How Perlis Too Can Be Developed To Become A High-Income State Despite Being The Smallest State In Malaysia

ByMohd Azad Jasmi

I was born and raised in Perlis. I have always held a high regard for Perlis and believe that it has immense potential for growth. I would like to express my opinions and suggestions as a sincere Perlisian, without any political interest or intervention. My hope is that Perlis can be developed by focusing not only on its perceived weaknesses, such as its size but also by recognizing its other strengths.

Perlis, the smallest state in Malaysia, may be modest in size but holds immense potential waiting to be unlocked. Nestled in the northern region of the country, Perlis boasts a unique blend of natural wonders, historical sites, and strategic geographical advantages. I will explore how best to tap into the possibilities that lie within Perlis, with a particular focus on Kuala Perlis, the state’s gateway to growth, the untapped potential of the port, the land port bordering Thailand, and the allure of Gua Kelam and other tourist spots as .well as the strategic approach for the growth.

My suggestion to unlock the potential of Perlis

This sharing reflects my genuine feelings and deep affection for Perlis. I sincerely hope that policymakers, who are the “guardian” of Perlis, will consider these suggestions as constructive contributions to the betterment of our beloved state.

Kuala Perlis | Utusan Malaysia

  1. Leveraging Kuala Perlis: As the main entry point to Perlis, Kuala Perlis plays a crucial role in setting the tone for visitors’ experiences. Enhancing infrastructure, developing modern amenities, and improving connectivity that can transform it into a vibrant hub that attracts tourists and investors alike. The creation of an attractive waterfront promenade, complete with recreational facilities and dining options, can provide a memorable experience for visitors, encouraging longer stays and increased economic activity.
  2. Maximizing the Port: Perlis benefits from having a port located in Kuala Perlis, which presents an opportunity for economic growth through trade and logistics. By upgrading port facilities, improving efficiency, and attracting investments in maritime-related industries, Perlis can position itself as a key player in regional and international trade. Establishing strategic partnerships with neighboring countries, such as Thailand, can further enhance cross-border trade, stimulating economic development and creating employment opportunities.
  3. Unleashing the Potential of the Land Port: Perlis shares a border with Thailand, presenting a valuable opportunity to develop the land port and facilitate cross-border trade. Strengthening infrastructure, simplifying customs procedures, and fostering closer collaboration with Thai authorities can streamline logistics and encourage businesses to utilize the land port for import-export activities. This can spur economic growth, increase cross-cultural exchanges, and establish Perlis as a vital trading gateway between Malaysia and Thailand.
  4. Showcasing Gua Kelam and Other Tourist Attractions: Perlis is blessed with natural wonders, including the mesmerizing Gua Kelam limestone cave and other picturesque landscapes. Investing in infrastructure, visitor facilities, and eco-tourism initiatives can attract nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and cultural explorers to experience the state’s unique offerings. Collaborating with tour operators, promoting sustainable tourism practices, and preserving the natural heritage will ensure the long-term viability and appeal of these attractions.
  5. The Cottage Industry: Encouraging and supporting the growth of cottage industries can provide opportunities for local entrepreneurs and artisans to showcase their skills and products. This can contribute to economic growth and create a unique identity for Perlis.
  6. Food Business: Promoting the local culinary scene and encouraging the establishment of new food businesses can attract both locals and tourists. Emphasizing traditional Perlis cuisine and incorporating modern twists can make Perlis a gastronomic destination.
  7. Local Tourism: Highlighting the natural beauty, historical sites, and cultural heritage of Perlis can attract tourists and boost the local tourism industry. Developing eco-tourism initiatives and promoting lesser-known attractions can create new experiences for visitors.
  8. Lodging and Logistics: Enhancing lodging facilities and improving logistics infrastructure can facilitate smooth transportation for tourists, especially to popular destinations like Pulau Langkawi and Thailand. This can position Perlis as a convenient transit point for travelers.
  9. Education Hub: Developing Perlis as an education hub can attract students from within and outside the state. Establishing reputable institutions and offering diverse academic programs can create opportunities for intellectual and economic growth.
  10. Islamic Religious Learning: Leveraging Perlis’ strong Islamic heritage, we can further develop it as a center for Islamic religious education. Providing comprehensive programs and facilities can attract students and scholars from around the country and beyond.

