Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak once again hit out at critics who made fun of him over his "kangkung" remark, insisting that it was his favourite food.
In the monthly assembly at the Finance Ministry in Putrajaya today, Najib said that he used the kangkung as an example to explain the "supply-demand principle".
"When it is the monsoon season, prices of fish goes up and even vegetables," he said as the crowd burst into laughter at the reference to vegetables.
"I had used the kangkung as an example of the supply-demand principle. My favourite foods are kangkung and sotong (squid)."
The PM told staff at the ministry that Malaysia is not facing an economic crisis but it was important to start decreasing subsidies.
"Malaysia is not facing an economic crisis, but God willing will achieve 5% growth this year," he said.
Netizens recently mocked Najib after he questioned why the government is blamed whenever the prices of goods rise, but never praised when they fall, saying that the cost of kangkung (water spinach) had dropped.
Najib was immediately lampooned over his “kangkung” remark, sparking a series of video and meme parodies as Malaysians took offence with his use of the humble water spinach to explain his government’s price hikes.
The gags on Najib’s “kangkung” remark even attracted global interest, with British news service BBC publishing a report titled “#BBCtrending: Be careful what you say about spinach”.
Najib's first defence over his "kangkung" remark was at a dinner held by the Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress in Kuala Lumpur last Thursday.
“I was trying to explain the concept… that was why I used sawi (mustard greens), kangkung. But when I gave examples, people made fun of them,” he said.
"If Malaysia wants to surpass the middle income trap, subsidy rationalisation is necessary for economic restructuring," he added.
Najib revealed that the country's expenditure was almost the same as the amount used for subsidies and incentives, adding that too much was spent on subsidies.
"Imagine this, our development expenditure is RM49 billion but we have allocated a separate RM40 billion just for incentives and subsidies alone," he said.
"Out of the RM40 billion, RM22 billion is for oil subsidy."
The PM, in his speech, indicated that there would be more subsidy cuts in the future in order to "achieve developed economic status".
"Our intention is to decrease subsidies in stages.
"But these are not meant to purposely burden the people. I am a 'wakil rakyat'," he said, referring to the backlash faced by the government over the rising cost of living.
"These measures are for the long-term benefit of the country.
"But those who need help, we will give it to them through BR1M," he said, referring to the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia assistance programme.
Subsidy slashes and increasing prices of goods, he said, was the reason the government was increasing BR1M to RM650 this year from RM500 last year.
"What we have, we give one part to the rakyat and another part is used to reduce the deficit," he said. – January 21, 2014.