Proactive government initiatives coupled with the presence of state-of-the-art infrastructure and an efficient workforce is fuelling growth in the electronics industry in Southeast Asia. In recent years, many companies have expanded their operations by setting up manufacturing centres in this region to make the most of its low labour and production costs. The electronics industry is a major contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP) in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand and it is expected to continue its upward growth trajectory until 2017.
For all major economies in the Southeast Asian region, budget allocations for the electronics industry are significant. The Malaysian government has launched the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) to help stoke growth in this market.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (semiconductors.frost.com), Assessment of Electronics Industry in Southeast Asia, finds that the market earned revenues of over $174.22 billion in 2010 and estimates this to reach $352.00 billion in 2015.
"Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand have a very dynamic trade infrastructure and have signed free trade agreements (FTAs) with major trading countries," says Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Akkaraju Venkata Sridevi. "The import tax tariff rates for electronic goods in these countries are highly competitive and the tax rates are eased or lowered by the government to enable the electronics industry to thrive."
The Malaysian Government, keen to accelerate its developments plans, has introduced the ETP to move the industry up the global value chain. The country has set aside considerable funds to ramp up the electrical and electronics (E&E) sector. Malaysia also has a very strong presence of engineering support industries, which makes it an attractive destination for high-tech investments.
Meanwhile, the Singapore Government is actively investing in developing the skills of the local engineers and setting new standards within their research institutes. Singapore boasts world-class training institutes and centres of excellence, which drive innovative R&D efforts.
In the case of Thailand, its improved macroeconomic environment is attracting investments from major electronics and related companies, which are showing renewed interest in the country's electronics industry.
Although the prospects for the market look upbeat, there are some challenges stalling forward momentum. The lack of initiatives and limited investments for skills development in countries such as Malaysia and Thailand are impediments to growth. Most of the workforce in the electronics industry in both countries are diploma holders or certified technicians. The percentage of the Malaysian and Thai workforce with significant engineering capabilities and research skills is lower than Singapore's.
"Going forward, Malaysia and Thailand need to roll out skills development programmes within the electronics cluster to boost the prospects for this market," concludes Sridevi. "Focusing efforts on promoting research and development within the engineering community will enhance the capabilities of the workforce leading to growth in the overall electronics industry."
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Assessment of Electronics Industry in Southeast Asia / P4E7