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Speeches & Transcripts September 12, 2018

Digital Economy Conference: Public Policy in a Digital World

Deputy Minister of Finance Yang Berhormat Dato’ Hj Amiruddin Hamzah

Distinguished Guests

Colleagues and Friends

Good morning. Selamat Pagi.

I am deeply honored on behalf of the World Bank Group to be here this morning to welcome you all to our joint conference with the Ministry of Finance entitled ‘Public Policy in a Digital World.’

In this growing digital world of ours, we face a future of immense possibilities. With every passing year, new technologies and services are emerging over the horizon – from robots to driverless cars to 3-D printing to the gig economy. In this innovative space, the World Bank Group is working with partners around the globe to ensure that all countries can leverage these new digital technologies to boost productivity, enhance economic inclusion and promote innovation.

In Malaysia, our work with the Ministry of Finance has focused on analyzing public policy options to unlock the full potential of the digital economy. At the moment, Malaysians are among the most digitally connected people in the world. Around 80 percent of the population had access to the internet by the end of 2016 – well ahead of many countries in the region and on par with many high-income countries. The Malaysian Government has also invested heavily in digital technologies; modernized its service delivery systems; and developed impressive models to promote digital entrepreneurship.

Yet challenges remain. Malaysia’s business community continues to lag behind citizens and the Government in adopting and using digital services. Around 46 percent of Malaysian business firms have access to broadband services but only 18 percent of them have some form of web presence. This level of digital adoption by businesses is well below averages for upper-middle income and high-income countries around the world.  E-commerce also remains dominated by large firms indicating a need to provide SMEs with greater opportunities. Moreover, Malaysian digital entrepreneurs still lack the right mix of skills and access to capital that they need to thrive. These challenges can be addressed by public policies that work to unlock the full potential of the digital economy.

These public policies, in our view, should work towards achieving the following important goals:

  • Creating a more dynamic digital eco-system with increase competition
  • Achieving universal, fast, and inexpensive internet connectivity
  • Improving human capital through better curricula and life-long learning opportunities; and
  • Safeguarding future digital tax revenues

This new report ‘Malaysia’s Digital Economy: A New Driver of Development’ that we are launching today is the fruit of a year’s worth of research and analysis on the topic. It is a testament to the commitment of the Government to find policy solutions to further promote this pivotal sector – which can spur greater innovation, better jobs and increased government revenues. Later today and tomorrow, a World Bank team led by Lead Economist Richard Record and other distinguished speakers and panelists will examine public policy challenges and opportunities related to four distinct ‘digital’ topics: adoption, connectivity, entrepreneurship, and taxation of digital platforms.

Over the course of this engagement, we have been deeply encouraged by the strong commitment of our partners – particularly the Ministry of Finance – towards realizing the full promise of Malaysia’s digital economy. I would like to thank YB Dato’ Hj Amiruddin Hamzah for joining us later this morning and for the fruitful collaboration between the Ministry of Finance and the World Bank over the past year.  I would also like to extend my thanks to all our partners and colleagues from the Malaysian Government, academia and the private sector who supported this engagement.

I hope this conference will serve as a constructive platform for vibrant discussions around the digital economy in Malaysia and its future horizons – and extend my best wishes to all participants with a warm Sejahtera.

Thank you.