CEP still a force to be reckoned with after 100 days

Whatever recommendations made are purely advisory, with execution or decision to be decided by Cabinet

By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By TMR

Maintaining the status and role of the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) beyond its initial 100-day mandate is a productive move as it will allow the government to be more effective as the best ideas on various concerns can be selected and implemented.

Yeah says the CEP can now shift its attention to another key area, which is economic reform (Pic: TMRpic)

Sunway University Business School Economics professor Dr Yeah Kim Leng said it is very clear that whatever recommendations the CEP has are purely based on its role as an advisor.

“Any execution or decision can only be made by the Cabinet. Perhaps a way to instil confidence in the group is by releasing their reports.”

On Tuesday, council leader Tun Daim Zainuddin announced the CEP’s 100-day mandate was officially over and its report, which contains key recommendations to the government, would be submitted to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad upon his return from China.

Daim, who is also a former finance minister, however declined to confirm the status of the five-member team and said the future of the group will be decided by Dr Mahathir later. The likelihood of the CEP to continue its existence was high after Dr Mahathir hinted during his last day in China that he still needs Daim’s counsel. He said Daim is still needed to chair the CEP.

“I want him to be there, to do part of my job, to trace the money and investigate some cases,” he said.

While some may question the move to keep the council, experts concurred the CEP will be helpful to the Cabinet by offering recommendations on policies related to the country’s institutional and economic affairs.

“I didn’t dismiss him…I want him to continue on the job. In fact, I don’t pay him a single sen to date,” Dr Mahathir told the media in China last Tuesday.

Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute’s Centre for Pub- lic Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said the 100-day period given to the CEP was too short and suggested the group continues to assist the government in the implementation of its recommendations.

“They should carry on as a consultative group because to recommend is one thing, to implement is another. Many of those in the Cabinet are new and they lack the experience, so we need the CEP to continue to play a guiding role to the administration,” Ramon told The Malaysian Reserve recently.

Apart from Daim, 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.

Following Daim’s meeting with the press on Tuesday, Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa called for the disbandment of the CEP and said its findings should be made public.

Yeah agreed the work of the CEP should be accessible to the public to retain the trust of the people.

“I think most Malaysians will accept the CEP, except for politicians and so-called advocates who will see their roles as being part of the Cabinet. But if you look at the broader perspective, that should not concern the wider population.

“As long as they do not benefit from returns arising from remuneration, then it should be fine because that is their commitment. The most important thing to note is that CEP members are not paid. They are on a voluntary basis,” he said.

Additionally, Yeah said there may be changes in the members of the CEP given that Zeti and Mohd Hassan have been appointed as chairman of Permodalan Nasional Bhd and director of Khazanah Nasional Bhd respectively.

“For those who have received the appointments, they will likely be fully involved in running the organisation that they have been put in charge.

“It is only fair to the CEP. We may see some changes in terms of getting others on board who have more time, are not committed (elsewhere) and can devote themselves to national issues,” he added.

With the 100-day mandate focused largely on institutional and judicial reforms, Yeah said the CEP can now shift its attention to another key area, which is economic reform.

“Daim has eluded the New Economic Policy needs to be refreshed and updated to be in line with the ‘New Malaysia’.

“‘New Malaysia’ needs a break from past policies. It has to be re-looked at in a more fundamental way so that it can set a new direction for a new mission.

“Dr Mahathir has mentioned 2025 to replace Vision 2020 as some missions are unlikely to be achieved. Although we may be able to realise some targets, but other goals such as national unity and harmony are some of the more difficult goals that we can look at,” Yeah said.