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Strengthening Malaysia-Singapore Economic and Business Ties Post-COVID at the 21st Joint Meeting of the Malaysia-Singapore Business Council

Monday, 10 August 2020 [Singapore] – The 21st Joint Meeting of the Malaysia-Singapore Business Council was held on 6 August 2020 via a virtual platform and was co-chaired by Dr Robert Yap, Executive Chairman of YCH Group and YBhg Datuk Seri Dr Nik Norzrul Thani, Chairman and Senior Partner of Zaid Ibrahim & Co.

Established in July 2004 to promote business and investment activities between Singapore and Malaysia, the MSBC provides the business communities of both countries a useful collaboration platform to initiate joint projects for the mutual benefit of both countries.

The Council invited speakers to share on Post-COVID recovery’s best practices and manufacturing opportunities:

(a) Best Practices and Solutions for coping with New Normal through Safe Management Measures

Realising the importance of businesses adapting to the new normal post-COVID, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) shared Singapore’s best practices on safe management measures (e.g. contact tracing application, disinfectant robots).

(b) Opportunities and Government Assistance programmes offered by MITI to encourage enterprises to adopt Industry 4.0 solutions

The Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) provided updates on the developments of Malaysia’s Industry4WRD Policy, a four-pronged strategy to boost Malaysia’s manufacturing sector through higher productivity, innovation and more high-skilled workers especially at this critical juncture. Under this policy, a comprehensive suite of government programmes are available to assist companies based in Malaysia to adopt I4.0 solutions to move up the manufacturing value chain.

The Council would like to record its strong appreciation and support for the various economic stimulus packages delivered by our governments in helping our businesses to overcome the economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Council members expressed confidence that our two economies will bounce back to pre-COVID levels following the easing of lockdown measures in both countries and the availability of a vaccine.

The Council welcomed the recently announced cross-border travel arrangements by the Governments of both countries. The Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) facilitates essential business and official travel between both countries for up to 14 days. The Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) allows long-term pass holders to enter Malaysia or Singapore for work. The two schemes address the more pressing travel needs of cross-border travel between Malaysia and Singapore.

The Council also discussed on new and existing projects such as the KL-Singapore High Speed Rail, Digital Economy, RAPID Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex, Start-ups, Human Capital Development, and Manufacturing and Industrial 4.0 to foster deeper business-to-business collaborations between Malaysia and Singapore.

Some of the key highlights from the Focus Group Discussions:

KL-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR)

The Council requested that both governments strive to communicate the proposed changes to the plans for the HSR project once Malaysia is ready to share. The Council is of the view that the private sector from both countries would be very keen to find out how they could be involved in the new plans for HSR.

Digital Economy

With the fast growth of digitalisation and digital economy, the Council would like to set up a dedicated focus group to exchange best practices and collaborate on various areas such as digital connectivity, fintech, e-commerce, and digitalisation. The existing Digital Free Trade Zone Focus Group will be folded into this new focus group to facilitate broader discussions on the topic of digital economy and digitalisation.

Manufacturing and Industry 4.0

This is a new focus group that the Council members agreed to set up to focus on digitalisation of manufacturing services and adoption of I4.0 solutions such as IoT and robotics to optimise and complement each other’s manufacturing supply chains.

YBhg Datuk Seri Dr Nik Norzrul Thani said, “Singapore-Malaysia business ties are significant for the region and the Council is committed to further deepen cooperation in areas of mutual interest. Both sides had a very fruitful meeting and we also agreed to plan for a series of webinars on digital economy and start-ups for the business communities of the two countries to exchange business ideas and promote collaboration.”

Expressing his support, Dr Robert Yap, said, “Despite the uncertainty and challenges of current COVID-19, it is promising to see the businesses from both countries exploring collaboration in both existing and new cooperation areas such as Digital Economy, Manufacturing and Industry 4.0, and Start-ups. This crisis offered very good opportunities for enterprises to think of how to transform their business models and develop new strategies to position themselves for a Post-COVID new normal environment.”

Dr Yap added that “Singapore businesses welcome the bilateral cross-border travel arrangements as they allow us to travel to Malaysia for important meetings, and our employees can travel more easily between Malaysia and Singapore to see their families. We look forward to providing feedback to our respective governments on how the schemes can be improved to better serve the needs of businesses and employees.”

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