The findings put forward by a prominent think tank must be put up for public discourse so that there is greater accountability, writes JD Lovrenciear.
Think tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) and its team of researchers headed by Prof Terence Gomez have presented their ‘stage one’ findings on how the government is fast restructuring the nation’s wealth.
Serious questions have arisen from the findings, in some ways reminiscent of what happened in the old regime, showing how the wealth of the nation has been placed under the power and control of certain individuals.
While several media have dutifully published the content of the findings, presented by Prof Gomez, certain political leaders have been quick to dismiss or water them down. Some netizens are even shafting the intellectual, painstaking work of the researchers into the gutters of racism.
As responsible citizens concerned about the future progress and sound democratic development of the nation, we must sit up, come to the table and hold further talks on such eye-opening research findings.
We are talking about how government-linked companies and government-linked investment companies, which command huge chunks of the nation’s wealth, are being restructured and regrouped. The appointments of individuals to head or sit on the boards of these organisations have also come under scrutiny.
So public discourse and the provision of transparent, accountable explanations are essential. We need to examine and smoke out any ill-intent to entrench political patronage. We need to guarantee that these restructured entities with vast power vested in a few individuals do not lead to the creation of powerful oligarchs as has happened in certain other countries.
To merely dismiss the research data and state that the cabinet works as a team in these matters is not enough if we still want to keep the spirit of the Pakatan Harapan 2018 general election manifesto alive.
We need to allow professionals, economists and credible third parties to analyse the results and provide explanations. This is especially crucial if we are serious about people’s participation in the democratic process in matters that concern the nation’s wealth.
In a climate where the ‘trust deficit’ in our politicians is fast widening, we need open discourse at all levels that would involve financial and economic experts from both the public and private sectors.
Slamming the Ideas researchers has no place in a nation that was saved with the ouster of a six-decades-old regime at the 2018 general election.
Even Dr Mahathir Mahathir admitted that the government-linked companies and related institutions have become a “monster” at the hands of the old government. The last thing that citizens should face is yet another monster of a different hue.
The Pakatan Harapan government therefore has a moral duty to facilitate and allow space for public discourse, debate and verification of what is going on in the corridors of power.
The wealth of the nation is created by hard-working ordinary people, not by some genie or Ponzi venture. Every sen at the disposal of these huge government-linked firm is from the sweat and sacrifice of ordinary people. So the people have every right, a moral obligation even, to examine and endorse what has been done – or to hold ministers accountable.
The nation’s wealth nestled in these organisations or institutions should be restructured to serve the nation’s resilient development – and not to provide political resources for those in power or to land into the greedy hands of oligarchs someday.
All institutions of high regard and leaders of civil society including experts must pay attention to the Ideas research findings.