From The Malaysian Insider:
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 — Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon confirmed in Parliament today that the government had engaged Apco Worldwide, an international public affairs and media relations company, to boost its image overseas.
The Malaysian Insider understands that the contract is worth some RM20 million but Koh, in a written reply to a question from DAP’s Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching, did not divulge the exact amount.
“Apco Worldwide was tasked with promoting and improving Malaysia's image overseas,” said Koh, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Department.
He justified the appointment by asserting that a foreign firm would ensure that the country's communication practice was in line with international standards.
To justify the hefty fees it is charging, The Malaysian Insider understands that Apco Worldwide staff are now generating press releases and conducting media training for the government.
Because of the value of the contract, Apco Worldwide has set up an office for the first time in Malaysia. Its personnel are mainly from the United States, and the main focus of their job remains to improve Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s image.
It is also understood that the government has hired a separate firm in the United States to act as its lobbyist with the Obama administration.
“Appointing an international communication firm is a common practice by governments of other countries,” Koh said in his written reply to Parliament today.
He also said that inaccurate reports in foreign media had affected the international community's confidence in the country as a stable investment, trade and tourist destination, resulting in the need to appoint Apco.
“Apart from Apco, the ministry and government agencies also appoint other local and international firms, for short and long term to provide communication services,” he said.
“Because the expenses for this service depend on the implementation of the programmes and communication projects planned from time to time according to needs, the total cost cannot be determined for the time being.”
The Malaysian Insider had reported in July that Apco was also tasked with promoting Najib's image for his first 100 days in office and later to boost the administration's standing worldwide.
Najib is not the first prime minister, however, to use expensive foreign help to boost his image and that of his administration.
Tun Abdullah Ahmad 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.