GLCs are turning to be dangerous waterholes

Will qualified professionals join these GLCs or GLICs, taking into account the current precarious scenario?

graphic by MZUKRI

GOVERNMENT-LINKED companies (GLCs), government-linked investment companies (GLICs) and government-related agencies have suddenly lost their gloss among professionals.

In the last few months, appointments of many qualified and highly regarded figures had been cut short, turning their corporate dream stint into a stoppage time cameo.

Changes had been sweeping, wide-ranging and at a breakneck speed since Perikatan Nasional ousted the Pakatan Harapan government from Putrajaya in February.

For many, the changes at the board and management levels of these state-owned firms are inevitable.

Such terminations are not new. Neither are they unlawful. The current government has the final say and it is the prerogative of the administration to decide the appointees to these Putrajaya-controlled firms.

The subject, though, has been a hot potato. There were cries of unfairness over the axing of many highly qualified professionals who had only taken their roles in the last 21 months.

The exits of nuclear physicist Dr Hasnita Hashim from Majlis Amanah Rakyat, Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin from Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas), former Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zaharah Ibrahim (Prasarana Group) and Abdul Jalil Abdul Rasheed (Permodalan Nasional Bhd [PNB]) to many are without rhyme nor reason.

The replacements have been castigated by the public as an ill wind. Others see some of the new appointees as a fish out of water.

MISC Bhd was under the spotlight after Tan Sri Noh Omar quit the chairman position 16 days after his appointment.

The Petronas-controlled company is one of the leading liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessel operators in the world. MISC operates among the 525 vessels performing 5,119 voyages at the end of 2018, according to IGU World LNG report.

That shows how important MISC is in the world’s LNG ecosystem. Malaysia alone accounts for 7.7% of the global LNG export.

The worries over the corporate cleansing extend beyond financial repercussions. The damage for these billion-ringgit companies will be more than an arm and a leg. Reputational holes are harder to plug than the balance sheet, especially for fund managers like PNB.

There was a time when these GLCs and GLICs have been the go-to companies for corporate figures. Many who had been seduced into the bosom of these GLCs had used “national service” as the obvious excuse.

What is seldom revealed is that the “national service” comes with a fat pay check. Positions at these GLCs and GLICs are like grist to the money mill. More importantly, it is a dream job for professionals who want to immortalise their corporate career. For professionals, a stint at GLCs is the ego-bloating testosterone to one’s resume.

More so, these companies account for more than 50% of the country’s listed firms’ market capitalisation.

However, this is not the case anymore. These blue-chip state-owned firms have become a risk like a waterhole filled with crocodiles. The question now, can these GLCs attract the best brains into their bosom or stop the outflow of their best talents?

Will qualified professionals join these GLCs or GLICs, taking into account the current precarious scenario? Entering GLCs will be like walking on an ice-covered lake during summer.

PNB, for one, may find the desired candidates to be its chairman and CEO to procrastinate in their final decision. These are big names. Like big football players, they do not want a cameo role or face the risk of being bitten at the waterhole.

Mohamad Azlan Jaafar is the editor-in-chief of The Malaysian Reserve.