2021 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for Malaysia

Abstract

2021 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for Malaysia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington, DCMarch 17, 2021: The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation1 with Malaysia.

Malaysia’s economy entered the pandemic from a strong position but has nevertheless been hit very hard. GDP declined by an estimated 6 percent in 2020 as private investment and consumption, which had been the main drivers of growth in recent years, decelerated sharply. Unemployment reached a historic high in May 2020, and inflation has been subdued. The global risk-off episode in March 2020 triggered capital outflows from EMs such as Malaysia, but a swift and large global policy response helped stabilize markets, and inflows resumed starting late April. In Malaysia, a strong fiscal, monetary and financial policy response has helped cushion the economic shock from the pandemic and ensure financial stability. The current account registered a surplus due to both increased pandemic-related external demand for health-related and electronic equipment and weak imports.

The Malaysian economy is set to recover in 2021, with growth projected at 6.5 percent, driven by a strong recovery in manufacturing and construction. The recovery is expected to be uneven across sectors, resting on an improvement in both domestic and external demand. Inflation would recover to 2 percent and the current account surplus is on course to decline as demand for pandemic-related products starts receding and the rebound in domestic demand raises imports.

An intensification of the pandemic and materialization of other risks could derail the recovery. A protracted spread of the virus could prompt the authorities to tighten health and physical distancing measures, with negative impact on growth. Also on the downside, Malaysia’s open economy is vulnerable to escalating trade tensions and weaker-than-expected growth in trading partners. Domestic policy uncertainty could also dampen business confidence and investment, with negative impact on economy activity. On the upside, faster-than expected deployment of COVID-19 vaccines could raise growth.

Executive Board Assessment2

Executive Directors welcomed the Malaysian authorities’ well-coordinated policy response to the pandemic which, together with sizable buffers, has helped mitigate the macro-financial impact of the crisis. Directors observed that a strong recovery in 2021 remains subject to considerable downside risks and noted that macroeconomic policies should remain supportive until the recovery is fully entrenched.

Directors welcomed the authorities’ commitment to fiscal reform and medium-term consolidation. They noted that spending rationalization and revenue-increasing measures will be necessary to help rebuild fiscal buffers once t he recovery is fully cemented. Directors urged the authorities to initiate preparations for such measures and noted that adoption of the Fiscal Responsibility Act would help better anchor public finances. They also encouraged the authorities to improve efficiency and coverage of the social protection system.

Directors supported the accommodative monetary policy stance and welcomed Malaysia’s continued efforts to deepen domestic FX markets through expanded availability of hedging instruments and other initiatives. They encouraged the authorities to continue allowing the exchange rate to cushion shocks to the economy. Some Directors emphasized that existing capital flow measures should be phased out over time with due regard to market conditions.

Directors agreed that the banking system remains sound. Nevertheless, they encouraged the supervisory authorities to remain alert to deterioration in banks’ asset quality in the near term and called for close monitoring of the high level of household debt as loan moratoria are phased out. Directors welcomed the authorities’ enhancements to the debt resolution framework and their focus on inclusion and climate change in the context of financial-structural reforms.

Directors welcomed the authorities’ commitment to the structural reform agenda and its focus on the gaps highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis, including upgrading the digital infrastructure and greening the economy. They took note of the staff’s assessment that Malaysia’s external position is stronger than warranted by economic fundamentals and desirable policies. Directors called for policies to strengthen social safety nets and encourage private investment and productivity growth, which would also help with external rebalancing. Directors emphasized the need for further progress on governance reforms. They welcomed the authorities’ commitment to transparency, including regarding the COVID-19 related spending, and encouraged them to follow through on the initiatives outlined in the National Anti- Corruption Plan. Directors cautioned that reforms delayed by the pandemic and the change in government should resume, including inter alia legislative initiatives underpinning governance reforms.

Malaysia: Selected Economic and Financial Indicators, 2016–25

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Sources: Data provided by the authorities; CEIC Data Co. Ltd.; World Bank; UNESCO; and IMF, Integrated Monetary Database and staff estimates.

Based on data provided by the authorities except for 2015 data which is estimated using splicing methodology by IMF.

Cash basis. The authorities plan to adopt accrual basis by 2021. For 2019, overall and primary balance includes the payment of outstanding tax refund (arrears) amounting to RM37 billion.

Tax refunds in 2019 are allocated for payment of outstanding tax refunds.

Consolidated public sector includes general government and nonfinancial public enterprises (NFPEs). General government includes federal government, state and local governments, and statutory bodies.

Based on data provided by the authorities but follows compilation methodology used in IMF's Integrated Monetary Database. Credit to private sector in 2018 onwards includes data for a newly licensed commercial bank from April 2018. The impact of this bank is excluded in the calculation of credit gap.

IMF staff estimates. U.S. dollar values are estimated using official data published in national currency.

Based on a broader measure of liquidity. Credit gap is estimated on quarterly data from 2000, using one-sided Hodrick-Prescott filter with a large parameter.

Revisions in historical data reflect the change in base year for nominal GDP (from 2010=100 to 2015=100).

The decrease in short-term debt by remaining maturity in 2017 was partly due to the implementation of an improved data compilation system that corrected previous overestimation.

Includes receipts under the primary income account.

1

Under Article IV of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country’s economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board.

2

At the conclusion of the discussion, the Managing Director, as Chairman of the Board, summarizes the views of Executive Directors , and this summary is transmitted to the country’s authorities. An explanation of any qualifiers used in summings up can be found here: http://www.IMF.org/external/np/sec/misc/qualifiers.htm.