THE composition of Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s cabinet is now a hot-button issue after the recent appointment of the prime minister.
As it is, a few purported lists of the new cabinet have already been circulated on social media, revealing new faces and uninspiring ones as well.
The lists appeared legit not necessarily because of the proposed names, but the fact that they purportedly carried the letterhead of the government. As a result, Ismail had to come forward to deny their authenticity.
The temperature further rose when “certain sources”, who claimed to be reliable as they are supposedly close to whoever that matters, sprang a new list of ministers.
Some of the people mentioned by these sources had overstayed their welcome in the bloated cabinet of the previous administration, which could consequently dampen the excitement of ordinary Malaysians.
It is expected that the newly appointed prime minister would have a tough time in choosing candidates for his cabinet that would satisfy his comrades-in-arms, given the intense jostling for the plum positions among the partners in the ruling Perikatan Nasional pact.
That said, one hopes that an attempt to build a cabinet that reflects the wants of the PN pact partners, would not result in yet another bloated and ineffective cabinet.
Seemingly tired of the abrupt and frequent change of governments, someone posted in jest on social media a carpenter’s guide on what it takes to construct a good and strong cabinet.
For starters, it says, one would need a straight ruler. A crooked one would eventually cause the cabinet to fall. One would also need fresh wood, not recycled wood, to ensure a long-lasting cabinet.
Finally, dead wood is to be completely shunned if the cabinet’s sustainability is highly valued.
Be that as it may, Ismail Sabri should be guided by what many Malaysians would consider as priorities under the current circumstances when setting up his new cabinet.
Given the urgency of addressing the challenges at hand, there are a few areas of concern that would require his special attention.
The ailing economy, for one thing, obviously needs to be turned around. As an indicator of how grave the situation is, Bank Negara Malaysia has revised growth rate projection of 3% – 4% for the full year of 2021 against an earlier estimate of 6% – 7.5%.
Reviving the economy is also crucial in the effort to turn the wheels of industry again, which in turn would generate income and jobs for the jobless.
The monumental task to resuscitate the economy would require someone – along with his or her team – who is sharp, alert and competent. In short, not mediocre.
In the wake of the raging pandemic, the health of ordinary Malaysians must be protected and taken care of. Whoever takes up the portfolio of health must address the pressing issues of shortage of funds, equipment and personnel in our public healthcare system.
The so-called “lost generation” of schoolchildren who have been deprived by the pandemic and prolonged lockdowns of proper physical teaching instruction deserves the government’s attention and action.
There are new challenges confronting our education system that need to be tackled by the Ministry of Education for the sake of the young generation and the future of our nation.
Online teaching and learning require good and adequate communications infrastructure. The ministry that deals with communications has an important role to play to ensure better and reliable internet connectivity particularly in the rural areas.
Incidentally, given the tight financial situation that the government is in, the government’s plan to move towards a 5G network should be shelved so that other pressing communication needs of the people can be attended to.
The epidemic has also brought about misery and economic insecurity to families and women, particularly single mothers. Government assistance, including counselling and mental healthcare, must be provided to this group of people.
To be sure, a turnaround of their socioeconomic conditions – and not a personal makeover of whoever helms the ministry concerned – is of utmost importance.
The carpenter’s guide to cabinet-making may well prove useful to some extent. – The Malaysian Insight