PM taps banker brother to be part of special economic committee

Datuk Seri Nazir Razak will be a member of the government’s economic planning committee, tasked to deal with the current global market crisis that has also affected Malaysia. ― File pic
Datuk Seri Nazir Razak will be a member of the government’s economic planning committee, tasked to deal with the current global market crisis that has also affected Malaysia. ― File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 ― Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced today his brother Datuk Seri Nazir Razak will be a member of the government’s economic planning committee, which is part of a newly-established Special Economic Committee (JKE) tasked to deal with the current global market crisis that has also affected Malaysia.

He added that the JKE, which is headed by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar, will a short term initiative to handle Malaysia's economic slump that has seen the ringgit slide to a 17-year low against the US dollar.

“JKE will consider immediate and medium-term planning to enforce the economic foundation of Malaysia.

“This includes current issues like the ringgit value, maintaining the stability of the financial industry, as well as improving confidence in the capital markets,” he said during a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office today.

Nazir, who is also CIMB Group chairman, has been vocal about the controversies surrounding Putrajaya, including its governance of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) which is the brainchild of Najib.

In his latest Instagram post yesterday, the banker warned “power people” against issuing stupid remarks amid the continuing decline in the value of the ringgit, which has now plunged to levels unseen since the 1997 Asian Economic Crisis.

The CIMB chairman also pleaded for unnamed individuals to put the country's interest before their own and urged Malaysians to defend the country's institutions in various Instagram posts.

The other nine committee members of the economic planning committee include top leaders from sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad, like its deputy chairman Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop and managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar.

Among others notable personalities in the special planning committee are Malayan Banking Berhad group chief executive officer Datuk Abdul Farid Alias and the chief executive of RAM Holdings Berhad Datuk Seri Dr K. Govindan.

Several top officers in the Finance Ministry, Bank Negara Malaysia, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Securities Commissions, Prime Minister's Office, Economic Planning Committee, and the Prime Minister's Department will also be included by virtue of their position, Najib said.

He added that the JKE committee was merely a short-term solution will only be operational until the global economy bounces back.

“This is to help the government handle the current situation so the period is limited, until the global economic downturn has subsided and the economy stabilises,” he said.

The PM also noted that the Economic Council, which he heads, will still be operational.

Since last year, the ringgit has lost over a fifth of its value against the US dollar, now hovering around RM4.10 to the greenback and below the RM3.80 peg that was imposed during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.

The sharp drop is not unique to Malaysia as the decline in currencies was also seen in other commodities-driven countries, including Indonesia and Australia.

However, economists have remarked on Malaysia’s political instability as the country’s leadership deals with controversies surrounding debt-riddled state investment firm 1MDB.

The prime minister also announced last week that Malaysia’s strong economic fundamentals negated the need for currency or capital controls amid the ringgit’s plunge in value and an ongoing foreign investment flight.