Anwar Ministry Form Guide: A Cabinet Of Compromise – Analysis


Now the full Anwar ministry has been announced, it’s time to post a form guide about what to expect from each minister and deputy minister. Anwar had no choice but to compromise with a number of stakeholders, including the monarchy. So, this is not a cabinet built upon meritocracy. It is a cabinet built upon forming a government that will survive. There are a number of people Anwar could not leave out, and there were also a number of people he couldn’t put in. 

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance – Anwar Ibrahim

Early indications are that Anwar will be a symbolic leader. He will be seen, but not heard much. Its yet to be seen whether this is because he will run his government by delegation to each respective minister. Expect Anwar will be more a cabinet chairman rather than a strongly opinionated PM. However, Anwar will always look at the political implications is what decisions are made. 

Anwar was forced to take the finance ministry to keep Tengku Zafrul out. Expect another minister to work close with him in this portfolio. Finance is where many reforms are needed. This will be the big test for Anwar. We are yet to see his current economic view of the world. Back in the 1990s he was very closely aligned with the IMF.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Rural and Regional Development – Ahmad Zahid Hamidi

Zahid is the real lynchpin of the new government. He will run as the backstop for Anwar. Expect Zahid to make many announcements that Anwar feels it would be better for Zahid to make. Zahid has the job of keeping this government intact. 

As Minister for Rural Development, Zahid has the opportunity to rebuild UMNO within the Malay heartlands. This is a good portfolio for him.

Expect Zahid to be acquitted of all charges against him in due course.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities – Fadillah Said

This is a reward for GPS supporting the Anwar government. This position is about prestige for Sabah and Sarawak for a new relationship. It gives Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) the due respect they should have in a federal government. Fadilla just maybe a surprise. His father was an anti-colonialist activist. 

Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Office

Azalina Othman Said (Law and Institutional Reform)

Azalina will have a key role in law reform and who gets prosecuted. She will be under pressure. Dividing the roles of Attorney general and public prosecutor will be a key. Independence of the MACC will be a major issue, if the Anwar government is serious on corruption. 

How Azalina deals with outdated laws will be closely watched. Her moves on LBGT and the marriage age will also be closely watched. Let’s see if she can move on the law to automatically confer citizenship to overseas born children to Malaysian mothers. 

Armizan Mohd. Ali (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs)

Armizan big task will be to renegotiate the MA63 agreement and 40 percent claim of oil revenue. 

Mohd. Na’im Mokhtar (Religious Affairs)

Not too many know much about Mohd. Na’im. On paper he looks good as an independent religious minister. JAKIM is riddled with corruption. He will also have to dela with issues concerning halal integrity. 

However, Na’im is not without scandal, as there were allegations of sexual assault made against him. The matter just disappeared without any public explanation.

Minister of Transport – Anthony Loke Siew Fook

Good start with Anthony Loke riding undercover on the Kelana Jaya LRT line, and meeting with Prasarana management. 

Minister of Agriculture and Food Security – Mohamad Sabu

Mohamed Sabu was one of the Erdogans who left PAS to form Parti Amanah Negara. He worked hard within the defence minister under the Pakatan Harapan government. Modernising agriculture will be very difficult within a conservative ministry around him. He needs to find ideas from outside to introduce. 

Minister of Economy – Mohd. Rafizi Ramli

This will be make or break for Rafizi. If he performs well within the portfolio, he could have a great political career. His style may not go down well with the civil service. We have to wait and see how much of a reformer he will be, and if he works in tandem with his prime minister. 

Minister of Local Government Development – Nga Kor Ming

A DAP member who served as the minister for local government in the last Pakatan Harapan. Many people are very disappointed when Nga said that local council elections are not a priority for the government. This could be a big mistake if Pakatan want to get any electoral reforms in to democratize local government. 

Minister of Defence – Mohamad Hasan

This is a big jump for the Negeri Sembilan MP and a portfolio compatible with his office of deputy president in UMNO. The defence ministry has many corruption issues that require attention. Parts of the military are also run down. Defence may not be a priority of the Anwar government. 

