MP SPEAKS | MCA president Wee Ka Siong should answer the question as to whether 1MDB is the scandal which made Malaysia the kleptocratic capital of the world where tens of billions of ringgit was stolen, instead of attempting to divert attention to other unrelated issues.
Wee was caught with his pants down giving valiant support to former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak’s 1MDB, claiming that the fund was “beneficial and played an important role in the development of the country”.
When he could not reply to my critique yesterday, asking him even if the above were true, and the world knows it is not true, does it in any way justify the massive embezzlement which has taken place in 1MDB?
Is Wee arguing that it is perfectly alright to be the world capital of kleptocracy, as long as Malaysia owns sufficient assets to repay what was stolen by its leaders?
The MCA president avoided the question like a plague and attempted to divert the attention of the media and audience with half-truths and irrelevant questions.
Unlike Wee, I will answer his questions, one by one below. However, let me repeat my question to him again – will the MCA president denounce Najib for embezzling, misappropriating and abusing tens of billions of ringgit which 1MDB borrowed with government guarantees, causing immeasurable loss to the reputation and tax-payers of Malaysia?
Better still, will Wee apologise for his complicity in Najib’s cabinet for the scandal which rocked the world, and ironically caused BN’s historic loss in the last general election, while making Wee the sole representative for MCA in Parliament?
Before I get to the questions, let me also address the diversionary snide remark Wee made in his attempt to discredit me. He tried to imply that I, “the person who said that SST will lower the price of goods”, had no locus “to school” him.
Firstly, I never used the term “school” in my previous statement against Wee. That was the editorial headline used by The Malay Mail. I would not have used the term because some are just beyond "schooling".
Secondly and more importantly, like his Umno comrades, Wee relied on lies and half-truths to cast negative aspersions against their critics.
In this case, he alleged that I had said that “SST will lower the price of goods” by intentionally failing to quote my speech in Parliament fully, when I argued that “the impact of SST on the price of goods will be lower than the impact of GST”.
Would Wee like to argue that the price impact of GST is less than that of the SST?
Wee’s eight questions
Now, let me address Wee’s pretentious questions one by one:
1. What is 1MDB's debt? Is it RM30 billion or RM39 billion?
This question tells you why Wee was part of an incompetent cabinet complicit in allowing Najib to run 1MDB to the ground. He doesn’t even know what is 1MDB’s debt.
As at Dec 31 2018, 1MDB’s debt amounted to RM39 billion.
Perhaps, Wee was confused by the fact that RM31 billion was accounted in the government’s committed contingent liability because the BN gGovernment had in 2017 and early 2018, secretly paid RM6.77 billion of 1MDB’s debt while the Pakatan Harapan government had to further pay RM1.16 billion of 1MDB’s debt in 2018.
However, 1MDB’s debt remains at RM39 billion because in the company’s balance sheet, the amount RM7.93 billion remains and is now due to the government of Malaysia.
(Question 2 and 3 are answered together)
2. Is RM30 billion higher or lower than the RM87.8 billion additional borrowing in sukuk since the end of 2017 - not including the additional RM7.3 billion in Samurai Bonds already issued plus the RM82 billion that the Pakatan Harapan government is taking from Petronas?
3. If RM30 billion is lower than those other figures I quoted then how can 1MDB continue to be the main reason why Harapan cannot deliver its manifesto promises or be the main cause of our future generation being burdened in debt?
For Wee’s information, the government runs a budget deficit, a deficit the BN government has been running for the past 20 years.
When the government is in deficit, it means the government will regularly issue bonds to raise funds to finance the deficit.
The funds raised from these government bonds are used to finance the construction of schools, roads, hospitals and other development projects.
So, the question is, what is Wee trying to imply here? He should perhaps stop beating about the bush and come straight to his point – that is losing RM30 billion to theft, in his opinion is immaterial and insignificant, and doesn’t affect government finances, since the government regularly issues bonds to finance its deficit anyway?
It should also be pointed out to Wee that the actual ‘insignificant’ loss to the government from 1MDB is much higher at nearly RM40 billion as these losses has already been paid covered up by the Government (see answer to Question 1).
