KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 2019 : Datuk Seri Najib Razak has urged the government not to sell or shut down Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAS).
The former prime minister said MAS was the country’s pride and joy and it must continue to be the national carrier.
“It doesn’t matter if we have other airlines, MAS is still our national airline. This is our national pride and you cannot replace it with something else. Almost every country has its own national airlines,” he told reporters at the Parliament Lobby, here yesterday.
Najib added that when he was Khazanah National Bhd’s chairman (Khazanah), MAS was already working on its turn around plan and it would need a bit more time to recover.
“We had a rescue plan, turn around plan. We have a major exercise that is VSS (voluntary separation scheme), we cut down the number of employees in MAS, we were about to take off some of the routes that were not profitable. But I think the airline was also affected by the downturn of tourist arrivals in Malaysia, especially from China.
“It needs a bit more time therefore there is no reason why MAS should be sold off or even closed down,” he said.
Earlier yesterday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government is weighing the options on MAS’ future.
MAS was privatised under Khazanah, facing marginally lower losses last year due to several factors including crew shortages in the second half of 2018.
Meanwhile, former Khazanah managing director Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim said the government has an option whether to close down MAS.
“It is very difficult (to say). We don’t have such a big market like Singapore and Thailand.
“Some are saying, ‘Why don’t we close it (MAS) down?’ Maybe that’s an option for the government to consider,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Malaysian Strategic Financial Outlook Forum organised by the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute, where he was a panel speaker.
The PLUS Malaysia Bhd chairman, who was responding to reporters’ questions, added: “I don’t want to comment on it (whether it should be closed down).
“What I’m saying is that there are a lot of people who say we need to re-examine whether we still need a national airline and I think we should look into whether we (still) need it.”
Sheriff pointed out that the airline had been bailed out not just once but two or three times before, but it was not successful.
“(After) two, three years, then start again. It shows that it is not easy for Malaysia Airlines Bhd to become profitable,” he said.
Sheriff also said there was a need for reforms of government-linked investment companies such as Khazanah and government-linked companies (GLCs).
He opined that there was a need for a serious discussion on whether Malaysia needed so many GLCs.
“The governance standards should be improved and we should make sure that there is no political interference in the running of GLCs, so that those who remain can do their work properly,” he said. – Bernama