In 1976 Najib married Tengku Puteri Zainah Tengku Eskandar ('Kui Yie') with whom he has three children: Mohd Nizar Najib (born 1978), Mohd Nazifuddin Najib and Puteri Norlisa Najib. In 1987 he divorced Ku Yie and married Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor with whom he has two children: Mohd Norashman Najib and Nooryana Najwa Najib. This is Rosmah's second marriage as well. She has two children from her previous marriage to Farid Ismeth Emir who was a former TV news presenter and currently a general manager in a trading company.
Najib has held a variety of ministerial portfolios (the first at the age of 32), culminating in the post of Minister of Defence before being chosen as the Deputy Prime Minister by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2004. Najib was first assigned into the Cabinet of Malaysia at the age of 25 when he was appointed Deputy Minister of Energy, Telecommunications and Post in 1978, becoming the youngest deputy minister in the country. Najib would go on to assume myriad posts in the cabinet, including the Deputy Minister of Education, the Deputy Minister of Finance, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports (and its split successor, the Minister of Youth and Sports), the Minister of Education, the Minister of Defense, and the Minister of Finance beginning 17 September 2008.
In addition to positions held in the federal government, Najib served as the Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) of Pahang between 1982 and 1986, becoming the youngest Menteri Besar in the state to enter office when he was sworn in at the age of 29. Najib was also appointed chairman of the Livestock Development Institute (Lembaga Kemajuan Penternakan, Majuternak). During the 1986 general elections, Najib was returned as the Member of Parliament for Pekan, and was appointed as Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports. He immediately focused on improving Malaysian sports and introduced the National Sports Policy in 1988. In 1989 Malaysia achieved its best-ever performance at the South East Asia (SEA) Games, which were held that year in Kuala Lumpur.
In 1991, Najib was appointed Minister of Defence. Under his direction, Malaysian troops were deployed to assist the UN peacekeeping forces in Bosnia in 1993. Malaysian forces were greeted warmly by Bosnians as well as Serbs and Croats. Malaysia also assisted peacekeeping operations in Somalia in 1993, losing one soldier in an effort to aid U.S. soldiers during the Battle of Mogadishu. Najib later criticized the UN’s Somalia operation as putting too much emphasis on military action. Since then Malaysia has stated a preference for participating in Chapter 6 “peace enforcement” missions, rather than Chapter 7 “peacekeeping” missions. After four years at the Ministry of Defense, Najib assumed control of the Education Ministry in 1995. He returned to the Ministry of Defense in 2000.
During his second tenure as Minister of Defense Najib coordinated Malaysia’s relief efforts following the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, and provided support to Indonesia in arresting those responsible for the 2004 Bali bombings. Najib also oversaw the deployment of Malaysian troops as a part of a UN peacekeeping force in 2006, when Malaysia volunteered to help stabilize Lebanon following the 2006 Lebanon War. As Defense Minister, Najib instituted compulsory military service in December 2003, stating that it would encourage interaction and friendship between youth of different ethnic groups and religions. During its first five years of operation, over 339,000 Malaysian youth participated in the PLKN (the Bahasa Malaysian acronym for "Malaysian National Service"), which is intended to promote tolerance, team work, and community engagement. The programme, however, has faced challenges. Safety issues in the program have been reported and several people died during or shortly after their terms of service during the program's first few years. In response, Najib strengthened the PLKN's health screening requirements and reinforced the government’s commitment to punish negligent PLKN officials.
In 1995, Najib left the Defense Ministry for the first time when he was appointed Minister of Education. His challenge was to respond to Malaysia's newly proclaimed aspiration to become a fully developed nation by the year 2020. During his five-year tenure, Najib restructured the Ministry, created an independent corporate structure for public universities, and encouraged collaboration with foreign universities and institutions. The 1996 Private Higher Education Institutions Act, allowed foreign universities to establish degree-conferring schools in Malaysia, providing greater educational opportunities for Malaysians and positioning Malaysia as a regional learning hub. Najib also upgraded teaching certificates to the status of diplomas, so that teachers in that category would receive a higher monthly starting salary.
In September 2008, Najib traded portfolios with Abdullah Badawi, the Prime Minister, and assumed control of the Ministry of Finance. During the global financial crisis, Malaysia faced a strong recession and reduced levels of trade throughout the South Asian region. In response, Najib announced a series of stimulus packages to be implemented over a two-year period with the intention of acting as a countercyclical response that might otherwise protect Malaysia’s economy. He also pressed for the country to move beyond existing manufacturing capabilities through education, research and development to develop greater strength as a provider of sophisticated business services. Upon his appointment in 2004 as Deputy Prime Minister, Najib was given a broad portfolio of responsibilities, including oversight of FELDA, the Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), and the Election Commission. Najib also chaired more than 28 cabinet committees, which preside over a wide range of issues.
