March 10, 2018
By Salahuddin bin Hisham
AFTER long and deep reflection, one conclusion that can be arrived at is that the political campaign that overthrew Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and currently, targeted at Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak was nothing more than political persecution.
The reasons to conclude such will not be dealt with here as it is outside the scope of today’s column. Perhaps, on another occasion if it is necessary to share the stark details.
There have been many political persecutions on businesses too in Malaysia.
Following the financial crisis of 1997-2000, political persecutions destroyed businesses of successful Bumiputera entrepreneurs.
As a result, today, Bumiputera could only identify with Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al Bukhary as the one billionaire that contribute to Bumiputera interest.
Names like Tan Sri Tajuddin Ramli, Tan Sri Halim Saad, Tan Sri Wan Azmi, and many more seem to be systematically destroyed and businesses they developed taken out of their hands. The reason to re-nationalise privatised entity could be appreciated but to make these entrepreneurs out of action came at an enormous economic and social cost.
If one looked at the economic transformation to exploit Malaysia’s locational advantage, the opportunity loss of breaking up the synergistic business empire of Tajuddin Ramli, particularly was more significant.
If Tajuddin was allowed to continue his involvement in Malaysia Airlines (MAS), and Celcom, he could have put the nation in battle ready position to benefit from the emerging opportunities from the Digital Economy, China’s One Belt One Road initiative and even the new version of Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement before other countries are.
In the new Digital Economy, transport, communication and Information Technology (IT) are key strategic areas. The importance of air transport and local delivery services are far more significant today than before.
The public then was too consumed with MAS’ people transport but ignored the relevance of transporting goods. Goods do not make as much complaint as passengers. The return for transporting of goods yields more than transporting people.
Malaysia is the 16th biggest trading nation and it was a matter of time before speed becomes more essential and air transport will be as important as shipping.
The entry of Air Asia would not have dented MAS badly had there been the right thinking. Tajuddin may have been in the right direction when he took over Hahn Airport in Germany with the plan to turn it into a transportation hub for Europe.
Frankfurt Airport, which is 60 km away, was then bursting to the rim to cope with the volume going through. Hahn airport could have relieved that burden and perhaps be the hub for goods to and from Asia.
Alas, Hahn Airport was one of the basis used to persecute Tajuddin albeit unsuccessfully. And Hahn Airport is thriving under the Russians.
Tajuddin pioneered the mobile telephony in this country and the importance for both personal and business communication could never be understated.
When he was heading Celcom, most analysts failed to realise the strategic value of Deutsche Telekom (DT) as shareholder. Off course, the technical and management support from DT was useful. Many failed to look deeper into the strength of DT and its link to DHL.
Deutsche Post DHL is today the largest logistic company in the world, particularly in air and sea mail with 600,000 employees around the world. That link could be harness profitably for Malaysia in many ways.
Another area of Tajuddin business then that would have a tie-in well today was his Sistem Maklumat Kastam (SMK) under Edaran Komputer Berhad.
It was the system to handle the documentation of the Royal Customs. When Tun Daim Zainuddin was appointed the Minister of Finance in 1984, one major problem with the Treasury was that the government had insufficient revenue.
Edaran came with NEC of Japan to develop the solution to use technology to address the problems of leakages in Royal Custom’s operations. There were ships offloading their cargo on private jetties and not at the ports.
To appreciate the need for such system, once yours truly attempted to take out personal cargo sent by air. It was an onerous affair then to undergo through the 16 different steps at different locations and require two days leave.
When Digital Economy collaboration with Jack Ma begins to commence, the country needs to ready such infrastructure and not have Jack Ma have the cake and eat it too.
SMK is already in place for nearly 30 years. Instead of the suicidal attempt to change the system, the government should inject new investments to upgrade its wares and introduce new applications to vastly improve its operation. Similar to MyEg.com, it would be more efficient to extend their role to include revenue management.
Irrespective of their political leaning, the talent of the Tajuddins, Halims and Wan Azmis should not have been sacrificed.
If they are not involved in politics, they are not rival. They should have been allowed to continue and contribute their talent in a different capacities and in tune with the new economic direction of the country.
Sadly, one seldom sees such entrepreneurs among Chinese and Indian being made sacrificial pawns of politicians. Only among Malays
As for Najib, the suspicion is that he is envied for his brevity and boldness to undertake the necessary but hard-to-swallow structural reform and transformation to propel the country forward.
The growing pain of change and few weaknesses in governance are being exploited to the hilt for both political and self-interest. Thus, the conclusion that the current happenings are well-orchestrated political persecution.
Malaysia cannot continue to rely on production economy to produce cash crops, reliance on oil and gas, and manufacturing base to produce then export products from factories owned by foreigners.
The viability is getting more and more challenging.
And, Malaysia cannot continue to manage its public financial affair in the same manner with an inefficient tax system. It is time to bite the bullet of tax reform.
Najib is transforming the economic landscape towards a logistic-based nation. He is making preparation in anticipation 30 per cent of current jobs will disappear going into Industrial Revolution 4.0 age.
Malaysia needs talents with the guts and creativity to make bold moves for the country. Business as usual thinking would only bankrupt the country.