Friday, 30 September 2011

Corporate Welfarism and the Munafikation of Malays

I found Walla’s comments on my recent article too rapier-sharp by nature, to leave them mothballing as mere comments. In citing Walla, I find sweet revenge too. Walla’s comments can’t be touched by any of those mercenary bloggers on a secret UMNO payroll. 

Any time I write critically of Mahathir, there’s this buffoon who says I am paid by KJ. I wished I were so then I can drive around in Porsche Cayenne  or a Maserati . Maybe I can also own a Bentley as do many UMNO ministers.

You are wrong fool; why not say I am on the current PM’s payroll? I can name a few operatives in the PM’s office who operate the slush funds to pay pro UMNO bloggers.  So come on say it- the current PM sucks because he arranges to pay me to hit at Dr Mahathir.

Did KJ pay Nazri Aziz for being a consistent pain-in the ass- to Mahathir with his vitriol thrown at Mahathir? How moronic and super stupid can you be- Mahathir’s opinions can’t be contested without accusing those who disagree with him being paid lackeys? Your grey matter must be polluted either with rancid curry or is lard layered.

The subject matter is too complicated for run of the mill pro UMNO bloggers to debate. So we will leave them to wallow in their stupidity.

The most piercing observation lies in his opinion that “In short, the hidden personal interests embedded in UMNO's corporate welfarism sold as defending Umno to defend our Malay race has instead brought about the MUNAFIQATION of our Malays”.

Mahathir’s economic prescriptions have exactly turned Malays into that- munafiks who continue to live a life of lies and deceit believing they can’t overcome their deficiencies WITHOUT having to depend on a paternalistic government. That’s how Mahathir’s UMNO survived all these years making Malays live a life of self-disbeliefs. This is the perpetual munafiqation of the Malays and that’s how UMNO stays in power forever.

UMNO can stay in power by (1) keeping Malays continuously stupid (2) allowing them to live a life of self-deceit and self-censoring and (3) accept the big lie that any questioning and challenges to the opaque economic agendas by UMNO are a direct assault and threat to the Malay race. Why don’t we for once shake off that yoke of mental servitude and see whether without UMNO, Malays can survive or not.

The corporate welfarism of PETRONAS may not take the form of our national oil company descending into a morass of incompetence like what happened in MAS. But it can take the form of deliberately shielding what goes on in PETRONAS and making them as opaque and transparent as possible.  That is where Walla’s comparison to what happened in Pertamina, an object lesson for us.

Over in Indonesia, one of the reasons some of their energy people gave for why Pertamina had tanked so fast, apart from its lax nego-skills with the foreign oil companies, was the fudging of exploration finds.   Oil was found but reported as not found whereupon siphoned. One reckons this couldn't have been on a large scale - you can't hide a major oil rig - but on many smaller scales the leakage could have amounted to some sizable revenue lost to the maritime black market.   So, audit was amiss. And in the case of black holes like our PETRONAS which reports only to the PM's department, we're not even sure what's the bottom-line on reserves and revenues care of direct-offer procurements and far-fetched offshore investments.

The end game of the corporate welfarism is one thing. At the end of the day, the companies formed on the back of claims and declarations that they wore formed to serve as the bulwark of Malay economic agenda, will be sold one by one to corporate friends.

One must note this is the same dept which had fouled the rakyat big-time on the toll and IPP contracts. Its govt has admitted as much recently. Both toll and IPP players are notable Umno cronies.     Just a look at the traffic volume of the Shah Alam, Sg Besi, Puchong and Penchala toll gates alone would tear your guts out on the money made out of the poor rakyat long past multiple recoveries of capital invested.     What we are seeing across all the Umno-run projects including the defense contracts is the metamorphosis of Umno's rationale for its corporate welfarism.

How did the munafiqation of the Malays start?

It had started as some struggle for our Malay tribe fed on a diet of hijacked history.  Then greed and ambition took over to next carve out an Umno club of the well-heeled and super-connected. Today that has become some pally syndicate ethnocentric around specific networks of proxies and adjutants. This tribe-to-club-to-syndicate octopus is the source of the biggest, longest standing, mega billion rip-off in Malaysia.   Meanwhile there's been no shortage of vacuous-minded supporters to fan that man's brand of racism and the Malay-first mentality of his rightist gang.  In short, the hidden personal interests embedded in Umno's corporate welfarism sold as defending Umno to defend our Malay race has instead brought about the munafiqation of our Malays.

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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The doktor supports corporate welfarism

Screw the professor who said this country was never colonized. Screw too the elder statesman who said, technically this country was never colonized, yet in fact it was. This was the same statesman who pontificate us for many years during the UMNO GA, that we have been colonized for over 400 years. Altogether now people- tiuuu kau!

Well now, I can have some fun too at the verbal gymnastics game. Technically UMNO was the running dog of British imperialism, but in fact it wasn’t. In fact it was a nationalist party. Technically, all the other leftist political parties then were freedom fighting organizations, but in fact they were terrorists. Bahaman, Mat Kilau, Tok Gajah, Tok Janggut,Tokku Paloh were technically true nationalists  but in fact they were common rogues.

That, my friends are UMNO arguments especially when you catch them in a bind and when they are caught with their pants down cupping their balls. Technically we can have many versions of history, but in fact, the only history is how the victors defined it to be.

When Dr Mahathir came out with his memoirs, I wrote a number of critical essays. I was widely criticized for those articles with one blogger saying the articles were unfortunate writings written by one blogger whom he respects. That respect is much valued- but we are recipient for such homage for as long as the giver is pleased with us. It’s no skin of my nose, if that respect is rescinded.  You take back what you can give. No big deal.

