Malaysia: Mustapa flags living costs as concern ahead of polls – 22 May 2017

  • The cost of living is a key concern among Malaysian voters, according to a member of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s cabinet, setting the stage for it to be a major campaign topic in polls expected within months.
  • There is a “general expectation” among the public that elections will be held in 2017, Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed said in an interview on 19 May 17 in Hanoi, adding it is up to Najib to decide the “best moment to strike.”
  • Inflation reached an eight-year high in Mar 17 before easing in Apr 17, while consumer sentiment has been below the level of optimism since mid-2014.
  • While there’s no backtracking on the 6% tax, there’s better understanding on what the levy is and why the country needs it, Mustapa said.
  • Things are looking up for the Malaysian economy with a report on 19 May 17 showing growth in 1Q17 was at the fastest pace in two years.
  • The MYR has climbed more than 3% against the USD in 2017, after depreciating almost 8% in 4Q16.
  • The opposition has failed to capitalise on gains made in 2013, when it won the popular vote for the first time.
  • There has been infighting and the severing of ties between some parties, increasing the odds of multi-cornered fights at the next elections which would benefit Umno politicians.
  • The main Islamic opposition party known as PAS had already shown interest in backing Najib on some policies. Najib received a further boost in May 17 after PAS said it will sever ties with its opposition ally the People’s Justice Party (PKR).

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