KUALA LUMPUR: Former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin said the leadership of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, since becoming prime minister in 2009, has rebuilt public trust and confidence in the Barisan Nasional government. This, he added, is also the major factor for the current political calm in the country. “I see that step by step, the Government has managed to reduce uneasiness among the people at all levels,” he said in an interview with Mingguan Malaysia. “With that, it has rebuilt public confidence in the Barisan government as being more progressive and dynamic after its dismal performance in 2008,” added Daim, who was once the Government's economic adviser.
Daim, who is now 73, said he sees Najib as being honest and sincere in trying to raise the living standards of the people, especially the low-income and the poor. He cited, as an example, the programme to help people own their first home. “Every family wants to own a house. And the Government should help those who don't have their own home to have one. “As this is a new scheme, there will be shortcomings. “For instance, the Government's financial assistance would be meaningless if the price of houses keeps rising faster than workers' salaries.” Therefore, he said, the Government must give serious attention to three things: house price, built-up area and location.
Daim said as Malaysia had a laissez-faire economy, it would not be easy to balance the three properly. He added, however, that this could be done if there was political will. Daim said Najib's leadership strength alone might not be enough to ensure Barisan's victory (in the next general election), adding the (election) candidates must be clean and accepted by the people. “Barisan members must be united in facing the Opposition because when Umno is strong, Barisan will be strong and this strength will bring victory. “As long as the people are rational and wise to differentiate the padi from the husk, Barisan will continue to rule.”
Since the last general election in 2008, Barisan won eight of the 16 by-elections and, since November last year, won five consecutive polls with bigger majorities. “One of the reasons for Barisan's dismal performance in 2008 was over-confidence.
The people still wish to see change and Barisan must provide that,” said Daim, who questioned the development brought to Kedah, Penang and Selangor, states ruled by the Pakatan Rakyat alliance. In a sarcastic tone, the former Umno treasurer asked: “How many billions worth of new investments, especially from Arab investors, have been brought in by Selangor's economic adviser (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim)?”
On a more philosophical note, he said: “Every elected representative and leader needs to work hard to ensure Umno lives and not seek a living from Umno.” Therefore, he added, even the minor leaders should always turun padang (go to the ground) and not wait for the “ground” to come to them. He commended Najib for getting close to the people through his blog and Twitter.
On the views expressed in the book A Doctor in the House: The Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Daim said he never expected the former prime minister to be “that frank.” “I am very thankful to Dr Mahathir for his clear and candid explanation on my actions which were questioned during my time as minister,” he said.
On his own situation after being away from the political scene, Daim said he was still meeting investors who came, or meeting them overseas, to assist them where he could. “Since the global financial crisis, I have been spending a lot of time in the Gulf states. “The crisis has resulted in those not affected to find more stable and safer places, like Malaysia, to invest,” he said. - Bernama