19 August 2019
Malaysia's new prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, speaks at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. Photo: Reuters
Malaysia's new prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, speaks at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

Malaysia may renegotiate some deals with China: Mahathir

Malaysia may renegotiate some deals with China, the country’s new prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, said on Thursday, just hours after his coalition secured a shock election win against the government of Najib Razak, Reuters reports.

Mahathir said his government would likely reverse some policies implemented by the long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, including a highly unpopular goods and services tax.

The 92-year-old told a news conference he supported China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but said Malaysia reserved the right to renegotiate terms of some agreements with Beijing, if necessary.

“We have no problem with that [BRI], except of course we would not like to see too many warships in this area because [a] warship attracts other warships,” he said.

A Nomura report last month showed that Malaysia is one of the largest beneficiaries of Chinese investment commitments in Asia, securing US$34.2 billion of BRI-related infrastructure projects, which have prompted critics to accuse Najib of “selling” Malaysia to the Asian powerhouse.

Asked about the idea of renegotiation, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang did not address the issue directly, but said the two countries’ relations were developing well.

“This is worth both sides cherishing and safeguarding,” Geng said at a regular news briefing in Beijing.

Mahathir was sworn in as Malaysia’s seventh prime minister on Thursday after a stunning election comeback, defeating the coalition that has ruled the nation for six decades since independence from Britain.

Malaysia’s constitutional monarch, Sultan Muhammad V, administered the oath of office just before 10 p.m. in a ceremony carried live on state television from the palace.

At a press conference after being sworn in, Mahathir reassured the financial community and said he would prioritize stabilizing the economy and return billions of dollars lost in a graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

“There should be no cause for any devaluation of the ringgit,” Mahathir said.

“As you know, we cannot revalue the ringgit too much, or else we will not be competitive, but we will try to make the ringgit as steady as possible,” he added.

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