Tuesday, May 21, 2024

A Steady Hand in Turbulent Times – YB Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed

Few people in the Malaysian Cabinet have as much experience as YB Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed. The five-time MP for Jeli has served in a number of key government positions since 1991. These include being Minister of Entrepreneur Development, Second Finance Minister, Minister of Higher Education, Minister of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry, and Minister of International Trade and Industry, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) – overseeing the Economic Planning Unit (EPU). Having served as de-facto Economics Minister from 2004 to 2006, YB Datuk Seri Mustapa (more popularly known as Tok Pa) returned to the post in March 2020.

The appointment of YB Datuk Seri Mustapa as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) was an inspired move as over the years he has built up a reputation for having a keen mind in economics. This is evidenced by him being the first person to serve as Minister in all three key economic portfolios – Finance, MITI and EPU.

YB Datuk Seri Mustapa’s appointment to his present post came at a very opportune moment, as his experience is sorely needed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the Movement Control Order (MCO) was first imposed in March 2020, followed by its various iterations, the Malaysian economy has been squeezed in a vice-like grip.

The figures make for grim reading. Presently, unemployment stands at around 4.5 percent or 800,000 people – the highest for over 30 years. Also, in 2020, the economy contracted by 5.6 percent – the worst since 1998.

This is not the first major crisis in which he is at the frontline though. In fact, way back in 1998 – during the Asian Financial Crisis when currency speculators caused the ringgit’s valuation to plunge to record lows – YB Datuk Seri Mustapa was fighting the good fight as the Second Minister of Finance.

Steering the Economy

As the Minister of Economy, YB Datuk Seri Mustapa is a member of the Economic Action Council (EAC). This high-level body, chaired by Prime Minister YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, and comprising YB Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, MITI Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, Finance Minister YB Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, and Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus, among others was set up in March last year.

The purpose of the EAC is to discuss and formulate policies that will help restore economic and financial stability in the country. YB Datuk Seri Mustapa also has an additional responsibility in the EAC as he oversees the organisation’s Secretariat which carries out the day-to-day functions of the EAC.

To date, the EAC Secretariat has carried out more than 200 engagement sessions with business organisations, industry associations, and NGOs – ranging from SMEs to MNCs to professional services representatives. These meetings are key to the formulation of policies that would lead to the reopening of the Malaysian economy.

The Future of Malaysia’s Economy

While the reopening of the economy is vital, YB Datuk Seri Mustapa is also equally focused on his task of drafting the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP). This will be nation’s economic roadmap for the next five years from 2021 to 2025. Of course, it is not the first time he has been given such a responsibility, as he too led the development of the 9th Malaysia Plan (9MP – 2006 to 2010).

Whereas previous Malaysia Plans were focused on bringing the country towards the realisation of the Vision 2020 master plan, the 12MP will be the first based on the new national agenda – the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV 2030). Under the SPV 2030, Malaysia seeks to become a united and prosperous nation with equitable development for all and where wealth and income disparities have been addressed.

No doubt YB Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed has a lot on his plate. However, we are confident that with his keen intellect and vast experience, the Malaysian economy is in safe and steady hands.

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