Omicron & Beyond
The season to be merry is well over and hopefully most had good fun, and had the opportunity for personal down time, family time and social time. 2021 was a tough year for many, professionally and personally including missing quite a few of our friends and colleagues who chose to leave Malaysia during the pandemic. So much to reflect on and yet time to leave what are memories of another Covid year behind. Time to be in the year of the two’s, for those phonetically inclined, its “Two Oh To Toooo” .. Did you hear the wood pigeon?
Onwards comrades, time to be present, practical and to look out to the possibilities that business and life will offer for us in 2022 and beyond. So how are things at home in Ireland? It’s Covid phase 4, and the good news (one which governments globally are slow to recognise), is that Omicron looks as it could be the start of the end of the pandemic and for Covid to move to endemic state. Ireland has been seeing cases at more than double their peak from Delta and yet hospitalisations at less than half and resultant deaths, a tenth. In simple terms this Omicron variant has greater infective power, and is knocking the delta variant out of the park, but it doesn’t have the virality or acuity in its ability to cause as widespread major symptoms to its hosts. Good news, as of time of publication, 18th January, the numbers of new infections in Ireland has halved in 5 days and expected to keep dropping over the coming days. In terms of economics, despite Covid, 2021 saw an amazing performance by the Irish economy, growing by over 13%, unemployment down to near 7% and a budget deficit of 7.3% vs 13.5% as forecast for the year. Highest ever tax take of 68.5billion Euros and GDP of estimated 440billion Dollars. Moving forward, 2022 growth forecast of 5.2%. One downside is inflation running at 5.1%, but is expected to drop in coming quarters due to fuel prices and corrections in the global supply chain. So the home country is doing well and our opportunity here in Malaysia is to beat out Singapore in attracting investment from many of Ireland’s success stories and be as their competitive hubs for future growth in SEA and beyond!
So what about Malaysia, well Omicron hasn’t meaningfully arrived and numbers of those generally infected are pretty static. That said, Omicron is going rampant in Manila in the Philippines and also Singapore is expecting a major increase in the coming weeks. No doubt Omicron will arrive here and will be impactful, but no idea when or how effecting. So all we can do is be prepared and the best way to be prepared is to have our vaccine booster shots and most specifically for the most vulnerable. Boosters are now freely available in Malaysia once 3 months has passed since your previous vaccination and better still Pfizer is available which is the best booster for Sinovac, AZ or previous Pfizer (so the global data suggests). So if reading this and not gotten your booster, please go to this FAQ link now and you will get all the info you need about boosters, including Q.11 which covers where and how to book your shot!! https://www.humanresourcesonline.net/faqs-about-covid-19-booster-shots-in-malaysia .
So what about business and the possibilities in Malaysia in 2022 and beyond. In an optimistic sense, Malaysia is a wonderful country with great people and an amazing potential for growth, as a domestic market and moreso as an international hub for products and services to SEA and beyond. From an economic sense, things have been pretty flat with a recession in Q2/Q3 2021 due to lockdowns and closed borders. Overall growth 2021 expected around 2-3%. Challenges with labour supply, specifically as relates to foreign workers for factory and agriculture jobs. That said there remain great opportunities for businesses to grow with increases in domestic spending and also the reopening of international trade within SEA. There is some support available from government to development initiatives and the government produced a strategic 12th Malaysia plan which indicates their areas of focus with which new business here can align. On the down side, there are concerns over the stability of the government and the timing of the next election, GE 15. Also concerns whichever party or party’s win, that the policies will continue similarly to those of the 3 governments over the past 3 years, which are seen as biased against foreign investment and with a negative context toward Expat and foreign worker alike. This is reflected in the revised MM2H scheme, the immigration controls during Covid, and the change of taxation laws for international income, which have since been reversed. So yes there are a lot of good reasons to invest in Malaysia, but with caveats, care and relevant research. And finally, ending on a positive note, the government vaccination program continues its success, plans seem to be a foot for some reopening of borders and the government has indicated that a process to move from Pandemic to Endemic state will commence in 2-3 weeks, Omicron dependent.
And for ICCM, We look forward with belief and ambition for the future of ICCM both in its support and engagement of business initiatives of the Irish in Malaysia, as well as joint Ireland/Malaysia investment initiatives. In addition, with our continued work with EUROCHAM Malaysia as a bilateral chamber and all the possibilities that offers. Our additional commitment with EUROCHAM in 2022 is arranging a joint event around our St. Patrick’s celebrations, which will highlight “Ireland in Europe”, our engagement, contribution and commitment. Over the past year we have increased the breadth of our membership offerings to include corporate partner (Chara), professional associates and also to Malaysian students and alumni educated in Ireland through a representative organisation called MYSAI. We will also continue to work with the Irish Ambassador and embassy in Malaysia and with Irish agencies represented in SEA, to promote the great possibilities of business investment in Malaysia and to this end we hope for ministerial engagement to our efforts over the coming year.
From an organisation perspective, we have had major changes in our board over the past year due to some folks leaving Malaysia and others with personal priorities. Having lost 4, we now have 4 new members elected who bring diversity, ideas and new energy. These include Rob van Harren (Dutchman & Director of Leviat SEA & India, a subsidiary of CRH), Jayanthi Theverajah (Malaysian Citizen and Head of Education, Asean Region, Enterprise Ireland), Jasmine Cheung (PR specialist and Co-Founder of Estilo Media) and Donal Crotty ( Executive coach and Chair with Vistage Malaysia). Donal is also newly elected as Chairman of ICCM along with his role as General Manager, with Michael Garvey, our previous chairman, stepping down but remaining as a board member. We offer sincere thanks to Michael for all his commitment and work over these difficult Covid years. For more details, check out our board members page https://www.iccm.com.my/board-members/ . We are also setting up an informal advisory board to help us with ideas, initiatives and events moving forward.
So its onwards and upwards and we wish all our members, families, friends and those who wish to engage with us here Malaysia, from Ireland or elsewhere, a very healthy, successful, prosperous and joyful 2022.