Malaysia to Continue Pushing for Liberalization, Jala Says

Malaysia will continue to step up efforts to liberalize the economy as the country seeks private investments, Minister Idris Jala said.

Barriers to entry in some industries will be removed gradually, Jala said in an interview on Bloomberg Television in Singapore today. The Southeast Asian nation will liberalize 17 services sectors and allow foreigners to fully control companies in selected industries, Prime Minister Najib Razak said Oct. 7.

Malaysia has eased barriers to foreign investment since Najib became leader in 2009 to transform the Southeast Asian nation through improving efficiency and cutting a budget deficit that counts as one of the largest in Asia as a proportion of gross domestic product. The government forecasts the deficit gap to narrow to 4.7 percent of GDP next year from 5.4 percent in 2011.

“We have made a very clear policy direction that we will be creating the conditions for liberalization,” said Jala, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and chief executive officer of the government’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit. “You cannot get to a new beginning without managing the old, so the transition is required to cause this to open.”

Foreign direct investments climbed six-fold to 29.3 billion ringgit ($9.4 billion) last year, the fastest in Asia, and grew 76 percent in the first half of 2011 to 21.3 billion ringgit, according to the government. The government is “gradually and steadily” cutting its deficit, Jala said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Rishaad Salamat in Hong Kong at rishaad@bloomberg.net; Gan Yen Kuan in Kuala Lumpur at ykgan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Phang in Singapore at sphang@bloomberg.net

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