PETALING JAYA: Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan (pic) has hit out at former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for criticising the Government’s recent deals with China without understanding the details of the agreements.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the Barisan Nasional strategic communications director said that “either deliberate or due to a lack of understanding of the details,” Dr Mahathir had undermined confidence in the country's economy by criticising the recent visit.
He was responding to Dr Mahathir’s blog post titled "Najib's China Trip" that made several allegations over Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's visit to China.
He criticised Dr Mahathir for suggesting that MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai had tried to make Najib’s negotiations with China a race-related issue, and said he was instead pointing out the “unfair criticism of the historic RM143bil worth of trade and investment deals” between the two countries.
“The China delegates who visited the recent MCA annual assembly have also expressed regret and unhappiness at the opposition over the unfair criticism of our two nations trading and investment deals,” he said.
Abdul Rahman, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, said the crux of Dr Mahathir's criticism centred on the soft loan that Malaysia will take to build the East Coast Railway Line (ECRL) project.
He countered by saying that the loan given by the Export-Import Bank of China “is on very favourable terms with a low interest rate and has a 20-year tenure” and will be given in ringgit and not in US dollars or in yuan.
Abdul Rahman also said that despite Chinese involvement, a significant portion of construction will be sub-contracted to local companies and transfer of technology will occur.
He dismissed the allegation that on a per kilometer basis, the ECRL is over-priced, and said the RM55bil price tag is inclusive of the cost of all rolling stock, signalling systems and support infrastructure.
“The ECRL is expected to add 1.5% additional GDP growth per year to the east coast states of Peninsular Malaysia and can help the east coast states to catch up with development with the west coast states.
“Additionally, the ECRL will directly connect the Kuantan and Kemamam ports in the east with Port Klang on the west coast, resulting in a strategic advantage in logistics handling and shipping for Malaysia,” he said.
Meanwhile, Abdul Rahman also said that Dr Mahathir and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia party members continue to wrongly state the amount of debt owed by 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) despite knowing that the company had undergone a rationalisation exercise.
“Due to the successful divestment of Edra Energy, a stake in Bandar Malaysia and other rationalisation exercises, 1MDB's debt has been significantly reduced to about RM31bil.
“Despite knowing this, how is it possible that Tun Mahathir still insists that 1MDB's debt remains at RM53bil?” asked Abdul Rahman.
He said 1MDB currently has RM1.9bil in cash, allowing it to further develop the Tun Razak Exchange and Bandar Malaysia projects.
On government debt and the strengthening of the US dollar, Abdul Rahman said Dr Mahathir had been wrongly advised, and noted that Bank Negara's latest records show that 97% of Malaysia's debt is denominated in ringgit.
“Changes in foreign exchange rates will have only a marginal effect on the value of government debt,” he said.
Abdul Rahman said this was a conscious decision by the Government to only borrow in ringgit, a lesson he said they took from Dr Mahathir, who when in office had borrowed substantially from Japan in yen.
“The subsequent appreciation of the Japanese yen after the loans had caused significant losses to our country,” he said.