Friday, November 20, 2009

Iskandar Malaysia - Please do not fail us!

A mammoth project like Iskandar Malaysia (IM) is likely to face more and bigger challenges than ever with the global economy is still in crisis. It is something to be expected as the project seems very slow to take off as well as with increasing doubts by not only the investors (or would-be-investors) but also us, the people whose money has been used/abused to fund this dream project of 'Satu lagi projek kerajaan Barisan Nasional'.

I applaud such an initiative especially we need a new growth centre after the failures of MSC, PKFZ, Cyberjaya, to name a few and other projects under the 'Satu lagi projek kerajaan Barisan Nasional' which had wasted billions of our money and fund for the future generations. Those failures are not in the annual Auditor General's report on the wastage and perhaps our MPs can voice our concerns in the parliament.

I do not how much has been spent to date in getting IM on the ground. How much more to be spent to move and complete the project. The planners must have adequate study on the cost of such project and the return of investment for the benefits of people (not only those Umno cronies who may have been the biggest benefactors).

Being personally involved with several mammoth projects in Dubai, from the initial planning to execution and delivery, I would say, those people who had been chosen to lead and manage IM must be capable, competent, experienced and forward thinking in executing the plan. I am very much impressed with IM and have a very high regards as well as hopes.

It is not uncommon in Malaysia for projects like IM there would be more opportunists from all levels, especially politicians and cronies to gain and abuse the available opportunities for their own advantages. Money talks and walks (they call it money politics, don't they?) in corridors of power.

Yes, there are now rumblings over the slow pace of progress from Middle East investors. Do not blame these investors, some have their own troubles back home after the global financial crisis. Good planning must have taken into accounts on the setbacks. However, do we really take care of these investors and fulfill their requirements?

Somehow, professionals (whether they are cronies of Khazanah gangs or not) have to bear with politicians' (either professional politicians or amateur ones or office/corporate politicians) attitude, antics, unethical approaches in running a project. When the politics is above everything else, we are in the same situation all over again.

Whatever their objectives, we have to learn from the past & present mistakes (even from Dubai's mistakes) in realising the vision and mission of Iskandar Malaysia. Managers can be replaced and changed, however, most politicians will remain without accountability, responsibility and sensibility.

Iskandar Malaysia, especially the leaders, politicians, managers, workers, PLEASE DO NOT FAIL US....enough of Malaysia Boleh and the billions that wasted.

Trouble in Iskandar

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — All is not well in Iskandar Malaysia, the country's showpiece economic corridor project.

Two chief executive officers of the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) have not lasted two years on the job and there are now rumblings over the slow pace of progress from Middle East investors.

Apart from that, the relationship between some of the main players — the Johor Civil Service (JCS), Khazanah Nasional, Iskandar Investment Board (IIB) — leaves much to be desired.

Unwilling for the situation to unravel further, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman is signalling his intention to Putrajaya for the state government to take more control of the mammoth project billed as Malaysia's Shenzen to the developed Singapore across the Johor Straits.

He wants IRDA to come directly under the purview of the state government, and rely less on instructions from Khazanah Nasional, the federal sovereign wealth fund tasked with developing the economic zone named after the state Ruler.

The IRDA board is now jointly chaired by the Prime Minister and the MB but The Malaysian Insider understands that the Johor MB could be assigned full chairmanship, giving him control of the regional authority.

Ghani has already started exerting his authority, much to the chagrin of the top brass in Khazanah Nasional. Late last month, he demanded the resignation of the incumbent CEO Harun Johari.

Officials at Khazanah Nasional wanted Harun to be given six more months on the job but last week, the IRDA board quickly accepted Harun's resignation. He will leave in January 2010 for IRDA to have another fresh start.

Harun, an ex-Shell stalwart, was hand-picked by Khazanah Nasional for the top position. He quickly brought in several of his former Shell colleagues to fill senior executive positions, and the organisation ballooned to over 150 staff under his charge.

His critics charged that he lacked charisma but his supporters argued that he is a process-driven individual who was effective behind the scenes. Harun replaced Datuk Ikmal Hijaz, the former Pos Malaysia CEO.

The latter was also hand-picked by Khazanah Nasional to drive IRDA and make it a world-class, one-stop centre for investors.

After being appointed, Ikmal also surrounded himself with several former colleagues from Pos Malaysia or the now defunct Renong Group, in which he oversaw the construction of the Gelang Patah crossing and massive land acquisition in Nusajaya.

The Malaysian Insider has learnt the new CEO of IRDA is Ismail Ibrahim. He is currently director of the National Physical Planning Division under the Urban and Rural Planning Department.

The Muar-born career public servant, who is a British-trained town planner, was among the pioneers assembled by Khazanah Nasional back in 2006 to draw up the Comprehensive Development Plan for the south Johor Economic Region (now known as Iskandar).

He later served as senior vice-president (Planning & Compliance) and became Johor's Federal Commissioner, but quit suddenly to return to the Housing and Local Government Ministry.

Ghani wants an overhaul of the top management of IRDA. — Bernama pic

Ghani has already told Ismail that he expects an overhaul of the top management of IRDA, wanting him to rid the authority of deadwood.

At least four senior personnel are expected to be removed.

The JCS — a body whose support is necessary if any project is to take off in the southern state — has welcomed the appointment of Ismail.

Relations between the JCS and Khazanah Nasional have been uneasy since the inception of the project in 2006, with Johor civil servants complaining of being sidelined from the decision-making process. They have resented the fact that important decisions regarding Iskandar were being made in Kuala Lumpur.

The shortcomings in IRDA, and to a lesser extend IIB, come at a time when several of the Middle East investors are exhibiting signs of restlessness at the pace of the project.

Government officials told The Malaysian Insider that Khazanah Nasional was forced to buy back some land in Node 1 of Iskandar which it sold to a consortium of Middle East investors. This happened after some disagreement over responsibilities and obligations.