Friday, May 17, 2013

Paul Low’s Appointment Strengthens Government’s Reform Credentials

The appointment of Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan, the President of Transparency International (Malaysia) as Minister in the Prime Minister's Department has reinforced Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's reform credentials with an experienced hand in charge of fighting graft and corruption.

Low's appointment was the biggest surprise of the Cabinet reshuffle announced Wednesday; however, he is in many ways the final piece of a puzzle Najib has been assembling since his administration began in 2009.

Low has made the battle against corruption a significant portion of his career. As TI President, he has recognised that graft is a disease with many victims. It violates public and private trust, destroys faith in government, wastes resources and creates a general environment in which crime can flourish. It was through his efforts that TI's Integrity Pledge was pushed in the lead-up to GE13 – a pledge Najib signed and to which he committed his Government and party.

Low, who served in the National Economic Action Council and as a commissioner and deputy chairman of the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission, sees this as an opportunity to continue the battle against corruption from where the levers of power work. "My main role will be to help continue the transformation towards a clean government," said Low.

It is a measure of Low's sterling credentials that the only criticism Opposition portals could manage of the appointment was to regurgitate Pakatan press releases demanding that Low enact their preferred agendas or else he would be seen as a failure.

Najib has made the battle against corruption one of the critical components of his terms in office, strengthening the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), focussing on Government transparency and accountability, and prosecuting record numbers of powerful government and private industry members accused of corruption. "Prostitution and corruption are two things that mankind has had to live with for so long," he told London's Financial Times before GE13. "But we are determined to tackle it."

Low's appointment, together with the appointment of Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar as Minister in the Prime Minister's Department and the standing appointment of Datuk Seri Idris Jala as head of Pemandu, assembles a talented and well-respected team whose purpose is to promote transparency, end corruption and produce results.

Low and his teammates will have a large task before them in the sheer scope of government procurement and development. The continued transition of the economy to a private sector heavy one is accompanied by many large infrastructure projects still underway. Merely managing the logistics of accountability will be the first test Low will face.

Yet the accountant who is now a Minister has a reputation for hard work, attention to detail and a straightforward approach that cuts through complex problems.
He has promised to aid Najib's battle against corruption with those qualities, and most quarters believe he will.

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