PETALING JAYA: Former prime minister Najib Razak today not only admitted he had said “cash is king” to Dr Mahathir Mohamad, but also clarified what he had meant by it.
He said he did not mean giving cash handouts to buy support or to bribe someone.
Najib admitted that he had mentioned the phrase to the current prime minister when their relationship was good.
A few months ago, Mahathir had said Najib told him in a private conversation in 2015 that “cash is king” in maintaining political support in Malaysia.
Najib said the phrase depicted the differences in opinion they had on the direction the economy was heading.
“Back then, Mahathir disagreed with the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M), the subsidy rationalisation measure, minimum wage and the move to increase the salary and bonuses of civil servants.
“He believed that the labour and commercial costs (reduced by subsidies) in the country should be lowered, reasoning that if costs were high, then foreign investors would not invest in Malaysia.
“I thought differently,” he said in a Facebook post.
The Pekan MP said he believed that investors who needed workers with low wages would choose other countries where salaries were much lower than in Malaysia.
Najib said he would rather see investments in Malaysia be made not just for the sake of wanting workers with low wages, but based on advanced technology, infrastructure and an attractive tax system through which skilled and high-income job opportunities would be created.
“Meanwhile, the money the government obtains from subsidy rationalisation and GST (goods and services tax) will be returned to the rakyat in the form of BR1M, higher wages and infrastructure projects.”
He said he mentioned “cash is king” to Mahathir because he felt that the government should give them cash, in the form of BR1M, for them to decide for themselves what they wanted to do with the money.
Najib said that, for instance, if the people wanted to use the money to buy petrol, it would mean they would determine the “subsidy” for themselves, not the government.
He said not all the people would directly benefit if the price of sugar was cheap as there were those who chose not to take too much sugar. Similarly, not all would directly benefit from petrol subsidies as they did not own cars.
“This is why we give cash to the people to choose for themselves how they wished to spend it.
“My opinion is this. The income of Malaysians is still too low after all this while and should be increased. (Can you tell me) which developed country has workers with low wages?” he asked.