Ex-minister: Reduce Cabinet size to 22 ministries

PETALING JAYA: It is possible to downsize the next Cabinet to a maximum of 22 ministries, according to a former de facto law minister.

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, who served in that role under Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s administration, said these were among the suggestions that he had mooted with the Civil Service Department (JPA).

He suggested combining the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry with the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry. Other possible mergers, he added, were the Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry and the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry.

He also said the Education Ministry could encompass higher education as well.

Trade-related ministries like International Trade and Industry and the Entrepreneur Development Ministry could be a single portfolio, he said.

“I’ve also requested the JPA look into the possible mergers of several ministries to a maximum of 22, if not 20 only,” he said.

Wan Junaidi also brought up the importance of having a law ministry.

“We are among only eight countries in the Commonwealth that have no law ministry.”

He said his proposal for a smaller Cabinet had been agreed to in principle by Ismail Sabri.

“Because he (Ismail Sabri) inherited what was formed during Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s time as premier, it would be political suicide for him to downsize the Cabinet then.

“He (Ismail Sabri) actually agreed to my suggestion of 20 and, at most, 22 ministries but said it could only be done after the elections,” he said.

Muhyiddin, who was prime minister for 17 months since March 2020, had appointed 32 ministers and 38 deputies.

Ismail Sabri, who took over the reins in August last year, had a Cabinet of 31 ministers with 38 deputies.

Senior fellow at Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research Azmi Hassan said Muhyiddin had a bloated Cabinet to garner support (in Parliament).

He agreed that the new Cabinet line-up could be reduced by half.

“Certain ministries only need ministers and not deputies.”

Azmi also said it is important for incoming ministerial appointments to be based on merit and capabilities rather than coalition strength or the positions of MPs in their respective parties.

“The road ahead for the nation is set to be bumpy, so it is important to appoint ministers who are able to work together with ministries,” he said.

Former federal territories minister Khalid Abdul Samad agreed with the proposal for a leaner Cabinet but noted that the move could cause discontent among the civil service as some chief secretaries and their deputies could be out of jobs and the physical location of ministries might be changed.

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