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GEORGE TOWN — Fitch Solutions has warned of a stagnant economy for the rest of 2021 after revising its gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast for Malaysia in 2021 to zero per cent from 4.9 per cent.rr
The research unit of Fitch Ratings revised the forecast after the release of real GDP figures for the second quarter of 2021 which contracted by 2 per cent (quarter on quarter or q-o-q) and grew by 16.1 per cent (year on year or y-o-y).rr
While Malaysia’s real GDP expanded by 16.1 per cent y-o-y in the second quarter of 2021, the true picture of the economy is best reflected by the negative two per cent (q-o-q) growth rate, it said in a statement today.rr
It attributed the contraction to increasing stringent lockdowns that were implemented in Q2 this year that culminated in a national total lockdown that continued to August 13.rr
Fitch Solutions pointed out that the Department of Statistics had also noted a GDP contraction of 4.4 per cent y-o-y in June due to the lockdown.rr
It said real GDP growth figures fell far below the research unit’s previous expectations, thus compounding its view that the third wave of Covid-19 infections will disrupt the country’s economic recovery even more than expected.rr
“All segments of the economy from an expenditure perspective except government consumption are likely to remain stagnant or even contract slightly from 2020 levels,” Fitch Solutions said in a statement today.rr
Based on its calculations, the research unit finds that private consumption contracted by 11.5 per cent q-o-q, compared to the five-year average q-o-q growth rate of 2.4 per cent pre-pandemic for the second quarter.rr
“This demonstrates the severe impact the third wave of infections has had on the key growth engine of the economy — private consumption accounts for around 70 per cent of GDP,” it said.rr
It also dismissed any prospect of a late economic surge in 2021 due to the vaccination rate of the country where herd immunity might not be achieved before the end of the year.rr
“We note further downside risks to our forecast given the high level of political risk since the beginning of H2 21 and the risk that the outbreak could still worsen over the coming months, which could further affect the economy’s performance,” it said, referring to the second half of 2021.rr
The research unit is of the view that the nationwide lockdown is likely to last for most of what remains of the second half of 2021 and that localised lockdowns could even extend into 2022.rr
“That is because Malaysia is unlikely to achieve herd immunity before the end of the year despite a recent surge in the rate with which it is vaccinating its population,” it said.rr
It also warned of a possible slowdown in vaccination rate after the surge in June due to a variety of factors including vaccine hesitancy, similar to what happened in other countries such as the United States and Singapore.