The first casualty of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Cabinet expansion yesterday, adding three Ministers and three Deputy Ministers to an already bloated Cabinet and government, is Najib’s Government Transformation programme and “people’s first, performance now” policy.
If other parliamentary democracies can have leaner and smarter Cabinets, like United Kingdom (22 Ministers), Australia (19 Ministers) and India (24 Ministers) – including the Prime Minister – why must Malaysia continue to have one of the most bloated Cabinets in the world?
We also have the dubious distinction of having the most number of Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department, increasing from eight to ten with the appointments of MCA Deputy President Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong and Gerakan President Datuk Mah Siew Keong yesterday – although Najib is still at a loss as to what portfolios to give them.
Even now, after more than a year’s appointment after the 13th General Elections in May last year, there is confusion galore as to what the eight Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department are really doing and in charge of in the Najib administration.
With the addition of Wee and Mah to the present battalion of eight Ministers in the PM’s Department, there is going to be even more confusion galore as to what are their respective responsibilities, functions and roles if any.
Wee and Mah will get a chair, table, office, car, staff and other Ministerial perks but they will have no ministries or portfolios to take charge!
In fact, they are no different from Ministers without portfolios.
Since Malaysia can blaze the path to have the most number of Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department, may be Malaysia can also pioneer a new Cabinet designation – Minister for Sinecures (from Latin sine = “without” and cura = “care”), i.e. Ministers without responsibility, role or work.
But if Najib is serious about Government Transformation Programme with the “People First, Performance Now” policy which he launched on becoming the sixth Prime Minister in 2009 as the basis for the transformation of Malaysia, he should embrace the “minimum government, maximum governance” principle by slashing his bloated jumbo-size Cabinet to about 20 Ministers.
Najib should take a leaf from the Australian example where until 1956 all Ministers were members of the Cabinet.
The growth of the ministry in the 1940s and 1950s made this increasingly impractical, and in 1956 Liberal Prime Minister Robert Menzies created a two-tier ministry, with only senior ministers holding Cabinet rank.
This practice has been continued by all governments since, except the Whitlam Government.
Since the introduction of the two-tier ministry, meetings of Cabinet are attended by members only, although other ministers may attend if an area of their portfolio is on the agenda.
At present, Australia has a 19-member Cabinet (with the Prime Minister), 11 Junior Ministers and 12 Parliamentary Secretaries.
Is Najib serious about a Government Transformation Programme and implement a downsizing of the present bloated Cabinet by introducing a two-tier Ministry system of Cabinet and non-Cabinet junior Ministers before the next 28-day budget parliamentary meeting from Oct. 7 to Nov. 27?