SANDAKAN: As Pakatan Harapan's administration approaches its first anniversary, Lim Guan Eng says that international credit rating agencies still have confidence in the government's handling of the economy.
"The foreign community and international fund managers still have confidence in us - that we can turn things around. That's why they maintained our international credit rating," said the Finance Minister.
Lim, who was asked to comment on Pakatan's dismal approval ratings by pollster Merdeka Centre, said that Malaysians have to endure hardship for the moment, as the current national debt was preventing the government from spending on the people.
Lim cited the financial excesses in the 1MDB, Tabung Haji, and Felda scandals as among the causes for high national debt.
"We are not blaming anybody but this is the reality you have to deal with… But, we are making headway, slowly we are turning around that.
"When we can see our savings, we will immediately spend it on the people. But, if there is no savings, we are not going to… borrow money to spend the money you don't have.
"So, there is so much you can do. The government is already heavily in debt, we don't want to be further in debt. That will jeopardise our international rating," he added.
Lim was speaking to reporters during a walkabout at Sandakan polls on Sunday (April 28).
He added that the government was pleased that it was able to retain its international credit ratings despite the financial challenges.
The survey by Merdeka Centre found that the Pakatan government's approval rating had declined from 79% on May 31 last year to 39% on March 11.
The survey also found that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's leadership had fallen to 39% from 79% in the same period.
The DAP secretary-general pointed out that the survey by Merdeka Centre was a reminder for the government that there should be no ground for complacency.
"We have to work extra hard. Look at the survey, they said 39%. We are coming from behind," he said.
Asked to comment on Dr Mahathir's approval rating, which was higher than that of Pakatan's, Lim appeared unfazed.
"I think the PM is the most popular leader among us. So, I think sometimes you need to look at the survey objectively. The survey showed that in the last general election, Barisan Nasional would win easily."
"I think we should look at it (approval ratings) as the indicator to remind us to work harder but not be completely paralysed or beholden to the result.
"We are using it as a reminder for us to work extra hard to fulfil the rakyat's expectations," he added.
The Sandakan polls, triggered by the death of its incumbent MP Datuk Stephen Wong, will see a five-cornered fight between DAP's Vivian Wong, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) Datuk Linda Tsen and three independent candidates.