Cabinet reshuffle: What PMX should consider when selecting cabinet members

TEN months may be too short a time for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to reshuffle his cabinet but with four more years being possibly too short a time-frame to bring about the necessary reforms to a nation that is already deeply entrenched in corruption, he probably has no other choice but to do so – promptly.

However, picking the right people for the job is not an easy task given that everyone is eyeing a cabinet post that comes with the perks and prestige yet may not necessary have the ability to manage an entire ministry.

Based on past experience, for example, Dr Maszlee Malek was clearly a misfit. With only his experience as a lecturer, the then prime minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad tasked him to the portfolio of education minister.

The end result is that instead of introducing reforms that the rakyat want in the ministry, he started to court a lot of controversies over a number of his so-called “big ideas”.

We cannot blame Maszlee because he had never been a head of department but suddenly found himself running a ministry that is already very entrenched in its own archaic culture.

In selecting the right candidates, PMX may find some putting up a show just to convince him that they are worth the salt.

Although we may applaud and encourage them on the right path, it is not difficult to notice those who are not genuine, especially when there is a sudden surge in their campaign content that can be seen on social media.

In this regard, there are several considerations that Anwar must be wary of:

Ministerial positions should not be reserved for only the top party members: Leaders of key component parties making up the unity government must be willing to accept that they may not be suitable to serve as ministers, yet still agreeing to support the new cabinet with the ultimate objective of serving the rakyat and to re-build Malaysia.

Doubtlessly, some politicians are good at their ceramah – able to rise to the top by building their own popularity to be elected to senior positions within their own parties – but ministers need to provide strong leadership and set good examples for their staff.
People picked for the cabinet positions must be consistent achievers of their own key performance indicators (KPIs): If an MP is already known to be slacking in his role as a people’s elected representative, his name should be immediately struck off from the list.

In the previous cabinet under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, some ministers did not know how to exercise good relations with their stakeholders. While we want our ministers to be firm, we do not expect them to be rude or abrasive in their mannerism – and certainly not oblivious to people’s sufferings.

MPs who are currently representing a big constituency should not be picked as a minister or deputy minister: They should focus on serving their constituents well for the entire five-year term.

This also includes those who are elected as both MP and state assemblymen. By already holding two key positions, there is no way they can focus on a third portfolio.

Members of the new cabinet must be willing to rock the boat if necessary to ensure that their KPIs are met: Ministers are not to become ornaments in the unity government tasked with reforms.

For example, the local government is plagued with the little Napoleons, hence the minister placed in charge of the Local Government Development Ministry should have the guts to get to the bottom of things and straighten things out instead of seeking one’s own agenda when selected to lead this ministry.

Moreover, the bulk of people’s grievances with any government whether in the past or present are mainly on the public amenities and the maintenance culture of the local councils and city halls.

Ministers and deputy ministers must lead and actively pursuing their KPIs while also being people-friendly to both the stakeholders and staff from within his ministry: When dealing with ringleaders within their ministry, they should not hesitate to take firm actions within the ambits of the law instead of trying to defend the culprits because of some past connections or to cover up their own oversight.

The problem we notice in some ministers is their inability to prevail over the naysayers in their own ministry who only give excuses that things cannot be done. At the end of the day, the rakyat will be judging them for their failure to deliver the KPIs.

It is not easy for anyone to be a minister – but if accorded the full trust – these selected individuals should put their full attention to carry out the reforms. – Sept 29, 2023

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