Media statement by ADUN Pasir Pinji and DAPSY Malaysia Chief, Howard Lee Chuan How on 2 June 2021:
Dear Finance Minister, you found a legal ability to suspend democracy, find one for blanket moratorium
The Minister of Finance’s response to the call for blanket moratorium stating that the government has “no legal ability” to compel banks, is nothing short of disingenuous and insults the intelligence of the Malaysian people.
Apart from the virus taking lives, health and livelihoods away from Malaysians bringing on a healthcare crisis that is battering our healthcare system to the brink of collapse, the collateral economic crisis that is plaguing ordinary citizens is seemingly something the finance minister is unable to comprehend.
Those who are at the top of the pyramid like the Minister of Finance are barely affected; some have even profited from the sudden deluge of high value assets with desperately low pricetags. But the hardships and the struggles down here on the ground are dire and real. The further down the economic food chain one is at, the more severe one is likely to suffer.
The new norm in Malaysia is not just about facemasks, physical distancing and unending MCOs; it is about shuttering businesses, job losses, wage cuts and strangulatingly tightened belts. This is before mentioning those who have lost their jobs with several months worth of unlikely recoverable unpaid wages by the now fled former employer. This is why there is a need for a blanket moratorium.
If it is automatic, why the need to apply?
The Minister of Finance said that “… we are providing an automatic loan moratorium to the bottom 40 group. If they apply, they can get it…Those who lost their jobs – included those from the middle 40 or top 20 group – will have their loan moratorium approved automatically,”
But here’s a seemingly semantic but poignant question; If it is going to be Automatic, why is there even an application process and why is an approval needed? An application process is either just another hurdle to disincentive and make the applicants’ lives difficult, which in turn benefits the bank; or the Minister is simply incompetent and unfit for the role that he has been given.
Government DOES indeed own and control several banks
The condescending tone in which the Finance Minister ‘compels’ the people to understand that the government does not control or own the banks, is preposterously patronising and not entirely correct. The fact is:
- BSN, SME Bank are wholly owned by MOF
- EXIM Bank and Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Berhad bank, Agrobank are all wholly-owned subsidiary of the MOF Incorporated
- Bank Rakyat is (currently) under the supervision of the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives (MEDAC).
The Finance Minister’s Ministry owns 5 of the 6 Development Financial Institutions (DFI) that I have mentioned, as have been pointed out by the former Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister Dr. Muhammed Abdul Khalid.
Question is, can the Minister not even at the very least compel the banks under the charge of his own Ministry and its agencies to give a blanket loan moratorium? If he can’t, would that not be the Minister vis a vis the government’s failure?
The least the former banker cum Finance Minister and his government can do is to deliver one of the crying needs the struggling working class desperately need; that is a no compounding, no strings and conditions attached blanket loan moratorium. His country club chums who still run banks will still be raking in the millions if he does, but if he doesn’t they will earn even more at the expense of the country’s most vulnerable classes.
PN the greatest in the world, in…
In a self aggrandising and boastful manner, the Minister rhetorically challenges the press conference to name another country that has done what he and his government has on moratorium.
Indeed his government is up there with the greatest on many-a-things, including steering the country to the highest rate of Covid-19 infection per million population, even surpassing India. There is also no other country in the world who can claim what his government has successfully done, and that is to suspend democracy by proclaiming a state of Emergency in the name of fighting the pandemic. Worthwhile to note too, that his government’s stewardship enabled the recording of 75% of all positive cases and 80% of all Covid-19 deaths during the period of Emergency.
Finally, his government definitely had neither the moral basis nor the ‘legal ability’ to suspend parliamentary democracy and the constitution, but they found a way. The government can commandeer any asset and property backed by emergency ordinances, and to give passage to any public expenditure without a slither of parliamentary scrutiny. There must most certainly be a way to compel the banks to do something for the people.
After all, wasn’t that the whole basis of why the Emergency was proclaimed? To give extraordinary powers to the government to overcome the pandemic? If the government cannot, or chooses not to use its powers to fulfil this one demand from the people, then the state of Emergency was indeed just to save the PN government from their own political emergency, in its intent and outcome.