Tuesday, May 7, 2013

GE13: Fitting a perfect blend into the Cabinet

THE first task for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is to form the Cabinet. And we can expect the process to be different this time.

Previously, the Cabinet had to include the right blend of representation from the various component parties of Barisan Nasional.

But with the poor performance of some component parties in the 13th general election, the choices, based on party needs, are diminished. And the MCA, although it won seven parliamentary seats, has declared that it will not be part of the Government at the executive level.

It's a whole new ball game, and Najib has to look at his options carefully.

Politics aside, the Prime Minister has a major job on his hands in transforming Malaysia into a fully developed country by the year 2020, a mere seven years away.

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The transformation agenda is top priority and the many changes that the PM has put in place over the past four years of his leadership will start to bear fruit in this new term of office.

Which is why he needs a “lean and mean” team to work alongside him.

The previous Cabinet comprised 28 ministers. Although some quarters felt the size was too big, that Cabinet was actually smaller than that of his predecessor, which comprised 32 minis- ters.

Ideally, Najib should be able to start on a totally clean slate, but in reality he would have to consider, firstly, who among his former Cabinet members would be retained.

In this context, bearing in mind the results of the election, it would do well for him to drop those deemed unsuitable for the difficult tasks and challenges ahead.

Then he has to find the right blend of territorial/state representation and also gender considerations.

Certainly the representation from Sabah and Sarawak will be a major factor as these two states played a pivotal role in delivering the votes to Barisan.

But what do the people want?

As can be seen by the feedback generated by our readers when we posed this question to them, a smaller Cabinet will allow for better governance.

With a smaller team, the members can be held accountable and they would be more prudent and responsive to the people's needs.

Najib might also want to consider including non-political members, often referred to as technocrats, in his Cabinet.

There is much wisdom in taking this path as the work of governing the country essentially is about the smooth running of the administration to ensure policies are properly implemented.

Known performers in the private sector, for example, are excellent. They must know they risk getting booted out should they fail to deliver results.

Najib has already introduced, through Pemandu, for example, the key performance indexes for his ministers. But this can be taken to the next level with better drivers.

Although the Cabinet comprises only ministers, there is probably too much baggage in having too many deputy ministers. In the last Cabinet, there were 40 of them.

Deputies, by right, are there to assist the ministers. But in reality, they are probably there because of political considerations.

Bearing in mind that we have such a big civil service, with its core team of highly trained top civil servants, to assist the Cabinet, it may not be necessary to have too many deputies.

We must also understand that with only 133 Barisan MPs to select from, it would be better not to co-opt too many of them into the executive branch of government.

They can continue to play a meaningful role as backbenchers alongside the MPs from the Opposition, to have a healthy check and balance system on the actions of the executive.

Ultimately, it is still the sole prerogative of Najib to name his team.

With the election out of the way, we hope he will select a good team to help him run the government. He needs all the help he can get to strengthen public support for his new administration.

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