When principled men speak and frogs croak

Honesty. Candour. Fearlessness.

These qualities are so refreshing about Petronas chief executive officer Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abbas. He speaks the language of a man who cares more deeply about doing the right thing by his company, and ultimately, by his country, than clinging to the coveted position as the boss of the national oil company.

He calls a spade a spade and not because sharp words are going to grab him a share of headlines, but because he knows that endemic rent-seeking is leading the country’s piggy-bank and financier of all our excesses to a bad place.

He has to wave the red flag, shout at the top of his voice and be the bearer of bad news because everyone else is in denial. Because Umno politicians and their supporters in Perkasa like Datuk Ibrahim Ali believe that the country’s one, constant source of revenue is theirs to pillage.

So it was expected that Shamsul’s candour in an interview with the Edge Weekly would provoke a response from the country’s instigator-in-chief, the purveyor of all nonsense and defender of the rent-seeking culture, Datuk Ibrahim Ali.

Among other things, Shamsul said that Petronas resources belonged to all Malaysians, and not just Malays. He was spot on saying that because the Petroleum Development Act 1974 does not mention Bumiputeras.

Shamsul lamented the fact that Petronas was under pressure to back inexperienced businesses, while he was more interested in stressing the importance of meritocracy.

“In 2010, we structured the whole organisation, including the composition of the board…I brought in new capable people. The talk was that I got rid of all the government servants, brought in the non-Malays, opened up Petronas, which belongs to the Malays, to the non-Malays.

“Are we not interested in competence? This is a predicament I am facing at this point of time…I am being pulled back by politics, by interested parties, by parties with vested interests, by agendas that are outdated…I am a Malay too. I am proud to be one. You think I don’t want to help my own people. Of course, I want to help them but in the proper way. Not through handouts and spoon-feeding, ” said in the interview published on June 21.

Ibrahim, who finds any discussion on meritocracy and competence offensive, has found much wrong with what Shamsul said and now is calling for his head.

Ibrahim represents all that is wrong with this blessed and resource-rich country. He claims he is fighting for Malays when he is in fact trying to perpetuate a system where a small group of Malays have benefited tremendously from government contracts, approved permits and the like.

He adores the current political patronage system because it provides the perfect eco-system for Perkasa, Isma and other right-wing groups to thrive.

…more
When principled men speak and frogs croak
COMMENTARY BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
26 June 2014 – TMI

 

Petronas President speaks out fearlessly amid rumours he is under pressure to leave

KUALA LUMPUR: Rumours are again rampant that Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas)’s president and CEO Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abbas will leave his post, but this man at the helm says he will continue to defend professionalism and independence fearlessly, reported the Edge Weekly in its latest June 23-29 issue.

In an exclusive interview with the Edge Weekly, Shamsul said he had to continue to fight for Petronas’ independence and guard the interest of the national oil company in the face of political pressure.

He will continue to adopt the open bidding method when dishing out oil and gas jobs to bring down cost for Petronas. He will not bow to political pressure to give jobs to unproven businessmen. He will not be held ransom by greedy well-connected contractors.

“It’s so difficult to do an honest day’s job. You spend a lot of time away from your true function (of running Petronas),” Shamsul lamented during the interview conducted last week.

“It’s not just people outside [who are making things difficult but] also people in the government — the bureaucrats. Bureaucratic interference makes things difficult,” he added.

In fact, things have been tough for Shamsul since he took the reins of Petronas from Tan Sri Hassan Marican in 2010, said the weekly financial paper of The Edge in its cover story on page 80-82.

Among the changes Shamul has made that has irked the government is to cap the dividend paid to the federal government at 30% of Petronas’ net profit from 2013 onwards. This has also angered many in UMNO, who feel that Petronas should cough up more.

But Shamsul argued: “We need money to grow. If we remain static and all our production is depleting…in 13 years’ time we might as well close shop”.

Most of Shamsul’s woes stem from well-connected business owners who have lost out on lucrative jobs after open bidding became the preferred mode, compared with fixed allocation for local firms done previously.

Companies under Petronas’ vendor development programme are no pushovers either as they are usually politically linked. They are unhappy that Shamsul had clamped down on their request to be allocated jobs. Some were loading up their costs by as much as 48%, making exceptionally big margins.

“I’m a Malay too, I’m proud to be one … you think I don’t want to help my own people? Of course I want to help them, but in the proper way –not through handouts and spoon-feeding,” Shamsul told the Edge Weekly.

In fact, the frustrations of Shamsul could be felt from the following quotes extracted from the Edge Weekly:

“Everybody can see that we at Petronas are under immense pressure … We take pride in telling the whole world, telling the whole of Malaysia, that we are a Fortune 500 company, but do we behave like one?”

“This is what the fighting is all about, trying to give ourselves some independence, so that at the end of the day, we are measured in terms of our performance, delivery and results, and not having anyone intervening and telling us what we have to do and that we have to give handouts to all.”

“The government wants us to be like an international oil company, comparable with the Shells and ExxonMobils of the world, so we try to be one. But Shell and ExxonMobil are not harassed by their governments.”

“In the Petroleum Development Act, it is very clear — oil and gas belong to all Malaysians. It doesn’t say oil and gas belong to the bumiputeras, it doesn’t say that … it says all Malaysians, so they can be in the government, they can be in the opposition, they can be wherever … and we are the custodians.”

“It is amanah … diamanahkan … the word amanahkan is very strong — as a Muslim, it would be a huge sin if I abused ‘amanah’.

“We are dealing with politicians; they say one thing but do another, so it’s difficult… it is frustrating.”

…more
June 26 2014 – theedgemalaysia.com
Petronas President speaks out fearlessly amid rumours he is under pressure to leave


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