PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim must quickly arrest the government’s drift by cross correcting and dropping deadwood in the Cabinet, former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.
Khairy said appointing a technically competent second finance minister to drive tough reforms is crucial to this reshuffle.
He noted that Anwar has failed to separate the positions of prime minister and finance minister, something for which he argued tirelessly in opposition.
“(Anwar must stop) focusing on the minutiae of implementation. (He needs to) win the support of the majority Malay community without trying to be more Islamic than PAS.
“In short, Malaysia needs less performative leadership, more substantive performance. If he fails, not only will the applause be muted, but there will be no encore,” he said in an article on Singaporean portal Fulcrum.
The former Umno Youth leader said Anwar came to power riding a wave of expectation for reform, but long-awaited change has been in short supply.
He praised Anwar for his skill in cobbling together an unlikely government – including old foe Umno – and withstanding several attempts to unseat him.
However, he said, Anwar’s charms were beginning to lose their appeal to a public mired in real world problems.
“Notwithstanding greater clarity in economic management through various long-term plans, Malaysians decry a challenging cost-of-living crunch.
“While headline inflation continues to moderate, the ringgit is the worst performing currency in Asia this year after the Japanese yen.
“The stock market remains anaemic, and GDP growth has moderated due to external factors and the slow pace of internal reforms,” he said.
Khairy said while Anwar has inherited a sick economy and had to deal with a global slowdown out of his control, populist moves to win votes, such as maintaining subsidies and cancelling student loans, are not viable.
“The maestro has also lost his orchestra … his Cabinet has largely been lacklustre and one year of underperformance has forced him to admit he needs to shuffle the deck,” he said.
He also noted that Anwar “has spent much of his capital pandering” to Muslim conservatives; backpedalling on promised reforms; weathering the storm from the discharge of deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s 47 corruption charges; and trying to sweep the littoral combat ship scandal under the rug.
Finally, Khairy pointed out that Anwar had not provided equal funding to opposition MPs, despite this being a key demand of his while in opposition.