Economic Affairs

Can the new Pakatan Harapan government take the politics out of Malaysia Inc?

Political patronage is too much a part of Malaysian corporate life, distorting market assessments. It's time to cut the political cord. Having a PM who is not finance minister is a good start.

Although Malaysia has voted in a new government that holds out the promise of national transformation, the post-election activity on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange tells a depressingly familiar story: Companies are continuing to be rewarded or punished not because of their competitive strengths or business competencies, but because of their political connections.

"BN-linked companies suffer as new favourites emerge in KL stock market," said the headline of a Sunday Times article last week. "Companies and corporate captains linked to the vanquished Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition saw red all week on Bursa Malaysia", the story pointed out, "and new favourites have emerged in their place - stocks seen as aligned to the newly minted Pakatan Harapan (PH) government".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2018, with the headline 'Can PH take the politics out of Malaysia Inc?'. Subscribe