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The outlook for 2017: TEG’s publisher looks ahead to an uncertain year

KLCC in KL

This coming year looks like it could be another interesting one for Malaysia. The global situation is particularly uncertain heading into 2017, as the global impact of the new Trump administration is largely unknown.

The outlook for the world economy is not very encouraging. Most experts predict Trump will have a significantly negative impact on the global economy and regard many of his proposed policies as disastrous for world trade. As he has a habit of saying one thing and often acting quite differently, only time will tell what the end result will be.

Trumps up

Even with all the uncertainties in the global economy, it’s safe to say Malaysia has plenty of its own issues. Not least are the seemingly never-ending damaging stories about Malaysia in the international media, which are creating quite a negative perception of the country.

Prominent among the stories are those about various civil and criminal cases linked to 1MDB, with several countries insisting there has been a major misappropriation of funds running into billions of dollars. On the other side, the Malaysian government and 1MDB keep insisting nothing is missing.

1MDB - 27Apr2016

Given that it should be relatively easy for an experienced investigator to determine whether funds are missing or not, all the uncertainty is, to say the least, confusing. The police have been investigating 1MDB for many months, but have not only chosen not to issue any status reports, but also have apparently chosen not to interview Jho Low, whose name is fast becoming synonymous with the 1MDB fiasco.

In another surprising development, expats – and many locals – were rather alarmed to read the Prime Minister’s endorsement of the private member’s bill proposed by the opposition party, PAS, to strengthen the powers and penalties of the Sharia courts. PAS has openly stated their desire to implement hudud laws, which include stoning people to death and amputating limbs.

This current bill is seen by many Malaysians as the first step towards implementation of extreme laws which have been rejected by most of the world as no longer appropriate in the 21st century. To read that the Prime Minister endorsed moving in that direction was concerning.

Freedom of expression in Malaysia is also considered by many to be under attack. Many expats expressed dismay when Maria Chin Abdullah, the moderate leader of prodemocracy group Bersih, was detained under Malaysia’s Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or SOSMA, which is widely regarded as being aimed at terrorists and other extremists threatening the country’s security.

Promoted

maria-chin-bersih

On the other side of the coin, the aggressive – some say thuggish – behavior of some groups linked to UMNO members without any severe reprimands from their leadership was not encouraging.

It does seem likely there will be an election this year, and it is widely predicted that the government will retain power given the absence of a viable opposition party. Life for most expats is largely unaffected by these various internal issues, but when they perceive negative trends in law and order, freedom of expression, racial harmony, and corrupt practices, this makes the international community nervous
– both in and out of the country.

We hope in 2017 the government will start reversing this negative trend and restoring confidence among the many foreigners who love living here and calling it home, not to mention the many people thinking of investing in Malaysia, or coming here to set up businesses or enjoy their retirement.

Stay safe, and happy new year!

This article was originally published in The Expat magazine (January 2017) which is available online or in print via a free subscription.

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