KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20 — Malaysia’s economy accelerated to an annual pace of 6.4 per cent in the fourth quarter, the country’s statistics department said today, beating expectations with the fastest growth since 2008.
The economy grew 5.6 per cent in 2012, the top of the central bank’s target range, compared with 5.1 per cent in 2011.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast fourth-quarter growth would accelerate to 5.5 per cent from 5.2 per cent in the previous three-month period, and had seen full-year growth at 5.3 per cent.
“All sectors registered positive growth,” the Statistics Department said in a statement.
“The services, manufacturing and construction sectors continued to be the key drivers in the supply side.”
Exports, which normally account for about 60 per cent of the Southeast Asian economy, have suffered from the global economic slowdown and euro zone debt crisis, growing a mere 0.6 per cent in 2012 compared to 2011.
But the broader economy has been buoyed by supportive monetary conditions, resilient domestic demand and increased government spending on infrastructure and handouts ahead of a general elections that must be called by the end of April.
Analysts expect investment activity to remain robust in the first half of 2013, but warn of risks the election could bring, especially given Prime Minister Najib Razak’s plans for economic reform -- much of it linked to a US$444 billion (RM1.4 trillion) Economic Transformation Programme that aims to lift Malaysia to developed status by 2020 through public and private investments. — Reuters