After the 1986 general elections Najib was appointed Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports. During his time in this position Malaysia made its best ever showing in the Sea Games. Najib was also the architect of Malaysia's National Sports Policy which promotes the development of sport in general and provides monetary incentives for athletes that win medals at the Olympics.
In 1976 Najib was selected to run for the seat in parliament left vacant by his father's death. The national outpouring of grief following Tun Razak's death and the respect for his father helped Najib win election unopposed as Member of Parliament at the very young age of 23. In 1986 Najib won re-election to the same seat. During the 1999 general elections Najib suffered a major setback when he barely won-re-election by a margin of 241 compared to a margin of over 10,000 in the previous election. Although a surprise to political observers it was understandable given the political upheavals of 1999. The 2004 general elections, which came a few months after Najib's appointment as Deputy Prime Minister, saw him win re-election with a by a very large margin of 22,922 votes. In the 2008 general election, Najib won with a majority of 26,464 votes. It was the largest majority for any Barisan Nasional candidate. Najib won handily despite a poor showing by the government.
Najib was appointed head of UMNO Youth's Pekan branch and became a member of UMNO Youth's Executive Council (Exco) in 1976. In 1981, he was selected as a member of UMNO's Supreme Council, before winning the post of Vice President of UMNO Youth in 1982. In 1987, Najib was selected as the acting head of the Movement of UMNO Youth by Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim after Anwar was asked to contest the post of UMNO Vice President. Following mounting ethnic tensions anti-Chinese sentiments were expressed at a UMNO Youth rally held in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur the same year where Najib spoke. Rising tensions soon lead to fears of ethnic violence and eventually resulted in a security operation known as Operasi Lalang, that included numerous administrative detentions. In June 2009 Najib overturned a rule that required 30% Malay ownership in corporations, and allowed non-ethnic Malays, like the Chinese and the Indians to exercise more financial control in Malaysia. Najib has also worked to improve relations with Singapore, which is seen by many as Chinese-dominated, to encourage it to invest more heavily in the Malaysian economy.
Following the complete reorganisation and founding of the "New" UMNO by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in the aftermath of the 1988 Malaysian constitutional crisis, Najib was appointed president of UMNO Youth in 1988. By 1993, Najib was elected as one of six vice presidents of UMNO in response to Anwar's decision to contest as the deputy president of UMNO. Najib continued to defend his post in party elections held in 1993, 1996, and 2004. After a poor showing by the ruling UMNO coalition in the elections of 8 March 2008 in which opposition parties gained control of five of thirteen Malaysian state governments, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi identified Deputy Prime Minister Najib as his intended successor. On 8 October 2008, Prime Minister Badawi announced he would step down in March 2009, paving the way for Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak to succeed him. However he said the onus was on Najib to win party elections set for March before he could take over. Najib ran for the presidency of UMNO and went on to win on 2 November 2008, without contest. On 26 March 2009, Najib won the UMNO presidency unopposed.
Najib entered office as Prime Minister with a focus on domestic economic issues and political reform. On his first day as Prime Minister, Najib announced as his first actions the removal of bans on two opposition newspapers, Suara Keadilan and Harakahdaily, run by the opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim-led People's Justice Party and the Pan Islamic Party, respectively, and the release of 13 people held under the Internal Security Act. Among the released detainees were two ethnic Indian activists who were arrested in December 2007 for leading an anti-government campaign, three foreigners and eight suspected Islamic militants. Najib also pledged to conduct a comprehensive review of the much-criticized law which allows for indefinite detention without trial. In the speech, he emphasized his commitment to tackling poverty, restructuring Malaysian society, expanding access to quality education for all, and promoting renewed “passion for public service.” He also deferred and abandoned the digital television transition plan of all free-to-air broadcasters such as Radio Televisyen Malaysia.
1Malaysia is an on-going campaign announced by Prime Minister Najib Razak on 16 September 2008, calling for the cabinet, government agencies, and civil servants to emphasize ethnic harmony, national unity, and efficient governance. The eight values of 1Malaysia as articulated by Najib Razak are perseverance, a culture of excellence, acceptance, loyalty, education, humility, integrity, and meritocracy. On 17 September 2008, Najib launched 1Malaysia.com.my in an effort to communicate with the citizens of Malaysia more efficiently and support the broader 1Malaysia campaign, He has used the site to highlight his policy initiatives and to provide a forum for Malaysians to their government. The 1Malaysia campaign makes extensive use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Yet when his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin declared that he is "Malay first and Malaysian second" thus going head-on against his "1Malaysia" ideals, Najib did not hesitate to go to Muhyiddin's defence.
