KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 25 — Chinese business owners appear more optimistic about this year’s prospects, buoyed by the reopening of nearly all economic sectors, a high vaccination rate and an improved consumer spending appetite, the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) said in a statement today.

Over a third of respondents in its Malaysia’s Business and Economic Conditions Survey (M-BECS) for the second half of 2021 and expectations for the first half 2022 said they expect “better” economic conditions going into this year, despite lingering concerns about the emergence of the more contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

Less than a fifth of respondents anticipated the outlook to worsen compared to 24.2 per cent surveyed previously.

“President of ACCCIM, Datuk Low Kian Chuan said that the respondents’ positive expectations are supported by the reopening of most economic and social sectors in 4Q 2021 under the National Recovery Plan,” the association said.

“With high levels of vaccination, consumer and business sentiments have improved.”

But some members expressed concern about the uneven recovery seen by some sectors, such as construction, tourism-related services and aviation sectors.

The bi-annual survey, which was carried out throughout the period of October 25 to end- December 2021, received 807 active responses.

Small and medium enterprises made up 91.4 per cent of total respondents.

From the total, 41.3 per cent of respondents saw a “better” business outlook in 2022, with 33.8 per cent expecting business conditions to improve in the first half of 2022 compared to 21 per cent in the second half of last year.

Still, 43.5 per cent of respondents said sales remained below pre-pandemic levels while over half said they had achieved at least “the same level as pre-pandemic level.”

Meanwhile, more than one-third of respondents expressed high concern about cost, credit and cash flow, although the percentage of businesses reporting improved liquidity and credit management rose to 32 per cent compared to 21.4 per cent in the previous survey.

An upshot in raw material prices, high operating costs, cash flow problems and workforce shortages were among the top five sectors that impacted business performance in the second half 2021, the ACCIM said.

Low said the matter had been raised in a recent meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

“ACCCIM is looking forward to smooth as well as fast processing of online applications and approvals of foreign workers for sectors in urgent need of workers,” it said.