Agenda Daily

Praying for the brave at MAS

ykadirxThat after numerous restructuring exercises Malaysia Airlines is still languishing is something of a shocker. The new people at the helm have their work cut out for them, for sure.

IT IS STILL NOT TOO LATE FOR ME TO SALUTE THE heroism of an old New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd (NSTP) colleague, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, who, on Sept 19, accepted the appointment as Malaysia Airlines Bhd’s Managing Director. Only the brave or the foolhardy would want to helm the airline.

Ahmad Jauhari had a brilliant career at the NSTP, Time Engineering Bhd, Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd and, most prominently, in Malakoff Corporation Bhd. He’s easily the best and most successful Independent Power Producer (IPP) executive in the country.

I have no intention of asking him why he accepted the MAS job. Speculating about it is a lot more interesting. The only reason I can think of is his love for adventure. Ahmad Jauhari is an outdoor person — a big biker, mountain biking, marathon-running and flying. He has even built his own kit plane.

Unlike the NSTP, that was maturing during his tenure as its printing chief, and Malakoff that was taking off as a key player in electricity concession, MAS is a troubled, shrinking airline.

But Ahmad Jauhari is not the only former NSTP brave to bet his reputation on MAS. The airline’s new chairman, Tan Sri Mohd Nor Yusof, and a board member, Tan Sri Wan Azmi Wan Hamzah, are also former NSTP executives. Both were its chief accountants.

Ahmad Jauhari came on board soon after the airline swapped its shares with AirAsia Bhd and after a string of quarterly losses. It was clear from the outset that he was destined to preside over a shrinking carrier.

 True enough, less than two months after he took over, it became clear that it would shrink even further.

I used to feel a sense of remorse when bad things happened to MAS. It was the airline that I flew — yes flew — most regularly since I started travelling by air in the early 1 970s. That was when MAS was the national carrier and an airline that we could be proud of.

These days, I do not fly very much anymore, and on the routes that I still fly occasionally, MAS had a long time ago stopped its service. Since it was renationalized early in the last decade, MAS has been going downhill.

It was no longer a national carrier and I had ceased to feel any sense of sadness for the company. Instead, I wonder, why after so many rounds of turning around, unbundling and rationalization, the bungling continues.

It was reported by The Star newspaper on Nov 10 that the airline plans to cut several more routes, including those to Dubai, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires and Cape Town, in a bid to reduce costs.

Quoting sources, the paper said MAS would also cease to rely on Kota Kinabalu as a hub, thereby excluding the Sâbah capital in flights to such destinations such as Tokyo’s Haneda, Osaka and Seoul.

The sources said, from February, MAS would stop flying to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Buenos Aires. The pullout from the Kuala Lumpur-Dubai sector would be done gradually, starting with the reduction of weekly flights, and those flights which are operated via Karachi and Dammam.

Since MAS has chosen to reduce frequencies tb some destinations and ceased flying to others, the next most logical step is to encourage AirAsia X to take over those unused landing rights.

Since AirAsia X and its sister airline AirAsia have seen complaining about not having enough landing rights they should seize the opportunity to fill in as much as possible the gap left behind by MAS. The government should assist other Malaysian operators to utilise the international landing rights abandoned by MAS.

Unless somebody comes in to fill the vacuum, the KL International Airport (KLIA) and other hubs in the coyntry will suffer, not to mention the air travellers. The luckless MAS could be losing money on some routes, but its flights bring in tourists and curb the outflow of money when Malaysians fly with foreign airlines in and out of the country. By the look of things, KLIA can no longer look up to MAS as its saviour.

I have to say sorry to my former NSTP mates in MAS if I say that it would take a lot more than flashy advertisements and the impending arrival of their Airbus A380 ~super lumbo to convince me that things are looking up for them

Maybe MAS staff must be made to understand, once and for all, the dire straits that their company is in. There is no doubt that there are many good people in MAS. Its safety and punctuality records are a testimony to their professionalism and dedication.

