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ECRL : avalanche of benefits for contractors and locals

KUALA LUMPUR, Last month’s ceremony to relaunch the RM44 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) was greeted by cheers and sigh of relief especially among contractors and local communities clearly excited with the expected avalanche of benefits from the massive project.

The ECRL project will drive many benefits, creating a positive impact to those living near the rail line namely the three East Coast states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang as well as Negeri Sembilan, Selangor, and the Federal Territory of Putrajaya.

Many are taking a peek at the numerous opportunities that could be leveraged from the large-scale project which is expected to be ready by December 2026, especially in driving economic development and spurring high impact sectors of logistics, trade and tourism.

ECRL, as predicted by many, could become a game-changer to advance Malaysia’s economic and social development ambitions.

According to Transport Minister Anthony Loke, the upgraded ECRL project now encompasses 640 kilometres route with 417 kilometres or 65.2 per cent due to a revise of alignment from Kota Bharu to Dungun known as Section A and the whole new range entire from Mentakab to Port Klang known as Section C.

The ECRL line from Dungun to Mentakab, known as Section B at 223 kilometres, is 34.8 per cent of the total ECRL range, which is not affected by any changes,’ he said after the recent ECRL relaunch at the Dungun tunnel site, Terengganu.

The national rail project according to him is a catalyst to spur development in the east coast states and across the Titiwangsa mountain range, spurring new industrial hubs that will offer plenty of jobs to locals, kick up commerce and trade as well as boosting tourism.

His statement was echoed by the deputy president of the Terengganu Malay Contractors Association of Malaysia (PKMMT) Zamri Awang Hitam who said, the relaunch of the ECRL project will bring about positive impacts to local contractors who have been looking for opportunities to benefit from from the large-scale project.

According to him the last mega-project implemented in Terengganu was the East Coast Highway 2 (LPT 2), completed a few years ago.

No other mega project was brought to the state after that. Not even small projects and this has caused many contractors to go bust,” he said, adding that 40 per cent quota dedicated to local contractors for the project would help local contractors to recover from hardship.

The construction of ECRL has been delayed since July last year when the Pakatan Harapan government, fresh from a stunning election victory, seek to renegotiate with China and the project’s main contractor, China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) especially regarding the project’s exorbitant cost and aspects of its implementation.

Months of difficult negotiations bore fruits when the government succeeded in lowering the ECRL’s cost from RM65.5 billion when it was signed by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government to RM44 billion, for a whopping RM21.5 billion in saving.

The project now starts from Kota Bahru via Mentakab, Jelebu, Kuala Kelawang, Bangi / Kajang, Putrajaya and ends at Port Klang for 640km route against 688km as originally planned.

Terengganu will have six stations, namely Kampung Raja, Kuala Terengganu, Pengkalan Berangan, Dungun, Kemasik and Chukai, which include four passenger stations and two passenger and cargo combined stations.

Zamri said the association had identified potential contractors capable of seizing opportunities derived from the ECRL project.

PKMMT according to him, has many contractors who possessed expertise in various aspects including site work, electricity and so on.

Meanwhile, Terengganu Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry deputy president Dr Tengku Khairi A Rahman said the participation of local contractors in the ECRL construction project would also stimulate growth in the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly those involved with the supply of building materials.

The rail project would also create a direct positive impact on the economic chain along the route including Terengganu.

In fact, local contractors will certainly employ skilled and semi-skilled workers among the local population and this will create many new job opportunities especially for the younger generation.

During the construction of the ECRL, the presence of thousands of workers at the construction site will generate the local economy that benefits food traders, homestay operators, rental car entrepreneurs and other small entrepreneurs, he told Bernama today.

In the long run according to him, the shorter travel distance to the East Coast compared to existing conventional transport would further boost the tourism sector, especially in facilitating increasing arrivals of domestic tourists.

Lecturer at Terengganu’s Sultan Zainal Abidin University (UniSZA) Faculty of Business and Management associate professor Dr Ahmad Azrin Adnan said, in addition to the positive economic impact, ECRL also contributes to environmental safeguard through the ‘green logistics’ concept.

In addition to that, the cost of goods can also be reduced because the cost of freight transport by rail is lower than land transport. The increased public utilisation of ECRL will also reduce the use of private vehicles which will indirectly reduce the rate of road accidents, he said.

Residents of another East Coast state who will benefit directly from the ECRL project, Kelantan, are confident the project will change the state’s economic landscape, in line with the growth experienced by states in Malaysia’s West Coast.

President of Suara Kelantan Association Che Isham Shahrudin Che Hamat Nordin said job opportunities would be more readily available following an increase in the participation of local contractors in ECRL to 40 per cent from 30 per cent previously.

