New Cabinet before Budget 2024?

Changes expected to enhance govt’s performance and service delivery to the people

PETALING JAYA: Discussions regarding a Cabinet reshuffle are intensifying, and insiders strongly believe that changes to the ministerial line-up are imminent, likely occurring between late September and early October.

The prevailing buzz in Putrajaya indicates that these changes will materialise before the tabling of Budget 2024 on Oct 13, with a few even claiming that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim could make the announcement as early as this week.

A leader in the unity government hinted that the official announcement regarding the Cabinet reshuffle might be just around the corner, possibly as early as this Friday.

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“It needs to be done before the tabling of Budget 2024 so the PM can provide allocations to all ministries accordingly,” the leader said.

A quick check with the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that Anwar will be in town this Friday.

“This shouldn’t come as a surprise because we are talking about Anwar Ibrahim here. Of course he will make changes one year after taking office because he is not someone who will be satisfied with mediocrity,” said a government insider.

Anwar is said to be keeping things close to his chest, with two versions of the reshuffle circulating in the corridors of power and the political sphere.

The first account has it that the Cabinet will only see a minor change involving the Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Ministry, a portfolio previously held by Amanah’s Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub, who passed away in July due to a brain haemorrhage.

However, the stronger version indicates a major overhaul will take place in some ministries, including the Human Resources Ministry and the Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Ministry.

“Many of them are anxious about the speculation that it will be a major reshuffle because it means anyone could be affected,” said a Pakatan Harapan insider.

As of now, sources are split on the idea of who will take over the Domestic Trade and Cost of Living portfolio, with some saying that it may go to Amanah’s Adly Zahari while others pointed to the ministry being given to leaders from other parties in Pakatan Harapan.

Meanwhile, there is significant anticipation as to whether Anwar will appoint a second finance minister, with the forerunner being Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani, a Malay leader with a wealth of experience in both business and politics.

With some critics accusing Anwar of being too busy to focus on finance, sources said Johari’s appointment would relieve the Prime Minister from handling the huge burden alone.

Also, Johari is no stranger to the Finance Ministry, having been the second finance minister from 2016 to 2018.

“The unity government needs Malay votes. The last few elections proved the need for this. Johari has what it takes with Kampung Baru safely tucked in his pocket (as Titiwangsa MP).

“But there is resistance to this idea because some Umno leaders are worried Johari might outshine them,” said a Barisan Nasional leader.

The newly elected Pulai MP Suhaizan Kayat, also from Amanah, is expected to be appointed a deputy minister.

But the reshuffle will not just involve changes at the top; insiders said some members of the bureaucracy, especially those holding the positions of directors-general and secretaries-general, are also heading to the chopping board.

According to sources within the federal administration, some heads are expected to roll, while others will either be promoted to “better ministries” or demoted to “less prominent ministries”.

“Some will go for ‘retirement’ if you know what I mean,” another leader said.

“This is important because, otherwise, what is the point of making changes with ministers if there are still some deadweights among the officials?”

Based on a government circular shared on social media platforms, it appears changes among secretaries-general are already happening.

A circular dated Sept 25 signed by Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali, which was also shared on his Facebook page, showed five members of the bureaucracy getting “new placements”.

It involved moves to Health, Defence, Unity, the Prime Minister’s Department, as well as the Investment, Trade and Industry Ministries.

Sources said aside from the purging and replacing, changes to ministerial portfolios are also on the table.

“One of them will likely involve the Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Ministry because climate change deserves a ministry of its own.

“Look at the PM’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly. He put more emphasis on climate change and renewable energy, aside from Islamophobia.

“I believe we could see a couple more ministries that will be rebranded, and perhaps the Federal Territories will become a ministry of its own again.

“This is to take the burden off Anwar’s shoulders as it is now a department under the Prime Minister’s Department,” said the source.

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