SHAH ALAM, March 18 – Datuk Seri Najib Razak wants government contracts to be given to those who were qualified, and not cronies, admitting today Putrajaya had bailed out troubled Bumiputera companies that did not deserve to be given contracts due to their political connections.
The prime minister said while Barisan Nasional’s pro-Bumiputera policies were correct, their implementation had been “off the mark” due to the tendency to award jobs to those who did not have the expertise.
He warned that such practices must cease if Malaysia wished to become a developed nation and achieve high-income status by 2020.
“We must be give to Bumiputera who are qualified, not the people we know,” he told some 700 retired senior civil servants at De Palma Hotel here. “Help those who deserve to be helped... those who have proven their ability.”
Najib, who is chairman of BN, said the tender process must therefore be made more transparent and fair to ensure that only worthy Bumiputera individuals were given contracts.
He said Bumiputeras must shed their “rent-seeking mentality” if Malaysia was to transform into a progressive and modern country.
“There’s no use asking ministers to sign letters (of support) when we don’t build up Bumiputera capacity. This is what’s wrong,” he said.
This did not mean he could guarantee there would no longer be failures, he said, but stressed that the giving out of contracts to Bumiputeras would be improved.
The government’s privatisation policy in the 1980s saw a slew of infrastructure projects given to politically connected tycoons but the Asian financial crisis triggered a meltdown, forcing Putrajaya to take over and nurse the companies back to the black.
Among those affected were diversified conglomerate UEM, flag carrier MAS and several telcos absorbed by their competitors.
Under the Najib administration, state asset manager Khazanah Nasional Berhad has divested itself of national car maker Proton Bhd to tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary’s DRB-HICOM group.
Syed Mokhtar, who has close ties with Umno politicians, also has a stake in several big ventures including a rail double-tracking project and the city train project.
Critics say the government is still pandering to cronies and has yet to be serious about transarency in business. Pakatan Rakyat (PR) have promised to unwind unfreindly deals when they take power.