ASEAN Biweekly News Updates-January 1- January 12

AOT lays out a plan for achieving net-zero carbon emissions; TNG digital expands its services; Duolingo cuts 10% of contractors; Advancecon and Perak State to develop Silver Valley; Excise plans to implement new green tax policies; Thai Commerce Ministry aiming to sign 3 FTAs in 2024; Malaysia is developing an ethics code and governance for AI; Meta Bright to install solar PV system; Malaysia's PMI likely to remain below the pivotal 50-point threshold; Sunview, Saudi's firm focuses on RE investments in different countries; Ground-breaking US$175 million green financing for RHB Islamic; Kinergy Advancement leads in the RE space; Penang’s technology startup ecosystem receives recognition

AOT lays out a plan for achieving net-zero carbon emissions in aviation industry

Airports of Thailand (AOT) has laid out its strategy to reach its goals of carbon neutrality by 2030 and net zero carbon emissions by 2032. The AOT, which runs the country’s six main airports, plans to reduce 50% of its 300,000 tons of annual carbon emissions within the first four years.

The AOT intends to replace cars with internal combustion engines with electric vehicles in accordance with the plan. The agency hopes to convert 1,180 of the 3,710 rental cars into electric vehicles in 2024, 760 in 2025, 1,170 in 2026, and 600 in 2027. Additionally, the AOT intends to replace 3,400 vehicles that assist airport operations in addition to more than 4,000 taxis and limousines with electric vehicles.

This might contribute to an annual fuel consumption decrease of up to 10 million litres, or 28,360 tons less carbon dioxide. This would also lessen air pollution at airports.

Editor’s Note: The report shows the commitment by Airports of Thailand and its dedication to sustainability in the aviation industry. The AOT has outlined a comprehensive plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2032.

TNG digital expands its services to facilitate hassle-free cross-border remittances to 50+ countries

Through its Touch ‘n Go eWallet, TNG Digital has extended the scope of its services to include cross border payments to more than 50 countries. The company said that the reason for the expansion to more than 50 nations was the high demand from users for more international options. The service was first launched in May 2023 and was initially available in 10 countries.

TNG Digital claims to offer GOremit, a quick, safe, and practical way for anyone to send money overseas at any time, from any location. In addition to transferring money to recipients’ bank accounts or for cash pick-up, users can also—and this is more convenient—transfer money to their preferred eWallet in the destination country.

Touch ‘n Go eWallet facilitates hassle-free cross-border remittances to 50+ countries beyond Malaysia | Digital News Asia

Editor’s Note: This news reflects the ongoing transformation and digitalization within the financial services industry of Malaysia. The decision to broaden its services stems from high user demand for increased international options. Launched in May 2023 and initially available in 10 countries, TNG Digital’s GOremit service offers a quick, safe, and practical solution for users to send money overseas conveniently.

Duolingo cuts 10% of contractors as it employs more AI to generate app content

Ten percent of the contract translators at the well-known language learning app Duolingo were laid off as a result of a recent restructuring phase. Media sources have commented on this calculated move, which fits in with the company’s growing dependence on generative AI for content development and curation.

Duolingo’s global head of communications, Sam Dalsimer, emphasized the complex role AI plays in the business. Dalsimer said, highlighting the diverse applications of AI in Duolingo that AI isn’t the only factor in contract labor decline and the company employs AI for a variety of jobs and functions.  

Dalsimer reassured that despite the integration of AI, contract and staff workers still have crucial responsibilities in validating and improving the validity of AI-generated outputs. Furthermore, Duolingo has been aggressively looking for other positions for the impacted contractors.

Advancecon and Perak State to develop Silver Valley with an investment target of RM14 billion

With a projected gross development value (GDV) of RM1.03 billion, Perak State Development Corp (PKNPk) and its subsidiary Perak Corp have signed a joint venture agreement to establish Silver Valley Technology Park (SVTP) on the former’s industrial site in Kanthan.

As the joint developer of SVTP, they also welcomed Advancecon Holdings Bhd, a specialist in engineering and earthworks.

