Government adviser Daim Zainuddin said it is far more difficult to revive Malaysia's economy now, compared to his previous two stints as finance minister.
"It's far, far more difficult and complicated this time, because it's the (previous) government that created the problem; a lot of money was wasted and stolen," he told Channel NewsAsia in an interview.
"I was asked to look into figures, analyse and send back to the prime minister. It will take some time before we can put the economy back to shape."
Daim's caution comes at a time when the World Bank has cut its 2018 GDP growth forecast for Malaysia from 5.4 percent in April to 4.9 percent, as stated in its East Asia and Pacific Economic Update for October.
The World Bank also expects Putrajaya to drastically tighten its belt by cutting government spending to just 0.4 percent of the GDP – from 5.4 percent in 2017 – to rein in on its fiscal balance.
WORLD BANK'S GDP GROWTH FORECAST
Daim is no stranger to tough economic challenges. Between 1984 and 1991 he was roped in by then-prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad as finance minister, and again between 1999 and 2001 following the Asian financial crisis.
After Mahathir was reappointed prime minister following the May 9 general election, he once again called upon Daim to help, this time playing an advisory role as head of the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP).
The CEP interviewed 300 people – from top civil servants to bankers and head of industries – and submitted their proposals, primarily to revive the economy, on Aug 20.
This time around, Mahathir inherited a government that had racked up a debt of RM1 trillion, which Daim believes will get in the way of Pakatan Harapan's ability to fulfil its election pledges.
He said the best way for the government to address this matter was with honesty.
"Malaysians are very kind, patient and understanding. If you explain to them, they will understand and accept.
"Deliver what you promised in the manifesto and if for any reasons you cannot, explain clearly. The people are reasonable if you are honest with them," he said.
Daim said that among others, the CEP advised the government to list some of its assets on the stock market to generate funds.
"At the CEP, we have studied the proposal submitted to us on monetisation.
"We don't advise to sell these assets directly to the market. Where companies are profitable, we recommend them to go for an initial public offering (IPO), create value and let Malaysians invest in these companies," he said.