Pak Lah ada “bukti kukuh” Soros-Malaysiakini.Com

Oleh Bekas Pegawai di Kementerian Kewangan, 1998

Baru-baru ini, Timbalan Perdana Menteri Abdullah Badawi menyerang Malaysiakini.Com kerana kononnya mendapat biaya daripada ‘penyangak mata wang’ George Soros. Abdullah menyatakan “kini terdapat bukti kukuh bahawa Malaysiakini.Com memang dibiayai oleh Soros” apabila seorang bekas kakitangan laman web itu berhenti dan membuat kenyataan kepada akhbar & RTM.

Saya tidak simpati sangat kepada Malaysiakini atau untuk membela Soros atau mengecam Abdullah. Tetapi sebagai manusia terpelajar dan boleh berfikir, kita ingin melihat kebenaran.

Di bawah ini saya sertakan sebuah tulisan Khairy A Jamaluddin, sekarang Penasihat Khas Timbalan Perdana Menteri Malaysia (Abdullah). Lain kali, sebelum beri komen, dengar nasihat dulu, Pak Lah....

Tulisan itu dalam bahasa Inggeris (harap Malaysiakini.Com tolong terjemahkan). Tetapi sebagai seorang terpelajar di sebuah universiti berprestij di UK, Khairy mengecam Perdana Menteri Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Tulisan ini asalnya diterbitkan dalam majalah “Ethos” edisi Januari-Mac 1998, asalnya bertajuk “Now We Are Free... Free Falling”.

Sambil mengecam, memperkecil-kecilkan dan mengeji Dr Mahathir, tulisan Khairy ini juga memuatkan foto Pak Lah. Hai, ... ada apa-apa ke???

Tulisan ini menyebutkan kegiatan Soros sebenarnya MENGUNTUNGKAN ekonomi negara. Sebab kegiatan itu memberikan kecairan (liquidity) dalam pasaran untuk pertukaran wang asing.

Sikap menyalahkan sesiapa, termasuk Soros, kata penasihat Pak Lah itu “adalah palsu, tidak benar (fallacious) dan otak lembab (obtuse)”!!! Siapa yang berotak lembab itu – tentunya Dr Mahathir!

Tulis Khairy lagi, negara ini tidak mempunyai dasar ekonomi yang kukuh – sebab itu jahanam dan merudum dalam krisis ekonomi Asia 1997. Krisis ekonomi itu, katanya lagi, bukannya dirancang atau difikirkan sebelum itu.

Bank Negara (Malaysia) sendiri pernah terlibat dalam spekulasi sehingga kerugian US$3 bilion (RM7.5 bilion, waktu itu) pada 1992. Pada masa itu, sebelum krisis ekonomi 1997, Dr Mahathir sendiri pendokong kuat atau penganut ekonomi kapitalis yang fanatik (istilah Khairy, “he [Dr Mahathir] himself was one of the biggest self-proclaimed free-marketers before the crash.”

Keyakinan pelabur luar negara terhadap Malaysia, tulis Khairy, kerana dasar-dasar buruk negara ini sendiri. (The current lack of confidence in Malaysia has everything to do with poor policy-making).

Kenyataan Dr Mahathir yang mengecam Soros, kegiatan spekulasi, hedge funds dan menyalah negara luar menyebabkan ekonomi negara semakin jatuh “merudum” (istilah ini asalnya dipopularkan oleh Anwar Ibrahim, waktu itu Menteri Kewangan). Setiap kali Dr Mahathir buka mulut mengulas, setiap kali itu indeks saham BSKL jatuh.

Cadangan Khairy: Sepatutnya Dr Mahathir (dan Malaysia) bersikap rasional dan pragmatik (terbuka), bukannya menyalahkan orang lain. “Teori konspirasi” atau “penjajahan semula negara-negara Barat (ke atas negara ini) dalam bentuk baru” adalah alasan-alasan lapuk, kata Khairy lagi. (Conspiracy theories and Western neo-imperialism are outdated excuses).

Siapa yang membakar patung Soros (maksudnya menyalahkannya) sebenarnya membakar kambing yang salah, tulis Khairy lagi mengecam Dr Mahathir. (Tengok ayat yang paling akhir di bawah artikel Bahasa Inggeris ini): “Those who took out their anger burning an effigy of Soros are the gimps of the hour burning the wrong goat.”

Penulisnya (Khairy) berkata negara ini tidak mempunyai pentadbiran korporat (corporate governance) yang baik, misalnya cuba menyelamat beberapa korporat kroni yang rapat dengan Dr Mahathir.

Sama ada analisa Khairy itu benar dan Dr Mahathir salah. Atau.... Khairy juga seorang agen Soros di belakang Pak Lah.... ?

---- TEKS PENUH di bawah ------

Globalisation and ethics. By Khairy A Jamaluddin

Lesson one about globalisation: it is amoral. You cannot make any ethical judgment about the market because it does not know good from bad. It is neither moral nor immoral. It is just as much a friend to Malaysia as it is to America. To blame the financial crisis on a country, or on an institution, or on a person is to be fallacious and obtuse. Globalisation is a herd that every one is part of. As Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times, when you are stampeded by the herd "you don't ask the herd for mercy, you don't denounce the herd, you just get up, dust yourself off and get back with the flow of the herd." The stampede that trampled Asia in 1997 was not premeditated or planned. It was as spontaneous as a bodily reaction; it was John Maynard Keynes's "animal spirits" possessing the credulous herd.

