JOHOR BARU, Oct 31 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has clarified today his role in the sale or disposal of government strategic assets, as revealed last night by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
Dr Mahathir said he has the authority to do so as the chairman of sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which oversees the assets.
“Basically, we had to sell assets as the government lost huge sums of money.
“This is in order to raise funds to pay debts left by the previous government as they borrowed more than RM1 trillion,” Dr Mahathir told the press.
He had earlier announced the commencement of the RTS Link with Singapore at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine facility at the Sultan Iskandar Building here.
Last night, Lim said the sale or disposal of government strategic assets falls under the purview of the prime minister.
In an interview by RTM’s Bicara Politkonomi talk show, Lim said the ministry does not have the final say on the disposal of government assets but assured that such action taken by Dr Mahathir was to gain funds that are used for the benefit of the rakyat.
Dr Mahathir said today the selling of government assets would only involve a tender system where they can fetch high prices.
Yesterday, Minister of Economic Affairs Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali told Parliament that Khazanah’s assets divestment exercise over the year only involved commercial assets and not strategic ones.
He said between May 2018 and June 2019, Khazanah had disposed of assets worth RM18.8 billion, of which RM3.2 billion was between May to December 2018, and RM15.6 billion from January to June 2019.
Of the proceeds from the disposals, he said Khazanah had invested RM6.4 billion in the various sectors, debts repayment (RM8 billion) and RM1 billion paid to the government as dividends.
For the financial year of 2019, he said Khazanah was expected to chalk up profits of around RM5 billion compared with losses of RM6.3 billion in 2018.