Responding to the prime minister's attacks, the opposition party claims that Anwar Ibrahim did a better job as finance minister than Najib.
The party was responding to Najib’s attacks on Anwar regarding the latter’s ability to manage the country’s economy when he was part of the government.
PKR deputy president Azmin Ali today produced figures during Anwar’s time as the finance minister and compared that to Najib’s track record, pointing out that Anwar obtained better results for the economic growth, reducing deficit and debt, and using funds from Petronas.
“Anwar reduced the debts of the country, with prudent spending that increased earnings over expenditure, not burdening Petronas and the economy grew between 9% to 10%; [whereas] Najib took 10 times more money from Petronas, caused the country’s debt to rise by five times, deficit caused by extravagant spending over 14 years and the economy remains weak at 4-5% growth only,” he said.
Azmin accused Najib of indulging in “politics of fear” to scare voters in the upcoming 13th general election.
He stressed that the rakyat was smart enough to see through it as they did in 2008. “The figure speaks for itself,” he added.
Yesterday, during his opening policy speech at the Umno AGM, Najib said since he took over the ministry in 2009, the nation’s per capita GDP has grown by 30%, from US$6,700 to US$9,700. In contrast, Anwar’s term as finance minister would best be remembered for his response to the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s.
“During the Asian economic crisis that affected Malaysia in 1997 to 1998, it was proven that the finance minister – I repeat, the finance minister then who is now the opposition leader – was not a competent economic manager,” said the Umno president.
However, Azmin said that during Anwar’s term as a finance minister between 1991 to 1998, the country recorded higher economic growth rate. Between 1992 to 1997, the yearly growth was: 8.8%, 9.9%, 9.2%, 9.8%, 10%, and 7.3% respectively.
Najib’s tenure as finance minister saw the growth of 1.5, 7.2, and 5.1 for the years 2009, 2010, and 2011.
“Najib has not once topped the results of Anwar who successfully achieved a 9%-10% growth rate in his years, while Najib’s first year took the country in the other direction and it remained in poor condition despite neighbouring countries, like Indonesia, growing rapidly,” he said.
‘We are faced with daily economic problems’
Azmin said Najib, who had been finance minister since September 2008, had now only achieved a “weak” growth of 4-5%.
“And we are today also faced with various daily economic problems such as the rise of goods prices, and stagnant wages,” he added.
Anwar’s record, said Azmin, also showed the last year where there was a surplus in the budget, as other Umno finance ministers after him chose to pile up the country’s debts yearly till now.
“That is why Malaysia is still struggling with the problems of critical debts and deficit until today,” he said.
He showed figures between 1992 and 1997, where the deficit, under Anwar’s management, was being reduced.
Between the years 1992 till 1997, the deficit was 0.8% , 0.2%, 2.3%, 0.8%, 0.7%, and 2.4%, while the national debts for the same years were RM97b, RM96b, RM93b, RM91b, RM90b, and RM89b.
However, since then, Azmin said, the debt began to rise from 1998 till now and had reached five times the debt, at RM456 billion at the end of 2011 compared to the situation Anwar left the country at.
“Najib also forced Petronas to contribute the highest dividend in the history of Malaysia. There was never a finance minister or prime minister who made use of Petronas funds as much as Najib,” he said.
Azmin said during Anwar’s time, the dividends given out between 1992 to 1997 were consistently at RM3.1billion. During Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s time, Petronas was giving the government dividends of RM9.1b in 2004, RM11b in 2005, RM18b in 2006, and RM24b in 2007.
In contrast to these figures, said Azmin, Najib was taking 10 times more than Anwar, at RM30 billion between 2009 to 2011.
“I am sure that the Malaysian public can differentiate between these figures. The leadership of this country needs to focus on reinvigorating the economy of the country with objective numbers, not trying to distort the performance of the country’s economy due to fear of Anwar’s prowess as a capable finance minister,” he added.
Defections from Sabah Umno
Meanwhile, at the same press conference, a Sabah Umno Wanita leader and her husband announced their decision to quit Umno and join PKR, citing loss of confidence and trust with their former party and leaders.
The woman was Semporna Umno division vice-chairman Kalasahan Abd Salam while her husband, Ab Habi Mustapha, was an exco in the same division.
Minister of Rural and Regional Development and Umno vice-president Shafie Apdal is currently the head of the Semporna division and both husband and wife claimed that he had failed, not only the party but to fight for the welfare of the people there.
Kalasahan added that favouritism, cronyism and nepotism were becoming rife within Umno Semporna Umno, and that the division had failed to bring renewal to the community, which was plagued by problems ranging from the influx of illegal immigrants, lack of water, electricity and hospitals, low levels of education, to traffic and floods.