I didn’t answer his critical assessment of my article believing that perhaps he may have some valid points. We can’t change our basic beliefs. He holds on to his, I to mine. Many people believe Doctor Mahathir was our messiah- after all I said he can walk on water. But there are also many people (maybe not as many as the first group) who think technically Dr Mahathir is a farce. I happen to think he is. So we live by our basic beliefs.

Furthermore I think, time is on my side as the Rolling Stones song say- I have only written on the basis of Dr Mahathir’s first 3 chapters. Since he has written 62 chapters, I can respond with 59 other essays each corresponding to his remaining chapters. Time is on my side brother. They will be written up till the next GE.  I have this belief that Dr Mahathir was never pro Malay businessmen and businesses. I will develop that theme in the coming months.

At one time Dr Mahathir was regarded to have socialist tendencies. So many years ago, when comrade Kassim Ahmad then the leader of scientific PSRM expressed his satisfaction about socialistic tendencies in UMNO, Dr Mahathir challenged Kassim to show where. Kassim responded by asking Dr Mahathir to look for them, himself. Mahathir then was DPM.

Dr Mahathir was right and kassim was sadly wrong. Dr Mahathir has never been a socialist. That was why he was livid with comrade kassim. He has always been the petty trader and the merchant mentality sticks onto him every second of the day. That’s when the trouble begins for our market economy.

Since then, the country and Dr Mahathir have moved farther to the right of free market economics. The threat to our market economy doesn’t come from socialistic tendencies; Dr Mahathir made sure of that. Joseph Stiglitz in his preface of Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy cited the very threat- from the right wingers such as Dr Mahathir, who is the unashamed champion of a certain species of welfarism. It started since Dr Mahathir’s time- the economics of statism evolving into corporate welfarism. Under this version of welfare, the power of the state is used to protect the rich and powerful rather than the poor and the society in general. Dr Mahathir is now the spokesman of welfarism. But its welfarism of a different kind- its corporate welfarism.

So I am not surprised when Dr Mahathir came out in support of Air Asia gobbling up MAS. He detests MAS alluding to its stinking management. But there is an endgame to Mahathir’s shifting of the goal psost. Next month, he will say he’s fed-up of stodgy and limbering PETRONAS. So he will say he supports Kencana-Sapura the new evil axis that will eat up PETRONAS. How? All new fields will be declared marginal fields and Mahathir will no doubt support a bill and law to give a monopoly over marginal fields to Sapura and Kencana.

Come on, if its management being the problem, one doesn’t invite your competitor to sit on board and manage your business. On what basis do you confine your selection as manager, the owner of a rival but different modeled business entity? Sudahlah Doktor M.  why don’t we bring in the man or persons running EMIRATES who operate on a similar business model like MAS?

The real Mahathir is emerging. Dr Mahathir looks out for the welfare of the corporate world- the big businesses, the crony capitalists. He wants to ensure subsidies go to IPPs, juiciest of deals go to highway toll operators, big business continue to get bigger businesses. He will support the Gamuda-isation of Malaysia. Yes sirree folks- Mahathir is the champion of corporate welfarism.

Dr Mahathir continues to be the embodiment of contradictions. He moves from one extreme to another without being burdened with the feelings of guilt. He is generally seen as the man responsible for breeding the culture of corruption, yet he can also be the spokesman for a clean government. Ex ministers who listened to his solemn intonation that the government is corrupt from the top to bottom, could have puked all over the place in one of those gatherings of ex ministers.

He quits UMNO when he thinks UMNO is rotten to the core. Each level of the UMNO leadership is corrupt he says. That would include PM Najib. He said this at one of those social gatherings of ex ministers. When UMNO was led by Pak Lah, he left UMNO.  Dr Mahathir wants to have his cake and eats it- all the time. Therefore the world is how he defines it.

MAS was good once and it will always be a national asset. Ownership over MAS must always be with the government because of its strategic and other symbolic reasons. For a number of years, MAS was the benchmark for golden services. But that soon changed, when Mahathir implemented his next step towards corporate welfarism.

He was instrumental in handing MAS over to Tajuddin Ramli. But beyond just handing out a good business to a private businessman, what is the principle involved here? The public piece  or portion of business is injected with an important element of a private business model leading inevitably to clash of interest. That was why, MAS kargo which was supposed to be part of the public business of MAS, was converted by Tajuddin into a private business because of the enormous profit potential.

Now, we are temporarily blinded by the wunderkind Tony Fernandez who ran a music business originally. Everyone including Mahathir, the merchant believe that one asset of skills suitable for a different business model; can be applied with any loss in efficacy on a public business.

Just as in the UMNO lead government, Dr Mahathir thinks every level of MAS is infested with vested interest and various schemes to milk the cow. Everyone is quick to attribute whole and complete blame to Tajudin. Tajudin couldn’t steer MAS out of losses. What was Tajudin’s biggest mistake? It was to make the private business interests bigger that public portion of the business. Mas kargo for example could have become an important revenue earner for MAS but for Tajudin’s rapacious business appetite, it was made his private business portion. That happens when ownership is mixed up with the management of the business.

The same potentially destructive principle is allowed to operate in MAS with the AA-MAS deal.  Of course Dr Mahathir is fed up with MAS. Its fits into his overall plan. Next he says he is fed-up with PETRONAS. That will pave the way for Kencana and the Sapura group to invade the hunting ground of PETRONAS. All fields will be marginal oil fields where only the Kencana-Sapura axis can exploit.

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Monday, 26 September 2011

Earning the support system


I am afraid UMNO doesn’t seem to understand the bigger issue beyond what just happened with the issue of Marx Sabu. I have written a short article about how I wished UMNO had handled Mat Sabu. In my mind it would have been a better strategy to isolate Mat Sabu from PAS. Maybe some UMNO strategists should have pointed out the incongruity of having Mat Sabu as PAS’s number two.

