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KUALA LUMPUR: Despite being fortified by sound economic fundamentals and the economy is on its way to a recovery after turning the corner against the pandemic, Malaysia must be clear-eyed about the challenges on the horizon.
Bursa Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar said there were a number of factors to be optimistic about the country’s growth outlook and most importantly, it was transitioning to the endemic phase with the relaxation of pandemic control measures and reopening of international borders.
"The endemic phase is likely to contribute to the revival of Malaysia’s tourism industry which supports 3.5 million jobs.
"The high vaccination rate with close to 80 per cent of the population being vaccinated with two doses is another important factor. This compares favourably against ASEAN’s rate of 60 per cent,” he said in his welcoming remarks at the Malaysian Economic Summit 2022 organised by the KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific here today.
A sound government policy has provided economic relief and support for the people and businesses, including employment incentives, cash transfers and subsidies, which resulted in a significant decline in the unemployment rate from a peak of 5.3 per cent in May 2020 to 4.1 per cent in May 2022.
Abdul Wahid, who is also chairman of Economic Club of Kuala Lumpur (ECKL) Advisory Council, said Bank Negara Malaysia has forecast that Malaysia’s economic growth to be between 5.3 per cent and 6.3 per cent in 2022 while the World Bank projected the economy to grow by 5.5 per cent.
"However, it is important to note that these forecasts have been downgraded, underscoring the uncertainties within and beyond the country. If there is upside, there will be downside. We must consider domestic and global challenges that will affect the Malaysian economy,” he said.
He said geopolitical risks threatened Malaysia’s recovery whereby the conflict in Ukraine and the economic sanctions on Russia have created uncertainties and they had exacerbated the supply shocks in commodities such as crude oil, natural gas, wheat and sunflower oil, hence, driven up the prices of food commodities.
"Malaysia also had to contend with these inflationary pressures. Our annual Consumer Price Index went from -1.2 per cent in 2020 to 2.5 per cent in 2021.
"The inflation rate will continue to rise this year. Inflation has been driven by significant increases in transportation and food costs. Food prices have increased between 3.6 per cent and 4.0 per cent in the first quarter of this year.
"Fortunately, the government’s fuel subsidy has kept a lid on further increases on fuel cost. However, the fuel subsidy is a double-edged sword because while it keeps inflation down, the government’s fiscal space will shrink,” he shared.