Monday, September 14, 2015

Najib should show sincerity in asking GLCs to re-invest overseas assets domestically by ensuring 1MDB does the same

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday urged government-linked companies (GLCs) to cash in on their foreign investments and re-invest domestically to spur the local economy as one of the immediate measures by the special economic committee he had set up to look into the current economic situation.

"Most of these companies have made profit in their investments and now is the time to bring the investments back home," he said.

We agree in principle that Malaysian companies with excess funds overseas should take this opportunity of the weak ringgit to repartriate their foreign cash holdings and assets and seek new business opportunities in the country.

However, for the Prime Minister’s call to be sincere, he must first direct 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) to bring back its billions of ringgit of funds and assets still parked unproductively overseas, to be reinvested in Malaysia.

Based on its financial statements dated 31 March 2014, 1MDB has at least RM13.4 billion of “available-for-sale investments” held overseas.

Of this amount US$2.318 billion was parked with a unnamed Cayman Island investment fund.  Although this amount has subsequently been declared as redeemed, an alleged US$1.1 billion is still parked in BSI Bank in Singapore.

In the Prime Minister’s own response to my parliamentary question in March this year, he said that the funds are parked in Singapore in US Dollars in order to avoid Bank Negara scrutiny and regulations when funds are subsequently required to be transferred overseas:

"Keputusan untuk menggunakan Bank di Singapura bertujuan untuk memudahkan urusan pengeluaran wang memandangkan peraturan yang ditetapkan oleh Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) memerlukan kelulusan BNM diperoleh bagi setiap transaksi wang melebihi RM50 juta."

Surely, the excuse for funds to be held overseas to avoid BNM scrutiny which is untenable, is even less tenable under the current circumstances where Malaysia badly needs new investment to rekindle our flagging economy.

Similarly, another amount of US$1.56 billion belonging to 1MDB Global Investment Limited  “have been placed in various investment portfolios” overseas.

Hence the question for Dato’ Seri Najib Razak, as the Chairman of the Board of Advisors of 1MDB is whether he will ask 1MDB to liquidate their passive “investment” overseas and re-invest their cash in Malaysia?

We certainly wish that the Prime Minister will soon announce that his own brainchild, 1MDB will lead by example by finally bringing back their liquid assets overseas.

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