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BWeek: M'sia's Ministerless Finance Ministry
By Michael Shari
7/6/2001 6:36 am Thu
[Daim menjadi mangsa atau kambing hitam terbaru - itulah salah satu
kesimpulan dari rencana ini. Ini diharapkan akan dapat menyelamatkan Mahathir
daripada beberapa serangan dalam perhimpunan agung Umno nanti. Penghapusan
kawalan modal sengaja dilakukan ketika Daim bercuti. Mahathir pula telah
mendekati beberapa pengekspot baru-baru ini dan mula mempamirkan sikap
mesra-pelabur bila Daim pergi. Ini semua akan memudahkan Daim dipersalahkan
kerana menyebabkan ekonomi menjunam teruk awal tahun ini. Surat layang dan
buku anti Daim itu baru permulaan. Dijangka ada lagi yang bakal muncul nanti
untuk menghentam Daim agar Mahathir terselamat dari api kemarahan akar-umbi.
Namak jelas betapa liciknya Mahathir mengatur strategi. Walaupun begitu
dunia ini penuh dengan ramai pemerhati. Mahathir tidak akan mampu menyembunyikan
rahsia lagi. Internet sudah mengajar semua ini..... :)
Malaysia's Ministerless Finance Ministry
Daim Zainuddin's abrupt split from Mahathir's government could result
in the Prime Minister tightening his grip on economic policy
In mid-April, Daim Zainuddin resigned as Malaysia's Finance Minister.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad refused to accept his resignation, but
Daim still walked. Now it's official, and Daim's refusal to return to his
office at the spanking new National Economic Action Council (NEAC)
building in Putrajaya, just outside Kuala Lumpur, is forming the backdrop
for a new chapter in the turbulent annals of the Mahathir regime.
The Prime Minister initially announced that Daim had taken only a
two-month vacation. Daim subsequently turned up in Hawaii, which
silenced skeptics for a while. Now, he's back in Malaysia. Trouble is, he
won't go near his office. In late May, Daim was spotted in the remote
province of Keddah, and then in Kuala Lumpur, where he delivered a
speech on money-laundering -- shunning the limelight on both
"He's anything but animated," says an economist in Kuala Lumpur who
attended the speech. On June 5, Mahathir was finally forced to admit in
public that Daim had indeed resigned as both Finance Minister and
Treasurer of the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO),
Mahathir's political party.
Daim's motives for resigning are still murky. He isn't talking, but
diplomats say he has recently complained that he is "tired" of politics,
blaming political interference for the failure of bank reform, and has said
that he wants to return to what he feels he does best -- business.
The question now is: What becomes of Malaysian economic policy? Many
observers believe it will remain where it has resided all along -- firmly in
Mahathir's hands. Under Daim, economic policy was wrested from the
Finance Ministry in late 1998 to undo the work of Daim's predecessor,
Anwar Ibrahim, who had adopted unpopular recommendations from the
International Monetary Fund (IMF), such as raising interest rates,
free-floating the Malaysian ringgit, and telling politically connected
corporations to restructure billions of dollars in debt.
Proponents of globalization took heart from Anwar's embrace of
free-market reforms. But Anwar was subsequently sacked, then tried
and imprisoned for graft and s###my, while the Finance Ministry and
other agencies were cleared of Anwar's associates.
Mahathir then appointed Daim, who ushered in capital controls, lowered
interest rates, bailed out several corporations run by his personal
proteges, and vilified the IMF. But that created new problems. "Daim
was getting too powerful," says a diplomat in Kuala Lumpur.
Many observers believe that Mahathir will now use Daim's resignation as
a long-awaited opportunity to wash his hands of everything that has
gone wrong with the economy since the crisis. "This is going to be
good-cop bad-cop game," says a banker in Singapore. After Daim's
initial departure in mid-April, Bank Negara Malaysia -- the country's
central bank -- removed the last of the capital controls over which he
had presided since 1998.
In addition, Mahathir allowed himself to be seen in public meeting with
Malaysian manufacturers, who are lobbying him to free-float or devalue
the ringgit from its current 3.8 to the U.S. dollar to make Malaysian
exports more competitive. Now, Mahathir can easily blame Daim for a
16.5% drop in the Kuala Lumpur stock market since Jan. 1, the loss of
nearly $3 billion in foreign-currency reserves during the first three
months of the year, the failure of Daim's initiative to merge 58 financial
institutions into 10 "anchor banks," and the failure of UMNO-linked
corporations to repay their debts.
No question, Daim was becoming increasingly unpopular within UMNO
-- and that was making him more a liability than an asset to his old
friend Mahathir. In particular, grumbling about crony capitalism has been
welling up from grassroots constituencies such as the opposition Islamic
Party of Malaysia. This Muslim fundamentalist group has gained ground
since the last general election in 1999.
Such complaints led an influential UMNO member to prepare a pamphlet
for circulation at the annual UMNO General Assembly, scheduled for late
June. While the pamphlet remains secret, diplomats who have seen it say
it accuses Daim of charges similar to those that led to the sacking and
arrest of Anwar in 1998.
But any actual change in policy can go only so far. Daim is expected to
remain "at least a sounding board" to Mahathir, as one diplomat puts it,
because he has been the Prime Minister's closest economic adviser since
his first stint as Finance Minister from 1984-91. Mahathir said on June
5 that he would fill the vacancy himself for the time being. "So money
politics may continue, but in a more refined form," predicts the diplomat.
In Malaysia, some things never change.