Mr & Mrs Malaysia more optimistic in 2017 vs 2014 - CLSA survey

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on September 11, 2017 - September 17, 2017.
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Mr & Mrs Malaysia have spent the past three years in desolation since CLSA’s last update in 2014, but there is an air of optimism in 2017, providing respite from what has been a challenging time for consumers and businesses.

In its new proprietary survey, CLSA focused on consumers and juxtaposed its results with 2014’s findings to provide investors with an accurate gauge of how sentiment is changing.

With better scores across the board in 2017, Malaysians are moving ahead with their lives — or aspire to do so — with better economic expectations. This is despite the fact that they believe politics has turned for the worse, with lingering economic inertia.

Conducted from July 5 to 27, 2017, with the participation of 2,555 families across demographics and geographies, this survey is the latest instalment of CLSA’s long-running Mr & Mrs Asia series of reports. It aims to unravel the numerous factors affecting the livelihood of an average Malaysian family.

CLSA’s 2017 survey uncovered a distressing quandary for the incumbent Barisan Nasional party.

In 2014, the respondents were still irate following the narrowly contested general election held in the previous year (which involved allegations of electoral fraud). To its surprise, the 2017 survey indicated greater ire, with the participants holding an even more negative view on politics — a worsening trend it observed across race, age and income group. The 1MDB scandal undoubtedly plays a part, but equally damaging has been the prime minister’s push for fiscal reform, which has been good for economics but not as favourable for votes. Curiously, CLSA also observed vital bumiputera support for the party deteriorating, despite the fact that they are the main recipients of government cash handouts.

It has been difficult for most of the past three years with Mr & Mrs Malaysia impacted by higher taxes and the abolition of subsidies.

With the population slowly accepting this as the new way of life, conditions are improving, especially as the government is likely to start offering sweeteners in the near future, given the need to regain popularity for the 14th general election, which must be called before August next year. As such, fiscal and monetary policy needs to be accommodative, segueing nicely into a boon for businesses and consumers, whose sentiment has already started to turn for the better.

CLSA’s findings depict improving, albeit cautious, economic confidence across demographics, with Mr & Mrs Malaysia maintaining aspirations of big-ticket purchases. This, coupled with sturdy gross domestic product growth of over 5%, is supported by eagerly anticipated, infrastructure projects, sturdy foreign direct investment from China and a revival of small and medium enterprise-led exports. Thus, the stage is set for a better year ahead, even if politics leaves much to be desired.


Download full report here.