Current Affairs

If Najib is going to reshuffle the cabinet, here’s what he should do…

by Liew Chin Tong

meg-liew-chin-tongAs Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak returns from his overseas trip and as the Bukit Gelugor and Teluk Intan by-elections concluded, it is reasonable to believe that cabinet reshuffle is on the card, either before Parliament sits on 9th June or immediately after Parliament rises on 19th June.

In the interest of the nation, I would like to offer my initiate three-point advice to the Prime Minister on what the people of Malaysia expects of the reshuffle:~

1. Take a leaf from Modi’s playbook to reduce size of the cabinet

Prime Minister Najib should take a leaf off new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s playbook to reduce the size of his cabinet although with the re-entry of MCA and Gerakan into the cabinet it is quite likely that the cabinet will be further bloated.

Narendra Modi reduced the size of the frontbench from 79 members to 45. India has a population of 1.2 billion. Malaysia has 32 full ministers and 25 deputy ministers, i.e. 57 frontbenchers. It’s time for Najib to name a more professional, efficient and lean cabinet.

2. Appoint a full-time finance minister

Since Tun Daim Zainuddin completed his second tour as Finance Minister in 2001, the portfolio has been held by successive Prime Ministers from Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to Tun Abdullah Badawi and now Najib, with a brief exception between September 2008 and April 2009 when Najib snatched the coveted post from Abdullah.

With mounting economic challenges from inflation to high-indebtedness and the inability of the Malaysian economy to transform from labour-intensive to skill and technology-based, there is a need for a safe pair of hands to steer the economy. The jolt to the economy from the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) next year further requires someone who understands the economy at helm. And internal accountability of our cabinet system requires a collegial check-and-balance relationship between the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister.

It is a great disservice to the nation if Najib continues to hold the portfolio of Finance Minister concurrently just for the sake of controlling the financial largesse this portfolio afforded. If I am forced to name a relatively reputable candidate for finance post from within UMNO’s limited pool of talent, I would choose Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad.

3. Appoint a new Foreign Minister

So many things disappear from Malaysia, including her Foreign Minister. While the Foreign portfolio is highly sought after in cabinets of other countries, no serious UMNO leader is interested in the post because there is very little contracts the minister can award from this ministry. Hence the post is given to Anifah Aman who allegedly has very little interest in foreign affairs.

The diplomatic corps in Kuala Lumpur complain of the disappearance of the foreign minister to the extent that ambassadors have to engage Minister of International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamad as if he is the acting foreign minister.

The mishandling of public communication with the world during the height of the MH370 incident highlighted the need for a new foreign minister to speak for the nation, chart a new path, set priorities and formulate clear policies. Again, if I have to choose from UMNO’s limited pool, Tourism Minister Nazri Aziz is a far better choice as Foreign Minister than Anifah Aman.

I will offer more advice in the days to come to shape the discussion on cabinet reshuffle. -The Rocket

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