This newly-introduced approach would directly benefit young people in the state.

Meanwhile, Kelantan deputy chief minister Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah said the Tok Bali Supply Base Company (TBSB) was currently working on upgrading its port to become a full-fledged port.

With the addition of an ECRL cargo station, it will accelerate development especially in Tok Bali and Pasir Puteh in general. It will also spur economic development which will have a positive impact on the local population, he said.

Source: BERNAMA (News Agency)

Timber industry is 3D, “Desirable, Discovery, Delightful” – MTC

KUALA LUMPUR, The Malaysian Timber Council (MTC) is reframing the 3D slogan for the country’s multibillion ringgit timber industry, one that is Desirable, Discovery and Delightful.

MTC chief executive officer (CEO) Richard Yu said timber and timber products play a vital role in the global circular economy with improved perspective in the timber industry will ensure its sustainability and robustness.

Innovation coupled with visually pleasing designs, technological advancements and branding are key elements that industry players must embrace.

What we need is to convince ourselves. Our timber industry is not a sunset industry.

We are in the east, so let be very objective and positive about it, we do see perhaps more prominently in the future side, he told Bernama on the sideline of MTC 2019 Familiarisation Programme for Local Journalist to Pahang, held recently.

Elaborating further, Yu said reframing the 3D slogan would help it discover new markets, new products, new solution as well as new innovation.

So once we have done that, we come out with product and solution that the consumer finds delightful on what we offer them, if we can do that, fortunately, we can retain this consumer because the fact anything about Made in Malaysia products are desirable, he said.

As of May 2019, the country’s total timber export reached RM9.1 billion with increased exports seen in products such as mouldings, wooden frames and furniture.

Total export for the same corresponding period last year was RM8.9 billion.

Wooden furniture emerged as among the top contributors.

In 2018, furniture contributed about 35 per cent of the total export earnings followed by plywood at 21 per cent.

Currently, Malaysia’s biggest timber export market is Japan, followed by the United States, European countries, India and the Far East countries.

As the total timber export continues to grow, the industry has to grapple with issues like the shrinking talent pool.

MTC according to him, hoped youths have the desire to develop their career in the wood-based industry to prevent job shortage.

MTC and other related agencies have its marketing arm in promoting better jobs to attract youths to start their career in this industry, he said.

Echoing Yu’s opinion, the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) CEO Yong Teng Koon said the job shortage is a perennial problem facing the industry right now, especially in the forestry sector.

The shortage is a challenge that would have to continue unless we go for automation.

However, this will take time for the industry to build up the capacity to full automation, yet we are far behind from other countries entering the automation side, he said.

The industry players should also aggressively move towards producing greater value-added downstream products utilising high-value timbers.

MTC is always ready to help the timber industry promote Malaysian made products which use the finest of both local and imported timbers.

Source: BERNAMA (News Agency)

PNB to strengthen its ASNB’s digital footprint

KUALA LUMPUR, Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) expected to collaborate with all its 10 banking agents to place Amanah Saham Nasional Bhd (ASNB) platform on their online banking platform by end of next year.

PNB, according to its chief technology officer Muzaffar Othman, is in the midst of finalising with one more local financial institution to include ASNB investment into its website, before announcing it to the public later this year.

By early next year, we hope the platform will be up and running on 3 to 4 more banks, in our efforts to make financial inclusion easier for all our current and future (ASNB) unitholders, he told Bernama.

Playing catch up on the digital forefront, the government-linked investment company recently launched a mobile application, MyASNB, which enable unit trust investors to have direct access to their accounts as well as investing directly from their banks through FPX.

Through our online platforms, we can monitor the investments made in real-time. This is a step forward compared to only able to monitor manually at banks, he said.

Since starting its digitalisation efforts in 2016, Muzaffar said the investment body has seen a 200 per cent surge in transaction year-on-year.

This is a huge improvement for us as it has made investments easy for our unitholders, he said.

He also added PNB was also aiming to attract younger investors and those lacking knowledge on ASNB funds through digital initiatives.

Currently, participation level in ASNB funds stands at nearly 35 per cent among all Malaysians but we see scope for further growth through our digital initiatives.

Hence, we will be increasing our online engagement to enhance awareness on ASNB unit trust funds as well as enhancing our digital marketing, he said.

Currently, PNB has 11 million unique unitholders, with RM301 billion in asset in management. About RM245 billion is in invested by unitholders.

These initiatives by us are in line with the government’s vision for shared prosperity and to raise the awareness about the importance of investment for the future,” said Muzaffar.

Source: BERNAMA (News Agency)

PNB to strengthen its ASNB’s digital footprint

KUALA LUMPUR, Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) expected to collaborate with all its 10 banking agents to place Amanah Saham Nasional Bhd (ASNB) platform on their online banking platform by end of next year.

