How GDP growth can top expectations


  • Business
  • Saturday, 02 Jan 2016

It can be done. All we need is positive thinking and a sense of humour

JUST about everybody reckons that 2016 will be tougher than last year. Even the Government thinks so. It is expecting the economy to grow by 4% to 5% this year, a notch lower than the 4.5 – 5.5% expansion projected for 2015.

As always, the outlook is largely based on how the world economy is likely to fare, and most people believe it will continue to be only so-so this year.

“Downside risks to global growth remain high arising from the moderating growth momentum in a number of major economies, uncertainty surrounding energy and commodity prices, and possible disorderly market conditions arising from policy shifts in major economies,” said Bank Negara in November.

On a personal level, many of us are close to curling into foetal position, convinced that consumers, employees and business owners are in for a beating over the coming months due to price hikes and soft markets.

But we’re being excessively pessimistic and dismissive. Our fears tend to be overblown.

The important thing is if we draw inspiration and motivation from the right places, we can perform better in all areas of life, and perhaps the Malaysian economy can even expand faster than anticipated.

Here are a few of example of how we can make that happen:

> Let’s get entrepreneurial

Some of us worry about job security this year and whether fresh graduates will find it hard to get hired.

But the thing is, we’ve had full employment – the Government deems anything below 4% as full employment – for many years already.

Malaysia’s unemployment rate in October was 3.1% and it’s expected to be 2.9% for the whole of 2015. The Government targets a 2.8% unemployment rate by 2020.

But imagine what more can be achieved if we heed the advice of Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan?

A lot of people were rubbed the wrong way when he tweeted recently that he had three jobs (member of Parliament, deputy minister and Umno information chief) and that many Malaysians were already having two jobs, adding that they were working hard to earn halal income.

Perhaps he would have come across more positively if he had differentiated between jobs and positions, and if he had been clearer in making his actual point – that people should go into e-commerce to cope with the rising cost of living.

Imagine how much more we could contribute to the GDP if we became online businessmen instead of the social media fanatics that many of us are.

That brings us to the next factor...

> Let’s go faster

How can we embrace e-commerce in a big way if we’re unwilling to pay for speedier Internet access?

In September, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak lamented in his blog that 71% of Malaysian Internet users “prefer” the slower Streamyx broadband service that offers speeds of between 384 Kbps to 1 Mbps, although higher broadband speeds are available.

Of course, it’s not so much a matter of preference as it is about what people feel they can pay. And Salleh touched on this as well in the blog.

“In Malaysia, you can even choose the 20 Mbps package if you want higher speed Internet service. However, most Malaysians would not opt for this and would still prefer the cheaper and slower speed Internet,” he wrote.

“So in the end it all boils down to affordability and Malaysia offers affordable Internet to those who want it and higher-speed Internet to whom money is not a problem.”

Yup, that’s life. You get what you pay for. However, it’s somewhat comforting when he added that Malaysia’s focus was speed, coverage and affordability of Internet access.

But while the Government sorts out these aspects, we should take the cue from Ahmad and Salleh.

Upgrade our Internet packages – hey, you’ve got spend money to earn money – and set up online businesses.

And speaking of focus...

> Let’s focus on what makes good bankers

The financial sector is a pillar of any economy, and the quality of leaders in the sector can make or break.

For Malaysia to prosper, we need our bankers to be world-class, and one person who seems to know a thing or two about this is Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

In September, he made several statements via Twitter on what bankers should or shouldn’t do.

Respected bankers, according to Abdul Rahman, have great restraint in demeanour and conduct. In their postings on social media, they refrain from mixing serious economic views with light pursuits such as jogging and eating out.

He also insists that respected bankers are composed and calm. They shouldn’t be trigger-happy people who shoot from the hip.

“However politically tempting it is, a banker must refrain from making statements which only add to anxiety of the market. That’s paramount,” he adds.

He points out that it’s okay for a banker to express his views, but cautions that overdoing it “will lead to more problems, which was why he complained in the first place”.

> Let’s think outside the box

Innovation and creativity is instrumental in raising productivity and enhancing competitiveness.

The Malaysia Islamic Economic Development Foundation (better known by its Malay acronym, YaPEIM) has a lesson for us on the power of unconventional thinking.

The foundation was established by the Government in 1976 and its mission statement is “to uplift and develop the ummah through a culture of amal jariah (beneficence)”.

Therefore, there was much puzzlement when it came out recently that it had bought a golf simulator.

In response, YaPEIM issued a media statement explaining that the acquisition was part of its efforts to go into business in order to fund its socioeconomic programmes.

Subsequently, CEO Datuk Abibullah Samsudin said the golf simulator was now in an in-house recreational centre at YaPEIM’s building in Petaling Jaya, which would be upgraded into a four-star hotel.

He added that the idea was to encourage the community to take up sports, including golf. The simulator’s advantage was that it could be used even during bad weather.

And the best part is that the foundation used its business income to buy the equipment.

“We did not use the charitable contributions as we carry out business and we have our own financial resources which we use to expand our business,” he told reporter.

And speaking of charitable contributions...

> Let’s donate more

A donation is a gift that keeps on giving, especially if tied to the concept of paying it forward.

In fact, you can argue that donations too have a multiplier effect on the economy. Recipients of donations spend the money, thus increasing national income, which in turn encourages further donations. It’s a classic example of kindness begetting kindness.

And on and on it goes, until the total increase in the national income resulting from all the donations is larger than the original donation.

Executive editor Errol Oh remembers 2015 as the year of outrageous statements.

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