CHIEF Minister Chow Kon Yeow has reshuffled the state executive council (exco) portfolios midway through its term, stressing that the move is to enhance governance and prepare for socio-economic recovery.
The new portfolios will take effect from Sept 15.
In announcing that some portfolios have been merged and renamed today, Chow said he would be responsible for Land and Economic Development portfolio and Communications portfolio and would relinquish the Transport portfolio.
He explained that he would be taking over the Economic Planning portfolio from Deputy Chief Minister II Prof Dr P. Ramasamy as economic planning and development at the state level is inescapably tied to land management.
Chow presently has three portfolios, namely Communications, Land Matters & Development, and Transport.
“The economic challenges that the people of Penang are facing require that economic planning be given top priority,” Chow told a press conference in Komtar today.
“Where MNCs are concerned, Penang has no doubt been managing very well but given the expected shifts in global supply chains and the benefits that Penang can reap from this, I will now be responsible for the merged portfolio called ‘Land and Economic Development’.
“The importance of SMEs to Penang’s economy and the livelihood of a large segment of Penang’s people also require the chief minister to coordinate policies that can best help them to survive, to be resilient and to thrive.”
Chow added that the recently created Digital Penang under his chairmanship would give horizontal support to all excos and agencies for the development of Penang’s digital economy.
He also announced that the function of Penang Institute, the state think tank, in policy making and implementation would be intensified through the involvement of its staff in the exco offices at an early stage of policy making.
“A policy discussion platform based on this involvement will be set up at Penang Institute and will involve various experts and actors from the public sector, the private sector, the academic world, non-governmental organisations and other think tanks. This will be set up as soon as possible,” Chow said.
His Transport portfolio will be taken over by Zairil Khir Johari, who is in charge of the Infrastructure portfolio, a combination of functions once sorted under Flood Mitigation, Public Works and Utilities.
Dr Ramasamy remains in charge of Human Resources (formerly known as Human Capital Development), Education, and Science & Technology.
Yeoh Soon Hin remains in charge of Tourism but has been given a new portfolio, called Creative Economy, which handles matters related to heritage, arts and culture.
Chow said putting Arts, Culture and Heritage under the new portfolio of Creative Economy is pointedly aimed at energising these sectors and developing them in their own right, and separating their raison d’etre from and diminishing their dependence on the tourism sector.
On tourism, Chow said re-strategising and rethinking are sorely needed in the coming months to save and rebuild what is a critical economic sector for Penang and its many small companies because of the havoc created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For arts and culture, he said the pandemic calls for new efforts to be made to excite young energies in Penang and to import new technologies, art media and marketing channels for a cultural renaissance in the state.
The Agriculture and Agro-based Industries portfolio is renamed Agrotech and Food Security portfolio and is still under the responsibility of Dr Norlela Ariffin, who also maintains the Rural Development portfolio and Health portfolio.
Chow said the creation of the Agrotech and Food Security portfolio is to stimulate investments in the adoption of technology in the development of the agriculture sector.
Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman will take over the Cooperatives portfolio from Datuk Abdul Halim Hussain besides maintaining the Islamic Affairs and Community Empowerment (formerly called Community Relations) portfolios.
He will no longer hold the Industrial Development portfolio in the reshuffle.
That portfolio, however, will be passed on to Abdul Halim, who will hold the combined Trade and Industry portfolio as well as the Entrepreneurial Development portfolio.
Phee Boon Poh is maintaining his Environment portfolio and Welfare portfolio.
Chong Eng will be responsible for Social Development portfolio, which combines functions once sorted under Women & Family Development and Gender Inclusiveness. She is also still in charge of Non-Islamic Religious Affairs.
State executive councillors Jagdeep Singh Deo and Soon Lip Chee are both unaffected by the shake-up.
Jagdeep remains in charge of Housing, Local Government, Town & Country Planning portfolios while Soon heads the Youth and Sports portfolios.
Asked by a reporter whether there would be overlap of responsibilities among some of the portfolios, Chow said overlaps would bound to happen from time to time.
“Each exco member will have his or her focus areas but has to work in synergy, not in silo. The government must function as a whole.
“We hope to serve as a team. Ultimately, the exco would be responsible for all affairs in the state. The respective exco member gives special attention to his portfolio and is personally accountable and answerable for matters that fall under his portfolio.
“But we are all collectively responsible to the people of Penang and to the state,” Chow replied.
Story by K.H. Ong
Pix by Alissala Thian
Video by Ahmad Adil Muhamad