PNB, according to its chief technology officer Muzaffar Othman, is in the midst of finalising with one more local financial institution to include ASNB investment into its website, before announcing it to the public later this year.

By early next year, we hope the platform will be up and running on 3 to 4 more banks, in our efforts to make financial inclusion easier for all our current and future (ASNB) unitholders, he told Bernama.

Playing catch up on the digital forefront, the government-linked investment company recently launched a mobile application, MyASNB, which enable unit trust investors to have direct access to their accounts as well as investing directly from their banks through FPX.

Through our online platforms, we can monitor the investments made in real-time. This is a step forward compared to only able to monitor manually at banks, he said.

Since starting its digitalisation efforts in 2016, Muzaffar said the investment body has seen a 200 per cent surge in transaction year-on-year.

This is a huge improvement for us as it has made investments easy for our unitholders, he said.

He also added PNB was also aiming to attract younger investors and those lacking knowledge on ASNB funds through digital initiatives.

Currently, participation level in ASNB funds stands at nearly 35 per cent among all Malaysians but we see scope for further growth through our digital initiatives.

Hence, we will be increasing our online engagement to enhance awareness on ASNB unit trust funds as well as enhancing our digital marketing, he said.

Currently, PNB has 11 million unique unitholders, with RM301 billion in asset in management. About RM245 billion is in invested by unitholders.

These initiatives by us are in line with the government’s vision for shared prosperity and to raise the awareness about the importance of investment for the future,” said Muzaffar.

Source: BERNAMA (News Agency)

Leverage position to garner more trade with China – CABA

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia should capitalise its strong position in ASEAN to garner more trade with China as the country with 1.3 billion population opens up its suburban and rural market for more commerce.

China-ASEAN Business Association (CABA) president Tan Sri Lim Gait Tong said China’s trade with ASEAN has grown tremendously with the region emerging as the biggest exporter to the country, overtaking the US.

We need to devise and execute new strategies and while China-ASEAN trade will take a new impetus, ASEAN countries will have to focus on intra-ASEAN trade as well as opening up new trade opportunities including export to other Asian countries and African countries, he told Bernama.

Total trade volume between China and ASEAN hit a record high of US$587.87 billion last year, up 14.1 per cent from 2017.

He believed trade between China and ASEAN would experience further growth and exceed the US$1 trillion trade threshold.

However, he cautioned that although trade is on the upswing for ASEAN, it does not mean it would remain positive throughout especially if trade disputes between the US and China escalate further.

Due to our strong relationship with China, we are cautiously optimistic that the trade, as well as investments, will continue to grow, he said.

Meanwhile, as resolutions to the trade war between Washington and Beijing remains remote for the time being, Malaysia suggested Lim, should focus on strengthening its innovation base.

We have been doing OEM for countries like Taiwan and Japan for a long time. I believe that it is time for the country to build its own brand image, he said.

He added that as an example, the furniture market has great potential to grow further especially in the European market if local innovation is prioritised.

This is because, we can get more value if the product is innovated and created by us compared to OEM, he added.

Source: BERNAMA (News Agency)

Leverage position to garner more trade with China – CABA

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia should capitalise its strong position in ASEAN to garner more trade with China as the country with 1.3 billion population opens up its suburban and rural market for more commerce.

China-ASEAN Business Association (CABA) president Tan Sri Lim Gait Tong said China’s trade with ASEAN has grown tremendously with the region emerging as the biggest exporter to the country, overtaking the US.

We need to devise and execute new strategies and while China-ASEAN trade will take a new impetus, ASEAN countries will have to focus on intra-ASEAN trade as well as opening up new trade opportunities including export to other Asian countries and African countries, he told Bernama.

Total trade volume between China and ASEAN hit a record high of US$587.87 billion last year, up 14.1 per cent from 2017.

He believed trade between China and ASEAN would experience further growth and exceed the US$1 trillion trade threshold.

However, he cautioned that although trade is on the upswing for ASEAN, it does not mean it would remain positive throughout especially if trade disputes between the US and China escalate further.

Due to our strong relationship with China, we are cautiously optimistic that the trade, as well as investments, will continue to grow, he said.

Meanwhile, as resolutions to the trade war between Washington and Beijing remains remote for the time being, Malaysia suggested Lim, should focus on strengthening its innovation base.

We have been doing OEM for countries like Taiwan and Japan for a long time. I believe that it is time for the country to build its own brand image, he said.

He added that as an example, the furniture market has great potential to grow further especially in the European market if local innovation is prioritised.

This is because, we can get more value if the product is innovated and created by us compared to OEM, he added.

Source: BERNAMA (News Agency)