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February 26, 2009

Malaysia: Govt plans extra spending to save jobs

Malaysia's government aims to revive the economy with a second round of extra spending to be announced on March 10 and will seek to prevent layoffs in the economic downturn.

"The package ... will focus on measures facilitating commerce and job preservation," Reuters quoted Prime Minster Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as telling a conference on Wednesday.

Abdullah, who will leave office at the end of March, did not comment on the size of the economic package. His replacement Najib Razak, who is currently finance minister and deputy prime minister, has said it would be bigger than the 7 billion Malaysian ringgit ($1.91 billion) fiscal boost announced last year.

"It may not be possible to avoid hardship or difficulty entirely but we will certainly strive to avert protracted unemployment and suffering," Abdullah said.

Official unemployment data stands at 3.1 percent, although a minister said this month that 15,000 jobs were lost in January alone as the country succumbed to the worsening global downturn.

Malaysia is still forecasting 3.5 percent economic growth this year, but is expected to lower its estimate. Citibank this week cut its outlook, predicting the economy would shrink by 1.5 percent; if true, Malaysia would in 2009 fall its first recession in eight years.

Malaysia reported a 14.9 percent year-on-year drop in exports in December as recessions in major markets prompted consumers and companies to cut back spending on Asian goods.
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