DATUK Seri Mohd Redzuan Yusof insisted he never imagined he would be a politician and admitted at one time he was contemplating to migrate.
“Back then I couldn’t see the future. The younger generation was not well trained.”
He recalled meeting Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at one time and squarely blamed him for the situation Malaysia was in.
“I said: ‘Tun whatever happened today is your fault’, and he asked ‘why?’
“When I was graduating from Leeds University, thanks to the previous government, I was able to get scholarship. I have all the knowledge but you did not prepare me with the right foundation, in terms of good values, in me.
“I was lucky I was trained in a multinational company where we uphold the principle of ethics, non-conflict of interest in business and others. But here people are still confused about what they are, and that is why we have corrupt practise.”
Dr Mahathir’s reply was “So help me to put it right,” he shared.
So Mohd Redzuan decided to stay in Malaysia and support his long time friend, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, to set up Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).
Mohd Redzuan felt partly responsible for Muhyiddin’s dismissal as deputy prime minister in 2015 following his public and critical remarks against Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s handling of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal.
“I was never in Umno. I was apolitical. I just wanted to do the right thing. Of course there were good things done by the previous government in the last 60 years. But in the last 10 years of the 60, you could see the crumbling of our institutions.”
“I was partly responsible for his sacking because I told him to “tegur” Najib with the information he has, and he was sacked!
“I told him that he couldn’t retire and he needed a platform to voice this (1MDB). That was when he said he was forming a political party and I told him I would support and join it.”
He revealed that many were not aware that he was one of the first two people who shaped up Bersatu.
“If anybody were to ask, I am one of the two (with Muhyiddin), who understand the culture that we are building.
“That is why Bersatu today, politically speaking, has an ‘infusion’ of different people. Some of them don’t understand what is Bersatu all about,” he added.
Mohd Redzuan gave two conditions to Muhyiddin to support Bersatu – one is separation of powers and limiting the tenure of leadership at all levels.
“When he agreed, I said ‘I will be with you’. That is now embodied in the party’s constitution.”
“Dr Mahathir came into the party later. We needed someone to propel the party to the next level.
“When Muhyiddin came back after meeting Dr Mahathir, he said Tun didn’t mind being the advisor.
“At the second meeting Tun wanted to be the chairman, but I told Muhyiddin if it made sense, and for us to topple Najib, we should do it. So we did it,” he added.
Being a first time minister, the first thing the Alor Gajah MP did was to observe and see how things were being implemented in the government.
After he came back from the United Kingdom, armed with civil engineering degree, Mohd Redzuan or Pak Wan to his close friends, started his career in Esso Production Malaysia and later served as an engineer and project manager at Petronas Carigali. In 1993, he left Petronas to start his own business in oil and gas engineering and fabrication, consultancy for technology application and equipment manufacturing.
The Entreprenuer Development Ministry was revived last year after being “scrapped” in 2009, and Redzuan was appointed by Dr Mahathir to lead the ministry.
“I have been around for eight months now. First, I just do observation and see how things are being implemented.
“The policies have been good over the years but some may need to be refined.
“There are a lot of missing gaps – bureaucracy, and people don’t understand what they are supposed to be doing, so they are misdirected in terms of outcome. People don’t stress the outcome, they just say let’s do this but what is next?”
Mohd Redzuan gave an example of a discussion he attended between the private and public sector on getting a realistic target for small and medium entreprenuer growth.
“Let’s say we target from 37% to 41% of SME growth, but do we talk about how do we do it?
“So we are talking to various experts, talking to economists at the World Bank, as well as getting the SMEs to share their data and their recommendations and what we should focus on.
“Although the World Bank can make recommendations but does it suit the eco-system that we have here? My thrust is looking at quick win, low hanging fruits – what are low hanging fruits?”
He stressed that his vision is very simple – to create enterprenuers of high integrity, highly competitive and they must be discipline.
“That is the main vision. So you can cover many spectrum of the industries. Once you are there, you can do agriculture, fishing, aerospace or a new national car project.
“Our focus is to train them up, to stream them to various sectors that we are looking at under this new entrepreneurship framework.”
One area that he has special interest in now is the halal industry.
His ministry is talking to the Japanese and Australian governments about sending wagyu beef and halal carcasses to Malaysia.
“If you just buy processed blocks from Australia or Japan, that is all you get.
