Economic factors that could impact companies in Malaysia
Malaysia's economy continues to benefit from the growing global demand for oil and gas produced in Southeast Asia.
Although the general outlook is bright for businesses in this part of the world - particularly in the energy, IT and telecommunications sectors - it is still a good idea for firms to be prepared for any sudden drops in gross domestic product (GDP).
Jesse Colombo - a respected financial analyst - recently wrote an article for Forbes that suggested Malaysia has a "bubble economy", while analysts have also speculated that a downturn in economic activity in China might have a knock-on effect elsewhere.
Mr Colombo's article drew a response from Malaysia's International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, who refuted claims that the country's economy is set to encounter problems.
"The Chinese economy is not going to tumble. It's going to stay strong. We've seen high growth in China for many years," he told the Malaysian Insider.
"Malaysia is not going to be adversely affected. Anyway, we are focusing more on domestic resources growth and it's becoming more relevant in this context."
Why Malaysia is well placed to deal with an economic downturn
Companies will be concerned about the contrasting reports surrounding the Malaysian economy, but Chief Investment Officer at Allianz Malaysia Esther Ong Chen Woon thinks the country has learned from the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Speaking to the Star, she suggested the nation is better equipped to cope with a continent-wide economic downturn.
"While the short-term volatility was certainly not welcomed, it served to highlight that it was imperative to enact some of the fiscal reforms that would hold Malaysia in better stead over the longer term," she was quoted as saying.
"Nonetheless, it is worthwhile noting that Malaysia's fundamentals have improved greatly since the Asian financial crisis. There is a significant amount of liquidity in the system [and] our reserves are ample."
While certain sectors of Malaysia's economy are struggling, others continue to perform very well. The oil and gas industry is the most obvious example, with the Southeast Asian nation increasingly viewed as a global leader in this field.
Malaysia is also at the forefront of the international digital revolution, with some of the world's largest telecommunications companies having a strong presence in the country. Axiata - which has controlling interests in mobile operators in Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Cambodia, as well as significant stakes in Singaporean and Indian businesses - is arguably one of the most influential organisations in Asia.
The firm continues to expand and announced plans to buy Saudi Telecom's Indonesian unit in September 2013. Axiata recently won the Best Telecom Group of the Year prize for the fifth consecutive year at Frost & Sullivan's 2013 Asia Pacific ICT Awards, which underlines its success over the past 12 months. The company is likely to create more jobs across Malaysia as the demand for advanced communications technologies continues to soar.
Figures published by Malaysia's Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism in September 2013 showed that broadband penetration reached 67.1 per cent in August this year. This was up from 66.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2013 and is a clear sign that the government's National Broadband Plan is going well.
Deputy Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Jailani Johari said 664 telecommunications towers have been erected nationwide so far and the number of "wireless villages" being established across the country is also growing.
"The wireless village programme aims to provide Wi-Fi access in hotspots in villages without broadband, with coverage of up to 300 metres from the installation location. The speed of telecommunications access, especially wireless services, has been increased from two megabits per second (Mbps) to four Mbps in each village," Mr Johari remarked.
Experts believe that businesses are in a strong position to deal with any financial problems in Malaysia, having learned from the mistakes made in the run up to the Asian economic downturn in 1997.
Looking at Malaysia's economy as one single entity is perhaps too simplistic. While some companies may find trading conditions particularly difficult in the next few years, others - most notably oil and gas and telecommunications firms - are predicted to go from strength to strength.
The government is keen to establish Malaysia as one of the most modern technology hubs in Asia and it continues to invest in the nation's digital infrastructure. With some of the largest corporations on the planet operating in this part of the world, it is certainly an exciting time to be a telecommunications specialist looking for new projects in Malaysia.