Monday, 16 March 2020: In the attempt to revive the Malaysian business environment, MIDA has implemented a series of rules which aim to facilitate the arrival of business travelers in the country.  

The Center for Market Education (CME) observed that, while the attempt has to be plauded, the details of the regulation may further discourage business travelers from coming to Malaysia rather than incentivizing their return. 

Looking at the guidelines available on MIDA website, it emerges that the travel approval is the less burdensome part of the process, while the difficulties come when the business traveler starts his or her business mission.

First of all, it is required that the business traveler submit to the Malaysian authorities a detailed itinerary including the meeting places and times, the people to be met, the timing reserved for meals. It seems that business travelers will have to spend in their hotel the time that is not specifically allocated for business purposes. A sample of the itinerary can be found on the same webpage.

Secondly, the business traveler will have to be accompanied along all the itinerary by a government liaison office. While the liaison officer will not interfere with the business meetings, he will have to be present (probably to overview that SOPs are observed), while the business traveler will have to bear transportation and meal costs for him or her. Therefore, in a nutshell, the government intends to provide a sort of “guardian” to the business travelers, while the business travelers themselves would have to bear the live expenses for these guardians.

“I think it is laudable MIDA’s attempt to get business travellers back into the country” – observed Dr Carmelo Ferlito, CEO of the Center for Market Education. “At the same time – he added – it is important that the set of procedures developed for this purpose are consistent with the double objective of limiting the health risks and facilitating business. The current regulation seems not to go into the direction of making things easy for business travellers, while at the same time the role of the liaison office in preventing the spread of Covid-19 is questionable at the very least (without considering that its costs are the traveller’s shoulder)”.

The Center for Market Education therefore invites MIDA and the Malaysian authority to revise the regulation in order to try to attract business travellers and not to keep them away. At the same time CME invites Malaysia in being more aggressive in international negotiations on reopening borders at least for business purposes.

“We cannot wait for Covid-19 to be over to come back to normal lives” – observed Dr Ferlito. “The economic cost, which means the human cost too, is too high. It is clear we have to learn how to live with Covid thanks to proper risk assessment and the right institutional framework”.

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About CME: The Center for Market Education (CME) is a boutique think-tank based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As an academic and educational institution, CME aims to promote a more pluralistic and multidisciplinary approach to economics and to spread the knowledge of a sounder economics, grounded in the understanding of market forces. In order to do so, CME is not only involved in academic initiatives, but it organizes seminars, webinars and tailor-made economics classes for students, journalists, businesspeople and professionals who wish to better understand the relevance of economics for their daily lives and activities. Economics matters and needs to be presented in a fashion in which the link with reality is clearly visible. In this sense, we look not only at theoretical economics but also at policy making, with an emphasis on the unintended consequences generated by political actions.