(Petaling Jaya, Monday): This is the third consecutive year that the double celebrations of the Chinese New Year and Hari Raya are being held together in Malaysia and the next double celebration will be in the year 2,036 or 38 years from now.
It is hoped that the three consecutive years of double celebrations of the two major festivities in the country both symbolise and herald a greater coming together of Malaysians of diverse races, languages, cultures and religions which would stand the country in a better stead to face the worst economic crisis in the nation's history.
The Chinese New Year of the Tiger is a year of crisis for the tiger economies and it would be a grim test as to whether they could recover from the seven-month-long economic turmoils and turbulence which gives no sign of abating and would most likely worsen before the economic situation can get better.
Only three days ago, Asians governments and peoples were feeling more confident of the economic future because of positive signs that the United States Government was at last prepared to play a more active role to help prevent the meltdown of the "Asian Miracle" economies, when such hopes were dissipated by the sudden possibility of the meltdown of the American Presidency itself and the impeachment of President Clinton.
The economic turmoils and turbulence since the failure of the IMF "rescue of its rescue" of Indonesia, with the Indonesian rupiah falling from 12,000 to 17,000 rupiah against the US dollar in one day, the rising fear of hyperinflation of 100 per cent and millions of retrenchments, have painted a very bleak prospect for the region making Malaysia and other neighbouring countries even more vulnerable in the coming months.
The IMF will have to mount a third rescue of Indonesia in three months if the Indonesian economic crisis is not to be turned into a IMF crisis of confidence.
Malaysians must learn the lessons from the deepening of the Indonesian economic crisis - about the supreme importance of confidence-restoration, the need to take decisive corrective measures before they lose their effectiveness because of procrastinations and delays and a national resolve that we would not take any action or make any decision which would frighten away investor confidence.
Last Friday, the Indonesian Finance Minister announced a revised budget of zero growth, down from Suharto's earlier forecast of 4 percent, and forecasts an exchange rate of 5,000 rupiah against the dollar, down from the previous estimate of 4,000.
If the Suharto's disastrous budget two weeks earlier of January 6, which precipitated a new freefall of the Indonesian economy, had been more realistic, Indonesia and the rest of South-East Asian countries would have been spared the worst of the economic turmoils and turbulence in the first month of 1998.
In Indonesia, calls are beginning to be made for Indonesians to show their patriotism to change the US dollars into rupiah, although the Suharto family, which is believed to be worth up to US$60 billion, has still to set an example of such "patriotism".
Last week, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said in Langkawi yesterday that Malaysians should set aside their political differences and defend the country's economic freedom. I would like to go one step further and to call all Malaysians to unite in a Save The Nation Campaign with a single-minded purpose to save the Malaysian economy and defend our economic freedom, as we do not want the MIF Managing Director, Michel Camdessus to fly into Kuala Lumpur to dictate a package of economic and financial policies, in the way Camdessus dictated to Suharto but to so little effect.
Let a Save the Nation Campaign Commission, comprising representatives of all political parties, government and opposition, academicians, industry, commerce, trade unions, professional bodies, NGOs, be formed to be a nationally unifying force to unite and mobilise all Malaysians behind a national economic recovery programme to tide the country through the economic crisis in the shortest time possible and with the minimum of avoidable pain, sufferings and hardships to Malaysians.