KUALA LUMPUR: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng traded barbs with several opposition lawmakers in Parliament on Wednesday (Oct 30) over the national debt and assets.
Lim said that the Pakatan Harapan government was forced to pay the debts of the previous Barisan Nasional government.
"If we are talking about the total overall debt, let us not just focus on the direct debt, because we have to look at it in totality.
"Why didn't you mention the government’s guarantee that had been committed.
"It means that it should include the agencies that the government had given its guarantees, but could not make its payment like 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
"The government is forced to take the responsibility to pay the loans, similar to other guarantors.
"It is like you become a guarantor for a friend, but the friend could not pay back, so the guarantor had to pay back and this must all be considered," he said in reply to Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (BN-Bera) during Question Time.
Lim said despite facing various challenges and financial problems when it took over the federal government, the overall debt was 80% of gross domestic product, which was successfully reduced to 77% as of June this year.
Lim also explained that the one-off dividend given by Petronas last year was not to pay debts, but used for Goods and Services Tax (GST) refunds.
Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man (PAS-Kubang Kerian) interjected, asking Lim to explain the progress of the five companies under the Minister of Finance Incorporated to service its loans as highlighted in the 2018 Auditor-General report.
He also asked Lim to reveal the total assets and debts of 1MDB.
Lim again pinned the blame on the previous Barisan government.
"I hope YB can read the Auditor-General's report in full.
"What you raised is the recommendations by the Auditor-General involving five companies under the Minister of Finance Inc that were problematic.
"If you read it carefully, the recommendations, it is inherited, set up and became problematic because of the previous government.
"However, the present government is forced to solve it," added.
Tuan Ibrahim replied that it has been more than one year and the Pakatan government cannot keep blaming Barisan for all of its problems.
"My question is how is the new government going to address and manage this," added the PAS lawmaker.
This caused a stir among several opposition lawmakers, including Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan (BN-Pontian) and Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, asking Lim to reveal the country's assets left by the previous government.
To this, Lim also said that he was unsure of the assets held by 1MDB, as there were several units in a Singapore bank that had yet to be identified.
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