22 October, 2011

Conversations Over Sunday Breakfast


If I had one wish for Malaysia’s future it would be this: that we stopped thinking about which group, or which state, is up or down, and we all thought about what is in the best interests of Malaysia’s future.

Of course, I do not mean we should abandon our policy of ensuring that the proceeds of economic growth are shared fairly amongst all the people of Malaysia, or that we correct the historic imbalances. But I do mean that we should not think of policies designed to do that as anything but in the interests of all Malaysians.

On Sunday 9th October, I went out for breakfast with my wife and daughter at Village Park, Uptown Damansara Utama. I didn’t do this as some sort of big media event, but because I wanted to try some popular breakfast eateries in The Klang Valley, and because I wanted to hear the views of people on the ground.

When I meet the Rakyat in such informal settings I find their concerns often are very different from some of the issues raised in Parliament. In there, where the emphasis is on point scoring, the focus can often be on trivial matters that really do not matter so much to people in our towns, cities and kampungs.

People I meet are clear about what really matters. They are worried about the impact of global economic uncertainty on the cost of living. They are working hard to give their children the best start in life and want to know what more they can do to help their kids get along in a world that is changing faster than ever before. And while they see our elders live longer and healthier lives they are also concerned about what burdens that may place on them and how they can help their parents live independent and happy lives for as long as possible.

It is a pity we do not discuss these issues from these perspectives rather more in parliament. Then people might have a greater respect for politicians. But I guess for some politicians the only way they can operate is to run the country down and focus on whatever issue, no matter how petty, they can find to advance their sectional cause. That is their right, of course. In a democracy politicians set out their stalls and the voters make a choice.

In any case, I hope the 2012 Budget shows that we were listening to what the Rakyat said about the big issues. It is not a give away Budget, as some have suggested, because, in fact, we aim to cut the level of government borrowing.

But it is a Budget that targeted help to those who needed it most. To families with low incomes. To schoolchildren and to sixth formers and university students. And to rural areas that need to share in our economic strength.

Fundamentally, though, the Budget is about Malaysia’s future. I announced new opportunities for foreign investment, a big reform in our civil service and new partnerships with the private sector to develop our infrastructure.

The people I spoke with during that Sunday breakfast said that they were pleased about my Budget plans. But they also wanted to see me follow through on them. Promises are easy to make in politics, it is delivery that is the tough part of the job. I have made it very clear to my office, ministries and agencies implementation is key to the success and harmony for the rakyat.

I know that very well, but my pledge to people on that Sunday and my pledge to all of you is that while distractions come and go, I am fully focusing on delivering this transformation Malaysia needs.

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