Malaysia won’t be shutting down airline, Finance Minister blames Najib for causing confusion

"My prime minister never said it (that Malaysia Airlines would be shut down) but the former PM wants to create an alarm," said Lim Guan Eng

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Photo: Facebook screengrab

Kuala Lumpur–Malaysia’s Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng clarified an issue that caused a stir recently. He said that contrary to earlier reports, Malaysia Airlines will not be closing down after all, and said that confusion had arisen from some comments from former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

According to The New Straits Times (NST), Mr Lim explained that certain remarks that Prime Minister Dr Tun Mahathir Mohamad had made concerning the national carrier had been interpreted incorrectly.

The Malaysian Prime Minister had said that it was up to the Government to decide if the airline should be closed down, sold or refinanced. The airline is facing considerable financial trouble, hence the need to find solutions, one of which is a shutdown.

Malaysia Airlines had become privatized in 2014, after which the carrier began to sustain considerable losses, Dr Mahathir said. Analysts had suggested the possibility of either shutting down or selling the carrier.

Mr Najib had a swift reaction to what Dr Mahathir said, urging the government to do neither, since Malaysian Airlines was a great source of pride and joy for the nation, and therefore, ought to be upheld as its national carrier.

Malay Mail reports him as saying, “No. Absolutely not. It’s a wrong move because Malaysia Airlines is our pride and joy. Malaysia Airlines must continue as our national airline. There must be a turnaround plan. When I was chairman of Khazanah (Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund), our turnaround plan was working.

You cannot replace our national pride with something else. Almost every country has a national airline.”

Mr Lim sought to clarify the situation, saying that Dr Mahathir never actually said that the carrier would be shut down.

“The former PM issued a statement as if we going to close down Malaysia Airlines. So, I hope we can look at what the PM said properly… we are not going to close down Malaysia Airlines. We want to give this assurance to the employees.

My prime minister never said it (that Malaysia Airlines would be shut down) but the former PM wants to create an alarm.”

The Finance Minister was attending the launch of Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Bhd’s RM1 billion Sustainable Development Financing Fund on March 12 and spoke to the press about the issue.

He also said that former PM Najib must not be allowed “to create or cause unnecessary disruption and anxiety” since Dr Mahathir never said it (that Malaysia Airlines would be shut down) but the former PM wants to cause an alarm.

Reports have shown that keeping Malaysian Airlines in good shape has taken a toll on Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which has spent millions on the carrier.

Members of the media also asked the Finance Minister about the Malaysian economy, stock market, and growth, based on recent Bloomberg reports.

He replied that stock market developments are not within the government control, “It is beyond our control… it depends as market fluctuations are normal.”

He urged that other statistics be considered when reporting on Malaysia’s economic condition. He emphasised the highlights of the economy that were not included in the Bloomberg report.

He said, “Our fundamentals are sound. Our growth rate, exports are up and trade surplus is RM120 billion and this is very encouraging.”

According to Bloomberg, the atmosphere of positivity after Dr Mahathir’s return to power in Malaysia’s General Election in May 2018 has not been sustained, and now Malaysia’s stock market is the only one in the red in Asia for this year.

The TSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI index fell by over one percent in 2019, the only one in the region experiencing such a decline. Singapore’s stock market has experienced a 5 percent gain, and Indonesia, 3 percent.

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Malaysian Airlines lost RM8.4 billion: How much did Khazanah lose with MAS?