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PETALING JAYA: Private consumption, the driver of the economy, is forecast to grow by 7% to 9% this year despite the risks of a high cost of living fuelled by inflationary pressure.

Although there are underlying risks which could hamper private consumption or consumer spending, economists expect the target to be met.

For 2021, private consumption grew by 1.9% and 5.5% year on year (y-o-y) in the first quarter (1Q22), recording the best reading since 2Q21. For 4Q21, it grew by 3.7% y-o-y.

Bank Islam (M) Bhd chief economist Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid projected consumer spending to revert to its growth trend of 7% for this year.

He said this was premised on the reopening of the economy, as well as improvement in the labour market.

“The relaxation of human mobility is instrumental in driving growth this year. Cash transfer programmes, Employees Provident Fund withdrawal facilities and income growth will provide the right eco- system for consumers to spend more this year.

“The reopening of borders has helped steer the economy. Nonetheless, the disruption in the supply side such as the difficulty in pro- curing raw materials and labour could com- promise the strength of the economic recov- ery.

“Therefore, it is important to identify the pressure points in order for the government to prescribe the right stabilisation policies,” he told StarBiz.

Afzanizam also said policies should be nim- ble due to the economy being fluid and evolv- ing,

Due diligence has to be robust before enact- ing any reforms, he said, noting that it has to be done tactfully and that the right communi- cation strategy is important to gain a buy-in from the public.

According to AmBank Group chief econo- mist Anthony Dass, private consumption is expected to expand by 9% this year. He said household spending would primar- ily be supported by the recovery in income and employment.

The migration to endemicity with the reo- pening of borders would provide a lift to household spending.

Dass, who is also a member of the Economic Action Council Secretariat, said the rise in online spending since the onset of the pan- demic was expected to continue and spur private consumption.

“At the same time, we expect some pent-up demand for selected discretionary items that were previously restricted due to the imposi- tion of containment measures.

“Amongst them are discretionary spending at restaurants, hotels and recreational activi- ties.

“Continued targeted policy measures, par- ticularly for the vulnerable households such as Bantuan Keluarga Malaysia and targeted loan repayment assistance, coupled with the country’s strong exports and the hike in the minimum wage to RM1,500 would spur con- sumption,” he said.

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