Reforms Needed To Ensure Future Prime Ministers Do Not Hold Finance Portfolio As Well, Says Daim

KUALA LUMPUR: Reforms are necessary to ensure the prime minister does not hold the finance minister’s portfolio as well in the future to avoid a conflict of interest and a repeat of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) multi-billion ringgit financial scandal.

The move by Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad not to hold the finance portfolio and give it to Lim Guan Eng under the Pakatan Harapan government has gone down well with the people, Former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin said.

“This is because it would allow for checks and balances and prevent an abuse of the country’s economic and financial management,” he said.

“That is why we need reforms to this end,” he said when asked on the need for a clear separation of powers of the prime minister and finance minister during an interview here Sunday with Bernama News Channel and Bernama Economic Service.

“If any future leader tries to change this, I think the rakyat (people) would object,” said Daim, who served as Finance Minister between 1984 and 1991 under then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir.

When a prime minister also becomes the finance minister, “there is no check and balance, he does as he likes and nobody is going to challenge him,” he said in obvious reference to the previous administration under Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Najib was both Prime Minister and Finance Minister.

“That is why we say, separate this post (as) it is a very important post, so there is no conflict of interest,” said Daim, who is also Chairman of the Council of Eminent Persons.

He said that most developed and developing countries do not have this (prime minister holding the finance portfolio), “it’s very, very rare, Malaysia is the exception, perhaps with one or two other countries.”

Dr Mahathir had said that the roles of prime minister and finance minister should be separated to avoid a repeat of the 1MDB financial scandal.

Asked how the government could ensure that future leaders adhere to separating the prime minister and finance portfolios, Daim said: “We must have a strong cabinet that is able to criticise the minister of finance because if he is the PM cum finance minister, nobody is going to do that (criticise him).

“That is what happened under the previous administration, leading to the 1MDB financial scandal, and that’s only one, there are more mini 1MDBs and some as big as 1MDB,” he said.

— Bernama


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