Imagine what will happen to the character of PAS should its current president, Haji Hadi were to be incapacitated, infirmed or passes on. Mat Sabu will become the PAS president as allowed by its constitution. UMNO should have played on the misfit of having a Mat Sabu as a top PAS leader.

Instead it takes the ill-advised strategy of widening the war theater by linking Mat Sabu to PAS and Islam. Silly approach I think because then UMNO would have to marshal up its religious troopers sometime in the future. It doesn’t have the soldiers to battle PAS in a territory which is mastered by PAS.  UMNO is going to commit its own charge of the Light Brigade.

What is the bigger picture? When ‘Marx’ Sabu gave a different opinion on hitherto accepted version of history, UMNO doesn’t get it. What can be learnt from the clash of the ideas represent by Marx Sabu and UMNO?

It is painfully obvious that the open dispute on UMNO’s version of history is an indication of more troubles for UMNO. UMNO’s own legitimacy founded on a possible skewed and partisan narration of history is now being questioned. Unfortunately, the significance behind the controversy created by the antics of Marx Sabu, is lost.

UMNO must understand that it just cannot rely of the past to stay in power. This is the most important lesson. If people start disputing your version of history which means people also dispute your version of your role in history, that tells you, if you go around telling people of past glories and all that- it doesn’t click any longer.

New loyalties, new allegiance, must be won. That means, UMNO doesn’t have a base. It can’t claim it has a base by relying on past loyalties. The people with old loyalties may have already passed on.
Other political parties cannot assume they have support system too. That support system must be won. It’s out there to be won. So UMNO better learn the lessons from Marx Sabu episode.

It can’t rely on past glories. It has to earn new support system. That means a lot of work has to be put in to earn loyalty and allegiance by conviction. The PM may have some idea about earning the new support system. Except he’s doing it the superficial way- bicycling here, hey yo-ying! there, walk about here, there and everywhere- all these he can do.

He has done and will do many things, except he has not won the support system on convictions.

That is the province of ideas and values. It’s a new game plan. UMNO doesn’t have a strategic perception of the new game plan. It can’t win the cyber war by scorn and hysterics. You don’t earn respect and loyalties by invectives and obnoxious words.

Plus, even worse, you are not engaging the thinking crowd. That is the fertile ground from which loyalties arising from convictions and beliefs are spawned.

The PM has some rudimentary ideas. But he’s alone. His nascent ideas will be neutered by the warlordism of UMNO leaders. They live in the past, trying to revive the past.  These days, as shown by the Marx Sabu episode, recourse to the disputed past is counterproductive.

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Friday, 23 September 2011

The MAS-AA deal once again-2

Study the 3 points:-
1.         In an attempt to bolster the fortunes of the flag carrier, state asset manager Khazanah swapped 20.5 per cent of MAS stock for a 10 per cent stake in Asia’s biggest budget carrier Air Asia on August 9. 
2.         The swap enabled Air Asia bosses kemo-sabe Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and his Tonto partner Datuk Seri Kamaruddin Meranun to sit on the MAS board and will ostensibly help turn it around.
3.         Shareholders of Air Asia will get one free MAS warrant for every 10 shares in the low-cost carrier while MAS shareholders will get one free Air Asia warrant for every 30 MAS shares.

What does ostensibly mean? The usage of the term suggests, we are not sure whether this one time music company executive( who didn’t know anything too about running airlines) and an accountant( also zilch at running airlines) can help out MAS or not?

If we are not sure then why were the two given the chance to own 20% of MAS? Because the two had the benefit of luck on their side- when they took over the bankrupted AIR ASIA, with no experience, they had support from people- powerful people. They took that opportunity and make a successful career; hence they deserve to be given the honor of helping out MAS. Plus perhaps the same powerful people are still behind them.

The deal is founded on several debatable assumptions.

(1) The skills and business culture suitable for a business like AA can be applied without any loss in transition into a setting like MAS.

(2) a lot  hinges on the business leadership skills of Tony Fernandes. 

What are we supposed to do then?
(1) Look for a suitable business culture and a management team that supports that culture 
(2) find the necessary leadership.

This deal has been hyped up beyond what it deserves. MAS is in a sorry state. In order to sell the deal, we can muster all the resources to make it out that this deal is of strategic importance and all that. It’s easy to do that- just assemble all the CFAs who work at the various investment banks, give them a spruced up writeup and they will all sing the virtues of this CCF.

But haven’t we read and heard the same things whenever MAS was about to embark on some similar programs? When Tajudin Ramli took over MAS, the CFAs wrote the same upbeat notes. When Jala was managing, it was the same. In the end, despite the Nobel prized standard analysis of overweight, market weight and underweight assessments, MAS went downhill too.

Running MAS it seems is no longer a question of applying the technicians’ skills. We are sure MAS wasn’t short on that. Dato Tengku Azmil was a trained top accountant from Australia. I heard he was cited for excellent academic achievements in Australia. He is no mincemeat. Plus, he would have a real technical team looking out for MAS. In the end, MAS incurred further losses and he had to be replaced.

Something must be wrong in our basic approach.  Khazanah with all its constellation of cerebral stars, accountants and MBA’s cannot figure out what is the appropriate business culture that’s suitable for MAS. It cannot find leadership for MAS. So it takes the easy way out. Call in the cavalry.  

So why are we paying the people at Khazanah astronomical salaries if they can’t handle MAS? This serves to fortify my argument that we are better off dismantling Khazanah and all it investments portfolio transferred to PNB. 

Why don’t we let Azman Mokhtar take some portfolio and see whether he can operate the business profitably?

