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AFTER the pandemic and Ukraine war, what’s next for emerging markets including Malaysia?
What policies would help emerging market (EM) economies cope with post-pandemic resilience and strategic positioning to deal with environmental, social, governance and the coming geopolitical tensions?
The pandemic exposed all the social injustices arising from the poor and under-privileged having lack of access to vaccines, online facilities, finance and safe jobs or income.
The Ukraine war disrupted global food and energy supplies as Russia and Ukraine account for roughly 10% of global supply of oil and gas, 6% of world wheat and fertilisers and also strategic inputs for selected industries.
Crises seem to be looming from all directions. The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates by 75 basis points to try and control inflation before it becomes entrenched.
As Europe struggles to recover from the Ukraine war, supply constraints plus inflation suggest that the world may be slipping into stagflation – slow growth and stubbornly high inflation.
The perfect storm of the pandemic, Ukraine war and climate warming exposed all the structural defects in national and global economic policies which were not corrected when the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC) broke out.
Rich countries used loose monetary and fiscal policies to avoid the political pain of fundamental structural adjustments in labour, technology and social areas.
Monetary printing through quantitative easing was painless, as there was no inflation in sight.
Fiscal policies did not raise taxes, but increased welfare payments in order to keep the masses happy.
As former European Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker said honestly for a politician, “We all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it.“
Politics is itself a structural bottleneck to getting things done for people and the planet.
Malaysia has come out of the recent pandemic and Ukraine war with record-high palm oil prices, peak crude oil prices and its tech industry running at full capacity. But like other EM economies, several long-term structural issues have to be confronted.
The 12th Malaysia Plan 2021-2025, published last year by Malaysia’s economic planners identified eight issues:
> low productivity among micro, small and medium enterprises
> low quality of investment
> slow structural economic transition
> widening development gap between states
> low share of compensation of employees
> limited gains from global value chain
> disruption of the medium-term fiscal consolidation