Friday, November 16, 2012

IMF Optimistic About Malaysia's Economy

Malaysia will be able to sustain its growth level with its gradual shift from a trade-based economy to a consumption-led one, says the International Monetary Fund
KUALA LUMPUR: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) yesterday placed high confidence in Malaysia's economy, saying that the country will be able to sustain its growth level with its gradual shift from a trade-based economy to a consumption-led one.

Its managing director Christine Lagarde was, however, concerned that despite Malaysia's strong initial public offering performance, foreign direct investment levels have not gone back to pre-crisis levels.

The "reasonably" high level of debt-to-gross domestic product ratio needs to be addressed, she said at a media briefing here yesterday.

The IMF chief is in Malaysia as part of her three-nation Asian tour which will also take her to the Philippines and Cambodia.

In her speech at a global public lecture hosted by the Malaysian Economic Association, Lagarde said although Malaysia has held up well so far with growth above 4.5 per cent, it remains in risky territory as with other Asian economies.

Growth will pick up again and Asia will retain its position as a growth leader, expanding two percentage points faster than the world average next year.

She also spoke about how the West could learn from Asia's own brush with the crisis in the 1990s, which has helped make the region's economic foundations safer, sounder and more resilient.

The IMF chief stressed on the need for American and European policy makers to act amid continued severe challenges faced by the advanced economies.

Although Asia has made strides in trade integration, it is still lagging in financial integration as reflected by the 90 per cent of Asean cross-border portfolio investment flows with advanced economies outside Asia, she said.

Greater regional financial integration can boost domestic demand, making it easier for small businesses in countries like Malaysia to gain access to credit and reduce inequality, she added.

Asia has a unique opportunity to get financial integration right and avoid the missteps and excesses of the West.

Lagarde also discounted the possibility of a global recession next year, saying the economy will grow by at least 3.6 per cent as policy makers continue to act.

When asked on Greece at the media briefing, she said a "real fix", not a "quick fix", was needed to help the country return to economic stability and enable it to re-access markets as soon as possible.

The tone of IMF towards Malaysia was one of appreciation yesterday as the fund acknowledged the country's leading role in building a financial firewall to boost its firepower for the 188-member body by US$461 billion, bringing the total lending power to over US$1 trillion.

She also praised Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, saying that her superior economic management has ensured that Malaysia is well protected and able to handle capital flows without being overwhelmed.

The overwhelming turnout was clearly impressed with Lagarde and her clear message of wanting the fund to have a more "engaging" presence in Asia.

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