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Honesty Beats 'Tact'

New Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng would do well to remember he is no longer an opposition politician, as while his vocal tell-all approach on the 1MDB scandal certainly wins points for honesty, it is having the opposite effect on investors…

Instead, the writer said it only risked leaving investors with an “uncertain fiscal outlook”.

“Investors are uneasy about things getting out of hand. Already, foreigners have sold out on the nation’s stocks for 13 consecutive days.

“For Lim to declare in his first press conference that government debt has exceeded one trillion ringgit ($251 billion) because of a sly public bailout of 1MDB gets him full marks for honesty, but not for tact.

Mukherjee’s opinion also ran in line with that of Najib, who warned his successor that revealing the nation’s debt level at RM1 trillion without providing adequate details would only alarm the credit rating agencies and investors’ confidence.

Meanwhile, Arul Kanda today said he is mulling legal action against Lim, as the former felt the claims made against him by Lim were unfair and did not accurately represent his answers to the ministry.

Our comment

To suggest that it is better for the Finance Minister to continue to lie ‘tactfully’, in order to gull investors is preposterous.

The run on stocks came after investors realised they had put money into Malaysia based on lies by the previous Prime Minister cum Finance Minister and an administration that failed to stand up to his autocratic power.  Some have been panicking to hear that Malaysia’s economic position is not the rosy picture that Najib had deceitfully pretended it was.

More fool them. Wiser investors had already seen through the blatant dishonesty, which was the reason why the ringgit plunged in 2015 after the 1MDB scandal. The recent partial recovery owed to currency manipulation and false assurances by Najib.

What sort of foundation is deceit towards building future prosperity and why should this new government continue with the cover-ups and thereby inherit the blame for Najib’s excesses?

As the new Finance Minister and his team set proper standards of openess and honest management in Malaysia, confidence and investors should soon come back.  Thanks to Najib’s legacy the transition may be tough in the immediate future, but the smart money ought to return soon enough.

The fundamentals for the future are being laid to bring long-term confidence back to Malaysia and that has to start with a frank assessment, followed by steps to ensure efficient and transparent governance (see, for example, the minister’s home state of Penang).  That is what investors like to deal with, not lies.

As for Arul Kanda, nothing would amuse Malaysians more than to see him attempt to sue the Finance Minister for suggesting he has been telling lies.

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