(Kota Melaka, Saturday): During his TV3 Malaysia Hari Ini the previous Friday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad proposed that Malaysians 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.
The political leadership of all political parties, whether ruling or opposition, should set such an example, and I call on all Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, State Excos, MPs and Assemblymen to sell their properties in countries where currencies are higher than the ringgit and keep the funds in local banks to increase the country's foreign reserves.
As a first step, let all Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Chief Ministers, Mentris Besar, State Excos, MPs and Assemblymen make a public declaration of their properties, whether in their name or their proxies, in countries whose currencies are higher than the ringgit and keep the funds in local banks.
It is public knowledge that some of the Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Chief Ministers, Mentris Besar, State Excos, MPs and Assemblymen have vast properties in developed countries like the United States, England, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, whether in their name, that of their spouse or other proxies.
The former Selangor Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib for instance have a list of properties overseas when he was in office, which came to light after he was arrested for trying to leave Australia on Dec. 22, 1996 with RM2.4 million cash in various currencies without declaring and is now awaiting trial on two charges, including one for a false declaration that carries a fine of A$10,000 or five years jail.
The various expenditures and properties overseas which had been reported by the foreign press and linked to Muhammad Taib totalled RM15.1 million and are as follows:
1. the RM2.4 million cash for which he was arrested in Brisbane which he claimed was intended to purchase furniture and fittings for his new Gold Coast home;
2. a RM2 million Gold Coast home at Sovereign Islands in the name of his wife, Asbi Rohani Binti Asnan;
3. a RM5 million ranch in Queensland in the name of his wife, Asbi Rohani Binti Asnan; and
4. six properties in New Zealand worth some RM5.7 million and registered in his wife’s name.
In actual fact, the Australian and New Zealand properties of Muhammad Taib and his wife would now be worth more than RM15.1 million, for they were paid for in Australian or New Zealand currencies.
As Muhammad Taib is still UMNO National Vice President and Selangor Assemblyman, would he set an example in responding to the Prime Minister's proposal by immediately instructing his estate agents in Australia and New Zealand to sell all the properties in these two countries and keep the funds in local banks to increase the country's foreign currency reserves?
Let all Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Chief Ministers, Mentris Besar, State Exco Members, MPs and Assemblymen individually make a commitment to publicly disclose their overseas properties and their preparedness to set an example of loyalty and patriotism at this period of national economic crisis to sell these properties and to keep the funds in local banks.
If the Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Chief Ministers, Mentris Besar, State Exco Members, MPs and Assemblymen are not prepared to make such a commitment, then their credibility would suffer another bufetting, making the restoration of confidence an even more difficult task in the country.
DAP MPs and Assemblymen are prepared to set an example to sell their properties overseas and keep the funds in local banks to increase the country's foreign currency reserves, and I hope the Barisan Nasional Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Mentris Besar, Chief Ministers, State Excos, MPs and Assemblymen would be prepared to do the same thing.
The Prime Minister should establish a special unit in the Prime Minister's Department to liaise with all Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Chief Ministers, Mentris Besar, State Excos, MPs and Assemblymen on the sale of their properties abroad, and present a White Paper in the March meeting of Parliament as to the number of such overseas properties which had been sold, the number in the process of being sold, and the balance of unsold overseas properties.
The MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Dr. Ling Liong Sik said yesterday that there are "indications the economy has already hit rock bottom and the time has come for it to regain its strength and win back confidence from local and foreign investors".
It would appear that the MCA President is even more bullish than the Prime Minister, who said in the TV3 MHI programme that he was confident of an economic recovery in six months to a year with the support of the people.
In his second 1998 budget on December 5, the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, announced revised economic growth forecast for this year, from the original 7 per cent target in the first 1998 budget on 17th October 1997 to 4 to 5 per cent.
Does "economic recovery in six months" mean that Malaysia would be able to achieve a higher growth rate than the revised target of 4 to 5 per cent in the second 1998 Budget, and if not, what does "economic recovery" mean?
In this connection, it is worth noting that the International Monetary Fund does not agree with the forecast that Malaysia would achieve 4 to 5 per cent economic growth this year, stating in its Interim World Economic Outlook report released in Washington on 19th December 1997 that it forecast 2.5 per cent growth for the Malaysian economy this year.
The IMF managing director, Michel Camdessus, said in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that he was certain that within two years or two years and a half,the Asian countries would emerge from their current economic problems if they implement the IMF bailout programme efficiently.
In Hong Kong, its leader Tung Chee-hwa said that the territory would be the first to recover from the regional turbulence.
What is significant however is that no economists have come out to endorse the forecast by Mahathir of a six-month recovery or that of Liong Sik that the Malaysian economic crisis has reached rock-bottom, and the only way for it to go is up! If the economic crisis hit the rock bottom, as claimed by Liong Sik, then things can only look up and get better without getting worse? Is Liong Sik saying that the much-feared property slump in the coming months would not come about and that Malaysians need not fear its wide-ranging repercussions on the stock market as well as the banking and financial sectors?