ASEAN Biweekly News Updates- February 13 – February 28

Export expects continued expansion; Bangkok meeting in May to address key challenges; BDI collaborates with state to build a data-driven country; Tech partnership to encourage Thailand's adoption of 5G; January saw significant gains in foreign investment EEC ID system to launch in September; Malaysia's ringgit decline; Maxis partners with Huawei; FedEx begins testing EV cross-border delivery; Malaysia's business confidence still rising; TNB Malaysia aims to electrify 30% of its operational fleet by 2030; Pantas and Solarvest to assist Malaysian companies; Sarawak to become hydrogen hub by 2027

Export expects continued expansion

The Commerce Ministry anticipates further expansion in exports after a faster-than-anticipated increase in January. These factors include the global economic recovery, a reduction in global inflation, the implementation of food security measures by several nations, and strengthened regional economic cooperation.

If geopolitical tensions in the Middle East do not worsen, exports should continue to grow in the first quarter of this year, according to Permanent Commerce Secretary Keerati Rushchano.
According to Mr. Keerati, the ministry has stuck to its 1-2% annual export growth target, with monthly exports between US$24 billion and US$24.36 billion.

Editor’s Note: Following a quicker uptick in exports than expected in January, the Commerce Ministry expects continued expansion. This growth is driven by the global economic recovery, easing of worldwide inflation, food security measures implemented by several countries, and tightened regional economic cooperation. Permanent Commerce Secretary Keerati Rushchano predicts positive export trends in the first quarter of this year, provided geopolitical tensions in the Middle East remain stable. 

Bangkok meeting in May to address key challenges

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) reports that energy policymakers are scheduled to convene in Bangkok in May to deliberate on the obstacles facing the energy sector, particularly the shift from fossil fuel-based electricity generation to renewable energy.

Sudharma Yoonaidharma, a member of the ERC board, stated that this panel is essential given the worldwide push to address climate change, which is brought on by global warming.

At the 2024 Future Energy Asia Exhibition and Summit, which takes place May 15–17, more than 600 policymakers, industry leaders, and academics are anticipated to present their perspectives on a range of energy-related topics.

Editor’s Note: In May, energy policymakers will gather in Bangkok to discuss challenges in the energy sector, focusing on transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The 2024 Future Energy Asia Exhibition and Summit will provide a platform for over 600 experts to share insights on critical energy issues.

Big Data Institute collaborates with state to build a data-driven country

Thailand is becoming a data-driven nation through the use of big data and artificial intelligence (AI), according to the Big Data Institute (BDI).
By this year, the institute hopes to have generated over 3 billion baht in economic impact and more than 200 million baht worth of employment prospects through the development of big data manpower.

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) oversees the BDI. It came into being in 2023. According to Minister Prasert Jantararuangthong, the institute is in charge of data resource management, analytics for all state agencies, and cybersecurity and data analytics for the whole economy.

Tech partnership to encourage Thailand’s adoption of 5G

Dr. Sirirurg Songsivilai, the chairman of TSRI’s National Commission on Science, Technology, and Innovation, is at the centre of this huge project. He has made it clear how crucial 5G adoption is to Thailand’s economic growth. The partnership aims to revolutionise the economy by producing 5G products and solutions by the end of the year, not only adopt new technology. Thailand’s commitment to leading the digital transformation is reinforced by the TSRI-NTBC cooperation. Thailand led the ASEAN region in the 5G spectrum licence auction held back in January 2020.

For TSRI’s plan to be widely adopted and embraced, import substitution and 5G optimisation are essential. With a sizeable budget set aside for this goal, TSRI hopes to establish itself as a leading centre for research that not only promotes economic recovery but also greatly improves the welfare of Thai citizens.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Sirirurg Songsivilai, chair of TSRI’s National Commission on Science, Technology, and Innovation, spearheads a significant project to boost 5G adoption in Thailand. The partnership aims to create 5G solutions and products by year-end, reinforcing Thailand’s commitment to digital transformation. TSRI’s focus on import substitution and 5G optimization will drive economic recovery and enhance citizens’ well-being.

