(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): It is most regrettable that a week after the public release of the National Economic Recovery Plan (NERP) prepared by the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) last Thursday, Special Functions Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin has not been able to table it in Parliament to give every MP a copy of NERP or to move a motion in Parliament to seek parliamentary approval for it.
It does not reflect well on the competence, capability and professionalism of the NEAC and its various high-powered working committees when it could not give MPs copies of the NERP after 10 days of its completion, as the NERP was dated 21st July 1998. It would appear that the NEAC is not operating in the Information Age but is going back to the Buffalo Age in its inability to print the NERP for MPs and all interested Malaysians.
As Daim is not prepared to table the NERP in Parliament to seek parliamentary approval, he should accept the invitation to the DAP "National Economic Recovery Plan - One Year of Worst Economic Crisis" forum at Federal Hotel, Kuala Lumpur next Thursday to explain it as well as interact with public inputs and feedbacks.
DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Kepong, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, who is Chairman of the DAP nation-wide series of "National Economic Recovery Plan - One Year of Worst Economic Crisis" forum, has sent an official invitation to Daim to launch this series of forums next Thursday. The full panel of the forum, which is open to interested members of the public, will be announced in a day or two.
The NEAC has a high-powered five-member team of special executive
All the five special executive directors of NEAC are also invited to the forum next Thursday, to deal with issues concerning the National Economic Recovery Plan which come within their respective areas of expertise.
The NERP has rightly pointed out that the restoration of confidence would be an important step in any national recovery from the worst economic crisis facing the country.
It said: "However, restoring confidence is as much a matter of perceptions and social psychology as of realities and economic fundamentals. It is imperative to quickly address the underlying problems - both real and perceived - that had set off the crisis."
Unfortunately, such realization of the overwhelming importance of restoring confidence if the economic crisis is to be conquered seems to have taken the authorities 12 long months to reach - and the NEAC itself more than six months to put in its national economic recovery plan.
Of course, it is better late than never - but the question is whether the 12-month-long belated acknowledgement of the supreme importance of confidence restoration has permeated all levels of government or is just confined to the drafters of the NEAC report.
This is because the public release of the NERP has been met by a new bout of loss of confidence, which should be regarded as a very serious development by the NEAC requiring new measures to stem such erosion - as seeking parliamentary approval for the NERP to give it full credibility and legitimacy.
Yesterday, for instance, the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE) Composite Index lost 18.01 points or 4.5 per cent, taking it to 385.97, not only the lowest in the year-long economic crisis but also the lowest in nine-and-a-half years.
Since the announcement of the NERP last Thursday, the KLSE CI had fallen 35.94 points from last Wednesday’s 421.91 to 385.97 points yesterday - a major setback of the NERP to win the battle of confidence-restoration.
The NERP made clear some of its qualifications about the government’s economic growth projections of -1 to -2 per cent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contraction for this year, that it was premised on the speedy implementation of the Recovery Plan.
This is now not possible, as evidenced by the shelving of government plans for an international roadshow aimed at raising US$2 billion (RM8.4 billion) from bonds. The separate overseas trips by the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the Special Functions Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, were postponed following a sovereign ratings cut by credit-rating agencies Moody's and Standard & Poor's.
It was the cancellation of the international roadshow to raise bonds from international financial institutions which was the primary cause of the Kuala Lumpur market's third consecutive fall this week, as it has led to market worries over the government's ability to lead the country out of its first recession in 13 years.
Are these setbacks in the National Economic Recovery Plan within the first week of its announcement indications that more pessimistic forecasts about Malaysia’s economy, as the -2.8 per cent GDP contraction projected by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) and the -4 to -5 negative growth made by private-sector economists and research houses for this year are likely to be more accurate than the official government projections?
These and other pressing issues about national economic recovery should be addressed by Daim and his team of special executive directors at the DAP forum next Thursday so as to win the support of all Malaysians, regardless of political beliefs, for the NERP.