Political preference crowding out enterprise in Malaysia

Author: Hwok-Aun Lee, University of Malaya

Malaysia’s government-linked companies (GLCs) are, relatively speaking, among the most extensive and powerful in the world in terms of capitalisation, market presence and socio-political mandate.

GLCs reportedly comprise 36 per cent of the Malaysian stock exchange’s capitalisation and 54 per cent of the entities that make up the Kuala Lumpur Composite Index. Read more…

The tricky economic tasks facing Najib Razak

Malaysia army personnel loading food and goods inside a boat in the Kuala Krai district of Kelantan, Malaysia, 28 December 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Shankaran Nambiar, MIER

After a year of solid achievement on the economic front, Malaysia’s leaders will face difficult circumstances as they implement reform in 2015.

One of the more impressive achievements of the Malaysian government in 2014 was the resolve it demonstrated in trying to balance the budget. Read more…

Managing Malaysia’s education crisis

Malaysian school children wave national flags as they wait for the arrival of the Malaysian Prime Minister at a stadium in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo: AAP).

Author: M Niaz Asadullah, University of Malaya

The Malaysian government should look to civil society for support in strengthening the nation’s education system.

Evidence can be seen in the 2014 UNESCO Global Monitoring Report on teaching and learning. Read more…

Najib’s East Malaysia challenge

Malaysian schoolchildren wave national flags during the 57th National Day celebrations at Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur on 31 August 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Arnold Puyok, UNIMAS

Malaysia’s federal government needs to rethink its strategy on regional autonomy in the states of Sabah and Sarawak if it wants to maintain their electoral support. Sabah and Sarawak helped seal the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) victory in the 12th and 13th general elections. But there are growing concerns in the two states about the intrusion of the federal government. Read more…

Surge of sedition charges in Malaysia arrests Najib’s reform agenda

A Malaysian student holds a placard during a protest in solidarity for Malaysian law professor Azmi Sharom, at Malaya University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 09 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Nigel Cory, CSIS Washington DC

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was charged with sedition on 24 September for statements he made at a political rally three years earlier. Shortly before, on 19 September, a Malaysian court sentenced a student activist to a year in jail for comments he made after the 2013 general election. These cases are the latest in a surge of sedition charges that is terrorising opposition politicians, social activists, journalists and academics in Malaysia. Read more…

Unravelling the twisted tale of sedition charges against Azmi Sharom

Malaysian students hold placards reading 'Abolish Sedition Act' during a protest in solidarity for Malaysian law professor Azmi Sharom, at Malaya University in Kuala Lumpur, 9 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Terence Gomez, University of Malaya

On 2 September 2014, Associate Professor Dr Azmi Sharom, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, was charged under Malaysia’s Sedition Act. Azmi has been a faculty member of this university, the country’s premier tertiary institution, for over two decades. Read more…

Indonesia and Malaysia need to focus on a ‘soft’ approach to tackle IS support on social media

A government worker removes ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) flags painted on to walls near Veteran Street in Surakarta City, Indonesia, in an attempt to discourage the promotion of the jihadist group in the region, 5 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Stefanie Kam and Robi Sugara, RSIS

In response to the rise in Indonesian and Malaysian fighters joining the extremist Islamic State (IS) group, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur have taken action to criminalise membership. The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the nation’s top Muslim clerical body, also released a statement that it was haram, or forbidden, for Muslims to participate in IS activities. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has also issued a strongly worded statement condemning IS for its actions, which ‘run counter to Islamic faith, culture and to common humanity’. Read more…

Japan’s elderly in Malaysia, like shooting stars in the twilight

Japanese expatriate artist Masami Teraoka, age 78, smiles. Japanese elderly are leaving Japan to enjoy new lives overseas and countries such as Malaysia are offering a special visa to do so. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Shiori Shakuto-Neoh, ANU

With a quarter of the population above 65 years old, Japan has become a ‘super-aged society’. The now retiring members of the baby-boomer generation have enjoyed rapid economic growth in their working lives. They were appreciated as the workforce behind Japan’s internationally acclaimed ‘miracle’ economy. Today, they have retired into a completely different society: Japan is facing a burgeoning deficit as well as the fallout — humanitarian, economic and political — of the 3/11 triple disaster. Read more…

Obama gets down to business in Malaysia

President Barack Obama and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak smile as they participate in a joint news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Shankaran Nambiar, MIER

President Obama’s two-day visit to Malaysia is a feather in Prime Minister Najib’s cap. But it is a decoration that carries certain obligations given the implications of what Obama has conveyed.

The decision to include Malaysia as part of Obama’s Asia tour was strategically timed since the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is still being hotly debated there. Read more…

On the Malaysian economy, government still thinks it knows best

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak takes a look at the model of the Kuala Lumpur International Financial District, named the Tun Razak Exchange, during its launching ceremony in Kuala Lumpur in July 2012 (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tony Pua, Kuala Lumpur

In 2009, when the Malaysian prime minister first launched the New Economic Model (NEM) the policy was deemed a paradigm shift from a government-dominated economy to one that will be spearheaded by the private sector. Prime Minister Najib Razak famously said, ‘the era where the government knows best is over’.

It was difficult to argue against the thrusts of the NEM Read more…

Can Islamic finance bridge Asia’s infrastructure deficit?

A train moves past skycraper buildings in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Could Islamic finance help finance infrastructure in Asia? (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thiam Hee Ng, ADB

The global Islamic debt securities (sukuk) market has grown rapidly, from just US$15 billion in 2001 to US$281 billion in 2013. This increase has been led by Malaysia, which accounts for nearly 60 per cent of total outstanding sukuk. Meanwhile, Middle Eastern countries account for about 30 per cent. Sukuk bonds still only represent a small portion of Asia’s overall bond market, but there is great potential for the sukuk market to grow and play a key role in helping to finance the region’s large infrastructure requirements. Read more…

Why Beijing shouldn’t worry about Manila’s military upgrades

A dilapidated Philippine Navy ship is anchored off Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin Shoal. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Joseph Franco, RSIS

On 28 March 2014 Manila signed a US$420 million contract for the delivery of 12 Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50 aircraft for light surface attack and lead-in fighter roles. The purchase marked the return of the Philippine air force to the jet age. So far, it is the highest point in the Philippines’ gradual build-up of a ‘minimum credible defence posture’, and a recapitalisation of Southeast Asia’s least-capable military with the support of the US. Read more…

Malaysia media reforms take one step forward, two steps back

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak prays with senior party members during a celebration after winning the 13th general elections 6 May 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Eric Loo, UOW

Malaysians are evidently freer today to openly criticise their government than they were prior to 1998.

But fundamental reforms that civil societies had hoped for during the internet-driven Reformasi movement in 1998 and Bersih rallies (in 2007, 2011 and 2012) are wanting.

Instead, Malaysians have a government focused on achieving a high-income developed-nation status by 2020 while eschewing the cultural prerequisites of a normative democracy — freedom of access to public information, free and fair elections, vigilant media and press freedom. Read more…