Idris Jala confident 'good things' will come after new govt's transition phase

Idris: Therefore, the one thing we can do, when we are a trading nation [is]: Competitiveness, competitiveness and competitiveness! Photo by: Mohd Suhaimi Mohamed Yusuf

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SUBANG (March 4): Malaysia's new government is still "in the transition phase", and it needs time to achieve the transformation it has set out to do, said Datuk Seri Idris Jala, president and chief executive officer at Pemandu Associates.

"I think when you are a new government, especially in a country that had the one and same government for a very long period of time, there is always a process called transition.

"You cannot have new beginnings unless you manage the endings [properly]," Idris commented when asked about the government's transition progress here during an economics conversation organised by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI).

The transition has to be given time, said Idris, and he is "hopeful" that the government will deal with the process well and then be clear about its priorities, going forward.

"I am in no doubt that Malaysia is a country that is in transition, [and] only good things can come out [of] it. I am confident… but it requires [good] leadership," Idris added.

On the trade front, Idris said the trade war between the world's two largest economies, the US and China, will cause real pain for the world, including trading nations like Malaysia.

Already, slower growth is expected for the global economy amid China's economic slowdown in the face of escalating trade tensions between the two countries.

"Malaysia is a trading nation. Our total trade (including export and import) is almost twice as large as our gross domestic products (GDP), therefore, we are exposed to the things happening in the global economy.

"Therefore, the one thing we can do, when we are a trading nation [is]: Competitiveness, competitiveness and competitiveness!" he stressed.

"When I say competitiveness, it means our product and services must be highly competitive. When you are not competitive, when the world's economy contracts, countries will be selective when it comes to products and demand will be smaller," he said.

Idris also called on the private sector to embrace the digital world to compete globally.

"You cannot just do brick and mortar. Put [your goods and services] out there at Alibaba, Amazon and ebay, then you will know [how] competitive [you are]. Every businessman must put their products and services on the digital platform, so you will know if you are competitive in price and functionality. You open the whole market — this is what people need to do," Idris said.