Hey, who in the right sense wants to keep their savings In Malaysia

February 11, 2016

Hey, who in the right sense wants to keep their savings In Malaysia

by Julia Yeow and Muzliza Mustafa

Some Malaysians are making the drastic choice of renouncing their citizenship to withdraw their EPF savings before the age of 55. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 11, 2016.

Some Malaysians are making the drastic choice of renouncing their citizenship to withdraw their EPF savings before the age of 55. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 11, 2016.Some Malaysians are making the drastic choice of renouncing their citizenship to withdraw their EPF savings before the age of 55. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 11, 2016.

When Joanne Koo first emigrated to Australia with her young family six years ago, she never planned on renouncing her citizenship as she was eager to hold on to her Malaysian ties, savings and investments.

However, earlier this month, Koo and her husband made a trip to Kuala Lumpur to surrender their Malaysian passports for the sole purpose of making a full withdrawal of their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) savings. (Savers are allowed full withdrawal at age 55.)

“It was never on our mind to take what my elders see as a drastic step (of renouncing our citizenship). But we’ve been monitoring the situation in Malaysia for a few years now, and we’re not confident,” she told The Malaysian Insider.

Koo, 44, is one of thousands of overseas Malaysians who have been spooked by the financial scandals and political instability plaguing the country over the past two years, and who have decided to withdraw their retirement savings to “safer environments”.

“The current government is likely to look towards institutions like EPF and Tabung Haji to bail out failed projects or companies,” said Koo, whose savings were in the “hundreds of thousands”.

“EPF is hard-earned savings, and nobody would want to wake up one day and find their retirement savings in someone else’s pockets.”

In 2014, a total of 3,098 Malaysians renounced their citizenship and left the country, withdrawing RM303 million from the retirement scheme fund. This figure is a startling 63% increase from 2010, where only RM185 million was withdrawn by those leaving the country, according to statistics obtained from the EPF website.

For ML, a former lawyer who moved to Switzerland in 2010, renouncing her citizenship and withdrawing her retirement fund was mostly because of the negative news about Malaysia that she kept reading about from Zurich.

“The recent public fiascos have partly influenced my decision (to become a Swiss citizen and withdraw EPF savings),” said the homemaker who was recently back in Kuala Lumpur to surrender her Malaysian passport.

“I have been following Malaysian news diligently. Every time I read the news, I am utterly gobsmacked with the answers provided or statements made, and I feel so helpless and worried about the state of affairs in Malaysia,” she said.

Apart from the growing fears of economic and political uncertainty, the ringgit’s continued decline over the past year is also believed to be a reason for Malaysians abroad to renounce their citizenship to make a full withdrawal of their EPF savings, said opposition lawmaker Dr. Ong Kian Ming.

“In the past, many people will leave their money in EPF even if they are living or working abroad, because the EPF has been offering decent returns.

“But probably one of the factors which motivates some of them to do this early withdrawal is the fears regarding the currency depreciation. At the rate of the ringgit’s decline, no matter how well your performance is, it cannot make up the depreciation,” he said.

Ong, who is the Member of Parliament for Serdang, said while he was not surprised at the increasing number of withdrawals, he believed a lot of the fears were “unwarranted”.

“I don’t find it surprising that more people are giving up their citizenship and withdrawing their savings, because in the larger context, there is a lot of fear and uncertainty in the country.

“But I do think some of (the fear) is not warranted. Among the government institutions that manage public money, the EPF is the best run among them.”

However, Ong said Malaysians both in and outside the country would tend to “lump EPF altogether with what’s going on in the government”.

Koo agreed that the high dividends paid by EPF annually was the main reason she was initially reluctant to make a full withdrawal, but decided that economic decline from mismanagement and the threat of further scandals was too big a risk for her to take.

“It is a bit of a shame, honestly, as the EPF itself seems to be performing quite well,” said Koo.

“But we’ve decided that we will not risk it and it would be safer to keep our retirement savings in a more secure place.Unfortunately, this means outside of Malaysia.”



Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal: You Couldn’t Make It Up

February 5, 2016

COMMENT: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak can use all the power he has at home to muzzle his officials in Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency, the Auditor-General, Bank Negara Malaysia and threaten or charge his detractors and critics Din Merican @UCusing the Sedition Act and the Multimedia and Communications Commission.  But there is one thing he should know and that is, he has no influence whatsoever with the Swiss and Singapore authorities.

Switzerland and Singapore are global financial centers with solid reputation for  their commitment to the Rule of Law, integrity and probity, good governance, and professionalism. It is immaterial whether our authorities will cooperate with their regulators, they will proceed with their investigations.–Din Merican

Up & Down Asia

Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal: You Couldn’t Make It Up

While Swiss and Singapore officials turn up the heat, Prime Minister Najib Razak hides his head in the sand.

I don’t know who Najib Razak’s friends are in Saudi Arabia, but I sure want a few.

Who wouldn’t covet a pal or two willing to toss you $700 million as a “gift,” no strings attached? That’s at least the Malaysian prime minister’s story, and he’s sticking to it. Politicians overseas, meanwhile, would sure love to have Najib’s electorate. Since the Wall Street Journal broke news of his good fortune, Najib has displayed a fatalistic willingness to take an entire economy down so he can stay in office. And his party harbors little fear of losing power.

There’s the “Twilight Zone” and there’s the “Malaysia Zone,” and just try discerning the difference. Najib-gate grew even more surreal last week when Malaysia’s attorney general suddenly cleared him of criminal or corruption charges. In a hastily-arranged press conference, Mohamed Apandi Ali said Najib had returned all but $61 million of that “donation” from the Saudi royal family. Somehow, Apandi kept a straight face as he declared the matter closed.

Najib Razak, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, was cleared of any wrongdoing by Malaysia’s attorney general in relation to almost $700 million entering his personal bank account via entities linked to 1MDB, the state fund set up by Mr. Najib in 2009.– Photographer: Goh Seng Chong/Bloomberg


But Swiss authorities couldn’t. On Monday, they detailed allegations that a state fund Najib controls may have misappropriated about $4 billion from state companies. Malaysia responded with outrage – outrage the Swiss dared bring transparency into the Malaysia Zone. “By making a public statement, in my opinion, it is not good because it not only strains ties between the two countries, but also creates bias in media reports,” Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamid said and, yes, with a straight face.

Respect, Switzerland. Respect. It’s never easy to be a whistleblower, but that’s especially so when your main industry is helping the rich camouflage wealth. Reputational risk couldn’t stop Bern from shaming a Malaysian government used to pulling the wool over the eyes of its 30 million people. Not all Malaysians, of course, but those keeping Najib’s United Malays National Organisation in business.

Yet Malaysia Inc. went too far in the camouflage department for Swiss officials. Ditto for the U.S. and Singapore. U.S. officials are probing Goldman Sachs’s role as an advisor; Singapore seized a series of accounts amid investigations into money laundering and other alleged offenses related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd., the fund Najib created in 2009. Ostensibly, 1MDB was set up to spur economic growth. Instead, it’s emblematic of why Malaysia is becoming a smaller blip on investors’ radar screens.

The $700 million scandal is merely a symptom, albeit a gargantuan one, of a more important number: 54. That’s Malaysia’s ranking in Transparency International’s 2015 corruption perceptions index, and it’s down four levels from a year earlier. In 2014, Saudi Arabia trailed Malaysia five places. By 2015, Najib’s supposed benefactor leapfrogged ahead of Malaysia, ranking in the 48th percentile. The perception corruption has worsened on Najib’s watch (a Swiss one, perhaps?) can be found in everything from stock and currency gyrations to foreign-direct-investment trends to divergent political dynamics in Asia.