By focusing on these areas, we can transform Perlis into a vibrant and prosperous state that maximizes its unique strengths and opportunities.

Revenue generating projects

Cross-Border Trade and Logistics: Establishing special economic zones or free trade areas near border crossings can attract foreign investors and facilitate cross-border trade. Providing incentives such as tax breaks, streamlined customs procedures, and infrastructure development can encourage businesses to set up operations and utilize the state’s proximity to neighboring countries for import-export activities.

Padang Besar | 1Media.my

Tourism and Hospitality: Exploit the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the region to promote tourism. Develop eco-tourism initiatives, adventure tourism activities, and cultural exchanges that highlight the unique offerings of the area. Collaborate with tour operators, hotels, and local communities to create diverse tourism experiences that cater to different preferences and budgets.

Agro-Tourism and Food Exports: Leverage the fertile land and favorable climate to promote agro-tourism initiatives. Establish farm stays, organize agricultural tours, and facilitate direct sales of local produce to tourists. Additionally, focus on food exports by promoting the region’s specialty crops and products to neighboring countries, taking advantage of trade agreements and the proximity of markets.

Industrial and Manufacturing Hubs: Encourage the establishment of manufacturing industries and industrial parks near sea and land ports. Offer incentives for industries such as textiles, electronics, and automotive sectors to set up production facilities. This can attract foreign direct investment, create job opportunities, and contribute to the economic growth of the region.

Renewable Energy Initiatives: Exploit the natural resources available, such as wind, solar, or hydropower, to develop renewable energy projects. This can not only generate revenue through energy production but also contribute to sustainability and environmental conservation goals.

Examples from these countries

  1. Singapore: Singapore has successfully developed itself as a global maritime hub, leveraging its strategic location, advanced port infrastructure, and efficient logistics services. The country attracts maritime-related businesses, provides comprehensive services, and facilitates international trade, positioning itself as a major player in the global shipping industry.
  2. Thailand: Thailand’s border provinces, such as Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, have capitalized on their proximity to neighboring countries like Myanmar and Laos. They have developed cross-border trade, tourism, and hospitality industries, offering a range of services and experiences that attract tourists and facilitate trade activities.
  3. New Zealand: New Zealand’s agricultural sector has tapped into agro-tourism by offering farm stays, agricultural tours, and farm-to-table experiences. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about farming practices, participate in hands-on activities, and taste local produce, creating an immersive and educational tourism experience.
  4. Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Dubai has transformed itself into a global trade and logistics hub, capitalizing on its strategic location as a gateway between East and West. The city has developed world-class ports, free zones, and logistics infrastructure, attracting international businesses and facilitating trade between different regions.

By considering and adapting successful models from overseas countries while leveraging the unique advantages of bordering countries, seaports, land ports, and natural resources, states can create revenue-generating projects and programs that promote economic growth, cultural exchange, and environmental sustainability.

Promoting entrepreneurs

Step-by-step ideas to promote entrepreneurs from startups and existing entrepreneurs in Perlis:

