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Government looking at assets to raise extra revenue Print E-mail
Monday, 17 November 2008 14:01

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 - Desperate times call for unusual measures of raising revenue and drumming up investment. This appears to be the mantra of the Economic Council as it readies the country for slower growth and tougher times, and revisits areas and policies long considered sacred.

For a start, the government is:

# Surveying all the assets it owns – lands, shares in government-linked companies, infrastructure – and assessing which can be monetised.

# Planning to overhaul the Malaysia My Second Home programme to make it easier for foreigners to buy property here. It is also considering allowing those with professional qualifications and above 50 years old to work on a part-time basis. In this way, Malaysian industry can benefit from the skills and knowledge of some of these foreigners who have settled here under the programme.

# Going to make it easier for knowledge workers and their spouses to obtain permits to work in Malaysia. This move will address the lack of talent in several fields including biotechnology which has held back the inflow of investments from abroad.

The Economic Council, which consists representatives from the Cabinet, public sector and corporate captains, was set up a few months ago to come up with strategies to cushion the impact of the global economic turmoil on Malaysia. The 40-member council met yesterday to discuss the state of the economy and structural changes that the country needs to make.

The Malaysian Insider has learnt that the Finance Ministry is conducting an audit of assets that it owns or has a stake in. This will not be the first time that the government is mulling the possibility of raising cash by disposing of its assets. In the past, senior government officials also raised this possibility but it was shot down by more conservative elements who argued that there was little need for such a drastic approach given the steady flow of revenue from Petronas and other sources of growth.

But with crude oil prices slumping, revenue from palm oil likely to be flat and the budget deficit slated to become the highest the in the region at 4.8 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the administration has little choice but to generate revenue from idle assets.

In the stimulus package unveiled by Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak last week, the government said that it would develop several tracts of land in Sungai Buloh, Jalan Cochrane and Jalan Ampang Hilir. Under this plan, private developers or government-linked companies can bid for parcels of land and then develop it according to a masterplan for the whole area.

Only after the first parcel has been developed, will the government consider selling or leasing the second parcel, presumably at a much higher price than the first parcel. At a roundtable discussion organised by The Edge last week, Datuk Azman Yahya, a member of the Economic Council, said that the government should have a listing of the assets it owns.

“Monetising these assets means many things… it could include selling and leasing back of buildings, sale of property or through leases, you know…It also can be done in a way that the government does not lose ownership in the long run,’’ he said.

Apart from land, the Finance Ministry, Khazanah Nasional and Perbadanan Nasional Berhad also own stakes in companies and government-linked companies including Sime Darby, Tenaga Nasional Berhad and Maybank.

 



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