Frankly Speaking: Bring in the professionals

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on August 6, 2018 - August 12, 2018.
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Last week, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad became the chairman of Khazanah Nasional Bhd. Four other appointments to its board included that of Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali.

This is not unusual as by convention, the prime minister is also chairman of Khaza-

nah. The reconstitution of the sovereign wealth fund’s board, following the en bloc resignation of its members on July 26, is overdue.

Responding to criticisms of his appointment, Mahathir, who started Khazanah during his first premiership, said it was his duty to put the fund “back on track”.

It is worth noting that Pakatan Harapan’s election promises included improving governance standards and transparency. That extends to government-linked companies and government-linked investment companies such as Khazanah.

For that, the government should consider having professionals and not politicians — not even Cabinet members — oversee such government institutions.  That can be done by ensuring that the boards comprise competent professionals with no political involvement. The boards can still report to the government and to parliament as and when necessary.

In the Khazanah case, there could be issues that need to be resolved. This task can be carried out by professional managers with the requisite expertise and experience. Having professionals, as opposed to politicians, institute the necessary reforms will instil more confidence and remove any lingering doubt as to possible influences from political interests.

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