Malaysia could build 15-20 new universities from the RM$9.3 billion losses of Bank Negara last year from foreign exchange

by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, April 15, 1993:

Malaysia could build 15-20 new universities from the RM$9.3 billion losses of Bank Negara last year from foreign exchange.

The government and country must take a very serious view of the RM$9.3 billion foreign exchange losses suffered by Bank Negara last year, as this must be the biggest item of loss incurred by a single bank in a single year in Malaysian banking history.

If such a loss had been incurred by a commercial bank, it would rank as the greatest banking scandal in Malaysia and would have led to widespread demands for a full inquiry and greater accountability.

The Bank Negara cannot be exempt from the rules and principles of accountability, especially when it went beyond its role as a gamewarden as regulator of banks and became a poacher itself by actively becoming a player in the money market.

Bank Negara should make a full , adequate, satisfactory and acceptable explanation as to the Rm$9.3 billion foreign exchange losses last year, giving a full breakdown and causes of the colossal losses.

The integrity and credibility of Bank Negara would suffer badly if it it not prepared itself to adhere to the highest standards of probity and accountability which it wants all commercial banks to comply.

The RM$9.3 billion losses suffered by Bank Negara last year is not ‘chicken-feed’. Malaysia could build fifteen to twenty new universities from the RM$9.3 billion losses suffered by Bank Negara.

The government had announced that the construction of the new university in Sarawak, Universiti Malaysia (Unimas), which will begin its first intake of 200 studetns this year, will cost about RM$780 million.

Two months ago, a university academician said that Malaysia is short of graduates and the country needs at least 18 more universities, as Malaysia is facing the dilemma where progress is impeded by the lack of skilled expertise.

The government cannot be unaware of the country’s critical need for more universities and graduates. In January, the Deputy Education Minister, Dr. Fong Chan Onn, said the Education Ministry was asking the existing seven universities to increase their total intake by between five to ten per cent per annum beginning this year to help meet the country’s future manpower needs.

However last week, Dr. Fong announced that the Education Ministry has decided to recruit fewer students into the local universities this year.

What is the reason for this astonishing volte-face of the Education Ministry in a matter of two months, from wanting the local universities to increase student intake to deciding to reduce university student intake?

Such a volte-face shows that the people cannot take the public statements of Cabinet Ministers and their deputies seriously.

What is more disturbing is that volte-face and the RM$9.3billion Bank Negara foreign exchange losses last year also show that despite government profession of accountability and openness, there are vast areas of government mismanagement and unaccountability which are hidden away from public knowledge.