Press Release 2018

UOB Malaysia: Malaysia's economy to remain resilient in 2019 despite expectations for moderating global growth

Higher private consumption levels and inclusive government spending to support the domestic economy

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 22 November 2018 - United Overseas Bank (Malaysia) Bhd (UOB Malaysia) remains positive on Malaysia's economic outlook for 2019, despite expectations for greater external risks arising from global trade disputes and heightened market volatility.

UMs Julia Goh, Senior Economist at UOB Malaysia, said intensifying trade disputes and policy uncertainty may result in slower global growth in 2019. The ongoing US-China trade tensions and the quantum of US Federal Reserve interest rate rises will continue to have an impact on global growth and market volatility.

"There are no signs of US-China trade tensions easing. Further protectionist trade policies will undoubtedly be negative for global trade, leading to greater risks for export-driven Asian economies, including Malaysia, amid weaker growth prospects and heightened volatility in financial markets. Given these developments, we expect the impact of broadening trade measures resulting from the trade tensions will be felt more materially in 2019."

Ms Goh said that although Malaysia is not immune to the global headwinds, its economy will find support from robust domestic private consumption and investments.

"The recent 2019 Malaysia Budget announcement delivered some positive fiscal measures to reinforce consumer spending, to promote inclusiveness and to boost growth. Private consumption is expected to be supported by higher minimum wages, targeted cash aid and petrol subsidies. The repayment of tax refunds is also likely to improve cash flows for the private sector and to encourage domestic spending.

"In addition, the government is placing emphasis on advancing high value-added sectors such as technology-intensive industries, accelerating the digital transformation of the manufacturing sector through its Industry 4.0 initiative1, and on targeted infrastructure spending. These are right steps to ensure that Malaysia stays competitive in the region and across the world. We project real Gross Domestic Product to expand 4.8 per cent in 2018 and 2019," Ms Goh said.

Over the long term, Malaysia's economy stands to benefit from the government's ongoing efforts to improve transparency and accountability, which will strengthen investor confidence over time. The country is also likely to benefit from regional and multilateral trade initiatives that will boost development of, trade with and investment in the country and across ASEAN. These strategies will help enhance the country's resilience against risk from rising global trade protectionism. Over the medium term, UOB Malaysia expects the economy to continue on its growth path given its strong fundamentals and ongoing policy reforms to stimulate growth.

The Bank expects the Ringgit to move in tandem with other Asian currencies amid the volatile external environment and escalating US-China trade conflict. However, Malaysia's strong fundamentals and move towards better governance and transparency are likely to provide underlying support for the Ringgit and will help to moderate the currency's volatility.

Ms Goh said, "Despite the ongoing US Federal Reserve interest rate increases lifting the US dollar and the volatility in global oil prices, we expect pressure on the Ringgit to materialise at a gradual pace. The government's efforts to build a more transparent government, the economy's underlying strengths, steady economic growth, low unemployment and a surplus current account, will help support the Ringgit."

1 The National Policy on Industry 4.0, also known as Industry4WRD is a four-pronged strategy to boost Malaysia's manufacturing sector via higher productivity, contribution, innovation and more high-skilled workers.

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