ASEAN/APEC/CONSUMERIST LEAD DR JACOB GEORGE – MAS ANY WHICH WAY BUT LOSE?
I am certain outgoing Malaysian Airlines Bhd (MAS) CEO Christoph Mueller is quite aware of my constant views on where we are as an airline in an industry that is rapidly challenged and competitive and what in my mind needs to be done!
And I am aware after his arrival he made several press statements and in them his views, direction and promises.
Even at that stage I did wonder if he was already inflicted by the same sickness the plagued Malaysian politicians and policy makers so soon in his employment or election?
The sickness of saying politically correct things and making promises that you cannot keep because the way things in Malaysia, corporate, civil and social life is engineered for such a long time!
But I must give him credit for having the courage and insight in cutting 6,000 jobs though I felt it – the process – could have being better managed with transparency and accountability!
He has since justified that that was because many of the 20,000 employees were “doing nothing”.
He reiterated that he was not impressed with the state that MAS was in when he first took over the Malaysian flag carrier.
And Christoph Mueller statement to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) on its web portal to each and every Malaysian was nothing new but a confirmation that is how business was initiated in Malaysia and of strong undercurrents and bindings between politics and business!
And the backlash against any who challenges this status quo which has today been entrenched in stone as a way business is initiated and carried out.
I have been the nation’s lead consumerist for over 4 decades and during that tenure had addressed and exposed enough improprieties in the public interest and suffered threats to life and limb, lost my job in the 90s, hurt personally, financially and in well being for that decision of accountability – which I do not regret!
Christoph should know nothing moves and has its being unless it is sanctioned by the large number of power brokers in the system each with their own interest in mind?
And they just did not have the “balls” to initiate draconian changes in the protocols and processes to bring an ailing airline out of the intensive care unit!
They wanted the bourgeoisie positions and decision making powers and the huge unimaginable perks that came with the office but not the dedication and commitment to do the right thing?
So the next best thing in the experiment is to bring an outsider in to do the “dirty job” and if things go wrong – crucify him/her and the old order comes back in as knights in silver armor and gullible Malaysians would be satisfied?
But that statement to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) was not expected?
That rocked and derailed everything?
So what did Muller say:
“Despite all the announcements by the government, a turnaround wasn’t initiated by the time I became CEO.
“Many of the 20,000 employees who worked for the airline had nothing to do. In fact, when I walked through the hangars, people were sleeping. That’s why I had to radically cut 6,000 jobs,”
He said MAS was in dire straits before he took over because of poor personnel management and a bloated workforce.
Mueller said MAS also suffered from a bloated and overpriced supply chain, partly because the airline bought products from suppliers at prices 20 to 25 percent higher than the market value.
“Everything from pens to US$200-million aircraft were purchased at these rates. I am not saying that we were bad negotiators, and in any case corruption is punishable also in Malaysia,”
Mueller also pointed out that MAS had about 20,000 suppliers and, as a result, the glut made it difficult for the airline to get a volume discount from anyone.
He observed that the previous so-called turnaround plans announced for the airline were half-hearted at best.
And he also stated that actions that he initiated:
He had to slash 6,000 jobs at the airline as many were doing nothing, with some even sleeping in the hangars.
He “managed to downsize the number to about 4,000 suppliers” from an embarrassing 20,000.
And his goal “to cut it further to some 2,000.” By doing this, he hopes to “reduce our procurement costs,”
He noted that the airline has had a spate of bad luck in recent years – the disappearance of MH370 and shooting down of MH17 that gave it bad press – but expressed incredulity that the carrier could have been in the red at all.
As expected the reaction from the power brokers and political leeches to Muller’s statement was fast.
Muller was reprimanded “not knowing Malaysian culture!”
But equally fast was Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) Executive Director Shamsuddin Bardan who brought some level of sanity into the narrative when he rightly pointed out that “investors normally consider the work ethics of the people in a country before pumping in money.”
He went on to state that any attempts to defend “the rights of workers to sleep at work may have just discouraged investors,”
What is sad was the lack of professionalism in the manner these issues were deliberated and addressed!
But perhaps, it would be rather a herculean task to change the way we do things in Malaysia.
Why should one change if political kiss ass can position one in places of power?
Why should one change if there is always the opportunity of another bailout and no Royal Commission of Inquiry to audit comprehensively what really went on and who is liable for the decisions taken that plunged an airline once respected but today a pale shadow of what she was!
An airlines where families of employees still have no closure what really happened to MH17 or MH 370?
Where is SIA and where is MAS?
Where is the Singapore dollar and where is the ringgit?
Look at Singapore and its war against corruption and ask, beating your breast black-and-blue, where we are?
As far as I am concerned what Mueller articulated is not surprising because it was already common knowledge regarding what ailed MAS.
These are merely symptoms.
The root cause is the culture of entitlement and subsidy that a certain demography have been repeatedly infused from birth as a right?
And God help us criminal and apathetic a total lack of accountability, good governance, transparency, ethics, adherence to international industry standards and norms!
I will say no more!
Res Ipsa Loquitur (Latin, literally ‘the matter speaks for itself’)?