Nurul Izzah’s appointment – A nepotism act?

02 Feb 2023 10:25am
Anwar, Nurul Izzah.
Anwar, Nurul Izzah.

Political dynasties cannot be escaped from any part of the world.

It has a more extensive outlook and practised in both royals and government affairs by families who have established their political or economic dominance.

It plays an important role and there are so many examples across the world such as the Lee family in Singapore, Marcos family in Philippines, Suharto family in Indonesia and even the Nehru-Gandhi family in India, who have been in powerful positions for decades.

Political dynasties are an extension of nepotism.

In the Malaysian context, the recently appointed Nurul Izzah as the prime minister’s senior economics and finance advisor has caused uproars in the country with various groups, some applauding while others bashing the move made by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Both father and daughter have no relevant finance background but hold crucial positions that could probably cost the country’s economic stability.

Anwar was the Finance Minister for eight years without holding a finance degree while Nurul Izzah studied a degree in electronics and electrical engineering, making both father-daughter hold irrelevant portfolios without rightful qualification background.

However, in Nurul Izzah’s defence, her past experiences as an MP working on poverty, technical and vocational education while her services in the Public Accounts Committee can be leveraged in navigating the economic governance, she said.

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It was reported that Centre for Market Education (CME) CEO Dr Carmelo Ferlito stated the appointment of Nurul Izzah is no fit to the role as she does not possess any relevant knowledge and that “Malaysia has not much time left to solve structural issues and to get ready for the upcoming economic challenge. Bad policies, although guided by good intentions, can ruin a nation”.

In 1996, Finance Minister Anwar was ranked as the world’s top four finance minister and in the same year, Asiamoney named him Finance Minister of the Year.

He was also a consultant to the World Bank in the areas of governance and accountability, but his background was Islamic studies, not finance. How is this possible?

So, Nurul Izzah may not have the relevant educational background but being brought up by a father who was named as one of the world’s best Finance Minister definitely would have influenced her knowledge and understanding of subject matters related to finance.

Nurul Izzah also said she worked on poverty-related matters in her past experience and she could probably have learnt this through her father’s political journey when the latter handled the anti-poverty riot in the 70s, which landed him two years in the detention centre for ISA.

So now Nurul Izzah, holding this newly-minted position under the Ministry of Finance without allowances – is it an added value to Anwar’s government or nepotism?

When Sinardaily contacted political scientist Prof James Chin from the University of Tasmania, he said appointing someone in the advisory position is always preferred to be an expert, but it is not a requirement.

He further explains that political system of appointing someone you are familiar with isn’t something new, nor is it going to fade away.

“In Nurul Izzah’s case, the reason why the issue was blown up was because the appointment was done quietly in January.

“If only Anwar had announced it earlier, the scenario could have been different.

“To build a bridge, of course you need an engineer, but this is politics. Yes, if there is an expertise, it makes things easier for you to understand the issue, but remember it is not a requirement.

“Bottom line is in politics people have to be practical. This matter was unannounced, that is the issue here which makes it look like Anwar has something to hide. It is always better to push things like this upfront. Don’t appoint first and explain later,” he said.

James is a Professor of Asian Studies, an expert on the governance issues in Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore with a track record of 40 years experience in politics and economics.

In a related manner, many countries across the world has appointed their family members to be in advisory positions, what more ministerial roles.

For instance, Malaysia’s neighbour, the Lee family has dominated Singapore’s politics for almost six decades by father-son duo (Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong).

Hsien Loong was known as the “brightest mathematician” who has a Bachelor of Arts degree. To which, later his father (the first Prime Minister of Singapore) persuaded Lee to leave the field and was groomed to take power in politics.

The tale of two political clans - from Indonesia to the Philippines, the Marcos and Suhartos were also grooming their children for political leadership and it was regarded as symbolic of the family’s attempt to consolidate its power, or in other words - nepotism.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.