Government has to be pragmatic, says PM

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THE Government simply cannot afford to take a populist approach in running the country, says Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. Instead, the Prime Minister said the Government must be responsible and ensure a solid financial and economic foundation for the nation, in the interest of the people and the future generation. Najib said the Government’s ability to manage national debts and the economy in general was unquestionable since international rating agencies had put Malaysia in the top rankings, a position not many oil-reliant economies are in at this juncture.He was replying to a question by Tan Sri Dr Leo Michael Toyad Abdullah (BN-Mukah) in Parliament yesterday.Last week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated in a statement that the Federal Govern­ment deficit was reduced from 3.4% of the Gross Domestic Product in 2014 to 3% in 2017.

The IMF said this was helping to bring down debts and deficit reduction was achieved mainly through expenditure cuts, in addition to the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax in 2015.Moody’s (credit rating agency) also released a statement, saying Malaysia would get more benefits from the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.But it was not all figures and ratings as Najib and Datuk Seri Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak) also took digs at each other during a supplementary question on national debts.Azmin quoted an international news report last month, which stated that Malaysia had spent 12.5% of its revenue for interest payments on national debts in 2016, as compared to 9% in 2009.He then raised the issue of 1MDB, questioning whether it led to a rise in the debt interest.

To this, Najib calmly brought up the water issue in Selangor, saying it was “even more critical”.A shouting match ensued when Azmin stood up to protest, triggering a backlash from Barisan Nasional backbenchers.Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia had to step in to bring the heated atmosphere down.“This is why the Parliament is special.“Questions will be asked and answers given but both may carry different meaning.“This is what we call politics but it should not go to a stage in which the Standing Orders are contravened,” said the Speaker.Najib then explained that it was not a question of the size of national debts but the ability to repay them.“Singapore’s national debts are bigger than us and their repayment abilities are also existent.“Our ability to repay is unquestionable and international rating agencies have put us in top categories.“This shows our national debt is well managed.“Hopefully, the Selangor water issue will also be settled properly,” he said.-STAR

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