COMMENT | The finance minister of a country should provide accurate figures as the financial markets depend on these in their decisions. Accurate figures should also be given in order not to confuse or mislead the people.
In the past week, our new Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has continued to cite various figures that are not accurate and can only be viewed as politically motivated.
Earlier, he had spooked the financial market by stating that our national debt is RM1 trillion without giving details. It was only after various parties including myself had questioned did he clarify that the official government debt remains at RM686.8 billion or 50.8 percent of our GDP.
The figure of 50.8 percent is also the lowest it has been for the past 10 years and is significantly lower than the 103.4 percent reached in the past under Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
As a result of the unnecessary spooking, the stock market has experienced 18 consecutive days of foreign outflows.
The finance minister continues to insist that the now-cancelled Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High-Speed Rail project cost RM110 billion, although the Singapore and Malaysian government had previously estimated it will cost a maximum of RM72 billion, including land acquisition cost.
The finance minister claims his inflated figure of RM110 billion includes interest costs.
How he arrived at this figure is unclear as the international tender which requires those participating to propose their financing packages only closes in December 2018.
In the course of previous discussions, various participating parties had earlier indicated that they are able to propose low-interest or even no interest financing packages similar to what was offered to India.
The finance minister continues to ignore requests by multiple parties to reveal the feasibility and economic impact studies for the HSR project. In the interest of transparency, these reports should be revealed to the public to determine if the best interest of Malaysia is served by cancelling the project.
Yesterday, the Finance Minister has continued with his inaccurate ‘guesstimates when he said that 1MDB's current debt is RM50 billion – which he vaguely says ‘includes interest’ - a figure higher than the RM30 billion and RM38 billion that he had given in the past week.
When giving these figures, the finance minister should also mention that the debt is backed by assets that can be worth up to RM30 billion, or that US$3.5 billion (RM14 billion) of that debt is guaranteed by a foreign government, and is the subject of further good-faith negotiations as part of a settlement agreement.
Instead of continuing to use 1MDB as political capital, the new Pakatan Harapan government should ensure the rationalisation plan for 1MDB is continued. Its previous asset values should be enhanced and monetised to pay down the debt.
The elections are over. You have won and we have lost. The focus should now be to safeguard our country's economic growth, jobs and financial stability – not playing politics with inflated ‘guesstimates’ to provide an excuse for not delivering on Harapan’s manifesto as per your promised timeline.
A few months ago, the World Bank and IMF had reported that the BN-led Malaysia then would reach high-income income nation status in as early as in three years’ time. The Harapan government should ensure we remain on course to meet this target.
NAJIB ABDUL RAZAK is the former prime minister of Malaysia.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.