KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng defended the new government’s “all-truth” policy regarding financial scandals, saying it would help gain investors’ confidence in the long run.
In an interview with Singaporean broadcaster Channel NewsAsia, Lim said he believes that it is high time that Malaysia upholds the absolute truth.
“There have been criticisms that I should be more tactful than truthful. But the truth will set us free and we can gain the appreciation of the financial community,” Lim was quoted as saying.
“Confidence is a very nebulous thing. It’s either you have it or you don’t. When we retain confidence, investments will flow in.
“It shows that Malaysia means business, that we want to comply with international norms, and that we want to do things the right way,” he said in the video interview.
Lim added the situation was worse than what he expected when he assumed the post of finance minister, but said that Malaysia’s finances can still be salvaged.
He said the national debt could possibly have increased threefold had Barisan Nasional (BN) stayed in power for the next five years.
“If the previous government was given another term, I think that RM1 trillion debt (US$250 billion) will easily become RM3 trillion (US$750 billion).
“By that time, nothing we do will be able to save the country. I would even think that we would be beyond salvation then,” he said.
Lim also stressed that funds collected from Tabung Harapan Malaysia will be used exclusively to pay off the federal government’s debts. An external auditor has been engaged to monitor its operations.
“We have made that very clear. In order to ensure or to allay the concerns of some parties, we have engaged an outside auditor to audit us.
“We just pay off debts. If there is 1MDB debt repayment coming along, perhaps we’ll use that fund,” he said, referring to beleaguered state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
As of 3pm today, Tabung Harapan has collected a total of RM92,108,427.94.
He clarified that the aim of the fund was never to clear the national debt, but to get everyone in the spirit of togetherness to save Malaysia.
“It was not so much about getting enough funds to repay our debts. You know, RM1 trillion is a huge amount.
“Basically, any newborn baby would immediately owe RM33,000 (US$8,000) and no amount of money collected would be sufficient to pay off this debt.
“Our main intention was to allow the people to come together so that everyone can do their part to save the nation,” he said.