FOREIGN investors spooked by high government debt and policy uncertainties should not give up on Malaysia’s economic recovery, especially after Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus was appointed to run Bank Negara Malaysia, said the Nikkei Asian Review.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s pick of Nor Shamsiah as BNM governor sent a clear signal that the government is serious about cleaning up the economy and rebuilding Malaysia’s global stature, columnist Thomas Pesek wrote.
He said that the 54-year-old has “proven to be an independent player who cares far less about politics than strengthening the economy’s foundations”.
A banking sector expert by background, she joined the central bank in 1987 and worked alongside former BNM governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz. In 2010, Nor Shamsiah was elevated to deputy governor.
Whilst at BNM, Nor Shamsiah assisted investigators from Washington to Zurich to Singapore who were looking into billions of dollars missing from 1Malaysia Development Bhd, the brainchild of former prime minister Najib Razak.
The article said that after BNM urged the Attorney-General’s Chambers to file criminal charges against 1MDB, which the attorney-general refused to do, Nor Shamsiah was quietly removed from the central bank leadership’s lineup.
Returning her to the fray after taking over Putrajaya, Dr Mahathir is signaling a continuity from Zeti’s day when BNM was able to keep the ringgit in line, curb bond-yield gyrations and reassure investors, it said.
Nor Shamsiah’s reputation as a straight-shooter and her expertise in the banking industry should also give investors a boost of confidence in Dr Mahathir’s plan to rebuild the country’s economy.
“Nor Shamsiah’s institutional knowledge and determination to rebuild Malaysia’s global stature should comfort markets,” said the article.
“Barely three weeks on the job, Nor Shamsiah is upending organisational charts. The Financial Intelligence and Enforcement Department, for example, now have greater authority. Bad news for corrupt public officials and money launderers.
“The chief of staff role has been eliminated to ensure Nor Shamsiah gets direct and unfiltered reports. Most of Bank Negara’s eight assistant governors will swap portfolios. So will several department directors.
“These seemingly small steps will shine daylight on unscrupulous or inefficient policies,” it said.
Pesek wrote that while some investors pulled out following the RM1 trillion debt revelation, they should look at the long-term efforts to restore trust in markets.
He said that Dr Mahathir will still need to present a detailed roadmap to greater competitiveness or catalyse a startup boom, curb affirmative action policies that give Malays preferential access to education, jobs and public contracts, and respect BNM’s independence.