Call for a pro-active and visionary plan to deal with the double blows of Iraq war and SARS and not another two months of wait-and-see on an economic stimulus package prepared as a post-Iraq war response in past three months
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Wednesday): The Government should get its act together and show a greater seriousness in grappling with the deepening economic crisis as a result of the double disastrous blows of Iraq war and SARS epidemic.
The spectacle of the two Finance Ministers publicly contradicting each other on Monday on the economic stimulus package is not one to inspire national and international confidence about economic policy-making and financial management in Malaysia.
On Monday, the second Finance Minister, Datuk Jamaludin Jarjis told reporters after launching the National Property Information Centre Valuation and Property Department’s Property Market Report 2002 in Kuala Lumpur that the announcement of the thrice-postponed economic stimulus package would be in April, but shortly later, the Acting Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told reporters at the Parliament lobby that the economic stimulus package would not be unveiled in April in view of the uncertain global conditions brought on by the invasion of Iraq by the US-led forces.
How could the two Finance Ministers be so at odds and out of sync with each other on so straightforward a matter as the date for the announcement of the thrice-postponed economic stimulus package? It was Jamaludin who had said in late January that the economic stimulus package would be announced in February, before it was delayed to March and then April 7, and now a further indefinite postponement with a time-frame of another two months.
Bad economic news have been coming thick and fast rendering the Bank Negara’s economic growth forecast this year to 4.5 per cent from 6 – 6.5 per cent made only two weeks ago quite behind time as they are generally regarded as over-optimistic by most economists and analysts.
With the rapid spread of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) with no signs that it has been brought under check, the likelihood of SARS tipping the global economy into a recession is haunting the war-ravaged world. The fall in Malaysia’s industrial output in February, dipping 0.9 per cent from a year earlier, provide a grim economic outlook for the future.
These bleak economic prospects cry out for a pro-active and visionary economic plan to deal with the deepening economic crisis and not another two months of wait-and-see on an economic stimulus package prepared as a post-Iraq war contingency plan in the past three months.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman