Najib tempts young voters with brighter prospects
KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak promised tonight to offer more opportunities for the young if they helped him secure his mandate in a general election expected within the year.
The prime minister told hundreds of young professionals that he would introduce younger faces into the ruling coalition and make wages more attractive if his Barisan Nasional (BN) remained in power.
“I believe there will be new faces when election comes. I need to have a fair representation between the younger group and older group,” he said at the event organised by Young Corporate Malaysians, a network of professionals under the age of 30.
Answering a question about opportunities for younger Malaysians, the BN chief said he was “mindful of it but I have taken over mid-stream. I cannot do major changes. If you guys give me the mandate, then we will be able to make changes.”
Young voters were a key voter segment that swung in favour of the opposition in the March 2008 general election, carrying it to record gains.
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) took over five states and denied BN its customary two-thirds majority of Parliament when it won 82 parliamentary seats.
However, with about half a million Malaysians reaching the eligible age of 21 each year, new voters are still there for the taking.
Today, the prime minister spelled out his commitment to transform an economy “ensnared by the middle-income trap” and double the per capita income to US$15,000 (RM45,000) by 2020.
“I personally think Malaysians are underpaid. Generally if you look at the professional services — lawyers, doctors, engineers — they are not getting the salaries that are commensurate with the skills that they have.
“We want Malaysia to be more competitive, not on the basis of low wages, but to be innovative and productive. This applies to young professionals who work long hours but are not getting a fair deal,” Najib said.
The Umno president also said his administration “needed to send a message, that we don’t want to lose young talented Malaysians overseas” and if they were underpaid, they would apply to the “Goldman Sachs and McKinseys” of the world.
The prime minister also acknowledged that in these top foreign companies, even 23-year-olds could “command a five-figure salary easily. This goes to show we are quite far behind in terms of where we relate to other countries.”
According to the Election Commission, 70 per cent of the 4.3 million unregistered voters are between the ages of 21 and 40, and about 450,000 Malaysians turn 21 each year, the eligible age for voting in this country.
The number of voters being registered is also picking up pace, with 12 million on the electoral rolls ahead of a snap election widely speculated to be held this year.