To move SVTP forward, Advancecon would be a fantastic sparring partner for Perak Corp, according to PKNPk chief executive Datuk Redza Rafiq Abdul Razak. He stated that they we aim to secure RM14 billion of private investment and hope to contribute to Perak’s GDP in return.

Editor’s Note: This strategic collaboration, with a focus on technology and significant investment, marks a notable development in the region’s industrial landscape. The establishment of this state-of-the-art industrial park is seen as a catalyst for substantial opportunities, attracting both domestic and foreign direct investment (FDI).

Excise plans to implement new green tax policies

Director-general Ekniti Nitithanprapas of the Excise Department has announced plans to implement four tax measures aimed at improving the environment and society this year. The four measures are: advocating for the use of pure ethanol in the production of bioplastics; supporting the use of certain cars to assist the elderly or disabled; proposing a carbon tax on the energy, transportation, and industrial sectors; and supporting the use of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), including batteries used in other industries like solar cells.

Mr. Ekniti stated that in an effort to support environmental conservation, battery subsidy measures will be made available for systems that recycle spent batteries. 2023 saw 59,835 new BEV registrations in the first ten months, an increase of 675% over the previous year.

Editor’s Note: The measures are seen as for promoting the use of pure ethanol in bioplastic production, supporting specific cars to aid the elderly or disabled, proposing a carbon tax on energy, transportation, and industrial sectors, and endorsing battery electric vehicles (BEVs), along with their application in various industries like solar cells. This could also boost business opportunities in Green tech.

Thai Commerce Ministry aiming to sign 3 FTAs in 2024


The aim of the Thai Commerce Ministry is to sign three free trade agreements by 2024: an improvement to the current ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand trade agreement as well as two new agreements with Sri Lanka and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

Chotima Iemsawasdikul, the director general of the Trade Negotiations Department, announced on January 10 that her office has accelerated negotiations in order to conform to the government’s policy, which is led by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and aims to expand opportunities and boost competitiveness for Thai businesses.

The department is expecting the Thailand-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement to be signed in the first few days of February. After that, the deal will be brought to the parliament for approval, a process that takes about 60 days.

Editor’s Note: The Thai Commerce Ministry’s aim to sign three Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in 2024 is likely to have several significant impacts on the country’s economy and trade relationships. This could also position Thailand as an active player in the global trade arena, fostering economic growth, creating business opportunities, and contributing to the country’s overall economic resilience.

Malaysia is developing an ethics code and governance for AI

A set of ethics and governance guidelines for artificial intelligence (AI) is being developed in Malaysia in response to growing demand from AI companies looking to broaden their customer base and penetrate new industries. Industry executives expect the initiative to be completed this year.

The partnership between YTL Power International Bhd and US-based Nvidia Corp to create AI infrastructure and bring the fastest supercomputers to Malaysia by mid-2024 is one noteworthy example of the increased interest in this area.

The statement was made by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang during a meeting.

Meta Bright to install solar PV system for Kemaman Municipal Council

The Kemaman Municipal Council (MPK) in Terengganu has signed a 20-year renewable energy supply agreement with Meta Bright Group Bhd, with the projected installation of a 407.8 kWp solar photovoltaic (PV) system at Kijal Mall.

Mega Bright sent MPK a conditional offer letter to join their solar PV without capital expenditure plan, which MPK accepted on January 1, 2024.

MPK owns Kijal Mall, where Mega Bright will design, build, install, commission, run, and maintain the solar PV system. As part of the initiative, the council decided to pay fixed solar tariff rates of 36 sen per kWh for renewable energy produced by the PV plants at Kijal Mall. The 20-year agreement begins, six months after the PV system is put into service.

Editor’s Note: The installation of a solar PV system by Meta Bright for the Kemaman Municipal Council reflects the growing business potential in the renewable energy sector in Malaysia. As the government emphasizes sustainable and eco-friendly initiatives, there is a significant push towards adopting clean energy solutions. This aligns with Malaysia’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions and achieve environmental sustainability.

Malaysia’s PMI likely to remain below the pivotal 50-point threshold

Similar to the global manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), Malaysia’s  is probably going to stay below the crucial 50-point mark in the time to come.

