FORMER finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin says the era of the government telling the non-Malay voters to be grateful to it is long gone.
Any ruling coalition which wants to stay in power should take the initiative to resolve the problems facing the people, instead of asking them the question, "What more do you want?"
In an interview with Nanyang Siang Pau today, the Umno veteran said the Barisan Nasional (BN) government should understand and meet the needs of the Chinese community.
Only then can it win the support of the Chinese voters.
"What the rakyat wants now is a clean and corruption-free government, which takes care of the poor, ensures that there is no hanky-panky in public project tenders, enhances public security, and provides them with a roof and basic infrastructure. These are what they want," Daim said when asked what the government should do to regain the support of Chinese voters.
He said leaders of BN component parties, especially elected representatives, should enhance services in their constituencies and take steps to overcome bread-and-butter issues.
"BN component parties should set up service centres in parliamentary and state constituencies, complete with mini-libraries, reading and computer rooms to promote interaction with the electorate, and to overcome problems facing the constituencies," he said.
On the dissatisfaction among the Chinese that the government is biased towards bumiputras in its policies, Daim said Malays, too, are now educated, and should be standing on their own feet unless they are lazy.
"The New Economic Policy (NEP) cannot exist forever, otherwise the Malays will become too dependent as they might feel the government will look after them.
"The reality is that the world has changed, we (the Malays) should take on the global challenges and stand on our own feet."
Daim, who served as finance minister from 1984 to 1991, said the NEP is meant to last for only a limited period. Furthermore, he said, the two main objectives of the policy – to eradicate poverty and restructure the society – have more or less been achieved.
He explained that in the early days of Merdeka, Malay participation in the commercial sector accounted for only a few percent, thus the implementation of the NEP.
"During that time, the Chinese worried that the Malays would rob them of their share (of the economic cake), when in fact the Chinese share increased in the end, as only the foreigners’ share was taken away.
"This is what has not been emphasised. What the Chinese lost was educational opportunities," Daim explained.
Commenting on the dissatisfaction among many Malay NGOs over Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s announcement about abolishing the mandatory 30% bumiputra equity in local main board companies (under the New Economic Model), Daim said equity is not important,"but what is important is educational opportunities".
"Given the opportunities to receive good education, (one) can get a good job, and in turn good pay. The extra money from the income can then be used to purchase shares. Therefore the crux of the matter is to get good education, which is what the NEP has been emphasising."
Daim stressed that the BN government should provide equal educational opportunities (to all), including offering more scholarships.
He said scholarships should be awarded based on merit, that is, those with excellent performance should be given scholarships.
"If you want top-notch talents, you have to take care of them," he said.
He points out the Singaporean government is very smart in that it is able to woo Malaysian talent without making any investment in them.
"It only asks what these students want in the last three years (of their schooling), and meets their requests."
On the government’s frequent lamentation that it lacked funds, Daim said even if the government retains just 100 top brains a year, it will have 1,000 in 10 years, and they can contribute much to the country.
"Therefore, don’t let them (the talented people) down, give them what they wish for … and they will make contributions to the country in the future."