Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Anwar’s bravado causing jitters in the business community

Politics should not be at the expense of livelihoods or undermine economic fundamentals during these trying times.

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Like most Malaysians, I have been hit by the unexpected economic downturn brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. But what is more unfortunate about the economic fallout which is beyond our control is that the problem has been compounded by unnecessary political wrangling, which is avoidable.

Anwar Ibrahim’s recent moves to topple the government led by Muhyiddin Yassin have created ripples on the economic front. Since his announcement late last month of having secured enough MPs to support his bid to become the country’s ninth PM, an air of uncertainty has descended on the business community. I can vouch for this as I am part of the corporate community.

The ringgit fell to a near two-year low on Sept 23 following Anwar’s announcement of having secured “convincing and formidable” support to form the next government. On the same day, Bursa Malaysians FBM KLCI shed 17.24 points at midday to 1,491.74.

The speculation and uncertainties became so bad that Anwar had to issue a statement on Oct 12, one day before his audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, denying any links to the active movements involving certain counters on the bourse. But the damage had been done.

This uncertainty has yet to subside as political blocs seem to be regrouping following Anwar’s palace audience, with Umno threatening to withdraw its support for Perikatan Nasional, and DAP and Amanah apparently willing to join forces with Umno and PAS.

Personally, I got my fingers burnt in the share market during the period following Anwar’s announcement, despite the steady gains my portfolio had been making since the movement control order was relaxed in May.

My losses may be insignificant in the larger scheme of things, but I can attest that the business community detests uncertainties like the one that followed Anwar’s announcement. Investors are spooked each time there’s a change in government, or even a potential change in one.

We prefer certainty so that we can plan ahead and not be caught unawares by sudden policy changes or new administrative rulings. One good example of the disruptions brought about by changes in government is the Cabinet’s decision in August to re-tender the massive Klang Valley Double Tracking Project.

The re-tendering was made despite the project being first awarded by the Barisan Nasional government before the 2018 general election. Subsequently, the PH government slashed the quantum for the project. After Perikatan Nasional came into power, the massive infrastructural project was re-tendered again.

At the end of the day, it’s the public who are at the losing end due to the unnecessary delay. With investors spooked, a rising number are already exploring the possibility of putting their money in other emerging markets like Vietnam. The risk of capital flight is real.

Anwar’s bravado in trying to trigger a change in government is most unnecessary, and, if I may add, selfish. Even during normal times, we can do without such uncertainty, much less at a time of unprecedented economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

To me, it borders on economic sabotage. Politics should not be at the expense of livelihoods or undermine our economic fundamentals during these trying times.

A change of government can be made through the ballot box or in the legislature without spooking investors and heightening their anxiety. Anything beyond that during this time is selfish and only exposes one’s true colours.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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