Anwar’s tricky Cabinet balancing act | Daily Express Online

COMING up with the list of cabinet members isn’t straightforward. It is a tough balancing act of various competing factors such as politics, principles, merits, public opinion, popular expectations, private sector lobby and pressures from various groups with interest.

Each factor would have to be scored and weighted, with the ultimate objective of ensuring stability and successful policy implementation. 

As what was rumoured to be an intensely-lobbied position, and as a crucial portfolio in shaping Malaysia’s policy direction, it’s optimal that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim takes on the finance minister position as well. 

This may or may not be ideal but surely the circumstances are not. There is no way to make everyone happy and that shouldn’t be his ultimate goal either. 


Anwar’s first steps should resonate with necessity and hitting the ground running, instead of obvious favouritism or susceptibility to lobbying, both of which would also garner backlash in a political climate that is sensitive and volatile. In any case, this is a portfolio he is familiar with.

Helming the finance portfolio allows Anwar to have the first view of the current state of things in depth and unfiltered. This also allows Anwar to set in the leadership style, tone, pace, visions and missions, and lay down key principles when handling Malaysia’s financial and fiscal issues.

This is a necessary step in setting the overall direction, before passing this to someone else in the future, if that ever happens.

This is where YB Rafizi Ramli’s positioning as economic affairs minister also makes sense given the circumstances. Economics and finance are practically inseparable, especially when it comes to national policies. Thus, the current setup ensures, or rather, requires Anwar and Rafizi to keep tabs on each other. 

It’s risky, as both individuals are viewed as strong characters and are leaders of the same political party. The potential for great synergy carries within it the potential for chaos, which is reminiscent of the relationship between Anwar and Tun Dr Mahathir.

Similarly, any friction between Anwar and Rafizi could have repercussions beyond the cabinet, and even beyond the current timeframe. They should be aware that their relationship will be the target of many with ill intent towards the current government.

If the personal and professional dynamic goes well, it would be a huge boon for the administration, and consequently, for Malaysia. Rafizi should be considered as economics minister and/or perhaps deputy finance minister, to ensure economic directions are always aligned with the finance ministry, and vice versa.

Rafizi is well-acquainted with finance, and this is the perfect training ground for him to have a deeper understanding and exposure to economics and finance at the national level, and therefore, a strategically-sound position for someone seen as a potential successor to Anwar.

The position of deputy prime minister for Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was also expected, and though it isn’t favourable in removing the potential conflict of interest, it is understandable and perhaps even necessary for Anwar to keep his administration intact. 

Not doing so may risk the fall of the government, and Anwar may see the rise of Perikatan Nasional as the bigger threat.  

In the larger scheme of things, this is a choice between cooperation with a few individuals, versus the potential nationwide rise of polar opposites in the political spectrum. 

There is also the potential upside in the close cooperation between parties within Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional to forge a bond, understanding, and mutual respect that could pave the way for internal reforms by all sides towards a greater form of partnership. 

Perhaps a grand coalition in the future, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 

Aside from Zahid, the appointment of YB Senator Tengku Datuk Seri Utama Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz also raised questions from various groups. Nevertheless, it proves that Tengku Zafrul has strong enough influence to still be positioned in the cabinet. 

Perhaps Anwar sees something in him or values his experience, but if not, then it is likely the case of Anwar accepting something or someone against his own wishes because he has no other way when weighing the pros and cons or upon analysing cost-benefits.

Tengku Zafrul isn’t only well-linked among Malay elites, but also among royalties. Cables don’t get much thicker than that, and keep in mind that this is a government endorsed by the royal institution. 

Either way, beyond politics, perhaps there is wisdom in Anwar’s appointment of Zafrul as trades minister. Firstly, assuming that Tengku Zafrul isn’t Anwar’s default preference, then it is…

Read More: Anwar’s tricky Cabinet balancing act | Daily Express Online

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