There is a 50% chance Malaysia will fall into a “full-blown” recession this year, said Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) executive director Prof Datuk Mohamed Ariff Abdul Kareem.
“Technical recession is almost certain. The 1.3% (real gross domestic product (GDP) forecast in January) is considered optimistic. In fact, I think the best-case scenario will be 0.5% growth this year.
“We forecast the first half year will have negative growth but hopefully the second half will show some positive figure, which will give us 0.5% growth,” he said, adding that MIER would review again the GDP as a lot of development has taken place since the last forecast. Speaking after a seminar organised by Rahim & Co, Ariff said Malaysia’s economy might remain sluggish for a long time.
“My fear is that we may be stuck there for sometime. Contraction may not be sharp but long,” he said, adding that it could take three years (2012) before the local economy returned to normalcy.
He expected the fiscal deficit to increase to more than 6% of GDP if the second stimulus package was RM30bil, which is about 4% of GDP. Financing the deficit budget was not a problem as there was a lot of liquidity in the local financial market, which funds 93% of the government deficit.
However, he said it was “not about how much you spend, it is how you spend that matters.”
“It is about confidence and confidence depends on transparency. People want to know where the money comes from and where it’s going. Unfortunately, transparency is low in Malaysia.
“A fiscal package may only cushion impact but cannot neutralise it. But without any stimulus package, it will be worse,” he said. Meanwhile, Ariff projected the ringgit would take at least four years to reach 2.8 against the US dollar, a level which he considered equilibrium.
He said the greenback continued to be artificially strong now because central banks worldwide were continuing to fund the US deficit, and thus increasing the demand for the dollar.
In the meantime, the ringgit would remain weak and volatile, but unlikely to cross 3.8 against the dollar, Ariff said.
Malaysia may fall into recession (Najib said Malaysia will not be hit hard ??)