Parliament will be guilty of gross dereliction of duty and abdication of responsibility if it adjourns next week after a five-week meeting without a focussed and comprehensive debate on the double whammy hitting the Malaysia economy - the Iraq war and the SARS epidemic
by Lim Kit Siang
Last Sunday, Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
announced that all ministries had been directed to study the effects of the
US-led invasion of Iraq on their respective agencies and the relevant
sectors so that action could be taken to minimise its impact on the country
to ensure that the government was always one step ahead in dealing with
possible effects on the local economy.
Stephen Roach, Morgan Stanley chief economist, said: "SARS may well be the tipping point for a global economy that has already been hit by the twin shocks of war and geopolitical uncertainty. Unfortunately, the SARS effect is concentrated in Asia - long the fastest growing economy in the world and the one area that had basically been keeping the world economy afloat."
Stanley said it was reducing its forecast for global gross domestic product
(GDP) this year to 2.4 per cent, from 2.5 per cent previously. Because there
is little chance of every region of the world economy contracting
simultaneously, analysts typically regard any global growth figure of below
2.5 per cent as representing recession.
In actual fact, in the two weeks since the release of the 2002 Bank Negara report, economists have been further slashing their economic growth forecasts in the face of the longer-than-expected Iraq war and the SARS epidemic, downgrading Malaysia's growth projections to as low as 3 per cent for this year.
post-Iraq economic stimulus package is estimated to be as high as RM5
billion, much higher than the two previous economic stimulus packages in
2001, one for RM3 billion and the second for RM4.3 billion.
The ease with which the government was able to get the single biggest supplementary estimate in parliamentary history, a walloping RM22.1 billion, approved by Parliament this week without adequate time for MPs to hold the government to strict policy, performance and financial accountability - with MPs given 10 minutes each to approve billions of ringgit of supplementary allocations during the committee stage debate - is a blot on the record of the present Parliament.
To avoid another blot for the present Parliament, parliamentary backbenchers represented by the Backbenchers' Club and the Parliamentary Opposition Leader should jointly meet the Acting Leader of the House, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to schedule a focused and comprehensive debate on the post-Iraq and post-SARS economy and the RM5 billion economic stimulus package.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman