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Malaysia to have 4 coordinating ministers, no deputy PM in new Cabinet

This article is more than 12 months old

PM Muhyiddin's new Cabinet also sees for the first time a non-politician as Finance Minister

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia will not have a deputy prime minster.

Instead, under the new Cabinet line-up announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday, there will be four coordinating ministers.

The new senior minister portfolios oversee the economy, security, infrastructure development and education.

They were split among his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia party, Umno and those supportive of his new coalition, Reuters reported.

"With these senior ministers, there is no need for the time being for a deputy prime minister to be appointed," Mr Muhyiddin said at a news conference.

The four senior ministers include former Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) deputy president Azmin Ali, who was seen as an important figure behind the government change. He will oversee the international trade and industry portfolio, Reuters reported.

"The last 21 months have shown we don't really need a deputy prime minister," political risk consultancy Bower Group Asia's director Adib Zalkapli told The Straits Times, referring to how former deputy prime minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was merely a placeholder, whose husband, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, was meant to take the top job.

"The Prime Minister now is not under pressure to set his resignation date. This stabilises the coalition to make sure it will last until at least the next general election."

It also helps Mr Muhyiddin as he does not have to face pressure from his coalition partners to nominate one of their own for the position.

Mr Muhyiddin's Bersatu and Umno dominate the Cabinet line-up with nine ministers each. Sarawak's ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak and the Islamist party, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, have four and three members respectively with several other posts spread out among smaller parties.

Mr Muhyiddin said his new ministers were selected to realise his vision of a competent, people-driven Cabinet, reported the Malay Mail.

"I will also make sure my Cabinet is a functional Cabinet while being able to deliver services which are more focused. In short, I want a Cabinet that will truly be able to give their best service to the people - a Cabinet that delivers," he said in a speech announcing the line-up.

Mr Muhyiddin also made a path-breaking move.

The appointment of CIMB Group chief executive Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz is the first time a non-politician has been made Finance Minister.

Mr Muhyiddin said the decision to name Mr Zafrul, who has led CIMB since 2015, was part of the goal of creating his "Cabinet that delivers".

CIMB announced Mr Zafrul's resignation from all positions with the bank with immediate effect. He will be appointed a senator, allowing him to take a Cabinet post.

"Perhaps the government wants to ride on his relationship with foreign fund managers and bankers - they are important stakeholders in attracting investments into the country," Mr Zalkapli told Reuters.

Mr Muhyiddin's new Perikatan Nasional, or National Alliance coalition, is expected to steer policies in favour of the country's ethnic Malay majority, but the government's immediate task will be to protect the export-focused economy from the impact of the coronavirus.