Time for Muhyiddin to step out of Dr M’s shadow

There are those who are elated and those who feel betrayed by the appointment of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as Prime Minister.

He has been in the shadow of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for a long time both under Umno and Bersatu. As such his capabilities are not known.

I am writing this article as a retired government officer who had served Muhyiddin when he was Johor Menteri Besar.

I was Regional Director of Town Planning covering Johor, Melaka and Negeri Sembilan.

The country was facing an economic slowdown in the 90s and Johor was no exception. Singapore too was affected as its economic growth was tied to Johor’s.

There was high unemployment. The development and housing industries were in dire straits.

The purchasing power of the people was down. Those were difficult times.

The menteri besar prior to Muhyiddin was unable to tackle this situation which was a spillover from the earlier recession. It was during this critical situation that Muhyiddin became Johor Menteri Besar.

I had briefed him at the state level on planning matters which at all times were related to the economic slowdown.

In all deliberation, I view him as forward-thinking and not myopic.

True, he was saddled and controlled by the New Economic Policy issues of bumiputra participation and control of the state economy.

But Muhyiddin was the one who opened up Johor’s economy — from a close-minded myopic approach to an open economy without negative policies.

He wanted the economy to be open. The Southern Economic Development Council (SEDC) and Perbadanan Kemajuan Ekonomi Negeri Johor were told to open the economy.

I remember at all state planning committee meetings, when I presented my paper on planning, he categorically said the industrial development is not only for the SEDC but it should be opened to the free market.

Muhyiddin was also instrumental in setting up private industry estates in Skudai, Kulai, Air Hitam and smaller towns like Muar, Kluang and even Pontian.

He has to be credited for these developments.

He also introduced policies for the housing and commercial sectors that were open and realistic. He discarded polices that were not doing any good for the state. The huge commercial and housing developments in the state that we see today were his making.

He must also be credited for creating transportation networks, water and other infrastructure that have taken shape in the state.

Those who succeeded him were less pragmatic but the rhythm had been set and the prosperity that Johor is seeing today is a result of Muhyiddin’s doing.

He set the base for the state to grow and the fruits of his multi-policies can be seen till today.

In my eyes, he is an excellent administrator who did not use the NEP as a tool to prevent others from developing. Neither did he introduce policies to make it difficult for other races nor did he set conditions that would prevent economic growth.

Politically of course there were those who were not happy with him, but he was a menteri besar who was able to keep them at bay.

Our country is currently facing an economic slowdown and we are not even in a recession.

Muhyiddin’s appointment as Prime Minister comes at the right time as it was the right time for him back then to be Johor Menteri Besar.

He now has to create and instil confidence for Malaysia as he did in Johor.

The corrupt and kleptocrats have to be kept out of the decision-making process. The outflow of capital must stop.

The Prime Minister must have a Cabinet of technocrats for sectors like finance, tourism and economic-related portfolios.

Religious approaches must take a backseat for the economy to grow. Corrupt practices must stop. The people must be united and education must move forward with technological changes and not otherwise.

Muhyiddin can do it if he wants to.

It is time for him prove that he will come out of Dr Mahathir’s shadow and do things his way.

God willing, he can do it.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.