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Malaysia’s Investment Malaise: What Happened and Can It Be Fixed?

33 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2012  

Jayant Menon

Asian Development Bank; Asian Development Bank Institute

Date Written: August 1, 2012


Private investment in Malaysia has never fully recovered from the impact of the Asian financial crisis (AFC). Both domestic and foreign investment have remained lackluster post-AFC; while foreigners continue to shun Malaysia, it seems even domestic investors are fleeing as well, with Malaysia having become a net exporter of capital since 2005. The crucial questions are: what happened and can it be fixed? We argue that the investment malaise can be attributed to two interrelated factors: (i) distortions introduced by the New Economic Policy (NEP) and its reincarnates, and (ii) the widespread presence and overbearing influence of government-linked corporations (GLCs) that deter new investment. While the impacts of both factors may have been masked during the heady days leading up to the AFC, this is no longer the case in the current competitive environment where residency options for both capital and skilled labor are much greater. Fixing the problem requires addressing the distortions of the NEP and curtailing the influence of the GLCs. Although there have been a few recent moves to dilute the NEP, some of these measures have already been reversed. Similarly, while there has been an active program of divestment from GLCs, there have also been GLC acquisitions in new sectors, making it more of a diversification than a divestment program. Malaysia’s investment malaise can be fixed, but not in this way.

Keywords: Malaysia, private investment, foreign direct investment, capital outflows, middle income trap, new economic policy, government-linked corporations

JEL Classification: E22, F20, F21, J78, O53

Suggested Citation

Menon, Jayant, Malaysia’s Investment Malaise: What Happened and Can It Be Fixed? (August 1, 2012). Asian Development Bank Economics Working Paper Series No. 312. Available at SSRN: or

Jayant Menon (Contact Author)

Asian Development Bank ( email )

6 ADB Avenue, Mandaluyong City 1550
Metro Manila

Asian Development Bank Institute ( email )

Kasumigaseki Building 8F 3-2-5
Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo, 100-6008

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