(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): Confidence-restoration seems to be more and more elusive although we are in the eleventh month of the economic crisis despite various optimistic pronouncements in the mass media today.
Firstly, there is the answer by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in Parliament yesterday that Malaysia’s economy is expected to regain its strength next year because of additional measures taken by the government and the support given by the people in overcoming the current regional economic problems.
Secondly, there is the statement by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that although Asian economies was hard hit over the past few months, the region is recovering and confidence returning.
There is also the statement by the chief economist for the world-wide operations at the Federal Express Corp. in Kuala Lumpur that Asia is likely to overcome its current economic woes in a year or two.
These upbeat and optimistic sentiments, however, are not reflected by market sentiments, whether the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange or the currency market.
The Malaysian ringgit has not only weakened in the past two days, at the close of morning trading, the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange Composite Index plunged 19.44 points to 588.96, a grim reminder of the bleak days in January this year when the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange experienced its worst month in the economic crisis and which Malaysians have been led to believe are days which are well behind them, especially as a result of the statement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in January on the Malaysian economic recovery in six months to a year!
Malaysians cannot find assurance but only consternation from the vintage speech by the Prime Minister yesterday at the launching of Asnita, described as Malaysia’s first trust fund for women, where he shows that he was more preoccupied with denying that the economic crisis was in any way caused by investor loss of confidence as a result of internal policy, structural and systemic weaknesses and faults, insisting that Malaysia’s economic woes were the evildoings of opportunistic foreign speculators.
If eleven months after the economic and financial crisis, Mahathir still insists that it was solely the result of foreign speculators, then there is no need for any wide-ranging political, economic and financial reforms which are being undertaken in South Korea and Thailand, and which might position both these countries in staging a quicker and stronger economic comeback as compared to Malaysia although they had been worse-hit than Malaysia by the economic crisis.
Mahathir’s statement yesterday have caused Malaysians to raise their eyebrows in more places than one, particularly where he said he had many children who were poor and his invitation to journalists to see the kind of lives they were living.
One way for Mahathir to put to rest all the allegations about nepotism and cronyism is for him to let all Malaysians know the kind of lives his children are leading, how rich are some of his children as well as how poor are his other children.
I believe such a public accountability and transparency would go a long way to help restore the elusive confidence which had escaped
the grasp of the government in the past 11 months of the economic crisis and would set a refreshing example of public accountability, transparency and integrity for all political leaders and public officials.