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Idris Jala’s track record scrutinised

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin throws scorn on former
MAS boss' performance in the wake of national carrier's
share swap deal with AirAsia.
KUALA LUMPUR: Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin joined in the inter-carriers share swap fray by scoffing at Idris Jala’s track record during his tenure as Malaysian Airlines Bhd (MAS) boss.

The Rembau MP suggested in his Twitter posting that the minister in charge of Putrajaya’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) had not done a good job at MAS.

This is despite the accolades he received for supposedly piloting the national carrier out of troubled times.

“Running a beleaguered premium flag carrier needs more imagination than being able to give a slick power-point presentation or unbundling its assets,” said Khairy.

“His is best move was leaving MAS to become minister. He didn’t actually need to run MAS beyond a ‘turnaround’,” added the son-in-law of former PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The news of a share swap between MAS and low-cost carrier AirAsia, in what appears to be a move to save the former from yet another financial mess, have prompted questions if Jala had done enough to restore the national carrier to its former glory.

An online news portal had reported that the share swap was meant to help MAS reclaim its position as a premium airline, leaving low-cost operations under AirAsia’s control.

It further reported that both its shares have been suspended for trading until this evening pending an announcement that could see the latter’s main shareholder, Tune Air Sdn Bhd, get 20% of MAS.

Too much influence on policy matters

MAS recently recorded a first-quarter net loss of RM242.3 million against a profit of RM310.6 million in the same period a year ago. It is expected to record further losses throughout its 2011 financial year.

Furthermore, MAS has already had two rights issues since Jala took over in 2005, raking in RM1.6 billion in 2007 and RM2.67 billion in 2010 to fund its operations and fleet purchases, and industry observers believe more cash help is unlikely to save the national carrier.

Jala was appointed as MAS’s CEO in 2005 and was tasked to revitalise the ailing state-owned company. He implemented a turnaround plan to a record a profit of RM850 million in 2007 against a nine-month loss of RM1.3 billion two years before.

However, Jala’s method of merely attaining good figures through asset stripping have come under heavy criticism.

He left MAS to join Najib’s administration in September 2009.

The former MAS chief is said to be employing the same strategy for the Najib administration’s Economic Transformation Plan which will see non-core government and government-linked-company assets being divested.

Meanwhile, the Umno Youth chief also suggested that Jala’s Pemandu is wielding too much influence on policy matters.

“Pemandu officers should not be briefing on the latest NKRA KPIs. Should be the ministers. Accountability. Pemandu unelected,” he said in his tweet.

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