Dr Mahathir said the obvious, "Najib did not shine.". Najib will take power at the end of March and will have to deal with the worst economic downturn since the Asian financial crisis of 1998 as well as rebuilding a party tainted with corruption and still bruised by last year’s big election losses.
“A lot of people are uncertain. Having watched Najib’s performance as deputy (prime minister), he did not shine,” Mahathir said.
I have a clear example to show why he did not shine. Instead of responding to the critics of his second stimulus plan, Najib chose to hit out at them. So far, the second stimulus has failed to raise both the market and consumer confidence.
There are a few problems with the stimulus. First, it lacked details. I have said earlier in my article that it is not just the size that matters. It is important for the stimulus package to address important hot spots in the economy. Two are very key; reducing job lost and improving domestic demand. Only a paltry RM2 billion is allocated for job creation. However, the government has failed to show us how it is going to create these new jobs.
The civil service is expected to employ 61,000 more people. This is not a permanent way forward. By ratio, the Malaysian civil service is already the biggest in Asia surpassing Japan. Almost 2 out of 10 workers are civil servants.
It is more important for the government to identify ways to jolt the economy in the short run to produce growth in the mid and long term. Sustaining economic growth and creating jobs should be the focus of private sector. But this sector must be given enough assistance to tide through the downturn.
The government is also muted on how it intends to continue with GLCs reform. Some GLCs are money losing and some did not perform up to expectations e.g. EPF. There must a clear cut strategy to ensure the second stimulus also address restructuring of the economy.
So far, a good number of Malaysians cannot see how the stimulus is benefiting them. There is no tax cut, no direct stimulus, no new jobs, no new industries created but merely promises.
I concur with Dr M that Najib has failed to inspire and shine as a Finance Minister. Until and unless the incoming premier address and answer some of these tough questions regarding his stimulus package and his (lack of) direction to guide the economy, his popularity rating will be low. Malaysians are just not inspired by his leadership. Not yet.