Did Ka Ting inadvertently let “the cat out of the bag” on the government’s real estimate that the economic growth this year would be 4 per cent rather than 4.5 per cent?
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Tuesday): MCA President, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting seemed to have let “the cat out of the bag” in his speech at the 50th MCA General Assembly on Sunday when he said that the Barisan Nasional government was “looking forward to a 4% growth this year” despite the Iraq war and the SARS epidemic.
This is news as the government, whether the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad or the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, (both of whom were present at the MCA General Assembly), the second Finance Minister Datuk Dr. Jamaludin Jarjis in his speech at the Seventh Asean Finance Ministers Meeting in Manila only last Wednesday or even the Bank Negara Governor Tan Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz had in unison in the past five months stoutly maintained that Malaysia is “on track to achieve the target of 4.5 per cent growth in 2003”.
Even the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (Mier) had last month raised the country’s growth forecast to 4.3 per cent, citing better external environment and improved domestic sentiment, after it had slashed its forecast by two percentage points to 3.7 per cent in April.
Ka Ting is the first Cabinet Minister to give the lowest forecast for the country’s economic growth for this year.
Is this the result of MCA’s independent economic analysis and forecast, agreeing with economic analysts who do not share the government’s optimism of a 4.5% economic growth this year, like the Morgan Stanley economist for South-East Asia, Daniel Lian, who only last week forecast a 4 per cent economic expansion for Malaysia this year compared with the 4.5% per cent projected by the Government?
Or was Ka Ting given the authority by the Prime Minister to disclose the latest downward revision of the government’s projection for economic growth this year?
Or could there be a third explanation – that Ka Ting had inadvertently let “the cat out of the bag” in revealing the 4 per cent economic growth projection for this year, as it is the real figure discussed in Cabinet and top government circles, although outwardly and externally, the government is still engaged in the P.R. exercise of exuding confidence of a 4.5% economic growth?
Whatever the real position, the government must give a truthful and responsible account to demonstrate that it is fully committed to the principles of accountability, transparency and good governance. Abdullah should clarify the conflicting versions of the government’s projected growth figures after the Cabinet meeting tomorrow.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman