CEP on standstill as Daim says it awaits directive from PM

Its chairman brushes off the idea that the council will be given a permanent role under the new govt


The future of the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) remains up in the air despite the completion of its 100-day mandate.

Former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, who is the leader of the council, has declined to confirm the status of the five-member team and said the future of the group will be discussed upon the return of Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad from China. The latter is expected to arrive from Beijing today.

“When the PM comes back, I will make an appointment to consult him on what role he has in mind for the CEP.

“As far as we are concerned, we are finished with our tasks and everyone has gone back to their respective jobs. Including the secretariat, we are all volunteers,” Daim told a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Dr Mahathir, who formed the five-member group on May 12 after Pakatan Harapan’s historic election win, had previously alluded the possibility of maintaining the role of the CEP under his administration.

The PM denied setting a deadline for the CEP and said he still needs the council’s services. However, Dr Mahathir did not specify the timeline for the advisory team to disband.

Other members of the CEP include former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petroliam Nasional Bhd president and CEO Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Marican, billionaire tycoon Robert Kuok and prominent economist Prof Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

Daim brushed off the idea that the council will be given a permanent role under the new government.

“In life, nothing is permanent, except for paying tax,” he said.

Over the course of the 100 days, the CEP has met with over 350 individuals from more than 200 organisations, including regulatory enforcement agencies, bankers, trade associations, chambers of commerce, corporations, small and medium enterprises, consumers, producers, retailers, contractors, taxi drivers, hawkers, farmers, activists, artists, non-governmental organisations, the disabled community and other stakeholders.

Daim said based on these engagements, the CEP has provided recommendations to ensure that recurring issues in governance such as overspending, non-beneficiary projects, financial scandals and the breakdown of institutional governance will not be repeated again.

The 80-year-old explained there are no “quick fixes” to the problems that the CEP has identified and said many challenges lie ahead.

“The government and the rakyat must be ready to make and accept difficult decisions for the long-term benefits of Malaysia,” he said.

The recommendations provided by the CEP is expected to save the government “a lot of money”, barring external headwinds that the country may face.

Daim is positive that the council’s recommendations will put the country back on track in the coming years.

“If I can predict correctly, in two years, we can all go into the stock market and make a lot of money.”

The government is looking at a few measures to bring the country out of debt. This includes reintroducing the Sales and Services Tax, increasing dependency on oil revenue and selling government assets, including shareholdings in various government-linked companies.