(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): I call on the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to schedule a special debate in Parliament on Monday on the UEM-Renong deal and the government take-over of Bakun project to assure Malaysians that the government is not embarking on a new policy to bail out troubled but well-connected corporations. Anwar had said that the Finance Ministry would proceed with an investigation if there was evidence that the UEM-Renong deal was irregular.
The first irregularity is how the Foreign Investment Committee (FIC) could on November 5 give the waiver to UEM not to extend the mandatory general offer to acquire 33 per cent of Renong, although eventually UEM acquired only 32.6 per cent, when there could be no conceivable "national interest" considerations for giving such a waiver.
In restrospect, the UEM-Renong deal was a national catastrophe, not only to UEM and UEM minority shareholders but to the entire investing public in the country. In four days, UEM had lost RM1.294 billion from the Renong deal, as it bought the 723 million Renong shares at an average price of RM3.24 per share whereas the closing price for Renong yesterday had fallen by 54 per cent to RM1.49 per share.
It was also chiefly instrumental in causing the most precipitate collapse of the stockmarket, wiping out some RM70 billion of the investors’ savings.
As Anwar has pointed out himself, under normal circumstances, the UEM-Renong deal would probably be seen as a positive move boosting the prices of Renong, rather than causing both Renong and UEM’s prices to nose-dive. Surely Anwar should know why the UEM-Renong deal created outrage and panic in the KLSE, resulting in the worst bloodbath in the KLSE in the three-month economic crisis.
Anwar said that before a deal is announced, the public and the shareholders should have better access to information. As Anwar has said that the government would not compromise on the principle of accountability and transparency, there should be the fullest investigation as the UEM-Renong deal not only failed to measure up to any principle of accountability and transparency, the whole deal reeks of impropriety .
This is because both Renong and UEM management had misled fund managers by privately assuring them that UEM would not be party to any asset injection days before the sudden announcement of the deal at 8 p.m. on Monday.
Anwar should be aware that the new flight of investor confidence is that the UEM-Renong deal and the government take-over of the Bakun project are seen as the first of a series of government bail-outs of troubled but well-connected companies by raiding blue-chip stocks or using government funds.
As the Bakun hydroelectric dam project is meant to be a privatised project, why should the taxpayers bear all the losses and risks of the project while Tan Sri Ting Pek Khing is placed in a "no-lose" situation as far as the project is concerned. This makes the privatisation concept in Malaysia a most pecular one, completely inimical to public interest.
Parliament should also be given an opportunity to debate the government’s decision to take over the Bakun dam project, which from being the largest privatisation project would now become a 100 per cent burden on the taxpayers.
This is because Anwar had said in Friday’s press conference that the Bakun dam project had not been abandoned, as it had only been deferred. Let Parliament decide whether the Bakun dam project should be deferred or cancelled altogether.