PUTRAJAYA – Prime Minister Najib Razak said the government’s commitment to fund education and ensure that fees are kept low over the decades have resulted in social mobility, and named several senior government leaders who can testify to it.
They include International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed, Chief Secretary to the Government Ali Hamsa, Treasury secretary-general Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah and Permodalan Nasional Berhad chairman Abdul Wahid Omar, who Najib said did not come from wealthy families.
Instead, Najib said they became successful individuals because they used whatever opportunities given to them.
“Ali used to tell me that if he had ikan kembung (with rice) one day, then the next day, it would be just the gravy from the fish (with rice),” he was quoted as saying by Bernama, during a programme with university students organised by the Welfare Association of Wives of Ministers and Deputy Ministers (Bakti) at Seri Perdana here today.
“As for Irwan, his mother had to be a house maid to pay for her children’s education,” said Najib.
He said their upward mobility was made possible due to the government’s policy of ensuring affordable education.
“The fee for public universities has never been raised, with more than 90% of the cost borne by the government.
“The price of roti canai and teh tarik may have increased, but never for study fees. For every secondary school student, the cost borne by the government is RM8,900 and for primary school, it is RM8,000,” he said, as quoted by Bernama.
He also shared his experience living abroad, including as a teenager in the United Kingdom.
Najib said there was no other country like Malaysia, adding that its culture and local food were unique.
“I like to eat ikan patin masak tempoyak and my latest favourite is nasi vanggey in Ipoh. If I go to London, ‘orang puteh’ (white man) food is all right for one or two days, but after that I’ll go look for rice,” he said.
Najib also said he felt safer in Malaysia.
“When in New York, the driver advised me not to go to certain places, likewise in Johannesburg.
“But in Malaysia, Alhamdulillah, generally, we feel safe,” he said.