Kuala Lumpur, 13 October 2004
Datuk Seri Abdullah’s first year in office exceeded all expectations. He lost no time in putting his individual and impressive stamp on the leadership. The country and the business community were soon made aware of and under the influence of what I call the Badawi Factor.
First there was clear evidence of continuity. This was no regime change but a leadership change and with it a new Administration. The baton had been passed to a safe pair of hands justifying the trust and confidence in Tun Dr Mahathir placed in his choice.
At the same time there was equally a sense of the winds of change blowing, of them blowing – strongly – almost enough to knock us off our feet. Datuk Seri Abdullah hit the ground running with his vigorous housecleaning efforts and his bold, stringent reform initiatives.
And we liked what we saw – outright war on corruption, on patronage and the abuse of power. Not just rhetoric but an actual crackdown. There was a corresponding drive to improve the delivery system of the public service. This was to receive an outstanding endorsement in March with those stunning election results, the best ever in all our 47 years of Independence and in the process became one of the rare leaders of our troubled times that managed to role back Muslim fundamentalism through the ballot box.
Datuk Seri Abdullah is a unifier. He restored the essential unity of UMNO on which we all depend, Malay and non Malay alike as the cornerstone of our unique political formula. The social contact that bonds this multi ethnic society was made even more a reality by this man of the people. The Elections reaffirmed the unrivalled stability of our politics in a century of turbulence. Our winds of change are economic and social not politics.
Then, came his new administration bent on consolidation as seen in the fiscal prudence of the recent Budget. YAB has just been voted one of the best Finance Ministers in Asia.
He also brought a diplomatic dividend with his conciliatory style in bilateral relations – has already mended a few fences and built bridges for trade and investment with key markets abroad.
Datuk Seri Abdullah means business – in our terms. The private sector looks for predictability. Datuk Seri’s consistency and planned strategy provide that. He is God fearing and therefore a very principled person. Business benefits from the moral values that characterise the way he goes about things. He sees Government as a facilitator of business not a provider of contracts. He has liberalised the economy, which helps level the playing field, and introduced more competition ready for the global world.
He supports good governance and meritocracy which we also believe in. His shake-up of the GLC’s in favour of professionals and technocrats at the helm will make even the most successful business conglomerates look to their laurels. He has reached out to the insistent demands of youth and as in business realizes the key to success is to empower our human capital.
I laud his offensive against bureaucracy and red tape to be replaced by performance indicators. It makes business sense and business so much easier.
The other critical factor for business is investor confidence – especially the business climate for foreign investors. Datuk Seri Abdullah has raised the country’s profile abroad and helped close the perception gap.
The one single act of releasing Anwar has reassured the outside world of the independence of our judiciary and our Rule of Law. Credit for this has been attributed to Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi.
Making Malaysia a role model – deservedly of a moderate, progressive Muslim country he tables his own unassailable religious credentials. This has sent up our stock in a world polarized on the Islamic issues. This helps the foreign investor to see us a safe place to invest – with an institutional framework that protects their business and a social stability that rejects extremism. We have been able to walk our streets at night, without fear of being blown sky high without being kidnapped or beheaded.
With this comforting background of stability and his overwhelming mandate from the people Datuk Sri Abdullah must now chart our next phase of growth to 2020 – increasing our competitiveness benchmarked against global standards. This means changing the mindset of the people.
We need to go forward together which is why priority is also given to rural development and the grassroots. We need to be more technologically savvy and services oriented.
A vanguard of Malaysian companies have already gone global. So must Datuk Seri. He has to fill not one but three large footprints – the enormous one left by his predecessors and the leadership of NAM and OIC.
His consultative approach and his new style of diplomacy will help Malaysia take its place in the new world. He has already made a start with the US, the United Kingdom, China, Japan, India, Asean and with the Middle East. He has the potential to become a truly global statesman.
He can “sell” Malaysia on the platform of its diversity and its strength in diversity apt for the global borderless world of the future. We already have the social technology of multiculturalism. Datuk Seri Abdullah is himself an exponent of this. We could not have been blessed with a more courageous champion.
By Tan Sri (Dr.) Francis Yeoh
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Managing Director, YTL Corporation Berhad
October 13, 2004
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