Harakahdaily May 30: Taking prime minister Najib Razak to task over his assurance that the national debt would not breach the critical 55% threshold of the country’s gross domestic product, PAS’s Dzulkefly Ahmad has challenged him to state the actual amount of the debt.
“So how much is the national debt if it has yet to breach 55% of the GDP?” asked the Kuala Selangor member of parliament in his response to Najib’s speech yesterday.
Addressing the “Invest Malaysia 2012” conference, Najib said the government had taken steps to reduce fiscal deficit to ensure economic growth, adding that the country’s fiscal deficit now stood at 4.8 per cent of GDP versus 5.0 per cent.
But Dzulkefly said it was not the first time such claims were made by the Finance minister.
He recalled a parliamentary answer to him earlier this year which stated that apart from fiscal debts of RM456.1 billion, the country was saddled with RM116.76 billion in debt by statutory bodies and government-linked companies (GLCs), guaranteed by the government as public debt and off-shore loans.
“In the event they fail to pay, all these debts will be Federal debt, and ultimately a real and not a contingent liability,” warned Dzulkefly.
He demanded Najib to state how much of these debts had been declared as Federal debt as a result of defaulting by its borrowers, namely the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) and Syarikat Perumahan Nasional Berhad, whose loans of RM17 billion and RM9.1 billion respectively are guaranteed by the government.
Dzulkefly (left) questioned the RM3 billion which the government was believed to have paid bondholders in the scandal-ridden Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) and the RM6.4 billion to Selangor’s water concessionaire.
He also warned the government against “reckless gigantic investments”, saying big projects were not necessarily good, especially when a project such as the Mass Rapit Transport which cost some RM70 billion amounted to 10% of the country’s GDP.
He pointed out that it was now customary for the government to publicise a project as ‘private sector investment’ but in the end bailed out using public funds.
“This is called deception! Even so-called private financial initiative projects were financed by the government. And this has been the case with MAS which was injected some RM3 billion in three installments. So is the case with Sime Darby and many others.
“This is Najib and BN’s crooked management, under which something not stated at the tabling of the Budget and not counted as fiscal deficit would ultimately form part of the fiscal deficit,” said Dzulkefly, adding that Najib’s claim that fiscal deficit had been reduced to 4.8 from 5.0 per cent of GDP was a lie. The off-budget or off-balance sheet spending is deplorable and Najib has a penchant for that.
Dzulkefly said Najib had the tendency of linking government subsidies to national income, and said his policy of protecting crony businesses was why much more in subsidies were channeled to these interests.
“Who are given the biggest chunks of government subsidies for rice, sugar or power? The ordinary people or crony corporations?” he asked.