United States

Malaysia Not ‘as Concerned' About Capital Outflows as Fed Sets to Taper, Finance Minister Says

Goh Seng Chong | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Headquarters of the Malaysian stock exchange, Bursa Malaysia, in the country’s capital city Kuala Lumpur.

  • Malaysia is not "as concerned" about investors pulling out of the country in a big way when the U.S. Federal Reserve starts winding down its asset purchases, said Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz.
  • Malaysia's financial markets are "insulated" as the country has raised most of its debt locally, said the minister.
  • The U.S. Federal Reserve is set to start tapering at a time when global debt has risen after governments increased spending to cushion the economic hit from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Malaysia is not "as concerned" about investors pulling out of the country in a big way when the U.S. Federal Reserve starts winding down its asset purchases, the Malaysian finance minister told CNBC on Monday.

Tengku Zafrul Aziz, the finance minister, said Malaysia's financial markets are "insulated" as the country has raised most of its debt locally. The government increased its statutory debt ceiling from 60% to 65% of gross domestic product to fund its Covid-related fiscal packages.  

"If you look at our borrowing exposure, 98% is actually ringgit-denominated," Zafrul told CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia," referring to the Malaysian currency.

"So we're not as concerned," he added. "But having said that, of course there will be some effect as markets react accordingly in the U.S."

The Southeast Asian country was among those that suffered a "taper tantrum" in 2013, when U.S. Treasury yields surged after the Fed said it would taper its quantitative easing program.  

That led to sharp money outflows from many emerging markets — weakening their currencies and forcing their central banks to hike interest rates to protect their capital accounts.

This time, the Fed is set to start tapering at a time when global debt has risen after governments increased spending to cushion the economic hit from the Covid-19 pandemic. That could leave some countries vulnerable, especially those that borrowed in U.S. dollars.

Analysts have said that many emerging markets, particularly those in Asia, have better economic conditions that would allow them to better withstand rising U.S. yields.  

The Malaysian economy is on track to grow by 3% to 4% this year, said Zafrul. But next year's growth prospects would depend on whether the country could continue to open up, given the threat of the Covid omicron variant, the minister added.

"I'm quite optimistic that we are able to do what's needed to be done," said Zafrul. "Having said that, you never know right? So let's prepare for the worst but at the same time, do not panic."  

Copyright CNBCs - CNBC