January saw significant gains in foreign investment

Applications for foreign investment under the Foreign Business Act were granted by the Foreign Business Committee in January, amounting to 7.17 billion baht, a 39.8% increase from the previous year.

The Department of Business Development reports that the number of foreign investors rose to 54 in January, up two from the same month the previous year.

According to the director-general of the department, Auramon Supthaweethum, Japan topped the list with 15 approved initiatives valued at 3.79 billion baht, mostly in service-related industries. Seven projects in Singapore were approved, with a combined investment of 1.09 billion baht.

Editor’s Note: In January, foreign investment in Thailand surged significantly. The Foreign Business Committee granted applications totaling 7.17 billion baht, marking a 39.8% increase from the previous year. Japan led the way with 15 approved initiatives, valued at 3.79 billion baht, primarily in service-related sectors, while Singapore contributed seven projects with a combined investment of 1.09 billion baht.

EEC ID system to launch in September

As an additional part to the current EEC visa scheme, the Eastern Economic Corridor Office (EECO) plans to introduce the EEC ID system by September. This will lessen the burden on foreign workers and investors in the 35 promoted zones spread across the three EEC provinces.

The EECO’s deputy secretary-general, Korkij Danchaivichit, states that the organisation anticipates 5,000 users of the EEC ID platform, which will furnish them with a digital ID in addition to a physical card for usage in the promoted zones.

A 10-year visa, expedited work permit processes, and a flat tax rate of 17% are all provided by the EEC visa to foreign nationals working in Chachoengsao, Chonburi, and Rayong that are involved in strategic economic activities.The purpose of the EEC visa is to give foreign investors who specialise in particular designated fields an appealing visa choice.

Editor’s Note: The Eastern Economic Corridor Office (EECO) aims to launch the EEC ID system by September as an additional part of the existing EEC visa scheme. This system will streamline administrative processes for foreign investors and workers in the 35 promoted zones across Chachoengsao, Chonburi, and Rayong provinces, providing both a digital ID and a physical card for use in these zones.

Malaysia’s ringgit decline is worrisome but economic foundations remain solid: PM

Although the ringgit currency’s decline to a 26-year low this week is alarming, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim stressed that solid fundamentals supported a positive outlook for the country’s economy.

The ringgit is now trading close to its lowest point versus the dollar, which was recorded in January 1998 at 4.8850.

Anwar informed reporters that, in contrast to its neighbours, Malaysia’s growth could be maintained because of the country’s strong level of investments, low unemployment, and low inflation. He also stated that the performance of the ringgit today should not be compared to that of 1998, when the country experienced high levels of unemployment and inflation and foreign investors withdrew.

Editor’s Note: Despite the ringgit’s decline to a 26-year low, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, remains optimistic. The country’s robust fundamentals, including strong investments, low unemployment, and minimal inflation, underpin a positive economic outlook. Anwar emphasizes that today’s ringgit performance differs significantly from the crisis in 1998, marked by high unemployment and inflation.

Maxis partners with Huawei to pioneer 5G-Advanced technology

In Malaysia and Southeast Asia, Maxis and Huawei have effectively carried out the first 5G-Advanced technology trial. The “5G-Advanced Trial Showcase” included a live speed test showcasing 5G-Advanced’s potential to reach extremely fast peak speeds of up to 8Gbps, according to a statement from Maxis.

5G-Advanced, sometimes referred to as 5.5G, offers up to 10 times faster connections, lower latency, and more throughput than 5G. Through next-generation connectivity and digital solutions, the demonstration highlighted the potential of 5G-Advanced technology by utilising its extremely fast speeds, increased capacity for connected devices, and extremely dependable low latency. KLCC The Place, the nation’s first location to conduct a 5.5G technology experiment, hosted the event.

