KUALA LUMPUR: Economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram today said the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government recognised the importance of foreign direct investments (FDIs) and technology transfers from abroad.
He said Malaysia appreciated investments that contributed to the country’s progress, such as 5G telecommunications, artificial intelligence applications, financial technologies, renewable energy, new medicines and electric vehicles.
“The new government clearly favours productive industrial investments, especially with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s commitment to accelerate Malaysian technological progress,” he said in a letter to the Financial Times.
Jomo, who is also a member of the Council of Eminent Persons, said after the country’s independence in 1957, the Malaysian government had always invited FDIs.
“Caricaturing the country’s political debate over investments from China risks misleading all concerned.
“For example, the RM67 billion (US$17 billion) East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project is not economically viable and the cost overruns for such large projects are the international norm,” he said.
Jomo said the ECRL project was not an investment from China, but a huge loan from China’s Export-Import Bank for 85% of projected costs on preferential terms. He added that there had been considerable public opposition to such projects and associated debt liabilities.
“The project was awarded by the previous government to a Chinese company without any competitive – let alone transparent – process, with various special privileges, including tax exemptions.
“On May 9, Malaysians resoundingly rejected irresponsible FDIs and dubious loans that could burden and ruin economies and their greedy Malaysian enablers, but popular opposition to such projects does not constitute a blanket opposition to all investments from China,” he added.