PETALING JAYA: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng wants to make the country attractive again to get Malaysian talents that are overseas to return home.
In an interview with The Straits Times, Lim said that Singapore has a knack of hiring Malaysians.
"You give employment to some of our best chaps ... You look at so many industries, they're all staffed by Malaysians," he told the Singapore daily.
For example, he said former Singapore civil servant Philip Yeo had once offered Malaysian students who won an international science contest scholarships to study in Singapore.
Lim said Yeo was in Penang for lunch on his invitation and had approached the students after they were presented with their prizes.
"If we don't value our own talent, do you blame other countries for helping them? What I need to do is to make Malaysia more attractive again... a place of hope... and I'm sure that Malaysians will come back," Lim said.
"You can't beat the food here, the space and greenery, the natural beauty. You can't beat the people here, the heritage, the culture, everything," he added.
Lim also suggested that Singapore review the 1962 water agreement as a "goodwill gesture" given Malaysia's RM1 trillion debt situation.
In June, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad criticised the low price of raw water sold to Singapore – at 3 sen per thousand gallons – as "ridiculous" and said he planned to renegotiate the terms.
In response, Singapore reiterated that both Malaysia and the Republic had to adhere fully to the agreement made.
"I mean, it wouldn't cause you to go bankrupt and it wouldn't even put a dent in your GDP. It will generate a lot of goodwill," he told The Straits Times.
In this new Malaysia, Lim said it must value basic human rights and genuine freedom of the press, including the removal of political party ownership of media.
He told The Straits Times that the euphoria over the change in government is still high.
He also said that he was shocked at the amount of luxury goods seized from properties linked to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
"When people say tiara, they thought it's a car, Proton Tiara. Then you realise they are actually much more valuable than a car," he said.
He said it was fortunate that Pakatan Harapan managed to win the 14th General Election, as it would have been "too late" for the country to recover if Barisan Nasional was allowed to govern for another term.
"If we waited one more round, there's nothing left to save," he said.
Lim, who was an opposition leader for over 30 years before Pakatan came into power, added that never in his wildest dreams did he think he would become finance minister.
"I never predicted I'll be chief minister of Penang and that one day I'll be the Finance Minister of Malaysia – never in my wildest dreams. I just hoped that I won't get detained here and there," he quipped.
"We thought we'd get a hung Parliament, not realising that actually, we won quite easily," he added.
When asked if there will be a third generation of Lims going into politics, Lim said it won't happen as his children are not interested in following his and their grandfather Kit Siang's footsteps.
"Two in the family go to prison, enough lah, don't put the whole family in," he said of his and Kit Siang's time in jail under the Internal Security Act.