TOKYO: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday (May 30) reaffirmed his promise to hand over the premiership to Anwar Ibrahim as agreed to by Pakatan Harapan (PH), although he said no time frame has been spelled out for that.
“I have agreed that Anwar will take over from me and I will adhere to my agreement. During the formation of the PH coalition, it was agreed that it would be led by me as the chairman.
“We also (did) undertake that if I become PM, my term would be limited to a certain time, but the actual time is not spelled out,” he said at a dialogue session at the 25th International Conference on The Future of Asia, also known as the Nikkei Conference.
Dr Mahathir said he will step down “after a certain time" for him to put the economy "back in order”.
He said dealing with the Malaysian economy is by far the biggest and most pressing issue to be settled before the power transition.
“We need to reduce the borrowings to a certain level where our money can be used for the development needed,” he said.
Another challenge is to change people's mindset to not be dependent on government handouts, he said.
Dr Mahathir lamented that PH is not well-liked by some Malaysians now, as it has not continued the previous administration's practice of giving out "free money”.
"The previous government was fond of giving free money to the people. Everybody got free money. If you’re a bachelor, you get RM450, fisherman, RM300. They were given money for doing nothing.
“Now we have taken over and carry this burden of huge debt. We don’t have money and we cannot give free money to the people. Because of this, they don’t like us. But it has to be done,” he said.
He said there is no way the government can correct the financial problem without being very careful and prudent in its management.
“We want them (the people) to have jobs and earn money. The government will also have enough wealth and we can pay our debt and create more jobs,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said a country where the people depend on the government for free money will never grow, while a country where people work hard to create wealth will prosper.