Open letter to govt calls for transparency in Prihatin package

A CALL for an emergency convening of Parliament to review the RM250 bil Prihatin economic stimulus package by concerned Malaysians has been dismissed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Takiyuddin Hassan, stating that “it is not the right time to play politics”.

However, attention has been called to the irony of Takiyuddin’s statement, as the concerns are that the current stimulus package has been mainly put together for electoral support.

The call for parliament to meet was voiced by Terence Gomez, dean of the Economics and Administration Faculty at Universiti Malaya, through his column entitled “Why are not all GLCs roped in to contribute?”

He notes it is precisely because of the magnitude of the crisis that the call for parliament to meet was made, with the professor stating that Malaysians are confronted with a war which is rapidly ruining the economy.

He is joined by the voices of Dr Lim Teck Ghee, Professor Zaharom Nain, Tawfik Ismail, and Professor Emeritus Johan Saravanamttu.

“Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his Cabinet should recognise they have a duty to debate their response to this Covid-19 pandemic. Many members of the public have expressed concern that the current stimulus package has been mainly put together for electoral support.

“An emergency parliamentary sitting and revisions to the government’s response will help to dispel these fears and ensure a defensible and comprehensive package that the entire country can rally around,” said Gomez in response to Takiyuddin’s dismissal of the call.

Fundamental questions have emerged about the stimulus package, with a core query being the source of the funds for the fiscal injection, which Gomez notes is “an issue the government should reveal even without a sitting.”

“The Finance Minister has stated some of the funds will come from borrowings. Who are the sources of these borrowings? What are the implications of these borrowings on the national debt?” asked Gomez.

He also called to attention the criticisms that have been levied against the government’s cash transfers, stating that while there is an urgent need to channel funds to the B40, the method involved also moves funds to segments of society that are not in dire need of funds.

Small and medium enterprises have also voiced grave concerns about the inadequacy of the stimulus package to help them deal with the crisis, according to Gomez, who pointed to the SME Association of Malaysia reacting badly to the stimulus package.

Also noted is that the government acknowledges the fact that SMEs constitute 98.5% of the corporate sector, contribute about 40% to gross domestic product (GDP) and employ about 65% of the total workforce.

“We would like to stress that the impact of lost jobs, falling demand and weak supply chains will hurt rural and urban communities in equal measure,” said Gomez.

He also shared that, when confronted with such public criticism, Takiyuddin had said that “if it’s about transparency, we can always table the stimulus package at a later date.”

“As the nation braces itself for a very difficult period, we cannot wait for a ‘later date’ to determine the viability of the government’s response. The risk of waiting is too high, for, by then the damage could well be acute deflation of the economy,” said Gomez.

He again reiterates the importance of the parliamentary sitting, and calls for the prime minister to remember that he “must not be negligent in defending his stimulus package, nor shrink from facing fellow parliamentarians who, in the interest of the nation, should focus solely on finding the most appropriate fiscal response.”

“There has to be a full disclosure of the facts behind the financing and use of the stimulus package as this is a time when scarce resources need to be appropriately deployed,” said Gomez. — March 31, 2020

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