Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, has been increasingly consolidating its many advantages into an attractive proposition for international investors.
Location and logistics
Located at the heart of Southeast Asia, Greater Kuala Lumpur’s strategic location and distance with Asia’s key business centres - such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Beijing and Shanghai - all within a six- to eight-hour flight away, has cemented KL’s importance as a hub for regional travel and cargo.
The bustling metropolis is also well-serviced by quality highway networks both within the city and throughout the Peninsular, linking to other major cities like Penang and Singapore. This includes to the country’s largest port, Port Klang, which is the world’s 12th busiest container shipping port, handling more than 170 million tonnes of cargo annually.
The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and Light Rapid Transit (LRT) lines also provide reliable public transportation for the city. The latest MRT line, consisting of 35 stations over 52.2km stretching from Sungai Buloh to Putrajaya, is already partially operating and will be fully completed by 2023.
Malaysia is also equipped with an advanced telecommunications infrastructure, centred in Greater Kuala Lumpur, including mobile, Wi-Fi and high-speed broadband services, and is currently in the process of upgrading to 5G.
The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report 2019 placed Malaysia second in ASEAN and 15th overall out of 190 countries. The same report ranked Malaysia second for protecting minority investors. This is all thanks to an established and stable judicial system that provides robust legal protections for companies. The capital city is also home to the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration which provides settlement for trade, commerce and investment disputes within the region.
A stable democracy has been in place since Malaysia’s Independence in 1957, with business-friendly policies continuing unabated to the present day, including administrative support for liberal equity policies and tax incentives. There are also various grants, funds and special programmes that aim to grow capacity and develop lucrative markets in such areas as biotechnology, financial services, information technology and Halal business.
Strong trade links have consequently been built, and in 2016, Malaysia recorded RM1.49 trillion in trade. South Korea, China, other ASEAN countries, the EU and the UAE are among its largest trading partners, while free trade agreements have been signed with China, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and India, among others.
People and place
Alongside Kuala Lumpur’s strategic location and excellent infrastructure, the city remains competitive with a low monthly rental for Grade A office space compared to cities like Singapore and Hong Kong that reported US$114.2 and US$322 per square foot respectively in 2019.
Corporate tax rates are also relatively modest. In 2017, total corporate tax in Malaysia amounted to 24 percent compared to 30 percent in Australia, India and the Philippines, 23.4 percent in Japan and 15 percent to 39 percent in the US.
When it comes to hiring, Malaysia’s highly talented workforce has a lot to offer any prospective employer. The country has a high English proficiency level - ranked 3rd in Asia by the EF English Proficiency Index 2019 – and produces an average of 200,000 university graduates annually. The multi-ethnic national makeup also offers cultural and linguistic advantages, as fluency in Malay and English is complemented by Mandarin, Tamil and other dialect skills.
Salary levels for KL talent remains competitive, with Petroleum engineers at manager level earning an average of US$71,412 a year, while finance directors earn an average annual salary of US$99,977. In last year’s Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum, Malaysia ranked 6th out of 141 countries when it comes to its pay-to-productivity ratio.
Beyond affordable business and residential real estate, Kuala Lumpur is a beautiful city that balances nature and traditions with modern amenities and a future-focused outlook. Greater KL offers lush tropical forest reserves – with everything from mountain hiking and cave exploration to diverse flora and fauna - and large manicured parks, such as the sprawling Lake Gardens dating back to the colonial period and the city centre oasis of KLCC Park. Scenic surroundings are complemented with an abundance of choice for world-class facilities, such as top-notch healthcare, international schools, shopping destinations and public transportation options. Cultural offerings are also myriad; from temples and traditional performances, to theatre and contemporary art, KL has it all.
Yet, with so much on offer, KL remains one of the world’s least expensive cities to live in. In the 2019 Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey, Kuala Lumpur ranked a low 141 out of 209 countries, and in the Global Liveability Index, Malaysia is among Asia’s most attractive cities.