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Cabinet ministers: How many should Anwar choose? 

Anwar must avoid a bloated, parasitic cabinet at all costs; he must choose only the best


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It is time to give Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim the confidence and space needed to run the country.

The wellbeing of the people and the economy are the two paramount issues that he has to tackle right now.

To do this, the leaders in the Pakatan Harapan coalition should not issue demand. Instead, they should render him their fullest support and political leeway to achieve these two goals.

Stop the bickering over ministerial positions, which in the end will make Anwar’s efforts to solve the country’s problems much more difficult and could, in the end, result in failure.

Do not let selfish greed hamper the aspirations of the people. Don’t do it; the people will hate and spite you. Remember, MPs are elected to serve the people and not themselves.

Now, PH should bear in mind the population of Malaysia is only 33 million, and the optimal cabinet size should be capped at 24 to 30 cabinet ministers. Former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss’s government had 23 cabinet ministers; Rishi Sunak has 30 ministers in a population of 68 million.

Supposing we have 30 cabinet ministers – it will not be the final count. If we use the British convention to calculate the number of ministers, these 30 ministers could balloon to over a hundred ministers. In Malaysia, these junior ministers are called by different names, and they are not called ministers as in Britain.

Here’s why?

According to the Institute of Government in the UK, in Britain:

… the legal maximum number of paid ministers is 109, including the prime minister, as set out in the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975. However, the government can appoint more ministers if they remain unpaid. The House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 caps the number of ministers that can sit in the House of Commons at one time at 95.

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The most senior ministers are called secretaries of state (cabinet ministers).

Beneath secretaries of state are two ranks of junior ministers: ministers of state and parliamentary under secretaries. While ministers of state are politically senior to parliamentary under secretaries, they are constitutionally similar and the responsibilities of both are delegated from the secretary of state.

Most junior ministers are given a title to signal both their policy responsibility in a department and the government’s policy priorities – such as the minister of state for crime and policing in the Home Office and the parliamentary under secretary of state for science, research and innovation in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Whips are also ministerial positions but serve different functions to senior and junior ministers. Parliamentary private secretaries are unpaid and act as departmental assistants to ministers, being the eyes and ears of the minister in parliament and communicating with the backbenches. They are required to vote with the government but are not ministers.

Former Prime Minister Truss had 23 cabinet ministers (most senior MPs), eight others also attending cabinet meetings, and 90 junior ministers and whips. In total, Truss had 121 ministers in her government, but 12 ministers had to remain unpaid to satisfy the legal limit of 109.

In Malaysia, all these junior secretaries, parliamentary secretaries and so forth are not called ministers, and they are not included in the total of the number of ministers. But they actually play a critical role in whatever ministries they are in.

So if Anwar picks 30, there will be more than 30, if we follow the British convention. Similarly, Truss presented only 23 cabinet ministers, not 121 ministers to the public.

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Finally, Mahiaddin Yasin’s cabinet of 70 members was not a functioning cabinet but a patronage cabinet, to which ministers were apparently chosen mostly based on friendship and connections and not for their skillset. This is what we can safely call a parasitic cabinet.

This, Anwar should and must avoid at all costs. He must choose only the best.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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