SCwatch


PENANG’S SURGING CAPTIVE AUDIENCE SEEMS TO NOW INCLUDE THE COMPETITIVE SINGAPOREANS

We have always known the Singaporeans to be a ‘kiasu’ lot …… literally meaning ‘scared to die’ or scared to lose out on virtually anything.

This may be one of the end result of the siege mentality that Lee Kuan Yew created during the time of partition between Malaysia and Singapore in 1965.

Lee Kuan Yew always talks about the intimidation and the Malaysian military on Singapore soil …… resulting in Singapore now having the fire-power to dent any aggression …… even from Indonesia!

Back to my story ……. in today’s age, the siege mentality is more confined to economics ……. like how Singapore can stay ahead of its competitors in the region or even globally.

I recall at one time, much coverage and analysis arose from the building of the Port of Tanjong Pelepas in Johore.

The Singaporean viewed this as a direct threat to its own shipping business that had one of the largest turnovers (in terms of TEU [ton equivalent units]) then …… about 14m per annum!

I recall the Singaporean business papers working overtime on the development of the Malaysian port led by Syed Mokhtar Albukary.

I even recall the PSA (Port of Singapore Authority) having to defer its IPO (Initial Public Offering) around that time although they attributed to market sentiments ……. which I felt that had to do with Syed Mokhtar’s PTP!

Fast forward to today ……. and again I am sensing the same Singaporean ‘concerns’ or shall I call it interests in the recent economic development of Penang.

The Pearl of the Orient had in the past been seen as a direct competitor to Singapore in the early 1970s especially when Penang was under the late Lim Chong Eu.

That ‘threat’ crumbled when the leadership changed to Koh Tsu Koon and his UMNO bretherens and Singapore surged ahead.

That ‘threat’ appears to be returning in the form of the Lim Guan Eng rejuvenated Penang.

Threat enough for the Singapore Business Times to publish the Bloomberg report that was originally entitled, ‘Malaysia Losses from Racial Law Exposed’.

Singapore has always responded to competition by being more proactive and value-added in it processes.

This is in stark contrast to how the current UMNO regime seems to be adopting.

In fact, UMNO’s current media spinners do no justice to the UMNO of the past.

I am of course referring to Ahirudin Attan a.k.a. Rocky.

His outsourced hatchet man, someone called ‘SatD’, runs an expletive laced blog which attempts (in expletive terms) to run down whatever achievements of the Pakatan Rakyat in Penang especially in a totally illogical ranting manner!

The best description of their attempts is pure written diarrhea ……. thank God we don’t have to listen to them, or else it’ll be verbal diarrhea!

Please understand why I am not linking you to their articles as they are bad, bad examples of communication skills!

On the other hand, let me re-produce the article from Bloomberg below that was also published in today’s Singapore Business Times under a more ‘face saving’ heading:-

PEARL OF THE ORIENT SHINES BRIGHTLY

(KUALA LUMPUR) Lim Guan Eng turned Malaysia’s second-smallest state into the nation’s biggest economic success after he bumped into two National Instruments Corp executives at the local airport in 2008.

Elected in March that year as Penang’s first chief minister from an opposition party in 36 years, Mr Lim was struggling with the prospect of federal funding cuts.

He convinced the managers to set up a research and production centre in the state, and within two years the former British trading post was Malaysia’s top destination for foreign manufacturing investment.

With a general election due by early 2013, Penang’s progress highlights the challenges facing the rest of Malaysia and the National Front government as China, Indonesia and Vietnam offer investors bigger workforces while Singapore lures talent with lower taxes and easier immigration.

Mr Lim, 50, the country’s only ethnic-Chinese state leader, embodies the contrast between Penang’s business transparency and the four-decade old policies of the ruling party that favour Malays, which the World Bank says undermine competitiveness.

‘Penang now has a chance to show that if you have good governance, and if you put fairness and justice as your main qualities, free of race considerations, that is actually the way to go for Malaysia,’ said Ooi Kee Beng, Penang-born author and a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

In the first seven months of 2011, Penang won RM3.6 billion (S$1.46 billion) of approved foreign manufacturing investment, ahead of the RM3.4 billion that went to Selangor, the state that surrounds the capital Kuala Lumpur, a government report showed last month. The state made up 8.1 per cent of Malaysia’s gross domestic product in 2009, based on constant prices.

Mr Lim has managed to keep Penang attractive for international companies even as Prime Minister Najib focuses federal support on regions such as Johor and Sarawak, where his ruling coalition has among its biggest parliamentary-seat majorities.

To prevent corruption, Penang requires open bidding on contracts of more than RM200,000 and has awarded about RM125 million of jobs through competitive tenders, according to Mr Lim. Transparency International said in a 2009 report that Penang was Malaysia’s first state to implement open tenders for government contracts.

While Mr Lim said his government awards contracts based on merit within the national guidelines, the federal government states that it has no obligation to accept the lowest offer or to give any reason for rejecting a bid.

