IDEAS: Crucial to ensure public confidence, trust in new Cabinet line-up

THE Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) has raised concerns over the new Cabinet lineup announcement from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

It said the members of Cabinet who are appointed should be held to a higher standard while strongly reminding the government of high public expectations to deliver on policy reforms.

Below is the full statement:

The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) expresses concern with the latest announcement made by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on the Cabinet lineup. With a lot of anticipation both at the domestic level as well as international audiences, the decision to accommodate Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for the post of Deputy Prime Minister despite the charges he faces in court is perplexing. IDEAS also calls for the separation of the roles of Prime Minister and Finance Minister as there is no oversight to arguably the most significant portfolio in the Cabinet.

“Despite achieving stability, the appointment of Ahmad Zahid as DPM holding a strategic portfolio sends the wrong signal from the government that vowed to adhere to the principles of good governance. While innocent until proven guilty and exhausting all appeals is sufficient for maintaining a seat in Parliament, the members of Cabinet who are appointed should be held to a higher standard. This is crucial to ensure public confidence and trust in the government of the day,” commented Dr Tricia Yeoh, CEO of IDEAS.

"Second, the appointment of the Prime Minister as the Finance Minister is not consistent with principles of good governance which Prime Minister Anwar has declared as a core agenda for the unity government. The commitment to separate the portfolios was also made clearly in the previous Pakatan Harapan election manifesto," said Dr Yeoh.

“The 1MDB corruption scandal was partly facilitated by allowing one person to hold these two important Cabinet positions. The past three administrations have tried to reverse this tradition by allowing a separation of power between the posts of Prime Minister and the Finance Minister. While it is understandably politically difficult to name a Finance Minister in a unity government, it is necessary for the roles to be separated for check and balance. We propose that the Prime Minister should commit to finding a suitable Finance Minister; one who can deliver on a transparent and accountable government. The Finance Minister also needs to oversee fiscal reforms such as putting in place the Fiscal Responsibility Act that has been stalled for some time," said Dr Yeoh.

The Prime Minister has, to an extent, fulfill his promise made during a press conference held on Nov 24 to keep a leaner Cabinet. We also see better representation of women, youth and regions in the current line-up. This is reflected in the five ministerial posts with five female politicians, four youth politicians, and six Borneo representatives including the Deputy Prime Minister post. However, we strongly hope that the Prime Minister will not follow the previous administration’s move to appoint deputy ministers and special envoys with ministerial ranks to appease various political factions and make the Cabinet size unnecessarily large.

Nevertheless, we would like to congratulate all ministers who have been given the responsibility and opportunity today to serve the country and the public. It is time to implement election manifestos that their coalitions promised the electorates. While each coalition emphasised different aspects of policies in their respective manifestos, most shared the same aim: to ease the burden of the people and to expedite institutional reforms. IDEAS certainly hopes that key institutional reforms that both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan mentioned during their campaigning period such as the promise to legislate a Political Financing Law and the separation of powers between the roles of Public Prosecutor and Attorney General will be implemented swiftly.

“On this note, we look forward to engaging closely with the newly appointed Law Minister whom we hope will aggressively pursue these reforms in the immediate future. Separately, we also look forward to continuing relationships with the Ministries of Finance, International Trade and Industry, Health and Education on issues championed by IDEAS on public procurement, budgetary, economic, trade, health and education reforms,” stated Dr Yeoh.

We also call on Perikatan Nasional to play its role as an effective and fair opposition to the current government. They should execute their plan to form a Shadow Cabinet soon to be involved constructively in policy making. By forming a Shadow Cabinet and providing constructive criticism of the government's policies, Perikatan will do a great service to the nation by not only providing mechanisms of checks and balances to the government, but also by moving the current public narrative away from divisive political propaganda.

IDEAS urges all parties lobbying for political appointments into ministries, government- linked companies (GLCs) and federal statutory bodies (FSBs) to proceed in the spirit of sacrifice and generosity in ensuring a stable unity government. The success of this government is reliant upon the collective responsibility of each member of Parliament from the main parties that have formed the government. The country needs both political stability as well as a commitment to principles. As such, any future appointments under this administration should be able to address both needs equally by taking into consideration all possible alternatives.

Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS)

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