I’ve learned my lesson, says Zeti

Zeti-AkhtarKUALA LUMPUR: Former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz has decided against giving any more interviews to the media on current issues following her “lesson” she has “learned”.

“I don’t give interviews any more. I’ve learned my lesson already. I don’t give any more interviews with the media,” she said, refusing to elaborate on her reasons.

Zeti said this when approached by reporters at the launch of the Iclif 5th Leadership Energy Summit Asia (Lesa) 2017 at a hotel here today.

When asked about her thoughts on the government’s decision to form a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to investigate Malaysia’s forex losses between the 1980s and 1990s, Zeti declined comment.

“I’m only going to talk about the Iclif programme. I’m not going to comment on anything else,” she said.

Iclif is an organisation created and funded by BNM since 2003.

Zeti is the chairman of the organisation, which is an Asia-based international centre dedicated to education of executives, research, coaching and consulting services for leadership development, organisational effectiveness and corporate governance.

Zeti had recently been interviewed by a couple of media agencies concerning national issues such as the ailing sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB.

In an interview with Sin Chew Daily, she was reported as saying BNM was powerless to take further action other than imposing some fines on “relevant bodies and financial institutions” over the breach of regulations in relation to the 1MDB case.

The Chinese daily reported that Zeti had admitted the handling of the 1MDB case was one of her toughest moments in office.

“Although outsiders had very high expectations from Bank Negara, nevertheless it did not have the power to prosecute.

“Bank Negara has the most comprehensive laws, including the Central Bank of Malaysia Act 2009 and Financial Services Act 2013, to preserve the integrity, stability and healthy functioning of the financial system.

“So, we could issue letters of administrative compound to relevant bodies and financial institutions breaching Bank Negara’s regulations in the 1MDB case.

“I would say the fines were probably the highest in history,” she said, explaining how the matter was settled with the fine being paid.

She said the primary objective of BNM in dealing with the 1MDB case was to ensure the integrity of the country’s financial system.

In another interview with Singapore-based Channel NewsAsia, Zeti said Malaysia was in a better position now to weather any financial crisis as it had learned much from the Asian financial crisis of 1997.

She said Malaysia suffered a major economic contraction in 1998, but it did not raise rates as recommended by the International Monetary Fund.

As a result of the measures taken, Zeti said the cost of the crisis for Malaysia was one of the lowest in the world.

One important lesson Malaysia had learned, she said, was the need to build resilience because crises would happen again and again.

“The key is to strengthen your foundation, improve the capability of surveillance and capability of managing the crisis,” Zeti said.