An online post by Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, where he touted the country's foreign direct investments (FDI), resulted in backlash when the European-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce (Eurocham Malaysia) chief executive officer chided the finance minister for not meeting with them.
Zafrul had written a positive post on LinkedIn saying that in terms of FDI and domestic direct investments (DDI), Malaysia recorded a total of RM109.8 billion in approved investments.
He added that it involved close to 3,000 projects in the manufacturing, services and primary sectors for the first nine months of 2020.⠀
"Through Penjana Kapital, we recently facilitated the commitment of eight international venture capital fund managers together with the government to invest up to RM1.57 billion into Malaysia startups.
"(This is) in the fields of fintech, edutech, agritech, mobility and artificial intelligence, which are set to create 1,800 high-skilled jobs in the process.
"How’s that for investors’ continued confidence in Malaysia?" the finance minister asked.
However, he might not have been prepared for Eurocham Malaysia chief executive officer Sven Schneider's reply on LinkedIn.
"I am very sorry to make this comment, but representing a sizable community of foreign investors, the European Union, we currently receive a lot of concerns regarding Malaysia as a viable investment destination.
"Until today, the honourable minister was not even able to meet with us and listen to the concerns of our corporations. Without these inputs, your ministry certainly cannot address the problems on the ground.
"Besides, it really needs more than a few nice words and window-dressing," said Schneider, not pulling his punches.
North South Initiative executive director Adrian Pereira also took a crack at Zafrul over foreign worker policies.
"The Malaysian economy has artificially benefited from forced labour, human trafficking and various non-compliance of laws involving foreign workers.
"We continue to see various investigation reports from private and public entities, local and international, about this in almost all sectors.
"Benefiting from the exploitation of others means the income generated is illicit. I would even say haram (forbidden)" he said on LinkedIn.
Adrian also called on the government to take action on the matter.
"Please do help trace the profits made from such companies, be it government-linked companies (GLCs), global supply chains or small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and return the money to the victims or else we will never be a truly competitive nation," he added.
Former premier Najib Abdul Razak also weighed in with his own comments on Facebook, saying that Zafrul had been slammed by netizens and foreign investors.
"He was slaughtered because many assumed he was dishonest, trying to hide the real situation and give a wrong picture in relation to foreign investments.
"In other words, many are not happy with his attitude that is considered syiok-sendiri' (self-praise)," Najib wrote.
The reality is that foreign investments in the country had fallen badly every year since the 14th general election, the former finance minister said.
Najib, who lost GE14 and has since been sentenced to jail on corruption charges, asked the rakyat if they could recall what significant foreign investments were announced by the Pakatan Harapan and PN governments over the last three years.
"Foreign investments last year (as of the third quarter) were very bad and actually negative in the third quarter when some existing foreign investments moved to neighbouring countries.
"I understand that foreign investments in Malaysia may have been affected by Covid-19 but many people are wondering why foreign investments in neighbouring countries have increased," he added.