KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 2009 (Bernama) -- The going may be tough for Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who takes over Malaysia's top job, but despite the challenges, the path is all set for the son of Malaysia's second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, to navigate the nation to greater heights.
Najib assumes the position as the country's Prime Minister at a highly challenging time when the economy is heading for recession, with exports and manufacturing both badly hurt by the slowdown in the global economy.
The present economic difficulties need a steady pair of hands in Najib to pull the nation through turbulent times.
With a strong background in economy and backed by a strong team, Najib can be counted upon to steer Malaysia through the present global economic crisis and achieving stronger growth in the process, say analysts, economists and corporate figures.
Najib, who is Finance Minister, has promised to use the current global economic downturn to boost the country up the economic value chain and to liberalise the services sector, reduce dependence on commodities and oil exports as well as low-end electronics.
Born on July 23, 1953 in Kuala Lipis, Pahang, Najib was educated at St John's Institution in Kuala Lumpur and Malvern Boy's College in Worcestershire, England, before earning a degree in Industrial Economics from Nottingham University.
Najib became Deputy Prime Minister on Jan 6, 2004 as he actually ascended to that position 47 years after his father's appointment to the same post.
Today, he was sworn in as Malaysia's sixth Prime Minister, in a carefully planned power transition that has been one year in the making. He takes over from Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who steps down after five and a half years in office.
Abdullah, 69, chose Najib as his deputy three months after assuming the post of prime minister following the retirement of his predecessor, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in October 2003. Dr Mahathir served as the country's fourth prime minister for 22 years from 1981.
Najib was formallly elected as president of Umno on March 26 at the political party's general assembly to pave the way for him to become prime minister. By convention, the head of Umno has always served as the country's premier since 1957.
In his last policy speech as party president, Abdullah, who has held the post since October 2004, called on Umno members to give their solid support to Najib and help him take Malaysia to greater heights.
In hailing the transition of power, the Chief Executive Officer of the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), Datuk Badlisham Ghazali, said: "We look forward to the new leadership under Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and seek his guidance, wisdom and direction in taking Malaysia through the transition and through one of the most difficult economic climates."
He said MSC Malaysia, which was founded by Dr Mahathir, continued to enjoy strong support under the leadership of Abdullah as he pushed Malaysia into the era of the knowledge or K-economy.
Najib, said Badlisham, has also been a strong driving force in driving the MSC Malaysia through the announcement of the High Speed Broad Band (HSBB) programme, with the objective of increasing the broadband penetration throughout Malaysia.
"We believe that ICT has a significant role to play in many areas, including wealth creation and human capital development. Of immediate interest is for MSC Malaysia to drive the job creation, training opportunities, development of creative and outsourcing services industries as mentioned in the recent mini- budget which was tabled by Datuk Seri Najib," he said.
As the driver of MSC, Badlisham said MDeC would continue to support the national initiative to transform Malaysia into a knowledge-based economy through ICT.
In quoting Najib, he said: "HSBB will be a key national infrastructure initiative which will allow Malaysia to enhance its economic competitiveness in the region, help attract FDI (foreign direct investment) to the country as well as accelerate the nation's ICT and high-tech aspirations and agenda through an enhanced knowledge capital workforce."
Leveraging on the National Broadband Initiative, Najib had also created the Integrated Online Content Taskforce (ICON), chaired by the Chief Secretary to the Government, with a joint Secretariat of MDeC and the Malaysia Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU), he said.
ICON was set up to accelerate the supply of local content, thus increasing opportunities for entrepreneurs and more job creation, propelling Malaysia into a K-economy.
"Furthermore, in line with the HSBB efforts, Datuk Seri Najib also has been instrumental in pushing foreign investment for large ICT companies to set up base in MSC Malaysia, providing thousands of high-value jobs for Malaysians in the field of ICT," he said.
The Group Managing Director of BIMB Holdings Bhd, Johan Abdullah, said for a start, the recent RM60 billion stimulus package must be diligently monitored and to implement an effective, open and consistent communication channel to the public on the milestones to be achieved.
"Najib must hear out at all levels in the economic sector (users, suppliers, financiers, etc) and must come out with a "creative solution" to position Malaysia as not only a competitive but high-value economy.
Johan said it was not a question of whether or not Najib could achieve his economic goals.
"But more importantly, it is the ability to drive key stakeholders at all levels to move together in achieving the economic value chain. Hence, specific skills sets and competencies with a passion for creative thinking must always be given a priority.
"We need to condition the mind of the people that we all need to do it together now for our economic survival for the future," said Johan.
Bank Negara Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz said the Malaysian economy is projected to register a growth rate of minus one per cent to 1 per cent this year and the government and the central bank had implemented measures, such as fiscal spending packages and interest rate cuts, to spur the economy on.
"These measures are projected to take time to work through the economy and should bear fruit in the second half," said Dr Zeti when unveiling the 2008 BNM annual report recently.
Economist Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said the rakyat looked forward to the new premier to rally the Malaysian public to bring about positive and constructive changes that would lead the nation to greater heights.
Navaratnam, who is also Chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Studies, said Najib was almost brought up to lead by his father, gaining wide experience in the government right to the Cabinet level as deputy prime minister.
He became the deputy prime minister on Jan 6, 2004.
"With the many portfolios he has held over the years, including in education, Najib received great grooming from his late father (before that)," he said.
"Najib is well qualified to lead," said Navaratnam, but added that the new prime minister may have detractors who could be dampeners to his efforts in confidence and nation-building after the testy or fractious period after the March 8, 2008 general election.
Navaratnam, who expects changes to take place under Najib's leadership, said: "Reform would have to be the order of the day in all aspects of the Malaysian way of life.
"As the PM (Abdullah) says the new cabinet has to change before it is changed. The BN government will also have to change before the BN is changed."
Sazean Group Executive Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir said the nation was looking forward to this transition, especially with Najib's background as the son of the late Tun Abdul Razak, who together with the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, laid the foundations for Malaysia's prosperity.
"Unfortunately, the struggle and the vision of the founding fathers have gone astray. As a result, Malaysians of all races are very angry and are prepared for change."
However, he said the new leadership somewhat offered the government a final chance to save the nation especially with the Opposition not being able to put their act together even after one year since March 8.
"It is now left to Najib to save his own father's great legacy for the country and rakyat. If the country is united and our Cabinet Ministers are focused on their jobs and remain clean, we can overcome our problems easily.
"One of the reasons why the rakyat are unhappy is because of the (perceived) widespread corruption, abuse of power and red tape," added Abdul Kadir, a former Cabinet Minister.