Can’t keep ignoring bad press, Nazir Razak says after ‘junk’ status suggested for Malaysia

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak speaks at the World Capital Market Symposium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, September 3, 2015. ― Reuters pic
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak speaks at the World Capital Market Symposium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, September 3, 2015. ― Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 — Putrajaya must disprove or sue over negative reports by global media as the unflattering coverage is causing markets to view Malaysia more negatively than it actually is, Datuk Seri Nazir Razak said today.

Commenting on reports that a ratings agency saying that Malaysia’s sovereign credit rating deserves to be accorded “junk” status, the CIMB Group chairman said the view belied the country’s actual situation.

“This is worrying. The market is much more negative about Malaysia than the rating agencies, taking us into “junk” category, way below our fundamentals,” he wrote on photo-sharing site Instagram.

“Suspect it’s due to so much negative coverage in WSJ, FT and NYT — all ‘capital’ people read at least one if not all of them. We have to change the current narrative about Malaysia with answers or legal suits; can’t just ignore them.”

Data from Moody’s Corp today suggested that Malaysia along with five other developing nations deserve to follow Brazil’s downgrade to “junk” status.

According to a Bloomberg report, Malaysia is A3 at the company, though traders see it six levels lower at Ba3. South Africa, which is a Baa2, is viewed as a B1 borrower.

Three Aa3 nations including China are perceived by the markets as deserving the lowest investment grade.

The Wall Street Journal on Monday reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation into entities linked to 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that the US Justice Department has convened a grand jury to consider possible indictments for corruption over property purchases worth hundreds of millions in the US by individuals associated with the Malaysian prime minister.

The US investigations are the latest announced on 1MDB by a foreign country, and joins ongoing probes in Switzerland, the SAR of Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and Singapore.

The WSJ has published a series of reports detailing dubious activity allegedly involving 1MDB, beginning with an exposé in July on the US$700 million (RM3.06 billion) deposit in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s accounts.

It followed up last month with another report alleging that US$1.4 billion in payments from 1MDB to a UAE sovereign fund was missing from the Middle Eastern firm’s accounts.

The July report, in particular, appeared to trigger a series of events in Malaysia that eventually led to the amount being declared a donation from the Middle East while local investigations into 1MDB were also either suspended or repurposed.

Najib, who is Nazir’s brother, has denied any impropriety over the US$700 million donation, which was described as a political donation to the Umno party that he heads.

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