April 9 (Bloomberg) — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak replaced a quarter of the Cabinet less than a week after taking office, in a bid to resurrect support for the ruling coalition.
Najib announced 28 ministers today at his office in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, four fewer than his predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Facing the weakest economy in more than a decade, Najib kept the finance portfolio and promoted Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah as his deputy in the ministry, a position known in Malaysia as the second finance minister.
Among those ousted was Syed Hamid Albar, who as home minister oversaw the arrest of a journalist, a blogger and an opposition politician last year under a domestic security law.
Najib’s coalition, in power since Malaysia’s independence in 1957, lost a record number of parliamentary seats at elections last year, and this week lost two of three regional ballots.
“Now that the cabinet list is out so quickly, they can settle down and focus on their work in developing the country and making sure we get over this economic crisis,” said Choo Swee Kee, who manages about $202 million as chief investment officer at TA Investment Management Bhd. in Kuala Lumpur.
Najib, 55, also said he’ll set up an economic advisory council that will report to the prime minister. Najib, who has announced stimulus plans worth 67 billion ringgit ($19 billion) over two years, expects Malaysia’s economy to shrink as much as 1 percent or grow that amount at best this year.
“I am very confident and believe that our efforts to renew the country should start with the renewal of the government, a new cabinet with new responsibilities and a renewal of structures,” Najib said at a press conference.
Muhyiddin Yassin, formerly the international trade and industry minister, was named deputy prime minister and the education minister. Muhyiddin was last month elected deputy leader of the United Malays National Organisation, or UMNO, the largest party in the coalition.
Bernard Dompok, formerly a minister in the prime minister’s department, was named the new minister for plantation industries and commodities, which oversees the palm oil industry. He replaces Peter Chin, who takes charge of a new ministry for energy, green technology and water.
Nor Mohamed Yakcop, who helped design Malaysia’s former currency peg and capital controls in the Asian financial crisis, lost his post as second finance minister. Nor becomes the minister in the prime minister’s department and head of the Economic Planning Unit, a department that devises government development policies.
Others among the eight dropped by Najib from the old cabinet were Azalina Othman Said, the former tourism minister, and Muhammad Muhammad Taib, the former rural and regional development minister who last month lost a party vote to become UMNO’s deputy leader.
Mustapa Mohamed replaced Muhyiddin as international trade and industry minister. Hishammuddin Hussein, Najib’s cousin, moves from education to lead the home affairs ministry, the prime minister said.
–With reporting by Chan Tien Hin in Kuala Lumpur. Editor: Angus Whitley, Tony Jordan
Source : Bloomberg