Export council outlines strategies to boost key services sectors

KUALA LUMPUR: The National Export Council (NEC) has laid out several strategies to ramp up the performance of priority services sectors namely construction, information, communication and technology (ICT), education services and tourism.

This followed discussions at the fourth and last NEC meeting for 2016 held last Friday.

The strategies include increasing the utilisation of Malaysian construction services in international projects through strategic partnerships between local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and multinational companies (MNCs); driving the exports of ICT services, ICT content and media; enhancing brand visibility of Malaysian education services overseas as well as increasing tourist arrivals.

The strategies are aimed at addressing the deficit registered by Malaysian services sectors since 2010 and are in line with the Services Sector Blueprint launched last year. The recommendations agreed by the NEC are also consistent with the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP), which targeted an increase in services sector export revenue by more than 40% from RM135 billion recorded in 2015 to RM195 billion.

The services sector, which accounts for about 53.9% of Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP), remains a key driver of growth for the Malaysian economy. The contribution of services to GDP is on an increasing trend and by 2020 the contribution of services is targeted to reach 58%.

For the construction sector, the meeting discussed strategies to accelerate exports and reduce imports by nurturing local contractors to be more competitive globally, pushing for more Malaysian professional services abroad and forming consortia in winning overseas projects.

The council also emphasised the need for contractors and developers to utilise Malaysian content (products and services) in their local and international projects. In enhancing the profile of Malaysian players in the construction sector, initiatives such as Malaysia Inc and Large Corporation-SME Partnership Programme will assume a key role to support the industry through close and consistent engagement with stakeholders.

Focus is placed on the exports of ICT services, ICT content and media as both sectors are forecasted to grow by 30% by 2019 in Asean. The sectors are set to grow at 10.6% annually, to reach an export value of RM47.5 billion in 2020.

In improving market access, ongoing programmes such as engagement with strategic partners, market immersion and funding facilities will be strengthened.

In supporting and facilitating the development of the services sector, the government has provided a number of initiatives and facilities such as the Services Export Fund, Mid-Tier Companies development programme and Go-Ex as well as export promotion activities. These will address specific needs of export-ready services firms not only through funding opportunities but other support measures such as consultation, market research and intelligence, as well as export promotion.

The NEC, introduced in December 2014, is chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.

The council, with the Malaysia External Trade Development Corp as its secretariat, is tasked with formulating strategies to drive Malaysia’s exports and to build an ecosystem conducive for the development of Malaysian industries. The NEC meets four times a year and its first meeting next year will take place in the first quarter of 2017.