November 27, 2023
SINGAPORE – Malaysia will allow citizens of China and India 30-day visa-free entry to the country from Dec 1, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said, as part of efforts to boost tourism and the economy.
He made the announcement on Nov 26, during his closing speech on the final day of Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) congress to mark his unity government’s first year in power.
“To celebrate our 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations with China next year, starting Dec 1, we will allow China citizens 30-day visa exemption,” he said, adding that travellers from India will also enjoy the same facility.
The move comes after China announced on Nov 24 that it will allow visa-free entry for Malaysians and citizens of five European countries for 15 days.
The highest number of tourists into Malaysia are from Singapore and Indonesia, but outside of Asean, China tourists make up the largest group of visitors.
“The potential is huge,” said Datuk Seri Anwar, adding that transportation and facilities at airports would be enhanced.
In September, Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Tiong King Sing had said that Malaysia was set to implement visa exemptions for Chinese tourists, a move aimed at attracting and increasing the number of China citizens visiting Malaysia. A similar move was also in the works for tourists from India at the time.
Defending his frequent travels abroad during his first year as premier, Mr Anwar in his speech stressed the importance of Malaysia’s foreign relations in boosting business at home, citing investment plans with Singapore and Thailand.
“Sentiments and old prejudices must be buried,” he said, adding that he has told Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong several times that Malaysia’s unity government had a “positive” stance on the relationship, and that both countries would boost cooperation further in the proposed economic zone in Johor.
Mr Anwar added he would meet his Thai counterpart, Mr Srettha Thavisin, on Nov 27 in Sadao, Songkhla province, for bilateral talks on the development of the border area between Malaysia and Thailand.
They are slated to discuss how to ease travel between both countries, and the construction of key connectivity projects at the border to bolster economic development in Thailand’s deep south.
Approximately 2.7 million Malaysians visited Thailand in 2022, the largest group of tourists to the country. More than a third of these entered through the Sadao checkpoint.
As at Nov 19, Malaysian tourists topped the list of visitors to Thailand, with a total of 3.9 million visitors.
Mr Anwar’s announcement comes on the back of a recent survey released by independent pollster Merdeka Center on Nov 22, which found that his approval rating had slipped to 50 per cent from 68 per cent in December 2022, driven chiefly by voter concerns about the economy.
Nearly eight in 10 of the 1,220 survey respondents said the economy is the top issue facing Malaysians today, as it has affected livelihoods.
His PKR-led Pakatan Harapan coalition has also been criticised for being slow in implementing reforms it had campaigned for when it was in the opposition. Mr Anwar has responded, saying that it was not possible to solve all the country’s problems within one year.
In September, the Premier also drew flak after his Umno ally and Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi was freed of graft charges, with ruling and opposition politicians alike questioning his government’s commitment to eradicating corruption.
Mr Anwar has defended his administration during his party congress, stressing that he needed time to carry out reforms and that no one in his government had siphoned public funds.
“What’s most important is that we have Malay leaders who do not steal the country’s money. If anyone asks me what I am proud of this past one year, I say, praise God, I watch our leadership closely, I ask for reports, and in the past year, there have been no cases of leaders stealing the people’s money,” he said.