Amid Fiscal Woes, Malaysia PM Calls for China’s Understanding

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says he hopes China will understand his country’s “internal fiscal problems” as he seeks to renegotiate billions of dollars worth of Beijing-funded projects.

Mahathir spoke Monday in Beijing during a joint news conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Before traveling to China last week, Mahathir suspended three major infrastructure projects that are funded with Chinese loans worth more than $20 billion, including an ambitious rail line and two energy pipelines. The prime minister said he halted the projects due to Malaysia’s massive national debt, which has ballooned to $250 billion.

The projects were initiated under Mahathir’s predecessor, Najib Razak, who has been charged with several counts of corruption in the embezzlement scandal involving the state-owned 1MDB sovereign wealth fund.

The scandal led to a stunning electoral loss in May of Najib’s National Front coalition, which had ruled Malaysia uninterrupted since gaining independence in 1957 – 22 of those years under 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, who led the coalition that ousted Najib and the National Front.

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