The Need for Structural Reforms in Malaysia’s Economy

The Need for Structural Reforms in Malaysia’s Economy

Malaysia’s central bank has highlighted the importance of accelerating structural reforms to ensure long-term sustainable economic strength and to support the ringgit currency. With favourable economic conditions expected in 2024, such as moderate inflation and a projected pick-up in trade activity, the government has a window of opportunity to implement necessary changes. The shift from blanket subsidies to a targeted system to assist low-income groups is a crucial step that needs to be carefully calibrated to minimize its impact on growth and inflation.

Bank Negara Malaysia has maintained its growth forecast for 2024 at between 4% and 5%, with exports expected to rise by 5% after an 8% contraction in the previous year. However, new taxes and changes to utility tariffs aimed at boosting government revenue may have a marginal impact on inflation. Headline inflation is forecasted to be between 2% to 3.5% this year, with potential upside risks due to increased prices from subsidy and price control adjustments, as well as higher input costs resulting from the weakened currency.

The ringgit has shown some recovery since hitting a 26-year low, but it is still down approximately 3.2% against the U.S. dollar this year. Abdul Rasheed Ghaffour, the governor of Bank Negara Malaysia, believes that the currency is undervalued and has taken steps to increase inflows. Encouraging companies to repatriate and convert their foreign investment incomes has resulted in positive responses from forex traders. Additionally, expected rate cuts by the U.S. Federal Reserve this year should help alleviate pressure on the currency. To provide longer-term support for the ringgit, reforms addressing structural issues in the labour market are essential, along with increased investments in decarbonisation and high-value industries.

The call for structural reforms in Malaysia’s economy is crucial to ensure sustained growth and stability. With the opportunity presented by positive macroeconomic prospects in 2024, the government must act swiftly to implement necessary changes. By transitioning to targeted subsidies, addressing inflation concerns, and bolstering the ringgit currency, Malaysia can pave the way for a stronger and more resilient economy in the long term. As the global economic landscape continues to evolve, Malaysia must remain proactive in adapting to new challenges and embracing opportunities for growth and development.


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