KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — Newly-minted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today that tackling inflation will be his government's top priority, building on his coalition's election pledge to rein in prices of basic goods.
“What would my main priority be? Living cost,” Anwar, leader of the Pakatan Harapan bloc, announced at a brief press conference held in Putrajaya just hours after clocking into office this morning.
The monthly inflation rate has reached record levels throughout the year as Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Covid-19 and global warming effects continue to disrupt global supply chains.
Malaysia's consumer price index (CPI) rose by a staggering 4 per cent from a year earlier in October, government data showed today.
The index had increased 4.5 per cent in September.
Anwar was sworn in as the country's tenth prime minister yesterday evening, ending a political deadlock that lasted nearly five days since the tightly contested 15th general election was concluded last Saturday.
His appointment would at least temporarily put to rest the tension between the major political coalitions vying to lead, none of which gained enough seats to form a federal government on its own now.
Anwar leads a coalition government comprising PH, Barisan Nasional, Gabungan Parti Sarawak and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah. This means he has the support of at least two-third of members from Parliament's Lower House.
Still pundits have warned about possible volatility ahead given the ideological differences between these coalitions.
Markets have responded positively to Anwar's appointment as more clarity emerges. The ringgit jumped to make the currency the region's best performer the second day straight this morning, rising close to 1 per cent against the dollar.
The currency had surged by as much as 1.8 per cent after Anwar's appointment yesterday, business newswire Bloomberg reported. Malaysia is a net food importer and relies on a stronger currency to bring food import cost down.
Anwar noted the positive bump of the ringgit as a "positive" sign but said his government would still need to work hard to bring down inflation, which economists predict could drag on throughout this and next year.
"Even if there are some positive (signs) like a stronger ringgit and an improved stock index showing confidence in the new administration, I feel the priority should be given to cost of living and the squeezing effects of prices of goods on the people," the prime minister said.
"So I am requesting that a more detailed discussion be held and immediate action be taken to reduce this pressure and I will hold an immediate meeting with the relevant agencies and ministries," he added.
A preliminary policy decision could be announced as early as Monday even as Anwar has declared it a public holiday to mark PH's election into power.
The prime minister said he may hold a meeting with policymakers with the eye on a short term solution Monday.