It was more challenging when I took over as PM, says Najib

Former prime minister Najib Razak says PH must take responsibility for the current state of the economy.

PETALING JAYA: Former prime minister Najib Razak has told Pakatan Harapan to take responsibility for the current state of the country’s finances, saying his administration left behind a strong economy.

In a Facebook post, Najib, who also served as finance minister, said he took over the reins of the country at a more challenging time than Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Recently, Mahathir said in an interview with Indonesian media that the burden of his responsibility as prime minister was three times heavier than during his first stint as premier three decades ago.

He said this was because PH had to take over an administration that was riddled with corruption and saddled with debts incurred by Najib’s government.

Najib hit back at PH today, listing the differences when he took over from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in April 2009 and when he left office.

He said the country was hit by the world’s worst economic crisis since the 1930s with inflation in 2008 standing at 5.5%.

“The national gross domestic product (GDP) dropped 0.2% in the fourth quarter of 2008 and shrunk 6.2% in the first quarter of 2009, a frightening drop,” he said.

Najib said the government’s deficit had also increased, while exports and investments dropped substantially.

“The country’s debt at the end of 2008 had reached RM306 billion, 14 times higher compared to the RM23 billion when he (Mahathir) became the 4th PM.”

Then, he said, the price of crude oil had plummeted from US$140 to US$35 a barrel, while the government was burdened with lopsided independent power producer (IPP) and toll agreements.

“The stock market index stood at 800 points. Then I didn’t blame anyone or complain. We just got on with work and launched the National Transformation Plan,” he said, adding that in less than a year, the country’s GDP had risen to 7.4%.

Najib said that when Mahathir took over after the 14th general election (GE14), there was no global economic crisis, with the GDP for 2017 rising 5.9% and exports increasing 18.9%.

He said the government’s deficit had also gone down for eight consecutive years to just 3% in 2017, while aid for the people increased yearly.

He said Malaysia’s debt, which stood at RM686.8 billion, has now ballooned to RM810 billion under PH.

Najib said the stock market index rose to 1,896 before GE14, the highest in history, while global oil prices recovered to around US$70, with Petronas having reserves of RM170 billion.

The issue of lopsided IPP and PLUS highway concessions were also resolved, he said.

“So, to compare, it is clear that it was way more challenging when I took over as PM compared to when the BN handed over the government to PH.

“We left them an economy that was in good condition,” he said, adding that what happened after is PH’s responsibility, particularly that of its finance minister and economic affairs minister.