(Penang, Friday): Interviewed on TV3ís Malaysia Hari Ini last Friday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad expressed confidence that there would be economic recovery in six months to a year with the support of the people, and this theme of a six-month economic recovery was immediately taken up like a chorus by other Cabinet Ministers and government officials.
I was baffled why Mahathir suddenly came out with this talk of a six-month recovery, when the question of economic recovery was never adverted to at all by the Prime Minister in the previous six months of economic crisis and choosing a time when the stockmarket and the ringgit had just broken new psychological levels, with the KLSE Composite Index crashing through the 500-point barrier while the ringgit broke through the RM4 psychological level against the US dollar and nearly broke another psychological level of RM5 level within 48 hours.
No one has given the facts and figures as to why suddenly the Government is confident of an economic recovery in six months time.
Recently, the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, called on Japan and the United States to play a more active role to help resolve the Asian economic crisis warning that it could have a contagious effect to become a global economic crisis affecting the industrialised world.
This raises the question whether the government is really confident about an economic recovery in six months, when there is the possibility of the Asian economic crisis getting out of control to become a global crisis.
The alacrity with which some Ministers went round the country echoing the six-month recovery message and alluding to the possibility of early general elections makes me wonder whether such a optimistic forecast is more a political statement than an economic one.
It is all agreed that there would be an economic recovery, the speed of which would depend on whether the government is prepared to take hard decisions to "bite the bullet", where the goal is to bail out the whole nation and not individual personalities or companies.
Without a proper national economic recovery strategy involving far-reaching political, economic and financial reforms to win the confidence of the people, the economic recovery may take one, two or three years.
Until recently, everybody would have expected the next general elections, which is not due until October 2000, to be held earliest after Sukom in September and the APEC Summit in November this year.
However, if there are doubts about the ability of the economy to recover in six to 12 months, coupled with the likelihood that the pain and hardships caused by the economic recovery will increase in the next one or two years, then it might be wiser to hold general elections before things get bad - making general elections before Sukom and APEC a distinct possibility.
Furthermore, this will also allow the ruling parties to go into the next general elections with the platform of "Economic Recovery in Six Months", on the ground that the government would be able to deliver the promise of "Economic Recovery in six months" if the people give full and undivided support to the ruling parties.
The question whether general elections would be held in the next six months before SUKOM and APEC Summit should therefore be posed.
Be that as it may, I think what we should all be more concerned about is not the next general elections, but the deepening economic crisis, which will get worse before it can get better.