Time to have clear direction for Malaysia’s economy, IDEAS tells Putrajaya

Malaysia’s stock market performed poorly in 2019. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: A think tank today urged Putrajaya to provide a clear direction for the country’s economy after Malaysia recorded its lowest quarterly growth rate in a decade.

Earlier today, Bank Negara Malaysia announced that the gross domestic product (GDP) for the last quarter of 2019 was 3.6% due to lower output of palm oil, crude oil and natural gas, among others.

The central bank said the GDP could have been 4.3% had it not been for the disruptions in the commodity sector.

IDEAS, however, said that despite these external factors, there were many other important signals that should be heeded.

Its CEO Ali Salman said this included the fact that private investment had been low for several quarters alongside falling imports of capital goods and machinery. This signalled a cautionary private investment outlook.

Malaysia’s stock market, he noted, performed poorly in 2019.

“It is clear that political uncertainty and a lack of a coherent economic strategy is undermining sentiment among private business, which is needed to drive economic growth.

“The government needs to move beyond the focus on politics and provide a clear direction for the Malaysian economy,” he said in a statement.

PKR’s Wong Chen, who heads the party’s investment bureau, said the GDP numbers were “very bad”.

Wong Chen said it was going to be problematic in the first quarter of 2020 due to low palm oil production and the coronavirus outbreak.

“The minister of economic affairs should explain the next steps (to be taken),” he tweeted.

Former minister Khairy Jamaluddin, meanwhile, took a swipe at Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng for declaring in November that the country could achieve economic growth of 4.7%.

The statement, he said, was made a month before the year ended.

“Lim should have already known in November the country’s economic performance for 2019.”