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Najib's approval ratings at a new low

Publication Date : 19-12-2013


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's popularity fell to 52 per cent this month from 62 per cent in August - the lowest level since he came to power in 2009 - a pollster showed, after the government raised prices of fuel, electricity and other things.

Merdeka Centre, a pollster which tracks public opinion on current issues, showed that more than two-thirds of the 1,005 citizens surveyed early this month cited economic concerns, especially rising costs, as the most pressing problem facing the country currently. In August, 44 per cent thought so.

All this contributed to the dip in Najib's approval rating, said Ibrahim Suffian, Merdeka Centre director. Najib's highest approval rating was in May 2010, when it hit 72 per cent.

In recent months, Najib's administration has embarked on a slew of subsidy cuts, which resulted in higher prices for consumers for food and fuel.

After retaining power at the general election in May, Najib's administration raised fuel prices in September.

In October, he announced the introduction of a goods and services tax, to hit in 2015.

Earlier this month, the government said it would raise electricity tariffs next month. The government is now mulling raising toll rates next.

Economists said the subsidy cuts are needed to reduce government spending and put the economy on a firmer footing. The Malaysian government has run a budget deficit for the past 15 years.

Rating companies were threatening to downgrade the country's credit profile, which would have meant more expensive borrowings for the government to fund national projects.

Poll respondents, however, were not buying that argument. According to the survey, 54 per cent of respondents did not trust statements made by government leaders on the country's economy.

But Ibrahim reckoned that Najib's popularity will bounce back.

"Given that the next general election is a few years away, the timing to kick off the measures now is a calculated move," he told The Straits Times on Wednesday. "Najib has ample time for recovery."

Yet for now, the people's perception of the government continues to slide. Only 38 per cent of respondents said they are happy with the government, down from 50 per cent in August.

The dissatisfaction cut across ethnicity, with all major races showing a dip in their sentiment towards the government.

For instance, 52 per cent of Malay respondents said they are happy with the government, compared with 67 per cent four months ago. About 40 per cent of Indians and 10 per cent of Chinese surveyed also said they are happy, compared with 52 per cent and 15 per cent in August, respectively.


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