Malaysia and Thailand attract foreigners and investment with new visa programs

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KUALA LUMPUR, BANGKOK: Malaysia and Thailand have jumped on the global bandwagon enticing foreigners to live and invest in their countries to boost their economies.

The two Southeast Asian countries launched similar initiatives earlier this month. Malaysia launched a new premium visa program, or PVIP, while Thailand introduced a long-term resident visa not only for highly skilled talent or remote workers, but also for wealthy retirees and self-employed people. saying “citizens of the world”.

While Malaysia’s efforts come with strong economic forecasts, Thailand’s economy is still recovering at a slower pace than the government hoped. Record inflation and a weak currency threaten to make Thailand the slowest growing economy in Southeast Asia this year.

Malaysian Interior Minister Hamzah Zainuddin said his ministry is confident that the PVIP can attract more foreign direct investment that will strengthen the economy and increase employment opportunities for locals.

The program is open to individuals with an annual offshore income above USD 100,000. They must also have at least $218,000 in their bank accounts and pay a one-time fee of approximately $44,000 plus $22,000 per dependent.

The Home Office is aiming for at least 1,000 participants in the first year of the program. These participants are expected to generate approximately $43 million in revenue for Malaysia, as well as some $218 million in fixed savings.

Malaysian business leaders CNA spoke to said such a program could be a lucrative source of revenue from overseas, but pointed out that the current PVIP framework lacks concrete steps to attract investors from overseas. first order.

The program will work because successful candidates will spend money in the country, and if they bring their families, there will be a ripple effect on the economy, said Mr. Shaun Cheah, executive director of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce. and Industry.

“It’s a long-term visa, it’s 20 years, and they (the participants) are going to invest in businesses here too. On top of that, it’s also the talent and know-how they bring to the economy,” he said.

POTENTIAL PROBLEMS WITH THE MALAYSIA PROGRAM

Mr. Cheah noted that Malaysia remains one of the most attractive places for investment. However, he asked if those with passive incomes such as celebrities, artists and investors will find Malaysia to be a place where they can reasonably earn high returns.

“Some of the conditions (of the scheme) are that they have to invest funds in this country and with the weakening exchange rate this means they will erode the value of their funds parked in Malaysia,” he said.

“Malaysia will have to continue to send this open and business-friendly attitude to investors.”

However, some aspects of the program need clarification, he said.

“What are the areas in which they can really invest? The PVIP also allows the person to work. Are there any restricted jobs they can access? ” He asked.

Dr. Carmelo Ferlito, chief executive of the Center for Market Education, said he was skeptical of the concept of residencies leading to investments.

“I think it’s like mixing two different categories or probably approaching it from the wrong angle. The investments are being brought in by the companies, not necessarily by the wealthy,” he said.

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