Finance minister says govt not slowing down on reforms despite economic hurdles

·3-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, July 26 — Putrajaya remains committed to pursue reforms in governance and strengthening integrity, Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz said today following Malaysia’s slide down the latest global corruption index by Transparency International (TI).

Addressing this year’s Asia Pacific Group on Anti-Money Laundering conference here, Tengku Zafrul said the government views reform as the bedrock that would support the post-pandemic recovery, and that it remains steadfast in improving governance.

“While governments around the world, including ours, have reprioritised their responsibilities due to current challenges that we are facing, we believe this should not distract us from continuing with the structural reforms which are critical to sustain economic development and progress as a nation.

“One particular area of focus is integrity and good governance. Both are the bedrock to support the recovery ahead sustainably... of course, our economic recovery cannot be sustained unless it is accompanied by sound institutional and structural reforms.

“This is critical as a lack of integrity will make us vulnerable to being subverted by corruption,” he said.

The current Barisan Nasional-Perikatan Nasional administration has come under greater scrutiny with more politicians from Malay nationalist party Umno and senior government officials roiled in corruption allegations.

Among them is Tan Sri Azam Baki who heads the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission who was accused of proxy trading via his younger brother. Azam has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Criticism continues to shadow the MACC chief after he told a special conference with select media outfits last week that TI’s Corruption Index this year does not reflect reality because it merely scored “perception”.

Malaysia ranked 62 out of the 180 countries graded in the 2021 index that was released in January, down from 57th place in 2020.

The country’s overall score also dropped to 48 compared to 51 in 2020.

Azam’s assertion drew strong criticism from federal Opposition lawmakers and anti-corruption groups, including TI’s Malaysian chapter who said the MACC chief’s statement clearly showed he had little grasp of how the index was scored.

Corruption was among the key issues at the heart of the voter backlash that ended six decades of Umno-Barisan Nasional rule in the 2018 general election.

Umno is now in power again following a power-grab in 2020 and its current leaders said they would continue the pro-reform policies of the Pakatan Harapan coalition that won the 2018 general election, including seeing through the five year National Anti-Corruption Plan.

Malaysia’s National Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Risk Assessment 2020, or the NRA, identified corruption as one of the most prevalent offences that give rise to money laundering, together with smuggling, fraud, illicit drug trafficking and organised crime, Tengku Zafrul told today’s conference.

“Corruption was also recognised as an enabler that directly facilitates the commission of other major crimes. Globally, the cost of corruption is well known,” he said.

Launched in January 2019, the five-year NACP plan has so far achieved 33 per cent of its goals.

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