PUTRAJAYA: A political analyst says politicians, particularly MPs, may again be appointed to head government agencies and government-linked companies (GLCs) as the Perikatan Nasional (PN)coalition looks to consolidate its support.

Speaking to FMT, Universiti Utara Malaysia’s Kamarul Zaman Yusoff noted PN’s razor-thin majority support from among the country’s 222 MPs.

“Any crossing over of MPs has the potential to rock the new government. As it is, only 70 or so can be given minister or deputy minister posts, leaving more than 40 others without posts

“So it is only logical for the new government to fill in the remaining posts, especially posts in GLCs, with MPs to ensure they don’t run away.”

A source in the know had told FMT that Felcra chairman Nageeb Wahab, Felda chairman Bakke Salleh and Socso chairaman Zakri Khir, who were appointed by the previous administration, would be replaced.

All three have decades of experience in their fields, and the opposition has criticised the government for sackings in GLCs amid the Covid-19 crisis.

But unlike Pakatan Harapan, Kamarul said, PN had not promised that it would not appoint politicians to head GLCs.

“So in the end, consolidation of power prevails over professionalism or good governance.”

But with a strong opposition in place, he added, politicians would not likely be “daring enough to do funny things in their GLCs”.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia analyst Azmi Hassan said while the timing of the sackings might be seen as inappropriate by some, the government needed to fill agencies and GLCs with those whom it feels are able to perform according to its policies.

“In this respect, it is okay for the government to replace the heads, but if the replacements are just to reward government supporters, then it is not right.

“If the new heads are better in terms of experience than their predecessors, it should be accepted by all.”

Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs research manager Aira Azhari, meanwhile, said the appointments of heads of government agencies and GLCs should be based on merit, experience and expertise.

“Any political party links that the individual has must be declared beforehand and the individual must resign from any post they hold beforehand.

“Additionally, there must be an institutional framework that puts in place appropriate measures to curb patronage, corruption and conflicts of interest that happen due to the individual’s party or family ties.”

She added that appointments to agencies and GLCs should not be political rewards and that to ensure credibility, the appointment process must be transparent. FMT

Fitch affirms Malaysia’s ‘A-’ credit rating but changes outlook to negativesharethis sharing button

Fitch Ratings’ outlook for Malaysia underlines fiscal measures taken to cushion the blow of Covid-19, says the finance minister. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Fitch Ratings has affirmed Malaysia’s long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating at “A-” but also reviewed its outlook from stable to negative, the finance ministry announced today.

Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz said the rating agency also predicted the nation’s economy to record a 5.8% growth in 2021.

He said the rating outlook of other advanced and emerging economies had also been lowered as countries implement fiscal measures to cushion the blow of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tengku Zafrul said the revision in ratings meant those countries exhibited weaker prospects of growth and fiscal positions compared to before the pandemic.

“Reinforcing Malaysia’s external resilience is our highly liquid and deep domestic government bond market and the presence of strong domestic institutional investors.

“This has enabled Malaysia to substantially reduce reliance on foreign currency financing,” he said in a statement today.

Tengku Zafrul said Malaysia had entered the choppy economic period from a strong position, adding that its healthy financial system, policy framework, adequate buffers and strong domestic institutional investors would help the economy in this period of time.

He said Putrajaya’s economic stimulus measures would ensure Malaysia could benefit from the forecasted global recovery in 2021, and reiterated that the Prihatin Nasional package was expected to add 2.9% to the nation’s GDP growth. FMT

World faces new ‘Great Depression’ as virus toll mounts, warns IMF

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Tradespeople sit on the side of a road as they wait to get hired for work in Mumbai. (Reuters pic)

BRUSSELS: World powers scrambled on Thursday to build a global response to the human tragedy and once-in-a-century economic catastrophe caused by the coronavirus epidemic, as death tolls in the US and Europe soared higher.

In a locked-down New York, the UN Security Council was to meet on the pandemic for the first time. And, by video conference, EU finance ministers were wrangling over how to bail out their worst hit members Italy and Spain.

“We anticipate the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression,” said International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva, warning that all but a handful of countries will see incomes fall and urging governments to provide “lifelines” to businesses and households alike.

On the spiritual front, Pope Francis was preparing to celebrate Maundy Thursday with The Mass of the Lord’s Supper, but he was to be unable to perform the tradition of washing the feet of the faithful in case of infection.

Meanwhile, the number of worldwide cases of the novel coronavirus since it spread from China earlier this year topped 1.5 million, according to an AFP tally. More than 88,981 people have died.

Alongside the personal tragedies and the pressure on overburdened hospitals, there has been a stark economic toll, with the World Trade Organization warning of the “worst recession of our lifetimes.”

The worst-hit countries in Europe – the worst-hit continent – are Italy and Spain, where daily death tolls are now down from their peaks but still running high, despite strict lockdowns.

Spain’s daily fatalities fell to 683 on Thursday, down from 757 the day before, while its total passed 15,000.

In Italy, the country’s youngest Covid-19 patient, a two-month-old baby girl, was reportedly released from hospital, a bright moment of hope in a country with 17,669 dead.

European project at stake

Madrid and Rome are seeking assistance from EU partners to rebuild their economies in the wake of the disaster, but Germany has rejected the idea of joint borrowing and the Netherlands is blocking a compromise solution.

EU finance ministers were to meet later Thursday by videoconference for the second late-night crisis talks of the week to try to agree to terms to allow hard-hit members to access funds.

“If we do not seize the opportunity to put new life into the European project, the risk of failure is real,” Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte told the BBC, suggesting the very future of the EU was at stake.

Christine Lagarde, the head of the European Central Bank, said it was “vital” that ministers hatch a plan big enough to meet the challenge, warning: “If not all countries are cured, the others will suffer.”

European companies are also suffering under a public lockdown, which health experts say is vital to slow the virus’ spread but has effectively frozen economic life.

In one example, German airline Lufthansa warned it was losing €1 million an hour and would need state aid.

The coronavirus slump has also exacerbated the instability in world energy markets, and on Thursday top oil producers from OPEC like Saudi Arabia and its Opec+ partners, including Russia, met to discuss cutting production to boost prices.

UK PM’s condition improving

The virus has travelled around the whole world, and confined more than a third of humanity to their homes, but there has been a marked lack of international solidarity.

Thursday’s videoconference meeting of the UN Security Council will be the first on the crisis since it began.

Led by Germany, nine of the council’s 10 non-permanent members requested the closed-door meeting last week, fed up with the body’s inaction over the unprecedented global crisis.

Talks are moving in the right direction, diplomats said, and Washington is no longer insisting UN language refer to the virus as coming from China, which had infuriated Beijing.

Despite the pandemic’s origins, the United States is now the country hardest hit and UN host city New York is now America’s most infected. On Wednesday, for the second straight day, the US recorded nearly 2,000 deaths.

There has also been a week of record tolls in Britain, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent a fourth night in intensive care, his condition said to be improving.

“The prime minister had a good night and continues to improve in intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital. He’s in good spirits,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

Playing with fire

And the pandemic is marching into areas previously only lightly affected: in Africa, Ethiopia declared a state of emergency and Liberia said it was locking down its capital Monrovia.

The continent also faces vast economic damage, with the World Bank warning that sub-Saharan Africa could slip into its first recession in a quarter of a century.

At the global level, the World Health Organization and US President Donald Trump are embroiled in an ugly war of words, with Trump accusing the UN body of “blowing it” and of being too close to China.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged unity at a time of global crisis, saying: “If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicising it.”

“It’s like playing with fire.”  FMT