Since Malaysia gained independence in 1957, the country and its capital city
have enjoyed decades of remarkable growth, including a fast
transformation from a mostly rural-based system into a urban-based
economy. The principal industries are petroleum oil production,
manufacturing, forestry and palm oil production. The country is the
world’s largest producer of palm oil.
The hi-tech and tourism industries have also grown dramatically
over the last decade. This will be a major point of the economy with
the steady growth of the Cyberjaya region. The 1997 Asian
recession, nevertheless, did hit Malaysia powerfully and many areas of the
economy are still recovering.
Sound fiscal management has brought Malaysia back on track faster
than lots of analysts expected. Despite the fact that the economy did not experience
the same high levels of growth that it did in the pre-1997 days,
it has weathered the crisis and seems to be working to more firm
and possible targets. Industry is the major employer in Kuala Lumpur.
The Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) development (a plan of
former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Vision 2020) continues
although with a series of delays and downsizing. Multimedia
Development Corporation project’s goals are to draw
the world’s leading multimedia organizations to a 15-km
wide and 50-km long Multimedia Super Corridor. It
stretches from the capital city centre to KL International
Airport. The hope is to locate Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur at the forefront
of technological excellence, innovation and research.
The downturn in the worldwide technology industry has left the MSC’s
future at risk, with many experts suggesting a delayed implementation
of the 20-year plan. Now that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir has retired,
much of Malaysia future economic growth will depend on the new balance
of power and whether Abdullah Badawi can succeed on the right track.
The major business area in Kuala Lumpur is KLCC,
which translates to Kuala Lumpur City Centre. The KLCC and Jalan
Bukit Bintang is where a number of the 5-star hotels and shopping
centres are situated and is collectively named ‘The Golden
Triangle’. The creation of Putrajaya, a purpose
built administration centre on the way to the airport, continues
to grow though it will not replace the business and commercial areas
of the KLCC. Petronas is the largest company in the country,
concentrating mostly in oil and related business but it is diversifying
into other sectors. Other big players are Bank Negara and
Maybank in finance, and Ekovest, Gamuda
and YTL in construction. Main international corporations
in Kuala Lumpur include Nestlé, Carlsberg
and Guinness. Internet cafés are available in all over the region
including in most 4 and 5-star hotels.
All business meetings, especially the informal ones, are usually held in offices
or in neutral places such as restaurants. Office hours are normally
Monday through Friday 9.00 am - 5.00 pm, even though some government departments
Even with the high humidity levels, a suit and tie is standard for
men and smart dress for women. Some concessions are sometimes made
for foreign businesspeople not used to the tropical conditions.
English is the major business language in Kuala Lumpur, with many
businesspeople competent in English. The use of a few Bahasa
Malaysian words is highly appreciated and can break the ice quickly.
One thing to keep in mind is that it is considered improper to
use the left hand for handshaking or giving out documents, as the
left hand is customarily used for cleaning after toilet use. Business
cards are an important requirement to any business gatherings, no
matter how informal they are, and should be presented with both hands.
Malay people are conservative when it comes to business and clients
are not usually invited home. As a Muslim country, many businesspeople do not drink alcohol during lunch or dinner appointments.
However, it is alright for non-Muslims to do so but in moderation.
It is necessary for visitors to be cautious when selecting gifts.
Obvious things like spirits or wines are a non-starter and less
obvious gifts like watches that are associated with death by a number of
ethnic Chinese can offend.