Najib: Selangor water crisis ‘more critical’ than Putrajaya debt management

Satay stall owner Iles Jusoh unloads a water container from his car in Ampang March 8, 2018. — Picture Razak Ghazali
Satay stall owner Iles Jusoh unloads a water container from his car in Ampang March 8, 2018. — Picture Razak Ghazali

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 12 — Selangor’s water woes are “more critical” than Putrajaya’s debt management, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today.

Najib, who is also finance minister, was responding to Gombak MP Datuk Seri Azmin Ali’s question on the correlation between the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) debt and the country’s commitment to its interest payments.

“The water crisis in Selangor is more critical,” Najib said during Question Time at the Dewan Rakyat. Azmin then stood to protest and was met with jeers from BN MPs, which temporarily disrupted the proceeding.

“I gave the chance to Gombak to ask a question, so give me the opportunity to answer. I also made a comparison, as there are examples when answering questions. So why is the Gombak MP sensitive on the water issue? Strange, strange,” he added after a semblance of order returned.

Azmin, who is also Selangor mentri besar, had referred to a February 16 report by Singaporean daily The Straits Times on Malaysia’s allegedly high interest payments on debt and whether the 1MDB debt had an impact on the increased interest payment or if there were other reasons for Putrajaya to spend 12.5 per cent of its income on interest payments in 2016.

Najib said Malaysia’s debt is at a manageable level, before pointing out the overall amount had dropped to 50.8 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“If the Selangor mentri besar said that Singapore services its debt far less than we do, their debt is more than us, but what is important is the ability to pay off the debt, which cannot be questioned as this has also been acknowledged by international bodies.

“The country’s income is managed well, and we hope that the Selangor water issue would be solved effectively as well,” Najib said.

Simpang Renggam MP Datuk Liang Teck Meng then stood up and asked if the Opposition leaders’ negative remarks when abroad could be seen as an attempt to sabotage Malaysia’s economy.

“We know what is being said by them when they are overseas, and it has not basis at all. It has to be based on fact.

“What I have revealed in the Dewan Rakyat are confirmed facts by international bodies. If there are any parties who says Malaysia is bankrupt or a failed state, then that is clearly a false lie,” Najib said of the Opposition in reply to the Gerakan MP.

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