KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has vowed to end “crony capitalists” whose wealth came at the cost of ordinary Malaysians, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
The Prime Minister said lessons had been learnt from past mistakes in planning Malaysia’s economic transformation, after confronting many “legacy issues” along the way.
“Some of the country’s development under a former leader came with an unnecessary price tag, in the form of a class of crony capitalists,” he said in his keynote address at Invest Malaysia 2018 yesterday.
Citing public transport as an example, Najib said massive overhauls had to be done to rectify the issue.
“For decades, public transport was neglected. It was incoherent, with different owners, different systems and certainly no integration.
“One man’s obsession with the idea of a national car – which is now being turned around under international joint ownership – led to Malaysia lacking an efficient public transport system.
“This was a serious obstacle to achieve high-income status and for Kuala Lumpur to be a world-class capital,” he said.
Although no name was mentioned throughout his speech, it was an apparent dig at former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Najib also said that during this time, the Government had signed independent power producer concessions that were lopsided.
“Consumers had to pay far more for energy than they should have, even for energy they were not using.
“This was a real burden to the people, so we renegotiated these concessions – and determined that in the future, we would not allow private companies to earn excessively at the expense of ordinary Malaysians,” he said.
Najib also pointed out that the ringgit had been pegged against the US dollar for “far too long”.
“Investors and global markets lost confidence in us, and it took a long time to win that back. That was a very heavy cost to the country,” he said, stressing that the Government would never repeat that measure.
He also spoke on the challenges at state-owned institutions, such as 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which were amplified and used as a tool to suggest that Malaysia’s economy was collapsing.
“I’m not going to brush over this issue. There were indeed failings at the company, there were lapses of governance. There was a valid cause for concern.
“This is why I ordered one of the most comprehensive and detailed investigations in Malaysia’s corporate history, one that involved multiple lawful authorities, including a bipartisan parliamentary body.
“Their findings were taken on board and the company’s board was dissolved, its management team changed and its operations reviewed,” he said.
On another note, Najib rubbished claims that Malaysia was welcoming foreign direct investments (FDIs) by selling out the nation’s sovereignty.
“My Government will never sacrifice an inch of our sovereignty,” he said, adding that while RM63bil in FDI stock came from China and Hong Kong, there was more from Japan at RM70bil.
“You don’t hear anyone warning that we are selling our country to the Japanese.
“Of course not. They are most welcome here. So are investors from Africa, the Americas, China, the European Union, India, Saudi Arabia and around the world,” he said.