How to train new ministers

  • Oct 11, 2018
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COMMENT | Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has complained about his ministers. He is disappointed with them. They are not able to keep up with him. They wait for him to make every decision.

The public has the belief that Mahathir makes all the decisions. Some people say that the other ministers are in awe of him. He has been a prime minister for 22 years, and a minister for longer than that. He has seen it all. He knows it all.

Mahathir is 93 years old. He cannot be expected to keep the pace he did when he was last prime minister.

His ministers must step up. They must raise their game.

Some will say that that is easier said than done. Each will only be as good as he or she is. Their ability and experience will determine the quality of their effort.

But for better or worse - until they are removed - each is in charge of a particular ministry.

They have to know exactly what it is that the ministry does. That will be the scope of his or her responsibility. Then they will have to assess how well the ministry carries out its responsibilities. And make suggestions or recommendations for improvement.

The minister cannot, of course, do it alone. He must work with his deputy, his secretary-general and senior civil servants. They would know it all. They have been there for a long time.

But he must look at things with a critical eye. He or she and their deputy and assistants with the aid of the secretary-general and senior civil servants must review things critically.

They must also consider the reforms suggested or recommended by the Council of Eminent Persons and the Institutional Reform Committee. They may also invite recommendations from the public, as the Ministry of Education has done.

They then must come up with a proposal or blueprint for change. That blueprint should have immediate measures for implementation, medium-term measures and longer-term measures.

The minister should take the blueprint to the cabinet for their consideration and approval. The PM will also give his approval.

The minister will have to grow into his job, Some do it better than others. They will have to transform themselves from members of the opposition to members of the government. They wear different shoes now. They will discover that it is easier to criticize than to do.

They may require training. There are experts who can help. Other governments have engaged these experts.

The fact of the matter is that Malaysia is not an easy country to govern. Its many races and many religions do create problems. Perhaps things might have been different if the government had been honest and governed fairly and intelligently.

But our politics and political parties were race-based or religion based. Each party fought for their people or fought to advance or protect their religious beliefs. The Malays, being the majority, dominated the government. The non-Malays were excluded. Now we have a new government which promised to be different. To be more inclusive and multiracial in their approach.

This angers the more extreme elements within the Malay community. It also worries many of the more moderate Malays. They do not want to be left behind.

So the new government will have to meet the expectations for change by all - the expectations of a more inclusive multiracial government of the non-Malays and at the same time, assuage the fears and anxieties of the Malays.

This is probably why the young inexperienced ministers want guidance from the experienced prime minister.

He will need his ministers to raise their game. They need to do their homework. They must be masters of their ministries.

They would do well to follow his daily routine.

It will be tough, but that is what they signed up to do.