Daim: The people must be ready to make and accept difficult decisions

  • Business
  • Tuesday, 21 Aug 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: The Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) has said there is no quick fix to the multitude of problems in Malaysia’s economy.

Chairman of the council Tun Daim Zainuddin said the government and rakyat must be ready for difficult decisions to be made for the long-term benefit of the nation.

“There are no quick fixes to the problems the council has identified and many challenges still lie ahead,” he said.

The CEP was set up on May 12 at the behest of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, three days after Pakatan Harapan ended the 61-year rule of the Barisan Nasional government.

Its primary role is to help the government fulfil Pakatan Harapan's electoral promises within the first 100 days of its mandate. However, Dr Mahathir has said that the CEP will continue to function beyond the 100 days to help him manage the government.

The extension of the CEP's role does not come as a surprise given that the domestic economy is weakening due to a significant drop in public sector spending and uncertainties in the external sector. 

Dam had served as Dr Mahathir’s confidante in steering the economy through difficult times during the latter's tenure as Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003. He was the Finance Minister during the 1985 recession and returned to the government as an adviser during the 1998 economic crisis.

Daim, who served a second term as Finance Minister in Dr Mahathir's cabinet between 1999 and 2001, said improving the governance of the Finance Ministry is the CEP's top priority.

“Number one is the Ministry of Finance. It must bring in revenue and money for the country and make sure expenditure is not wasted, and there must be no corruption,” he told reporters at a briefing yesterday.

He added that the civil service must not be politicised. 

In a press conference that lasted nearly an hour, Daim noted that the council had completed its tasks for the first 100 days.

The CEP had met with more than 200 organisations to take the pulse of the Malaysian economy and would be submitting its recommendations based on its findings to the government.

The recommendations have three main areas of focus, including measures to improve governance, the well-being of the rakyat and ensuring an inclusive and sustainable economy.

Daim said it was up to the government to share these recommendations, which will be submitted to Dr Mahathir upon his return from a five-day state visit to China.

On Pakatan Harapan's pledge to abolish highway tolls, Daim said consideration had to be given to the country’s finances.

“We have submitted our proposal and while the idea is to completely remove the tolls, it is not wise to do it with our current financial position.

“There are ways to do it. I think it needs more time because the bulk of highway concessions belong to GLCs. In other words, they belong to the government. It is a matter of carefully studying and analysing the numbers,” he said.

Daim said that while the CEP has received many proposals from the concessionaires on the abolition of the tolls, they were in need of more scrutiny.

"Some of the proposals are not complete and everyone seems to have their own ideas,’ he said.

When asked if the recommendations by the CEP would help the federal government meet its fiscal targets, Daim said only that the stock market would do well in two years.

“If I predict it correctly, in two years I think we can all go to the stock market and make a lot of money.”

He said the people must bear in mind that the economy faced unpredictable external headwinds and that the upcoming budget would be crucial to shaping policy.

“We can follow, watch closely, monitor and take action to make sure that our objectives are met,” he said.

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