The debt is something I want to fix before stepping down – Tun M

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will continue to focus on reducing the country’s debts before ending his tenure as prime minister for the second term.

When asked what is that one thing he wants to fix before stepping down, he said: “The debt.”

Dr Mahathir said the debt was too big for the country and it needs to be reduced.

“But when you compare to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product)…as the GDP grows the percentage of debt reduces, that is one solution, the other solution is to sell assets,” he said at “the Future of Malaysia and ASEAN” session held in conjunction with the ASEAN Business Summit in Bangkok, Thailand.

 He said that the Pakatan Harapan government had underestimated the condition of the government’s finance and did not get accurate information on the previous government’s financial condition.

When Pakatan Harapan took over the government last year, it revealed that the national debt was RM1 trillion.

“We were on the outside and we didn’t get information on what was going on inside, but when we took over, then we realised that the damage done was much more extensive,” said Dr Mahathir.

He revealed that the government had a very tough time to deal with damage in the government’s financial position as well as the administrative machinery.

“But we managed the debt to the extent that it is no longer a hindrance in carrying administration and development of the country,” he said.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said recently the government has controlled and reduced the overall debt and liabilities to 75.4 per cent of GDP last year from 79.3 per cent in 2017 although there was a 1.1-percentage point rise in direct government debt to 51.2 per cent of GDP.

The 3.9-percentage point drop in total debt and liabilities was due to successful cost rationalisation of both overpriced mega-projects and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) payments, he explained.

Dr Mahathir added that barely one year has passed to accomplish all the things promised, but so far the government has managed the debt well. 

He also noted that investments are flowing in and foreign direct investment (FDI) has increased to RM29.3 billion across all sectors.

“The investment that is coming is good,” he added.