PETALING JAYA: Amidst the backdrop of a weakening economy, a proposal by the Prime Minister to set up a body similar to the previous National Economic Action Council (NEAC) has drawn public support.
The new set-up is expected to set a clearer agenda for the country’s economic directions.
Top businessmen and experts, in lauding the move, also called for impartiality to ensure its success.
National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia secretary-general Datuk Low Kian Chuan said members of the council should comprise representatives from key policy planners, chambers and industry players from diverse sectors.
“For a start, the policy recommendations report prepared by the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) can be used as a base for deliberation among all stakeholders in the proposed body.
“It is timely to provide a platform for both the policy makers and private sector, including businesses.
“Both can discuss and debate on issues and give advice in the process of formulating sound and suitable economic policies and strategies,” he said.
Former banker Tan Sri Lin See-Yan said the new economic panel should be very focused.
And to ensure decisions could be made, the Prime Minister must head it, said Lin, a Harvard educated economist and a former Bank Negara deputy governor.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad revealed plans on Friday to have a special body, similar to the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) that was set up in 1998 to revive the economy and restore public and investor confidence, to address economic challenges.
Lin said the new body should be small in size and include representatives of consumers, independent businessmen and foreign investors.
“This panel should have people who are wise in the ways of the world and represent the consumers. There should be independent businessmen and independent foreign investors.
“Do not include representatives of trade associations and manufacturers as they will be sitting there with vested interests,” he said.
He said the government must first form a clear national economic plan.
“This should be done by a technical committee of economists which I think the Prime Minister already has.
“Then that plan should go to this new economic panel which will be made up of wise people who are for the consumers and knows what is in the market,” said Lin.
Stressing on the need for a clear economic plan which the government has yet to have, Lin said he did not blame the Pakatan Harapan government as he said they never thought they would win the last general election.
“I don’t blame the government for thinking of this only now. Yes, it has been nine months, but only now are they being clear on what is to be done.
“The Cabinet has all this while been fire-fighting.
“They are still finding out who they can trust,” he said.
He explained that the key to a successful consultation is a short, effective discussion in a small group.
The NEAC, he claimed, “never worked because it was too big. From the time it was formed (in 1998), it just kept getting bigger and bigger”.
“This new economic panel should be able to admit a mistake and if a member needs to be replaced, then the PM must be able to replace him there and then.
“There should be no politicising of this panel. The panel should be for the consumers and know what is happening on the ground,” he said.
He explained that the decisions made by the panel then should be presented to the Cabinet for endorsement.
“Unless the decisions by the economic panel are very controversial, the Cabinet should think of the people first and endorse these decisions,” said Lin.
He said ministers must keep an open mind to accept the decisions by this new panel, putting aside politicking.
This, he said, would cut the red tape, compared to the time when NEAC would have to go through senior ministers and a big group of people before arriving at a consensus on deciding on any economic matter concerning the people.