Country perception getting better?

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Malaysia ranked 36, up 7 spots from last year in a Country Brand Index undertaken by consultancy FutureBrand. The index ranks nations based on global perceptions today. Drawing insights from a collective of 3,600 opinion-formers, as well as a panel of experts across public policy, globalization and media–related disciplines to inform the final ranking and evaluation of 118 nations. Business Circle looks at some of the pillars and how Malaysia compares with those ahead of us.

Malaysia has risen rapidly through the ranks of FutureBrand’s Country Brand Index (CBI) to achieve a stronger position in terms of its value system, business climate, quality of life, heritage and culture as well as tourism.

FutureBrand is a global brand consultancy with 26 offices in 18 countries. Each year, the company ranks global perceptions on a particular country’s cultures, industries, economic vitality and public policy initiatives.

As Robert Cevero, Professor at the Department of City and Regional Planning,University of California,Berkeley, puts it succinctly: “The public impression of a country is important as a source of national pride. Invariably, people source part of their own identity from the image of their country.”

In its 2012-13 CBI Mini Report:Malaysia, it stated that Malaysia’s environmental friendliness improved to a rating of 24 this year, as against 60 last year. Political freedom stood at 35 compared with 74. While some progress has been made in terms of political freedom,Malaysia still needs to improve its score, as countries like Singapore and the US received a rating of 22 and 9, respectively.

From a business standpoint,Malaysia has grown from strength to strength in terms of its investment climate, advanced technology, regulatory environment and skilled workforce. Its investment climate is now rated 33 compared with countries like Maldives at 57,Singapore, 2,UK, 18 and US, 7.

This year,Malaysia’s rating in terms of advanced technology rose to 25 compared with 34 last year. Meanwhile, the study revealed that its regulatory environment ranking was 28 compared with 46 last year. Its workforce has grown more skilled, rising by eight points on the rating scale to 34.

Indeed, the report’s value system ranking of Malaysia has improved tremendously this year compared with 2011. For example, FutureBrand’s study observed that its legal environment was more stable, improving to 38 in 2012 compared with 58 the previous year. Freedom of speech moved from 65 last year to 41 in 2012.

Within its quality of life section, there is room for improvement in terms of safety and security within cities and towns. Nonetheless, the healthcare and education sectors show superior rankings this year compared with 2011. For example, healthcare improved to 34 in 2012 from 47 last year while education is now at 29, vis-à-vis 58 last year.

Looking across the causeway,Singapore received a rating of 14 for healthcare and 9 for education this year.United Arab Emirates is now at 17 for healthcare and 20 for education. So, there is certainly scope for improvement for Malaysia in these two sectors. It lags behind these two countries significantly and could benefit from making healthcare more affordable and raising the quality of education in Malaysia.

FutureBrand has a Hierarchy Decision Model (HDM) that determines how groups like residents, investors, tourists, and foreign governments, perceive a country’s brand, from basic awareness all the way up to advocacy.

Malaysia’s authenticity in terms of heritage and culture improved to 41 this year from a low rating of 89 in 2011. In the study’s section on tourism, it scored a 2 this year in terms of value for money compared to 3 last year. For tourist-related attractions, it ranked 26 this year, halving its previous score of 57 in 2011.

FutureBrand has been pioneers in country and destination branding for more than a decade, working with countries like

Australia,Argentina,Peru,Singapore,Mexico,Saint Lucia,Dubai and Qatar as well as shaping a number of country-branded export products such as flag carrier airlines and helping to brand cities, regions and major national corporations.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Photo credit: Flickr user happylemon

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