Oct 31 (Reuters) - Malaysia's decision over which fighter jet it will choose to replace its ageing fleet of 18 Russian-made MIG-29s might be delayed as the country focuses on cutting its budget deficit, Prime Minister Najib Razak said.
"It might take a little longer because we need to consolidate our fiscal position first and this is what people want and this is what the market wants," Najib told Reuters on Thursday on the sidelines of a conference in London.
"My priority would be to secure the macro position of the government to make sure our deficit is cut and at the same time we will spend on defence to the level we can afford to do, so...it all depends on how strong we feel financially."
Malaysia shortlisted five combat aircraft in March, principally the Eurofighter Typhoon - made by European consortium BAE Systems, EADS and Finmeccanica - France's Dassault Aviation Rafale, Boeing's F/A 18E/F Super Hornet and Russia's Sukhoi Su-30 and Sweden's SAAB JAS-39 Gripen. Industry sources said at the time that the purchase could run into billions of dollars.
The government has however come under pressure to tackle its high budget deficit and growing debt pile. In July, ratings agency Fitch cut its outlook on Malaysia's sovereign debt to negative.
Countries such as Malaysia have become top targets for U.S. and European defence manufacturers who want to increase their share of exports to make up for falling defence spending in their home markets.