“We are talking to our Japanese counterparts on processing blocks of wagyu beef, for example. We can then create a butchery industry, which almost non-existent here, in Malaysia. We get the Japanese to train the locals and we can start a meat processing industry, specifically halal meat for the high end market.
“The Aussies are considering, they have not yet confirmed to export their halal carcasses to Malaysia to be processed – and labelled as an Australian product – not only for our consumption but also for export to the rest of the world.
“But what benefit do we get? We create a butchery industry, we can have the bone for our halal gelatine project, which is one of my visions too. I want Malaysia to be hub for halal industries – there are so many things we can have in F&B, pharmaceutical, beauty and even textile,” he added.
During the one-hour interview, Mohd Redzuan was passionate when talking about his work and did not mince his words when he spoke about his Cabinet colleagues and fellow politicians.
One of the first surprises he made was when he announced the possible expansion of the scope of his ministry to include trade and investment which he then claimed was received positively by the prime minister when he raised it.
It did cause a stir and the International Trade and Industry and Ministry came out with a statement dictating Miti’s scope of responsibilities in planning, legislating and implementing international trade, industrial and investment policies.
When asked about this, Redzuan was quick to defend his proposal.
“I told the prime minister clearly, after we decided in Cabinet that SME will be under MED. It was approved. Of course Miti did not agree.
“Then I had a chat with Dr Mahathir abroad. I thanked him but MED is not complete without investment and trade. This is where the controversy comes – the overlapping has got to occur.
“But what is the role of Miti? Miti is supposed to attract investment, not to develop enterpreneurs. You give me your investment and I will develop enterpreneurs.
“I am talking about bolts and nuts, which is the bread and butter for SMEs but if I can create RM14bil worth of investments on entrepreneurship, I can create thousands of entrepreneurs here in the fields that they can specialise in.”
He also criticised some of his fellow Cabinet colleagues, saying sometimes people overstated regulations because of politics.
“I was apolitical and I feel now this nation has been driven by politicians rather than professional managers.
“Politics to me is just a month before the elections – just to tell people I can do this and you make policies and make laws that benefit the people, that is how I read politics.
“But today everything they want is popularity. You want to seek popularity and you slow down progress. That is my view.”
He insisted he was not “stepping on the toes” of other ministers.
“If you talk about stepping on their toes, that is getting personal. They are my friends but we have to be objective about it.
“Tell me, in the last eight months, how much have we progressed? It is because people are busy politicking.”
Mohd Redzuan revealed that with the blessing of the prime minister, he went for a private visit overseas recently and met people who he has known over the years and are potential investors.
“I want to bring in liquidity to help SME sector indirectly. I went to see investors, people that I know , people that are serious about it. I went on my own expenditure.
“I may bring in liquidity soon of about US$4bil (RM 16.3bil) but stream it towards enterpreneurship development. I don’t just say come in and do investment in Malaysia or we got this climate, we got this incentive.
“Those are your marketing tools to get people to come in. But what are the benefits to the people in Malaysia from entrepreneurship? You may bring in employment, they may want to invest but say ‘I want 100% material to come from this place’, so where is the benefit of enterpreneurship?
“I am more inclined to understanding what the investors want to do. I get these people to come and then I bring them to Miti and get them to help explain the regulations or to ask Miti to speed up such investment, so it’s got to be connected.”
While civil servants have often been heavily criticised by the PH government, Mohd Redzuan has a different take on this.
“To me, people can just talk and criticise the government machinery. They have been there for 60 years. You have to take leadership.
“A lot of people think PTD (administrative and diplomatic) officers are not efficient, slowing things down. I disagree, because things that are slowing down are the leaders themselves when they have a political inclination.
“I may be wrong but that’s how I observe it. Without getting through the opinions from people that they know in politics, things are not getting done quickly. The government machinery is ready to move.”
“They are those who are still in a state of denial, think like an opposition and not government of the day.”
Mohd Redzuan is aware of the accusations of him being too ambitious.
“This is politicking. If you are objective about doing the right thing, you don’t say this minister is no good or that minister is no good.
“To me it doesn’t matter if I am one-term or two-terms minister. If it gives me fulfilment, I will try to help as much as I can. That is how I want to drive my ministry.
“There are so many things that we can do, I am surprised this is not being picked up before,”
He likens his ministry to a building under construction.
“We have not finished our construction yet, and when we finish, I think the building will look good.
“If I don’t look good by the time it is finished, I shouldn’t be here and I am prepared to be voted out.”