PETALING JAYA: Malaysians are now enjoying a much higher standard of living than ever before, says the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Isis).
The Malaysian-based think tank said this was based on the 2016 Household Expenditure Survey.
Isis economics, trade and regional integration director Firdaos Rosli said this trend was also proven with Malaysians preferring to buy foreign car brands rather than lower-priced models by the two national carmakers.
“According to data published by the Malaysian Automotive Association, the sales of mid-range foreign car brands, such as Honda, Ford, Mazda and Subaru registered a higher annual growth rate since 2009 compared with local automotive champion, Perodua,” Firdaos said in a statement.
The survey also showed that Malaysians were spending less on buying groceries and preferred to eat out instead.
Another aspect of higher living standard, according to the study, were the number of Malaysians going online to purchase a variety of products and services.
“Most recently, a popular e-commerce platform registered sales of over RM100 million on Nov 11, which is known as ‘Singles Day’, alone.
“Also, Malaysians are the biggest spenders in the e-gaming market in Southeast Asia, with about RM2.45 billion spent online in the first 10 months of this year,” he said.
Referring to recent reports of celebrities and others complaining about the weak ringgit, Firdaos said this was not reflected in the way Malaysians were spending their money abroad.
“The latest data from Bank Negara Malaysia shows that over the past three years, the value of transactions made on Malaysian credit cards overseas had registered a steady increase.
“It was RM10.9 billion in 2015, before increasing to RM12.3 billion in 2016 and it is already RM13.2 billion up to October this year.
“In fact, according to BNM, the value of cash advance on Malaysian credit cards overseas had spiked by 68.9% for the first 10 months of 2017 compared with the same period in 2015,” Firdaos said.
He added that the number of transactions and domestic purchases made on credit cards recorded an upward trend as well.
Firdaos also referred to the growth in the mobile phone market in Malaysia as an indicator of a booming economy as well as of the ringgit’s decline not having any impact on the economy and the people.
“BNM data shows that in the first nine months of 2017, the value of mobile phones imported to Malaysia stood at RM6.85 billion.
“In fact, the value of mobile phone imports is higher than our top food imports such as rice, milk and cream, coffee, onions and garlic, coconuts, soybeans, corn, milk and cream powder combined,” he said.
Steady increase in household income
Referring to the GST, which was implemented in April 2015, Firdaos said though prices of some goods and services had increased over the past two years, salaries had also increased over the past eight years.
“Since 2009, the mean monthly household income had increased across the board with the bottom 40% household income group (B40) growing at the fastest rate.
“Also, official statistics revealed that Malaysia’s average monthly household income has risen by 6.6% annually between 2014 and 2016,” he said.
Touching on Malaysia’s unemployment rate, which has been kept under 4% since 1995, Firdaos said that even the global financial crisis 10 years ago, which had caused a slump in Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP), did not dent that record.
“In 2016, Malaysia’s unemployment rate of 3.4% was even lower than that of many advanced economies such as the United States (4.9%), Germany (4.1%), and South Korea (3.7 %),” he said.