Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak today slammed down suggestions that the RM60 billion stimulus package which he unveiled on Tuesday would not be effective in handling the economic crisis.
“We will work hard to achieve our objective to avoid our economy from plunging into recession while we provide a shelter to the people especially when it comes to unemployment,” he said in his winding-up speech in his capacity as the finance minister in Parliament.
He added that the first stimulus package announced last November and the latest stimulus package were considered “supplement” to the nation’s “much larger difference expenditure”.
Many critics have lambasted Najib’s recovery package as falling short of expections.
Soon after he made the introduction to his speech, opposition veteran Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur) interjected and accused the government for “delaying effort” in coming up with the much needed package to stimulate the economy.
He said the oppositions had suggested that the government comes up with a stimulus package since last November just after Najib announced the first package worth RM7 billion in the same month.
“Even on January 21, the minister had opined that economic growth could reach up to 3.5 percent although many analysts thought otherwise as the economic crisis which started in 2007 had worsened in 2008,” said Lim.
He further accused Najib for focusing on other issues such as the “power grab in Perak” instead of the economy.
The deputy prime minister however brushed aside these claims, saying that the government was “never too late” with the stimulus package because they had to wait for the global economic development projection from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“We made our decision after IMF lessened their projection of economic growth from 2.2 percent to 0.5 percent,” he said.
Najib added that the decision to come up with the second stimulus package was made after taking into consideration the stimulus packages tabled by then US president George W Bush and the administration of newly-elected president Barack Obama.
Gov’t sets up monitoring mechanism
In order to have a smooth implementation of projects from the first and second stimulus packages, Najib told the House that the government will set up a new mechanism to monitor these processes and would intervene if needed.
“This should be done so that improvement can take place when the projects are being implemented,” he said.
According to him, the government will set up a technical committee chaired and represented by the Implementation Coordination Unit (ICU) which will meet every week and report to a steering committee to be chaired by Najib himself.
“In the same committee, second finance minister, ministers in the PM’s Department, the secretaries-general of the ministries involved will hold discussions from time to time to help the agencies speed up the implementation of the projects under these packages,” he said.
“We are convinced that this new mechanism would help spend a large amount from the first stimulus package this year,” Najib added.
In response to that, Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR-Lembah Pantai) alleged that the first package had its flaws where “some people claimed there was serious bureaucracy in some ministries”.
“Five months after the first package was announced, the disbursement has not even reached 10 percent and the benefits have not reached the people,” she claimed.
Publish disbursement on website?
Najib was also put on the hot seat today over the implementation of the projects with many from the opposition bench clamouring for the government to set up a website that publishes the disbursement of funds to prove that the government is truly “transparent”.
This was raised by Yusmadi Yusoff (PKR-Balik Pulau) and Charles Santiago (DAP-Klang) who referred to Obama’s website specifically on the stimulus packages announced by his administration for all Americans to see.
“Obama has launched a website to inform his fellow citizens where the government is spending money from the stimulus packages. Isn’t this government planning to set up a similar website so that the people know how the government utilises the funds?” asked Santiago.
Najib said it has been the government’s intention to be transparent when it comes to spending money from the two packages.
But Lim Kit Siang was not convinced by this and asked that if the government “is committed to reforms, how come there’s no such mechanism or website like in the US which is more accountable and transparent?”.
Najib however did not rule out the possibility of setting up such a website, but promised that the government would be transparent in the implementation of the projects.
“These are all good suggestions. We could make announcement to the press from time to time (about the implementations) and I do not rule out setting up a website. But I can guarantee you that the government is transparent and responsible about this. Don’t worry,” he said.
On the same note, he said the government would pay serious attention to this, where most of the projects would be implemented based on “value for money”.
“We will implement open or limited tenders but direct negotiations could only take place if the situation persists,” he assured.
Najib further put aside suggestions by some members of Parliament who doubted the amount of the second stimulus package, stressing it that “it is not just a number we picked or made up. It is the amount that would become reality”.
Source : Malaysiakini