Minister of Works – Alexander Nanta Linggi

The key priority for Alexander Nanta Linggi will be the Pan Borneo Highway completion. 

Minister of Home Affairs – Saifuddin Nasution Ismail

Saifuddin is an Anwar loyalist from the reformasi days, and also close to Zahid. There are hints the new government may be tight on freedom of speech, and not as open and transparent as many would hope. Saifuddin is Anwar and Zahid’s gatekeeper. Saifuddin lost his Kulim-Bandar Baru seat and was brought back as a senator, due to his importance to Anwar. 

Minister of International Trade and Industry – Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz

Tengku Zafrul used every trick and name he had to get back into cabinet. He is there are a watchdog for the monarchy. He could easily become the fall guy in coming scandals. 

Tengku Zafrul may be rogue as evidenced by his trip to Abu Dhabi/Qatar and missed Anwar’s first cabinet meeting. 

Minister of Higher Education – Mohamed Khaled Nordin

Don’t expect any visionary transformation of higher education. 

Minister of Science and Technology – Chang Lih Kang

A PKR vice president and party organizer. This ministry is a reward for him. 

Minister of Women, Family, and Community Development – Nancy Shukri

Nancy Shukri will have to deal with the new Terengganu law criminalizing childbirth outside of marriage. This may all go into the ‘too hard basket.’ 

Minister of Domestic Trade and Living Costs – Salahuddin Ayub

Salahuddin has an immediate issue to take up with the Terengganu government where both Muslim and non-Muslim can serve either male or female customers. Unisex salons are banned. 

It’s not certain what Salahuddin can do within the portfolio to control living costs. 

Minister of Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change – Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad

This is going to be a very difficult portfolio for Nik Nazmi to make any mark in. Land is controlled by states, environment and climate change extremely difficult to deal with as a lone minister. 

Minister of Entrepreneurship Development and Cooperatives – Ewon Benedick

A member from Sabah with state ministerial experience. He is in an important portfolio, but difficult to see any radical change in thinking within the portfolio, other than dishing out grants. 

Minister of Foreign Affairs – Zambry Abdul Kadir

Zambry is probably a good choice for the ministry. Slightly intellectual, knowable in Islamic thinking. Zambry may focus upon the MENA. 

Minister of Tourism, Arts, and Culture – Tiong King Sing

An outspoken and sometimes controversial Sarawak MP. He may just be the right person to fight for his ministry, that would have a low priority in the administration.

Minister of Communications and Digital – Ahmad Fahmi Mohamed Fadzil

Ahmad Fahmi could be an interesting minister to watch.

Minister of Education -Fadhlina Sidek

This is probably the most challenging ministry with many problems in education today. This is going to be a tough job for anyone.

Minister of National Unity – Aaron Ago Dagang 

This is a ministry that is difficult to achieve anything in.

Minister of Youth and Sports – Hannah Yeoh Tseow Suan 

Hannah has always been a hard worker. This is a ministry she should excel within.

Minister of Human Resources – Sivakumar Varatharaju Naidu

With Sivakumar’s qualifications and experience, this is a ministry he can grow into.

Minister of Health – Zaliha Mustafa

Zaliha will come up against the director general of health Noor Hisham Abdullah. This relationship will be very interesting to watch. 

Murray Hunter’s blog can be accessed here

Murray Hunter

Murray Hunter has been involved in Asia-Pacific business for the last 30 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, academic, and researcher. As an entrepreneur he was involved in numerous start-ups, developing a lot of patented technology, where one of his enterprises was listed in 1992 as the 5th fastest going company on the BRW/Price Waterhouse Fast100 list in Australia. Murray is now an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis, spending a lot of time consulting to Asian governments on community development and village biotechnology, both at the strategic level and “on the ground”. He is also a visiting professor at a number of universities and regular speaker at conferences and workshops in the region. Murray is the author of a number of books, numerous research and conceptual papers in referred journals, and commentator on the issues of entrepreneurship, development, and politics in a number of magazines and online news sites around the world. Murray takes a trans-disciplinary view of issues and events, trying to relate this to the enrichment and empowerment of people in the region.

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