FedEx begins testing EV cross-border delivery between Malaysia and Singapore

FedEx Express, a division of FedEx Corp., has begun testing its first cross-border electric vehicle (EV) delivery service from Malaysia to Singapore.

The initiative is a component of FedEx’s ongoing investigation into methods to lessen its carbon footprint and advance environmentally friendly shipping.

A ‘Maxus eDeliver 7’ will travel 406 miles, according to FedEx, from a FedEx station in Shah Alam to a FedEx facility at Changi Airport in Singapore.

When compared to diesel-powered vehicles, the estimated reduction in tailpipe CO2 emissions for this trial trip is around 100 kg.

Malaysia’s business confidence still rising for the first quarter of 2024

Malaysia’s business confidence, which has been rising since the third quarter of 2023, recorded 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2024, indicating that companies have high expectations for their future operations.

In a release, the Malaysian Department of Statistics (DOSM) stated that all industries anticipate better economic conditions in the first quarter of 2024.
The business confidence indicator for the services sector increased to 8.6 percent from 6.3 percent in the previous quarter, indicating that the industry’s outlook is still positive.

The construction industry resumes its upward momentum after returning to a positive trajectory, with a confidence indicator of 10.3 percent as opposed to 1.7 percent on a quarterly basis.

Editor’s Note: Malaysia’s business confidence continues to rise, reaching 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2024. All industries anticipate improved economic conditions, with the services sector showing a positive outlook at 8.6 percent, and the construction industry gaining momentum with a confidence indicator of 10.3 percent.

TNB Malaysia aims to electrify 30% of its operational fleet by 2030

Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB), a utility company, is dedicated to a swift and sustainable energy transition. By 2030, it plans to electrify thirty percent of its operating fleet, or over 1,000 vehicles.
The strategic move, according to President and CEO Datuk Seri Baharin Din, is in line with Malaysia’s lofty objective of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
According to him, TNB’s switch to electric vehicles is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions annually by 2,200 to 4,833 tonnes, or around 88,000 to 193,320 trees, by 2030.

Pantas and Solarvest to assist Malaysian companies in making sustainable changes

In order to help lower carbon emissions, Solarvest Holdings Bhd and Pantas Software Sdn Bhd are collaborating to use the former’s sustainable energy solutions and create a smart metrics system.
The partnership will make use of Solarvest’s clean energy solutions in addition to Pantas’ AI-powered carbon management and ESG platform, which is funded by Bank Negara Malaysia’s Greening Value Chain (GVC) project.
While Pantas will provide digital support and supplement these efforts with actionable data insights, Solarvest will help Malaysian firms execute lasting reforms.
Together, they seek to provide a thorough decarbonisation path by streamlining and expediting the deployment of renewable energy.

Editor’s Note: Solarvest Holdings Bhd and Pantas Software Sdn Bhd have joined forces to drive sustainable changes in Malaysian companies. Leveraging Solarvest’s clean energy solutions and Pantas’ AI-powered carbon management platform, they aim to streamline decarbonization efforts and accelerate the adoption of renewable energy.

Sarawak to become hydrogen hub by 2027 – Abang Johari

By 2027, Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg believes the state would be a hub for hydrogen.
With the help of Gentari Sdn Bhd and SEDC Energy Sdn Bhd, Sarawak now operates a hydrogen production plant, therefore he stated it was feasible to reach this status.
Sarawak has turned the corner at this point. They plan to collaborate with South Korean and Japanese government agencies, as well as major firms in the energy sector like Gentari.

He stated at a news conference that hydrogen will be used for residential purposes as well as industrial purposes in the future. He was speaking following his keynote address at the Borneo Energy Transition Conference 2024 held here today.

Editor’s Note: Sarawak, under the leadership of Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, is poised to become a hydrogen hub by 2027. Collaborating with Gentari Sdn Bhd and SEDC Energy Sdn Bhd, Sarawak aims to leverage its hydrogen production plant and work with international partners to drive hydrogen adoption for both residential and industrial use.