1. Malaysia sustains labour productivity growth in Q4
  2. Iskandar Malaysia to be expanded, spanning more areas in Johor
  3. MIDF sees inflation at 2.2 pct this year
  4. No more reduction in broadband prices this year
  5. Doing Good Index: Malaysia in second cluster
  6. More firms turn to Islamic finance for development projects

Malaysia sustains labour productivity growth in Q4
Malaysia’s labour productivity sustained its positive growth trend in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2018, with productivity measured by value added per hour worked expanding 2.7 per cent. International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking (pic) said this resulted from a 4.7 per cent growth in value added. However, the average hours worked shrank by 0.5 per cent during the quarter under review, he said. Value added per person employed registered a 2.2 per cent rise.

Iskandar Malaysia to be expanded, spanning more areas in Johor
Iskandar Malaysia in southern Johor will be extended to include parts of the Kota Tinggi, Kluang and Pontian districts. Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA), in a statement today, said this was approved at the IRDA’s 24th Members of Authority (MoA) meeting, which was co-chaired by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian. IRDA chief executive Datuk Ismail Ibrahim said with the larger area of coverage, Iskandar Malaysia should be able to offer more land for development at affordable cost, and at the same time bringing modern agriculture as one of its new promoted sectors.

MIDF sees inflation at 2.2 pct this year
MIDF Research says it expects the inflation level for this year to be at 2.2 per cent, with the headline inflation rate averaging at 2.2 per cent as compared to 1.0 per cent in 2018. In a research note today, the research firm said inflationary pressure is expected to rise, mainly from fuel-related items, consistent with expectations of crude oil prices averaging at US$75 per barrel for 2019 and given that the RON95 subsidy will be targeted at only the B40 group. “The consumer price index contracted 0.7 per cent year-on-year in the first month of 2019, the first drop in over nine years after hovering below 1.0 per cent year-on-year in the previous seven months. The lowest figure since October 2009 was mainly attributed to deflationary pressures from the transport component.

No more reduction in broadband prices this year
Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said there will be no more reduction in broadband prices this year, after the target of doubling the speed and halving the price has been achieved. On his first day in office in May last year, Gobind announced the initiative following the feedback from the public, who had been complaining about the quality of broadband in Malaysia, which is said to be inferior to broadband in developed countries. In October last year, Communications and Multimedia Consumer Forum of Malaysia (CFM) announced that the industry saw broadband pricing in Malaysia reduced by up to 56 per cent and made the new pricing applicable to all including telcos’ existing customers.

Doing Good Index: Malaysia in second cluster
Malaysia found herself in the second cluster based on the performance of 15 Asian economies in the Doing Good Index (DGI). DGI measure performance in terms of four clusters – Doing Well, Doing Better, Doing Okay, and Not Doing Enough. Each cluster represents the distance left to travel toward a conducive environment for doing good. Joining Malaysia in the Doing Better cluster were Hong Kong, Korea, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam, all trailing behind Japan, Singapore and Taiwan who led the pack in the Doing Well cluster. In the third cluster, Doing Okay, were China, India, and Pakistan while Indonesia and Myanmar were placed in the Not Doing Enough cluster. Overall, no economy has yet reached its full potential, even those in the Doing Well cluster. There is ample room for improvement across the board. Malaysia was particularly doing well in two sub-indexes – Regulations and Ecosystem. The Regulations sub-index evaluates laws and policies pertaining to philanthropic activity, examining some of the practicalities around what makes the giving and receiving of social investments. While the Ecosystem sub-index maps the supportive environment for giving of philanthropic funds and the delivery of services through four groups of indicators: public perception, institutional recognition, talent infrastructure, and good governance. DGI is a study based on a set of indicators that are taken together to show the regulatory and institutional infrastructure enabling or impeding philanthropic giving. Four main areas were covered – regulatory regimes, tax and fiscal policy, government procurement, and socio-cultural ecosystem.

More firms turn to Islamic finance for development projects
A growing number of non-regional [GCC] organisations are turning to Islamic Finance, and in particular to sukuk instruments, to raise funds for their infrastructure and development projects, affirms a leading UAE-based investment banking expert. The comments from Zahid Aslam, Managing Director of Investment Banking at Dalma Capital Management Limited, come as the firm reports an almost one-third jump in enquiries regarding Sharia-compliant bond issuances from corporations outside of the GCC. The news follows S&P Global Ratings predicting in January the global issuance of Sharia-compliant foreign and local currency bonds is expected to reach as much as US$115 billion this year. “It is our experience that sukuk-based solutions are establishing themselves as an increasingly attractive alternative for the funding of infrastructure and development projects,” observes Mr. Aslam. “For example, we are currently working with clients on a variety of ‘off the beaten path’ projects, including a refinery initiative in the CIS region and a scheme to help develop eco-tourism and sustainable farming in several African nations. We are also seeing interest from Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan.”