PETALING JAYA: With about two weeks to go before its 100-day mandate runs out, the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) is putting planned meetings with various stakeholders on hold to focus on completing a full report of its findings to the government.
Council member Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz told the press at Ilham Tower yesterday that the CEP had almost completed its task.
Set up on May 12 by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad soon after his stunning general election victory, the CEP had been tasked to advise the government on economic, financial and related matters.
Comprising of five illustrious Malaysians – led by chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin, Zeti, Robert Kuok, Tan Sri Hassan Marican and Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram – the CEP’s role was to help the Pakatan Harapan government deliver on 10 promises that would be carried out within the first 100 days.
The 10 promises are largely focused on reducing the cost of living for the people. It includes the abolition of the goods and services tax and subsidies for petroleum.
The view is that as the Cabinet has already been formed to play its role in helping Dr Mahathir to manage the country, the time is ripe for the CEP to be disbanded, as promised.
There have been murmurs that the CEP may have, in some cases, overstepped its advisory role.
For example, Daim’s diplomatic visit to China last month created much brouhaha about his role in the government, especially after it was reported that he had been tasked to renegotiate some contracts on behalf of the government.
This is after the government had instructed work for the East Coast Rail link project, which had been undertaken by a Chinese contractor, to be suspended.
There were also reports that the CEP was in favour of re-tendering the light rail transit line 3 (LRT3) project after the cost of building the extension line had ballooned way above its original estimate.
However, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the LRT 3 project would proceed after its project delivery partner agreed to renegotiate the contract and scale down the size of the project.
Some say the CEP can continue its role in other capacities.
“This is on the account that the Cabinet comprises ministers who are new and prone to making mistakes in making major announcements. Also, the civil servants are not helping the new ministers,” said an official close to the CEP.
Two members of the CEP have already been given other tasks.
Zeti, the former Bank Negara governor, was recently appointed to oversee Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB), while former Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) president and chief executive Hassan is a director at Khazanah Nasional Bhd following a shake-up at the government’s strategic investment fund.
It remains to be seen whether Daim, who was finance minister in Dr Mahathir’s previous administration, would take on a formal role in the new government.
Meanwhile, Bernama quoted Zeti yesterday as saying that the CEP secretariat was preparing a full report, which would be presented to the government when completed.
She did not give any specific timeline.
Zeti said it was time for the CEP to wrap up its duties, as the 100 days “are almost up”.
The last day for the CEP is on Aug 22.
Meanwhile, Zeti, who is also the PNB group chairman, noted that the investment institution was parked under Yayasan Pelaburan Bumiputera and was unaware if it would come under the purview of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
According to recent news reports, Khazanah, Petronas and PNB would be placed under the PMO in the new government structure, and not the Economic Affairs Ministry.
Zeti also said the PNB management and herself would jointly meet the media soon to respond to questions regarding its direction.
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