  1. Establish an Entrepreneurship Development Center: Set up a dedicated center or hub that serves as a one-stop resource for aspiring entrepreneurs and existing business owners. The center can provide guidance, training, mentorship, and access to relevant resources to support their entrepreneurial journey. Example: Create the Perlis Entrepreneurship Development Center (PEDC), offering workshops, mentoring programs, networking events, and access to funding opportunities.
  1. Conduct Entrepreneurship Awareness Programs: Organize entrepreneurship awareness programs in collaboration with local schools, colleges, and universities to inspire and educate students about the possibilities of entrepreneurship. These programs can include talks, seminars, and workshops conducted by successful entrepreneurs. Example: Launch the “Entrepreneurship Roadshow” where successful local entrepreneurs share their experiences and insights with students across Perlis.
  1. Provide Business Incubation Support: Establish a business incubation program that offers startups and early-stage entrepreneurs access to office spaces, infrastructure, mentorship, and networking opportunities. This support can help them overcome initial challenges and accelerate their growth. Example: Develop the Perlis Business Incubation Program (PBIP) where selected startups receive office space, guidance from industry experts, access to funding, and networking events.
  1. Facilitate Access to Funding: Create channels for startups and entrepreneurs to access funding, such as venture capital firms, angel investors, government grants, or crowdfunding platforms. Streamline the application process and provide assistance in preparing business plans and financial projections. Example: Collaborate with venture capital firms to establish the Perlis Startup Investment Fund, offering funding opportunities for promising startups in the state.
  1. Foster Collaboration with Industries: Encourage startups and existing entrepreneurs to collaborate with established industries in Perlis to tap into their expertise, resources, and market reach. Facilitate matchmaking sessions, industry-specific workshops, and mentorship programs to foster these collaborations. Example: Organize the Perlis Industry Collaboration Program, bringing together startups and established companies for joint projects, knowledge sharing, and business partnerships.
  1. Provide Business Advisory Services: Offer free or subsidized business advisory services to startups and entrepreneurs. This can include assistance in areas such as business planning, marketing strategies, financial management, and legal compliance. Example: Establish the Perlis Small Business Advisory Center (PSBAC), providing expert advice and consultations to startups and existing entrepreneurs.
  1. Encourage Collaboration with Research Institutions: Encourage startups and entrepreneurs to collaborate with local research institutions, universities, and innovation centers to leverage research findings, technology transfer, and access to specialized facilities. Example: Forge partnerships between startups and the Perlis Research and Innovation Institute (PRII) to develop innovative solutions and commercialize research outputs.
  1. Promote Networking Events and Pitching Competitions: Organize networking events, business forums, and pitching competitions to connect entrepreneurs, investors, and industry professionals. These events provide valuable networking opportunities and potential funding prospects. Example: Host the Perlis Entrepreneurship Summit, bringing together entrepreneurs, investors, and industry leaders for panel discussions, networking sessions, and a startup pitching competition.

By following these step-by-step ideas, Perlis can create a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, nurture startups, and support the growth of existing entrepreneurs. It is essential to collaborate with government agencies, educational institutions, industry associations, and private sector stakeholders to ensure the success of these initiatives.

Becoming a duty-free state

Deploying a duty-free state in Perlis can yield several benefits for its citizens, state development, and the country as a whole.

Duty Free Complex Padang Besar | Mapio.net

Economic Growth and Job Opportunities: The establishment of a duty-free state in Perlis can attract domestic and international investors, leading to increased business activities and job creation. This influx of investment can stimulate economic growth, providing employment opportunities for the local population and reducing unemployment rates.

Increased Tourism and Revenue Generation: A duty-free state has the potential to attract tourists seeking tax-free shopping experiences. This can boost tourism in Perlis, leading to higher visitor numbers, longer stays, and increased spending on accommodation, food, and other services. The resulting tourism revenue can contribute to the state’s overall economic development and support local businesses.

Enhanced Competitiveness and Trade: Perlis, as a duty-free state, can attract businesses and entrepreneurs looking for a competitive advantage in the region. The absence of import duties and taxes can encourage trade activities, attract international brands and retailers, and establish Perlis as a regional hub for commerce. This increased trade can further stimulate economic growth and create a favorable business environment.

Improved Standard of Living: With a duty-free status, the cost of living in Perlis can potentially decrease as consumers benefit from lower prices on imported goods. This can lead to increased affordability, enabling citizens to enjoy a higher standard of living. The availability of a wider range of products at lower prices can enhance the overall quality of life for the residents of Perlis.

Cross-Border Collaboration and Economic Integration: Perlis, as a border state, can leverage its duty-free status to strengthen collaboration with neighboring countries, particularly Thailand. This can promote cross-border trade, investments, and cultural exchanges, fostering regional economic integration and cooperation.

Revenue Generation for State Development: While certain tax exemptions may apply in a duty-free state, other revenue sources can be maximized. These include fees for licenses, permits, and regulatory compliance, rental income from state-owned properties, and charges for government services. The resulting revenue can be channeled towards infrastructure development, public services, education, healthcare, and other state development initiatives.

