The Malaysian GDP figures released yesterday suggest there was indeed a pre-GST spending spree.

Private consumption growth was phenomenal especially if you consider the fact that previous quarterly growth figures have been slowly dropping gradually over the past year from 8% year-on-year to all the way down to mid-6% in the third quarter of 2014. The latest consumption figure grew 7.8% year-on-year, which is crazy. It is so red hot that if the overall situation had not been so gloomy, Bank Negara would surely have panicked and raised its rates by another 25 basis points. This is quite a surprise even if you had believed the pre-GST spending spree hypothesis.

As a result, 2014 growth was at 6%, which is higher than most (well, all) economists watching Malaysia had projected.

But the central bank would not hike rate because the feeling is that the jump is temporary. I think it would last into this quarter before growth takes on a drowsy mode. The GST should depress consumption growth from April onwards. This is the danger. If consumption could jump so high pre-GST, how low would it get post-GST?

That is a scary thought.

This also gives more proof that consumers do expect prices to increase post-GST. I should add ceteris paribus, I guess, because the low retail fuel prices could make the net effect somewhat a wash. As for the recent electricity tariff cut, do not bother. I did a simulation and it hardly changed my headline projection.

Regardless of expectations, I am unsure there would be an actual net price hike. Last year, somebody told me the authorities expected (ranging from the Department of Statistics to the Treasury) inflation would hit 6% with GST, after months of official drive by the mainstream press that inflation would rise. Then it fell to about 4%. (You could understand why most banks are projecting about 4% inflation previously. They took the government’s guidance to heart) Now? I was informed the government expected it to be about 2%, mostly because of fuel prices. My own projection is about 3.3% YoY monthly average where I assume the GST will hit the economy in full force without any exception-zero rated stuff, but I keep several projections in the spirit of scenario analysis with the lowest at about 1.5% YoY where I pretend GST is the spoon in The Matrix.

My confidence in my models is  at an all time low and I have resigned to the fact that we will only know it in June or July when the Department of Statistics will release the April-May inflation figures. The crazy demand fluctuation, the retail fuel flotation and the GST make projections go everywhere.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply