PETALING JAYA: An economist has questioned the list of names drawn up by former DAP MP Ong Kian Ming for the post of second finance minister, saying most of the candidates mooted are either “inappropriate” or “unavailable”.
Ong, a former deputy minister of international trade and industry, had named 15 persons he thought were suited for the role of second finance minister.
The list included former ministers Johari Ghani, Tengku Zafrul Aziz and Lim Guan Eng, as well as current ministers Rafizi Ramli, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, Ahmad Maslan and Steven Sim.
Other names suggested were former Petronas CEO Hassan Marican, Bursa Malaysia chairman Abdul Wahid Omar, former Khazanah Nasional Bhd managing director Azman Mokhtar and former EPF chief Shahril Ridza Ridzuan.
Geoffrey Williams of Malaysia University of Science and Technology said Tengku Zafrul’s tenure as finance minister had been marred by two recessions and an inflationary boom, raising questions about his performance in the role.
Speaking to FMT, he said even Anwar Ibrahim had criticised Tengku Zafrul’s performance prior to becoming prime minister, adding that his time in office had been overshadowed by prolonged lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In terms of policies, nothing particularly remarkable was done during these periods,” he said.
As for Lim, Williams said the DAP leader had done a good job as finance minister during Pakatan Harapan’s first term in power.
He said Lim’s tenure was also marked by the replacement of the goods and services tax with the sales and services tax.
However, he said the Bagan MP was currently “unavailable” due to his ongoing corruption trial on the Penang undersea tunnel project.
Williams also questioned the need for a second finance minister in the first place.
“Anwar already has two deputies,” he said, adding that the prime minister had done a good job so far.
William Ng, president of the Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Malaysia, however, said a second finance minister could help Anwar implement the government’s plans.
“The person should be able to command the respect of the business community, not only through a good grasp of concepts and issues.
“He must also be seen as open to ideas and possibilities and supportive of growth,” he said.
Economist Carmelo Ferlito of the Center for Market Education said any new appointee must not only have the necessary background in economics, accounting and finances, but also possess knowledge of the “economic life on the ground”.
“This is especially important given the issues with the currency and the increasingly competitive environment for investments and trade,” he said.