Parliamentary motion tomorrow on the national economic crisis, a National Economic Crisis Cabinet and a National Economic Crisis Consultative Council (NECCC) headed by the Opposition for a national effort to mobilise all Malaysians regardless of party differences to achieve national economic recovery in the shortest time possible


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): I have today given notice to the Speaker of Parliament, Tan Sri Zahir Mohamed that I would be moving an urgent, definite public importance motion in the Dewan Rakyat tomorrow on the national economic crisis, a National Economic Crisis Cabinet and a National Economic Crisis Consultative Council (NECCC) headed by the Opposition for a national effort to mobilise all Malaysians regardless of party differences to ac hieve national economic recovery in the shortest time possible

I will be seeking the adjournment of the Dewan Rakyat to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely the urgent need for the government to reconsider its proposal to establish a National Economic Action Council (NEAC) and the most effective way to address the five-month-long national economic crisis for the following reasons:

It is about four weeks since the announcement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad after an emergency UMNO Supreme Council meeting on 20th November that the government would set up a National Economic Action Council (NEAC) to deal with the economic crisis and put the Malaysian economy back on track in the wake of the fall in the value of the ringgit and the stock exchange.

Mahathir had then announced that the council, which would be chaired by the Prime Minister, would have emergency powers although a state of emergency had not been declared.

Malaysians are very surprised that the NEAC has not been set up after the passage of nearly four weeks, when the value of the ringgit during this period had fallen from RM3.52 to RM3.8150 today against the US dollar (and touching US$1=RM3.8650 on December 5), with the Kuala Lumpur stock market plunging repeatedly, raising the question of the government's seriousness about the gravity of the national economic crisis.

It has still to be fully clarified as to whether the NEAC is to have executive powers or is merely advisory in nature. If the former, it would be superseding or at least co-equal with the Cabinet, which would constitutionally be most improper unless a state of emergency has been declared, suspending the normal functions of the Cabinet. If its role is merely advisory, the NEAC should stand for National Economic Advisory Council and not National Economic Action Council.

It would appear that the NEAC would be a hybrid Council, having the executive powers of the Cabinet though it would have to report periodically to Cabinet on measures it had taken to address the national economic crisis.

Cabinet Ministers have clearly fallen down on their responsibility as national stewards, to the extent that another body has to be appointed to share and even supersede Cabinet responsibilities. The time has clearly come for a major Cabinet reshuffle, for the infusion of new blood into the Cabinet, and the replacement of several Ministers who seem to be quite lost in a fast-changing world brought about by information technology and globalisation.

The government should reconsider the whole concept of NEAC as not to undermine the principles of Cabinet responsibility and parliamentary democracy. Instead of proceeding with the formation of a hybrid body like the National Economic Action Council, the Prime Minister should carry out a major cabinet reshuffle to remove the deadwoods in the Cabinet, and to form National Economic Crisis Cabinet with technocrats and experts as members of the Cabinet with the expertise and knowledge to deal with the national economic crisis, and most important of all, who can command public confidence in their integrity, competence and dedication.

To form such a National Economic Crisis Cabinet, the Prime Minister should tap experts in the private and public sectors who are not MPs, by appointing them as Senators. This will also raise the standards of the Senate, which at present is nothing more than a refuge for political has-beens and political rejects who could not get elected into Parliament through the front door.

Furthermore, the government should form a National Economic Crisis Consultative Council (NECCC) comprising representatives from all political parties, both government and opposition, industry, commerce, trade unions, professional bodies, NGOs, so that it could be a nationally unifying force to unite and mobilise all Malaysians behind a national economic recovery programme to tide the country through the economic crisis in the shortest time possible.

The first primary task of the NECCC should be to purge the country of the prevalent and widespread ‘denial syndrome’ propaganda, with many Malaysians from the highest levels downwards who still think that the economic and financial crisis would have minimal impact on everyday life on the ground that the country’s fundamentals are strong, national savings rate is high, exports are rising and the current accounts deficits are coming down.

These are Malaysians who fully trust in the government and have become the victims of the ‘denial syndrome’, either believing that the country is not suffering from any economic crisis or that the economic crisis is caused solely by malevolent external forces and factors, ignoring facts in the five-month economic and financial crisis, such as:

The five-month long national economic crisis has shown that the government does not know what is best for the people, and it must be more humble, democratic, accountable and transparent involving the talents and energies of the Malaysian people in the national campaign for an economic recovery. To ensure that the NECCC would be a nationally unifying force mobilising all Malaysians, regardless of political differences to act as one unit to tide through the national economic crisis in the shortest time possible and with the least social injustices and upheavals, the NECC should:

(15/12/97)


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong