(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): This morning, the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE) Composite Index (CI) crashed below the 400-point psychological barrier, touching a new low of 398.88 points at 10.45 a.m., or 9.16 points below the close of KLSE trading yesterday.
The National Economic Recovery Plan (NERP) of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) which was announced by the Special Functions Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, last Thursday had also failed to strengthen the Malaysian ringgit in the past six days, reaching a new low level in the past week when it dipped to 4.1613 against the US dollar this morning.
Despite the fanfare about the NERP when it was released last Thursday, Malaysia had been hit by a slew of bad news on the economic and the financial fronts.
The NERP had not only failed to stimulate market confidence, with the KLSE CI plunging to an all-time low in the year-long economic crisis and the ringgit continuing to weaken against the US dollar, there had also been other bad news.
One very serious bad news is the rating agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc’s three-notch downgrade of Malaysia’s sovereign credit rating above "junk" status, a rating normally reserved for risky corporate ventures, last Friday.
As a result of the adverse downgrading of Malaysia’s credit ratings, both the Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the Special Functions Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, have postponed indefinitely their fund-raising trips overseas in the government’s latest plan for a RM8 billion sovereign bond issue aimed at reviving the Malaysian economy.
The slew of bad financial and economic news, such as the crashing of the KLSE CI through the 400-point psychological barrier this morning to an all-time low of 398.88 points, should be a powerful reminder to Daim Zainuddin of the importance of presenting the NERP to Parliament in an extended meeting next week to restore national confidence - not only in the government’s handling of the year-long economic crisis, but in the NERP itself!
For this reason, I would seriously urge Daim to get Cabinet approval
tomorrow to extend Parliament next week to seek Parliamentary approval
and to allow a full debate on the NERP.
The DAP is prepared to give full support to the National Economic Recovery Plan (NERP) if an in-depth study shows that it is a plan which could finally restore confidence among the people and investors and chart the country’s economic recovery in the shortest possible time.
Unfortunately, up till now, Members of Parliament whether from the Barisan Nasional or Opposition, have not been given copies of the NERP. I have asked Parliament whether the NERP would be distributed to all MPs, but I was told that there are no indications that the NERP would be tabled in Parliament at all.
Yesterday, in winding up the debate on the 1998 Supplementary Budget Bill, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, Datuk Dr. Shafie Mohd Salleh announced the names of the NEAC’s special executive directors, comprising:
I challenged this statement and asked Abdul Kadir to name the members of the NEAC Executive Council. He was unable to do so, claiming that he had forgotten about it, and that they comprised professional people.
I corrected him, pointing out that the professional people he referred to are serving on the NEAC working committees and not the NEAC Executive Council.
In the event, history was made in Parliament last Thursday when the Opposition had to inform the government front-bench about the composition of the NEAC Executive Council.
I told Abdul Kadir as well as the Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and the Barisan Nasional MPs that the NEAC Executive Council comprised of five members, namely Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister as Chairman and Deputy Chairman respectively and Tun Daim Zainuddin as the executive director. There are two other members appointed by the Prime Minister. I told Parliament that the Chairman of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), Tan Sri Noordin Sopie is the fourth member of the NEAC Executive Council but nobody knows who is the fifth member!
It is most regrettable that Dr. Shafie could not tell Parliament yesterday who is the fifth member of the NEAC Executive Council, or whether the position had been kept vacant all these seven months - and why the great mystery surrounding the fifth member of the NEAC Executive Council.
Such lack of accountability and transparency are clearly not conducive to the restoration of confidence which the NEAC had admitted as the single most "urgent and critical" task facing the country.