KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday (Jan 10) defended his 20-month-old government, saying it is wrong to say the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration is "directionless".
In a blog posting, he wrote a lengthy explanation on his leadership of South-east Asia's third biggest economy, asking: "Are we really the same as the Malaysia under the previous government? Or are they saying they prefer the kleptocratic government better. We don't steal money nor raise loans so as to have money for bribing people. We spend what we have."
He said it might take two more years for the government's policies to bear fruit.
"We are clear as to what we want to do and how we will do it. Plans may take a week or so to create, but implementation will take much longer, at least two years or more.
"But the work has already begun," said Tun Dr Mahathir, who on Friday took up the post of Acting Education Minister. The previous education minister, Dr Maszlee Malik, stepped down last week.
Dr Mahathir's explanation comes amid complaints from the public and opposition parties that the four-party PH coalition has failed to fulfil most of its election promises and reduce the rising cost of living.
PH last year lost four by-elections to Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) and won only one, in the Chinese-majority seat of Sandakan in Sabah state.
People who accuse the government of being directionless are just refusing to acknowledge reality, said the 94-year-old Premier.
His predecessor Najib Razak is facing multiple charges in Malaysia's courts for criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering linked to state fund 1MDB.
Dr Mahathir said: "When a new party takes over as a government, it would be a miracle if it were to execute all its plans and promises overnight. Certainly, when PH took over from BN, which had ruled the country for the past 60 years, it would be an even greater miracle if it can implement its plans and agenda immediately.
"It is not taking over just any government. It took over from a kleptocratic government which had raped the nation for years, destroyed its finances, undermined its administrative agencies, abused its laws, borrowed well beyond the ceiling permitted, placed the country on the path to bankruptcy, made the people dependent on the government with bribes and generally undermined the moral of the people."
Dr Mahathir, who was previously prime minister for 22 years until 2003, pointed out that the PH government, which won power in 2018, has been able to retain the solvency of the country despite a huge debt, and maintain large Bank Negara reserves, as well as foreign assets.
"Many would say, this government is directionless. Is it? Let's look at what it has done. Despite a huge debt of well over a trillion ringgit, it apparently has been able to retain the solvency of the country.
"The creditors are not suing the government. Indeed, some are even keen to lend more money at low rates. The government is clearly credit-worthy. The debt has been reduced," the Premier said.
He noted that it also took time for Malaysia to transform from an agro-based economy in the 1980s - he became prime minister in 1981 - to an industrial economy, but that most Malaysians are too young to remember this.
"Politically, the country is stable. Yes, there are some disturbances in a member of the ruling coalition. But this is normal.
"No one has tried to overthrow the government by a vote of non-confidence. They know it will not succeed".