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PETALING JAYA - With all eyes on who will make it into Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's Cabinet, the business sector and moderation advocates are urging for quality over political loyalty.
Malay Businessmen and Industrialists Association of Malaysia (Perdasama) vice-president Datuk Sohaimi Shahadan said the new Cabinet line-up must include those with enough experience and expertise in their respective ministries.
"They should not be appointed based on political appointment or connection, networking, or to pay back any form of political assistance.
"The individual must be highly educated, experienced, and understands his job scope to strengthen the current government," he said.
He proposed that the Cabinet should be a mix of old and new leaders from various backgrounds, as well as professionals who could be appointed as senators to become a Cabinet minister.
"We have experienced ministers from the previous government who did not carry any weight, could not perform their duties well and incapable of executing government objectives.
"A minister must be able to connect with those on the ground. For instance, we have many young business people who are doing everything online creatively. We want someone who is capable of connecting with them," he said.
He urged the government to conduct a holistic review on the composition of the ministries as some could be merged or separated.
"Some ministries have too many agencies and departments under them while others have so few. The government should properly study and come up with a better structure," he said.
Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MAICCI) president Datuk N. Gobalakrishnan said ministerial positions should be given to those who are most qualified even if it means choosing an ordinary party member rather than a president or chairman.
"We would rather the posts be given not based on loyalty or who has the higher post in a party, instead to those who are most qualified even if they are just ordinary members," he said.
The new government must also look into creating a more business-friendly environment for domestic direct investment (DDI), which has been sidelined in the previous administration's focus to spur foreign direct investment (FDI), said Gobalakrishnan.
"There is a one-stop centre to give perks such as tax exemption and customs clearance under one roof to foreign investors, but there is no such facility for DDI.
"The government must focus on levelling the playing field for DDI so that the country stops losing local investments that are flowing outside as FDI to countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia," he said.
Gobalakrishnan also expressed hope for a special allocation of RM500 million (S$166 million) yearly to aid Indian businesses in moving forward.
He said they were put in the same basket as non-bumiputra businesses which caused stiff competition and Indian businesses to be sidelined from securing funds.
"When we are placed in a non-bumiputra basket, fundamentally, or predominantly, other people tend to get the funds rather than Indian businesses," he said.
Meanwhile, moderation advocates said the main focus for the Cabinet ministers, when appointed, should be to get the economy back on track and to promote unity among a divided nation.
Anas Zubedy said boosting a dampened economy and bolstering unity among Malaysians would be the two "key concern areas" for the new Cabinet.
"The ministers must be individuals who not only can reconcile people between the races but also who can bring the Malays back together," he said.
He said the Cabinet should be a mix of experienced veterans and young blood, depending on their past records.
"The Umno ministers who did a good job in the past should be brought back. It is about getting things done," he said, adding that it must not be someone who currently has a court case.
"We must take the best talent from everywhere and I believe this was the best option for our country when the idea of the unity government was proposed," he said.
Mohamed Tawfik Ismail, the son of former deputy prime minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, said education reforms and national unity would be some of the priority areas the new Cabinet must look at.
He said any potential minister must be financially independent and preferably be from a profession.
"This is so that this person will not only be less attracted to bribes but can resign on principle and go back to his or her profession," he said.
He added that ministers must also be transparent in their family's involvement in business.