Sun, 29 Jan 2023

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Preparations in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur are in full swing with grand decorations in gold and red colors and crowds of people, including joyful families shopping for the upcoming festival.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- As Malaysia's Chinese community prepares to usher in the Lunar New Year with hope, optimism rides high on the subsidence of the pandemic and China's optimization of its COVID-19 strategy.

Preparations in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur are in full swing with grand decorations in gold and red colors and crowds of people, including joyful families shopping for the upcoming festival.

Malaysia has experienced a revival in economic and social life and optimistic trade data is encouraging some to see positive progress in 2023 despite predictions of continued global uncertainties.

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In 2022, Malaysia's total trade was valued at 2.8 trillion ringgit (652 billion U.S. dollars), surpassing the 2-trillion-ringgit mark for the second consecutive year. Exports reached 1.55 trillion ringgit (360.9 billion dollars), while imports surpassed the 1 trillion ringgit mark for the first time, reaching nearly 1.3 trillion ringgit (302.6 billion dollars) in 2022, according to the International Trade and Industry Ministry.

For the 25th consecutive year since 1998, Malaysia posted a trade surplus. The 2022 surplus figure is also the largest ever recorded, the ministry said in a statement.

Lee Pei May, a political expert at the International Islamic University Malaysia, said optimism is due to a relative state of political stability and the unity government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim following the national polls last year as well as China's optimization of its pandemic policies on Jan. 8, which will benefit the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) including Malaysia.

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"As the world reopens, including China, we expect that tourism, trade and investment would go back to pre-pandemic levels. Higher demand for the ringgit versus the U.S. dollar means our currency would appreciate against it. This could make imports cheaper and could partly help in easing the inflationary pressure," she said.

"Strong growth could be boosted by the Malaysian government through deepening cooperation with major economies in the world such as China. We also expect that inflation will rise moderately and within manageable range with the subsidies and price controls put in place by the Anwar administration," she added.

China's optimization of its pandemic strategy has prompted a surge in Chinese citizens booking overseas trips and it is estimated that 1.2 million Chinese tourists will visit Malaysia this year. Their arrivals are expected to generate approximately 3.6 billion ringgit (838.28 million dollars) in tourism receipts.

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Commenting on this, Deputy President of the Kuala Lumpur-based Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) Mint Leong said tour agencies have already started receiving orders from Chinese travelers, a much welcome sign of recovery and improvement.

"Tourism industry is recovering and the arrival of Chinese tourists will boost the tourism sector and benefit all industry players and other related industries. We are welcoming all Chinese tourists. Feel free to travel to Malaysia, just get your luggage, complete the visa application and fly to Malaysia," she said.

For others like consultant Leow Ze Tong who is based in Penang state, this year will be the first year to truly travel and celebrate the Lunar New Year with friends and family following years of intermittent lockdowns, restrictions and uncertainty.

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He will travel to his hometown for the important reunion dinner with his family in Selangor state and hoped that this year would be one of progress. "I and many others are feeling optimistic about the coming year. Things are open and moving. There are more people around. Considering everything I think we are very fortunate."

"I hope that we will all be able to move forward. It is time to work and gain. Enough of being uncertain and unsure. I can feel for the first time in years that people are enthusiastic and are looking forward to things and I hope this year will help us overcome the troubles of the past few years," he said.

The Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival, falls on Sunday this year.

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