Rising affluence and population growth has fuelled healthcare spending in Malaysia in recent years, beckoning the influx of medical devices, ranging from simple instruments such as thermometers to the more complex devices such as defibrillators, pacemakers and arterioscopes, without having to meet industry-specific regulation.
But that has changed. In 2013, to ensure the quality of Malaysia’s healthcare services and the manufacture of medical devices in the country, lawmakers passed the Medical Devices Act 2012 (Act 737) to regulate the sector—by requiring companies that import, export or place in the market medical devices to register with Medical Device Authority—a move industry players say will raise the standards of Made in Malaysia medical products and encourage investments by foreign medical devices firms.
Medical device manufacturing is earmarked as one of the key areas of focus in Malaysia and is moving up the value chain in the production of medical devices. With increased regulation and investments, Malaysia is a step closer towards becoming a regional medical devices manufacturing hub in the coming years, as envisioned under the Healthcare NKEA.
“With Act 737, there is now a level-playing field in the industry. Companies now need to be licensed to import, export or place in the market [medical devices]. Doing this allows us to distinguish between the bona fide players and non-bona fide parties,” says Zamane Abdul Rahman, chief executive of Medical Device Authority, a statutory body within the Ministry of Health in charge of regulating medical devices and its industry players in Malaysia.
On the progress of company applications to market and distribute medical devices, Zamane reveals the Medical Device Authority has received over 1,700 applications from companies for mandatory establishment licenses through its online application system MeDC@ST since licensing for medical device companies started in July 2013. The Authority has processed over 1,400 applications and successfully issued licenses within appropriate time frames.
However, Zamane says there are some technical challenges in the registration of medical devices in the market.
“There are currently 70,000 Class A to Class D products in the market and this figure is expected to hit 100,000 products in the coming years.
To cope, what we have done is to exempt certain products that fall under the low-risk category A, such as gauze. Only Class A products that are active, sterile and with measuring function and products from Classes B through D require product registration.”
Meanwhile, much headway has also been made in Malaysia’s harmonisation of regulation and standards for medical devices with national and international benchmarks. According to Zamane, the Medical Device Authority recognises testing and approval methods carried out by manufacturers and importers that meet international standards and regional harmonised directives , in particular the ASEAN Medical Device Directive (AMDD). The 10-member ASEAN is working towards the implementation of a harmonised medical device directive that will simplify device registration for industry players and lead to an increase in investments and flow of medical goods within the region.
This is a crucial development and could potentially aid Malaysian medical device manufacturers gain market share in the ASEAN region, which is one of the fastest growing consumer markets in the world.
Against the backdrop of improved regulation on the medical device industry, increased confidence will spell better days for Malaysian device manufacturers in the coming years, says Zamane.
“One of the key pillars in Malaysia’s energy strategy is to become Asia Pacific’s oil & gas regional hub. [Kuala Lumpur] becoming a member of the WECP fits into the strategy,” says Dr Shahreen Madros, Executive Director at Malaysia Petroleum Resources Corporation,which has been supporting the Mayor of Kuala Lumpur, YBhg Datuk Seri Hj Ahmad Phesal bin Hj Talib in the city’s bid to be recognised as a World Energy City. The WECP is bound by a co-operative agreement signed by the mayors of each city and the WECP President is supported by a Secretariat office based in Houston, US.
He adds that as the first Southeast Asian city to receive recognition as a World Energy City, it is envisaged that Kuala Lumpur will enhance linkages and strengthen ties with other countries in ASEAN.
“The recognition accorded to Kuala Lumpur by the WECP is timely as 2015 is an important year for Malaysia as we are the current chairman of ASEAN and this is an opportune time for Malaysia to strengthen regional collaboration with its ASEAN neighbours such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar ” he says. “This will not only help us realise Kuala Lumpur’s aspiration of becoming a leading world energy city but also put Malaysia at the forefront in ensuring the realisation of the ASEAN Economic Community.”
The partnership with WECP also offers a chance for over 4,400 oil and gas services and equipment (OGSE) providers within Malaysia to capitalise on the worldwide network of industry support services and R&D collaboration between WECP member universities.
This is crucial to Malaysia’s aim to boost the capabilities and scale of its domestic OGSE providers to become regional and world-class players.
“In the face of an increasingly competitive energy landscape, domestic OGSE providers need to change their mindsets and grow beyond their home turf. As we become more connected to other energy hubs, more doors will open. Therefore, we hope domestic OGSE providers will leverage on the WECP to create linkages with technology firms in other WECP member cities and establish partnerships.”
“We are making good progress in the Train-the- trainers (TtT) sessions, having appointed Universiti Teknologi MARA to develop a pool of trainers for the Grid-Connected Solar Photovoltaic (GCPV) Systems Installation and Maintenance Training Course,” says Dato’ Dr. Ali Askar Sher Mohamad, chief operating officer at SEDA Malaysia.
