Haze: Impact on economy minimal, say experts

The Star, 24 Jun 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: The economy could suffer due to the haze currently polluting some parts of the country, says an economist.

The problem, however, would not be serious enough to affect the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), said RAM Hold- ings Group chief economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng.

He said tourism, leisure and restaurant businesses stood to lose the most at this point.

“Malaysians only need to worry if the haze grows to hazardous levels over the next few weeks or months,” he said.

Dr Yeah said the losses in the current haze situation could be in the millions of ringgit but “not hundreds of millions”.

He also pointed out that reduced sunshine could have negative effects on plantations, while critical haze levels could delay construction projects.

“The concern now is that if no immediate action is taken, the situation will get worse,” he added.

Ambank Group chief economist Anthony Dass said that although work productivity and consumer spending would take a hit due to the haze, the economic impact was “minimal and negligible”.

He added that the haze situation could be considered tolerable now as many people could still be seen going about their daily activities.

“However, if the haze worsens and the Government takes drastic precautionary measures like asking people not to go outdoors, we may see a more serious impact to our daily life,” he added.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) deputy president John Tan said a prolonged haze would impact in-bound tourism.

“If the haze worsens, foreign tourists will return to spread word about the situation here and this will affect our tourism industry,” he added.

On the other hand, he believes more Malaysians would travel overseas to escape the haze.