Unpopular decisions were necessary: Najib

LOS ANGELES • Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he has no regrets about having made several unpopular decisions to put the country's economy back on track.

The government lost "brownie points" in implementing these moves, he said, but they were necessary steps, given the drop in the price of oil and other commodities. He added that the external situation was beyond the government's control.

"Sometimes in politics, and even in life, you need to take, in tough and difficult situations, decisions which you know would be good for you and the country in the medium and long term," he said.

He likened the tough moves to administering to a sick patient. He said: "When you are not well, you have to take an antibiotic; some are not so pleasant but you have to take them, and have to stay the course.

"You must complete your antibiotic course, and when you complete it, you will recover and become fit once again." Datuk Seri Najib was speaking at a get-together with Malaysian students and Malaysians living in California during a week-long working visit to the United States.

Touching on the unpopular 6 per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST) that was introduced in April last year, Mr Najib said not having GST would have impacted the economy and welfare of Malaysians.

"It was the right decision. I don't regret it. I just want people to understand and appreciate that it is very much like taking medicine when it is necessary," he said.

To save up to RM9 billion (S$3 billion) in government expenditure following the sharp decline of global oil prices in the petroleum-exporting country, Mr Najib last month made a few more unpopular decisions, including reducing the funds available for some student scholarships. He also pushed to reduce employee contributions to the retirement fund by 3 percentage points.

The Budget 2016 recalibration, he said, would aid sustainable economic growth amid the current global market turbulence.

According to a Bernama report, he said: "IMF said Malaysia's economy performed well despite those challenges. It also praised the prudent spending in Malaysia."

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2016, with the headline 'Unpopular decisions were necessary: Najib'. Print Edition | Subscribe