I was at the recent Economic Update organised by the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) at Sasana Kijang. The panelists consisted of a slew of ministers and a central bank governor.
The first question off the bat by the moderator, Umapagan Ampikaipakan, was to get the elephant out of the room – 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
How does it affect the current state of Malaysia’s economy?
Good move in wanting to address the issue that everyone is talking about.
But, as expected, the ministers on the panel were slightly dismissive of it. They acknowledged it, of course. But still dismissive.
The message from them regarding 1MDB can be broadly categorised in to three answers:
1. The dismal state of the economy is not unique to Malaysia and is not solely because of the 1MDB scandal. Many other countries are affected too because it is a global situation.
2. Investigations are under way, so let it take its due course and we will all know the outcome soon enough.
3. Malaysia needs to move on ahead and not dwell on the 1MDB scandal. It is already being handled so don’t worry about it.
But what blew the roof was not what Datuk Seri Idris Jala, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed or Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar said. It was what Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz said that was echoed after the event.
She stressed that although there are many factors that have contributed to how bad Malaysia’s economy and depreciating Ringgit, we should not ignore the fact that the political scandal is also part of it.
Zeti continued to say that there are efforts being taken to strengthen the economy and for all this to be done optimally, the country definitely does not need more political scandals and controversies.
To be honest, the Bank Negara governor really didn’t say anything revealing or significant. She just acknowledged that the political scandals in the country have an impact on what is happening.
But because of how information is only slowly trickling out (or not at all!), even statements as mild and tame as what Zeti made makes headlines in the news and is the talk of the town.
But I guess it takes something like this to throw the issue back into the spotlight. As it is, no one in any authoritative position is willing to say it as it is. People are getting tired of it being dismissed all the time.
If the government is trying to make an effort in convincing the public that everything will be okay and to restore their confidence in the economy, then they really have to try harder and be more sincere.