Cabinet urged to give serious consideration to my open letter to all Cabinet Ministers last Tuesday on the 15 measures they should give priority focus to deal with the economic crisis which has still to reach its climax


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): New Straits Times today reported that the DAP had "backtracked" from its earlier statement urging the Government to give priority to 15 areas to deal with the economic crisis.

This is erroneous and I cannot understand how anyone could reach such a conclusion based solely on my statement yesterday that despite our strong reservations, DAP will put aside all political differences and give full co-operation to the National Economic Action Counci (NEAC) to ensure that the government, society and people can fight and overcome the economic crisis as one unit. I would urge the Cabinet at its meeting tomorrow to give serious consideration to my Open Letter to all Cabinet Ministers last Tuesday on the 15 measures they should give priority focus to deal with the economic crisis which has still to reach its climax.

In my Open Letter to all Cabinet Ministers, I had placed the restoration of people and investor confidence as the key to any economic revival strategy, which has been further vindicated yesterday when the market reacted in anger against the FIC decision to reinstate the waiver to UEM from having to make a mandatory general offer in its RM2.34 billion acquisition of 32.6 per cent or 722.9 million Renong shares.

Although the economic crisis was externally-induced, it had been internally-aggravated by a long catalogue of self-inflicted wounds, whether it be the designation of 100 stocks, the announcement of the RM60 billion fund to prop up share prices, the arbitrary and discriminatory rulings by the Foreign Investment Committee outraging the market in showing that there is no level playing field for small investors, the catastrophic announcement of the UEM-Renong deal on Nov. 17 and the Prime Ministerís RM10 billion land-bridge announcement on Dec. 4 which plunged the ringgit to the then historic low of 3.8650 against the US dollar.

After such self-inflicted disasters, the people and the market are entitled to expect and demand that the authorities fully realise the importance of restoring confidence and would now do everything right and not make any misstep as to shatter the painful recuperation for the restoration of market confidence.

This is why the FIC reinstatement of the waiver for UEM is so deeply frustrating to loyal and patriotic Malaysians who had hoped that the government had learnt from its mistakes of the past six months, that the country has reached the rock-bottom as far as self-inflicted wounds are concerned, and that Malaysians can unite to formulate and implement a national economic revival strategy instead of worrying when we will further undermine confidence by shooting at our own feet again!

I had said in my Open Letter to the Cabinet Ministers that the first step to restore confidence is for the government, from the Prime Minister downwards to Cabinet Ministers and government officials, to demonstrate to the country and the world that it has completely shaken out of the "denial syndrome" which had blinded our decision-makers and planners to our own mistakes and weaknesses and the need for far-reaching political, economic and financial reforms.

The events of the past one week have only underlined the urgency and gravity of this issue, as many government leaders are still going around displaying this "denial syndrome".

The 15 areas which I had asked the Cabinet to give priority focus are:

Would the State NEACs be patterned after the NEAC - have emergency powers and an executive director?

The Prime Minister has directed the various states to form State NEACs under the chairmanship of the respective Mentri-Besar or Chief Minister.

Perak Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah said in Ipoh yesterday that a state-level NEAC would be formed within a month which would comprise corporate representatives and individuals whose roles were to advise the state executive council.

He said: "The state will take heed of their advice after seeking the views of the NEAC".

There seems to be some confusion about the nature, role and function of the state NEACS, whether they would be patterned after the NEAC, i.e. have an executive director like Daim Zainuddin at the national level and have emergency powers to deal with the economic crisis although an emergency has not been declared, superseding or sharing powers with the State Exco in areas of economic crisis.

From Ramliís explanation, it would appear that the state NEAC is an "advisory" and not an "action" council as is proposed for the national level, and therefore more akin to the National Economic Crisis Advisory Council (NECCC) which is advocated by the DAP.

I hope this confusion could be cleared up - whether the state governments are being asked to form NEACs as "action" or "advisory" councils?

(13/1/98)


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