Recycling the same old incompetent bloated cabinet

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The fact that Ismail has recycled 80% of Muhyiddin’s Cabinet members suggests that he has chosen to align with his former boss’ party Bersatu, instead of his own party UMNO.

Ismail Sabri has taken “new ketchup in old bottle” to a new level. People who prematurely praised the newly installed prime minister a day earlier for his effort to reach out to the Opposition have started kicking themselves. Despite the Opposition’s promise not to vote against him in Parliament, it appears the “turtle egg” man was too coward and lazy to think out of the box.

His Cabinet unveiled today (August 27) immediately attracted criticism for obvious reason. First, it’s the same bloated 70 ministers and deputy ministries (including the prime minister) copied from his predecessor, Muhyiddin. In fact, if “Bintulu Mafia” Tiong King Sing and Taliban Hadi Awang were to be appointed as Special Envoy to China and Afghanistan respectively later, it will mirror Muhyiddin’s Cabinet size.

Second, more than 80% (26 out of 31) of the same old clueless and incompetent ministers who had served during Muhyiddin regime have been retained. Heck, 16 of them are going back to their same portfolio. Ten of them have been given “cosmetic update” with portfolios swapping. Only five new faces were introduced to the Cabinet of 32 ministers (including the prime minister).

Third, the structure of the Cabinet is exactly the same as Muhyiddin’s – four Senior Ministers and without a deputy prime minister to prevent PM Sabri’s position from being challenged. Even though some extremely useless ministers have been axed, such as Khairuddin Razali, Redzuan Yusoff and Zulkifli Al-Bakri, there are still tons of clowns in Ismail Sabri’s Cabinet.

For example, the highly incompetent Radzi Jidin will remain not only as education minister, but also as Senior Minister. Not only students are still waiting for the 150,000 laptops promised almost a year ago during the Budget 2021, at least a generation of students is lost and even till now, there are still uncertainties whether they would be able to go back to school this year.

Exactly why do taxpayers have to waste more money on “Doraemon” Rina Harun, the women and family minister who didn’t care about the welfare of women because she was too busy exercising and turning her Minister’s office into a fashion show to flaunt her weight loss? This is the woman who took the world by storm when she advised all women to talk and giggle like Doraemon to please their spouse.

The only consolation is the recognition of Khairy Jamaluddin’s performance, leading to his appointment as the new Health Minister. He will swap his previous portfolio – Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry – with former health minister Adham Baba, whose comical stunts had stunned the world’s top scientists when he told people to “drink warm water to kill Covid-19”.

Still, why must an empty vessel like Adham Baba continue to be paid for doing nothing but create more nuisance as science, technology and innovation minister? If he could not even use science and data to explain Covid cases or handle a simple task like vaccinating people, what are the chances that he could suddenly lead the country in inventing some innovative products based on science and technology?

It’s also perplexing why former communications and multimedia minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, is being appointed as foreign affairs minister. This man had been sleeping on the job for the entire 17 months of Muhyiddin administration. What are the chances that he could handle foreign governments when he could not even communicate effectively and efficiently with local Malaysians?

It was surprising that the Agong (King) approved PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan as one of the ministers in Sabri’s Cabinet. Hasn’t the monarch received enough insults from this man after all the lies in Parliament about the revocation of emergency ordinances last month? Perhaps the King had forgotten how Muhyiddin and Takiyuddin committed treason – usurping the royal powers.

The biggest problems with the previous Muhyiddin government were the mishandling of Coronavirus pandemic and mismanagement of the economy. Perhaps the new prime minister thought the only focus is to get Khairy to do all the heavy lifting – vaccinate people to achieve herd immunity and everything, including the economy, will automatically recover.

However, it’s not rocket science that Delta and other variants that are wrecking havoc around the world will have great impact on the economy. Malaysia is the only country that constantly hits record daily Covid infections despite higher vaccination rate. Was it not Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah, who said daily cases will fall once 40% vaccination is achieved?

The three main ministries involved directly in the economy – finance ministry, international trade and industry ministry, and economy ministry are seeing the same incompetent men back to their old jobs. So, what can the same old Tengku Zafrul, Azmin Ali and Mustapa Mohamed do that they hadn’t done in 17 months to boost the country’s economy?

Last year, under Perikatan Nasional, unemployment rate skyrocketed to 4.8%, foreign direct investments (FDI) dropped by 68%, some 32,000 small-and-medium-businesses closed down, Fitch Ratings’ downgraded Malaysia’s credit rating from A- to BBB+ and economy – GDP – plunged by 5.6% – the worst contraction since the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis.

This year (as of June 2021), 30% of shops at shopping malls had closed down and 300,000 workers in retail industries nationwide had lost their jobs over the past 16 months due to failure of the government in containing the pandemic. SME Association of Malaysia also warned that at least 50,000 more small-and-medium-enterprises (SMEs), especially in retail and food and beverages, may be out of business.

In early July, former Minister of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar admitted that up to 580,000 businesses – representing 49 % of the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector – are at risk of closing down by October. Malaysia’s MSME sector accounts for close to 40% of the country’s GDP.

