KUALA LUMPUR, 22 SEPT 2018- A prominent economist has questioned why the government is returning to the “ways of old” when dealing with government-linked companies (GLCs), despite claiming it wanted to reform them.
Speaking to FMT on the sidelines of IDEAS’ 3rd Liberation Conference here today, Professor Edmund Terence Gomez said the GLC system needed immediate reforms as it operated at both the state and federal levels.
“It hasn’t happened. Why?
“Instead, we are repeating policies of old with Bumiputera policies such as divesting of assets, which we know hasn’t worked before.
“There is the shuffling of assets and GLCs within ministries without any debate and the appointment of politicians as directors of GLCs.”
Previously, Gomez had said that some Bumiputeras who benefited from this divestment of assets sold them off, instead of building upon them.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said in an interview with The Malaysian Reserve that Putrajaya may dispose of or reduce stakes in companies that it owns, including those owned by Khazanah Nasional, the government’s strategic investment fund.
Gomez said politicians shouldn’t have a direct influence on GLCs but some appointments made after the May 9 polls indicated the continuation of this practice.
“So, we are doing what the government did in the past.
“PPBM strategist Rais Hussin said the government is looking into this and that they will call me for a discussion on this. I very much look forward to it.”
Gomez said there was a real need for the government to explain why it was going back to old practices and lamented the silence of politicians where GLC reforms were concerned.
At the conference, Rais, who was also a speaker, acknowledged the need to reform GLCs but that the present administration needed time.
“GLC reforms are a very important agenda, but the government is now doing a lot of fire-fighting.
“The web of GLC ownership is very complex and needs to be studied carefully.”
Rais said he had raised this issue with Mahathir and the PM was paying close attention to the issues raised.
“The government has so much on its hands at the moment and this is why it will take time.”
In the run-up to the 14th general election, Mahathir said GLCs had become “monsters”, deviating from their original noble intentions of helping the poor.
Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years, said GLCs had become so unsupervised and huge that they could not be controlled to follow policies backed by the government.
First published in FMT Online, 22 Sept 2018.