KUALA LUMPUR: While the government is faced with many limitations to invest and spend as a result of debts inherited from the previous administration, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has called on the private sector to “step up and invest more”.

“All of you own and run companies, so you will know what I am talking about when I say the debt burden weighs very heavily on the government and limits our ability to invest and spend more.

“Herein lies the role of the private sector. In fact, it is hoped that you will step up and invest more. The private sector is best placed to know what works and what does not,” the prime minister said in his address to the corporate elite of Bursa Malaysia at The Edge Billion Ringgit Club (BRC) Awards and Gala Dinner 2019 here last night.

The prime minister also assured the audience that the government is determined to fight corruption.

He stressed that the government is prepared to review policies and regulations and even make changes and introduce new ones if the private sector can convince the government that these changes will lead to more investments and economic activities and create new and better paying jobs, especially for young Malaysians.

“Big companies have the capacity to invest, to take risks and to connect with the global supply chain. And the success of each creates a multiplier effect, a ripple effect through the rest of the supply chain, creating opportunities for other smaller companies

“Such opportunities will encourage innovations and further improvements, creating not just jobs but also profits to be reinvested,” said Dr Mahathir.

He also acknowledged the contribution of The Edge BRC members (companies with market capitalisation of RM1 billion or more) to the government’s coffers.

“All the BRC members paid RM26 billion in taxes to the government in 2018 from the RM101 billion profit you made,” he said.

“The equation is simple – the more money you make, the more the increase in government revenue and the more development fund will be available. Profit and prosperity [are] then shared,” he added.

Dr Mahathir noted that some quarters have mistaken the concept of Malaysia’s new economic model of Shared Prosperity, saying that it somehow contradicts the premise of profit or economic maximisation, while some said it sounds like socialism and that it will result in less efficiency, or less economic competitiveness for Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir, however, said “it is none of [those things]”.

“It is to ensure that Malaysia continues its path of sustainable development based on the equitable growth of each value chain, class, community and geography. The growth will not be lopsided,” he said, adding that shared prosperity will also create a sense of harmony and stability among the people by 2030.

“Really efficient and successful companies are what they are because they are able to give more to both workers and owners. Why? It is only when all stakeholders are aligned that mutual interests will be achieved and seen,” said Dr Mahathir.

Hence, he noted that in the same manner, if the government together with the private sector help to better the lives of all Malaysians, instead of allowing wider wealth disparities, then all Malaysians would be willing to work towards making Malaysia a greater and better country.

Dr Mahathir also reiterated that the government is committed to the fight corruption.

“I appeal to corporate Malaysia to help the government fight the scourge of corruption, both in the public and private sectors. It is good for our well-being and the well-being of our children and their children.

“Companies which provide information on corruption will be protected. They will not be discriminated against by government agencies,” he added.