KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 — The formation of the country’s first-ever Shadow Cabinet will pile added pressure on first-term Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng when he presents Budget 2019, according to analysts.
Lauding the move as a positive development for the country’s governance, they said the alternative Cabinet headed by Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will have an early opportunity to remind the public of their extensive experience in November.
The Shadow Cabinet has said it will present a rival to the federal spending plan that Lim will propose in Parliament on November 2, with one analyst predicting that the alternative will likely be superior to the actual Budget.
“The shadow Budget proposal theoretically should be better than the real Budget since the shadow finance ministers are experienced ministers,” political analyst Azmi Hassan told Malay Mail.
“Even without real financial data, it should not be an excuse to present a lofty Budget proposal, which was usually associated with the previous Opposition Budget proposals prior to GE14.”
Former youth and sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin is tracking the Finance portfolio, aided by Pensiangan MP Arthur Joseph Kurup.
Barisan Nasional has over six decades’ experience governing the country, as it had ruled Malaysia since Independence as the Alliance Party previously.
BN announced the formation of the Shadow Cabinet, which all previous Opposition blocs have refused to do.
After the announcement, Khairy urged the government to fund the Shadow Cabinet like how some countries allocate resources to the alternative Cabinet.
Azmi said that while this would be ideal, he did not expect it to happen.
“While the national debt can be a good excuse not to provide the allocation, we are beyond the RM1 trillion stigma since it had been used previously on so many occasions,” he explained.
One analyst said the government should view the formation of the Shadow Cabinet positively, as it would allow present ministers to tap their alternative counterparts for input.
Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Sivamurugan Pandian also said it could finally allow the Opposition a role in the formulation of laws and policies currently undertaken solely by federal ministers.
PH has professed parliamentary reforms as a priority and could be receptive; it has already made an Opposition lawmaker the chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
“BN was the ruling government for long and that might help to give alternative views via their experience.
“It will result in a more structured Opposition and they can use the Shadow Cabinet to strengthen Opposition roles,” the professor said.
Like Azmi, Sivamurugan said the Shadow Cabinet could use its alternative Budget to demonstrate that it could work in tandem with the government.
Political analyst Datuk Aidit Ghazali said the alternative Cabinet could also be a good opportunity for BN to accelerate the development of younger leaders.
The informal nature of the Shadow Cabinet meant it could be “reshuffled” regularly to give the leaders wider exposure without the upheaval this would cause in actual ministries.
“It does not mean that if there is a change of government, it must necessarily mean that the shadow minister will be the appointed minister,” he said.
He disagreed that the shadow ministers should be compensated for the role, saying they should take their selection as an honour.
“However, allowances for purposes of work related expenses are justified,” he said.
The Shadow Cabinet is derived from the Westminster System that Malaysia adopts for its governance; it serves as a government-in-waiting in the event of a change in power following a general election.
The body tracks government ministries and acts both as the Opposition and watchdog to their official counterparts.
This is the first such Shadow Cabinet in Malaysia as all Opposition pacts up to and including Pakatan Harapan have either refused to form their versions or annouce those they claimed to have formed.