Malaysiakini Opinion

Here’s how Khazanah can spread its wealth

P Gunasegaram  |  Published:  |  Modified:

QUESTION TIME | Can members of the public, instead of just the connected bigwigs, get a slice of the corporate cake, if all or part of Khazanah Nasional Bhd’s realisable value of about RM160 billion at the end of last year is disposed of?

This is about 57 percent of total assets under national unit trust management company Permodalan Nasional Bhd or PNB with RM280 billion of assets managed as at end 2017.

The unequivocal answer is “yes”, a unit trust scheme can be easily devised for Khazanah’s assets and you and I and millions of other Malaysians could become beneficiaries - provided the new Pakatan Harapan government under Dr Mahathir Mohamad shunts Malaysia Inc aside in favour of a partnership with the public. It really can be done and it will earn plenty of credit for Harapan. Let’s explain.

When Prime Minister Mahathir accused Khazanah Nasional of deviating from its original objective of helping the bumiputera, what did he mean? Was he confusing this with Permodalan Nasional Bhd which was set up specifically to increase and retain bumiputera participation in the corporate sector?

"But along the way, Khazanah decided it should take all the shares for itself and if they are good shares well why not acquire the shares at the time of listing when the price of shares was very low and so they forget entirely about holding the shares for the bumiputera. They decided that they should be holding the shares forever as a part of the government companies owned by the government," he said.

But an examination of its corporate profile shows no such objective for Khazanah. Here is its mandate: “Khazanah strives to create sustainable value and cultivate a high-performance culture that helps contribute to Malaysia's economic competitiveness. Utilising a proactive investment approach, we aim to build true value through management of our core investments, leveraging on our global footprint for new growth, as well as undertaking catalytic investments that strategically boost the country's economy. We also actively develop human, social and knowledge capital for the country.”

Yes, under the previous government it was to divest some of its stakes in investments gradually, but not necessarily to bumiputera. Increasing the bumiputera stake in the corporate sector fell squarely upon the shoulders of PNB which was set up for that purpose.

Its first chairperson, former Bank Negara Malaysia governor the late and straight Ismail Ali, Mahathir’s brother-in-law, set up PNB in 1978 and came up with the structure of PNB and its unit trusts to increase and retain bumiputera corporate interests.

Surely Mahathir knows that as he was prime minister and chairperson of PNB’s holding company from 1981 up to 2003 during his previous term.

What is Mahathir’s game? And is the seeming pressure that appears to be put on Khazanah and its staff, alleging high salaries etc, an attempt to justify the selling of Khazanah’s investments to others/cronies...

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