Economist: Govt ‘wasted opportunities’ to push for reforms during emergency

‘The government, through its emergency powers, could introduce reforms in critical areas of social protection, tax system and education.’

Negative impacts from the present state of emergency could have been addressed by a government with expertise to manage the economy, economist Muhammed Abdul Khalid said today (April 19).

Under the current Perikatan Nasional government, Muhammed said there were many “wasted opportunities” to introduce much-needed reforms in various areas.

“Good times are bad for reforms. Nobody wants to do reforms during good times.

“But in bad times, that is the time to do comprehensive and brutal kind of reforms,” Muhammed (below) said during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur with the Tolak Darurat committee.

The discussion on the impacts of emergency on the economy also featured economists Nungsari Ahmad Radhi and Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

Commenting further, Muhammed said the government, through its emergency powers, could introduce reforms in critical areas of social protection, tax system and education.

“We know that the impact of Covid-19 on informal workers have been very bad because they are not protected by the Social Security Organisation.

“So, this (emergency) is an opportunity to reform the social system. Similarly, the tax system can also be reformed now.

“To ensure that prices do not increase, that was not done, and in fact, it was ignored,” he added.

Globally, Muhammed said there are several factors linked to an autocratic style of governance, which in Malaysia have led to the declaration of the current state of emergency, that contributed to an overall negative impact on the domestic economy.

“When the government has turned into an autocracy, often there will be a lot of leakages, as there is no check and balance without a Parliament sitting.

“And usually, investments in human capital to boost investors’ confidence, do not happen. This will have long-term impacts,” said the former economic adviser to the previous Pakatan Harapan administration.

Tolak Darurat chairperson Khalid Abdul Samad (left) and economist Muhammed Abdul Khalid

‘Audience with Agong’

Meanwhile, Tolak Darurat chairperson Khalid Abdul Samad said the committee would be requesting an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong tomorrow to present the outcomes of today’s discussion, backing their call for the state of emergency to be lifted.

The Shah Alam MP said the people have also lost hope in Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who had advised the Agong on the declaration of an emergency to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

“They have acted based on their political interests.

“It is quite clear that they have prioritised their political interest above interests of the nation and its people,” said Khalid, who is the Amanah communications director.

Various politicians and civil society movements have supported calls for the emergency declaration to be lifted ahead of its expected August deadline, and for Parliament to reconvene.


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