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Doing Business in Malaysia

Malaysia is a country of two halves combining the urban and the rural, metropolitan cities and exotic rainforest, bustling towns and beaches. Separated by the South China Sea into Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo, it is home to over 30 million culturally diverse and multilingual people. The country originated from the Malay Kingdoms which fell under the rule of the British in the eighteenth century and later became a British protectorate until it peacefully gained independence in 1957. These political historic ties mean that the Malaysian governing system is still reminiscent of the Westminster Parliamentary model while the legal system is governed by common law, and English remains a common second language throughout the country.

Malaysia’s vibrant economy is newly industrialised and relatively open with growth rates commonly over 4%.  It also scores highly in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ index. Strengths of the Malaysian market include a well-developed financial sector, cost-effective access to the increasingly thriving Asian markets, and an impressive infrastructure. One of the most technologically developed nations in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) it is tipped to be the fourth largest single market by 2030. For these reasons, Kuala Lumpur is an ideal location for an Asian headquarters for globally expanding firms.

However, the rainforests of Northern Borneo are suffering as a result of market pressure to produce larger and larger amounts of palm oil and timber, threatening both the environment and Malaysia’s economic strength – as organisations attempt to curb the levels of deforestation. Other risks of doing business in Malaysia are a weak competitive environment and a permeating degree of corruption, as the nation is ranked in the top third of countries in the ‘Corruption Perceptions Index’, which render research and preparation essential for doing business in Malaysia.

Naturally the plurality of cultures, including Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Indian and indigenous peoples, has created a complex and quirky corporate etiquette. The World Business Culture website provides the necessary knowledge of business culture, such as the importance of company hierarchies and titles, as well as information on the economic environment and opportunities necessary for business ventures in this Eastern market.