Amcham: Happy but more needs to be done


The American Malaysia Chamber of Commerce or Amcham is the voice for American business interests in Malaysia. It shares its thoughts on how doing business in Malaysia has been like for its members in the past year and offers three suggestions for further improvement so that Malaysia can sharpen its competitiveness.

Ever since a mustachioed Andy Grove walked barefoot in the paddy fields of Bayan Baru, Penang back in early 1971, America has been one of the largest investors into Malaysia. Today the American Malaysia Chamber of Commerce or Amcham is the voice of US businesses in Malaysia working to promote, foster, support, represent, and protect the interests of its member companies.

Business Circle posed some questions to them to gauge their reaction to the World Bank Doing Business report and Malaysia’s 12 position in the rankings.

Business Circle: How valuable is a study such as this to the decision making of potential American investors into Malaysia?

To us, the results reaffirm and strengthen Malaysia’s image as an investor-friendly country. We believe the improved competitiveness of Malaysia in the rakings is an added advantage in attracting new investments for companies looking to expand in this region.
As opposed to the World Bank Doing Business rankings, what has been the experience of your members over the past year to doing business in Malaysia?

Most of our members are able to engage with the relevant authorities upon requests. The ministries/government agencies are open to public-private collaboration in addressing industry concerns. MIDA (Malaysian Industrial Development Authority), in particular has been mentioned as investors’ key facilitator on various issues.

What are still some of the key pain points your members experience and
what would your suggestions be in overcoming them?

There are three main issues:

Limited talent pool – Our suggestions are to improve the quality of education in universities and institutions. We note that, currently, only one local
university made it in top 200 of the QS World University Rankings 2012/3.

English Language proficiency – There is a continued need to emphasize the importance of English language as source of competitiveness and to improve quality of teachers and students. For example, two-thirds of the 70,000 English teachers in the country failed to reach a proficient English level (Source: Ministry of Education
from The Star, Sept 2012).

Power Quality (Specific to the semiconductor manufacturing industry)
– There is an urgent need to resolve power quality issues affecting
companies within the semiconductor manufacturing industry. With the
technology advancement, sophistication of high-end manufacturing, and
increase in automation, equipment are more sensitive to quality of power
[Note: Amcham is working with TNB to address this issue].

In what areas has Malaysia made the most improvement in the eyes of
your members? How was this achieved?

With reference to response to Q2, Amcham appreciates the outreach and opportunities to establish collaboration between the public and private sector. Regular stakeholder engagement and consultation to policy planning enables companies to provide feedback.

Have you had members relocated to other Asian countries. What have
been the push and pull factors?

In 2012, there has only been one company, Spansion, which announced its relocation in 2011. Some companies are reducing labour intensive operations outside Malaysia but maintaining its presence in Malaysia via high-value activities i.e. services, design and development work.

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Photo credit: Flickr user rednuht

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