FTCR data show Malaysians are by far the most downbeat in their six-month economic and political outlook compared with people in the other Asean-5 countries, and have been since we started conducting our surveys.
Economically, Malaysians’ pessimism may be explained by the country’s sluggish growth since the Asian financial crisis in the late-1990s. Over the next five years, the International Monetary Fund expects Malaysia’s growth to be one of the slowest among the Asean-5. Nevertheless, it remains the wealthiest of the Asean-5 economies, with per-capita GDP forecast to near $14,000 by 2022 – almost double that of Thailand, the next most prosperous.
Politically, the Malaysian government has been embroiled over the past three years in a corruption scandal involving the state-owned fund 1MDB, the subject of ongoing investigations in a number of foreign countries. This remains a major political issue ahead of the general election, due within the next 12 months, and probably explains Malaysians’ political pessimism.
Thailand shows the widest fluctuation in its political and economic sentiment scores. These were at their lowest in the first quarter of 2014, at the peak of the conflict between supporters and opponents of then prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The mood swung decisively in the third quarter after the military took power.
In the Philippines, political and economic sentiment were most positive in the third quarter of 2016, after President Rodrigo Duterte had taken office.
Sentiment in Indonesia and Vietnam were the most stable over the past three years.