Malaysia Ex-Finance Minister Zafrul Keeps Post in Cabinet
(Bloomberg) -- Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob brought back Zafrul Abdul Aziz as his finance minister in an attempt to maintain policy continuity as he steers the economy back on track amid a stubborn pandemic.
Zafrul, a former banker, held this portfolio and was the coordinating minister for the nation’s exit plan from the pandemic under the previous administration. The government was brought down by political infighting after 17 months in office.
He faces the challenge of putting together an economy felled by a raging Covid outbreak despite four aid packages this year. The nation’s central bank this month cut its 2021 economic expansion forecast for a second time as surging infections and multiple movement curbs delay the recovery.
Zafrul “is known as a technocrat and his reappointment signals continuity in his role in carrying out the ongoing fiscal plans and to shepherd the new budget through parliament,” said Wellian Wiranto, an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. in Singapore. Zafrul may lead efforts to raise the debt ceiling from the current 60% of gross domestic product to 65% to give the government “more wiggle room in pushing through a loose fiscal stance” amid the economic challenges, he said.
Azmin Ali was reappointed as trade minister and former foreign affairs minister Hishammuddin Hussein was given the defense portfolio, Ismail said while unveiling his Cabinet on Friday. Khairy Jamaluddin, who managed the nation’s vaccine rollout in the previous government, was named health minister.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.