Malaysia minister ‘unaware’ Najib picked as state adviser

Malaysia’s Finance Minister Zafrul Abdul Aziz said he isn’t aware whether Najib Razak has been appointed as an adviser to the government, after a report said the former prime minister was offered a role to consult on the economy.

“I’m not aware that he’s an adviser,” Zafrul said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Haidi Lun and Shery Ahn. “At the Ministry of Finance, we are focusing on the revival of the economy and creating employment and driving growth for next year. So the focus is to ensure that we continue with the reopening of the economy safely.”

Najib, who’s appealing a conviction for his role in the 1MDB scandal, was offered a role with ministerial status as Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob sought to use Najib’s influence within their ruling United Malays National Organisation party to bolster his slim majority in parliament, The Straits Times had reported in September.

Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak reacts during an interview with Reuters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Sept 18, 2021. (Reuters file photo)
Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak reacts during an interview with Reuters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Sept 18, 2021. (Reuters file photo)

Shahril Hamdan, the information chief of UMNO, as the party’s known, has already been appointed economic director at the prime minister’s office, according to an Oct 12 report from The Star newspaper, citing a statement from UMNO.

Zafrul also said Malaysia has the monetary and fiscal room to support the recovery, and that the government can fund its planned record budget for 2022 via domestic bond issuances.

Malaysia last week unveiled a 332.1 billion ringgit ($80 billion) spending plan for 2022 to revive an economy battered by political turmoil and tight virus curbs. It will be largely funded by tax revenue and borrowings, including a one-time windfall tax on high-income companies.

Bank Negara Malaysia kept the benchmark interest rate at a record low on Wednesday, saying that risks to the growth outlook “remain tilted to the downside.”

BLOOMBERG NEWS

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