(Bukit Mertajam, Saturday): Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon announced on Thursday the composition of the 26-member State Economic Action Council "to rehabilitate and strengthen the state economy".
The Chief Minister should explain why the Penang State Government had been so lacking in a sense of urgency or dynamism in having to take more than two months to form the State Economic Action Council since the directive was first issued by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in early January on the formation of state-level National Economic Action Councils to be chaired by the respective mentri besar or chief minister.
The Penang State Economic Council would have its inaugural meeting on March 30, which would be almost three months from the date the directive was first issued by the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) for the formation of state-level councils to overcome the economic crisis and spearhead an economic turnaround and recovery.
In contrast to Penang, the Perak Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah had shown a greater sense of urgency and dynamism about the economic crisis, as he had established the Perak State Economic Council within a month of the directive issued by Mahathir.
When he announced the formation of state-level National Economic Action Council three months ago, Mahathir Mohamad said that the state NEAC would explain to the grassroots the government policies and strategies to ensure the authorities get the full support of the people in pursuing measures to overcome the economic showdown.
If the country is facing what the NEAC Executive Director, Tun Daim Zainuddin, has described as the "worst economic crisis since World War II", how could the Penang State Government do nothing for two to three months as far as the formation and functioning of the State Economic Action Council is concerned?
Is the three-month delay in the operation of the Penang State Economic Action Council because the National Economic Action Council has failed to develop policies and strategies to effect an economic turnaround and recovery and as a result, there was nothing the State Economic Action Council could do, or because there is a total lack of urgency on the part of the State Government in the need to rally the support of the civic society and the people in a national economic recovery strategy?
DAP has right from the beginning strong reservations about the NEAC, whether it is the proper response to the national economic crisis without undermining the principles of parliamentary democracy and Cabinet responsibility in creating an Emergency Supra-Cabinet Economic Council superseding the powers of the Cabinet in important areas of economic policy. We have made clear our view that the proper response is for the Prime Minister to carry out a major cabinet reshuffle to remove the deadwoods in the Cabinet, and to form National Economic Crisis Cabinet with technocrats and experts as members of the Cabinet with the expertise and knowledge to deal with the national economic crisis, and most important of all, who can command public confidence in their integrity, competence and dedication.
Be that as it may, I call on the Government to present to Parliament the NEACís National Economic Recovery Strategy when the Dewan Rakyat reconvenes on March 23, so that the NEACís plan and proposals for the country to overcome the "worst economic crisis since World War II" could be endorsed by Parliament.