The opportunities of Malaysia’s nation building

The historical result of Malaysia’s May elections which ushered in a new government is having an impact not just on the country’s political landscape but also on the infrastructure projects set to shape its future. 

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Pic: Malaysia's Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur

These changes are creating opportunities for Australian – and in particular, Victorian - companies to get involved in major projects in Malaysia. These opportunities are mirrored in countries across Southeast Asia, many of which are launching large-scale nation-building infrastructure programs.

"The new Malaysian Government is [reviewing] the way its pipeline of infrastructure projects is being planned, managed, financed and built.”

The new Malaysian Government is implementing a range of domestic economic reforms including the way its pipeline of infrastructure projects is being planned, managed, financed and built.

In addition to this the new administration is reviewing the funding mechanisms and how some of its major infrastructure projects are delivered. 

The Malaysian Government appears to be shifting its focus toward ensuring the country’s infrastructure pipeline is financially viable and moving away from some projects it has deemed as too costly or unfeasible.

Instead of indicating a slowdown in infrastructure development, the Malaysian Government is strategically realigning its priorities. This is a nation setting itself up for progressive infrastructure leading to future growth in key sectors.  

Taking stock

Malaysia isn’t the only Southeast Asian country to take stock of its major projects and re-evaluate its position to focus on quality infrastructure which will meet the needs of the region’s populations in the long term.

Other countries across the region are also realising the importance of employing best practice with their infrastructure projects, to promote sustainable growth and global competitiveness.

While Southeast Asian countries may be wary of large foreign loans towards national infrastructure projects, many governments in the region are looking for partnerships with foreign firms which can provide innovative solutions to the region’s infrastructure needs.

They are looking for ways to tackle key issues like urbanisation, connectivity, mobility and the more-efficient movement of goods, services and people. 

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Growth in Victoria’s two-way trade in merchandise with Southeast Asia 2007–2017 Source: DFAT

All of this is creating significant commercial opportunities across Southeast Asia for Australian companies, and no state is better placed than Victoria to grasp these opportunities.

Victoria’s strong professional services sector, culture of innovation, research expertise and its deep experience of delivering cutting-edge public private partnerships in infrastructure all make it a perfect partner for Southeast Asian nations looking to turbocharge their infrastructure programs.

Whether engineering, design, urban planning, project management, legal or financial services, Victoria has world-class expertise to offer.

With Southeast Asia’s middle class poised to reach more than 160 million households and the region’s economy forecast to become the world’s fourth largest by 2030, Victoria is in a great position to benefit not just in infrastructure but across a range of sectors. 


The Victorian Government, with the help of Asialink Business, recently launched Globally Connected: Victoria’s Southeast Asia Trade and Investment Strategy.

The strategy is designed to capitalise on the opportunities this booming region will offer over the next decade and identifies infrastructure as one sector offering highly prospective opportunities.

Victoria has a strong existing two-way trading relationship with Southeast Asia, worth $A15.3 billion in 2016-17 – an increase of more than 30 per cent in the last decade.

The new strategy is built on four key pillars designed to facilitate market entry, promote Victoria’s capability, identify emerging opportunities and strengthen relationships across key markets in Southeast Asia.

It will not only drive economic growth in Victoria, increasing trade and boosting foreign investment, but also sets out to achieve much more; aiming to deepen our connections with the region and driving new collaborations.

In the strategy, Victoria has set itself targets, including boosting professional services exports by 50 per cent in sectors which focus on infrastructure design and delivery.

 Victoria has also committed to double the number of Southeast Asia student enrolments, increase visitor spend by 50 per cent and double inbound investment from the region.

Victorian expertise is already playing a major role in countries like Indonesia where local Victorian companies are helping deliver Jakarta’s $A1.6 billion rail investment, offering technical assistance, capacity building, training and skills, and quality assurance.

The state wants to work with the nations of Southeast Asia to deliver services to develop cities, tackle the challenges posed by the rapidly changing economic and demographic shifts taking place in the region, provide skills and training, and deliver mutually beneficial results. 


In the last four years, the Victorian Government has helped companies explore commercial opportunities in a range of sectors in Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The government is well-positioned to deepen our trade and investment ties in the region through our continued investment in maintaining a local presence across Southeast Asia through our Trade and Investment Offices in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

Victoria encourages businesses to access third-party tools, like ANZ’s Be Trade Ready website, to helping businesses plan to export, start operations and trade with international markets.

Victoria has so much to offer, and the shift towards a more targeted infrastructure and services-based approach in countries like Malaysia means we are primed and ready for the future, together.  

Brett Stevens is Commissioner for Victoria to Southeast Asia

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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