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Mahathir warns PHL: If you can't pay debt, you're endangering your own freedom

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 3/8/2019 Merueñas, Mark
Mahathir Mohamad wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a curtain: Richard Heydarian and Mahathir Mohamad © GMA News Richard Heydarian and Mahathir Mohamad

Visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday warned against borrowing money from other countries for projects, noting that it is better for countries like the Philippines to grow within its own means.

In an interview with GMA resident analyst Richard Heydarian, Mahathir was asked about his thoughts on dealing with foreign investments, in light of the Philippines' aggressive borrowing to undertake 75 projects that are seen to lift the economy and make the country competitive.

"We borrow huge sums of money, if you cannot pay money, you'll become under the influence or the direction of the lender... If you cannot pay your debt, you find yourself subservient to the lender," Mahathir said.

"It is better for us to grow within our means. If you have the capacity to borrow, it must be because we can repay. But when you borrow money which we cannot repay, you are endangering your own freedom," he added.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has assured the public that the Philippines is not drowning in debt to China.

Dominguez said the government has been screening debt to China using the same standards as with any other loans.

The Duterte administration has committed to invest over P8 trillion until 2022 on the 75 projects. This pushed the country's total debt to a new high of P7.293 trillion in 2018.

Meanwhile, in relation to Chinese investments, Mahathir, the world's oldest national leader, reiterated that the influx of foreigners to one country may have adverse effects.

"We don't mind them setting up plans to produce goods. But when it comes to developing whole towns and cities and probably bringing their people to live there, that may have a very bad political effect to the country," Mahathir said.

Earlier reports said at least 200,000 Chinese have flocked to the Philippines since 2016, many of them were employed by online gaming firms that cater to Chinese players. — MDM, GMA News

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