Tuesday, 22 May 2018

(The Edge Financial Daily) Country’s debt over RM1 trillion

Dr M: We will have to rely on our efforts and intellect to overcome this challenge

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that the country’s debt has risen to RM1 trillion, due to “huge irregularities” in management of the nation’s finances under the previous administration.

“We found huge irregularities in the financial management of the country, so much so that now we are saddled with the problem of settling debts that have risen to RM1 trillion. This [amount of debt] had never been incurred by us.

In the past, we had no more than RM300 billion in debt, but now it has increased to over RM1 trillion. “How do we settle this debt? We will have to rely on our efforts and intellect to overcome this challenge.

For this, we need cooperation among the government, elected representatives and the administration,” he was quoted as saying when addressing staff of the Prime Minister’s Department in Dataran Putra here, Bernama reported.

Last Thursday, Dr Mahathir told reporters that he was aware of many flaws in the figures of the country’s financial position — including many that were fake.

Dr Mahathir reiterated yesterday that Malaysia would be able to handle the various challenges by adhering to the principles of a democratic system of administration.

“Only in that way can we clean the administration of our country and, when it is clean, recognised, progressive and efficient, then our nation will have been revived. I hope all of you will give your undivided cooperation to me, as your prime minister, so long as what I do is not contrary to the national policies and laws,” he said.

The government will not increase the number of civil servants or set up new institutions to achieve the country’s goals, Dr Mahathir also said, noting that the existing institutions would be utilised in a more efficient manner, without increasing the cost.

“We are confident that with the wisdom of the administrators and government chosen by the people, we can make changes without increasing the cost of administration,” he said.

This was Dr Mahathir’s first meeting with the staff after being appointed the country’s seventh prime minister on May 10 after leading Pakatan Harapan to a stunning win over Barisan Nasional in the 14th general election a day earlier.

He said that although various changes would be implemented in the administration, these would only be done after carrying out an indepth study of the current situation.

“This separation [of powers] is very important. If there are no checks and balances like this, it will lead to undesirable consequences which cannot be reprimanded, prevented or objected to. This is what we have to remember. Administrators are the people with the will to carry out tasks to develop the country,” he said.

“Administrators must serve with excellence and not be distracted by other reasons. This is very important, and I am convinced that you (the administrative staff ) all know that we as administrators must adhere to our country’s system of democracy,” he said.

The prime minister said that if the separation of powers does not exist, one branch will end up dominating the other two and will resort to doing things contrary to the laws.

He said the staff of the administration play an important role as people who have pledged to serve the country without fear or favour.

“For example, if administrators are told to do something contrary to the laws of the country, then it is their responsibility not to accept such instructions. We have seen, in the last few years, that administrators had no power to reprimand or oppose instructions which went against the laws,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said it has been learnt that many administrative staff, due to fear or gratification, had indulged in undesirable actions which could hurt the country.

He said the administrators have to respect the constitution, which was created not to solely empower the government but to protect the people from any possible crime the government might commit.

“This is what we desire. We believe that with the cooperation of the administrators, we will achieve our goals. I hope that with the change in government, we can solve many of the problems, especially the financial issues the country faces.

“For this, we need competent, efficient and trustworthy administrators. This is my only hope,” he said, and thanked the audience for the opportunity to explain the stand of the newly elected government.