Situated in the vibrant region of Southeast Asia, Malaysia presents itself as a culturally diverse nation, predominantly comprised of a Muslim population, with significant Chinese and Indian communities lending their rich heritage to the country's societal tapestry. Its real estate market, notably inclusive and accessible, extends a warm invitation to foreigners, fostering an environment conducive for them to purchase properties. In an effort to position itself as a welcoming second home, Malaysia instituted the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme, stimulating international interest and investment.
However, a surge in property speculation triggered some regulatory intervention in recent years. In an attempt to deter speculative buying and selling for short-term profit, known colloquially as "flipping", authorities implemented a series of curbs and taxes designed to stabilize the housing market.
Despite its steady growth and undeniable potential, Malaysia's economic development lags behind that of its neighbor, Singapore. Both countries embarked on their independent journeys at the same time, bearing comparable wealth levels. However, the disparity is clearly illustrated through the evolution of the Malaysia Ringgit's exchange rate with the Singapore Dollar. At the time of independence, SGD1 equated to approximately RM0.80. Fast forward to the present day, and the exchange rate has dramatically escalated to SGD1 equivalent to RM3.30.
The following chart shows the stark contrast of Malaysian economic growth compared to its tiny neighbour Singapore:
Nevertheless, Malaysia's narrative is not a tale of unrelenting hardship. A unique selling proposition of the country is its exceptionally diverse multicultural milieu, which is reflected in its culinary scene that serves up a myriad of Asian cuisines. Moreover, despite moderate economic growth, Malaysia maintains a reputation as one of the most affordable countries to live in globally. Property prices, in particular, are significantly lower when compared to those in neighboring countries such as China, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.
However, the affordability landscape is not devoid of challenges. The rapid escalation in property prices has posed significant barriers to homeownership for the economically vulnerable segments of society, including the extremely poor and lower-income workers. The rise in prices has resulted in many individuals finding themselves unable to meet the monthly mortgage repayments, as these often surpass their salaries. Compounded by a relatively high unemployment rate and mortgage interest rates when juxtaposed with developed countries, these factors contribute to the economic hardships.
However, the political landscape presented a ray of hope in May 2018. Marking a significant turning point in Malaysia's history, the Pakatan coalition, formerly an opposition party, took the reins of government for the first time, ending a 60-year tenure by the scandal-plagued Barisan party. This watershed moment ignited a wave of optimism, raising hopes for a brighter, more prosperous future for the Malaysian populace.
The following chart shows Malaysia's overnight interest rates over the years: