On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Clean-up job for Nor Mohamed

He also did not want someone with political ambitions,
with an eye for popularity, who would probably build up his own war chest.
Anyone with these ideas in mind would probably expose himself to all kinds of
allegations and suspicions.

In short, Abdullah – who has built an image as Mr Clean and has made the war
against corruption the cornerstone of his policies – does not want a politician
at the Finance Ministry who will be responsible for approving contracts and
projects to businessmen.

Since assuming office as Prime Minister, Abdullah has repeatedly stressed the
importance of prudent fiscal policies and the management of public spending by
putting off non-priority projects. He has emphasised the rule of law,
transparency and corporate governance.

By promoting economic adviser Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop to Second Finance
Minister, Abdullah will be assured of a person who can devote his time and
attention to the economy.

The former Bank Negara adviser is best known for his role in helping Malaysia
get rid of the scourge of currency speculators during the Asian financial year
crisis of 1997-98 by imposing selective capital controls and pegging the

He was instrumental in laying the groundwork for Islamic banking in Malaysia, a
model being emulated by a number of Islamic countries, and also responsible for
setting up Valuecap Sdn Bhd, an investment agency whose aim is to buy shares of
undervalued companies with good growth potential in the Kuala Lumpur Stock

Nor Mohamed's appointment has been well received by the business community,
which has been complaining about the need for more transparency in the Finance
Ministry for the past one year.

Regarded by businessmen as market-savvy and clean, they hope to see Nor Mohamed
bring positive changes. Since last week, the KLSE has received favourably the
appointment of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as Deputy Prime Minister and the
other Cabinet changes.

At private meetings with senior political leaders, key corporate leaders have
called for more check and balance in the ministry, which handles the purse
strings of the country. Without doubt, the Prime Minister has taken these
sentiments seriously.

Nor Mohamad, who studied at St Xavier's Institution and Universiti Malaya, was
sworn in as senator on Thursday but he would not have to contest the next
general election, speculated to be in March or April.

Much is expected of Nor Mohamed. Malaysians hope he will carry out personnel
changes in the Finance Ministry to boost efficiency and even credibility.

As a vital ministry in the government, it needs people of high integrity. Those
whose image has been tarnished should have no place in the ministry. They
should be transferred out, retired or have their contracts terminated.

In short, Nor Mohamed needs to carry out a clean-up job in the ministry.
Malaysians have great confidence in Nor Mohamed, who has an impeccable
reputation as a trouble-shooter, and with him as Second Finance Minister we
believe he will carry out Abdullah's policy of transparency and corporate

Malaysians also hope the Second Finance Minister will review the manner in
which contracts have been given through negotiations instead of open

Nor Mohamed will be able to provide sound advice to Abdullah on the need to
re-look at how we have committed ourselves to expensive projects, well above
the amount budgeted under the Eighth Malaysia Plan. Surely, something isn't
right somewhere.

With his solid track record, we can expect positive changes at the Treasury
over the coming weeks.