CEP chief tells Malaysians to brace for tough calls

The Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin (left) speaks during a press conference at Ilham Tower in Kuala Lumpur August 20, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara
The Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin (left) speaks during a press conference at Ilham Tower in Kuala Lumpur August 20, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 20 — The country must be ready for difficult decisions the government must make to undo decades of damage from Barisan Nasional rule, Tun Daim Zainuddin said today.

His caution followed the Council of Eminent Persons’ (CEP) announcement that it has completed its mandate and finalised a report containing recommendations for political, social and economic reforms.

“There are no quick-fixes to the problems that the council has identified and many challenges still lie ahead,” Daim, who heads the CEP, told a press conference that lasted close to an hour.

“The government and the rakyat must be ready to make and accept difficult decisions for the long-term benefit of the nation,” he added.

The report, which will not be made public for now, is to be submitted to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad upon his return from China, where he is currently on a five-day state visit.

Daim said the recommendations in the report covered three major themes: improved governance, public wellbeing, and sustainable and inclusive economy.

On governance, a broad number of recommendations were made, namely parliamentary reforms, judiciary appointments, separation of powers, civil service reform and abolition of oppressive laws.

The council also looked into ways to address multi-dimensional poverty, social imbalances and ways to improve intervention and aid programmes.

“For example, based on the council’s review, the current over-emphasis on cash handouts do not promote upward social and economic mobility,” Daim said, referring to the 1Malaysia People’s Aid programme or BR1M.

Daim had been critical of the initiative previously, saying BR1M was costly and not sustainable in the long run and that the money was better spent on upskilling poor workers.

On this aspect, Daim said some of the recommendations made by the CEP covered policy proposals for reform in the education system.

“Another new area that the council is excited about is the recommendation on improving education for our children, they are the VIPs because they are the future of this country,” he said.

“And not just for the Bumiputera, but for all Malaysian children,” he continued.

The third part of the report focused on sustainable policies for economic growth.

Daim said one of the key proposals was the development of a new framework for investment incentives “with the aim to reverse the structural decline of the economy”.

“This include human capital development and infrastructure upgrade,” he said, adding that the policies will be accompanied by efforts to strengthen Putrajaya’s fiscal position and revenue sources.

The Pakatan Harapan administration had said reducing the national debt will top priorities in the short and medium term, and has since cancelled several mega projects and restructured government agencies to save costs.

Today, Daim said most of the CEP’s recommendations will be contingent upon affordability, in line with the new government’s effort to trim spending.

“We will definitely save money,” the former finance minister said.