"There will be a lot to do ... many critical areas concerning Bumiputera economic participation, especially in view of globalisation," (Nor Mohamed) told Business Times.Soon after, Kalimullah was made chairman of a major bank. Kalimullah and Nor Mohamed, who used to be known as Top Cat for his prowess in currency trading (before George Soros turned his world upside down during the pound sterling crisis), would meet weekly for breakfast, together with a couple of other journalists who later went on to become senior editors with their newspapers. [note: I was never part of this breakfast club]. Years later, we spoke once more on the phone. This time he called to express a general displeasure about some stories we were publishing that touched the involvement of a member of Dollah Badawi's family in some Malaysia Airlines contract.
For business journos in the Eighties, Nor Mohamed's name was synonymous with the bilateral payments arrangement, an ingenious scheme used by Dr M to boost trade among countries in the South. But the BPA, and all these other credentials contained in the Bernama story here, are standard issue for the Junior Finance Minister's current CV.
A couple of details are missing from that CV. There is no mention of the RM9 billion losses suffered by Bank Negara in the forex market after Soros wagered against the pound and won. Nor Mohamed was largely blamed for these losses and left the central bank after the scandal came to light. Kalimullah's friend was also a player in Anwar Ibrahim's inner financial circle and his involvement, especially with financial house Abrar, has also been left out of the CV.
First three years. How did he fare? Nowhere near brilliant, according to the analysts and economists I spoke to. Since helping Azman Mokhtar with the financial re-engineering of MAS, which earned "Amokh" a place as head of Khazanah Nasional, the national airline has only flown deeper into the dark, turbulent skies. Proton is in a disarray. The stock market has remained sluggish. The economy is not vibrant. He's been accused of cultivating cronies, led by none other than Kalimullah. The average person is nervous about the capability of his "boys" in handling the merger of Sime-Guthrie-GHope, especially since their performance at the GLCs has been far from encouraging. Lately pro-Singapore, as seen in the case of Parkway and Pantai Hospital.
Second term as Second Finance Minister? His senator-ship has been extended for another three years and chances are Dollah Badawi will keep him in Finance. Top Cat may live up to his expectations; we'll have to wait and see.
Personally, I think it'd be good if he confronts his past at this point of time in order to move ahead. The RM9 billion story and the Abrar tales should be told and included in his CVs. It'll augur well for transparency and good governance.
Additional staff. Read Leslie Lopez's commentary today in Singapore Straits Times here.