According to the prime minister, the national debt is managed well and the nation’s economic strength cannot be gauged by the size of its debt but our ability to repay it.
Soon after today’s sitting began, the Dewan Rakyat erupted when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali traded barbs.
Najib was answering a question about the Government’s long-term measures to manage the national economy when Azmin stood to ask a supplementary question.
He quoted a February 16 report by Singaporean daily The Straits Times on Malaysia’s allegedly high interest payments on debt and whether the 1MDB debt had an impact on the increased interest payment of if there were other reasons for Putrajaya to spend 12.5% of its income on interest payments in 2016 compared to 9% in 2009.
“The report says that this year we are expected to spend RM31 billion of revenue just to pay interest, and this is the same as two-thirds of (the total) GST collection.
“Has the 1MDB debt issue affected the rise in our debt interest, or is there a more responsible reason for this?” asked Azmin.
Najib calmly responded that “the water issue in Selangor is even more critical”.Azmin immediately got to his feet to protest, saying that the response had nothing to do with the issue of national debt.
Chaos ensued when Barisan Nasional MPs jeered and asked Azmin to sit down.Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia intervened and ordered the Gombak MP to take a seat and for other MPs to remain silent.He also warned Azmin that he would exercise his power as Speaker if he stood up in protest again.Najib then said that the country’s debt is managed well as it stands at 50.8% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) against its maximum level of 55%.
However, he said Malaysia’s economic strength cannot be gauged by the size of its debt.
“The strength lies in our ability to repay the debt. Take for instance, Singapore. The size of their debt is bigger than ours but their ability to repay that debt remains.
“Our ability to repay our debt cannot be questioned because international ratings agencies have placed Malaysia in the ‘A’ category.
“This means that Malaysia’s finances, including its debt, is managed well. It is hoped that the water problems in Selangor will be managed as soon as possible,” he said.