Malaysia 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Datuk Zainal Amanshah, CEO of InvestKL, on global aspirations, becoming an FDI hub, and synergizing with China.

Datuk Zainal Amanshah
Datuk Zainal Amanshah was appointed CEO of InvestKL in 2011. With more than 22 years of experience in the private sector, Zainal has held senior positions in multinationals, Malaysian companies, and start-ups. Prior to joining InvestKL, he was the Group CEO and one of the founders of REDtone, a Malaysian publicly listed telecommunications provider. In the course of his career, Zainal has familiarized himself with many industries, such as banking, insurance, oil and gas, automotive, and manufacturing. He graduated with a bachelor’s of science in electronic engineering from the University of Kent and has attended several executive programs, namely the Harvard Premier Business Management Program in 2007 and the Wharton School of Finance Program.

How has the Economic Transformation Program (ETP) affected the investment potential for Greater KL, and what is your key strategy for the second leg of this plan?

The transformation program listed Greater KL as a National Key Economic Area (NKEA), with nine Entry Point Projects (EPPs) under that. Greater KL is EPP 1, as it contributes 30% of the total revenue and this is expected to grow to 40% by 2020. It is our role to attract investment into KL, and more specifically companies that will use KL as a hub to expand in Malaysia and the region. We have recorded 52 multinational companies to date, which is on course for our target of 100 by 2020.

How will the High-Speed Rail (HSR) between Singapore and KL affect further business?

Connecting the two capitals over 330km from KL to Singapore is complementary to the infrastructure we develop in KL. There are the MRT lines 1, 2, and 3 and the LRT extensions 1, 2, and 3, comprising 200km in total. The federal government has spent over MYR50 billion just on that. This improved interconnectivity, together with the HSR, presents a game-changer as it further promotes KL as a hub.

Singapore and Malaysia have traditionally complemented each other. Due to the higher cost of doing business, have you seen more companies moving from Singapore to KL?

There is friendly competition between KL and Singapore as well as the will to cooperate. Recently, some companies in the oil and gas sector have moved to KL. The cost factor is an important element, but they also see the talent here, the interconnectivity of KL, and the high living standards.

Do you cooperate with the Asia Aerospace City (AAC) and the sector as a whole?

There is still growth in the commercial aviation sector. In the region we are one of the largest low-cost hubs, chiefly because of airlines like Air Asia. The falling oil prices have given the industry some space to breathe and airlines are making profits again. In the aerospace industry, we have to catch up in certain areas—playing the aerospace game by definition means moving up the value chain. MARA and its AAC are great proponents of this strategy, focusing on engineering design services and human capital development.

Are you working to attract more business from China?

The Chinese themselves have pushed this trend, and are eyeing a large number of infrastructure projects in the region and in Malaysia. They are actively lobbying for the HSR and a Chinese consortium for the tender is making its presence felt. In addition, the Chinese are pushing for a reserve currency, for which the Bank of China recently launched a clearing center in KL. Both as a financial standpoint and in terms of infrastructure, it is interested in using Malaysia as a hub—we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Furthermore, Xiamen University will open its first campus outside of China in Malaysia with a capacity for 10,000 students.

Can you tell us about your activities in the creative industry sector?

Malaysia has consistently tried to push the creative industries, such as multimedia development. These industries have the potential to serve international markets. Japanese companies, for example, have been traditionally strong in automotive manufacturing and E&E and in 2015 we managed to attract a large Japanese publishing company Kadokawa, which was looking for a strategic location for its multimedia development.

What would you like to achieve with InvestKL in the next one or two years?

We are on a mission to spread the story of KL and we work extensively with international chambers to engage with multinational companies and to tell them about our transformation agenda. Under the Eleventh Malaysia Plan, the federal government wants cities to compete against each another, and KL currently contributes 30% of Malaysia's total GDP. In cooperation with the federal government, we will further develop the infrastructure to build a globally competitive city.