According to Public Investment Bank research (PublicInvest), this is due to the ongoing interaction of existing factors that reflect persistent fragility in external demand.

“We anticipate this trend to persist before potentially bottoming out in the latter part of the first half of 2024 (1H24),” the note stated. In December, Malaysia’s manufacturing PMI remained stable at 47.9.

Editor’s Note: The PMI is a key economic indicator that reflects the health of the manufacturing industry. A reading below 50 indicates contraction, while a reading above 50 signifies expansion. For global companies, a PMI below 50 in Malaysia may signal challenges and reduced demand in the country’s manufacturing sector. However, the condition may change as per policy measures, economic conditions or demand spur as it happens.

Sunview, Saudi’s firm focuses on RE investments in Middle East, Africa & Asean

Sunview Group Bhd is looking into the possibility of partnering with Saudi Arabia’s Vision Ambassadors Company for International Trade Consultancy to make investments in renewable and green energy.

Sunview and Vision Ambassadors signed an MoU on the opportunity today through Fabulous Sunview Sdn Bhd, which is completely owned by Sunview. For prospective projects, Sunview will be solely in charge of EPCC-related activities.

Potential project locations will be jointly identified by the partnership, with both companies serving as the principal investors.

Editor’s Note: Renewable energy company Sunview has announced a collaboration with Vision Ambassadors, focusing on jointly identifying potential project locations with both entities serving as principal investors. The collaboration extends beyond Malaysia, targeting opportunities in regions like Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia, aiming to broaden Sunview’s geographical footprint.

OCBC Al-Amin offers RHB Islamic a ground-breaking US$175 million green financing

RHB Islamic Bank Bhd has been granted a ground-breaking US$175 million (US$1=RM4.60) Islamic green term financing facility by OCBC Al-Amin Bank Bhd, the Islamic banking affiliate of OCBC Bank (Malaysia) Bhd.

According to a joint statement, the facility makes OCBC Al-Amin the first bank in Malaysia to offer a green Islamic foreign currency and bank-to-bank term financing facility.

The facility is also the first in Malaysia’s financial institutions sector to have an innovative Islamic term financing system that uses the use-of-proceeds technique.

In accordance with the sustainable asset framework of RHB Banking Group, RHB Islamic will offer its clients comprehensive financing solutions pertaining to environmental, social, and governance aspects through the utilization of the green Islamic financing facility.

Kinergy Advancement leads in the RE space

Kinergy Advancement Bhd (KAB), a notable player in the renewable energy (RE) market, is taking a gamble by entering the telecommunication infrastructure sector. This move is motivated by the introduction of 5G technology, which necessitates significant infrastructure development.

Given that 5G towers have a lower coverage radius than 4G towers, executive deputy chairman and group managing director Datuk Lai Keng Onn stated that a denser network of towers is urgently needed.

Besides the telecom infrastructure market, KAB is concentrating on palm oil industry sustainable energy as well.

Penang’s technology startup ecosystem receives recognition

A significant turning point for Penang’s technology startup ecosystem was announced by Digital Penang, which said it was honored “Outstanding Ecosystem among Medium-Sized Population Cities in Southeast Asia 2023” from StartupBlink. StartupBlink is a prominent startup ecosystem map and research center based in Zürich, Switzerland.

The target that Penang has set for itself is to support 500 technology startups by 2030. By 2023, the state would have nurtured 150 successful businesses in a variety of IT verticals, such as e-commerce, agritech, deeptech, edtech, and finance. Digital Penang, in partnership with strategic partners in Indonesia, has initiated market growth and access programs aimed at strengthening the resilience and sustainability of Penang startups.,center%20based%20in%20Z%C3%BCrich%2C%20Switzerland.

Editor’s Note: This recognition marks a significant milestone for Penang, demonstrating its commitment to fostering a thriving startup environment. The state aims to support 500 technology startups by 2030, with a goal of nurturing 150 successful businesses across various IT verticals by 2023. Digital Penang, in collaboration with strategic partners in Indonesia, has initiated market growth and access programs to enhance the resilience and sustainability of Penang’s startup community.