Who borrowed from Japan? Not my govt, says Najib

Former prime minister Najib Razak said his government never borrowed from Japan.

PETALING JAYA: Former premier Najib Razak has scoffed at a PKR politician’s reasoning that the government was in a spot over the Lynas rare-earths plant because of government loans taken from Japan.

In an online posting this evening, Najib said that his government had never borrowed from Japan. “It was during the time of the fourth prime minister (Dr Mahathir Mohamad) that we borrowed a lot from Japan until our foreign debt ballooned when the yen grew stronger.”

He then questioned why the current government run by Pakatan Harapan, now also headed by Mahathir, had sought RM7.3 billion in financing from Japan. Last November, the Japanese government offered to guarantee up to 200 billion yen (RM7.4 billion) of Samurai bonds with a 10-year tenure.

Earlier today, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh – a vocal critic of the Lynas rare earths processing plant – said Malaysia was in a spot over the Lynas issue, as the main beneficiaries of the processed rare earths were companies in Japan, which had provided financing for the government in the form of Samurai Bonds.

Fuziah blamed the previous government’ for the borrowing from Japan, and for running up too many debts.

But Najib, who was also finance minister, said the Barisan Nasional government of his time had settled many of the debts from Mahathir’s time.

However the national debt had now swollen to RM807 billion from RM686.8 billion in 2017, with the RM120 billion increase stemming from domestic loans made in ringgit, he said.

“If the government can borrow RM120 billion from domestic sources and plunder RM82 billion from Petronas, why does PH need to borrow RM7.3 billion from Japan?” he said.

He also took another swipe at Fuziah – whose resignation he had demanded earlier in the day – for not mentioning that the government had received RM175 million from Lynas recently. Lynas has recently confirmed that it had deposited US$42 million (RM175 million) required by the government for a long-term waste solution.

Fuziah’s explanation came in an open letter after Najib called for her resignation and that of DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and Bentong MP Wong Tack after Dr Mahathir had indicated that Lynas’ licence would be renewed.

Pakatan Harapan had campaigned strongly against the Lynas plant before the 2018 general election, with many claims made that the plant would be closed after a change of government.