May 3, 2016
Zeti gets glowing tribute from Barrons’Pesek
It says smart, strong and charming Zeti Akhtar Aziz was “the glue that held Malaysia’s economy together amid failed reforms”.
None of these Task Force Professionals could stand up the Force behind Najib
Former Bank Negara Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz has received a glowing tribute from American financial magazine barrons.com, in which she was called “the glue that held Malaysia’s economy together amid failed reforms and scandals”.
The magazine’s executive editor, William Pesek, wrote: “Globally respected Zeti was a vocal thorn in the Prime Minister’s (Najib Razak) side, calling for investigations into a state-owned fund he oversaw.” This was in reference to Najib’s link to 1MDB, as well as the billions in donations found in the premier’s personal accounts.
“Najib didn’t fire Zeti; he waited out the end of her term (last Friday). It comforted many that Najib didn’t replace her with a crony or a cousin, but with one of her deputy governors.Still, Najib dragged the decision out until the very last moment – two days before Zeti left the building. But let’s pause for a different snapshot: how Malaysia just lost its most globally respected public official and the implications of her departure,” the article said.
Pesek, a self-professed “unabashed Zeti fan”, said the “smart, strong and charming” Zeti was the reassuring face of “an economy with a knack for bizarre international headlines”. He listed instances where Zeti was apparently there to “calm nerves”, held things together and pushed back when the administration tried to “pull the wool over (the eyes of) 30 million people”.
“It was nothing short of breathtaking to watch her make uncharacteristically blunt statements about funding irregularities Najib tried to sell as a foreign conspiracy to destablise Malaysia.When Zeti said the scandal (1MDB) was denting confidence, she was fighting for Malaysians, not the ruling party – a rarity in Kuala Lumpur.As many foreign central bank peers and investors told me over the years, it made the outside world feel better to know Zeti was at the top of the power pyramid,” Pesek wrote.
He raised the question whether Zeti’s replacement, the “Harvard-educated Muhammad Ibrahim”, would follow in her reformist footsteps.
“Perhaps he too will have the mettle to speak truth to powers, both internationally and domestically. All we can do is hope.”
Pesek then called Malaysia’s affirmative action policies benefiting the majority Malay population as “apartheid economy which kills innovation and productivity, and drives many of Malaysia’s best and brightest to Singapore and Hong Kong”.
“It turns off foreign executives, investing in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam instead.”
Zeti was also commended for taking a technocratic, rather than a blusterous approach, when the ringgit was falling and she was thrust to the limelight.
Pesek queried how anyone else but Zeti, especially someone beholden to Najib and his inner circle, would have fared in the last 10 months, as questions swirled around 1MDB.
Muhammad may be as “liberated and feisty” as Zeti during his stint, but there’s ample reason to worry as his every word, deed and gesture will be scrutinised for any signs of sympathy for Najib’s government, Pesek wrote.
Zeti’s departure isn’t a pretty picture for investors hoping for a more transparent and vibrant Malaysia, Pesek concluded.