(Johor Bahru, Wednesday): The National Economic Action Council (NEAC) executive director, Tun Daim Zainuddin, said in the recent issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review that the country was faced with "the worst crisis … since the Second World War" and that "the primary task of the NEAC is to restore confidence",
Parliament will meet for 26 days from March 23 to May 7 and I hope Members of Parliament would be more serious about the national economic crisis than in the previous Parliament, when Ministers and Barisan Nasional MPs were in the throes of the "denial syndrome", refusing to face up to a multiple crisis, not just currency and stockmarket, but even more fundamental - a crisis of confidence.
Most of my energies in the previous Parliamentary meeting was to combat such a "denial syndrome", and it was such a despairing endeavour at times that at one stage, I spoke about the traditional three monkeys - those with eyes who see not, ears that hear not and mouth that speaks not.
I hope that in the coming meeting of Parliament, we would not see any more of such traditional three monkeys, and every MP would seriously admit that there is a need for a nationally-unifying effort involving the government, society and people to face up to the worst economic crisis in national history and to effect an economic recovery in the shortest time possible with the minimum of avoidable pain, sufferings and hardships to the people.
The crisis of confidence can only be resolved if there is a two-way flow of confidence - the restoration of the people's confidence in the government and the government demonstrating its confidence and trust in the people by removing the information deficit in the country.
For instance, the government should be frank with the people as to when it seriously expects an economic recovery. The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said in his TV3 Malaysia Hari Ini programme last month that he expects economic recovery in six months' time, and the MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik, bested him in forecasting an economic recovery in three months' time.
In actual fact, the six-month or three-month span have been shortened considerably, as Mahathir first made the six-month economic recovery forecast in his TV3 MHI appearance on January 9, which was six weeks ago, which means that there are only four-and-half-months left or one-and-a-half months as far as Liong Sik's three-month economic recovery forecast is concerned.
If there is to be a two-way confidence flow between the government and the people, all government agencies, in particular the National Economic Action Council, should act with greater openness, accountability and transparency and take the people into their confidence as to their operations and the rationale of their decisions and actions.
As part of the national recovery strategy, the Government has called on Malaysians to sell their properties in countries whose currencies were higher than the ringgit and keep the funds in local banks to increase the country's foreign currency reserves. I will ask in next month's Parliament how many Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries have properties overseas and how many of them had been sold and their proceeds brought home and placed in local banks to increase the country's foreign currency reserves and whether Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries who have not yet disposed of their properties overseas propose to do so and when.
It would be understood that when we are referring to the overseas properties of Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, we are also referring to the properties of their spouses, children and next of kin as well.
It is not only Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries who should declare their foreign properties overseas, all MPs, whether government or opposition, should also do the same. Let the forthcoming meeting of Parliament be a historic session where all political leaders, whether Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries or MPs set the example of publicly declaring their foreign properties overseas as well as selling them off to bring the proceeds home to put in local banks to strengthen the country's foreign currency reserves.