Malaysia pared its economic growth target and abandoned a plan to balance its budget by 2020 as it struggles to raise revenue and cut spending.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is targeting average gross domestic product expansion of 4.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent in 2018 to 2020, according to his mid-term review of the 11th Malaysia Plan. That compared with the five to six per cent target for the 2016-2020 road map set by the previous administration under Najib Razak. The budget deficit, which was set to be balanced in two years, is now estimated to widen to three per cent of GDP.
“Cost-saving measures for 2018 to 2020 could hurt economic growth, but this is only temporary,” Mahathir said in parliament as he tabled the revised plan on Thursday. “I am confident that steps to combat leakages and development projects will contribute to economic growth and the people’s well-being.”
Mahathir is seeking to rein in the country’s more than MYR 1 trillion ($241 billion) of debt and liabilities, worsened by state guarantees on bonds issued by troubled fund 1MDB as well as billions of ringgit of potentially missing tax refunds.