That makes me wonder even more why after so many turnaround exercises that made heroes and, possibly millionaires, of several high-profile people, including Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Sen Idris J~a, MAS is still floundering?

No wonder, when the share swap between AirAsia and MAS was announced, the ever-creative Malaysiafls immediately coined a new slogan for the combined entity

Now Everybody Can Fly Kites’. Unfortunately, it is not a laughing matter.

As for my friend Ahmad Jauhari or Jo to us, I know he knows what he is doing, and whatever that is, I wish him luck. On several occasions in the past, I had offered my two sen worth of feedback to the airline.

One was when it was being partially privatised in the 1980s, when a portion of its shares were sold to international investors. That exercise made Tan Sri Rashid Hussein a household corporate name. He was tasked with making C private placement of the airline’s shares. I wrote widely tc support the exercise.

Then, when MAS restyled its kite logo, I wrote to point out two flaws. One was the choice of colours. The two-coloU combination was not very visible in some lighting condition and almost impossible to display in black and white in th newspapers, and two, the wau sometimes faced the wron direction.

Still, as a friend, I wish my former NSTP mates now runnir MAS all the best. That is the best I can do for them.


IN the late 19905, the American- and EurOpeanbasE currency traders speculated the currencies of emerging Asi economies downward, sparking the Asian financial crisis a the fall of several Asian leaders.

Most of the affected nations were forced to accept 1 International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout and, in its wa implemented harsh austerity measures that impoveri5~ millions of Asians. Except for South Korea, most of the natk that had accepted the IMF bailout are still struggling to rec their former strength.

China was spared the crisis because at that time, economy was only starting to open up, and the Chin Government enforced tight control on its cikrency.

Today, thanks to the rapid growth of China and India, A economies are once again on the rise, although not al rate of the pm-i 997/98 crisis. Our own economy was gro’ at a rate in excess of 8% for more than a decade befor~ crisis erupted. Since then, it has been growing at less 5% on average.

Now, it is the US’s and Europe’s turn to suffer a financial meltdown. But unlike the Asian financial crisis that was brought about by American- and European-based currency traders and speculators, the US and European financial crisis is self-inflicted.

After decades of financial mismanagement and overspending, Europe and the US are on the brink of financial collapse. National debts are soaring, budget deficits widening and productivity declining. The people are taking to the streets and leaders are being shown the door. The financial and capital markets around the world are in jitters.

It was against this scary background that the new IMF chief, Christine Lagarde, made a trip to Beijing, Literally with a begging bowl in hand, to plea for Chinese and Asian help.

Well before Ms Lagarde made her Marco Polo trip to China, European leaders had already been urging Beijing to invest’ in the European Financial Stability Facility, which was established to provide support to the bloc’s struggling economies. They had called on China, which has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves at US$ 3.2 trillion, to invest in the fund.

Ms Lagarde warned that the world risked plunging into a ‘downward spiral’ of financial instability and urged Asian economies to be on their guard, adding that Asia is not immune to problems currently sweeping across the Euro zone.

She told an international finance forum in the Chinese capital that if the world does not act together, the economy around the globe runs the risk of a downward spiral of uncertainty and financial instability.

She is right. The American and European economic plague could reach Asia and other parts of the world. Apart from the financial and capital markets, Asian manufacturers and exporters are already feeling the effects of the US economic slowdown and the earthquake-cum-tsunami disaster in Japan.

Even before the natural disaster, the Japanese economy was already in a dire situation. Growth had been slow for decades, debts mounting and the government weak. But unlike the US and European countries, much of Japan’s debt is domestic.

I do not wish to cast any doubt on our own preparedness Sadly, statements coming from some chatty members of our government do not help to buttress our confidence. One has repeatedly told the Press that the global economic and financial crises would not affect our growth.

We may have a Bank Negara Governor who has the experience of handling the last regional financial crisis, but what about the others? As such, it would be useful if the present leaders tamper their false sense of pride and consult past leaders who have had the experience of managing the 1997/98 financial crisis and rebuilding the economy thereafter.-28/11/2011

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