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Najib’s offer to Trump, like Malaysia teaching Brazil football

 | September 14, 2017

PPBM supreme council member Rais Hussin ridicules Prime Minister Najib Razak for wanting to strengthen the US economy, which is about 62 times larger than Malaysia's.

rais-hussin-najib-trump-1PETALING JAYA: How can the Malaysian economy, which is 62.65 times smaller in size compared with that of the United States, strengthen the economy of the US?

This is the question a PPBM leader wants answered following remarks by Prime Minister Najib Razak to US President Donald Trump at a meeting in the White House on Tuesday.

“Under six minutes, Najib assured Trump, whose economy stands at nearly US$18.57 trillion (RM77.99 trillion) in 2016, that Malaysia will strengthen the US economy and invest in Trump’s infrastructure programme.

“Now what is the size of the Malaysian Gross Domestic Product? US$296.4 billion (RM1,244.88 billion) in 2016.

“It is like Najib going to Brazil to offer our football expertise in strengthening Brazil’s national team,” PPBM supreme council member Dr Rais Hussin said in a statement today.

Rais criticised Najib for promising to buy 33 new aircraft from Boeing for Malaysia Airlines (MAS), asking how was the government going to pay for it.

Najib told Trump that “we are committed to 25 planes of the 737 MAX 10, plus eight 787 Dreamliners. And there is a strong probability that we will add 25 more 737 MAX 10 in the near future and within five years, the deal will be beyond US$10 billion (RM42 billion)”.

Rais said: “How will Malaysia even come up with this staggering billions to pay for the 787 Dreamliners built by Boeing? Yet, this is precisely the promise given by Najib to Trump, when MAS just broke even last year after hiving off most of its assets.

“The US$10 billion and beyond Boeing purchase from a government-linked company like MAS, that had retrenched more than 6,000 employees just in June 2016, about a year and three months ago, is shocking.”

He cited Brendan Sobie, chief analyst at independent aviation research firm CAPA Center for Aviation, who had cautioned that there were government-owned airlines, including MAS, which bought airplanes that were not really required or sustainable.

“In this case he pointed out that the timing of the order alongside Najib’s visit raised concerns of potential political influence over the purchase. He is being polite,” Rais said referring to Sobie’s comments.

Rais, who is also head of PPBM’s policy and strategy bureau, speculated on the government coming out with another series of sukuks or bonds that it would guarantee, in order to pay for the purchase of the Boeing planes for MAS.

“Will this possibly lead to more contingent liabilities for the government? Will the contingent liabilities evolve into a pile of debts, and the government and the people will have to bail it out again?”

EPF’s risky investment in US stock market

Rais said current and any future investment in the US by Khazanah Nasional and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), as announced by Najib, also ran a high risk, considering warnings by the US Federal Reserve that it might increase interest rates by the end of the year, thus affecting the stock markets there.

On Tuesday, Najib told Trump in their White House meeting that the EPF had already invested US$7 billion and was now looking to invest a further US$3 to US$4 billion on infrastructure redevelopment in the US.

The prime minister said Khazanah would also be increasing its US$400 million investment in high-tech firms in the US.

“If Najib wants to invest in the stock exchange and also to buy planes, shouldn’t Najib be asking for the assets to be released so that Malaysia has the cash to make the forward purchases?” Rais asked, referring to assets frozen by the US Department of Justice in its probe into assets purchased with funds allegedly embezzled from 1MDB.

Calling the meeting between Najib and Trump a farce, Rais said for all the investments Najib generously offered to Trump, he got nothing in return.

“We got zilch, except the word ‘great’ (three times), gratitude over Malaysia’s ‘massive’ investments in the US, praise for Malaysia’s stand against Islamic State and of course, commendation for not doing business with North Korea.

“This simply means that this whole US visit must be the most expensive photo opportunity for domestic politics, ever in the history of Malaysia.”


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