Malaysia Economy - 2021


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Economic overview

Malaysia, an upper middle-income country, has transformed itself since the 1970s from a producer of raw materials into a multi-sector economy. Under current Prime Minister NAJIB, Malaysia is attempting to achieve high-income status by 2020 and to move further up the value-added production chain by attracting investments in high technology, knowledge-based industries and services. NAJIB's Economic Transformation Program is a series of projects and policy measures intended to accelerate the country's economic growth. The government has also taken steps to liberalize some services sub-sectors. Malaysia is vulnerable to a fall in world commodity prices or a general slowdown in global economic activity.

The NAJIB administration is continuing efforts to boost domestic demand and reduce the economy's dependence on exports. Domestic demand continues to anchor economic growth, supported mainly by private consumption, which accounts for 53% of GDP. Nevertheless, exports - particularly of electronics, oil and gas, and palm oil - remain a significant driver of the economy. In 2015, gross exports of goods and services were equivalent to 73% of GDP. The oil and gas sector supplied about 22% of government revenue in 2015, down significantly from prior years amid a decline in commodity prices and diversification of government revenues. Malaysia has embarked on a fiscal reform program aimed at achieving a balanced budget by 2020, including rationalization of subsidies and the 2015 introduction of a 6% value added tax. Sustained low commodity prices throughout the period not only strained government finances, but also shrunk Malaysia’s current account surplus and weighed heavily on the Malaysian ringgit, which was among the region’s worst performing currencies during 2013-17. The ringgit hit new lows following the US presidential election amid a broader selloff of emerging market assets.

Bank Negara Malaysia (the central bank) maintains adequate foreign exchange reserves; a well-developed regulatory regime has limited Malaysia's exposure to riskier financial instruments, although it remains vulnerable to volatile global capital flows. In order to increase Malaysia’s competitiveness, Prime Minister NAJIB raised possible revisions to the special economic and social preferences accorded to ethnic Malays under the New Economic Policy of 1970, but retreated in 2013 after he encountered significant opposition from Malay nationalists and other vested interests. In September 2013 NAJIB launched the new Bumiputra Economic Empowerment Program, policies that favor and advance the economic condition of ethnic Malays.

Malaysia signed the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement in February 2016, although the future of the TPP remains unclear following the US withdrawal from the agreement. Along with nine other ASEAN members, Malaysia established the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, which aims to advance regional economic integration.

Real GDP growth rate

4.31% (2019 est.)

4.77% (2018 est.)

5.81% (2017 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

0.6% (2019 est.)

0.9% (2018 est.)

3.8% (2017 est.)

note: approximately 30% of goods are price-controlled

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: BBB+ (2020)

Moody's rating: A3 (2004)

Standard & Poors rating: A- (2003)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$906.239 billion (2019 est.)

$868.853 billion (2018 est.)

$829.296 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$364.631 billion (2019 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$28,364 (2019 est.)

$27,558 (2018 est.)

$26,661 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

Gross national saving

26.2% of GDP (2018 est.)

28.3% of GDP (2017 est.)

28.2% of GDP (2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 8.8% (2017 est.)

industry: 37.6% (2017 est.)

services: 53.6% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 55.3% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 12.2% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 25.3% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0.3% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 71.4% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -64.4% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 81.5 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 83.3 (2020)

Trading score: 88.5 (2020)

Enforcement score: 68.2 (2020)

Agricultural products

oil palm fruit, rice, poultry, eggs, vegetables, rubber, coconuts, bananas, pineapples, pork


Peninsular Malaysia - rubber and oil palm processing and manufacturing, petroleum and natural gas, light manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, medical technology, electronics and semiconductors, timber processing;Sabah - logging, petroleum and natural gas production;Sarawak - agriculture processing, petroleum and natural gas production, logging

Industrial production growth rate

5% (2017 est.)

Labor force

15.139 million (2020 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 11%

industry: 36%

services: 53% (2012 est.)

Unemployment rate

3.3% (2019 est.)

3.33% (2018 est.)

Population below poverty line

5.6% (2018 est.)

Gini Index coefficient - distribution of family income

41 (2015 est.)

49.2 (1997)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1.8%

highest 10%: 34.7% (2009 est.)


revenues: 51.25 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 60.63 billion (2017 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

16.4% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-3% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Public debt

54.1% of GDP (2017 est.)

56.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

note: this figure is based on the amount of federal government debt, RM501.6 billion ($167.2 billion) in 2012; this includes Malaysian Treasury bills and other government securities, as well as loans raised externally and bonds and notes issued overseas; this figure excludes debt issued by non-financial public enterprises and guaranteed by the federal government, which was an additional $47.7 billion in 2012

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

$12.295 billion (2019 est.)

$8.027 billion (2018 est.)


$265.499 billion (2019 est.)

$268.915 billion (2018 est.)

$263.815 billion (2017 est.)

Exports - partners

Singapore 13%, China 13%, United States 11%, Hong Kong 6%, Japan 6%, Thailand 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

integrated circuits, refined petroleum, natural gas, semiconductors, palm oil (2019)


$233.719 billion (2019 est.)

$239.643 billion (2018 est.)

$236.129 billion (2017 est.)

Imports - partners

China 24%, Singapore 14%, Japan 6%, United States 6%, Taiwan 5%, Thailand 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

integrated circuits, refined petroleum, crude petroleum, broadcasting equipment, coal (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$102.4 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$94.5 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

Debt - external

$224.596 billion (2019 est.)

$226.901 billion (2018 est.)

Exchange rates

ringgits (MYR) per US dollar -

4.064 (2020 est.)

4.161 (2019 est.)

4.166 (2018 est.)

3.91 (2014 est.)

3.27 (2013 est.)

NOTE: The information regarding Malaysia on this page is re-published from the 2021 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Malaysia 2021 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Malaysia 2021 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 16 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.