KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s national debt has declined to a manageable level, but the government is still considering selling some assets to trim the deficit further, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday (Apr 4).
Speaking in parliament, the prime minister said the percentage of national debt has declined following a rise in gross domestic product.
“When we settled some debts, the overall debt also declined. It no longer affects our efforts to govern and develop the country,” he said.
The national debt figure now stands at RM686 billion (US$168 billion), down from the earlier estimate of RM1 trillion.
Another factor contributing to the reduction in national debt was Putrajaya being able to recover “quite a lot of money that was lost, that was kept by Singapore”, he said, without giving an exact figure.
“That money has helped to reduce the debt,” he said, adding that the government is still trying to reduce the contract value of the East Coast Rail Link.
The prime minister was then asked if the money recovered from Singapore was related to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). "I will have to ask the Finance Minister. He has a better figure than me," he was quoted as saying by The Star.
In 2016, Singapore authorities said they seized S$240 million in cash and properties as a result of investigations into 1MDB-related fund flows through Singapore
Last September, a Singapore court ordered the return of around S$15.3 million to Malaysia. The funds were to be transferred to a special 1MDB recovery account in Kuala Lumpur.
MORE GOVERNMENT ASSETS MAY BE SOLD
Dr Mahathir said the national debt can be reduced further by identifying government assets that can be sold, including land.
“But of course, we’ll sell the land to Malaysians, not foreigners,” he was quoted as saying by Malay Mail.
He said the process of reducing national debt is an ongoing, and not static process.
“(National debt) is being lowered, being worked on all the time. I can’t give the exact figure, but I believe it has been reduced quite considerably.”
On Wednesday, Genting Malaysia confirmed it was buying the superyacht Equanimity together with bunkers, fuel, lubricants and other existing consumables on board for US$126 million. The vessel was allegedly bought with stolen funds from 1MDB.