(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The 191-page National Economic Recovery Plan (NERP) prepared by the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) and announced by the Special Functions Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, on Thursday is meant to "steer the country out of the current financial crisis and put it on the road to economic revival".
But something must be very wrong with this plan, subtitled "Agenda for Action", when two days after its release, copies could not be made available to MPs to study it in depth and detail.
Yesterday, my office contacted the Prime Ministerís Department to ask for copies of the NERP but was told that no copies of the NEAC Report are available as no provision had been made to give them to anybody.
If the NEAC cannot even produce copies of the NERP for MPs and interested members of the public, how can the public have confidence that the NEAC would have the resources, competence and capability to implement its six-prong strategy of:
When releasing the NERP, Daim rightly said that the most urgent and critical need was to restore confidence, which the government had dismally failed in the past one year.
This is also clearly acknowledged by the NERP which said that the persistence of the currency crisis has been prolonged by the weakening of confidence and that "restoring market confidence is an important step to stabilise and strengthen the ringgit".
The NERP said some of the fundamental issues that have affected market confidence include the perception that there is a lack of corporate transparency and inconsistent announcements that have given rise to uncertainty and confusion.
The manner and implications of the release of the NERP is the latest and most serious example of such inconsistency and even contradiction at the highest levels of economic and financial decision-making, reinforcing the public perception that there are two Finance Ministers in the country.
Among the "confidence-building measures" recommended by the NERP under the heading "Improve transparency and the regulatory environment" are:
I am surprised that as far as I know, the NERP had not referred to the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) annual global competitiveness rankings for this year, where out of 53 countries Malaysia was placed 17th down eight rungs. When in previous years, Malaysia was given high rankings, as placed in the ninth place last year, government leaders would always refer to the WEF global competitiveness rankings inside and outside Parliament to show how well Malaysia is regarded internationally. But when Malaysia fell eight rungs in this yearís WEF global competiveness rankings, there is only silence from the government.
For the record, in its rankings released in early June, Singapore has once again been ranked the worldís most competitive economy by the WEF despite the impact of Asiaís financial crisis.
Indonesia was placed 31st, down 16 places, Thailand was 17th, down three places, while South Korea was ranked 19th and Taiwan came in sixth - both up two rungs. China was placed 28th, up a notch.
I hope Daim is taking action on my proposal yesterday that he move a motion in the Dewan Rakyat to seek the approval of Parliament for the NERP to give it legitimacy and that four days be set aside for such a policy debate through a one-week extension of Parliament in the first week of August.
However, there should be a nation-wide discussion and debate of the NERP if it is to be accepted as a peopleís plan to effect an economic turnaround and economy, and not just a plan of a handful of people with no political legitimacy or national credibility.
The DAP will continue to make our contribution to rally the people behind efforts to effect an economic turnaround and recovery in the shortest time possible with the minimum of avoidable hardships, pain and injustice.
In fact, if the Cabinet or the NEAC had seriously acted on the Open Letter which I sent to all Cabinet Ministers on 6th January 1998 on the 15 measures the government should give priority focus to deal with the full-blown economic crisis, the Malaysian economy would not be in such dire straits today, where the worst is yet to come with no light whatsoever at the end of the tunnel.
As the NEAC and the Government are not prepared to provide opportunities to allow the Malaysian public to give their views, input and feedback on the NERP and one year of the worst economic crisis facing the people and country, the DAP will fill in this void.
DAP will now organise a series of nation-wide forums on "National Economic Recovery Plan - One Year Of Worst Economic Crisis" and we will invite Daim Zainuddin to these forums to enable him to explain the NEACís "Agenda for Action" as well as economists and prominent Malaysians to give their views and input.
This DAP nation-wide series of "National Economic Recovery Plan - One Year Of Worst Economic Crisis" forums will be organised by a committee headed by DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Kepong, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw and the first forum would be held in Kuala Lumpur in the first week of August.