Cultivate rapport with media, said economist

  • Business
  • Thursday, 03 Apr 2003

THE government needs to increase transparency in its decision making processes and cultivate rapport with the media to avoid misinterpretation of its policies, according to busi-ness author and economist Michael Backman. 

Backman said he felt that the biggest failing of the government had been of communication. 

“The bottom-line is that Malaysia represents a lot of hidden value. It is hidden because the public relations of the Malaysian government has been so poor,” he said. 

Backman said this during a luncheon talk on Malaysia: Governance and Economy in the Mahathir Era and in the post-Mahathir Era in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. The 2003 Com-monwealth Speaker Series was jointly organised by the Malaysia-Canada, Malaysia-Australia, Malaysia-New Zealand and Malaysia-South Africa business councils. 

Backman said the withdrawal of the Californian Public Employees Retirement Scheme from Malaysia was a result of poor public relations on the part of the government. 

He said some American fund ma-nagers and politicians could be ignorant of the rest of the world and should be provided with information and transparency. 

He also said that government decisions and the processes behind them were often not fully explained and little effort had been given to cultivating local journalists and foreign correspondents. 

“The media is seen as a foe when it should be seen as a friend, the means by which the government policies can be communicated and justified,” he said, adding that poor public relations management would allow some foreign journalists to assume the worst motives and the Kuala Lumpur gossip mill to work overtime. 

He said Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who would take over from Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Oc-tober, would have a different style of running the country and would bring a return to greater reliance on the advice of senior civil servants. 

He said Abdullah would bring greater consensus approach in decision making to the federal government, which may include a more traditional Malay approach. 

“Abdullah is often spoken of as not being charismatic or appearing to be too cautious. He is seen in the same terms as Goh Chok Tong was when Goh replaced Lee Kuan Yew as Singapore's prime minister,” he said, adding that Goh is widely respected and seen as a strong and calming force now. After the can-do razzle-dazzle of a Lee or a Mahathir, the benefits of a calming, uniting leader should not be under-valued,” he said. 

He said that Dr Mahathir had been a successful leader and Abdullah would be the right person to consolidate the country's successes. 

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