PETALING JAYA: Umno Supreme Council member Johari Ghani, a former second finance minister, is worried about the deteriorating economy and its continued trajectory.
Saying the decline needed to be reversed or people would continue to suffer, Johari outlined the need of the hour: political stability.
In addition to this, he said, was the need for a set of experienced, efficient and trustworthy leaders to lead the nation out of the current political and economic morass.
He said this was important because some unpopular policies might have to be introduced to arrest the economic decline, and only political stability and strong leadership could accomplish this.
“This is very important because when the rakyat trust the leaderership, they will support any policy that is introduced in the interest of the nation, even if that policy is unpopular, ” Johari told Mingguan Malaysia.
And unpopular policies would need to be introduced if the nation is to recover, he said.
Johari said a convincing new mandate from the rakyat would provide the stability that would enable the new government to “formulate and implement unpopular policies” to rehabilitate the economy without fear of being toppled.
He said the country’s poor economic performance was a key driver behind Umno’s insistence at the party general assembly, which ended yesterday, that the 15th general election (GE15) should be expedited.
Highlighting the country’s rising debt levels, he noted that key statistics such as per capita income and the growth rate were very low, especially when compared with neighbouring countries.
He warned that the country’s debt, which has reached RM1 trillion, would add to the pressure on the government’s already tight finances.
“The RM686 billion debt in 2018 has now become more than RM1 trillion, an increase of RM320 billion. With such high debts, interest payments are also increasing, and they have now reached more than RM42 billion a year,” he said.
“Meanwhile, the country’s income is not growing in line with the government’s spending. In terms of GDP, our economy grew the slowest compared with other Asean countries, apart from Singapore, last year. We only grew 3.1%. Compare this to the Philippines (7.4%), Cambodia (6.8%), Vietnam (6.7%) and Indonesia (6.1%).”
Johari said the increase in Malaysia’s per capita income was also low compared with some other countries in Southeast Asia.
“We are in the worst position in Asean. Malaysia’s per capita income grew only 0.3% while Vietnam’s grew by 4.4% and Indonesia by 4.0%,” he said.
He also noted that foreign direct investment (FDI) numbers were moving “backwards” compared with that of other Asean countries, highlighting how Malaysia only attracted US$11.1 billion in FDI compared with Vietnam’s US$31.1 billion and Indonesia’s US$31.6 billion last year.
It would be difficult for Malaysia to enjoy the same level of economic growth it did when it was ruled by Barisan Nasional unless effective, short-term and long-term economic strategies were put in place, he said. And for that, political stability and a strong, effective leadership was needed.