FocusM view: No salary pledge will remain a gimmick if end-of-day delivery sucks

IT does not matter if the unity government led by Malaysia’s 10th Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim wishes to have two, three or even more Deputies PM (DPM) but do ensure that those DPM wannabes first agreed to be paid modest salaries for a start.

As it is inevitable for the Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman to have a bloated Cabinet given the need to lure as many politicians as possible to his side, Anwar can perhaps resort to an ‘intense’ salary adjustment scheme by slashing unjustified remuneration expenses (especially allowances or sorts) currently borne by the also bloated administration of his predecessor.

On paper at least, this shouldn’t be a cumbersome task for Anwar considering that majority of his potential DPMs and ministers are not eyeing monetary reward as much as lusting for power and position.

The next measure that Anwar needs to embark upon is perhaps more challenging given that the unprecedented unity government concept has never been tested in Malaysia’s 65-year history (save to say it has been a one-party rule system all the way by Barisan Nasional except for PH’s short-lived 22 months administration).

Anwar can expect a big headache to pick his so-called ‘henchmen’ whereby he has to juggle between party quotas to reflect his unity government and selecting the most qualified men and women for the job. This is not that talent is lacking among the MPs by his side but their political affiliation makes the whole process complicated.

Photo credit: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Facebook

Veteran journalist and blogger Datuk A. Kadir Jasin sums up Anwar’s predicament most elegantly: “If you want to appoint many DPMs, please cut their salaries. It’s the same with the minister. Do not appoint simply because of promises and popularity. Appoint so that we have a unity government with integrity and quality.”

Despite Anwar pledging to be a no-salaried PM (wonder if he did specify for how long) in his quest to rid “the culture of greed”, Kadir is right to counter-argue that Anwar deserves his dues.

“Anwar can take a salary. That is his right as PM. If you don’t want to use it, you can donate. Otherwise, people will start wondering how Anwar become so rich,” he penned in his recent Facebook post.

“It’s not that we don’t want to give facilities to the Minister. Just don’t be spendthrift. The country has many problems. Debt and government debt guarantee of one RM1 tril or more. Subsidies alone amounted close to RM80 bil. You have to save (money) if you want security.”

Recall that during his 15th General Election (GE15) campaign, Anwar had vowed to reduce by half the number of ministers which totalled 70 in the previous administration “along with their salaries – also by half.”

“If you want a minister’s salary, you must accept my terms. If not, forget it,” he had pledged during his “grand finale” in Perak on Nov 18 (eve of GE15).

Short of telling Anwar be careful what you had wished for, Kadir who is now seen as aligned to PH (he was also the former Bersatu supreme council member) did convey a subtle reminder to the Tambun MP-elect:

“It’s good that the stock index is rising and the ringgit is getting stronger. But more importantly, eggs are available and the price is not very expensive.” – Nov 26, 2022

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