Najib: Positive vibes from US investors


Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak wanted to cut to the chase. His consistent message to the business community in New York was to "look beyond the noise" and focus on the fundamentals.

Despite the global challenges and strong economic headwinds, Malaysia had substantial measures in place that would keep it on track for high-income nation status by 2020. The figures and indicators speak for themselves.

On top of that, he assured everyone he met during his nine-day stay in the world's premier financial centre that Malaysia ticked the boxes for positive investment, including a stable government.

In a 24-minute press conference on Thursday to wrap up his visit to New York for the 70th United Nations General Assembly, the prime minister was in a buoyant mood and spoke of the "positive vibes" he had been receiving from the fund managers and investors he met at several business meetings.

Malaysia's positive competitive index as affirmed by leading ratings agencies such as Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch as well as Bloomberg's ranking of Malaysia as the world's fifth most promising emerging market were mantras that were repeated at every opportunity.

"They are very satisfied with their investment, the treatment as well as the incentives they have received from Malaysia.

"Some have even indicated a desire to expand their investment in our country," said Najib who was flanked by Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman and Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the UN Datuk Ramlan Ibrahim.

For the past five years since ta­king office, Najib has been ma­king an annual call to New York to engage the business community and to "sell the Malaysian story".

But this year's visit has been blemished by the government-owned 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) controversy and news reports in the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal on allegations that nearly US$700mil (S$1bil) in payments went to the prime minister's alleged perso­nal accounts ahead of the 2013 ge­neral election.

1MDB, which is the master deve­loper of two large property development projects in Kuala Lumpur, has debts of almost RM42bil.

In 2012 and 2013, it acquired power plants that are valued in its books at RM18bil.

Although the Prime Minister did not grant any interviews with the US media, he took questions on 1MDB from the business leaders at meetings with them on business prospects now and in the future.

"They accept our commitment and our openness to engage them. Although there are all sorts of stories but in the end, they look at all aspects of our economy and mea­sures taken by Malaysia that give them the confidence," he said.

A day earlier, at a business luncheon, Najib touched on the weakness of the 1MDB business model, which he described as "too idealistic".

He said only RM1bil had been invested to undertake a huge pro­perty development and acquisition of power generation plants, resulting in the company having to go heavily into debt financing.

However, he ended on a positive note and said he was confident that by the end of the year, the company would be able to go through the process of rationalisation with a massive reduction of debt.

He added that there would be an announcement "in the coming days" on the significant reduction of 1MDB debt to the tune of RM16bil.

"The investors appreciate the stability of Malaysia and the continuity of our policies and also the fact that we are a business-friendly government."

He added that the buzz was positive as they acknowledged that Malaysia's fundamentals were strong and "they know the diffe­rence between news on blogs and portals and our fundamentals".

Apart from the Prime Minister's commitment to the business front and the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the final stages of resolution, he made a strong presence at the UN assembly as the leader of a mode­rate Muslim country that rejected the violent extremism of Islamic State (IS).

He made a passionate call for Muslims to denounce the false narrative of IS and to promote the true Islam with its noble ideals, its compassion and the solemn duty to care for fellow man.

"This is the message we must spread to Muslims and non-Muslims. And I call on the ummah to rise with one voice, and let the world ring when we say to IS: 'You do not represent us'," he said during his speech at UN on Thursday to applause from the international delegates present.

He added that it was the responsibility of the Muslim brotherhood to propagate the real teachings of Islam that promote social and economic justice, and equality, protecting the rights of the minority.

"This is where Malaysia has been successful as a country that protects the rights of all parties, developing our country to greater heights and prioritising knowledge and education."

More importantly, Malaysia walked the talk by opening its doors to 3,000 Syrian migrants over the next three years to help with the refugee crisis.

Malaysia is one of the few Muslim countries besides Turkey and Jordan taking the lead in helping displaced Syrian refugees.

The Prime Minister felt strongly that Muslim countries were partly responsible for the marginalised Syrians fleeing their country in huge numbers, causing social and economic stresses in Europe.

About four million Syrian refugees are estimated to have fled into neighbouring countries over the last four years and are struggling with hardship and poverty.

After the long nine-day packed schedule where Najib addressed the UN six times, held three bilate­ral and a host of business discussions as well as an MH17 meeting with lea­ders of the five nations, he left for Milan on a working visit with his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.