Low wage rates and cheap rentals make Malaysia an investment favourite. By Sid Astbury.
Hong Kong business people who know the region well often say Kuala Lumpur is where they want to move when China pulls the plug on the colony in 1997. This city of 1.5 million is cheaper and more vibrant than rich and stolid Singapore. But like the island republic, it has good communications and infrastructure, things that are lacking in even-cheaper and even-more-exciting Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila. The sleepy charms of the Brunei capital are lost on Hong-Kongers.
Many Hong Kong wheeler-dealers delude themselves; they would not be very happy in Kuala Lumpur. For a start, English is required of everyone doing business in Malaysia; Cantonese will not do. Second, sharp business practices get short shrift in Kuala Lumpur; they are often overlooked in Hong Kong. And, anyway, permanent residency is not on offer, to exiles from Hong Kong or anywhere else; Malaysia likes its foreign business community to be transient.