(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Tun Daim Zainuddin yesterday refuted allegations that he had a conflict of interest in his role both as a businessman and the executive director of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC), a body set up by the Government to tackle the country's woes.
He said: "I must be an idiot if I do things only for myself. I would be an irresponsible person if I don't think of the nation."
He said it was easy for critics to hurl accusations that he is looking out for his own interests as it sounds good and makes for juicy gossip.
He said: "I have never been in my life irresponsible towards the nation. The nation must come first.
"We are trying to revive the economy of the nation, not individuals. Individuals can go and become bankrupt but the nation must be saved. That is what's important."
Despite Daim's strenuous refutation, the former Finance Minister and current economic adviser to the government should know that what he said cannot stamp out the allegations or public misgivings about conflict of interests not only in his case, but other members of the NEAC and their personal business interests.
The main reason is because the government's bail-outs of troubled companies during the worst economic crisis in the nation's history has given Malaysians and the world the impression that there are certain individuals who cannot be allowed to become bankrupt, regardless of the harm such bail-outs could do to the nation and the economy.
The NEAC has been quite a failure as it was conceived as the saviour of the country from the economic crisis, but since the announcement of its establishment by the Prime Minister last November, the economic crisis had gone from bad to worse, and most distressing of all, with the worst still yet to come.
What is the justification for the establishment of the NEAC when after eight months, it has not been able to come out with a National Economic Recovery Strategy, which should have been tabled and debated in the last Parliamentary meeting.
Is the NEAC in a position to present its National Economic Recovery Strategy in Parliament for debate when it reconvenes on July 13?
In view of the worsening economic crisis, the government should scrap the NEAC and establish instead a National Economic Crisis Consultative Council (NECCC) comprising representatives from all political parties, both government and opposition, industry, commerce, trade unions, professional bodies, NGOs, so that it could 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.
The first primary task of the NECCC should be to purge the country of the prevalent and widespread double ‘denial syndrome’ - firstly, the stubbon refusal to admit that the economic crisis has become so protracted and intractable in Malaysia is largely because of internal policy and systemic weaknesses and mistakes; and secondly, the refusal to admit to the critical need for wide-ranging political, economic and financial reforms to resolve the economic crisis.
The nearly year-long national economic crisis has shown that the government does not know what is best for the people, and it must be more humble, democratic, accountable and transparent involving the talents and energies of the Malaysian people in the national campaign for an economic recovery.
To ensure that the NECCC would be a nationally unifying force mobilising
all Malaysians, regardless of political differences to act as one unit
to tide through the national economic crisis in the shortest time possible
and with the least social injustices and upheavals, the NECCC should: