MALAYSIA will grow faster next year than the 4.5% expected this year, said Second Finance Minister Datuk Dr Jamaludin Jarjis. This is in view of the more optimistic gross domestic product (GDP) growth outlook for the Asian region this year of between 4.3% and 4.9% by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which exceeded original projections.
The government’s forecast growth of 4.5% for this year, meanwhile, “will be achieved”, he said, echoing Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s recent statements that Malaysia’s growth rate was on track.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Asean finance ministers’ meeting in Manila yesterday, Jamaludin, who heads the Malaysian delegation, said the positive ADB growth forecast for the region, despite the impact of the Iraq war and outbreak of SARS, augur well for the performance of Malaysia’s economy next year.
“I am very pleased to hear from the ADB that Asia’s economies are doing better than projected. The outlook is very upbeat, and we will take note of this bullish forecast in our (2004) budget on Sept 12,” he said.
Jamaludin said that most countries in the region were either performing well or had made a speedy recovery from the SARS outbreak. Good signals were coming out from across the region, he added.
Japan’s index of leading indicators had improved enormously over the past few months, China had recovered from the SARS outbreak to perform better than expected, and South Korea, too, was doing well, he said.
He added that the impact of positive external factors would contribute to the already more buoyant outlook for the Malaysian domestic markets.
“We will have better growth next year, and the prime minister will be announcing the forecast on Sept 12,” he said.
At a press conference earlier, Philippine Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho, on behalf of the Asean ministers, said the region had registered “solid growth” of 4.4% last year versus 3.2% in 2001. GDP growth continued at an average 4.4% during the first quarter 2003.
“Notwithstanding the SARS outbreak that affected the second-quarter economic performance, the outlook is expected to be more robust for the rest of the year,” he added.
Growth in the region had continued to be supported by private investment and revival in investment, underpinned by accommodative monetary policy and fiscal stimulus, intra-regional trade, and trade with East Asia, Camacho said.
Trade being crucial for the region, customs procedures across Asean would be simplified and standardised. A protocol governing the implementation of the Asean Harmonised Tariff Nomenclature was signed yesterday by the ministers from the 10-nation grouping, committing their countries to uniformity in classifying traded goods and streamlining of customs processes.
Camacho said the protocol paved the way for further growth in regional trade and investment.
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