M'sia cannot afford to have weak govt: Najib

Putrajaya (The Star/ANN) - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has warned that nascent reforms cannot be done "overnight" and that the country risks slipping backwards if he does not win a strong majority in the coming general election.

He said a reduced parliamentary majority could weaken his drive to curb Malaysia's budget deficit and raise investments.

It may even cost him his job.

"A strong government is necessary for us to accelerate the process of transformation in this country.

"A weak government means instability and uncertainty and a country can ill afford that kind of scenario for the next five years given the external economic situation that's going to be between weak and rather uncertain," he told Reuters.

Najib has delayed painful reforms to wean the country off oil revenues and stem rising debt.

He signalled that those steps would not be rushed through even if he formed a stronger government than the 2008 election, when Barisan Nasional lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time.

"If you try to do it overnight like some countries are doing, there's a massive contraction of the economy," he said.

"We cannot afford that. We have to be mildly expansionary in our policies but fiscally responsible," Najib said.

Taking over as prime minister in 2009, Najib initiated reforms aimed at spurring growth, increasing transparency and dismantling policies that favour majority ethnic Malays but which have alienated minority ethnic Chinese and Indians.

His flagship policy is the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) which aims to double per capita income to 46,514 ringgit (US$15,000) by 2020.

Najib said that a "vast majority" of government contracts were now awarded through open tender and that government spending was increasingly based on needs rather than race.

COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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