Mahathir in hurry to clear Malaysian debts

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says he is in a hurry as he has limited time to live and huge debts need to be paid off before the nation is declared bankrupt.

“I am lucky I survived this long. Actually, I should not be around to watch what happened with my predecessors but I am lucky in the sense that I am not only older, but still able to function,” the 93-year-0ld told the Malaysian media.

There was no time to rest when the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal meant the country could be declared bankrupt if debt obligations were not met, the returning prime minister said.

“But I realise that I am very old, and very soon I will weaken and I will die. So, I am always in a hurry. Other people seem to take things easy,” he said.

Malaysia is still saddled with a 1 trillion ringgit debt (US$245 billion) and Mahathir is overseeing the sale of “non-strategic assets” to address the crisis.

The government-linked investment firm, Khazanah, has sold assets in telecoms, health-care groups, banks and property. It is rumoured that the theme park Legoland (pictured) might also become available.

This week Malaysia’s finance minister, Lim Guan Eng, announced the sale for US$392 million of a building in Hong Kong which once housed the Malaysian consulate-general. Khazanah was reported to be selling the giant Duo Tower in Singapore, which it jointly owns with its Singaporean equivalent, Temasek Holdings.

Mahathir said he did not know how long he would serve as premier, in reference to the agreement within the Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance for him to lead the country for around two years before stepping aside for Anwar Ibrahim.

Mahathir denied rumours of a cabinet reshuffle but the returning veteran did admit it was challenging working with inexperienced ministers.

The PH government, which took power last May, is often criticised for being slow to fulfil its election campaign pledges and the irattic performance of its ministers.

The premier said that he must continue to work together with his handpicked ministers, some of whom had shown great potential.

“We have inexperienced people in the government now. I think anyone who is inexperienced will have experienced the same problems that they have,” he was quoted saying by Focus Malaysia.

“If I go around discharging and replacing them, it is not going to help.

“I have to try and, well, work with them so that they acquire experience, and believe me, some of them have done quite well,” he said.


Up for sale? Legoland. Picture credit: Wikimedia