Let’s clear off one other thing. This isn’t a race issue. If it is, then we would have quarreled at Air Asia’s phenomenal success. We won’t have cited negatively the collusion between Kencana and Sapura which will effectively create a second PETRONAS. We would not have questioned Sapura’s purchase of PNB’s UMW stakes in the late 1990s. The thing is, if it were another Bumi getting the deal in this MAS-AA- we will be writing the same thing too. Probably more vehemently because such a deal would suggest a now familiar modus operandi. Reserve all the goodies for selected bumiputeras.

Let’s suggest this to Khazanah. Find someone who is musically inclined, likes wine and women, a football and pool enthusiast, likes it so much that he wants to buy a football club, likes racing and fast cars because that reflects his libido, pair him up with an accountant- hey presto, Khazanah has the perfect recipe for MAS success.  Its the perfect case study material worthy of being assigned to a HBS class. 

Will that do? No? Then having TF and KM on board will not ostensibly help MAS.

So we are not sure whether the end game of Khazanah is really to help out MAS. Because if its serious, then having TF and KM owning up to 20% of MAS share isn’t the prerequisite to helping out MAS. Not necessary even to have the two on board.

What has happened since then? Don’t feign surprise. Yes I ask what has happened and what has been publicly said in the short span? 

The first thing dear Danny boy did was to spend money. So, all these years, MAS was losing money because people don’t know what MAS is. It’s now time to make MAS a brand name. MAS which is losing money and which does not need brand identification sponsors jersey for QPR. Having MAS name emblazoned across the QPR jersey will translate into greater awareness of MAS and make it profitable?

This is the problem when you put in place technically competent young punk but who is one dimensional in thinking do his thing on MAS. The first thing he thinks is football. After football pub-crawl.

The plan is to glorify the idea that MAS operates as a premier full fare airline doing the long haul routes. That will make the giving up less painful. The fact is, the long haul routes have not been profitable in the first place with the given business culture that has been infused in MAS. It’s going to bomb right from the start because the one factor that is killing MAS-its business culture that breeds the wrong kind of management thinking hasn’t been sorted out. That one factor has not been excised. It’s going to succumb.

It’s forced to give up the profitable regional routes which will be taken over by Air Asia.  You are going to force MAS give up its profitable business sector arguing urging us to believe that’s it’s good that way. MAS with its debilitating business culture and fucked up management can now compete in the premium market and somehow be successful? What kind of warped business reasoning is this?

You want us to believe that MAS has been unprofitable because it contains incompatible business units within it system and by forcing it to give up these, the same business culture and management practices that have bankrupted MAS will miraculously turn MAS into a profit making airline?

But wait Dr Pangloss- the circumcision is not completed yet. There’s still a lot of foreskin left. MAS has a LCC business unit right? - Yes that one named after the fly that emits its own natural LED? No problem, confine it to run to the routes which Air Asia didn’t want in the first place maybe to places like Tebedu, Pos Betong and other god-forsaken places requiring turbo propelled planes. Yes the planes that once confounded some people to curse how and why the hell some stupid engineers designed planes with fans outside when they should be inside in the first place. 

Sap sap sway ma…Form a new business unit called Sapphire that evokes some glitter in the name to take over profitable Firefly’s business. We don’t get any Nobel awards for guessing who will be the major stakeholders in Sapphire.

It’s already happening. Personal business agenda nurtured from a different business culture is already being applied to MAS. We can see the writings on the wall, but incompetence on the part of government regulators and the almost reverential tolerance and rationalization of rapacious greed all seemed to make this deal, an above board and personal deal. The deal is further supported by the nauseating analyses by CFAs. It’s all bull.

The 1-2-3- reasons above have been touted as the rationale for the MAS-AA deal. So ok, the deal has already been done. The idea is to allow someone who is an expert and successful in that industry take over the helm.  I say ‘person’- to avoid treating this as a race issue. 

We have had similar experience in the past. A person, a Malay was given control over MAS and when MAS business got mixed up with his own personal business interests, things went awfully awry. What happened when Tajudin Ramli helmed MAS hasn’t been clearly laid bare for the public to understand. The government has to buy back the shares from that person by absorbing the huge losses.

But this time it’s different, comes the protest. It’s rah rah Tony. He is successful man- surely he can do miracles to MAS. All the others are fucked up subsidy fed Bumis man. Non bumis can do better brother, tamby. This person is a terrific businessman with a proven track record in this industry.

The principle is the same- personal business interests get mixed up with the business interest of MAS. The presence of the same personal interests makes this deal inherently wrong. As a single largest shareholder, TF will be calling the shots as well as aligning and re-engineering the business, but never jeopardizing his own personal business at AA. Unless sometime in the future he has been promised, he can have his cake and eat it too.  The future of MAS therefore is dependent on the skills of TF and AA business model.

How then do you guarantee that MAS will be successful? You get the guarantee if MAS becomes a low cost carrier itself. Then that would only require the transfers of the business culture and personalized business acumen of TF which has worked wonderfully for AA to make MAS successful. Simple what? - graft the culture at AA onto MAS. 

But let us humor those who want to turn this deal into a race issue- we make it race issue simpliciter- since AA business is successful because Tony the non bumi is there, let MAS be taken over by him.Setuju?

At some point in time, you have already told everyone, you want MAS to operate as a premier full fare airline. So ask yourself, will the AA business culture and personalized business experience and acumen that make AA successful can and will  also be compatible to make MAS profitable as a premier airline?

You have two clashing cultures that would immediately make you suspect, MAS is already doomed from this deal.

