PETALING JAYA: The proposed economic body said to be similar to the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) set up in 1998 must be impartial and independent to be effective, experts say.
Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd chief economist Manokaran Mottain (pic), who is a former NEAC director, said the government must seriously take the advice and recommendations of the panel, which should be free from outside control.
“If the government only wants to listen to yes-men, then I don’t think it will achieve the purpose,” he said, referring to the new body to be set up to address economic challenges as announced by the Prime Minister on Friday.
“The committee should not be only pro-government but must be impartial because the main aim is to tackle problems in the economy.
“The panel must be given a proper mandate or independent commission status whereby members don’t have to fear that they cannot criticise the government,” said Manokaran.
He also hoped that the panel would be well represented by investment industry players, analyst committees, bankers and non-governmental organisations.
The body must be represented by people who could meaningfully contribute to economic development rather than just big names, who might be preoccupied with other pressing duties than the council’s work, he said.
The participation of opposition or independent members in the council also should not be discounted as there were experienced heads among them, added Manokaran.
“You cannot totally ignore members like Tok Pa or Khairy Jamaluddin because they are quite experienced. You can recognise members who are good,” he said.
Manokaran was referring to former international trade and industry minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, who used to head the NEAC secretariat, and the former youth and sports minister.
He described the setting up of the body by the government as a “good approach”.
“It’s the right time we think about a special body to act as a working group for the Cabinet especially for the economic affairs minister and the Prime Minister,” he said.
Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Datuk N. Gobalakrishnan also said the council must be in the position to advise the government independently.
“And most importantly, the government must be in the position to accept their view,” he said.
He also believed that it was better to have independent members sitting on the council rather than members of the opposition.
“Having the opposition there may be good but to some extent, it might not be workable because the opposition would be championing their own cause.
“It’s better to put somebody who is independent and can effectively give ideas to solve the problems,” he said.
Gobalakrishnan said it was timely for the government to have a one-stop centre to address economic challenges and solutions with relevant stakeholders.
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