Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Are our economists telling the truth?

ARE our economists giving us the true picture of the national economy? Or are they applying blanket on its darker side?

As an economic journalist then, I used to attend the 'Brown Bag' talks at Bank Negara. At the end of every question-and-answer session, we were advised what and not to write. We did understand the whole situation - and that we must always paint a good picture.

However, when the whole world is reeling from then economic downturn, do we still need such blankets and good picture?

A good picture will augur well in attracting more foreign direct investments (FDIs) but the words that go around about how bad the situation is at Labuan Offshore Financial Centre and other offshore facilities worldwide, should be well perceived and looked into.

The fact that more and more workers are being retrenched is not a good economic sign. We have to admit that Malaysia is NOT SPARED of the global economic crisis. Even the American cant practice the economic tools its prescribed for other countries.

Its nothing wrong to speak the truth about the economy. If we are doing not so bad, just say so. If we are much affected, say it out. The people are more wise these days to distinguish the elements of subjudice in our newspaper reports about the economy.

It is good that the pump price of fuel has gone down in tandem with the current crude oil price (USD43 per barrel). However, the people are still fighting for survival. The price of consumer goods which shot up over the hike in oil price mid this year, has yet to come down.

Inflation and recession are already felt. We cannot deny this facts. The middle and low-income groups are feeling the pinch. Although the government has and will introduce new economic package to stabilise its adverse impacts, the result is still not felt.

US financial package of USD17 billion to salvage its three carmaker companies did not have any impact on the markets worldwide, not even on the Wall Street. Injecting monies to ailing companies will only cause the economy to dismantle its fundamentals.

We may have pride on strong exports growth but we also look into the reciprocal value with each trading partner. Not all will surrender their trade deficit easily now when their economy, too, are badly affected.

Countries like Japan, China and even Vietnam are subscribing to day-to-day monitoring of their economy although they are quite 'okay' in the sense that their federal reserves can sustain at least 12-month defered imports, a duration that the IMF forecast as enough for the world economy to recover again.

Malaysia is of no exception, we should say. With the price of commodites like rubber and palm oil continue to dive, the majority of our people are finding it more difficult to save at least a ringgit everyday. In some cases, not enough to make ends meet.

We belong to the world economic pattern that formulates global trade, price and supply. We cannot find a big escape but to manage our macro-economic imbalances accordingly and try to tailor it to domestic needs.

Yes, of course our economists are doing a hell of a job to keep the economy at bay but at the same time, they should be more open to talk.

12 comments:

ex-editor said...

bujai,

this is a good one, really.

nobody has ever questioned the credibility of our economists, esp those at the bank negara.

i agree that we dont get the actual picture of the economy... always good ones...

hopefully datuk seri najib can say something about this.

SUNGAI PUTAT said...

bro,

lu ni macam pandai je. lu ahli ekonomi ke? apa pun, memang ada kebenarannya. asyik-asyik berita bahawa ekonomi kita ok, semua ok.

at least pun kalau diorang cakap sesuatu yang tak elok pun, kita boleh bersedia dari awal. jangan terjerut je tiba2... betul tak?

Anonymous said...

I SELDOM READ PAPERS OR WATCH TV. WHAT I KNOW IS, THE ECONOMY IS TAKING A BAD TURN. WHY? MY MONTHLY WAGE OF RM1800 IS NO MORE ENOUGH TO SUSTAIN A FAMILY OF 4 AND A PROTON WIRA!

lomang paneh, pilah said...

our economists? telling truth?

NOPE!

