PM to unveil Cabinet today

Analysts say new Cabinet would be seen as an improvement if it is smaller in size compared to PN administration’s 70 members


PRIME Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob will announce his Cabinet today, which is seen as the result of a balancing act as he tries to marshal together a workable government to fight the pandemic, improve the economy and cool down political temperature in the country.

Ismail Sabri had presented his choices for the Cabinet to the King yesterday after days of negotiations to provide for the diverse parties that had provided him conditional support with a fragile majority in Parliament.

He had managed to craft a loose ceasefire with Opposition leaders on Wednesday to ensure cooperation on matters concerning reforms and the wellbeing of the rakyat, a crucial positive for him leading to a vote of confidence in Parliament next month.

Ismail Sabri’s announcement today will answer one of the most interesting questions about the line-up — who will fill the deputy PM’s post, which did not exist in the previous Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration until a month ago.

It is understood that Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, the party of former PM Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin, has demanded the post to mark its seniority in the new coalition.

The new Cabinet line-up will indicate the direction of the new administration that is viewed as the return of Umno to government after its withdrawal of support led to the fall of the last administration under Muhyiddin.

Analysts said the new Cabinet would be seen as an improvement if it is reduced in size compared to the PN administration’s 70 members.

“The new Cabinet should not only be moderate in terms of size, but must have the right combination,” said Prof Wong Chin Huat of the Jeffrey Sachs Centre for Sustainable Development.

“This would determine how far the administration can be sustained with a thin majority. A wrong combination of names will cause more infighting.”

“The size matters, but the right combination is no less important than the pace. A wrong combination will cause more infighting.

Wong said Ismail Sabri is not leading the new government from a position of great strength, which complicates matters.

“He is torn by all demands from coalition members, be it from his own party Umno, Bersatu and Gabungan Parti Sarawak to stick into power.

“Unlikely, such a Cabinet with bad blood can work well as a team. Ismail Sabri should settle for the minimum, making sure that no deadwood ministers obstruct implementation of policies while appointing some stars at key positions,” said Wong.

Ismail Sabri had invited Pakatan Harapan leaders to a meeting at his office on Wednesday.

He had previously offered the Opposition bloc to take part in the National Recovery Council and the Special Committee on Tackling Covid-19 to lead the nation away from the health crisis.

At the end of the meeting, the Opposition bloc agreed to work hand-in-hand to fight Covid-19, that both sides respect the rule of law, and allow the check and balance processes in the Parliament to continue.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah had expressed a wish that a stable government be formed following the collapse of the PN government.

University of Malaya economist Prof Datuk Dr Rajah Rasiah said the Cabinet should be a more manageable size between 30 and 45 ministers.

“The PN government had too large a Cabinet that not only acted as a drain on public finances, but also obviated the appropriation of complementarities associated with related services.”

The previous Cabinet line-up had 70 ministers and deputies under 32 portfolios, which is seen as a way to cultivate support from various parties under a razor-thin majority in Parliament.