I am a technocrat, not a politician - Amir Hamzah

He said that his main role now is to help the prime minister put Malaysia in a better position going forward.

22 Feb 2024 07:10pm
Amir Hamzah. Bernama FILE PIX
Amir Hamzah. Bernama FILE PIX

PUTRAJAYA - Datuk Seri Amir Hamzah Azizan, who helmed the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) before being appointed Finance Minister II in December 2023 following a Cabinet reshuffle, sees himself more of a technocrat than a politician.

The former corporate man stressed that after efforts made by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, such as the introduction of the Madani Economy Framework and the rolling out of a series of policies to lure more foreign and domestic direct investments, his main role now is to help the prime minister put Malaysia in a better position going forward.

"I am here to help him (Anwar) work on a lot of things that a government has to do, (such as) taking the load off his day-to-day duties and following through on everything so that he can spend more time on policy matters and provide leadership to other ministries,” he told Bernama recently in his maiden media interview since taking office last year.

Two months into his role in one of the most important ministries in the country, Amir Hamzah observed that it has been an interesting transition to a government role after spending more than two decades in the corporate world.

Amir Hamzah, 57, is the son of the late Tun Azizan Zainul Abidin, the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of state-owned energy giant Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) between 1988 and 1995.

Asked about his appointment, he revealed that he was approached to take on the role several months ago before the announcement was made.

"I had not said yes for a while because this was a big decision. This is a very public role, and in the end, I am not a politician; I am a technocrat, and I know what I am good at and I know what I can contribute.

"But I do not compromise about reminding people that I am not a politician. I am not fighting for any seat because it is not in the family DNA... most people know that my father was in the civil service," he said.

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Amir Hamzah's father, Azizan, has an illustrious career in the public service. He joined the Education Ministry in 1960 before becoming senior private secretary to the second, third, and fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia. He retired as the secretary-general of the Home Affairs Ministry in 1988 and joined Petronas as its president and CEO thereafter.

No honeymoon period

Asked about his adaptation to his new role, the Finance Minister II shared that there was no honeymoon period for the position.

"It has been an interesting transition. As you know, I have been a busy corporate man for a very long time before transitioning into a government role. It has been two months (but) this is not a honeymoon period,” he said.

He reiterated that he will do his best to help the Prime Minister steer Malaysia towards a better future and does not discount the possibility of making unpopular decisions for the sake of the country.

"I think the value of a technocrat is the ability to say and do what is right for the country... sometimes it could involve some difficult decisions, but if the decision is unpopular but necessary, then kita kena buat lah, whether you like it or not, because you must think of what is important for the long-term benefits of the country.

"If nobody wants to make those decisions, then our children and grandchildren have to pay the price for it, and I don't think we should compromise their future for our needs today," he added.

No political ambition?

Asked if he would run for a parliamentary seat in the future, Amir Hamzah jested: "No lah, I am old already, I am 57 now, but let's see how long I am here dan kalau ada rezeki, adalah, kalau tak ada rezeki, tak apa lah."

On his social media engagement, he admitted that he is not an active person on the Internet platforms at the moment but does not mind updating on ministerial developments in the future.

"I don't mind using social media platforms to update the government's announcements or what we are doing in the MoF.

"However, I still like to maintain some privacy (for myself) as I was brought in to help the government based on my experiences working in the corporates," he said.

Amir Hamzah was appointed as Finance Minister II following a Cabinet reshuffle on Dec 12, 2023.

He is the second technocrat in the MoF to have a corporate background, following in the footsteps of former finance minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz, who had served as the group CEO and executive director of CIMB Group Holdings Bhd from Feb 27, 2015 to March 9, 2020.

Amir Hamzah joined the EPF - the country's largest pension fund in terms of asset management - as CEO in March 2021. Before that, he was the president and CEO of Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) from April 2019 to February 2021 and held several senior management portfolios throughout his career in the corporate world.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in management (majoring in finance and economics) from Syracuse University, New York, and also attended the Stanford Executive Programme at Stanford University and the Corporate Finance Evening Programme at the London Business School. - BERNAMA