Malaysia braces for damaging floods in test to PM as polls loom

MALAYSIA expressed its commitment to prepare for seasonal floods in the coming months, in what is set to be a test for Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob ahead of an election that’s widely expected to be held before the September 2023 deadline.

In Kuala Lumpur alone, the government is rolling out a flood mitigation project worth 300 million ringgit ($66 million) that’s 60% completed, Environment Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said in a Facebook post Wednesday. “I hope this project is effective in managing the terrible floods in KL and bring ease to the people.”

At stake is Ismail’s popularity, amid pressure from factions in his party to hold an election sooner rather than later. Any missteps in his handling of the floods may lead to a repeat of the social media backlash against him in December, when the annual floods left dozens dead and displaced more than 61,000 people.

This time, the prime minister vowed they would prepare for the worst. More than 6,000 temporary shelters will be set up nationwide, enough to house more than a million victims, he wrote on Facebook Monday after chairing a meeting with the natural disaster management committee.

Floods in Malaysia have become an annual phenomenon, triggered by the north-east monsoon that brings heavy rain from November to March. A recurrence of the floods that inundated parts of the nation late last year would add to the extreme weather that has swept the world in recent months, with record floods occurring alongside widespread heat waves and drought.

Malaysia’s meteorological department forecast that most states on the peninsula may receive up to 900 millimeters of rainfall in November. Last year’s floods caused an estimated 6.1 billion ringgit in losses, the Department of Statistics said in January. Selangor, the richest and most industrialized state, was the worst hit and accounted for half the losses. –BLOOMBERG