The deputy prime minister added that if Ng's explanations were deemed unsatisfactory, the government may investigate, according to the Malaysian Insider.
The brouhaha over Tourism Malaysia's Facebook advertising expenditure started when the figure was shared on Tuesday during a session in Parliament by deputy tourism minister James Dawos Mamit. The amount was called into question by Democratic Action Party member of parliament for Rasah Anthony Loke.
Reported in local dailies, the figure has Malaysian netizens in an uproar, with a protest Facebook page titled Curi-curi Wang Malaysia (Stealing Malaysian money) gaining more followers than Tourism Malaysia's own site — over 59,000 'likes' compared with 32,000.
The page, a pun on Tourism Malaysia's slogan Cuti-cuti Malaysia (Malaysian holiday) was formed to "prove to the government (it doesn't) need to spend RM1.8 million for a successful fan page," the page's information details state.
Stepping forward to explain, Ng said that the funds was for six separate advertising campaigns over a period of seven months and was for social media, "not just Facebook".
A press release posted yesterday on Tourism Malaysia's Facebook fan page listed the six campaigns as:
- Citrawarna 1Malaysia
- 1Malaysia Malaysia Mega Sale/Malaysia Year End Sale
- Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia
- 1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism contest
- 1Malaysia Green and Clean Campaign
- Fabulous Food 1Malaysia
The money would be used for hardware, development of pages, design, games development, advertising campaigns on Google and Facebook and content management, among others.
The ministry also listed its goals as an average of 20,000 fans per campaign, a minimum of 120,000 fans by the end of December, and to use this information to communicate directly with fans by the end of the year.
The release added that tourism had earned the country US$18.4 billion (RM56 billion) last year and pointed out that neighbouring countries the Philippines and Australia had budgeted US$2.3 million (PHP100 million) and US$158 million (AU$150 million) for its social media campaigns respectively.