Under Malaysian federal rules, agencies are only required to invite quotations from at least five bidders for works contracts.

The Malaysian government says it is also pushing for greater transparency, including introducing a whistleblower protection law to fight corruption and a planned competition law next year.

Malaysia’s efforts to woo investments in recent years may have been hampered by its policy of giving preferential treatment to ethnic Malays and some indigenous groups, collectively known as bumiputra, in government jobs, contracts, education and cheaper housing, said Mr Ooi.

When the economy was booming along with its neighbours before the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, the effects of the policy were less apparent, he said. When growth slowed, the race-based programme became a greater damper, according to Mr Ooi.

While the nation outperformed rivals in the early and mid-1990s, it has struggled to maintain that edge since the regional crisis.

Malaysia’s racial policies spurred a brain drain of largely Chinese and Indian minorities, and limited foreign investment, Philip Schellekens, a senior economist at the World Bank, said in April.

Mr Lim says ethnic Malays also benefit from the state’s economic growth. In the Malaysian state with the highest proportion of ethnic Chinese at 42 per cent, Malay contractors have won most of the jobs awarded by his government through the open tenders, Mr Lim said. The Malay community doesn’t need racial quotas to succeed, he said.

‘We have proven that this is the way forward,’ Mr Lim said in an interview in July. ‘Malaysia has a historical opportunity for change.’ – Bloomberg

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ACQUITTED EX-SIME BANK CEO ISMAIL ZAKARIA : ‘SHINING CZAR’ THEN …. JUST LIKE AHMAD JAUHARI, RASHDAN YUSOF, KAMARUDDIN MERANUN …. SHINING CZARS NOW?

Not many may recall Ismail Zakaria.

One couldn’t even easily get his photo online until Malaysian Business Times published it recently.

Ismail Zakaria’s name then (up to the late 1990s) was so highly thought of that he was actually touted for the position of CEO of Maybank, which he eventually lost to Ahmad Don.

Ismail Zakaria (or IZ as he is known), joined Sime Bank as CEO after a short stint with RHB Bank.

But what we read about now is IZ’s acquittal from court charges of acting beyond his authority in lending up to RM175m to companies back in the late 1990s when CEO of Sime Bank, a subsidiary of Sime Darby Berhad.

Sime Bank was previously UMBC Bhd (United Malaysian Banking Corporation Bhd).

It’s amazing that such a matter would take over a decade to be dealt with ….. and even that, at the level of the Session’s Court!

But I do recall of the amazement at the way monies were expended by a bank supposedly controlled by a world renown company with fantastic governance and checks & balances – SIME DARBY BERHAD.

It is equally amazing (and galling) that in a relatively short period thereafter, we could witness the same scenario in Sime Darby’s Oil & Gas Division …… losing close to RM3.0 billion resulting from slip-shod management practices.

Actually, my point in this posting is that Malaysia’s corporate mentality still seems to be very much that if one appoints a high profile individual as CEO to a company ……. it is bound for success.

The actual track record of that person appears to be secondary.

As long as he/she has had their profile raised, CV’s polished, references ‘corroborated’ …… they appear acceptable, so to speak.

That seems to be the case for IZ then ……. and we seem to see it even to this day?

Look at the short-list for the Managing Director’s post for MAS as reported.

They were Ahmad Jauhari, Rashdan Yusof, Kamaruddin Meranun and Shazali Ramli.

Just what exactly has each and every one of them actually achieved?

Ahmad Jauhari was a member of the Sikap Power team that got the mandate to build an IPP plant in Port Dickson.

Naturally, it would be built and financed by others and resulted in the project being flipped first to MRCB and then to Malakoff.

Those who originally got the mandate would make a ‘killing’ from the flipping!

Ahmad Jauhari, then spent a time as MD of Malakoff, whose control (vide MMC)  by then had moved from the government to UMNO financier Syed Mokhtar Al Bukhari.

As for Rashdan Yusof ….. besides being with an audit firm and then the Thinking Company (Bina Fikir), Rashdan was also a director and shareholder of listed company, Megan Media Berhad, which collapsed so calamitously around the same time as Transmile Berhad.

And what about Kamaruddin Meranun?

Before he got his break, thanks to Snake Charmer, Tony Fernandez, what did Kamaruddin Meranun actually achieve?

He did spend some time with the Innosabah Securities Bhd Group, a stock broking firm in Sabah with subsidiaries involved in related activities eg. options and futures.

Innosabah collapsed under the same exposure that Sime Bank had then!

As for Shazali Ramli, well, he’s an apparently good marketing man especially known for his oily rolled back hair!!

Therefore, there seems to be a serious dearth of good quality CEOs for the Malaysian corporate community!

Or is it that the post of MD for MAS was earmarked for a pliant, financially secure individual who would do the bidding of the puppeteers behind the scene?

Just like Ismail Zakaria?

Ex-Sime Darby Berhad CEO, Zubir Mursid, who is facing his own court charges, must be quite positive with IZ’s acquittal.

Click HERE for BTimes report on IZ’s acquittal.