Cabinet reshuffle: what’s the hurry? (And a wish list) – Rocky Bru

Cabinet reshuffle: what’s the hurry? (And a wish list) – Rocky Bru

Current ministers’ line-up has achieved much in a year, but some tweaks could be made if PM still chooses to shuffle the pack

WHEN it comes to their prime minister, Malaysians have two permanent preoccupations. They’d lose sleep – and sometimes friends – guessing when the PM will call for the general election. And as soon as he’s appointed his cabinet, they will bicker over when he’ll call for a reshuffle.

Since the GE is not due for another four years, the focus now and the last few months has been: WTH (as in, why the hell) isn’t he reshuffling his cabinet yet?

My response to them would be, WTH. As in, what’s the hurry, really? It has been but just one year.

In those 52 weeks of this so-called unity government, people have not stopped clamouring for the promised reforms, economic improvements, the better life, death to tolls, cheaper homes, faster cars, and a million and one other wants on the wish list.

What Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his cabinet have delivered in the last one year – which would make a list as long as that million-and-one wish list – are no mean feat.

Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, the investment, trade and industry (Miti) minister, has brought in RM225 billion in FDI. The famed Elon Musk is only one of the big global industrialists who are investing.

The latest news is that Tengku Zafrul got the founder of American tech giant Nvidia, Jensen Huang, to meet with the PM. Nvidia wants to build AI infrastructure for Malaysia. (The only problem is YTL, the local partner, hasn’t the best reputation in the industry following multi-billion ringgit flop 1BestariNet and, more recently, the developing scandal due to a direct award for the multi-lane fast flow, or MLFF, project to the company).

Anwar’s promised reforms are well under way. YTL aside, his promise to break up monopolies (which he has associated with inefficiency, wastages, corruption, nepotism, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and so on and so forth) is being delivered: DNB will have a competitor in Entity B next year and Anwar is heeding calls to dismantle Bernas’ monopoly.

On the international front, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir has made great strides and paved the way for meaningful resolutions on Gaza, the South China Sea, Myanmar and the Global South.

Zambry and his boss the PM have done this without having to be combative, the trademark of Dr Mahathir’s regime during the 80s and 90s. Zambry’s “teh tarik diplomacy”, a term I like to use knowing how accomplished he is at making that staple tea, actually works.

And as much as we have criticised the Communications and Digital Ministry for the way it has dealt with some media companies, we should also give minister Fahmi Fadzil credit for the uncompromising way he’s dealt with tougher cookies like Facebook and TikTok.

The Malaysian Media Council, an idea mooted even before Anwar had joined politics and when Fahmi was still in Pampers, is materialising. Journalists have waited 40 years for this and in her first year, Fahmi’s deputy minister Teo Nie Ching is getting us what we want.

A welfare fund for journalists was also established, Fahmi made the Finance Ministry set aside RM1 million to navigate the welfare of journalists (we remain one of the most poorly paid professions in Malaysia).

(For context, the National Press Club set up its Journalist Welfare Fund nearly 20 years ago and the most we had managed to collect for our fund was less than RM100,000).

Okay, some of the ministries may have underperformed but, come on, Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli is a first-timer; and to be fair to Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad who heads the Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Ministry, he is overseeing a portfolio which used to take three experienced ministers to cover.

This is because Anwar wanted to have a smaller cabinet. On top of that, the ministers in this downsized cabinet were paid less!

To be fair to these first timers, they have actually done quite well and, in some cases, quite beyond expectations. And if you ask me, they all should be given another year, at least, or till the halfway mark of the current government’s five-year mandate, before any reshuffle.

But if PM Anwar Ibrahim still wishes to reshuffle his cabinet, then I have a wish list:

1. Bring back Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad as health minister. He did well when he led the ministry. He also defeated former finance minister Tengku Zafrul in the November 2022 general election; Tengku Zafrul ended up with Miti despite the loss!

2. Datuk Armizan Mohd Ali (who is minister in the PM’s Department in charge of Sabah and Sarawak affairs) as the domestic trade and cost of living minister. He’s done well as acting minister after the passing of Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub last July.

3. Bring back the Federal Territories Ministry, we can’t have the city councils and mayors run amok any longer. A first woman federal territories minister in Dr Zaliha Mustafa (currently health minister) perhaps?

4. Split the Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Ministry into two; retain Nik Nazmi as the energy minister.

5. A non-politician as second finance minister. Get someone experienced, a big name who has managed huge funds, who has the passion to bring back glory and integrity to our stock market and Securities Commission, among other things. We are not short of these, men or women.

The country is going to welcome a new king soon so perhaps it is just as well for the PM to put the coronation on January 31 before his reshuffle.

On that note, Anwar shouldn’t fret about a bigger cabinet. If Malaysia is big enough to have nine royal rulers, what’s a few more ministries to make sure this government is able to deliver its promises for institutional reforms and put this nation back on track? – December 10, 2023

(Datuk Ahirudin Attan, popularly known as Rocky Bru, is executive director of Big Boom Media which publishes Scoop. He is also president of the National Press Club)


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