Appoint non-partisan individuals to head government-linked firms

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The government must only appoint non-partisan individuals with proven track records in relevant fields to head government-linked companies to maintain Malaysia’s economic health in these troubling times, Zaid Kamaruddin writes.

We view with great concern the recent announcement regarding the appointment of members of Parliament to head government-linked companies.

For better or worse, government-linked companies are currently key engines of Malaysia’s economy. The way these companies are managed has a massive impact on the nation’s economic health.

It is thus imperative that the leaders of these government-linked companies are chosen based on merit and on demonstrated ability, instead of appointments being used as rewards for political patronage.

If heads of these companies are not chosen based purely on merit, this will have a severe impact on external perception towards these companies, and by extension, towards Malaysia’s economy as a whole. Poor perception and confidence can in turn have a very real impact on the flow of foreign direct investments.

The head of a government-linked company should be a full-time professional – not an elected representative who has another job. Surely Malaysia has enough talented and qualified individuals such that each can focus fully on one job, rather than paying two salaries to one individual with a limited amount of time and mental bandwidth.

The mixing of business with politics has historically opened the door to various abuses of power, corruption and leakage. When government-linked companies are mismanaged to facilitate patronage and money politics, their commercial viability invariably suffers.

Such problems create ripple effects that may eventually affect Malaysia’s credit rating as a whole, creating even more severe economic problems for the nation amidst the coronavirus crisis.

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We urge the government to only appoint non-partisan individuals with proven track records in relevant fields to head government-linked companies to maintain Malaysia’s economic health in these troubling times.

Zaid Kamaruddin is chair of Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia. This piece was issued on behalf of the executive council of Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia

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