted upon me. He has given me specific instructions that we need to regain the confidence of the nations globally. After all the notorious broadcasting, it is necessary to regain the confidence. Moreover, I had a briefing a few days back and the data showed that people have gained confidence back in Malaysia. My rule as the minister is to ensure that when people invest in to Malaysia, will come in with confidence. I have the numbers to prove this statement, from May 2018 until September 2018 FDI and domestic investment of USD8,6B has come in to the country. This tells us that the confidence in us is very high.
Asean Business Leaders: Certain agencies that are under your ministry, such as Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) and Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) are playing a vital role in the development of Malaysia. What is needed for these agencies to bring the Malaysian brand to the world?
Darell Leiking: The interesting thing about our ministry is that we have a big ecosystem with several different agencies. Besides MIDA and MATRADE, we have many other agencies; EXIM Bank, Invest KL and Malaysian Automotive Institute are all under MITI. However, we focus most on MIDA and MATRADE. MIDA brings all the investment in to Malaysia and MATRADE motivates our SME’s and investors to expand their horizons and trade outside of Malaysia. MIDA brings in more investment to Malaysia trough philosophy and our mission statement that I’ve introduced called the three S’s; search, seek and secure. I do want to add a fourth S, to service them. MIDA must service the investors, so that they will stay. MATRADE on the other hand needs to bring out Malaysian produce to the world.
Asean Business Leaders: In your opinion, how important are Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) to position Malaysia in the global market?
Darell Leiking: It is very important to us, but the key thing that the Malaysian government emphasizes on is that we are open for trade, we are business friendly and we believe in free trade, but there must be fair trade. In Malaysia’s case we want to ensure that we are entering a good free trade agreement and that we insist fairness. People will ask what is fairness? Fairness is very subjective. Malaysia may think this is fair, you may think the opposite. This means we must meet halfway, in business it’s about meeting of the minds. When 2 countries talk about free trade, we must meet in between. This to me is considered fair trade.
Asean Business Leaders: As you know, SME’s make up most of the Malaysian economy. Moreover, ICT practices are rising worldwide, it’s conquering the way we do business. What needs to be done for SME’s in Malaysia to adapt more ICT practices and how can MITI assists SME’s to embrace technology?
Darell Leiking: We cannot deny that technology is the way forward, so for what do we use this technology? The SME’s in Malaysia is about 92% of our GDP, they are most active in our country. This is why we need to prepare them for the future. MITI has provided them with training and managed to get a budget for assisting them to be ready for industry 4.0. For example, e-trade and what platforms like Alibaba are doing. We are making sure that the SME’s are on par with the world and their competitors. This is the focus of MITI, we need to make sure that our SME’s do not remain the way they were, they must be tech savvy. Firstly, in automation and secondly in their way of doing business.
Asean Business Leaders: 2015 was a key milestone for the ASEAN region, since the ASEAN Economic Community was formed. Would you encourage more participation of Malaysian SME’s to trade and promoting Malaysian products and services in to the ASEAN region?
Darell Leiking: Of course, this is something we just entered in trough the e-commerce agreement that ASEAN signed last week. We will cover cross border trading and on e-commerce between ASEAN. SME’s must ensure that they do not remain only in Malaysia, they must go up in to the global value chain. We can no longer think that we live in a bubble, we have to get out.
Asean Business Leaders: Thomas Edison said, “in movement there is life, but in change there is power. To what extent is this historical change moving into a more powerful country to capitalize on its full potential?
Darell Leiking: Edison also said, 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. This means we have to work very hard to implement the changes. We will achieve our promises and goals. We have to bring back confidence to our people and others to showcase that we are the place to be reckoned with.
Asean Business Leaders: As a Sabahan, how do you perceive the infrastructure developments in Sabah at the moment? How do you believe these developments can benefit Sabah?
Darell Leiking: Many Sabahans feel that they have been sidelined. They felt like the government has centralized every development to peninsular Malaysia. The infrastructure in Sabah remains as we were in the 80’s in Kuala Lumpur, it makes me sad. Although, we have very sophisticated places in Sabah, overall, we are left behind. We don’t have Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), no high-speed internet, they’re just bringing this in these days. Unfortunately, in Sabah they’re not giving these opportunities. This is why I believe connectivity is our access to the world and this has given us a bit more confidence that Sabah and Sarawak can make a difference in their own state. Our current chief minister of Sabah is working very hard day and night to make sure that the Central Government will not forget Sabah. With the right chief minister in Sabah, which we have at the moment, we will be able to make a huge difference in the next 4 years. Infrastructure will be there, and the electricity will be up to par. I would like to add that one of the biggest problems in Sabah is the illegal immigrants, they’re outnumbering our people. Also, people are saying that the government are bringing them in, this is NOT true. The last government could also stop this years ago and they didn’t. We will solve this illegal immigration and infrastructure problem and we will make sure that Sabah will not miss out in this new government. I will ensure this. I will do my best for my state and the state will not be left behind.
Asean Business Leaders: According to our research, one of the most ambitious projects that is undergoing in Borneo is the expansion in Sabah Ports, particularly at the Sapangar Bay Container Terminal. Can you please elaborate a bit here and to what extent do you consider that this project might become an important contributor to serve the East Asean Growth Area that will cover Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and The Philippines (BIMP-EAGA)?
Darell Leiking: the most beautiful thing about Sabah is the sea, jungle, mountains and the people. The ports will be the gateway to many other opportunities to Sabahans both in rural and suburban area. The chief minister needs to ensure with the central government that the port will be uplifted and renewed and that whoever wants to trade with Sabah will be connected directly with Sabah. This will make an impressive difference. Sabah can become the hub for Brunei, Indonesia and The Philippines since it is closest by. With the new implementations of the government there will be a new vessel way for trade. The Chinese have the Belt and Road Initiative, this will be our BRI (Belt and Road Initiative).