Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Zafrul hits out at PH leaders over conflicting stands on Fitch Ratings

Finance minister says Fitch Ratings has also acknowledged government efforts despite the lower rating.

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Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz has taken to task opposition leaders for citing the Fitch Ratings’ latest downgrade on Malaysia to attack the government, calling them irresponsible for politicising the issue.

Zafrul said Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders were also misinterpreting Fitch’s revised rating of Malaysia’s Long Term Foreign Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) on Dec 4 from A- to BBB+, adding that he was not surprised the issue had been turned into political rhetoric.

He said Malaysia is not alone in the downgrade of its rating, joining 100 other countries such as Britain, Hong Kong, Chile and Laos.

He said opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had said in August that the rating should not be a concern as the focus should be on revitalising economic growth.

In the same month, he added, DAP’s Lim Guan Eng had urged the government to spend more during the Covid-19 pandemic despite an increase in fiscal debts.

Zafrul was responding to PH leaders’ statement on Monday, saying the Fitch downgrade points to a greater urgency for a no-confidence motion against the government in the Dewan Rakyat.

“We find it difficult to understand that only yesterday they asked that we do not be too concerned with ratings and debt, yet today they are hitting out at the government for the drop in rating,” Zafrul said in a Facebook post.

Zafrul said Fitch in its report had made it clear that despite the lower rating blamed on political uncertainty, the firm acknowledged the government’s efforts.

He added that the government has projected economic growth of between 6.5% and 7.5% next year.

“PH claims this projection is too optimistic, but Fitch Ratings itself projected a growth rate of 6.7% in line with that of our own.

“Other institutions such as the IMF (International Monetary Fund) projected up to 7.8%, higher than the government’s.

“This shows confidence in the rebound of Malaysia’s economy,” he said.

He also pointed out that despite the downgrade, Fitch had given an improved outlook from negative to stable.

Zafrul said the public would question the conflicting statements from PH leaders, saying the opposition must make clear whether it is more concerned about ratings or spending for the people.

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