NST Leader: Anwar's gambit

Be sanguine, perplexed, choleric or cynical about the dysfunctional hung Parliament circus, but no Malaysian was indifferent to the five days of bewilderment before Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim claimed his prize as the chosen one.

Surviving years of chicanery, prison purgatory and deserting loyalists, it's ironic that Anwar's old nemesis, the one that did him most harm, had suffered a crushing blow in Langkawi, while the new prime minister basked in glory after leading a triumphant 15th General Election charge.

It's Anwar's world now and we all live in it. Anticipate a groundswell of socio-political and economic transformation by new year.

Financial markets reacted to Anwar's ascendancy like they were partying to the samba. Bursa Malaysia roared to a 10-week high, the key index closing at 1,501 points an hour before Anwar was sworn-in.

The ringgit did merengue to the Anwar effect: appreciating 1.8 per cent to RM4.491 against the greenback. Granted, these standout gains and rebounds, while delightful, is a brusque rush and do not maketh a prime minister. But it reinforces the idea that reviving the economy is a ponderous priority.

First though, cabinet appointments: Anwar has to weigh a delicate balance between placing party stalwarts and tapping top turnaround artists.

He must avoid giving in to the mewling of party warlords for key portfolios, where liability beckons. Then, Anwar should pivot to retabling the 2023 Budget, purging the pre-election spendfest that barely registers with voters with sensible impetus.

The new budget trains on twin objectives of sustainable growth and price stability, the moving target is to cut deficit by half and depressurise inflation and interest rates.

While consolidating past budget excesses, an austerity drive is unnecessary; economic doldrums demand a bit more spending, a shock absorber to dampen inflation.

Moving a measured budget instead of a populist one, Anwar, while realigning the economy, may scrap or reverse dubious expenditure and spending policies. But this he cannot forsake — fulfilling Pakatan Harapan's manifesto promises. Fixing a reasonable completion timeline would be practical.

The previous PH administration treated their victorious 2018 manifesto with sophistry; not "carved in stone" was the indelicate gloss.

This is where the new cabinet and its complement of government mechanism and machinery can tango sensuously.

In weathering economic strife, don't expect financial and equity markets to sway to your policy rhythms, a catchy arrangement may sound grating. Not that Anwar's fledgling administration should salsa to the pulsating sway of the markets either.

In his maiden press conference, Anwar listed his priorities in this order: dignifying Bahasa Malaysia, preserving royal sovereignty and the Malays' special position, good governance and enhancing economic stability. Numbers 1 to 3 are already in good hands.

The economy, on the other hand, demands immediate assiduity. Done right, Anwar's first 100 "honeymoonless" days should drive the country on an economic chug along where the markets want to sing and dance.

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