Ringgit doing well? Don’t be ridiculous, Pua tells Najib

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PETALING JAYA: DAP’s Tony Pua has criticised Prime Minister Najib Razak for trying to hoodwink the people into thinking that the performance of the ringgit, increasing in value by 5.9%, against the US dollar is worthy of praise.

The Petaling Jaya Utara MP was referring to Najib’s remarks ahead of the Budget 2018 announcement tomorrow, that “the ringgit had performed better than the currencies of many other large commodity exporter countries, and forecasters had predicted that it will regain its strength”.

“Is he trying to convince us that the ringgit’s appreciation from RM4.49 to the dollar on Jan 1 this year to RM4.24 currently is an achievement worthy of a standing ovation from Malaysians?

“Does he need reminding that when he became the prime minister on April 9, 2009, the exchange rate was RM3.58 to the dollar, that is 18% higher than what it is today?” he said, adding that following the 2013 general election, the ringgit has declined significantly on an annual basis.

According to Pua, in 2014, the ringgit slumped 6.3% from RM3.28 to the dollar on Jan 1 to RM3.50 a dollar on Dec 31.

“The prime minister had told us in Jan 2015 that the ringgit would bounce back from the then five-year low versus the US dollar because ‘Malaysia’s financial market is sufficiently robust’.

“Instead, in 2015, the ringgit collapsed a further 18.5% to RM4.30 to a dollar on Dec 31,” Pua said referring to the year in which the ringgit had breached the psychological barrier of RM4 to the dollar for the first time since 1998.

He added that despite the government’s reassurance that our currency was undervalued and had been unjustifiably depreciated for the two years, the ringgit then declined a further 9.6% in 2016.

“The thing is, if every other currency had declined at the same rate against the dollar, it wouldn’t have felt so bad.

“What is particularly galling is that the ringgit’s performance is the worst among all major regional currencies over the past few years,” Pua said, mocking Najib for clutching at straws in calling for a celebration of the ringgit’s marginal gains this year.

The DAP national publicity secretary then called for voters not to let the prime minister’s short-term improvements distract from the bigger picture.

“The direct consequence of a badly depreciated ringgit is not only significantly higher travel cost overseas, it is the much higher cost of imports which translates into the highest inflation rates Malaysia is facing since the last global financial subprime crisis.

“Therefore, the only way the ringgit can return to pre-2014 levels is by getting rid of the current administration and implement clean, transparent and competitive economic policies to bring back the confidence of local and foreign investors in Malaysia.”