KUALA LUMPUR - The Malaysian economy is expected to grow steadily at 5 per cent to 6 per cent in 2013, thanks to strong domestic demand, robust private investment and a better global outlook.
Bank Negara Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz expects growth to be sustained on the back of higher domestic demand and an improvement on the exports front as the global economy recovers.
She added that last year's better-than-expected 5.6 per cent full-year growth came despite a weaker global economic environment.
Zeti said private investments were expected to grow 15.6 per cent this year, led by investments in the services sector while private consumption growth would remain firm at 7.1 per cent backed by income growth and stable employment prospects.
She told a press conference that the minimum wage policy would contribute positively to income growth while the unemployment rate was expected to remain stable at 3.1 per cent.
Meanwhile, CIMB Investment Bank Bhd economic research head Lee Heng Guie expects the economy to grow by 5.5 per cent this year.
"While domestic catalysts will continue to anchor growth, the cyclical upturn in exports should improve economic prospects," he said.
Lee also said robust private investment growth and public spending would continue to fuel total investment growth.
"More projects under the Economic Transformation Programme will be realised this year, thus creating a spillover effect on the construction, real estate and financial services sectors," he added.
Zeti expects the inflation rate to average 2 per cent to 3 per cent this year. She said the central bank would focus on addressing potential risks to inflation and growth.
She said the Government's fiscal consolidation efforts would continue with the debt-to-gross domestic product ratio to be trimmed to 4 per cent after falling to 4.5 per cent in 2012 and 5 per cent in 2011.
"Government spending will be moderate while revenue will improve significantly, notably that of the Inland Revenue Board, which raised 14 per cent more than expected,'' she said.
On another note, Zeti said the online interbank GIRO fee would be capped at 10 sen effective May 2. According to her, the current rate was RM2 (S$0.80) per transaction.
The online interbank GIRO transfer would only be applicable to the Internet and mobile channels.
Zeti also said that the cheque issuance price would be increased progressively to encourage users to migrate to online transactions.