How much is this RM40 billion? RM40 billion is enough to pretty much wipe out the entire PTPTN borrowings of around RM40 billion or Prasarana Malaysia Berhad’s debt of RM31 billion as at end-2018.
4. Can Pua confirm if the quantum of increase in national debt in 2018 and also so far in 2019 to date (RM36 billion) is higher than what had occurred under BN in the past?
Yes, government direct debt has increased as expected as per the 3.7 percent fiscal deficit in 2018, and will increase per the 3.4 percent budgeted deficit in 2019.
As explained by the Finance Minister in his Budget 2019 speech, unlike BN which hid its billions of debts off balance sheet in vehicles such as PFI Sdn Bhd, we are transparent and have them properly reflected in the books.
Despite the increase in projected deficit, international rating agencies – Moody’s, S&P and Fitch, concurred with the move by reaffirming Malaysia’s single-A rating due to significantly increased transparency.
The question again to Wee, are you criticising Harapan’s transparency while continuing to show support for the previous administration’s opaque attempt to hide debts off-balance sheet and to embezzle, misappropriate and abuse funds via entities such as 1MDB, Tabung Haji and Felda?
Or perhaps you were so clueless that you didn’t know all the embezzlement, misappropriation, abuse and wastage were taking place in broad daylight while you were happily sitting as a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department with Najib?
5. When did I say that the entire RM180 billion is direct profit? How much is the land sale of Bandar Malaysia? What is the amount of taxes collected from these two projects with a GDV of RM180 billion over the course of its development?
Let me quote Wee, so that he doesn’t accuse me of “spinning”.
He pointed that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's stated that Bandar Malaysia has a gross development value (GDV) of RM140 billion, while Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had earlier said the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) project has a GDV of RM40 billion.
He then argued, "when both are combined, the total is RM180 billion. It is more than enough to foot the RM30 billion (1MDB) debt.”
He is using the RM180 billion to deduct the 1MDB debt. That can only be possible if the RM180 billion is income to the government, which can only arise as the ‘profits’ of the two projects attributable to the government. How else will Wee’s sentence and allegation make sense?
I eagerly await Wee’s attempt to school me on how GDV can be used to pay debts.
6. What is the total value of the two projects' economic impact to our country?
A country’s GDP is measured by the sum of all expenditure, or more technically, the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country's borders in a specific time period.
I must be pretty much an Almighty and All-Knowing to be able to give you an answer on this. Unfortunately, I’m not. However, perhaps you should direct this question to Najib?
(Question 7 and 8 answered together)
7. And if those projects are not beneficial, then why continue them?
8. Is Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng also wrong to say that the RM40 billion TRX project is one of our country's best asset or that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was also wrong to say that the Bandar Malaysia project will contribute immensely to our country's economic development?
Again, Wee is trying to be disingenuous and put words in our mouths. We never said the two projects are not beneficial.
We are saying that firstly, because of the 1MDB scandal – the two projects were stuck and could not in any way reach their full potential.
However, with the change of government and detoxification of these projects from being tainted by 1MDB, we can now work towards fully realising the value of these two projects.
Secondly, while these two projects would certainly bring revenue to the government, 1MDB cannot claim credit for them because the government had sold these two parcels of land to 1MDB for a song, and hardly developed them when in their ownership (read my earlier statement).
Thirdly, by right, the revenue for these two projects should be added to government coffers and be used to further develop the country.
However, because of the 1MDB scandal and RM39 billion of debt incurred, the likely proceeds from these two projects are nowhere near enough to repay 1MDB’s debts (also in my earlier statement).
You have accused numerous times in the past that the true cost of the ECRL project is only RM29 billion and that the BN government had inflated the cost to RM55 billion.
Wee has the cheek to even raise this question. BN signed the contract for RM66 billion. With our hands tied behind our back in our negotiations with China, after the BN government has already paid the Chinese companies nearly RM20 billion, we had successfully reduced the cost by a-third to RM44 billion.
This is an achievement no other country in the world has done with China.
Instead of hanging his head in complete shame for having approved the contract at RM66 billion, Wee is trying to win political brownie points by criticising the new government for saving ‘only’ RM22 billion.
TONY PUA is the MP for Damansara and political secretary to the finance minister.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.