KUALA LUMPUR: By most accounts, Malaysia has made great improvements in the past five years.
The findings of major international economic, social and political surveys appear to bear this out.
From confidence to foreign direct investments and the happiness index, these surveys show that theGovernment Transformation Programme has been close to succeeding in its objective of turning Malaysia into a developed nation with a high-income society.
“Malaysia will be a great place to be in the global economy in 2013”. This endorsement from Osman Morad, Standard Chartered's managing director, is not an isolated view.
According to International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, Osman's views were shared by the business community, analysts, fund managers, international and multinational institutions.
“These foreign experts have given their thumbs up to the country's continued improvement despite the criticisms from certain quarters,” said Mustapa in an interview.
The minister said while the surveys were mostly based on perception, the “real economic figures” have also confirmed the findings of these studies.
The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Asian Development Bank and the OECD, among others, have all given Malaysia's economic scenario a positive and favourable outlook.
IMF deputy division chief of Asia and Pacific department, Dr Rodrigo Cubero, said Malaysia's GDP this year should be strong.
The Fund sees “strength in domestic demand and investments, and expect them to remain robust in Malaysia entering 2013”.
An example of the improvement in international standing is the FDI Confidence Index by AT Kearney FDI where in 2007 Malaysia stood at 16th place and even fell to as low as 21st in 2010.
Last year, however saw an improvement to number 10.
The same trends were indicated in the other surveys but there were some, where there was a dip - mostly due to the other countries improving.
A case in point was the Global Competitive Index that saw Malaysia going down four places from 21 (in 2011) to 25 (2012).
Mustapa said generally Malaysia had done well despite the unfavourable external environment because the growth was domestic driven.
“The domestic driven growth did not happen overnight. It is the result of a fundamental shift towards internal growth rebalancing.
“Even in 2013, domestic consumption and investment will continue to be resilient through support of various government initiatives and policies,” he added.
According to Grant Thornton International Business Report, 52% of Malaysian businesses expected higher revenues this year with 42% looking to invest in plant and machinery.
As a measure of the country's continued growth, Malaysia registered a GDP growth of 5.3% in the first three quarters of last year compared to an average of 1.4% for Singapore. Only Indonesia, China and India are expected to do better.
In the past three years, Malaysia grew at an average of 5.8%
Mustapa pointed out that foreign direct investments were also up from RM38.8bil in 2009 to RM66.3bil in 2011. The 2012 figure is also expected to be robust,
“International trade has breached the trillion ringgit mark and has recorded a surplus for 14 consecutive years,” he said.
“Foreign reserves, as of November, remain healthy at US$139.1bil which is sufficient for 9.3 months of retained imports and is 4.2 times short-term external debt,” he added.
“In other words the country is not going broke.”