KUALA LUMPUR (March 26): The winding up of the debate on the royal address for the Ministry of Finance was tumultuous following a clash between the current Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and former Minister of Finance (and Prime Minister) Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
It started when Najib got up to ask for clarifications from Lim on the Government’s debt which rose by RM87.1 billion to RM773.1 billion currently compared to RM686 billion at the end of 2017 according to the official data of the Central Bank of Malaysia.
Lim said, among others, the debt amount was contributed by the debts of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
"The old administration is indeed cunning because we know 1MDB’s debt is so big but is not included in the official figures of the Government’s debt because everything was done via off balance sheet..it also had to be paid by the Government although it was not directly borrowed by the Malaysian Government. And as guarantor, we are also forced to make payments despite not being the main guarantor,’’ he said.
The situation became more tense when Lim raised the issue of selling the property of the Malaysian consulate in Hong Kong.
"Recently, I read Najib saying in a newspaper report asking why the Malaysian Government wanted to sell the property belonging to the Malaysian consulate in Hong Kong.
"He protested about the sale of the consulate property in Hong Kong. I, hereby, inform the elected representative for Pekan that the decision to sell the consulate property in Hong Kong was personally made by he himself under the administration of Barisan Nasional," he said, adding that it was done via direct negotiation.
Najib then rose to ask whether the tunnel project in Penang was made through open tender or not, which triggered shouts of "terowong" (tunnel) by the Opposition members of Parliament.
In the meantime, Lim said the Government had to rescue the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) and Bandar Malaysia projects due to loss of funds following the misappropriations and scandal of 1MDB.
He said the TRX project had high potential in spurring the nation’s future but the scandal resulted in foreign investors shying away from the project.
"After carrying out the revival process under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, we succeeded in reviving the confidence of foreign investors towards TRX and Malaysia. Currently, TRX is a corruption-free project and has the confidence of domestic and foreign investors,’’ he added.