PETALING JAYA: Barisan Nasional (BN) strategist Eric See-To says the situations or systems for which many blame the government are actually due to Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s management of the country during his 22 years as prime minister.
Speaking to FMT, See-To said this was why in 2008 the people voted to let the opposition take five states and denied BN its two-thirds majority. It was also why the people voted overwhelmingly for BN in 2004, the year after Mahathir resigned, as many were happy to see the back of him, he added.
He said many of Mahathir’s policies and actions rubbed people the wrong way and left a legacy that burdened them even after his resignation.
These included high prices of vehicles, tolls, low salaries, high income inequality, constraints on Chinese education and scholarships, the cabotage policy in East Malaysia, lack of development in the east coast peninsular states and East Malaysia, inefficient public transportation, lopsided toll highway agreements and lopsided independent power plant (IPP) agreements.
But, See-To said, Prime Minister Najib Razak had been working to right these wrongs over the past 10 years.
“Car prices have come down. In fact, if you look at the first quarter of 2018, Honda outsold Proton cars two-to-one. This shows Malaysians now have more choices and greater affordability.”
On tolls, See-To said the government had taken over PLUS to ensure that toll rates would not be raised anymore. He said since it was owned by the government and the Employees’ Provident Fund, it was now the people who benefitted, not the cronies of the past.
“We also try to make critical interstate highways toll-free where we can afford to, like the Pan-Borneo Highway and Central Spine Road (CSR), both of which are already at an advanced stage of construction and can be used soon. In fact, many stretches of the CSR are already open for use.”
See-To also said the Najib administration had put an end to lopsided IPP agreements, which the opposition used to say cost taxpayers RM20 billion to RM30 billion a year.
He said the government and 1MDB had changed this by taking over many IPPs and introducing open tenders in 2012.
“Going by the opposition’s figures, the open tenders have saved the government RM400 billion to RM600 billion over 20 years,” he added.
On top of this, See-To said Najib’s administration had also addressed other issues, such as improving affordable housing, eliminating the cabotage policy, and ensuring the east coast, Sabah, and Sarawak were developed more equally.
He said income inequality in Malaysia was also at its lowest level in history, as demonstrated by the Gini Coefficient which had fallen below 0.40 for the first time – meaning Malaysia is more equal than it has ever been before.
He also cited policies such as BR1M and minimum wage as contributing factors to the faster income growth rate among the lower income groups.
Malaysia going bankrupt?
See-To also hit out at the opposition’s claims that the country could go bust due to 1MDB’s RM30 billion debt.
“Last time, the opposition said we lost RM30 billion a year through lopsided IPPs yet never said we’d go bankrupt. We fixed that.
“Now they say because of 1MDB’s RM30 billion long-term debt, which is secured by assets like TRX and Bandar Malaysia, we will go bankrupt,” he said, adding that 1MDB had also built or upgraded eight military bases.
See-To said when Malaysia’s GDP was smaller, around RM200 billion in the 1990s, the country lost RM33 billion in the Bank Negara (BNM) forex scandal, yet didn’t go bankrupt.
Now, he said, Malaysia’s GDP stood at RM1.3 trillion.
“If we didn’t go bankrupt then, why are we going bankrupt now?
“With the BNM forex scandal, what did we get? No development, no TRX, no military bases, and we can’t recover the money we lost.”
See-To also accused the opposition of only telling half the story when talking about Malaysia’s national and external debt.
He said the opposition only talked about the national debt but not the national income.
“Our debt-to-GDP ratio is the lowest in 10 years. The only reason why there was a sharp increase in 2009 was due to the global recession.
“Then, Najib introduced three stimulus packages that saved Malaysia, but now Malaysians are blaming Najib for saving the country.”
As for external debt, See-To said Pakatan Harapan (PH) talked about gross external debt being over RM800 billion without talking of gross external assets, to confuse the people.
He said the country’s gross external assets outweighed its debts, essentially making Malaysia a net creditor country.
“Also, if you talk about gross external debt, then Singapore and Hong Kong have gross external debts of around RM5 trillion. They aren’t going bankrupt.
“I want to tell the opposition: stop lying to the people. Come and debate me on national debt and external debt. Anyone, Tony Pua, Rafizi Ramli, let’s debate and let the truth come out.”
He claimed the opposition also shied away from debating on its billion-ringgit scandals such as the Penang tunnel, the Ijok land scam as well as the lawsuit against Selangor water company Syabas over RM4.22 billion in unpaid bills.
“And also, go and embarrass Arul Kanda at his 1MDB open sessions. Till today, no one from the opposition has gone to question him at these sessions.
“The opposition dare not confront Arul and me on issues such as national debt or 1MDB as they know that once they do, their lies, misleading propaganda and their scandals will be exposed for all to see.”
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