Indonesia, for example, jumped 19 places on Transparency International’s tables since 2014, even besting the Philippines (another nation cleaning up its act). The difference between Jakarta and Putrajaya? Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s methodical focus on eradicating graft, putting more government functions and services online and recruiting credible deputies is paying off. As Jakarta reduces opacity, Putrajaya is increasingly shrouding itself from the global media, local activists and its people.

THE TIDBITS THAT DO ESCAPE NAJIB’S FIREWALL are of the you-couldn’t-make-this-stuff-up-if-you-tried variety. In December, we learned the Federal Bureau of Investigation is eyeing Najib family assets in connection with Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Wolf of Wall Street” film (a company set up by his stepson produced it). Don’t forget perpetual efforts to imprison opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges from the late 1990s. Hence jokes that CBS’s next crime-scene investigation series should be “CSI: Malaysia.” Or about the irony of a government that can’t find a Boeing 777 having no trouble locating Anwar’s body fluids two decades later.

The controversy surrounding MH370, missing since March 2014, and 1MDB stem from the same problem: a political elite that cares about staying in power, not the people. That charge could be lobbed at the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan or America’s Republicans. But neither has held power continuously for six decades, as UMNO has. When the world looked Malaysia’s way amid the greatest aviation mystery since Amelia Earhart, the government was woefully unprepared for primetime. It should’ve learned then that circling the wagons and shutting the world out is a losing strategy.

Only, it didn’t. Najib’s team repeated similar mistakes with 1MDB. First, it dismissed the Journal’s July 2015 report following 1MDB money into Najib’s account personal accounts as some conspiracy to undermine Malaysia. Then, after Putrajaya could no longer ignore the storm, it effectively said “Oh yeah, that. It was a gift. Trust us.” Then, awkwardly, the attorney general whitewashed the crisis. The matter, Najib declared after the ruling, “has been comprehensively put to rest.”

Hardly, Swiss prosecutors retorted this week. Burying such a global scandal is no longer possible in a globalized world in which Malaysia competes for investment. The growing number of foreign probes -– and escalating ones at that –- risk denting Malaysia’s standing. They’re also as clear an explanation as any for why Malaysia is being left behind as Indonesia, the Philippines and other neighbors zoom ahead.

Thing is, Malaysia is an amazing and unique place and I urge anyone who hasn’t visited to check it out. Its breathtaking physical beauty is only rivaled by the energy of its multiethnic population, a thriving culinary scene second to few and enviable geographical placement as China, India and Southeast Asia blossom and change the world. Sadly, it’s run by a government that claims all’s well when the rest of the world knows something’s rotten in Najib’s Malaysia. And with a straight face.

Reuters on Governor Zeti

February 1, 2016

Reuters  on Governor Zeti 

For 16 years, Malaysia’s internationally-lauded central bank governor bolstered the economic credibility of a country otherwise facing a slew of emerging market challenges, ranging from currency crises to a commodities markets crash.

As Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz prepares to step down as head of Bank Negara in April, questions about succession are framed by uncertainties clouding the country, notably a collapse in commodity prices and a political scandal that has drawn international scrutiny, according to market participants.

They say their angst centres on three key risks: the future of the central bank’s current independence, policy continuity and the competence of Zeti’s replacement. If the central bank cuts rates too early or too fast, it could spur capital outflows from Malaysian debt. On the other hand, a rate rise to defend the currency could hurt the economy.

“People are hoping that the successor will be as credible as Zeti has been,” said Brian Tan, an economist with Nomura. “But we don’t know who is on the list and some people worry the replacement will be politically motivated.”

Neither the central bank nor the government responded to Reuters’ requests for comment on potential successors or concerns around succession.

So far this year, Malaysia’s currency and bond markets have enjoyed a degree of calm after being battered in 2015. Similarly, forward markets in the ringgit, Asia’s worst performing currency last year, don’t appear to be pricing in rough weather post April.

Some of the issues hounding Malaysia in 2015 have faded, notably the political scandal around allegations of graft at the debt-laden state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and a revelation that about US$681 million was deposited into Prime Minister Dato’Seri Najib Tun Razak’s personal bank account.

