Now’s the time to move out Cabinet deadwood, say analysts

Anwar Ibrahim is urged to take the opportunity to bring in more capable Cabinet members or risk being seen in a bad light with further delays to a reshuffle.

(FMT) – Faced with public discontent over rising prices, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim should reshuffle his Cabinet and appoint more capable people to certain portfolios, say two academics.

The delay in appointing a replacement for the late Salahuddin Ayub since he died in July puts Anwar in a bad light, says Azmi Hassan of Akademi Nusantara, who described Salahuddin’s portfolio of domestic trade and cost of living as a critical one. Salahuddin had pioneered a series of Rahmah sales and cheap meals campaigns.

Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said: “If a replacement for Salahuddin is not found immediately, the people will feel the prime minister is not serious about handling the issue of living costs, which is a public issue.”

Azmi told FMT that a reshuffle is needed to remove certain ministers who are not performing well or who are not suitable for their current portfolios. They could be moved to other portfolios, for more capable ones to take their place, he said, without naming anyone.

He added: “This is also the best time for Anwar to do the reshuffle as there is a lot of noise against Anwar now,” referring to criticisms that Anwar does not know how to minimise the people’s everyday struggles.

Mazlan said the perceived gap in quality between the prime minister and his Cabinet colleagues was quite significant. Praising Anwar for his work ethic as prime minister, he said the other members of the Cabinet should be on par.

“To ensure his administration runs smoothly, his team needs to be at the same level. By right, Anwar should do the Cabinet reshuffle as soon as possible and find a replacement for Salahuddin. The ministers who are not performing well – he does not have to remove them completely, but he can change their portfolios or establish new ones,” Mazlan said.

He said Anwar should be very alert to public sentiment.

Talk of a Cabinet reshuffle has arisen after Salahuddin’s death and was given impetus when five civil service heads of ministries were reshuffled. Two days later, deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi hinted of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle. There had been talk he would be moved to handle the home ministry, but on Sunday, he said he was unlikely to be removed as minister for rural and regional development.

The domestic trade and cost of living portfolio is currently handled by Armizan Ali, the minister for Sabah and Sarawak affairs and special functions in an acting capacity.