The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) annual consultation report on Malaysia stated that despite low commodity prices and volatility in financial markets, the economy has remained resilient due to its diversified production and export base, strong balance sheet, flexible exchange rate, and responsive macroeconomic policies.
However, factors such as the global economic environment, sustained low commodity prices, and high public sector and household debt will continue to pose challenges for the local economy. Real GDP growth is forecast to increase moderately from 4.2% in 2016 to 4.5% this year. Domestic demand led by private consumption is expected to be the main driver of growth. The IMF also projected that consumer price inflation would rise an average 2.7% year on year in 2017 due to higher global oil prices and the rationalization of subsidies on cooking oil. On the healthcare front, the Health Minister has announced that the government will introduce a voluntary health insurance scheme by mid-2018 as part of its efforts to provide alternative healthcare services and help control the high cost of private medical treatment.
The cabinet has approved the structure of the insurance scheme, which will be operated by non-profit organizations under the purview of the Ministry of Health. Details of organizations that will manage the scheme, funding structure and extent of coverage are yet to be announced.
In April, the Ministry of Health launched the Malaysian Health Data Warehouse (MyHDW), a one-stop center for health-related data gathered from public and private hospitals. The information available on the database will help healthcare providers and decision-makers in the provision and planning of healthcare. The MyHDW system, currently in its first phase, has already collected data from over 2.5 million in-patients from both public and private hospitals. In the second phase, the aim is to gather 70 million out-patient medical records from health and specialist clinics. Figures from the Ministry of Health’s ophthalmology department indicate that there are over 120,000 cataract patients in Malaysia. This figure is expected to triple in 30 years as the population ages. Results from a recent National Eye Survey found 216,000 Malaysians became blind because of delayed corrective surgery. The survey also showed that the condition caused 272,000 others to be visually impaired. Fifty thousand cataract surgeries are performed annually in government hospitals while private hospitals and university and army hospitals perform another 50,000 and 20,000 surgeries respectively. Malaysia is becoming an aging nation and diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration are expected to increase.
The Health Ministry has conditionally registered the world’s first dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia. It will be used in Malaysia for a post-registration (phase IV) clinical study involving volunteer patients aged nine to 45, with the cost of the vaccine borne by patients. The post-registration study design, safety monitoring system and other relevant details will be jointly developed by the Health Ministry and Sanofi Pasteur. Dengvaxia’s conditional registration is valid for two years. In the pharmaceutical market, multinational members of the Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia (PhAMA) reported sales growth of 1.5% for ethical products and 15.4% for OTC in Q1 2017 compared with the same period last year.
In Brunei, projected GDP for 2017 is 2.3%, up from -1.1% last year and based on figures from the Department of Economic Planning and Development (JPKE). Growth estimates for the oil and gas sector are 3% on the back of a modest recovery in prices while the non-oil and gas sector is expected to produce 1.3% growth this year. The country will see a BND300 million (US$216 million) fall in budgetary spending in financial year 2017/2018 compared with the previous fiscal year. However, government income is projected to be BND3.5 billion (US$2.5 billion). The projection takes into account revenue of BND2.5 billion (US$1.8 billion) from the oil and gas sector and BND941 million (US$678 million) from the non-oil and gas sector.