While an ongoing Swiss probe into 1MDB’s activities shows wider concerns around the fund are yet to be resolved, some say more immediate domestic political risks for the economy have retreated after Malaysia’s Attorney-General last week cleared Najib of corruption.

Foreign capital has also returned to the ringgit bond markets while Malaysian exports have remained robust. Another comforting factor is that Bank Negara’s independence is sanctified by the law, which institutionalises the bank’s autonomy for the formulation of monetary policy.

“The independence issue would not be an institutional one because some of the institutional anchoring has been done. It will be more to do with coziness between the Government and the central banker,” said Vishnu Varathan, an economist with Mizuho Bank.

He noted a lack of clarity around succession could impact sentiment in broader markets as Zeti’s term draws to a close.

Big Shoes to fill

There’s been no official word on who could replace Zeti. Among names of contenders floating around in local media are those of Deputy Central Bank Governor Muhammad Ibrahim, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Economic Planning Abdul Wahid Omar, the Malaysian Ambassador to the US Dr. Awang Adek Hussin and the Secretary General of Treasury at the Ministry of Finance Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah. None of them commented on the matter when approached by Reuters.

Zeti said in November she expects the new Bank Negara leadership after her would be “excellent” because of the various processes existing to evaluate successors.  She added that there were internal candidates for the job but did not name specific individuals.

When approached by Reuters last week, Zeti declined to comment on potential successors, but said she had no immediate plans to take up any new role. “I will not take on any new assignments. I will focus on writing,” she told Reuters on Friday.

The Central Bank Governor is formally appointed by the King of Malaysia, who has a symbolic role in the constitutional monarchy. The tenure of the governor is for five years. The appointment is made on the advice of the federal cabinet, ostensibly the Prime Minister.

A source close to the Government said the economy is Najib’s biggest concern and that would guide the search for the next Governor. The source said a significant number of strong candidates have already been lined up, both within the central bank and outside. Still, investors are worried about whether Zeti’s competence can be matched.

“It’s very hard to distinguish Zeti from the BNM. We’re sort of delving into uncharted territory here in terms of her successor,” said Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economics research at HSBC in Hong Kong. “But the BNM seems to be fairly cautious. Malaysia has fared quite well by keeping interest rates stable over time and rarely moving, and I suspect the successor will want to maintain that winning formula.”

The daughter of celebrated Malaysian academic and economist Ungku Aziz Ungku Abdul Hamid, Zeti was handed the reins of the central bank at the peak of the Asian financial crisis in 1998.

She was appointed Governor in May 2000, becoming Malaysia’s first woman central bank governor. She steered the economy through the years when the ringgit was pegged, even dealing with former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who dismissed the idea of an independent central bank, and through the global financial crisis in 2007.

Under Najib, she was able to push for more autonomy for the central bank, winning Bank Negara plaudits from the international financial community for being one of Asia’s most independent central banks. – Reuters

Malaysia: The Crony Attorney-General has plenty to answer for dereliction of public duty

January 29, 2016

Malaysia: The Crony Attorney-General has plenty to answer for dereliction of public duty



The controversy over the decision not to charge the Prime Minister for any wrongdoing in the RM2.6 billion donation saga continued today when a member of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) review panel questioned why the Attorney-General (A-G), Apandi Ali, did not help investigators in the probe.

Lim Chee Wee said the A-G was legally obliged to explain why he did not facilitate MACC’s request to access foreign bank statements through the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA), to check on the money trail of the RM2.6 billion which was credited into Dato’ Seri Najib Razak’s personal accounts. This, he said, was to dispel any speculation of a cover-up.

Lim, the former Malaysian Bar President, said the A-G was also wrong to order the anti-graft body to close its investigations, adding that his power was only to decide whether to prosecute or not.

He said it was “arguable” that the A-G was legally obliged to provide assistance to MACC through MLA.


“The A-G is equally obliged in law to explain why he is not facilitating MACC’s investigations of the money trail of RM2.6 billion as disclosed by MACC in its 31 December 2015 press statement, by providing his consent for Mutual Legal Assistance which would allow MACC access to bank statements of banks operating overseas, through which the funds moved.

“Again this would help dispel the speculation of a cover-up by A-G and that the alleged donation is allegedly KWAP money,” Lim said, referring to the pension fund, in a statement today.

He added that the A-G was also under legal obligation to give detailed and satisfactory reasons to the public as to why he disagrees with the recommendation of any law enforcement agency, more so when the investigation involves a high profile suspect, for example a Prime Minister.

“For instance, A-G at his press conference held up a flowchart which showed the flow and utilisation of the funds of the alleged donation.Having done so and regardless, he should give details of the alleged donation and return of part of the donation, and alleged proper use of part of the donation, by assuring the public that he is satisfied with the existence and substantive truth of documentary proof of source, movement and return of funds, and that the funds were not used for personal benefit, for example it was not used to pay for credit card expenses, which is currently the subject of speculation,” Lim added.

Lim also called on the public to assure the A-G of their support to uphold his oath of office, adding that the support of the Malaysian people was worth more than one individual.

“The A-G’s decision to prosecute or not to prosecute can be challenged by any taxpayer in any courtroom, or questioned by anyone in any living room, meeting room, boardroom, or even coffee shop.In other words, A-G does not have absolute discretion in his prosecutorial powers, this is the legal position in Malaysia, Singapore and United Kingdom.

“The A-G must not be fearful of the power nor position of any individual and whilst he may suffer the same fate as his predecessor Tan Sri Abdul Gani if he were to prosecute, he has the support of the public and more importantly he will be upholding his oath of office,” Lim said, referring to the earlier A-G who was removed from office at the height of the investigations into the alleged financial scandal involving the Prime Minister.

Malaysia’s Million Ringgit Man’s Leap of Faith in TPPA

January 28, 2016

Malaysia’s Million Ringgit Man’s Leap of Faith in TPPA–Good For Malaysia and Malaysians

by Tan Sri Shahrir Samad



When I first heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), I, like most parties, felt very uncomfortable and anxious at the thought of Malaysia entering into negotiations for an agreement that was led and dominated by the United States of America.

It is for the above reason in 2013, I supported the forming of the TPPA Parliamentary Caucus as was suggested by Lembah Pantai MP.Around 2014, I had the opportunity of highlighting my concern regarding the TPPA to Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamed, the Minister of International Trade and Industry (Miti).

Would the US be able to recognise and agree to all of our list of demands?What about the carve outs and exceptions that we needed? I was inclined to believe that the TPPA would jeopardise our development policies since they did have a history of changing the negotiation goalposts in the past.

Initially, in the conversations that I had with Michael Froman (American Trade Representative), I was under the impression that he did not comprehend the importance of the Bumiputera agenda to us. However, when I learned that Japan had decided to join the TPPA, I perceived this as a positive development as it indicated that the TPPA was not entirely dominated by the US.

In my capacity as chairman of the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Council (BNBBC), I had attended various TPPA Parliamentary Caucus briefings.

I was periodically appraised of Malaysia’s standing throughout the TPPA negotiations.Instead of blatantly getting emotional and rejecting the TPPA right from the very beginning, I had decided to keep an open mind.

However, that had not meant that I supported the trade pact agreement. Nevertheless, after various engagements and briefings with the negotiators, I slowly started to warm up to the TPPA.

The way that the negotiators had carried themselves while describing, explaining and briefing us had indicated that they were all very capable and accomplished individuals.Through their clarification and justification of their stance on the individual chapters, I had managed to gauge the firmness and decisiveness of our negotiation team on facing disputable issues such as the Bumiputera policy, status of Islam, capital control, halal certification and environment.

What a lot of people do not realise is the reason the Malaysia-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 2007 had collapsed was because importance of the Bumiputera policy was flatly rejected by the US as being protectionist and discriminatory.

Undeniably, the TPPA negotiations were demanding. There were numerous instances where our representatives had left the negotiation table when they had failed to reach a consensus. Meanwhile, back home in Malaysia they were being faulted for trying to sell the country. I cannot imagine what that must have felt like!

After the TPPA negotiation text was released in December 2015, I was pleased to see that all 12 TPPA nations had come to the consensus to accept the Bumiputera policy.The TPPA enables our policy makers to empower the Bumiputera through its policies such as 30% allocation of government procurement.

The outcome of the TPPA negotiations proved to be in favour of Malaysia as we received a lot of exceptions, carve outs and flexibilities. The threshold in construction services given to Malaysian companies was the highest compared to the other TPPA nations.

The 20-year transition period should be more than sufficient for them to embrace the new challenges faced.The hike in medicinal drug prices is not an issue. The TPPA does not change our domestic policies on patents. Halal requirements are carved out from the trade requirements thus allowing us to continue implementing halal requirements related to importation and exportation of food products.

The much feared Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) tribunal issue was re-evaluated with great concern.The previous ISDS under the other FTAs seemed to be less just and fair to the government. When there is a dispute, the government has the right to interprete matters related to investment through the TPPA Commission.

The burden of proof now lies with the investor and not the state to prove losses suffered. Investors cannot claim losses based on projected future profits.Instead, they can only claim losses based on initial investments made. Ultimately,we must remember that the TPPA does not restrict the government in enforcing administrative actions to regulate policies concerning public health, national security and matters of the environment.

To sum it up, the much maligned agreement is nothing like the actual TPPA text. For that, we have the Miti negotiation team to thank for.

What about the cost of joining the TPPA? Admittedly, new challenges are bound to exist with the formation of the TPPA. For example, SMEs and Malaysian GLCs will have to learn to adjust their business models and operations as they compete with companies from other TPPA countries.However, let’s not forget that we are not changing for the sake of change. We change because these changes come with greater incentives.

TPPA provides an avenue for market access, especially to four new markets (US, Peru, Mexico and Canada).Currently, 18% of our SMEs are already exporting their products and services to other countries. With the TPPA, the possibilities are endless!

The TPPA will give us a competitive edge as it requires us to discipline ourselves in trade and investment matters. This ensures conducive investment avenue, healthy competition and overall improving society through multi-products and the increased availability of high-paying jobs.

Remember, the TPPA is still going to be implemented with or without Malaysia. Vietnam will overtake us if we are not part of the TPPA.We would have to say good bye to high-value investments because countries such as Vietnam and Singapore will look more and more attractive to said investors.

What is worse is that in order to be more competitive, our home-grown companies might even decide to relocate and invest in TPPA countries.Should we decide to join the TPPA in the future, it would not be on our own terms as we were not part of the negotiations and therefore would have to accept the TPPA that had originally been agreed by the founding members. The changes we would then have to make to our laws would be more difficult and painful.

For some strange reason, there are those that are sceptical with the ability of Malaysia to compete with developed nations.They believe that Malaysian companies are not equipped with the expertise required and that Malaysians are inferior to the westerners. This view greatly saddens me.

Do they need to be reminded that a Malaysian consortium currently runs the best property development project in London?Malaysians are also the ones that had planned the Dawn Raid in 1981 which shocked the London capital market when we acquired Guthrie.

Currently, three Malaysian scientists have been named as the world’s most influential minds. To me, these examples (and there are many more) justify Malaysia’s standing as a globally acclaimed success.If it was possible for “Malaysia Boleh” back then, why would it be any different now?

Today, our young generation has become more inter connected. By utilising technology and its advancements on social media, they are now venturing into sharing economy model which has revolutionised the way business is conducted.

More and more of these startup companies have been created and now some have become very lucrative. Recently, two young Malaysians successfully reinvented the way we hire lorries via TheLorry.com. They have been so successful; a Singaporean company has decided to invest US$1.5 million to expand their business in Southeast Asia.