What is it that you want to do with MAS? I thought we have gone through so many downsides when people with vested and personal interests get involve in MAS business. We are not disturbing Tony in his business of making money at Air Asia. He is rewarded for his acumen and skills in the business field he has chosen. That is his personal interest. He does it by the AA model.
Will he apply the same model on MAS? That would place MAS on collision course with AA and if AA is TF’s first love, how will he do justice in his role in MAS to assist our national airline become profitable?  If he does that because of patriotic reasons, then that would place him in direct conflict with his interests in AA.

He will therefore expected do several things. First ensure MAS will not compete with AA. So he says, off with Firefly because FF is in direct competition with AA.  That’s done. Next, take out MAS from competing with routes AA wants. So he counsels the government its best MAS concentrate as a premium full fare airline doing the long hauls.

Can the culture that makes AA successful as a LCC be applied to MAS so that it can succeed as full fare premium airline? You have a directly opposing culture capable of making a success out of a LCC but which will be impossible to produce success in a premier airline. Simply because MAS will need to operate on a different business culture and business regimentation.

AIR ASIA and the practitioner of its culture is the wrong model and person to lead MAS. This is not a question of opposing the deal because it gives a non-Malay benefit and profit. This is primarily an issue of doing the wrong thing to save MAS.


addendum: TG Azmel did not graduate from Australia. Instead he graduated from Cambridge U with a First. He is a BA(Cantab). A reminder to those UMNO politicians who like to parade their purchased degrees that a person who graduates from Cambridge has a Cantab and a person who is from Oxford has an Oxon. I know of an UMNO political operative who proudly writes B.A( university of oxford) and another University of Cambridge.

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Thursday, 22 September 2011

The MAS-AA deal once again-1

The MAS –AIR ASIA deal.

Will the ending of this secretive corporate deal be like this? - Air Asia buys over MAS? No, not even that- its finally give Tony what he has always wanted- own a piece of our national airline. That will make him a Prime Minister in the airline industry. 

Sometime in the future, the Khazanah people together with CIMB I suppose, will lend Tony’s Tune Air a lot of money to mop up the entire shares in Air Asia. Then Air Asia will be injected into a listed vehicle like MAS freeing Tune Air from debt. Tony’s share via Air Asia which will then be injected into MAS will be converted into substantial shareholding in our national carrier. Maybe from 20% to 40 pct.

So let’s go back to retrace our steps. Khazanah and Tony and CIMB takes us through the motion of making magic before the public eye. They are allowing Tony and company take up 20% of MAS shares under the pretext that Tony and that accountant Meranun can do their magic for MAS. Stupid MAS’s capitalization is at RM 5 billion while Air Asia stands at RM 11 billion. So how can MAS with a shotgun compete with Air Asia which has a rocket launcher? Air Asia is fully loaded firing live ammunition while MAS fires blanks.

Air Asia made more than RM 1 billion profit in 2010 while MAS incurred nightmarish losses despite Jala being there followed by Dato Tengku Azmil. Air Asia has more planes than MAS while MAS owns or leases boneshakers and call itself the airline with the golden service and touch. What a joke and this joke has been allowed to be uttered for too long by incompetent people at MAS and Khazanah.

Then with so many factors assisting Tony and Kamarudin, MAS does indeed make profit. Some bright people at Khazanah will advise the PM to suggest since Mr. TF is already the single largest shareholder of MAS and he has made profit why not merge Air Asia with MAS? By Jove, what a jolly good idea, I'd say.

How? Assist Tony take Air Asia private and then allow him to inject the new entity into MAS. Give cheap loan to Tune Air to mop up the entire shares of Air Asia and then allow it to be injected into MAS. Tune Air the original owners of Air Asia will be freed from debt and the entire debt is now absorbed into the merged entity of a new MAS. The MAS owners will be Tony and company and Khazanah. Certainly and naturally, that will create synergies (read profits for some people) and hear this, gets protection from the Malaysian government. 

It’s a long bullshiting exercise but one necessary to lead astray so many pesky bloggers. Some of them buyable but others are not

I am trying to find the one thing that is repulsive about the MAS-AA deal.  Why is this attempt by Khazanah in trying to mend MAS our national pride, appears to be a leaving a bitter after taste? What’s so distasteful about it?

My one reservation about this deal is that it shows Khazanah as trustee to the nation’s wealth and therefore enforcer about how our assets are being managed isn’t trying hard or serious enough to keep it national and strategic. Diluting the nation’s share in MAS can also diminish what potential advantages the country can leverage by having a national airline. Every country has one that it leverages on to give it comparative advantages.

The share swap with Tony Fernandes is effectively paying protection money. Give Tony shares in MAS in return of a pledge by Tony that he will not use Air Asia to compete with MAS. It’s a payout to Tony in return for TF‘s promise not to work hard.

It’s also the old game of carving out the monopoly board among business rivals. Better to cooperate rather than bludgeon each other. So will MAS make profit after this after it secures a promise from Tony to not disturb it? 

The people at MAS appear to blame some unprofitable costs center (such as Firefly) for its losses. And it believes that removing this will turn MAS profitable plus having Tony and whoever else on board will allow MAS to benefit from their skills.

It’s more like better to keep friends close and enemies closer. I go to a friend’s burial not to pay my respects but to make sure he’s dead. So keep Tony on board to ensure he’s not up to mischief which MAS people and by backward linkage, Khazanah people are incapable of dealing with.

My suggestion: Then, better to fire more people at MAS and Khazanah too. Close down Khazanah entirely would be a better solution so that they can’t do more damage and economic mischief.

What does the deal give Air Asia? It will also involve actually giving unhindered access to Air Asia to get more profitable routes. It will also involve removing a potential competitor in the form of Firefly which will be re-launched to become a regional carrier. Will that place it on a collision course with the AA associate Asia X? (Is that a porn rated business or what?)