IBM, Hyundai, Shell, T Systems, Citibank and HSBC are just some of the companies that had either retrenched or relocated to neighbouring countries due to the government’s incompetence and uncertainty over its policies. Heck, even chambers of commerce of German, Japan and the Netherlands had written to express their displeasure over Muhyiddin government’s half-baked SOPs.

On the day Muhyiddin reluctantly resigned (August 16), Fitch Solutions warned of a stagnant economy for the rest of 2021 after revising Malaysia gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast to 0% from 4.9%. Fitch also highlighted that Malaysia’s total government debt has already exceeded its self-imposed debt limit of 60% of GDP (64.6% of GDP at the end of the first quarter of 2021).

By recycling the same deadwood – Tengku Zafrul, Azmin Ali and Mustapa Mohamed – it seems PM Ismail Sabri is eager to see the already ailing economy further deteriorate. Zafrul can continue to chant like a broken record that the economy is on the right track. Azmin can also lie that hundreds of foreign investment projects worth hundreds of billions have been secured.

Likewise, Mustapa can make self-fulfilling prophecies that people can look forward to a strong economic recovery, new economic measures will help local industries, the 12th Malaysian Plan will determine the direction of the economy, Malaysia is on the correct trajectory, and whatnot. At the end of the day, it’s all about foreign and local investors’ confidence.

Exactly why should investors believe that the new government of Ismail Sabri is any different when more than 80% of the same clueless, incompetent and lazy ministers are back running the show, not to mention the same “political instability” inherited from Mahiaddin alias Muhyiddin? Does the new prime minister really think investors are stupid?

While the consensus agreed upon by Ismail Sabri and Opposition Pakatan Harapan has managed to neutralize UMNO president Zahid Hamidi and Azmin Ali, at least for now, the prime minister has refused to take any bold and courageous steps to establish his own legacy. The Cabinet itself has spoken that “turtle egg” Sabri is just a follower – even a puppet – not a leader.

The first draft copy of the Cabinet, which was deliberately leaked, had seen fierce retaliation from Azmin Ali, who demanded to be crowned as Deputy PM, failing which he will withdraw support for the razor-thin majority government. However, the worst part was that the draft Cabinet was dominated by Zahid and Najib’s men, making two-thirds majority of the UMNO ministers.

After the Sabri-Opposition meeting, there was a 180-degree reversal. With the exception of Noh Omar (as a new entrepreneur and cooperatives minister) and Noraini (retained as higher education minister), the rest of UMNO ministers (Hishammuddin Hussein, Halimah, Khairy, Adham, Annuar Musa, Reezal Merican, Mahdzir Khalid, Shahidan Kassim) are aligned to Sabri.

Suddenly, two-thirds majority of UMNO ministers are pro-Ismail Sabri, hence eliminating Zahid and Najib’s influence in the government. Even Azalina Othman, who had prematurely resigned as Deputy Speaker, was misled into believing she would be a minister. Noraini, who betrayed Sabri by resigning from Muhyidin administration, had to be included because she’s the UMNO women chief.

The fact that PM Sabri has recycled 80% of Muhyiddin’s Cabinet members suggests that he has chosen to align with his former boss’ party Bersatu, instead of his own party UMNO. To avoid offending Muhyiddin, who has given his blessing to Azmin to demand the Deputy PM, the lame-duck PM had to give all the strategic ministries to Bersatu – Finance, MITI, Education, Home and Economy.

To create a false impression that UMNO is dominating the government, the party was given more ministries than previously. Still, both UMNO and Bersatu get an equal 10 ministries. During Muhyiddin regime, Bersatu received 12 ministries (including strategic portfolios) while UMNO was given nine. So, why UMNO gets the same number of ministries, but without the vital and strategic ministries now, unlike then-PM Muhyiddin?

If one were to look from the angle when Ismail Sabri had gone rogue and stood behind Bersatu instead of his own party, the current composition of ministers means the current government is actually Perikatan Nasional 2.0 government, not UMNO-led Barisan Nasional government. Minus Muhyiddin, Sabri administration resembles exactly like the now-collapsed Perikatan Nasional administration.

Choosing between UMNO Zahid’s 15 MPs and Muhyiddin’s 100 MPs, the choice wasn’t hard for “turtle egg” Sabri. The new prime minister’s only goal is to maintain his government for as long as Muhyiddin allows him. When Muhyiddin tells him to jump, he can only ask how high. He could justify not to appoint Azmin as Deputy PM by replicating 80% of Muhyiddin’s previous Cabinet.

But when the time comes, puppet master Muhyiddin will give the order to the weak and incompetent Ismail Sabri, who will gladly promote Azmin or Hamzah or anyone as Deputy PM. Like it or not, without being in control of UMNO, PM Sabri is powerless and is nothing but another an errand boy of Muhyiddin.

Shahidan is promoted as a minister merely to become Sabri’s attack dog. Mahdzir Khalid, meanwhile, is appointed rural development minister as “runner” for Ismail Sabri. – Finance Twitter