Najib's government is in the process of implementing its Government Transformation Programme in order to improve the quality of public services, increase efficiency, and make government more transparent. Specific measures include the use of Key Performance Indicators to measure the performance of officials and agencies and National Key Result Areas to define goals for specific areas of public policy. Under Najib the Malaysian government has implemented many measures to increase transparency and government accountability. These measures include the use of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to hold ministers accountable for their work, using new media such as Twitter and Facebook to communicate with citizens about happenings in the government, opening previously closed government tenders to increased public participation and scrutiny, and soliciting public feedback on government spending.
In order to keep his promise to make government smaller and more efficient Prime Minister Najib has abolished two ministries while creating the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water. Najib has appointed a total of 28 ministers. This is four fewer than the last government. Najib also named Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, an ethnic Chinese and leader of a minority party in the ruling coalition, to be the Minister of Unity and Performance.
New Economic Model
- On 2 May 2009, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak announced the government’s plan to develop a New Economic Model that will speed Malaysia's transition to a high income country. The plan will emphasise ways to increase the income and productivity of workers by encouraging knowledge industries and increasing investment from overseas.
- Prime Minister Najib has started to implement comprehensive reform of government subsidies. On 16 July 2010 subsidies for petrol, diesel and LPG were cut as part of Malaysia's general programme of reducing and rationalising subsidies per the 10th Malaysia Plan and the New Economic Model. The government believes it will save RM750 million by the end of 2010 through these measures with little negative impact on most citizens. Sugar and fuel subsidies were selected for reform due to the fact that they disproportionately benefit the wealthy and foreigners, encourage over-consumption and create opportunities for fraud and smuggling. The Prime Minister expressed his hope that Malaysians would adopt a healthier lifestyle. He said, “there is no logic in the government allocating subsidies worth almost RM1 billion on a commodity that could endanger the people’s health.” Responding to concerns about how these reforms might affect the poor the Prime Minister's Office pointed out that Malaysia will still be spending RM7.82 billion per year on fuel and sugar subsidies and that prices for these commodities would remain the lowest in Southeast Asia. The government also stated that education and healthcare would continue receiving state support.
- Malaysia has implemented substantial measures to attract foreign investment including a moderation of preferences designed to benefit ethnic Malays. Specifically these reforms include allowing foreign investors to hold majority stakes in most enterprises excluding "strategic" industries such as banking, telecommunications, and energy, easing insurance regulation, curtailing powers of the Foreign Investment Committee and lowering the minimum quota for Malay ownership in publicly traded companies from 30 percent to 12.5 percent. As he introduced the reforms Najib stated, "The world is changing quickly and we must be ready to change with it or risk being left behind.”
- Since these reforms have been implemented the American banking firms Goldman Sachs and Citigroup have been granted permission to expand their operations in Malaysia, Goldman Sachs, received licenses to set up fund management and advisory operations. Citigroup has obtained a permit to offer brokerage services. The approval of these licenses is a sharp break from Malaysia's historiy of domestically dominated and tightly regulated markets for financial services.
- The International Institute for Management Development responded to these and other reforms by increasing Malaysia's ranking to the 10th most competitive economy in the world in 2010 from 18th in 2009. Malaysia, which is now ranked fifth in the Asia Pacific region, scored well in business and government efficiency. Economists attributed the rise of Malaysia's ranking to the efforts of the Malaysian government to improve the country's business environment such as the New Economic Model, the Government Transformation Programme and the Economic Transformation Programme.
- The Malaysian government passed two stimulus packages to mitigate the effects of the global economic downturn. The first stimulus package, worth RM7 billion, was announced on 4 November 2008. The second package, worth RM60 billion, was announced on 10 March 2009. Since assuming office as Prime Minister, Najib has been monitoring the progress of the stimulus packages on a weekly basis. Government economists believe that the stimulus packages have successfully generated increased economic activity, especially in the construction sector. Malaysia's central bank reported that Malaysia's economy grew at an annualized rate of 9.5% during the first half of 2010. Prime Minister Najib says the country is on track to meet the 6% average annual growth to reach its goal of becoming a developed country by 2020. Commenting on this same economic data Najib says that as of August 2010 there are no plans for further economic stimulus. Rather he says the government would focus on improving Malaysia's economic fundamentals and increasing investment.
- United States
- South Korea
- New Zealand
An article published in The Economist calls Najib a 'well-intentioned man' fighting for 'right and proper' reforms who faces obstructionism not from the opposition, but from his own party. The article argues that in spite of Najib's well-meaning agenda, because he came to power in an internal coup instead of an electoral mandate, he lacks the clout to impose his will on his own party. As a result, in his push for reforms Najib has both reformed too much and reformed too little, offending both the conservatives and reformists.