The people at MAS will say, this will allow MAS to operate as a premium carrier. Let me ask one question- was its inability to operate profitably due to it having a low cost carrier business? If its losses were not due to it having a low cost carrier unit, then removing the LCC will not cause MAS to become more profitable. Simply because the cause or causes turning it into a loss making business are due to other reasons. It has nothing to do with having a low cost carrier business in Firefly.

The people at MAS are pulling wool over our eyes.  Air Asia made more than RM 1 billion profit in 2010 simply because it operates better and has more planes. You can’t run an airline business without planes. New ones at that. If you have old ones, the maintenance costs will kill you. What more, if the billings for repairs and maintenance are astronomical and not audited carefully. Can MAS check the profitability of the firms that it engages in repair jobs? Did they make money? If they do, then what has MAS done about it? 

Then we have to ask also why can’t MAS buys its planes direct instead of having Penerbangan Malaysia buys on its behalf. It doesn’t know how to buy planes or can’t count money?

It has chosen the easy way out at the behest of some vested parties in Khazanah, Air Asia and the common matchmaker. Plus it’s all done in a cloak of secrecy? Why? Afraid someone else can turn out to be a spoiler?

So I am accusing them of having lesser patriotism.

Those brain boxes at Khazanah couldn’t figure out how to sort out the mess at MAS after identifying the causes? You can only think of the short cut way by bringing in outside help in the form of someone operating in the industry on a different business model? You are making the mistake in assuming skills successful in one model are transferable into another. 

Yes we all agree it’s the business acumen, it’s the entrepreneurial talent that are needed to help out MAS. Because if it’s a question of only the amount of grey matter, then those existing in Khazanah alone can potentially turn out to a source of star business school professors.

After Jala left, the man responsible for managing MAS is a top notch trained accountant  from Australia. He is a super clever person. Why isn’t this clever person not able to nurse back MAS into better health? Was he undermined by vested interests? Or was MAS intentionally left to drown and the clever person made to run around like a headless chicken so that Khazanah could deliver the coup de grace to our national carrier? 

So that at the end of Tengku Azmil’s tour of duty, khazanah could declare to the PM, MAS is a hopeless case and the only way that it can saved is to bring in the white knight in the person of Tony Fernandes? (No pun intended yes Tony).

Finally the one thing I find revolting about the deal, is Khazanah wasn’t serious about saving MAS. It wasn’t industrious enough and hence opted for the lazy man’s solution- bring in another person to solve the problem instead of doing it yourself.

As promised I am now returning to a favorite hunting ground- the MAS AIR ASIA deal. It may been a slip of the tongue; the banker involved as match-maker said that, the arrangement between MAS and AIR ASIA was planned as far back as 2 years ago. That means some people undertook to grant unto themselves, god like qualities in deciding the fate of MAS.

About AIR ASIA we don’t care. It’s a private business entity and is said to be run profitably. Government has no business to interfere into the affairs of a private company. If its employees are worked like enslaved laborers, it’s their business too.

When I talked to people at MOF, it appears to me, the general feeling is that blame for the surrendering of MAS shares should be attributed to Khazanah’s corporate frolics. It was all Khazanah’s idea to have MAS’s shares swapped with that of Air Asia. The main reason, which is now increasingly questioned, is that in that way, the government can secure the services of the miracle man Tony Fernandes. 

Well, I think this is a stupid way of trying to solve MAS problems if it thinks the solution is injecting Fernades’s business acumen into the running of MAS. He is good- we can grant him that, but good for Air Asia not necessarily for MAS. 

Next: Just a foot more, and MAS would have struck mother lode. 

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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Ucapan PM Najib: beri yang tidak beri


Saya telah memberi ulasan keatas ucapan PM Najib yang di buat menjelang tarikh pengujudan negara Malaysia. Mereka yang tidak ada modal untuk berhujjah- biasalah akan mengeciskan tulisan tersebut sebagai luahan dendaman. Bagaimana kita melayani respons seperti itu?

Ulasan one-liner mereka tidak perlu di pedulikan. Tidak ada fikiran yang signifiken yang boleh kita berikan kepada ulasan one-liners. Saya tidak akan memohon maaf keatas kedangkalan fikiran orang seperti ini. Mereka bertanggung jawab keatas kedangkalan mereka sendiri. Pada masa yang sama, UMNO tidak perlukan orang jenis ini. Mereka sudah di luar redemption dan saya tidak terdaya mengobah pandangan cetek mereka walhal saya telah mengajak pembaca budiman untuk memberikan hujjah balasan yang rasional. Nampaknya yang budiman dan 'berotak' sedikit tidak cenderung menyokong UMNO. Ini suatu petanda yang berbahaya.

Demikian juga, pembaca yang sedemikian tidak akan dapat mengobah persepsi saya bahawa saya merasakan ucapan tersebut tidak ada nilai luar biasa. Tolong buktikan kesilapan saya. Jangan tuduh saya takde kerja lain asyik hentam Najib, hentam adik beradik Najib dan hentam bini Najib. Kebenaran nya ialah mereka  gagal membentangkan hujjah untuk meyakinkan kita dan bayangkan kesan nya keatas rakyat yang membaca yang menunggu nunggu penhujjahan yang bernas dari para juak UMNO.

Maka, elok kita ulangi beberapa persoalan supaya menyenangkan kefafahaman mereka. Mudah mudahan, belakang parang di asah, lama lama akan tajam. Sudah sampai masa nya, pembaca Melayu khasnya, mengraduankan diri dari membaca makian dan hamunan, celaan, dan penghinaan dan sebagainya. Minda orang Melayu tidak berkembang membaca hasil picisan dan sastera kuning tersebut.

