5:11pm 05/02/2023
A pecking order in policy
By:Dr. Rais Hussin

A lively debate has sprung up on both sides of the political aisle around the appointment of Nurul Izzah as her father’s, that is, the PM’s, economic advisor.

On one side, opposition leaders including former prime ministers have criticized the appointment as blatant nepotism, illustrating the hypocrisy between good governance and elite exceptionalism.

The soap-box commentators’ views range from cautious reprimand to indignant outrage.

Given that this is an opinion piece, I must state mine up front which is that I find this latter posturing to be ridiculously laughable, especially noting the shaky standing of the pundits proclaiming such “shocked disapproval.”

In the PM’s camp there is the defense that all capable hands are welcome in the heavy work to rebuild a compromised nation, wreaked havoc upon by corruption and mismanagement for more than a decade; while at the same time acknowledging that the look is not ideal, and appears to carry on a worrisome habit of Malaysian Prime Ministers treating the top chair in the land as an inherited family heirloom.

Again, my stated opinion here is that there is no need to prevaricate around a full-throated defense of the PM’s employment of the full range of his arsenal to battle the multiple-front skirmishes for Malaysia’s political, social and economic recovery.

I call it a pecking order in policy. The administration — and its titular head — needs to define the hierarchy of tasks ahead in order to face the many challenges of the moment.

I’ve summarized this in a 7-point priority “Innovation Agenda”:

1. Promoting social unity across community, creed, and class;

2. Good governance, radical transparency and structural reform of public institutional integrity;

3. Tackling spiraling inflation for basic goods and services;

4. Food security for critical commodities where we are overly dependent on imports;

5. Digital transformation through curation of leapfrog technologies for local use and as a regional;

6. Adoption of sunrise clean-tech industries such as net zero carbon, EV’s, and sustainable power which will dominate the next growth cycle; and

7. Regenerating high quality inbound FDI in key sectors rather than exporting Malaysian capital abroad for outbound investments.

Any effective tool that can serve its purpose in useful play towards achievement of this Agenda must be fully employed, in my view.

Let Nurul Izzah’s merit be earned through efficacy rather than hobble her out the gate simply on prejudice. The game is on, after all, and every able-bodied participant is welcome to join team Malaysia.

As far as whether the top coach in the land is justified in his discretion to choose his own squad, if his intent is to promote the nation’s cause more than his daughter’s career, then I for one would welcome a play for the silverware.

Remember, the last couple of managers didn’t even finish out the season; it’s fair to surmise they would not have begrudged themselves the talent if they had it in their means to score in a few notches on the right side of the ledger.

After all Winston Churchill once said “you will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

(Rais Hussin is the President and Chief Executive Officer of EMIR Research, a think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.)


Anwar Ibrahim
Dr Rais Hussin
Nurul Izzah
Emir Research


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