(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): In Langkawi yesterday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad again referred to the US$30 billion (RM108 billion) loss "stolen" from Malaysians as a result of the currency crisis.
However, government leaders should take a consistent line as to whether the US$30 billion (RM 108 billion) "stolen" from Malaysians as a result of the currency crisis, which have made Malaysians that much poorer, is a genuine loss or a mere "paper" loss.
This is because while Mahathir has been using the US$30 billion (RM108 billion) loss suffered by Malaysians as the result of unchecked currency manipulations to justify his call for regulations of the global currency markets in various international forums, a different tack is taken when the issue is raised in Parliament.
Yesterday, for instance, during the debate on the Foreign Ministry allocations for the 1998 budget, when the DAP MP for Kepong, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, referred to the US$30 billion (RM108 billion) loss suffered by Malaysians as a result of the currency crisis, the Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Dr. Affifuddin Omar interjected to say that this was "mere paper loss".
This prompted me to seek a clarification from the Deputy Foreign Minister, Datuk Dr. Leo Michael Toyad, during the winding-up of the debate as to whether the US$30 billion (RM108 billion) loss to Malaysians as a result of the currency crisis is a genuine loss or "mere paper loss", and why the various government leaders and Ministries could not have a consistent line and to stop disseminating contradictory messages, whether for international or local consumption, so as to restore government credibility and confidence, both national and international.
I pointed out that there have been cases of suicides in Malaysia as a result of the ringgit and stock market crisis, and if the US$30 billion loss is "mere paper loss, whether it was also suggested that such suicides were mere "paper suicides".
One of the biggest problems hampering an effective strategy for national economic recovery in Malaysia is the denial syndrome among government leaders, which is being disseminated to various levels of our society.
Yesterday, World Bank economic adviser Amar Battacharya said in Kuala Lumpur that the recovery of East Asian countries, currently in the grip of financial crisis, would depend on two factors:
The contradictory versions by government leaders about the US$30 billion (RM108) loss suffered by Malaysians as a result of the currency crisis, raising the question as to whether it is a genuine or a mere paper loss, shows that the government has still to grasp with the problem of tackling the perceptions related to investor confidence in Malaysia and that unlike other countries like Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea, Malaysia is not yet prepared to end all brave talk and to "bite the bullet" to adopt painful financial and macroeconomic adjustments and reforms so that Malaysia can be back to being an "Asian miracle" again by the year 2,000.