National Economic Boost: The success of Perlis as a duty-free state can contribute to the overall economic development of Malaysia. Increased economic activities, higher tax revenues from non-duty sources, and enhanced trade can positively impact the country’s GDP growth, employment rates, and competitiveness.

By deploying a duty-free state in Perlis, the benefits extend beyond the citizens to encompass state development and the broader national economy. The potential for economic growth, job creation, increased tourism, enhanced trade, improved living standards, cross-border collaborations, and revenue generation makes the concept of a duty-free state a promising opportunity for Perlis and the country as a whole.

Here are a few examples of duty-free states or countries and their economic impact:

  1. Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Dubai is known for its Jebel Ali Free Zone, one of the world’s largest duty-free areas. The city’s duty-free status has been a significant driver of economic growth, attracting foreign investments, fostering trade, and boosting tourism. The presence of duty-free shopping malls, such as Dubai Duty Free, has contributed to Dubai’s reputation as a global shopping destination and has significantly contributed to the city’s revenue and economic development.
  2. Langkawi, Malaysia: Langkawi, an archipelago in Malaysia, was granted duty-free status in 1987. This has made it a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors with its duty-free shopping opportunities. The duty-free status has boosted the local economy, supporting the growth of the tourism industry and creating employment opportunities for the local population.
  3. Singapore: While not a duty-free state in its entirety, Singapore has duty-free zones within the city. Changi Airport, for example, is well-known for its extensive duty-free shopping options. This has contributed to Singapore’s reputation as a shopping paradise and has played a crucial role in attracting tourists and boosting the country’s retail sector.
  4. Gibraltar: Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located on the southern coast of Spain. It is a renowned duty-free destination, attracting tourists and shoppers from neighboring Spain. The duty-free status has played a significant role in Gibraltar’s economy, with many businesses and services catering to tourists seeking tax-free shopping experiences.
  5. Macau, China: Macau is known for its vibrant casino and entertainment industry. It operates as a special administrative region of China and offers a duty-free shopping experience to visitors. The duty-free status has contributed to Macau’s tourism industry and has been a significant driver of economic growth in the region.

Economic growth with duty-free state status

It is a misconception that a duty-free state will not be able to generate revenue. On the contrary, the designation of Perlis as a duty-free state has the potential to bring about substantial economic benefits. The following are some of the revenue streams that could significantly contribute to Perlis’ financial growth:

Tourism: With its proximity to popular tourist destinations like Pulau Langkawi and Thailand, Perlis can attract a significant influx of tourists. The availability of duty-free shopping would further incentivize tourists to visit Perlis, boosting the local tourism industry and generating revenue from their expenditures.

Retail Sector: Duty-free status would attract local and international shoppers seeking tax-free goods. This increased retail activity would stimulate economic growth, create job opportunities, and generate revenue through sales tax and other levies.

Hospitality Industry: As visitors come to explore Perlis and take advantage of its duty-free status, the demand for accommodation and hospitality services would rise. This would benefit hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other related businesses, leading to increased revenue through room bookings, dining, and other hospitality expenditures.

Transportation and Logistics: With an increase in trade and tourism activities, the transportation and logistics sectors would experience growth. Increased air, land, and sea transportation would contribute to revenue through ticket sales, freight charges, and related services.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs): The duty-free status would encourage the establishment and expansion of small and medium-sized enterprises, leading to entrepreneurial opportunities and economic growth. These businesses would contribute to revenue through taxes, licensing fees, and job creation.

Government Revenue: The increased economic activity and consumption resulting from duty-free status would generate revenue for the government through various taxation mechanisms, including sales tax, corporate tax, and customs duties on non-duty-free items.

It is important to note that the success of Perlis as a duty-free state depends on strategic planning, effective implementation, and continuous monitoring to ensure the benefits are maximized while minimizing any potential negative impacts.

The power of being small

It is crucial for the Perlis government to recognize and harness the “Power of Smallness” of the state through a strategic approach. Despite being the smallest state in Malaysia, Perlis holds immense potential that can be unlocked to drive economic growth, development, and prosperity. By leveraging its unique geographical location, such as its proximity to the border with Thailand and its access to sea and land ports, Perlis can maximize opportunities for trade, tourism, and investment.

The strategic development of key areas, such as Kuala Perlis as a port and the utilization of attractions like Gua Kelam, can attract local and international visitors, bolstering the tourism sector and creating employment opportunities for the local population. Additionally, adopting a duty-free status, while aligning it with the state’s vision and strategic plan, can attract investors, boost business activities, and promote economic diversification. This, in turn, will contribute to job creation, increased revenue for the state, and overall development.

Moreover, recognizing and capitalizing on the “Power of Smallness” allows the Perlis government to foster a sense of community, enhance local industries, and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the state. By implementing inclusive policies, providing support for small businesses, and investing in education and skills development, the government can empower the citizens of Perlis, improve their quality of life, and build a sustainable and resilient economy.

The success of Perlis lies in embracing its uniqueness and employing a strategic and forward-thinking approach. By focusing on maximizing its resources, creating an enabling business environment, and nurturing key sectors, Perlis can position itself as a dynamic and thriving state, contributing to the overall growth and prosperity of Malaysia. The time is ripe for the Perlis government to tap into the “Power of Smallness” and unlock the full potential of this remarkable state.

“The Greater Perlis” and “The Greater Kedah”.

Indeed, the collaboration between the Chief Ministers of Kedah and Perlis, both from the same political party, can bring about significant benefits and synergies for the development of “The Greater Kedah” and “The Greater Perlis.” With shared objectives and a unified vision, working hand-in-hand can lead to strategic planning and coordinated efforts that maximize the potential of both states.

The alignment of policies, strategies, and resources between Kedah and Perlis can create a spill-over effect, where positive developments in one state can have a ripple effect on the other. This collaboration can result in enhanced infrastructure, improved connectivity, and increased economic opportunities that benefit the residents of both states.

By pooling resources and expertise, “The Greater Kedah” and “The Greater Perlis” can attract more investments, both local and foreign. Joint initiatives such as industrial parks, trade zones, and business clusters can be established, creating a conducive environment for economic growth and diversification. This collaboration can also facilitate knowledge sharing, technology transfer, and innovation, fostering a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that drives job creation and stimulates economic activity.

Furthermore, the shared approach can lead to the development of comprehensive tourism strategies that leverage the unique attractions of both states. Collaborative efforts in promoting cultural heritage, natural landscapes, and religious tourism can result in a seamless experience for visitors, encouraging them to explore the region and stay longer, thereby boosting the tourism industry and generating revenue for local businesses.

The Chief Ministers can also collaborate on education and research initiatives, leveraging the strengths of both states’ educational institutions. This can include joint research projects, student exchange programs, and the establishment of specialized educational centers that cater to the specific needs of the region. By nurturing a knowledgeable and skilled workforce, “The Greater Kedah” and “The Greater Perlis” can attract high-value industries and promote sustainable economic development.

Moreover, the collaboration can extend to areas such as transportation infrastructure, healthcare, environmental conservation, and social welfare. By pooling resources and aligning strategies, both states can address common challenges and leverage shared opportunities, leading to more efficient and effective governance for the benefit of the people.

Al Hussain Mosque in Kuala Perlis | TTG Asia


In conclusion, the collaboration between the Chief Ministers of Kedah and Perlis, under the same political party, presents a unique opportunity to synergize efforts and unlock the potential of “The Greater Kedah” and “The Greater Perlis.” By working hand-in-hand and strategically coordinating initiatives, both states can experience a spill-over effect, leading to enhanced economic growth, improved infrastructure, and a better quality of life for the residents. This collaboration sets the stage for a strong and prosperous future for both Kedah and Perlis.

Collaboration between the government, private sector, and local communities is essential in implementing strategic plans, infrastructure development, and sustainable tourism practices. Together, let us embrace the possibilities that lie within Perlis and pave the way for a prosperous future for this hidden gem of Malaysia.

I love Perlis.

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