Petronas has money to pay govt RM30 bil, says Dr M

Dr Mahathir says Petronas can afford it as the price of oil is at US$80 per barrel now. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said Petronas will be able to afford the RM30 billion special dividend to Putrajaya next year.

It was earlier reported that this was to settle the RM37 billion in outstanding tax refunds left behind by the previous Barisan Nasional administration.

Mahathir said the oil and gas giant had already taken the dividend into consideration.

“No, they have taken that into consideration. Of course, Petronas needs a lot of money to carry on with exploration and production, among others, but they can afford that amount.

“You must remember the price of oil has gone up quite high.

“Of course, if it is at US$40 per barrel, it is not possible to give that kind of money, but now it is almost US$80,” he told reporters after the tabling of Pakatan Harapan’s first budget in the Dewan Rakyat today.

The “Fiscal Outlook and Federal Government Revenue Estimates 2019 Report” states the dividend will be sourced from Petronas’ accumulated retained earnings.

The Langkawi MP also admitted that higher deficit numbers had been tabled in Budget 2019, but pointed out that one could see throughout the speech by the finance minister that measures had been taken to correct the impact of the deficit.

“We were very careful about how the money will be spent.

“Although the budget is more than the previous year, you must also remember we carry the burden of having to pay debts incurred by the previous government,” he said.

To a question on Japan’s samurai bonds to Malaysia, and how much money will be used to pay off loans, Mahathir said most of the money will be used to offset some of the costlier loans borrowed by the previous government.

He also stated that Japan’s interest rates were far lower than the previous loans taken.

“The previous government borrowed money at a rate of 6%, but for that rate, instead of getting 100% of the money borrowed, we got only 90%.”

On education getting the highest amount in the budget, Mahathir said education is an important field.

“Education is extremely important. I wanted to be education minister but they did not allow me.

“Nowadays, you need to learn about more things.

“It was not the case previously. Before, you read on the history of the British empire. All the geography of England. We learnt about Rome.

“Now, we need to learn about information technology, technology, science, mathematics, algorithms. We need to know these; otherwise we will be left behind,” he said.

On the need for more aviation hubs, with Khazanah Holdings developing 32ha of land around the Subang airport and the development of the KLIA aeropolis, Mahathir said certain industries needed to be near airports.

“A lot of things involve flying things in and out. I think the aerospace industry is very big,” he said.

On whether the first budget by PH can fulfil the aspirations of the people, he said the budget did not exceed the income.

“There are no loans taken to start new companies to steal money.

“We are very careful. We spend only what we can. If we have no money, we do not spend.”

On whether the government was still committed to balancing the books and the time-frame to do so, he said: “We want to balance the books, but sometimes the books cannot be balanced”.

On Tabung Harapan, which has collected nearly RM200 million, Mahathir said the money in this fund has no specific purpose other than to help the government resolve financial problems.

“We will use it as wisely as possible.”