Johari Ghani: Political Stability Needed To Resolve RM1 Trillion National Debt & Low FDI
Former second finance minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani said Malaysia is at a precarious crossroads, and political stability is much needed to steer the country out of the economic morass
Speaking to Utusan Malaysia's Mingguan Malaysia, the UMNO Supreme Council member said he is worried about the deteriorating economy and its continued trajectory, especially when compared to ASEAN countries.
He explained that several economic indicators — such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), per capita income, and total national debt — are showing that Malaysia is in a shaking position.
According to him, the downtrend must be reversed or the rakyat will continue to suffer, citing a set of experienced, efficient, and trustworthy leaders is needed to stabilise the politics in order to lead the nation out of the current political and economic crises.
"The country's economic position really worries me. If we look at some economic indicators, they do not show that we are in a comfortable position," he lamented
"In terms of GDP in 2021, our economy is growing at the lowest level compared to other ASEAN countries."
"We have only grown 3.1%. Compared to the Philippines 7.4%, Cambodia 6.8%, Vietnam 6.7%, and Indonesia 6.1%."
As for per capita income, Malaysia recorded the worst growth in the region.
"Malaysia's per capita income grew only 0.3%, while Vietnam grew by 4.4% and Indonesia by 4.0%," Free Malaysia Today quoted Johari as saying.
In terms of GDP, the UMNO leader said the country's income is not growing in line with the government’s spending, which also recorded the lowest growth among other ASEAN countries apart from Singapore.
"We only grew 3.1%. Compare this to the Philippines (7.4%), Cambodia (6.8%), Vietnam (6.7%), and Indonesia (6.1%)."
Additionally, FDI has been flowing to neighbouring countries instead of Malaysia
Johari said Malaysia received USD11.1 billion (about RM46.7 billion) in FDI compared to Vietnam's USD31.1 billion (about RM130.7 billion) and Indonesia's USD31.6 billion (about RM132.8 billion) last year.
He told Mingguan Malaysia that the country, under the Barisan Nasional administration, was the primary choice for investors in the region. Johari said the poor economic performance has caused the nation's rating to drop from -A to +BBB
On top of all these, he said the current national debt stands at over RM1 trillion, adding that the colossal burden will add pressure to the government's already tight finances.
"The RM686 billion debt in 2018 has now become more than RM1 trillion, an increase of RM320 billion. With such high debts, interest payments are also increasing, and they have now reached more than RM42 billion a year," he said.
In January, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak claimed that the national debt has reached RM1 trillion. However, Deputy Finance Minister Shahar Abdullah told the Dewan Rakyat today, 21 March, that the national debt stood at RM979.8 billion as of the end of last December.
The solution to all economic conundrums, according to Johari, is to have short-term and long-term economic strategies, as well as a strong and convincing new mandate so that the government will not be overthrown when it introduces "unpopular policies".
"The country also needs leaders who have experience and competence in the matter of economic recovery," he argued, adding that they must have integrity and are trusted by the people.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government will increase the minimum wage to RM1,500 in May: