Malaysia PM Anwar defends decision to hold finance portfolio, says problem only if position is abused
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said that it is not a problem for a prime minister to also helm the finance ministry, as long as the position is not being abused.
“In our history, whether (the two positions) are combined or not is not a problem. The problem is using the position to steal the people’s money,” he said on Tuesday (Feb 14) during the inaugural Prime Minister's Question and Answer Session (PMQ) in Parliament.
“This applies to various circles, those who are clean … don't worry. But those who are involved in corruption should feel pressured and worried.”
Mr Anwar added that he will do everything he can to prevent the abuse of power and rampant corruption from happening in his unity government.
Besides Mr Anwar, former prime minister Najib Razak also held the finance portfolio during his premiership.
Najib has since been implicated and charged for his alleged role in the embezzlement of state-owned investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). He was convicted of misappropriating RM42 million from SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.
Mr Anwar’s response during Tuesday’s PMQ came after Putrajaya Member of Parliament (MP) Radzi Jidin asked him whether holding both the positions of prime minister and finance minister would create an opportunity for a similar scandal to occur.
This is not the first time that Mr Anwar has been criticised for holding the two posts concurrently.
Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin previously slammed Mr Anwar’s decision to helm the finance ministry, saying that doing so would erode investors’ trust in his leadership.
Responding, Economic Affairs Minister Rafizi Ramli had clarified that Mr Anwar’s decision to hold the finance minister post was due to “extraordinary circumstances”.
The Pandan MP also said that it would not be easy for Mr Anwar to potentially abuse large sums of government funds due to greater scrutiny.
DAMAGES BY PN LEADERSHIP, NOT JUST BN: ANWAR
Mr Radzi had also earlier asked in Parliament whether the prime minister agreed that the Barisan Nasional (BN) government contributed to Malaysia's debt and liability.
He said that according to a report, one of the main contributors to the increase in national debt is related to various financial scandals that occurred during the BN era, especially under the leadership of Najib Razak.
Mr Anwar acknowledged the financial leaks involving 1MDB under the BN government, though he added that a lot of damage was also done by the PN government.
“During the PN government, there was a lot of damage … including expenditure on the Jana Wibawa project, flood mitigation projects, as well as several other leaks that are currently under investigation,” he said.
Jana Wibawa is an economic generation project that took place during the country’s COVID-19 movement control order.
On the latest national debt position, Mr Anwar on Tuesday told parliament that the government debt and liabilities currently stands at RM1.5 trillion (US$345 billion), or about 82 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
To resolve the issue, Mr Anwar said the government will look into reducing subsidies enjoyed by the wealthy. He added that there are, however, no plans to reintroduce a goods and services tax (GST) or any other broad-based consumption tax.
Mr Anwar is expected to present a revised government budget on Feb 24.