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Daim Rumours: Keep Him In Check: Jomo
By Susan Loone

19/6/2001 5:38 pm Tue

[Khabar angin yang dilayang mengenai Daim antara lain bertujuan untuk menggertak beliau dan anak-didiknya agar tidak menentang Mahathir. Banyak rancangan Daim terpaksa diubah atau dikaji semula jika tidak BN akan semakin malang di hari muka dan Mahathir akan dibelasah teruk dalam perhimpunan agung Umno. Fokus anti Daim sekarang ini akan menempiaskan semua tohmahan kepada beliau sahaja agar terselamat Mahathir - padahal Mahathir yang melantik dan mengizinkannya bertindak sekian lama.

Menurut Jomo, Menteri Kewangan yang baru dijangka seorang yang pro Mahathir juga. Tidak kira siapa pun menjawatnya, negara akan tetap cemar dengan budaya politik korupsi kroni selagi tiada kajian 'check and balance' dan ketelusan urusniaga. Apa yang berlaku kepada akhbar hari ini menunjukkan kerajaan tidak bersedia untuk membuka pintu seluas-luasnya kepada teguran yang membina.
- Editor

Monday June 18

Rumours about Daim may serve to keep him in check: Jomo

Susan Loone

4:35pm, Mon: Rumours about Daim Zainuddin's arrest and raids on offices of those closely associated with him may serve to intimidate the former finance minister and his cronies to ensure they do not put up any resistance against Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, said an economics professor today.

Universiti Malaya's Prof Jomo KS however added that such threats might not bring about the intended effect.

'While many would claim that there was little previous indication that they would (fight back), but it may also have the effect of driving them further 'underground', and forcing them into alliances previously not contemplated,' he said.

'Daim would probably claim: 'Not fair. We did all this together, and now, I, alone, am being blamed for all of them',' he added.

Daim officially resigned as finance minister on June 1 after a two-month leave. He has relinquished his positions as special functions minister and Umno treasurer. Since then, there has been intense rumours of his imminent arrest.

Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi denied that the former finance minister was under police investigation.

According to Jomo, recent policy decisions associated with Daim have already come under review.

'All policy revisions and reversals will be seen as repudiations of Daim, allowing the regime to disassociate itself from some of the most embarrassing decisions such as the MAS (Malaysia Airlines System), Time dotCom and LRT (Light Rail Transit) bailouts,' said the economics lecturer, who has a BA from Yale University, and an MPA and PhD from Harvard.

Important questions

Jomo, who has written over 30 books and edited over 40 more, said recent developments raise important questions about who is accountable for economic policy and the role of the cabinet.

'Has the National Economic Advisory Council displaced the cabinet, or had it also become auxiliary to Mahathir, the 'First Lord of the Treasury', the prime minister? Or to Daim, who was, after all, reputedly the nation's economic tsar?' he queried.

According to some economic analysts, Daim's replacement would hardly bring about any changes in Malaysia's economic policy.

One said, 'The next (finance) minister is going to be another Mahathir loyalist. Malaysia is still going to be a pro-market economy, with little concern for distributional considerations, or for the needs of labour.'

Recently, in a press conference, Mahathir commented that the new finance minister must be 'clean', an uncontroversial figure and may or may not be a politician.

'This was a real slap in the face for Daim, as the PM insinuated what critics had long claimed. Of course, it also implied that the PM had condoned all this before,' said Jomo.

'You can hardly find anyone 'clean' on the government benches. Cynics will claim that the only clean ones left there just haven't had a chance yet,' he added.

Checks and balances

Jomo, who has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Cornell and three Malaysian universities, said that there was a need for a thoroughgoing reform of governance.

'Those who have been in power too long tend to abuse power, especially when checks and balances are weak, and neither history nor culture has established strong healthy precedents and norms,' he said.

The position of the finance minister in this country has become unnecessarily powerful and liable to abuse as the minister approves the more lucrative contracts and in an increasingly non-transparent environment, where even tender processes, for example, are hidden as official secrets, said Jomo.

'It doesn't help to have a businessman with a network of proteges in thisposition as this will give rise to cronyism.

'But it can be just as bad with an ambitious politician patronising money politics to rise, or a pharaonic 'developmentalist' with an edifice complex. There is no substitute for strong checks and balances, for greater transparency and public accountability,' he said.


Jomo said it was almost irrelevant whether the next finance minister was a politician or non-politician except for the fact that it is hard to think of any qualified parliamentarian.

'In any case, what is important are policies - and the implementation, consequences and effectiveness of those policies,' he said.

'At the moment, we have lots of rhetoric. We have the Third Outline Perspective Plan and the Eighth Malaysia Plan. We want to see these plans benefit the nation, especially those disadvantaged thus far, and not the personal interests of rich and powerful cronies, the hangers-on, with more know-who than know-how,' he added.

Jomo said the country needed economic policies for balanced and sustainable development; policies that emphasise human development, for greater social equity and genuine national unity.

'The only way forward is to have government policies oriented towards national unity and social needs,' he said.

'The PM and the BN do not have to look very far. For example, just take a look at the Barisan Alternatif manifesto,' he added.

Jomo said the BA manifesto emphasises matters such as ensuring greater accountability through guaranteed transparency, ensuring sustained, balanced and equitable development, cleaning up the system, ensuring more equitable tax and expenditure policies, and improving health, education and housing provisions.

American economy

Jomo insisted that the US economic slowdown will effect Malaysia despite assurances by cabinet ministers who continue to say that the country is coping well with the impact.

'If there is no impact, why did Mahathir introduce the RM3 billion counter-cyclical package in March to stimulate the economy' Was it just to give more jobs to the boys? It looks like Mahathir is more concerned about the economy than they are. His ministers obviously do not either understand or agree with him. It seems Mahathir is more isolated than I thought,' he added.

Unemployment is predicted to rise, with the recent spate of retrenchments, as the country depends heavily on the electronics industry which seems badly affected by US conditions.

The information technology industry has not really taken off despite all the hype after the much-publicised Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project was launched compared to countries such as Singapore or even India.

Twin problems

Jomo said Malaysia clearly has two big economic problems: one is an overly open economy - due to the earlier Mahathir policy heritage and contrary to his recent anti-globalisation rhetoric - and the other is abuses,corruption, cronyism and nepotism. He said these two problems need to be tackled simultaneously.

'To understand the economy, we have to look at both problems. We cannot only talk about cronyism when there is the problem of the open economy due to ill-considered globalisation,' he said.

'Secondly, the people who rule the country run it primarily in their self-interest. They give relatively little attention to the public interest except just before elections.

'They usually do not think about the long-term development of the country, and on the rare occasions when they do, they can hardly get it right, as with the MSC, which has little to show in terms of significant achievements despite all the resources directed there at the expense of other sectors,' he added.

Jomo said the only way people can do anything is by changing governance to one that is more transparent and accountable.

'Institutions must be reformed. More attention must given to the national and public interest, to sustainable, equitable and balanced long-term development challenges,' he added.

Last modified:Monday June 18, 4:45 pm