PETALING JAYA: An economist has called on Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to empower his two deputy finance ministers with greater responsibilities in the planning and execution of economic policies for the country.
Barjoyai Bardai said Anwar, who is also the finance minister, should enlist the help of Steven Sim and Ahmad Maslan for the critical task of setting in motion his Madani economy framework so that the national economy can be put on stronger footing quickly.
“(Presently,) each of the deputies seems to have been given a particular portfolio that is separate from Anwar,” Barjoyai told FMT.
However, he said, Anwar could make better use of his deputies by entrusting to them the duty to follow up on the economic plans and goals already identified in his administration’s economic blueprint announced on July 27.
Economist Carmelo Ferlito, however, suggested that the prime minister consider appointing a second finance minister for the purpose.
Ferlito said there was a need for someone to shoulder some of Anwar’s responsibilities under the framework given its ambitious long-term goals for Malaysia.
“Anwar can help shape the vision of the finance ministry, but he may be too busy to overview the implementation or to realise the vision,” said Ferlito, who is chief executive of the Center for Market Education.
“The second finance minister should be a strong leader who can implement Anwar’s policies that are centred on institutional reforms.”
He said the prime minister should consider Titiwangsa MP Johari Ghani who has experience in the role.
However, Barjoyai warned that Anwar may not be keen given his inclination to micromanage government.
Even if appointed, the second finance minister would need to report to Anwar before making statements on the ministry’s plans or policies, Barjoyai said.
Firdausi Suffian of Universiti Teknologi Mara called for coordination between all ministries, especially when it comes to an initiative as complex as the Madani economy plan.
He said he had observed that federal ministries seem to be “working in silos”. Anwar’s role is to break the silos and make sure all public servants across all ministries play their role in carrying out the plan, Firdausi said.
Previous prime ministers who also held the finance portfolio have appointed a second finance minister to assist them.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad set a precedent by appointing Mustapa Mohamed to the role in September 1998, and Jamaluddin Jarjis in November 2002.
Mahathir’s successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, selected Nor Mohamed Yakcop as his second finance minister.
Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah served as Najib Razak’s second finance minister, from April 2009 to June 2016. He was succeeded by Johari until May 2018.