Besar mana bahagian rakyat negara ini yang tertakluk dengan pembubaran ISA? Adakah ISA menjadi faktor penting dalam kehidupan harian rakyat yang berdepan dengan harga barangan yang kian meningkat?  korapsi yang meluas, urusniaga kerajaan yang di rahsiakan tapi menguntungkan mereka yang terpilih? Saya juga menyebutkan perihal harapan rakyat untuk mendengar pengistiharan yang membawa perubahan substantive kedalam kehidupan harian mereka.

Tapi ini tidak bererti pembubaran ISA tidak penting. Kenapa ianya tidak di istharkan dalam parlimen sebab ISA melibatkan pada asasnya orang politik? Itu medium penyampaian yang lebih tepat. Disana kita boleh debatkan, jika ISA di mansuhkan, bagaimana dari segi undang undang kita menangani ancaman yang tertakluk dibawah ISA selama ini? Bagaimanakah hak seseorang, terutama yang mempunyai fahaman politik yang berbeza di lindungi oleh undang2? Cara terbaik ialah mereka di hadapkan untuk membela diri di bawah akta tertentu dalam mahkamah terbuka. Tidak ada sesiapa yang lucut hak kebebasan peribadi kecuali ia di hukum oleh undang undang dalam mahkamah terbuka.

Jika kita mahu isitiharkan sesuatu yang berani dan menggegarkan dalam media umum seperti siaran TV, rakyat sebenarnya mengharapkan perkara yang melibatkan kehidupan seharian mereka.

Orang Melayu misalnya mahu melihat apakah program konkrit untuk merealisasikan agenda ekonomi Bumiputera. Jika kita telah pun mengistiharkan bahawa wadah mencapai agenda tersebut ialah Model Ekonomi Baru- atau market driven affirmative action, apa jadah nya komponen MEB tersebut? Adakah penjualan asset stratejik negara merupakan cara terpenting meliberalisasikan ekonomi Malaysia? Pertukaran saham MAS dengan saham Air Asia mendekatkan lagi pencapaian agenda ekonomi Bumi?

Jika kita letakkan pemimpin dalam GLC yang tidak berjiwa Melayu yang bangga pula dengan pemujaan mereka kepada factor ‘merits’ sampai bila pun, agenda tersebut tidak akan tercapai.

Sebab itu, saya mengharapkan ucapan PM akan melibatkan antara lain pengistiharan kita bubarkan Khazanah Berhad dan saham yang mereka pegang dan portfolio pelaburan yang ada dalam tangan mereka di pindahkan kepada institusi Amanah Pelaburan Bumiputera.

Juga saya ingat saya akan dengar bahawa urusan jual beli dan pemindahan saham oleh PNB sebagai pengurus pelbagai Amanah Pelaburan Bumi akan di perketatkan dan urusniaga mereka akan lebih telus dan terang. Saya ingatkan PM akan beri amaran kepada institusi ini bahawa mereka memegang asset pencipta pulangan bagi pihak rakyat dan bukan bagi pihak beberapa syarikat milik bumi yang kaya raya dan terkenal.

Sebagai contoh, ada rakyat kita sedar yang Sapura  pernah membuat bida untuk membeli saham UMW yang di miliki oleh PNB? Saham inilah yang memberi pulangan yang baik kepada PNB yang kemudian nya membolehkan PNB membayar pulangan yang baik kepada pemegang saham PNB. Sapura yang sudah kaya dan akan bergabung dengan Kencana( yang ber’front’kan anak Dr Mahathir sedangkan pemilik sebenar nya ialah tauke Singapura) tidak perlu jadi tamak dan mahu mengaut segala sumber pulangan yang baik. 

Tentu rakyat akan lebih berminat untuk mendengar langkah2 yang di ambil Kerajaan supaya sumber kekayaan milik rakyat tidak di bolot oleh kumpulan terpilih yang kaya dan terkenal. 

Apa akan tinggal untuk golongan bumiputera yang lain? Jika kerajaan membenarkan pembelian oleh Sapura bererti benarlah fahaman saya mengenai istilah Bumiputera itu; Bumi di belakang, putera( bangsawan, yang terkenal, yang bertalian) berada di barisan depan, ambil dulu segala nya.

Berdasarkan perbandingan dengan isiu isiu ini, saya merasakan ucapan PM Najib tidak lah luar biasa. Demikian juga dengan Akta Percitakan yang di ubah oleh PM. Adakah rakyat kisahkan sama ada lesen di beri atau tidak? Pihak kerajaan masih mengekalkan hak pemberian lesen kepada siapa yang mereka persetujui. Senang atau sukar mendapat lesen percitakan akan hanya melibatkan perasaan sebahagian kecil rakyat berbanding dengan lebih banyak rakyat yang terkena kesan harga naik dan korapsi. 

sebetulnya, audiens manakah yang jadi sasaran PM ketika membuat ucapan tersebut? 

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Monday, 19 September 2011

That bold speech on that historic day


I am a little late to write on the historic speech of the PM. Really I wanted to offer words of encouragement and support. I am tired to continue criticizing the PM who is after all my ketua bahagian. I was thinking, support and congratulations are in order  because the media, led by the overzealous Minister of Information, have led  the public to believe that some real goodies are in order; and after that, the public will offer effusive joyousness in response.

They will, I think if the subject matter that is going to be announced affects them directly and immediately in a positive way. The response from the public will be lukewarm if the subject matter affects them indirectly and inconsequentially. Let us judge the administration on this score.

