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THE economic path since the Covid-19 pandemic started in Malaysia is anything but a smooth one. Our economy suffered as the country went through three lockdowns (albeit with different levels of severity) in 2020, early 2021 and mid-June 2021.
As a result, Malaysia’s economic growth posted a deep contraction of 5.5% year-on-year (y-o-y) in 2020, and a slight recovery of 3.1% y-o-y in 2021.
Only in April 2022, Malaysia began opening its international borders with the country transitioning towards endemicity. The double-dose vaccination rate then had almost reached 80% while the Omicron’s outbreak threat turned out less severe than expected.
This gave hope that Malaysia would realise its full potential performance to reach its pre-Covid level.
Nonetheless, the local economy had begun picking up steam in the first quarter of 2022 leading to expectations of a vibrant 5% y-o-y growth after a 3.6% advancement in the prior three months. It also fell well within our 5% to 5.2% projection range.
In the supply side, the services sector, which contributed 58.2% to the economy, grew a robust 6.5% y-o-y, driven by the transport and storage sub-sector, followed by wholesale and retail and food and beverage.
Upswing in E&E products,
Both the manufacturing sector and exports’ growth were bolstered further, mainly driven by the electrical and electronics (E&E) products upswing and surging palm oil prices also helped support the local economy.
Meanwhile, private consumption was also on the upside due to the easing of pandemic restrictions, while business sentiment improved with private investment posting the first annual growth after two consecutive quarters of declines.
The release of the second quarter of the year’s gross domestic product (GDP) reading yesterday was an interesting event this time as the economy has fully reopened and we can assess if Malaysia’s economy can return to the way it was during the pre-Covid era.
While consensus is looking at 6.9% y-o-y, the actual figure indicated that the local economy in the second quarter expanded 8.9% y-o-y even better than our estimation of 8.4% y-o-y, from 5% y-o-y in the first quarter.
One of the main drivers for the strong performance is the robust net exports which expanded 10.4% y-o-y from 8% y-o-y in the first quarter.
It must be noted that gross exports easily hit 30% y-o-y annual growth rate during the same quarter. It was propelled by the solid performance of E&E products and commodity-based products such as petroleum products and palm-oil based items.
The lingering demand for electronic devices to accommodate work-from-home arrangement had definitely benefited the semiconductor sector globally. Plus, more consumers are shifting their preferences from gas-consuming vehicles towards electrified ones in light of the greater awareness on saving the environment.