What is the Mara Corp plan?

pic by TMR FILE

RECENTLY the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) proudly announced that government reforms led to Malaysia’s improvement in World Bank’s “Doing Business 2020” ranking to 12th from 15th place, out of almost 150 nations being considered, the said report.

But what MITI had failed to mention then was that the week before, the latest survey by the World Economic Forum, dropped Malaysia to 27th. More alarmingly, the Department of Statistics Malaysia reported on Nov 19 that in September 2019, Malaysia suffered its worst export drop in three years with little prospect of improvement.

Traditional exports giants fell off the cliff: Electronics was the worst performer and joined by crude and refined petroleum.

The so-called Malaysia Baru needs to act fast to create high-impact export economies and jobs in new high-technology sectors in a big scale.

Thankfully, there is some progress here and there but not enough. Let’s quote one example of such initiative that needs to be recognised and supported.

Several weeks earlier, on Nov 11 to be specific, Mara Corp, the corporate arm of Mara (Majlis Amanah Rakyat), revealed a noble strategy to achieve this.

It is a refreshing contrast to infrastructure-oriented programmes and rankings. Mara Corp’s programmes intend to create tens of thousands of high-tech jobs and establish the global centre of excellence in sustainable rare-earth innovation.

In its attempt, Mara Corp inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to form strategic business collaboration with Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

Though I have been concerned about lingering safety issues mentioned in the past, as influenced by some politicians that used Lynas to gain a political mileage, I have since realised the concern was unwarranted.

Against all the odds and despite all the political exploitations and shenanigans, the public has been made to understand and appreciate better about this project. The fact is that, the Lynas facility survived a decade of scrutiny by two different government administrations, numerous international and local atomic energy agencies, and scientists.

More importantly, it survived the scrutiny of our honourable prime minister (PM). The PM’s office itself developed its own FAQ, which is the strongest sign of support.

What is also assuring is the oversight by Mara Corp chairman Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah Sanusi. Just as a point of note, Akhramsyah is a chemical engineer from Imperial College, UK, with almost two decades of senior level industrial experience, working for a multinational corporation across three continents.

As a product of Mara via Mara Junior Science College himself and being the son of the late Tan Sri Sanusi Junid, the personality who was among the catalyst of Mara’s metamorphosis in the 1980s, Akhramsyah’s appointment as the new chairman of Mara Corp is providence.

As the corporate and investment arm of Mara, it is about time, that Mara Corp makes a move to play a big role in priming the way forward for Malaysia Baru.

Mara Corp is the catalyst for economic development to achieve Malaysia’s Shared Prosperity Vision 2030.

Since he became chairman, Mara Corp has started on the right footing. I welcome Akhramsyah’s announcement on Nov 7, 2019, that by the end of this year, Mara Corp group of companies are expected to generate a profit of up to RM20 million before tax, compared to a loss making position the year before.

A strong turnaround story by any standards. The latest initiative — to lock the business interest of Mara Corp with Lynas, the producer of “vitamins” of the digital and green economy, providing minerals crucial to new clean energy technologies from mobile phones to electric cars to giant wind turbines — must be recognised, supported and promoted.

While the announcement of such initiative looks good and had given a positive vibes for our economy, I also heard of some noises against it, coming from within. My wild guess is, especially when it involves statutory agency, such as Mara, these sorts of noises are pretty normal.

Still, I cannot for the life of me understand or appreciate why anyone would not stand firmly behind Mara Corp’s MoU with Lynas. A global centre of excellence for rare earth is very much in line with Mara’s mandate for education and economic development. It is in the same vein as the Asia AeroTechnic Sdn Bhd, the international award winning aerospace MRO, overseen by Mara Corp.

To be fair to all parties, I would like to see for myself more details of the Mara Corp’s plan with Lynas, especially in ensuring this initiative will yield swift, meaningful multiplied returns for the country and creating more local talents in the new economies not only for industries in Malaysia but also globally, while protecting the various interests of our beautiful country.

Meantime, I will do my part and pay Gebeng, Pahang, a visit. No point getting my knickers in a knot listening to naysayers without finding out for myself about the real situation.

I am going on a tour of the Lynas plant to see what the fuss is really all about and to appreciate the great opportunities that Mara Corp is saying we must no longer be allowed to miss.

Datuk Dr Hasan Mad Secretary General Malay Consultative Council The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the editorial board or The Malaysian Reserve and its owners.