National debt now at RM797 bil, claims Najib

Former prime minister Najib Razak.

PETALING JAYA: Najib Razak has challenged Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng to “prove me wrong” that the official national debt has now risen to RM797.4 billion.

Citing figures from Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) website, the former prime minister pointed out that the government had issued sukuk bonds, expiring in 2039, to borrow another RM4 billion yesterday.

He said the figures showed that the government had borrowed RM67 billion through domestic sukuk for the first six months of 2019.

In March, Lim had also announced that the government had borrowed RM7.3 billion from foreign sources by issuing Samurai bonds.

Speaking to FMT, Najib, who was also the former finance minister, said he was shocked at the rate the Pakatan Harapan-led government was borrowing money.

“The information is available on BNM’s website for anyone to check. Based on my calculations, the national debt now stands at RM797.4 billion. By next month, I believe it will rise to RM800 billion.”

He said this was an increase of well over RM100 billion from the time PH took over from the Barisan Nasional administration he led as the government debt then stood at RM686 billion at the end of 2017.

“They already took RM82 billion from Petronas last year, they’ve been selling valuable assets and yet they continue to borrow so much money,” he said.

Though the BN-led administration also borrowed money, the Pekan MP said it had committed itself to setting aside a larger chunk of money to repay those loans. As a consequence, debt under the BN government had increased at a much slower rate compared to under PH.

Najib said that in 2017, the government borrowed RM113.9 billion and repaid RM73.2 billion, increasing national debt by RM40.8 billion.

By comparison, he said the new administration borrowed RM114.8 billion and only repaid RM63.8 billion, resulting in a RM52 billion increase in the national debt in 2018.

“For the first six months of 2019 alone, they have borrowed RM74.3 billion but they’ve only repaid RM17.7 billion. This effectively means that the national debt has increased by RM58.6 billion.”

Najib said DAP used to constantly claim that 1MDB’s RM30 billion loans to fund endeavours, including those the government now recognises as valuable, like TRX and Bandar Malaysia, would bankrupt the country.

“Not only has PH not repaid a single sen of 1MDB’s outstanding loans, they are borrowing money at a much faster rate than BN and repaying less.

“I really won’t be surprised if their propaganda on the so-called RM1 trillion debt becomes a reality by 2020 if they continue borrowing money at this pace,” he said.

Earlier this month, Lim admitted that direct government debt and government guarantees had both increased when he announced that the overall debt had crossed RM1.1 trillion.

However, he said the debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio had been reduced.

Najib said he was looking forward to the next parliamentary meeting, which starts on Monday, as he hopes Lim would take the opportunity to prove his calculations wrong.