(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, clarified the Prime Ministerís clarification of the remarks by Tun Daim Zainuddin that allowing non-bumiputeras to acquire stakes in bumiputera companies is not temporary and that there would be no reversal of policy.
Three versions by three government leaders in three days on the governmentís latest proposal highlights the need for consistent policy pronouncements by the government so as not to create confusions and uncertainties, which is most inimical to the restoration of confidence.
It is unlikely that there would be any response if allowing non-bumiputeras to buy stakes in bumiputera companies which are facing economic difficulties is only temporary, for this would mean that in good times, there would be a compulsory divestment of such equity.
Anwarís explanation that Mahathirís clarification was "only in terms of policy" although "some adjustments are necessary" does not really help in fully clarifying the matter.
There are also differences in what Anwar and Daim, the Executive Director of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC), had said with regard to foreigners. Daim had said on Tuesday that only non-bumiputeras, and not foreigners, would be allowed to acquire stakes in bumiputera companies, but when asked yesterday whether the move to allow non-bumiputras to buy stakes in bumiputra companies would also be applicable to foreigners, Anwar said: "Sama sama sahaja (it will be the same)".
It would appear that there is a new phenomenon in economic policy in Malaysia, where it is not the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, but with three hands, all not knowing what the others are doing.