Home Entrepreneurship Vijay Eswaran Explores Malaysia’s Role as a Strategic Gateway to ASEAN

Vijay Eswaran Explores Malaysia’s Role as a Strategic Gateway to ASEAN

by Olufisayo
Vijay Eswaran

Ten of the southeastern nations in Asia, formally unified as ASEAN, have worked together since the 1960s to improve their intergovernmental coordination to bring about positive social, economic, and environmental change throughout the region. Entrepreneur and philanthropist Vijay Eswaran has long been an advocate of the ASEAN alliance and the potential it holds for furthering the area on the global stage.

One country in the coalition, Malaysia, was recently put in the spotlight by the International Trade and Industry Minister, who seeks to position the nation as a gateway for ASEAN investment. While some have questioned this viewpoint, Eswaran stands behind the idea that Malaysia can, and should, lead the way economically.

Each country in the ASEAN alliance has its own strengths and areas for growth, and Malaysia is not excluded from this sentiment. While Vietnam and Indonesia may present advantages in educational and tourism infrastructure, Eswaran notes there is no denying Malaysia’s dominance when it comes to the economy.

As one of the more affluent economies in Asia as a whole, Malaysia is considered to have an upper-middle-class income average. Benefits include low unemployment rates and high GDP figures despite its expansive 32 million population.

Yet Eswaran also agrees that Malaysia must continue to build on its strengths while targeting changes elsewhere in order to continue to emerge as an ASEAN leader. He counts the use of and proficiency in English, the language of global commerce, as a key advantage that Malaysia has let slip in recent years.

Eswaran credits English usage as helping to attract new business as well as teachers in the subject to help further global interactions and advancement.  “Malaysia ranks third on the English Proficiency Index in ASEAN, right behind Singapore and the Philippines. This advantage would be lost if we continue to disregard English and relegate it,” explained Vijay Eswaran.

Another critical area for improvement in Malaysia’s quest to become an ASEAN gateway is the improvement and development of critical infrastructure. Not only are new transportation routes and options appealing for visitors and tourists to help them more adeptly navigate a new area, but locals can make great use of these resources. While Malaysia is one of the most well-developed ASEAN countries according to Eswaran, there is also room for progress when it comes to adding roads that can connect different districts and even countries with one another.

He detailed, “Since 2020, the Klang MRT line, the 2000km Pan-Borneo Highway, and the West Coast Expressway have been completed, adding to the already existing roads and MRT system that has allowed the ease of travel from one end of the country to the other, while aiding trade between ASEAN and the rest of the world.”

Related to the criticality of transportation, Eswaran also advocates for the removal of chokepoints that hinder travel and trade within and between nations. He recommends that bridges be built between Malaysia and Singapore to “increase the flow of trade, thereby encouraging more foreign investment.” He also advocates for the renewed consideration of a high-speed rail line between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to connect regions that can benefit from increased traffic and economic growth.

Another barrier to seamless travel and trade between ASEAN countries comes in the form of immigration barriers. Eswaran champions an agreement between countries such as Malaysia and Singapore to make it easier for residents to move between the countries to conduct business, trade, and travel for leisure, all of which can help boost the economies of the ASEAN nations.

While over 5,000 foreign companies are doing business in Malaysia, representing over 60 countries, there is still room for growth when it comes to international economic interests, according to Eswaran. “Another way to solidify Malaysia’s position as the gateway of trade would be to aggressively push the Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) scheme to foreign investors. As the place to live and invest in, we can expect a rise in foreign investments coming into Malaysia,” he explained. The country already stands out as a hub for diversity among ASEAN nations without one sole ethnic majority, making it a great fit for welcoming people from all walks of life for business and tourism endeavors.

Malaysia stands uniquely ready to begin leading ASEAN forward into a new economic status on the world stage, and Vijay Eswaran’s own deep understanding of the country’s strengths help paint a positive picture for future growth. As a whole, ASEAN needs to remain focused on eliminating barriers to travel in order to help it achieve its economic goals on a regional level.  While member nations have made progress in improved infrastructure and relations, the collective needs to continue to come together to remove borders and tariffs that restrict foreign investment.

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