Skyline of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysia in the year ahead – From our Malaysia Director

By Kristina Fong, Malaysia Director

‘As one door closes, another opens’ – a very apt proverb for the close of a very challenging year, and the start of the ECN’s increased commitment to the Kuala Lumpur network. As the new (and first) Network Director specifically for Kuala Lumpur, I look forward to enhancing the ECN’s engagement with our members and gaining better insight into your business needs. With ECN now with an ongoing physical presence in the city, we hope to craft even more relevant editorial content to help your business navigate through the future economic and industrial landscape. 

I was delighted to kick-start our enhanced commitment to ECN KL last week with the very apt topic of Malaysia’s economic outlook – beyond the headline numbers. During this session, I had the opportunity to delve into key economic trends that have emerged from the pandemic;  these included a look into diverging sector performance performance and the manner in which the mobility restrictions, essential to stemming the rapid spread of the infection, have also impacted the pace of recovery momentum. During the panel session with Dr Yeah Kim Leng (Sunway University) and Mr Adib Zalkapli (BowerGroupAsia), we had a very thought-provoking discussion on the public policy response so far and whether it has had enough impact. Additionally, we also analysed the extent to which heightened political uncertainties have influenced economic performance and policy direction. Dr Yeah felt that the recent loosening of mobility restrictions was a step in the right direction to stimulate demand, buoyed by the slew of stimulus measures already implemented. This optimistic view was further supported by Adib’s expectation that challenges to leadership at the Federal Government level may not emerge again until the tabling of Budget 2022 next year. This would clear the way for much-needed economic policies to be prioritised.

There were also some insightful questions coming from our members during the event. A key focus was on the state of big infra and how that may or may not change the course of Malaysia’s economic growth trajectory. Although potentially a key driving force to recovery providing significant upside potential to our growth outlook, the pace of implementation still weighs on the extent of the impact it will bring in the coming year. Accelerated implementation through a more coordinated policy approach and perhaps more innovative ways of financing these projects with a larger private sector component, due to the current fiscal constraints, may provide better opportunities for more expedient implementation.

Another key concern amongst the members was the extent to which consumer confidence could be revived without the availability of a vaccine to the masses for effective herd immunity levels. This remains a challenge on various fronts as tourism activities are still largely limited, discretionary spending has been put on the back-burner and fear of the virus has left city centres less vibrant with most workers choosing to still Work From Home. Our panelists discussed the importance of having a mix of policy responses from both the fiscal and monetary side to spur on spending activities in these tough times.

We are very excited to have Tom Standage, Editor of The World In 2021, present his compilation of global trends and predictions for the coming year at our event this week on the 15th of Dec. Spanning a broad range of topics away from pure business and economics, his unique perspectives will also touch on areas of technology, sports, media and arts and culture. He will also be joined by Joy Ajlouny, Co-Founder of companies, Fetchr and Bonfaire, Steen Jakobsen, Chief Investment Officer of Saxo Bank and Philip McKenzie, cultural anthropologist. So, it will be a diverse, thought-provoking look at the year ahead.