Outlook for the Malaysian Economy in 2016
The international economic and financial landscape is likely to remain challenging in 2016 and will be a key factor that will influence the prospects of the Malaysian economy. Depending on their nature, global developments can pose both upside and downside risks to the Malaysian economic growth. The Malaysian economy is expected to grow by 4.0 – 4.5% in 2016. Domestic demand will continue to be the principal driver of growth, sustained primarily by private sector spending. Private consumption growth is expected to trend below its long-term average, reflecting largely the continued household adjustments to an environment of higher prices and greater uncertainties. These moderating effects, however, will be partially offset by continued growth in income and employment, as well as some support from Government measures targeted at enhancing households’ disposable income. In an environment of prolonged uncertainties and cautious business sentiments, private sector investment growth is projected to be slower compared to its performance in the past five years. Capital expenditure in the upstream mining sector will continue to be affected by the environment of low energy and commodity prices. Support to private sector capital spending will mainly stem from the implementation of on-going and new investment projects, particularly in the manufacturing and services sectors.
Reflecting the Government’s commitment to more prudent spending, growth of public sector expenditure is also expected to be more moderate but would continue to be supportive of overall growth. Public investment is, however, projected to turn around to register a positive growth, reflecting higher spending by the Federal Government on fixed assets and the continued implementation of key infrastructure projects by public corporations. The external sector is expected to remain resilient in 2016. Despite subdued commodity prices, Malaysia’s export performance is projected to remain positive, in line with the modest improvement in external demand. The well diversified nature of Malaysia’s exports will continue to support the overall growth in exports. Gross imports are projected to expand further amid an increase in intermediate imports to support the sustained performance of manufactured exports and the higher growth in capital imports due to continued expansion in domestic private investment. The overall trade balance in 2016 is expected to continue to record a surplus, albeit one that is smaller. The services account is projected to record a narrower deficit on account of an expected improvement in tourism activity. Overall, the current account surplus is projected to narrow further to 1.0 – 2.0% of gross national income (GNI). On the supply side, all economic sectors are projected to expand, albeit at a more moderate pace in 2016. The services and manufacturing sectors will remain the key drivers of overall growth. Despite the lower oil and gas prices, growth in the mining sector will be supported by new gas production capacity. Growth momentum in the construction sector is projected to moderate slightly in 2016 amid a modest expansion in both the residential and non-residential sub-sectors. Headline inflation is projected to be higher at 2.5 – 3.5% in 2016 (2015: 2.1%), due mainly to increases in the prices of several price-administered items and the weak ringgit exchange rate. However, the impact of these cost factors on inflation will be mitigated by the low global energy and commodity prices, generally subdued global inflation and more moderate domestic demand. The trajectory of inflation during the year, however, could be more volatile given the uncertainties relating to global oil and commodity prices as well as the pace of global growth.
Economic and Monetary Management in 2016
Monetary policy in 2016 will focus on ensuring that monetary conditions remain supportive of sustainable domestic growth with price stability, taking into consideration the evolving risks in the external and domestic environments. In particular, global economic and financial developments will need to be closely monitored and assessed in terms of their implications for the domestic growth and inflation outlook. Monetary policy will also continue to take into account the risk of financial imbalances. In addition, given the expectation of continued volatility in external flows, the Bank’s monetary operations will be directed towards ensuring that domestic liquidity in the financial system will remain sufficient to support the orderly functioning of the domestic financial markets. Fiscal policy in 2016 will continue to focus on fiscal consolidation. The 2016 Budget was recalibrated in January 2016 to incorporate the expected decline in global oil prices.
Government spending was reprioritised and measures were introduced to broaden revenue sources. Fiscal spending will be prioritised towards high impact infrastructure projects that could have large multiplier effects by increasing the productive capacity of the economy. In addition, emphasis will continue to be accorded towards ensuring inclusive and sustainable growth through welfare enhancements, particularly in the form of socio-economic support to the lower- and middle-income segments to help them cope with the rising cost of living. Given the expectation of a challenging global financial environment, Malaysia will likely be confronted by volatile movements in capital flows. However, Malaysia’s deep and developed financial markets are well-positioned to intermediate these flows, thus ensuring that the functioning of the domestic financial markets will continue to be orderly and supportive of the real economy. Malaysia’s ability to withstand external shocks will also be augmented by its ample buffers and robust policy frameworks that have been steadily built over time.