Urgent action needed to address RM1.5 trillion national debt: Anwar Ibrahim

Anwar said that there were no plans to construct iconic landmarks or skyscrapers during his administration.

Yen Zhi Yi | January 17, 2023, 07:17 PM

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Malaysia’s national debt, including liabilities, has reached a figure of RM1.5 trillion (S$460 billion) and requires “immediate action”, said Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, according to the Bernama.

Anwar, who is also the Finance Minister, was speaking at the Budget 2023 Dialogue on Jan. 17.

He said that “the national debt has reached almost RM1.2 trillion (S$367 billion). If liabilities are included, the figure has hit RM1.5 trillion (S$460 billion).”

This figure has already exceeded 80 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

He also said the service charges for the debt amounted to RM45 billion (S$13.8 billion), which makes up 15 per cent of Malaysia's national revenue and cannot be allowed to further increase.

Increasing national debt?

In May 2018, then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad revealed in an interview with financial newspaper The Edge that the country had a national debt of approximately RM1 trillion (S$306 billion).

In July 2022, former Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz said the national debt was at a figure of RM1.045 trillion (S$320 billion) up till the end of June 2022, according to the New Straits Times.

No more “business as usual”

Anwar noted that Malaysia’s economic position was “considered soft” and cited global developments such as the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, Bernama reported.

He also cautioned against complacency and said that the authorities would no longer approach things in a “business as usual” manner, according to Malaysiakini.

Moving away from skyscrapers and landmarks

During the dialogue, Anwar also said that there were no plans to construct iconic landmarks or skyscrapers during his administration.

Malaysia, especially Kuala Lumpur, already houses landmarks such as the Petronas Twin Towers and the Tun Razak Exchange, so he said he has no intention of building one to mark his tenure.

Anwar said that his intention was to boost the ability and potential of Kuala Lumpur, The Star reported.

Besides the national debt, other topics such as small and medium enterprises (SMEs), urban agriculture and environmental sustainability were also discussed during the dialogue, according to the Malay Mail.

The revised Budget 2023 is expected to be delivered on Feb. 24 in Malaysia's Parliament.

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Top images via Twitter/@unwaribrahim & Unsplash/mkjr_