KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 — The government should set up a new sovereign wealth fund as part of its efforts to improve transparency and accountability in managing oil and gas revenue, said former finance minister Lim Guan Eng.
The Bagan member of parliament said this was better than recommendations to list the national oil company Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) via an initial public offering (IPO).
Using the Government Pension Fund of Norway (GPFN) as an example, Lim said creating a similar fund is something that can benefit all Malaysians.
“This model is relevant for Petronas because the GPFN has many similarities with the (national oil) company. Like Petronas, the Norwegian fund is a government entity with a long-term mandate to manage wealth from the oil and gas sector.
“Malaysia owes RM1.5 trillion in debts (and liabilities), but the GPFN has more than US$1 trillion (RM4.4 trillion) in assets. The main aim of this fund is to help the Norwegian government ensure the country’s citizens benefit from the pension fund,” he said while debating the Supply Bill 2023 in parliament today.
The GPFN comprises two sovereign wealth funds wholly owned by the Norwegian government.
One of the two funds, the Government Pension Fund Global, also known as the Oil Fund, was established in 1990 to invest in the Norwegian oil sector’s surplus revenue, and it currently owns over US$1.19 trillion in assets and holds 1.4 per cent of all of the world’s listed companies, making it one of the world’s largest sovereign funds.
Lim said Petronas is a national treasure that Malaysians should fully own, and using the company to pay off government debts is moving the responsibility away from those who made the borrowings.
“Therefore, the federal government should settle the debts by itself and not rely on Petronas to do so.
“Whether the IPO of 20 per cent of Petronas’ shares will raise funds of RM300 billion or enable Petronas to gain in revenue is debatable as a similar IPO by Saudi Arabian oil and gas company, Aramco, appeared to have limited success,” he added. — Bernama