Malaysia to unveil cabinet on Monday, after new PM named amid turmoil

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s new prime minister will announce his cabinet on Monday, a week after he was appointed amid political turmoil, with a technocrat or technocrat-turned-politician expected to be drafted into the crucial finance ministry as the economy slows.

Muhyiddin Yassin, who succeeded Mahathir Mohamad after the seasoned politician abruptly quit last month, will also have to accommodate members of a corruption-marred party and an Islamist group in the cabinet after forming the government with their support.

He will present the list of ministers to the king before making an announcement in the afternoon, his office said.

Muhyiddin could tap someone with finance experience as the finance minister or keep the role himself and name a technocrat as his deputy in the department, said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement.

One of the top contenders for a ministerial position in the finance department is Mustapa Mohamed, an economist turned politician from Muhyiddin’s party, the source and another person with knowledge of the matter said.

The prime minister’s office declined to comment. Mustapa did not respond to requests for comment.

While the current government that replaced a multi-ethnic one could steer policies towards Malay nationalism, its immediate priority would be to try and shield Southeast Asia’s third biggest economy from the impact of the coronavirus spread.

Malaysia has so far reported 99 cases of coronavirus infection.

The government has cut its growth forecast for this year and announced a 20 billion ringgit ($4.76 billion) stimulus package. The economy grew at its slowest pace in a decade in the fourth quarter.

The sharp fall in world oil prices, which intensified on Monday, will also be a drag on the country, the world’s third-biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas. Another worry is its diplomatic row with India, the biggest buyer of Malaysian palm oil.

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