On another front, FashionValet.com has managed to secure a multi-million dollar investment deal from a San Francisco-based venture capitalist. Currently they operate in four different ASEAN countries (Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia).

These examples clearly illustrate young Malaysians are capable of keeping up with the times and embracing change. Not only are these young Malaysians able to compete in today’s global arena, they are triumphant in doing so.

Competition is not an alien concept to Malaysia. Ever since our independence, we have strived to be competitive. Nothing has changed as we will only continue to do so now and in the future.

Over January 25 and 26, the Malaysian Parliament will discuss, debate and vote on the merits of the TPPA. Some will say that the ruling party will bulldoze the TPPA through Parliament because we have the numbers.

I want to emphasise that the BNBBC will not blindly support the TPPA simply because we have to toe the party line but rather, we support it because we truly believe that the TPPA will benefit the country and its people.

I believe that Malaysia should be unafraid to take our place in the world. Change is a constant and it is a fact of life. The TPPA is my leap of faith in Malaysia and in Malaysians.

* Tan Sri Shahrir Samad is chairman of Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club and Johor Baru MP.


TPPA–Time to Listen, not just be selective with Facts

January 20, 2016

TPPA–Time to Listen, not just be selective with Facts

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan


IWan Saiful Wan Jann a recent statement DAP Member of Parliament Charles Santiago, repeated his assertion that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would affect access to affordable medicine.  He cited the case of Jordan and claimed that the prices of medicine there increased by 20 per cent and the generic drug industry was wiped out six months after they signed a free trade agreement with the United States in 2001.

“I fully support YB Charles Santiago’s demand for the Ministry of Health to be more engaged and work together with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in communicating the impact of the TPP on healthcare in Malaysia,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Chief Executive of IDEAS.


“But is regrettable that the DAP MP was selective with facts to support his arguments and he turns a deaf ear when answers are given to address his concerns.” What has been deliberately omitted from the story about Jordan by opponents of the TPP are the two major benefits the country enjoyed as a result of its free trade agreement (FTA) with the US.

Wan Saiful added: “Firstly, Jordan saw increased investment in research and development and the introduction of new, innovative and effective drugs into the market. Liberalisation of the regulatory environment led to 78 new launches of innovative medicines within ten years, more than double Jordan’s pre-reform rate. The reforms catalysed by the FTA spurred local healthcare entrepreneurial activities leading to more products being developed by Jordanian companies such as the Jordan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company. The FTA helped Jordanian consumers access to new and innovative medicines, and this is good.”

Charles Santiago

“Secondly, Jordan enjoyed the introduction of best practices and international standards in the country’s industry. Prior to the reforms, only one Jordanian company was certified for Good Manufacturing Practises (GMP) and this raised questions about the quality of locally produced generics before reforms. After reforms, at least four more Jordanian companies achieved international GMP certification, enabling for more Jordanian produced generics to be used locally and exported for the regional and international pharmaceutical markets. Today, post-reform, Jordan has become the leading Arab exporter of drugs, exporting   cent of their production to some 66 countries.”

“It is telling that in November last year, Thailand, a country that depends on generic medicines extensively in its universal healthcare coverage scheme, has expressed its intent to join the TPP. Is YB Charles saying that the Thais don’t understand what they are getting themselves into?  The fact is, the reduction of trade barriers will allow the price of generic medicines to go down and this is good for health. Since Malaysia wants to use mostly generics in our healthcare system, we should focus on the wider positive benefits of TPP on the pricing of generics.” said Wan Saiful.

Wan Saiful concluded that “YB Charles has been a consistent anti-liberalisation campaigner and I respect him for his persistence. I am sure he and other anti-liberalisation campaigners will continue nit-picking to oppose the TPP.  But being selective with facts and refusing to listen when answers are given is not the way to handle this issue.”

* IDEAS is an independent not-for-profit think tank dedicated to promoting market-based solutions to public policy challenges.