SPY, kuching said...

sir,

we hope datuk seri najib gets a good economic sifu. he must not make statements being fed to him by what are purportedly to be our top economists.

the world is being bashed up. even the giants of the economy are not spared.

what is so special aboout malaysia? we may have our own fundamentals but can we just rely on fundamentals alone?

we need good economic governance, the ability to react and act fast in realigning out economic portfolios and make necessary adjustments which are based on domestic needs, NOT regional needs.

dr zamri, KL said...

sdr
ekonomi kita ditadbir dengan baik oleh pakar2 yang ada. walaupun kita bimbang dengan kemelut ekonomi dunia, rasanya kita sudah mengambil langkah yang cukup untuk mengatasinya.

saya tidak pertikaikan bahawa adakalanya ahli ekonomi kita terpaksa 'berbohong' sedikit untuk menyelamatkan keadaan tetapi ini tidak bermakna mereka tidak peka dengan serangan yang mendatang.

saudara harus lebih berhati-hati menulis mengenainya pada masa akan datang.

bagaimanapun, saya tidak boleh menyalahkan sdr mengenai tulisan ini kerana ia sedikit-sebanyak mampu bertindak sebagai 'wake up call' kepada mereka yang terbabit.

t kasih

Raison D'etre said...

Saudara,

Well written piece.

I do find the current "doomsayer" and "dark omens" talk somewhat defeating in some instances, especially in the realm of consumer's confidence.

This is, I think, one reason why many Western economies - the US, EU - are opting the "announce an economic stimulus" route.

Consumer confidence is at the lowest ebb, so much so that no matter how many zeros there are behind these stimulus package, the feel bad factor remains.

I am not an economist so I find it strange that all the money pumped into the US economy (some quoted US$250 billion or thereabouts) has failed to perk things up.

Back home, our so-called stimulus package is still not up and running.

Word is that funds are being diverted from cancelled approved projects to new ones.

Like a musical chair of sorts.

Some corporations have ample reserves (war chest) and in fact I know that one such is on a buying spree of "depressed entities".

On paper, the country still has some RM50 billion worth of projects under the RMK9 still unimplemented.

Should these go on line, it would be a major boost to the sector, but the main question must be whether there would be a spill over impact to the economy.

Economist would normally only present the situation and make predictions.

The norm these days is to predict the worse, but as some are saying" are we talking ourselves into a recession?

In my uneconomic layman's mind, the answer is an unequivocal "Yes".

Unless, that is, our coffer has truly been emptied.

Anonymous said...

Jai,

Of course we expect our economic policymakers to tell the truth all the time. But at times, they have to suppress some of the negativities because the larger implication of being too 'truthful' may even be worse. At times,telling the so-called truth, our policymakers may inadvertently create panic among society. There may be a run on banks and people may just stop spending or companies may just stop expanding. Then the economy could grind to a halt. That would even be worse. I fully understand what you mean but sometimes, we ought to look at the bigger picture. In 1998, we suppressed a lot of truth too. I was right there watching things unfold before my eyes. So were you. I guess the bigger picture then, was that we did prevent society from going into widespread panic and in many more ways than one, that played a significant role in the quick upturn of the economy.

Mus.

bujai said...

mus,

tks for that downright comment. yes, we were there together during the 1997/98 unexpected downturn.

however, i am still of the opinion that in most aspects of the economy, we need to be more transparent as to prepare the rakyat should the worse comes.

in some countries, the people are well-trained to accept any adverse impact of the economy. in such cases, the people would not blame the government. they help in minimising the risk, instead, by working with the government on how to manouvre such difficulties.

of course we would not want the people to take to the streets but we need to be fair to them, too. they need to know although not everything, i suppose...

thank bro...

bila nak 147?

bujai said...

ex-editor,

i was not questioning their credibility but asking for more transparency in our economic 'reports'.

dont u think the rakyat deserve to know more about its actual situation?

bujai said...

raison,

thank you for such a constructive comment.

we are living in a more open society, a society which deserve to learn and know more about their country, its economy, its thick and thin etc.

there's nothing more to hide. facts and figures do stand up each time we discuss any topic.

all that we need is a little bit more transparency to our economic propaganda. we may say that we are strong but unprecedented economic backlash had shot down some good economies in the past.

we need to be well-prepared.

thanks, sir

Anonymous said...

Eh, kalau kita kata ekonomi kita tak bagus pun apa kita dapat?