Money being splurged to boost image of Najib administration

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 — The Malaysian government is continuing a Barisan Nasional (BN) tradition of spending big bucks to get positive publicity for the administration overseas.

The Malaysian Insider understands, however, that some senior government officials are not pleased that the Najib administration is considering spending large amounts to buy good publicity.

A number of companies, including renowned international public affairs and media relations company Apco Worldwide, are pitching for a new round of government-related work believed to be worth some RM20 million.

The contract has not been signed yet but the administration is understood to be leaning towards giving Apco Worldwide a big pay day.

Typically the scope of work will involve getting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Malaysia onto slots on major news channels such as CNBC and CNN.

Bylined articles in foreign newspapers such as the one which Najib wrote for the Wall Street Journal when he took office are also targeted.

There will also be a lobbying element, especially in the United States which has traditionally been sympathetic to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Najib’s recent telephone conversation with President Barack Obama was a major coup for the foreign experts already working in the PM’s office.

It is understood that the Najib administration is also working hard to secure an official visit from the US president to Malaysia, as this would boost the PM’s international image and undermine Anwar’s influence in Washington.

Apco Worldwide is understood to have had an official based in Najib’s office since the early days of the administration.

Apco and other public relations specialists from the United States have also been helping Najib craft his 100 days strategy.

This includes his 1 Malaysia message and other key platforms of his administration.

While the results so far of the foreign public relations firms have been mixed, some senior government officials are understood to be unhappy with their further involvement, especially if it comes with an escalation in costs.

But supporters of these foreign public relations teams point out that they also work to neutralise the opposition’s impact outside Malaysia by reaching out to opinion makers in countries deemed important to Malaysia.

Najib is not the first prime minister, however, to have used expensive foreign help to boost his image and that of his administration.

Tun Abdullah Badawi also used a foreign-based public relations firm to help project a positive image of himself as a progressive Muslim leader, and Malaysia as a modern Muslim nation.

The Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad administration had used disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.-MalaysianInsider