GDP forecast intact

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is poised to hit its targeted gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast of between 5.5% and 6.5% this year despite pressures from the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, says Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad (pic).

He said recent economic indicators suggested that growth would be driven by robust external trade and net inflows of foreign investments, as well as more resilient private consumption growth.

“While this bodes well for the country, there may be some economic push backs coming from the Russia-Ukraine war,” he said in his opening speech at the Malaysian Banking and Finance Summit 2022.

“This is because there has been a sharp increase in commodity prices such as wheat, oil and corn. This being said, we remain confident of achieving the government’s projected GDP growth of 5.5% to 6.5% this year,” he added.

Mustapa also said that the reopening of international borders would help aid economic growth.

He also pointed out that the banking industry played a key role in working closely with the government to facilitate the economic recovery in key industries, such as the small and medium enterprises in the aviation, tourism and hospitality sectors which have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, chairman of the advisory council for The Economic Club of Kuala Lumpur, Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, said the Covid-19 pandemic has become a catalyst for a more digitally-connected economy.As such, he emphasised it would be crucial for the banking and finance industry to have a clear digitalisation strategy, moving forward.

“A low touch (point) economy is becoming more prevalent in the banking industry.

“As the digital economy continues to shift consumer and business behaviour, financial institutions must consider embracing new technological applications and migrating to broader digital channels in order to provide better financial services,” Abdul Wahid said in his opening speech.

“Customers will increasingly expect a more frictionless, cost effective and personalised experience.

“A clear digitalisation strategy will ensure financial institutions remain relevant to ensure that transformation efforts will not increase risks, which may threaten operational resilience and operational efficiencies,” he added.

On a related matter, KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific executive vice-chairman Datuk Vaseehar Hassan said at the summit that banks should strive to maintain good service with meaningful and timely human interactions, despite being focused on digitalisation strategies.

“We need customer satisfaction but most banks do not want to see customers these days. Customers will have to go and use the machines.

As a good first step, he said banks need to ensure the machines and automation services are in perfect condition, before moving further into digitalisation.

“It appears that the only time bankers would like to see their customers is when they want to sell some products. But after the product has been sold, nobody wants to meet the customer.

“During the lockdowns, I tried calling some banks but the lines never got answered because they said that there was a long queue. Even after holding on for 15 minutes there was still no answer,” he added.

Meanwhile, OCBC Bank (M) Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Ong Eng Bin said that the physical bank branch would still be in play despite the intense focus on digitisation within the industry, as there is a pressing need to verify or authenticate products and services too.

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