CLICK TO VIEW ENLARGEPETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s economy is expected to grow by 6.7% in 2021, on the back of successful containment of Covid-19 infections and effective rollout and distribution of the vaccine, according to the World Bank. The latest edition of the World Bank Malaysia economic monitor: Sowing the seeds, said quicker containment of the third wave of Covid-19 infections and vaccine distribution could lead to a faster-than-expected recovery in consumer demand, greater investor confidence and consequently a robust recovery in domestic economic activity in 2021. “Signs of recovery are showing with Malaysia posting a smaller contraction of 2.7% in the third quarter of 2020, compared with 17.1% in the second quarter of 2020. “Fiscal measures like cash transfers and wage subsidies have boosted household spending with private consumption contracting 2.1% in the third quarter of 2020 compared with 18.5% in the second quarter of 2020.Speaking at the launch of the report yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said Malaysia must take advantage of its recovery from the crisis to emerge as a durable and inclusive economy in a structurally different post-pandemic future. “However, the recent surge in Covid-19 cases and renewed movement controls could slow recovery down due to uncertainties surrounding the deployment of an effective vaccine and the robustness of a rebound in global growth that will influence the pace of economic recovery."Containing the pandemic and protecting the most vulnerable remain the topmost near-term priorities.” Speaking at the launch of the report yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said Malaysia must take advantage of its recovery from the crisis to emerge as a durable and inclusive economy in a structurally different post-pandemic future.“The priority going forward is to ensure that lives and jobs are protected and that there will be a gradual easing of the various movement control orders so that there can be better economic health. “This will also ensure smoother business operations especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, ” he said. Mustapa said economic conditions in the current quarter are expected to remain challenging.“Initially we thought that the economy would recover in the fourth quarter. But because of the resurgence of Covid-19 infections and reimposition of the conditional movement order, economic growth has been affected."We hope that news of the vaccine will send good signals across the world and also create optimism in Malaysia, ” he said.Commenting on Budget 2021 being passed, Mustapa said the goal is to work towards economic recovery.“With so many jobs lost earlier in the year, we need to work towards recovery, that people’s lives and jobs are protected. We will also loosen up the fiscal deficit a little bit with the hope that it will spur economic growth.”On the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP), Mustapa said there would be a need to “go back to the drawing board” since there had been massive changes to the global economy as a result of the pandemic. “The pandemic has forced everyone to do a lot of rethinking. What was initially planned has to be relooked. Expectations have to be more realistic in light of Covid-19. We believe that the pandemic has been a blessing in disguise, as it has resulted in more engagements by the government.”Last week, Mustapa said the focus on the 12MP would be on accelerating the development of high-potential industries, such as aerospace, advanced electrical and electronics, halal, the creative industry, biomass and smart farming. “Agriculture has played an important role in Malaysia’s journey and continues to be an important component. We will put in place various initiatives that will ensure this emphasis continues, ” he said.Mustapa acknowledged that a large portion of the Malaysian agriculture sector comprised individuals from the B40 group.“Many of the farmers are from this group and it is urgent that we find ways to modernise this sector. We have to find ways to make this sector more efficient by bringing in more technology."It’s a huge task and it won’t be easy, but we need to create more opportunities for the rural folk and we will do it through agriculture, ” he said.Separately, World Bank Group senior economist Shakira Teh Sharifuddin said containing the Covid-19 outbreak and protecting the most vulnerable remain the topmost priorities over the near term.“Sustained efforts to ensure smart containment through the appropriate mitigation and control measures are crucial to ensure a safe resumption of economic activity. “Lack of certainty regarding the duration and severity of the renewed outbreak and its economic consequences suggest that additional targeted social spending may be required. As health risks diminish and the economy recovers, the policy focus will need to shift towards facilitating necessary economic adjustments to enable new growth in the post-pandemic environment, according to her.“As the economic conditions improve, fiscal policy should refocus on rebuilding buffers, ” she said.
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