When Dr Mahathir decried that currency trading was "unnecessary, unproductive and immoral" he had half a point. He was wrong to say that buying and selling currencies were unnecessary and unproductive. Hedge funds, such as George Soros's Quantum Fund, study economic and political fundamentals of different countries and seek those with profitable opportunities. If there is a discrepancy in the fundamentals and the exchange rate, these funds force the currency to move in line with the fundamentals - this is a good thing for the economy. Currency trading also provides liquidity in the market for foreign exchange. People can buy and sell when they need and not be forced to hold on to a currency for an unspecified period - a consequence should trading be banned. Furthermore, the sort of short-term investment that came in from the West - the so-called 'hot money' - which is facilitated by an open currency market drove the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE) and other bourses around the region to record levels.

The charge that the currency markets are immoral, however, is an interesting one. Dr Mahathir is half right in saying that the market is not 'good'. But it is not 'bad' either. Surely he does not think he can get away by saying that the currency market is immoral because he himself was one of the biggest self-proclaimed free-marketers before the crash. It is no secret that Bank Negara lost US$3 billion betting on the pound (against Soros incidentally) in 1992. Any discussion of the morality of globalisation is academic. To suddenly try to put theory into practice because you are in trouble is to be a spoil-sport. The most the international community can do about the unbridled nature of the currency market is to try and exert minimal control on it. This is to prevent surges of hysterical selling which leads to the undervaluing of a currency. This is, in fact, an old suggestion that Richard Nixon made in the 1960s. But then again globalisation had not kicked in yet either.

An interesting idea to this end comes from James Tobin of Yale University who proposes the levying of a small tax on foreign exchange transactions. This, it is argued, will deter currency traders from making quick flights away from troubled spots. The idea, however, is problematic. First, if a trader flees with the herd he will not care about the levy; he just wants to get out. Second, it may deter healthy investment during a bull run. It will, in effect, reduce the tendency for cross border financial ventures. Other theses have been just as flawed; an open currency market remains the best of all evils (there is no adjective for an amoral thing).

The stark reality of the global market is that there is no one in charge; either you play by the rules or you get pilloried. Malaysia was hit on two counts. It was hit by the knock-on effect from Thailand, and from being a rotten global player. It got greedy and began spending beyond its means on phallic and symbolic monuments. Companies were leveraged up to their neck in loans. Off loading the ringgit and Malaysian equities was not exclusively the vocation of the foreign players; there were guilty parties in Malaysia, too. Malaysians have, themselves, actively downgraded their own companies and depressed their own ringgit. They have been selling off their shares because they are in debt, courtesy of having leveraged themselves to the hilt. And they try to buy US dollars in order to hedge themselves against further declines of the ringgit. Put simply, they are doing exactly what is needed to bring about their worst fears - which just goes to show that Malaysia, too, is part of the amoral herd. Even Dr Mahathir is incensed at the headless chicken act.

When you are in a hole , you must stop digging.

After being trampled by a pack of global animals, the decent thing to do is to get up and start catching up. The worst thing to do is whinge. If eight years of growth has been wiped out in two months, then eight years of good leadership in Malaysia seems to have been wiped out in two months. The current lack of confidence in Malaysia has everything to do with poor policy-making. There is no guessing involved in this argument - no a priori starting point, no hot air. The argument presented here is an infallible one derived a posteriori. The evidence is there: Dr Mahathir's proclamations were met in every instance with a negative market reaction. The budget proposed by Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim had to be revised. Intrigues surrounding the rescue of prominent companies (Renong's buy-out by UEM and the government taking over of Bakun's implementation from Ekran) remain shady.

Even without the policy blunders, the ringgit and the KLSE would undoubtedly have been smashed. But the extent of its obliteration would not have been as bad. Dr Mahathir's belligerent stance exacerbated an already dire situation. Regardless of whether or not Anwar's hands were tied during the bash-the-West phase, the fact that sweeping reforms only came out in early December of 1997 questions his assertiveness as Finance Minister.

The shenanigans surrounding Renong and Ekran brought to light the lack of corporate governance in Malaysia. In the case of the former, UEM was given a waiver (granted only if in national interest) from having to make a mandatory general offer and violated a law stipulating that a declaration be made upon the acquisition of more than 5 per cent of a company's stake. This took place in full view of nervous local and foreign investors. The government's initial supportive stance led people to put two and two together. The answer: sell.

To its credit, the leadership resisted resorting to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Any loss of economic sovereignty would be damaging to future growth prospects. The sort of rushed liberalisation espoused by the IMF would only serve to slow down Malaysia's model of growth. Malaysia's fundamentals are good: we have a high savings rate, a budget surplus, flexible labour markets and low tax rates. The IMF would apply a Mexico-esque solution that is not what is needed in Malaysia. Closing banks and unnecessary increases in the budget surplus is the antithesis to what is needed. A paranoid, frugal, even stingy, reaction should be resisted and a calm, cool programme of stable, perhaps slightly expansionary, monetary and fiscal policy to counterbalance the decline in foreign loans should be favoured. Banks should be encouraged to merge and strengthen themselves with an increased pooled capital base, instead of being shut down.

If, however, Malaysia hopes to do this on its own it must be rational and pragmatic in its approach. Conspiracy theories and Western neo-imperialism are outdated excuses. It is because Malaysians are susceptible to the snow jobs and ruses blaming Westerners and (God forbid) the Jews that we made poor global players. Those who took out their anger burning an effigy of Soros are the gimps of the hour burning the wrong goat.