Malaysia’s economy to grow 4.8% in 2020, PM Mahathir says

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s economy is expected expand by 4.8% this year, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday, maintaining the government’s forecast as it braces for a potential global slowdown tied to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Mahathir said the government expects the economy to improve on the 4.7% growth projected for 2019 “despite challenging times”. He did not elaborate.

“With good fiscal discipline, our budget deficit will narrow to 3.2% this year. We are committed to provide a stable business environment for investors. We will be business friendly,” he said in a speech at a business conference.

Malaysia’s finance ministry has floated a stimulus package to cushion the potential hit to the economy from the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, which has so far killed over 900 people infected more than 40,000 worldwide.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said on Friday that his ministry is currently seeking feedback from other ministries and will present the stimulus plan to cabinet once completed.

“It (the virus outbreak) will definitely have an effect, but we need to look at it over the entire year,” Lim said.

Malaysia has so far confirmed 18 cases of coronavirus infections. The health ministry on Monday confirmed the latest case, a 31-year-old Malaysian male based in Macau, with a history of traveling to mainland China before returning to Malaysia on Feb. 1.

The patient is currently being treated at the Sungai Buloh Hospital near Kuala Lumpur.

(This story corrects GDP figure to 4.8% (not 4.5%) in headline following official clarification and writes through first two paragraphs)

(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Kim Coghill and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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