Friday, May 10, 2013
Najib's economic plan to unite people
DATUK Seri Najib Razak said he would press ahead with a trillion ringgit modernisation programme for the country’s economy after Sunday’s most fiercely contested general election in history.
The Wall Street Journal’s James Hookway reported that the prime minister and Barisan Nasional chairman, in an interview in Kuala Lumpur published yesterday, also expressed hope that the programme would help reunite the Southeast Asian nation. This was Najib’s first remarks to the international media after the general election, Hookway wrote.
Najib was also quoted as saying that “expanding the size and scope of Malaysia’s economy would help draw support back to the National Front (Barisan Nasional) which has run the country uninterrupted since independence from Britain in 1957”.
"My next task is to harmonise the racial make-up of Malaysia."
Najib said he aimed to accelerate a US$444 billion (RM1.32 trillion) plan in public and private outlays to help increase local consumer spending and make Malaysia more competitive against wealthier rivals such as South Korea and Singapore.
"There are those who will expect a bit more because they voted for you, but you still have to keep things in balance."
WSJ also reported that Najib's spending programme -- the Economic Transformation Programme -- was a bid to drag Malaysia out of the so-called middle-income trap, which forces many emerging economies to compete with each other in producing cheap exports instead of developing more sophisticated, value-added products.
It also said Najib had previously talked widely on this theme, describing his goal to push Malaysia onto a higher growth path as the main focus of his administration.
The plans included investing in new industries such as healthcare and strengthening its logistics and energy capabilities.
Najib was hoping for a further lift after earlier easing some race- based quotas and repealing a repressive colonial-era security law that allowed for detention without trial.
WSJ also said Najib's approach was a more modest version of overhauls than those pushed on the campaign trail by opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is 65 years old and contesting what he said would be his last election.
WSJ said Najib's election win buoyed financial markets, adding that he viewed their response as a stamp of approval for the direction in which he is trying to take the country.
The benchmark stock index rose 1.4 per cent to a record 1,776.73 on Tuesday after surging 3.4 per cent on Monday, while the ringgit gained 1.9 per cent against the US dollar in the first two trading days of the week.
"I was happy to see the market strengthen so much. The word is out that Malaysia is now on the 'buy' list," Najib said.
WSJ added that many political analysts had described Sunday's polls as polarising, deepening many of the divisions that run through Malaysia, as well as the gulf between those who had benefited from years of rapid growth and those who had been left behind.
"Some government-controlled newspapers harped on these differences on Tuesday, with the daily Utusan Malaysia blaming ethnic Chinese voters for abandoning the National Front and reducing its number of seats in the 222-member Parliament to 133 from 140.
"Tensions were stoked further as Anwar, the opposition leader, called for a mass rally at a sports stadium in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday (yesterday) evening, where he says he will provide evidence of electoral violations he says cost his opposition alliance the election," it said.
WSJ reported that among other things, Anwar had complained about Barisan Nasional operatives allegedly flying in foreigners from nearby countries to vote in closely contested districts and discrepancies in the electoral roll.
It said Anwar's aim to file court cases and press election regulators to hold new ballots in dozens of disputed constituencies could take months if the regulators and courts choose to act on the opposition's complaints.
In dismissing Anwar's allegations, WSJ reported that Najib questioned the opposition's claims that 40,000 people with dubious voting credentials were moved by plane into and around the country.
"That would take hundreds of planes. Where were they?" Najib asked.
WSJ said Najib did, however, acknowledge the divisions in the country suggested by the results of Sunday's election and emphasised the need to pursue polices that are fair and inclusive.
"We need to reach out to others. That's why I spoke about national reconciliation and moderation (after the election win)."
Najib added that once the drama of the election and its aftermath had passed, the country would find a more even keel.
"We always do," Najib said at the end of the interview.