All week, the public was thinking that PM will announce some measures to be taken by the government that will in substance, increase the efficiency of governance and government. In the end, those measures will translate into immediate increase in disposable income. What possible form can such measures take place? Maybe:- (1) Restructuring the GLCs including Khazanah so that they won’t become governments unto themselves. Now that 15000 employees of MAS have threatened industrial action, that shows Khazanah has been doing some cloak and dagger corporate moves. (2) Replacing laggard key government officials with those with abilities (3) removal of structural impediments to transparency and accountability such as removing OSA. (4) Shaking up the institutions that deliver justice and the law such as the police and the judiciary (5) announce stronger measures on corruption including the conviction of the big guns.

Further, things like direct transfer of money (oil money) to the public like what the Singapore government did during its recent general elections. Those states making mountains of money from petroleum royalties distributing money to citizens of the state; Felda Corporation which made lots of money giving out money to Felda settlers etc. that would be the real goodies that would certainly induce the recipients to jump up in uncontrollable euphoria while proclaiming Najib- you are da man!

We certainly need some substantive liberty enhancing policies from the current administration that would differentiate the Najib administration positively from previous ones.  By liberty enhancing policies, I mean policies that reduce dependency on the government.
There are some economic pressures which the government needs to address that have political ramifications. Inflationary pressures that cause the price of essential goods to rise make people more dependent on the government. More people in the rural areas will depend on the welfare department for assistance and when given, obliges them to be loyal to the benefactor. So what does a desperate government do? Maybe even condone the price increase. We are happy to note the administration is doing everything possible to contain the inflationary pressures.

Maybe the scrapping off of the 50 over Billion MRT into improved transport system that is more public friendly, maybe the setting of a ceiling price for houses in the city so that lower income and middle income earners can work and stay in the city. Instead they have to look for houses in the outskirts of town while the city is reserved for the selects. Or maybe some form of a Buffet tax on the superrich. Or maybe the dismantling of Khazanah and all shares transferred to Amanah Saham Nasional or ASB.

Compared to the announcement involving the ISA and the Printing and Presses Act, government actions on those would be more impactful. But isn’t prosperity predicated on the removal of shackles and chains that perpetuate un-freedom? I am using the term un-freedom to define freedom and liberty as a state of being free from the arbitrary force and coercion of others. Yes it does- but the emancipation potential arising from the more down to earth policies could achieve the desired effects of freedom and liberty much more and faster.

The ululating responses would of course make the Minister of Information look good and perhaps ensure one last hurrah as a cabinet member?  It would be unfair for me to harbor misgivings aforethought.

The desired responses were forthcoming. Everywhere PM Najib was declared a revolutionary and a bold PM. Rais Yatim must be beaming like a Cheshire cat.  PM Najib is really Optimus Prime- the chief transformer. I have forgotten the never ending list of acronyms. Maybe the APCO people can issue a definitive list signed by Idris Jala of course.

After the speech and announcement, the euphoria was I think premature. The subject of his bold and revolutionary steps to enhance governance and credibility of his administration are the ISA ad the Printing and Presses Act. Important as they are, I think their impact on governance enhancement and thereafter productivity is outstretched and indirect. The good intent of abolishing the ISA appears to be blunted by the forewarning that 2 new acts will replace the ISA. A person arbitrarily defined as a terrorist can still be detained without trial in open court. The empowering act of Article 149, the fountain from which springs ISA like enactments is till there and remains the overarching enabling repressive act.

I was thinking of some announcement on measures to improve the quality of civil servants, or some measures assuring the best of civil servants that their effort will be well compensated, or the removal of bureaucratic clogs that prevent transparency, accountability and so forth. Perhaps, if there is full public disclosure we can once and for all determine for example, whether Bangladeshi workers are given citizenship to vote in the coming general elections. Perhaps also, if there is full disclosure instead of OSA, then we can resolve the double speak by the election commission that the final list of voters are with them and that what the public are looking at are outdated voter registers. Why would the updated and current list be withheld from public knowledge? I wouldn’t want the Bangladeshi pump attendant to have the same voting rights as I do. How the elections commission can with impunity insult our intelligence by claiming the latest voters lists are meant for internal circulation is beyond any measure of decency!

I was thinking maybe the removal of the OSA- more insidious than the ISA which prevents any public spirited citizen of this country from discovering the rationale of many government decisions on tender awards, on selection process and so on.
Now THAT, I thought would have more far reaching impact on the voters.

The ISA and Printing and Presses Act? Tokens imputing the liberalization of our society. ISA will be replaced by 2 new acts on terrorism? Will the definition of terrorism be assigned to the sole and arbitrary discretion of the PM or the Home Minister and if it’s that, then the ISA remains in a different form. People and political opponents, on the pain of being declared a terrorist can be detained and incarcerated indefinitely without open trial. Owners of newspapers will still need to apply for a one off license from the relevant ministers. The liberty to operate a newspaper therefore remains only in potential- until the minister approves.

Naturally, PM Najib came out sterlingly brilliant after delivering what people thought was a very bold move by the PM. Naturally at least that was the impression one can safely assume to be gushing out from the sycophantic UMNO masses. Unfortunately for PM Najib , if he cares to listen intently enough, even UMNO members are now being critical. With 79 parliamentary seats, it’s no longer PM Najib’s own survival that is at stake- but also that of UMNO as a dominant partner in any future government.

To most UMNO members, PM Najib’s nervous rendition of his pre Malaysia Day speech could signal the end of life as they have known since. But that probably is due to a stiffened neck malady- damn the pillow, or maybe the after effects of his knee surgery. 

Mainly, the life of an aristocrat feeding on the toil and labor of the masses while the ruling elite luxuriate in a life with perpetual soirees, jewelry from Jacob and company and where the missuses  of prominent leaders swap lunatic small talks over the latest Hermes Birkin handbags and accessories.

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