A pecking order in policy

A LIVELY debate has sprung up on both sides of the political aisle around the appointment of Nurul Izzah Anwar as her father’s, that is, the Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s economic advisor.

On one side, opposition leaders including former prime ministers, have criticised the appointment as blatant nepotism, illustrating the hypocrisy between good governance and elite exceptionalism. The soapbox commentators’ views range from cautious reprimand to indignant outrage.

Given that this is an opinion piece, I must state mine up front, which is that I find this latter posturing to be ridiculously laughable, especially noting the shaky standing of the pundits proclaiming such “shocked disapproval”.

There is a defence in the PM’s camp that all capable hands are welcome in the heavy work of rebuilding a compromised nation that has been wreaked havoc on by corruption and mismanagement for more than a decade, while also admitting that the look is not ideal and appears to carry on a troubling trend of Malaysian prime ministers treating the top chair in the land as an inherited family heirloom.

Again, my stated opinion here is that there is no need to prevaricate around a full-throated defence of the PM’s employment of the full range of his arsenal to battle the multiple-front skirmishes for Malaysia’s political, social, and economic recovery.

I call it a pecking order in policy. The administration, and its titular head, needs to define the hierarchy of tasks ahead in order to face the many challenges of the moment.

I’ve summarised this in a seven-point priority:

Innovation Agenda

1) Promoting social unity across communities, creeds, and classes;

2) Good governance, radical transparency, and structural reform of public institutional integrity;

3) Tackling spiralling inflation for basic goods and services;

4) Food security for critical commodities where we are overly dependent on imports;

5) Digital transformation through the curation of leap-frog technologies for local and  regional use;

6) Adoption of sunrise clean-tech industries such as net zero carbon, EVs, and sustainable power, which will dominate the next growth cycle; and

7) Regenerating high-quality inbound FDI in key sectors rather than exporting Malaysian capital abroad for outbound investments.

In my opinion, any effective tool that can contribute to the achievement of this agenda should be fully utilized. Nurul Izzah’s merit should be earned through efficacy rather than being hampered by prejudice. After all, the game has begun, and any physically capable participant is welcome to join team Malaysia.

As far as whether the top coach in the land is justified in his discretion to choose his own squad, if his intent is to promote the nation’s cause more than his daughter’s career, then I for one would welcome a play for the silverware.

Remember, the last couple of managers didn’t even finish out the season; it’s fair to surmise they would not have begrudged themselves the talent if they had it in their means to score in a few notches on the right side of the ledger.

After all, Winston Churchill once said “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks”. — Feb 5, 2023



Rais Hussin is the President and Chief Executive Officer of EMIR Research, a think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Main photo credit: Astro Awani

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