(Penang, Friday): The Malaysian ringgit fell to a five-month low yesterday, breaking through the 4.20 level which has been tested at least five times since late June. It fell as low as 4.2548 against the US dollar. As at 11 a.m. this morning, the Malaysian ringgit weakened as low as 4.2750 against the US dollar.
The Kuala Lumpur Stock Market Composite Index (CI) yesterday fell 7.39 points to 447.89, and at 12 p.m. this morning, it fell by another 12.84 points to 435.05 points, which is a record-breaking low in the year-long economic crisis. On January 12, the KLSE CI fell to 477.57 points but on June 16, it fell to a new low of 435.84 points. Now a new bottom has been reached!
These are among the disturbing signs that although Malaysia has been hit by the worst economic crisis for a year, there is still no respite and that all indications are that the worst is yet to come, with economic recovery expected only in the new millennium.
For this reason, it is imperative that the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim should present a Ministerial statement in Parliament on Monday on the worsening one-year economic crisis, giving revised GDP growth estimates, the progress and success of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC), the economic recovery measures being undertaken and how the government proposes to restore confidence among the people and investors, both local and international - something which it had completely failed in the past one year. The Ministerial statement should be followed by a full debate in Parliament.
Two weeks ago, the Singapore Government revised downwards its GDP growth projections for this year for the second time, from the original 5% to 7% growth to 2.5% to 4.5 %, and now to 0.5% to 1.5%.
It is time that the Malaysian Government comes out with a more realistic projection of the GDP growth this year for the Malaysian economy. In the 1998 budget presented in Parliament last October, Anwar forecast a 7 per cent GDP growth this year, which was revised downwards to 4-5 per cent last December and 2-3 per cent in March this year.
These estimates are now generally regarded as too optimistic. This is because the consensus among economists and financial analysts is not whether the Malaysian economy this year would achieve the upper or lower end of 2-3 per cent GDP growth estimate, but that there would be negative growth and recession.
Malaysian Institute for Economic Research (MIER) executive director, Dr. Mohamed Ariff Abdul Kareem, said it is "crystal-clear" that Malaysia is going into a recession which is going to be more severe than 1985.
Even MIER is now revising its forecasts downwards drastically. Last April, Ariff had said at a seminar that full year growth would be between 0% and 2%-2.5%.
There are financial houses, like MMS International Standard & Poor’s in Singapore which is even looking at a minus 5 per cent growth for Malaysia this year.
The parliamentary business for Monday after the hour-long question time are the second reading of the Chemists Act Amendment Bill, followed by my motion proposing the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry on Nepotism with special focus on the children and associates of all political leaders, whether government or opposition.
There are then 11 other motions submitted by Opposition MPs, seven by three other DAP MPs namely MP for Kepong, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, MP for Teluk Intan Kula Segaran and five motions by the PAS MP, Haji Wan Mohd Jamil bin Wan Mahmood.
However, going by past practice, Barisan Nasional MPs would drag out the debate on the Chemists Amendment Bill so as to "kill" my motion on a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Nepotism on the first and and even second day of Parliament, until there are government bills ready to be brought forward for second reading debate.
Parliament would become an international laughing stock if two days are wasted on an insignificant three-paragraph Chemists Act Amendment Bill so as to frustrate Opposition proposals for full parliamentary debate on the economic crisis and the issue of KKN - corruption, cronyism and nepotism.
The full text of the three-paragraph Chemists Act 1975 Amendment Bill are as follows:
2. The Chemists Act 1975, which is referred to in this Act as the ‘principal Act’, is amended in the national language text by substituting for the word ‘Institiut’ wherever it appears the word ‘Institut’.
3. The principal Act is amended by inserting after section
11 the following section:
The Prime Minister should withhold the second reading debate on the Chemists Amendment Bill and to give top priority for a full debate on the economic crisis and my motion on nepotism on the first two days of Parliament next week, so as to show Malaysians and the world that the Malaysian Parliament has a proper order of priorities about what are the burning issues in the country.