In addition to solar PV, SEDA Malaysia has also made decent progress in enhancing and developing skills required to manage and handle small hydropower plants.
“New training sessions and workshops are being planned as our aim is to further enhance and develop the human capital as they are necessary to ensure the sustainability of any renewable energy projects,” he adds.
“SEDA Malaysia’s main goal is to bring renewable energy into the mainstream. While we have engaged with the power generation planning committee for renewable energy capacity to be embedded into the national energy mix, it was also crucial to equip the workforce to ensure long-term sustainability of renewable energy projects.”
The efforts by SEDA Malaysia have shown positive progress in the years since the launch of the ETP.
Renewable energy, which includes solar PV, small hydro, and biomass/biogass today accounts for about 1 per cent of Malaysia’s total energy mix after the introduction of the Feed-in- Tariff mechanism, which allows locally-produced electricity to be sold to power utilities at a fixed premium for a specific period. Now, to further build up the country’s renewable energy capacity, Dato’ Ali says SEDA Malaysia will introduce a new net energy metering framework, where companies using solar PV systems will be able to utilise the energy generated for self-consumption.
“This new framework will increase the renewable energy capacity by another 2,000 MW in the coming years. This will then see renewable energy accounting for a larger portion of the national energy mix,” he adds.
Still, the road towards steering renewable energy into the mainstream is not without its challenges. “It is imperative to ensure the long-term sustainability of the renewable energy projects service providers embark on. To achieve this, we will have to ensure that we continuously carry out upskilling programmes to maintain a pool of skilled talent and operability of [renewable energy] ,” Dato’ Ali says.
Going forward, Dato’ Ali says efforts will be taken to identify new renewable energy resources, such as wind and geothermal, in a bid to diversify Malaysia’s renewable energy portfolio.
“Overall we can be satisfied that we have overachieved most of our KPIs, especially in skills training/delivery. We can see that the private skills training sector has continued to play a very important supplementary role to the public sector,” says Datuk Dr. Pang.
40,005 SKM-holders graduated from private skills training providers in 2014, exceeding the Department’s target of 33,000 for the year.
This followed 42,483 certificate-holders recorded in 2013, against a target of 31,700, and 38,602 in 2012 (2012 target: 26,900). In its first year, the EPP recorded 33,722 certificate-holders, surpassing the target of 21,100.
“It’s not just the quantitative aspects that are significant. What we have managed to achieve over the years is to push for quality and performance [in the provision of private skills training]. This is something very important for skills development because in the not so distant past, there had been a perception that private vocational training did not provide high quality training. Therefore, society at large did not have high confidence in the country’s skills training system,” observes Datuk Dr. Pang.
In an effort to address this, the DSD made it compulsory for training programmes to fully comply with its code of practice for skills programme accreditation, which it developed together with the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).
Once again, the response was overwhelming. Against a target for 300 programmes to comply with the code in 2011, 904 programmes complied. As at the end of 2014, the number of programmes in compliance continued to exceed the Department’s annual targets.
“This means that now we are very confident that DSD-accredited programmes meet very high standards in terms of delivery. We also introduced a Star rating for all accredited centres.
To ensure that we mean business with quality, programmes which are not rated at least 3 Stars will not be eligible to tap into the Skills Development Fund. Low performers are also required to attend improvement/developmental clinics where we help to improve the quality of their delivery,” he explains.
He adds that the drive to enhance the national skills training system has been aimed at repositioning skills as a professional vocation of choice. Efforts have thus been undertaken to raise public awareness and improve perception on the significance of skills training through the Department’s Skills Malaysia initiative, while industry players have also been invited to participate in training.
“The key outcome for skills training is employability; allowing graduates to receive better employment options, higher compensation and improve their career mobility,” Datuk Dr. Pang notes.
Collectively, these efforts bode well for Malaysia’s development into a high-income nation, which sees the country targeting for skilled workers to make up half of its workforce by 2020.
“It is almost a foregone conclusion that increasingly, new jobs that are being created require a higher level of competencies and skills, especially in the various high value-added, high-tech sectors where there’s a utilisation of a higher level of technology, operations and work processes.
“This will be very favourable to a technically and vocationally qualified workforce. That’s why we need to advocate for skills training and skills-based careers to be accepted by society as the career of choice which promises brighter prospects,” says Datuk Dr. Pang.
“Malaysia has long been considered as a golfing paradise in Asia, and we at the Malaysia Golf Tourism Association (MGTA) are proud to play a part in further developing the golf industry here and promoting the country as a leading golf destination, contributing to efforts under the Tourism NKEA.
Under the ETP, the MGTA has been tasked with coordinating efforts made by relevant stakeholders-golf course owners, golf resorts and golf media, among others-to promote and position Malaysia as an all-round golfing destination to international golf tourists.
We realised at the outset that a concerted effort is needed to promote Malaysia as a golfing destination and at the same time, generate buzz on the golfing experience in the country. And to be realistic, no golf club can singlehandedly embark on such an extensive marketing campaign.
Besides promoting and marketing golf tourism to global tourists, MGTA’s responsibilities also include auditing member golf clubs and courses to determine if they are export-ready, or deemed as having sufficient facilities and access for international golf tourists. It is heartening that our efforts have received recognition by the World Golf Awards 2014, which named Malaysia as Asia’s Best Golf Destination. This award spells further opportunities ahead for golf tourism in Malaysia. We are confident that this segment has the potential to be a key revenue generator for the tourism industry.
In 2014, tourism receipts from direct golf activities reached RM310 million, up from around RM300 million in 2013. The figures from Tourism Malaysia are encouraging as the share of golf tourism has risen in the last four years.
If we take into consideration the ancillary services, I believe the golf sector’s role as a key revenue generator for Malaysian tourism is very real.
The accolade from the World Golf Awards also comes at a time of an improving outlook for golf in the Asian region with the addition of three tournaments scheduled for 2015 in Asia-Malaysia, Thailand and India-by the European Tour. Malaysia, with its more than 200 golf courses ranging from plantation golf courses to fairways in the heart of rainforests and championship-sized golf courses, will only stand to benefit further from this. We have already established ourselves as an exceptional host through the major golf events that are held annually in the country-the Maybank Malaysia Open, CIMB Classic, Sime Darby LPGA Open and Iskandar Johor Open.
We wouldn’t have been able to be where we are today without the guidance from Tourism Malaysia and the support from the local industry.
Going forward, we will continue to work closely with Tourism Malaysia to cluster golf tour packages around major golf and festival events for the year ahead.”
Joyee Ong Hang Yee was a small town girl who didn’t see a good future for herself. Now, she not only sees one, she is also dreaming big.
The serene, tranquil atmosphere of the Majestic Spa in the Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur is worlds away from the noisy, sweaty and bustling working conditions of Joyee Ong Hang Yee’s first job as a waitress in a Chinese restaurant in her hometown of Raub, Pahang.
The youngest of eight children, Joyee, 29, came from a family that did not give great importance to academic excellence. There was not much career prospects for a young woman who was not academically inclined in her small town of Raub. Joyee became a waitress in a Chinese restaurant. "That was the only job that I could get at that time. I did not think much about my future," she says. The job was hard and taxing, not exactly the kind of future that Joyee had for herself. She was looking to get out. When her sister who lived in Klang Valley asked her to help her out in her home hair salon business, Joyee jumped at the chance to leave Raub and to try her hand in a different career. She ended up working for her sister for nine years. During that time she graduated from being a shampoo girl to a hair stylist.
"I was getting bored with the work and I wanted a change," says Joyee. But what could she do? Joyee took stock of her life. She was in her late 20s and did not have a stable job. The idea of spending the rest of her working life as a home salon hair stylist was more than what she could bear. Her future seemed bleak and she was in despair.
Just when she lost all hope of getting ahead in her life, her sister alerted Joyee to the Spa Therapist Training Programme by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MOTAC). This programme was initiated in recognition of the growing importance of the spa industry to the growth of tourism in Malaysia. The programme is opened for Malaysians who are keen to be trained as professional spa therapists.
Joyee decided to join the programme under Beaubelle Academy, one of the Centres of Excellence (COE) for spa therapy. At the end of her three month training, Beaubelle Academy helped her prepare for job interviews for job placement. That's how Joyee ended up at the Majestic Spa.
"I never imagined that I would one day get a chance to work in such a luxurious atmosphere as in this spa or that I would get to serve customers who are from high society and foreign tourists. I have come a long way from my days as a waitress and as a hair dresser in a home salon,” says Joyee. “In the three months that I have been here, the spa has sent me for further training to hone my skill. This spa has very high standards and I have had to push myself really hard. It has been worth it as I never knew I had it in me to live up to the challenge," adds Joyee.
Joey sees the spa industry as a service industry that prides itself in making people feel better about themselves. "Whenever I give customers a pedicure or manicure, a massage or a facial, I know I am helping them feel and look better."
Entering the programme has opened Joyee’s eyes to the exciting prospects in the spa industry. The industry is expected to generate nearly RM700 million and provide job opportunities to more than 5,000 people by 2020. "I now realise what a promising future this spa industry has. For the first time in my life I feel I am not in a dead end job. I know that if I go for further courses, I can go a long way in this industry. The income level is also very attractive," says Joyee.
Most important of all, the Spa Therapist Training Programme has given Joyee a future she has never dreamed of. "My life has been aimless ever since I left school. For the first time, I have a direction in my life and dreams for my future. One day I hope to own my own spa and be my own boss."