Water cuts bigger crisis than debt level, says Najib

Pic By TMR File

The Selangor water crisis is a bigger threat to Malaysia than the country’s debt level, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak.

Debates to justify sovereign debt and the Selangor water cuts filled the first oral reply given by Najib in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

Najib, who is also finance minister, said the water woes currently faced by Selangor residents is larger than the country’s debt level, after Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali raised concerns on the impact of 1Malaysia Development Bhd’s (1MDB) debt to the country’s total borrowings.

“The water crisis in Selangor is more critical that the government’s debt management,” Najib replied in Parliament.

In a supplementary question, Mohamed Azmin had asked Najib to explain why the interest payments on the nation’s debts have increased over the years and whether the financial woes of 1MDB had any implications on Malaysia’s current financial situation.

“There have been reports stating that for this year alone, the federal government will be spending a total of RM31 billion of the country’s income to repay debt interests.

“My question is whether the 1MDB financial crisis has resulted in this increase, or is there a more responsible reason for the Putrajaya administration to spend 12.5% of the national revenue just to pay the interest on debts,” Mohamed Azmin said.

Najib rebuked the question by saying that the national debt is well managed by the current government, in contrast to the ongoing water crisis being faced in Selangor.

“The percentage of national debt against gross domestic product is at 50.8% from a maximum rate of 55% set by the government,” Najib said, adding that the government’s ability to repay the debt remains unquestionable.

Najib further said most international rating agencies have given their best stances for the country, a clear evidence of how well the government is managing the country’s finances.

The prime minister also said the debt size is not the prime measure of the Malaysian economy, but that it is based on the state’s ability to explain the repayment.

Najib added that the aggregate amount of debts in the country was also not a major factor in determining Malaysia’s economic strength.