Malaysia

Recession risk high and rising, says RHB

By Lee Wei Lian
October 12, 2011

Research houses have differed with the growth figure tabled by Najib (left) in his Budget, which has been called “too high”. — File picResearch houses have differed with the growth figure tabled by Najib (left) in his Budget, which has been called “too high”. — File picKUALA LUMPUR, Oct 12 — Malaysia’s economic growth could slow to just 3.6 per cent next year from a projected 4.3 per cent this year due to the increasing risk of a double dip global recession, said the RHB Research Institute.

The RHB unit’s growth projection issued yesterday is significantly lower than Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s forecast of five to six per cent growth for 2012 in his proposed RM232 billion Budget 2012 tabled last Friday.

The research house said that the risk of a double-dip global recession is high and rising as both the US and Europe cannot withstand another shock although a recession could be averted if leaders in both continents act fast enough to contain the debt crises and avert a contagion that could lead to a complete meltdown in confidence.

It also expected businesses to cut spending in view of rising uncertainties although some growth will come from the implementation of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).

Private investment growth is projected to soften further to 4.6 per cent in 2012, after slowing to an estimated 5.7 per cent for 2011, the report added.

Exports, meanwhile, are expected to grow at just 1.1 per cent compared to 3.4 per cent this year due to dampened foreign demand for electronics and electrical items.

Domestic demand is projected to grow at a slower pace of 5.1 per cent in 2012, compared with an estimated 5.8 per cent for 2011.

RHB said, however, that consumer spending is expected to remain “reasonably resilient” and grow at around 5.3 per cent in 2012, compared with 6.0 per cent for 2011, given high savings, rising consumerism and an increase in salary.

Most research houses have lowered their 2012 growth projections for Malaysia despite Najib’s optimism in the Budget proposals, which critics have say is primed for the next general election that must be called by early 2013.

Bank of America Global Research estimated Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) to grow at 4.2 per cent in 2012 while Maybank Investment Bank said it expected Malaysia’s GDP to expand at between 3.5-4 per cent. CIMB Investment Bank forecast a GDP growth of 3.8 per cent next year.

In his Budget 2012 proposals, Najib promised cash handouts, more money for civil servants, schools and a fund for “high-impact development” projects as part of measures to put money in the pockets of the majority of Malaysians who live in the lower income group.

The government will offer a one-off RM500 cash handout to households with a monthly income of less than RM3,000, a RM100 cash aid and RM200 book vouchers for students from the Budget, which is forecast to only have a 4.7 per cent fiscal deficit, down from the projected 5.4 per cent this year.

Authorities will trim development spending and maintain subsidies to keep prices down, while banking on low borrowing costs and a healthy job market to keep economic growth on an even keel next year.

The 2012 Budget funds for subsidies is expected to total RM33.2 billion