Friday, November 13, 2009

Towards a new epoch of Humane Economics

Text & Images from Malaysiakini

Anwar named Selangor economic adviser

Terence Netto
Nov 13, 2009

Anwar Ibrahim will get a chance to implement emerging new theories of economic development now that he's been appointed economic adviser to the Selangor state government.

The appointment was announced today by Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim in a bid to enlist a wider array of experience from within Pakatan Rakyat to boost its standing as pacesetter among Malaysian sates where economic development is concerned.

Khalid's administration was recently beset by internal dissension, with a couple of executive councillors opening feuding over matters ranging from the trivial to the important.

Anwar's presence in the state's inner councils would lend it prestige and have a diminishing effect on internal politicking.

Humane economic theories

In recent international forums, Anwar, the former Minister of Finance (1991-1998), has espoused a theory of humane economics which Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen have leaned towards as expressing a more holistic description of economic progress.

Until the current global financial crisis caused by subprime mortgages, rises in gross domestic product (GDP) were taken as sufficient indicators of economic progress, figures that Stiglitz and Sen now claim are only narrowly reflective of what analysts say ought to go into computing the Felcific Calculus: the levels of economic ease and social amenity that in combination reflect holistic human development.

While finance minister in the 1990s, Anwar presided over a period of strong economic growth, marked by surplus budgets, adequate spending on affordable housing, easy credit for small businesses, and stability in oil prices and toll rates.

Before becoming finance minister, Anwar held the portfolios of education, agriculture, youth, culture and sports, all of which sharpened his perceptual and analytical faculties for the winnowing of insight from experience.

Anwar's tenure as finance minister was marked by favourable international notices. The prestigious magazine Asia Money named him Finance Minister of the Year in 1996 and Newsweek International lauded him as Asian of the Year in 1998.

Anwar' stints as government minister gained him a wide array of international contacts first built up when he was leader of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, a base upon which he leveraged his national prominence to regional and world levels.

Climb up from a fall from grace

But it was not all prominence and glitter. With his sacking from government in 1998 and jailing for possibly trumped-up charges of corruption and sodomy, Anwar was accused of squirreling away RM3 billion in master accounts abroad.

The accusation deepened the depth of moral turpitude that his detractors claimed the once high-flying politician had fallen into.

So it was sweet vindication earlier this week when a former chief of the anti-corruption agency told a defamation trial in Kuala Lumpur that his agency's investigation of the charge in 1999 cleared Anwar of malfeasance.

It was rare vindication for a man against whom a slew of accusations was hurled the moment he fell from grace.

The strong anti-corruption stance of the former minister while in government had earned him the resentment of corporate and political conspirators seeking to amass wealth at the expense of good governance.

No doubt Anwar would be out to justify his reputation for financial accountability and transparency as economic adviser to the Selangor government that had marked his tenure as minister.