Malaysia: Expanding Relations With Nepal
--By Sushila Budhathoki
On 3 July, 2013, two teams of Nepali players from Taekwondo and Table Tennis consisting 13 members in total went to Kuala Lumpur of Malaysia to participate in Second South Asian ITF Taekwondo Championship and Seventh Asia-Pacific Veteran’s Table Tennis Championship respectively. On the Same day, around half of them were travelling to Malaysia and more than 600 Nepalis were heading there for jobs. Such a growing relation between Malaysia and Nepal in a people to people level has proved that Malaysia has become a preferred destination not only for employment but also for holidays and sports.
Malaysia achieved its Independence from Britain in 31 August 1957. The country is a federation of 13 states operating within a constitutional monarchy and the Government comprises the federal, state and local government. The real gross domestic product (GDP) in Malaysia grew by an average of 6.3 % per annum during 1970 to 2012. According to Malaysian Embassy in Nepal, Malaysia emerged from a low-income agricultural and commodity-based economy to a successful middle-income economy over the decades with the help of sustained rapid economic growth. This strong economic performance has helped improve the quality of life for Malaysians and supported widespread advances in education, health, infrastructure, housing and public amenities.
According to the Embassy, the course of Malaysia’s development was shaped by the vision, thinking and efforts of many of the country’s great leaders and thinkers. Among many visions and policies to the launch of Vision 2020 in 1991, by the then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed outlined the aim of attaining developed nation status by the year 2020. And the country is now at the last phase of its journey towards 2020 target.
The diplomatic relations between Nepal and Malaysia dates back to 1st January, 1960. The 53 years of diplomatic relation between the two countries has been cordial and friendly from the start. In 2003, both the country established their residential missions in the capitals of the other country. Both the countries are members of the United Nations and the Non-aligned Movement. Malaysia recognized Nepal as a source country for foreign workers since the beginning of 2001. Currently around 500,000 Nepalis are believed to be presently working in various sectors in Malaysia.
Malaysia shares its development experiences and expertise with other developing countries through MTCP (Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme ). Nepal is currently ranked at 14th among 137 MTCP recipient member countries of Malaysia. According to Malaysian Embassy in Nepal, a total of 525 Nepali participants have attended various courses in agriculture, broadcasting, economic planning, archive, public administration and diplomacy under the programme. In 2008 a total of 239 students were enrolled in Public Higher Education Institutions and Private Higher Education Institutions in 2008, according to International Students Statistics by Minister for Higher Education Malaysia.
Prospects in Tourism
The relationship between Nepal and Malaysia could get a height if the tourism sector is linked together. The tourism sector of Malaysia is the third largest foreign exchange earner of the country.
The country is also the ninth most-visited country in the world, with 24.7 million tourists visiting the country in 2011. Malaysia is celebrating VMY (Visit Malaysia Year) in 2014 and is expecting to receive 28.8 million in foreign tourist arrivals during VMY 2014. According to holidayhometimes.com, an initiative by TripVillas.com the country has targeted a $ 52.8 billion tourism receipt and 36 million tourist arrivals by 2020.
There are islands and beaches, city excitement, nature and adventure and cultural attractions in Malaysia that lure tourists all around the world. The country has everything for the family,-theme parks, jungle trails, sports, water sports and one of the highest numbers of golf courses.
Malaysia is also promoting tourism Malaysia My Second Home, Medical Tourism, Education Tourism and Golf Tourism. Malaysia MY Second Home programme under Ministry of Tourism and Culture allows tourists to stay in Malaysia with a multiple entry social visit pass. Similarly, with more than 2000 courses the country is promoting Education Tourism and has been attracting students all over the world. And with well-equipped private hospitals, it is promoting medical tourism since 2009. Malaysia is preferred healthcare travel destination in the Asian region.
The growing number of Tourists from both the countries has been creating aspiration in expanding tourism. According to the data by Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), a total of 663 Malaysian tourists visited Nepal in May 2012 while the number reached to 1609 in May 2013- a 142.7 per cent growth. Similarly, 7,831 and 11,681 Malaysians visited Nepal in 2011 and 2012 respectively while 2,192 Nepali tourists Nepalis visited Malaysia in 2012.
The Air Services Agreement between Nepal and Malaysia in 2007 allowed the carriers to operate up to 21 flights a week and direct air connection between the two capitals started in 2003. The presence of Malaysian budget carrier Air Asia X, Malaysian flag-carrier Malaysia Airlines and Nepal’s national flag-carrier- Nepal Airlines have played the vital role in arranging daily flights between Kathmandu and Kuala Lumpur.
Trade and Investment
Trade between the two countries is limited and is in favor of the Malaysia. Exports from Nepal mainly include paper, tobacco, flour, coffee, tea, mate and spices, electrical machinery and equipment, works of art, collectors` pieces and antiques. The imports from Malaysia include animal or vegetable fats, inorganic and organic chemicals, essential oils, perfumery, cosmetic or toilet preparations, plastics, edible vegetables, tubers, edible fruits and nuts.
According to MoFA, Foreign Direct Investment made by Malaysia in Nepal stands at Rs 245.18 Million in 13 different factories and industries creating 444 job opportunities. Malaysia-Nepal Business Council has already being established and active since 2008. In November 2011, Malaysian and Nepali companies signed six Memorandums of Understanding on education, training, trading and services. The country is also looking into the prospects of investing in the hydropower sector, or any other relevant areas in Nepal. They also negotiated with three Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) on investments in manufacturing, tourism and retail marketing.