CEP has ended its tenure, says Daim

Manirajan Ramasamy, Masriwanie Muhamading

KUALA LUMPUR: The Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) has ended its 100-day term, says its chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin.

He said the council, which held its final meeting on August 17, has fulfilled the mandate given to it within the specified period.

“Our work is done. All the mandates given have been completed. All suggestions will be presented in a report to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad upon his return from China,” he told a press conference at Ilham Tower on Monday.

Asked on Dr Mahathir’s statement that the CEP may yet continue, Daim said he was not aware of it.

" Our role here is as volunteers. As all the CEP members’ work is over, they will now return to their normal jobs,” he said.

The council was set up by Dr Mahathir on May 12 with the objective of advising the prime minister on socio-economic and financial matters.

Its members include former Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former president and CEO of Petronas Tan Sri Hassan Merican, billionaire Tan Sri Robert Kuok and prominent economist Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

Daim said the council’s report contains three key themes which were improving governance; well-being of the people, and ensuring that the economy is inclusive and sustainable.

He said, over the course of 100 days, the council met with over 350 individuals from more than 200 organisations. They ranged from regulatory enforcement agencies, bankers, trade associations, chambers of commerce, corporations, small-medium industries, consumers, producers, retailers, and more.

On governance and institutional reforms, Daim said an Institutional Reforms Committee (IRC) was tasked with examining the state of key institutions and laws and to recommend the necessary reforms. The IRC had received about 1,000 submissions from members of the public, including letters and e-mails. “While the Council took cognisance of the weaknesses in the financial condition and the level of poor governance in the government and government agencies, we did not expect the magnitude and severity of the problems to be this grave. None of us thought it would be that pervasive and systemic,” he said.

On inclusivity, Daim said the looked into ways to address multi-dimensional poverty and imbalances in society and ways to improve programs and policies that are key to ensuring the well-being of the rakyat.

The recommendations, among others, was to focus on issues related to poverty, inequality, and measures to reduce cost of living such as housing affordability, fuel subsidy, social protection, the former 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) and toll.

He said the council opined that the current over-emphasis on cash handouts do not promote upward social and economic mobility.

“The cash assistance provided is disproportionately large relative to the prevention and skills upgrading

initiatives. In addition, it tends to create an aid-dependent culture, particularly among young and single persons,” he said.

The recommendations also looked into the Bumiputera agenda to become more competitive with the aim of enhancing the socio-economic wellbeing as well as induce positive mindset change among the Bumiputera community.

On sustainable economic growth and fiscal reforms, Daim said one of the key recommendations include the development of a new framework for investment incentives with the aim to reverse the structural decline of the economy.

“This requires replacing irrelevant existing incentives with new ones that are outcome-based and promote sustainable and inclusive growth,” he said.

The Council had looked into matters involving fiscal management of the nation, focusing on the importance of a responsible, effective and sustainable fiscal policy. The fiscal reforms aim to strengthen fiscal discipline and accountability, especially in debt management.

"The report proposes ways to increase revenue, as well as redesigning the tax policy to ensure that it is progressive, fair and balanced. It also looks at ways to optimise expenditures, with emphasis on efficiency and reducing leakages,” he said.

Daim stressed that the council’s review and recommendations are in no way an overall, or much less, an exhaustive analysis of the many issues facing Malaysia.

He said there are no quick-fixes to the problems that the council has identified and "many challenges still lies ahead."

" The government and the rakyat must be ready to make and accept difficult decisions for the long term benefit of the nation." © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd