Malaysia Inc gets boost, with less red tape

Malaysia Inc gets boost, with less red tape

KUALA LUMPUR - Florist A. Karuppiah takes a monorail ride to Pudu in downtown Kuala Lumpur, renews his business and driver's licences and pays his bills - all at one counter - before heading back to his shop in Brickfields. Total time spent on this journey: 20 minutes.

"It's good and fast lah - an old man doesn't have to run all over the place," said the 63-year-old.

Ten years ago, when he opened his shop, it took him hours to trek to the various government departments to get the same errands done. To avoid the hassle, he would pay RM10 (S$4) to a runner to process each document.

Now, he goes to the shiny new one-stop centre in Pudu, located inside a busy bus terminal. There are two other such centres, in Malacca and near Ipoh.

The so-called Urban Transformation Centre is just one of a raft of changes that Malaysia has implemented in recent years to make the country more business-friendly. Businesses have noticed.

This year, for the first time, Malaysia vaulted into the ranks of the world's top 10 in terms of ease of doing business. In all, 189 territories were rated in the 2014 World Bank Doing Business report.

Singapore took top spot for the eighth year running, Hong Kong placed second and New Zealand third. Malaysia was sixth, behind the United States and Denmark.

The World Bank ranking is a rare boost for Malaysia on the international stage. Its success in cutting red tape might even help in an area where it is doing less well - corruption.

"If you streamline the processes, for instance, by reducing the number of applications for getting a construction permit, you reduce the points where rent-seeking can occur," said Mr Frederico Gil Sander, a Bangkok-based senior economist at the World Bank.

In the 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index issued by the Berlin-based Transparency International, Malaysia placed 60th out of 176 countries.

The improvements did not come about by accident.

Former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi got the ball rolling in 2007 by appointing a high-powered public-private panel - called Pemudah - to cut red tape in business. Current Premier Najib Razak also made it a priority when he took office in 2009 to improve public services.

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