Malaysia’s economy hit hard by coronavirus, even before lockdown – dpa international


Supermarket shelves being stocked during Malaysia's lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

Supermarket shelves being stocked during Malaysia’s lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s economy contracted by 2 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 compared with the final quarter of 2019, according to official data released on Wednesday.

The decline was attributed to the impact of the coranavirus pandemic, which spread from China, Malaysia’s biggest trade partner, in late 2019 and prompted South-East Asia’s third-largest economy to impose a strict lockdown on March 18.

“Our exports to China have (dropped sharply) since the beginning January 2020,” said Mohd Uzir Mahidin, chief statistician at Department of Statistics, adding that the downturn has also affected the tourism industry.

Malaysia’s economy grew between 4.5 per cent and 7.4 per cent a year from 2010 onwards, according to World Bank data.

The quarterly decline announced on Wednesday brought year-on-year growth down to 0.7 per cent, the lowest since the 2008-9 global financial crisis.

A declining number of new coronavirus cases – as well as concerns about the economy – prompted the government to end Malaysia’s lockdown on May 4, though some restrictions remain in place.

Of Malaysia’s 6,779 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 5,281 have recovered. More than 100 people have died in the country after contracting the disease.

The economy and the government’s pandemic response would likely have been debated in parliament during a one-day sitting scheduled for May 18.

However, on Wednesday, the house speaker said the session would be limited to an address by the king, after former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad earlier proposed a no-confidence vote in incumbent Muhyiddin Yassin, a former ally.

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