Better to look into concerns of tech companies, rather than property developers
Court case between MSC firm and GLC illustrates systemic failure in the country
IT has been one of those weeks marked more by what did not appear in Digital News Asia (DNA), rather than what did.
It was a week of happenings with the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC Malaysia) project; or lack thereof. The media received a press release – which DNA chose not to run – about an event organised by the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), the national ICT custodian which manages it.
The MSC Malaysia Cybercities & Cybercentres Value Adding Programme was held on Dec 11, with briefings from various fund managers, financial institutions and government agencies on funding opportunities available for homegrown ICT companies and technopreneurs; as well as briefings of some of the programmes MDeC has organised to boost the ecosystem.
All well and good. But the sticking point for me was that the event included MDeC promoting ‘MSC Malaysia Cybercities and Cybercentres.’ These are the designated areas that are a prerequisite for companies to relocate to if they want to get the otherwise attractive ‘MSC Malaysia status,’ which brings with it a 10-year tax break.
This location requirement has been a sore point for many tech companies since the MSC started more than 15 years ago. At least in those days, that original 15x50km ‘corridor’ did have something that no other locale had: High-bandwidth Internet infrastructure.
That was an edge then – but given that today, even homes have high-speed broadband access, that edge has been blunted.
Add to the fact that the rental prices in these cybercities and cybercentres are generally higher by about 22% to 118% than similar property in the same locations.
It has raised enough hackles that one entrepreneur described it as a ‘real estate scam,’ and it has concerned the Technopreneurs’ Association of Malaysia (TeAM) sufficiently that it is fighting to have that requirement removed for small and medium tech companies at least. In fact, that 22-118% figure comes from TeAM’s research into the issue.
The last thing MDeC needed to do was to take a stand for these property developers by promoting them. Let them fight their own battles – after all, I’m sure they have marketing budgets that are 22-118% higher than other property developers too!
The second MSC Malaysia issue that cropped up was that embarrassing court case between Electric Angels MSC, a joint Australian-Malaysian MSC Malaysia, and the government-linked national carmaker Proton Holdings and its distributor Proton Edar.
I won’t go into the details here, since it’s an on-going case – full of appeals and legal shenanigans that it feels as Hollywood scripted it – but you can get your share of facepalms by reading The Malaysian Insider’s coverage of the latest development.
I won’t go into the legal merits of either party’s case either, but the fact that we have such a court case going on, and the manoeuvrings that have resulted from it, will surely sent a strong, and woefully wrong signal, about what kind of country Malaysia is and how far we are from transforming into a ‘digital economy.’
This one’s not MDeC’s fault, of course, but it is an indication of systemic flaws in the country, and our various institutions. If foreign investors and the business community do not feel that they can get a fair trial here, all the incentives might as well be flushed down.
The only kind of business people we will manage to attract, if even that, would be those looking to make a quick buck. Companies and individuals with long-term plans will just look elsewhere.
I really like the MSC Malaysia vision, and have done so since I read the first foreign news reports of how ‘The Old Man’ – former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad – made his ambitious and audacious speech at Stanford University in California all those years ago.
It was a fantastic vision then ... though perhaps a bit more pedestrian now, given how much a part of our lives technology has become, but I would still really like it to succeed. As do many other Malaysians – even the ones who are complaining about ‘real estate scams’ – which is why it’s so important for us to get it right.
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