4th February 2011, Cass Business School, London — UKECatalyst kicked off the first of their Speaker Series sessions for the year with a forum themed ‘A Frank Discussion on State Governance with Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’. The guest speaker, who was currently on vacation in the UK, kindly spared some time to address Malaysian students about his tenure as the Menteri Besar of Selangor.
The event started with a welcoming speech by Farquar Haqqani, the Chairmen of UKEC who explained to the audience on what UKEC aspires to achieve through their Speaker Series and thanked Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim for his support. Tan Sri started off his session by giving a brief introduction to his background. Before stepping into politics, he was a well-known figure in the corporate world; he was the CEO for PNB as well as Guthrie. Tan Sri stated the reason why he gave his corporate background was that he was trying to show the audience how a same person can become a CEO of an institution and the leader of a state, it all comes down to leadership attributes and skill.
He further elaborated by explaining the common relationships and the differences between the two roles. Being one who was once responsible in creating profit for the company, Tan Sri has adopted the same approach in governing Selangor. He believes that costs should be minimized, and resources be used efficiently. His first act when he came into office was to relook the privatisation agreement for water. The tariff hike of 35% every 3 years proposed by concessioners was unacceptable, and he did not agree to the arrangement as it would be a waste of state resources. Tan Sri also mentioned that compared to other developing countries that were once economically on par with us, our current income per capita cannot compete with these countries. Governance is a main cause of this difference.
Tan Sri Khalid continued his session by explaining the practical nature of governance. He started by mentioning how surprised he was upon his appointment as the Menteri Besar of Selangor. He felt that is an issue of trust; the rakyat felt that they needed to change, and he believed that it was his duty to provide this change. In his opinion, his appointment is a contract between him and the people. Hence, to fulfil this contract his main objective is to improve government transparency which he believes is essential for good governance. Examples given by YAB to evidence his initiative includes publication of the RM 500 billion worth of Selangor’s assets to the public, established a ‘select committee’ which allows people to call in to enquire in relation on state activities to investigate and understand how things are operated in Selangor.
Selangor, he said, became the first state in Malaysia to table a ‘right of information act’ which requires all information that is not bound as official secrets can be made known to the public. He subscribes to the idea that if you want people to do well, you must support it with information. Tan Sri stated that he aims to continuously show to people a clean and transparent government, which the rakyat deserve. He addressed the students attending the forum that their roles in the future is to fight for transparency.
In the 2nd half of his speech, Tan Sri explained his efforts to translate governance to action. ‘Merakyatan Ekonomi Selangor’ is one of his main initiatives to execute governance into action. Tan Sri described the main concept behind the slogan was that people of Selangor own the resources of Selangor. An example of this effort is that free water would be provided for all the residence of Selangor for the first 2 metre-square used in a household. He explains how with the rakyat would be given the ‘basic’ need, and the cost of excesses would be also paid by the rakyat. ‘Tabung Warisan Anak’ is another initiative that would benefit the babies born in Selangor. This programme is a form of trust fund for these babies and every year end; the government would put in excess funds gained during the year into this ‘tabung’. Tan Sri ended his speech by stating that all his governance policies, implementation actions and programmes are all ‘need’ based rather than ‘race’ based, as he believes that good governance provides for everyone.
A much heated Q&A session followed after Tan Sri’s speech. Interesting questions include the issue of creating a welfare state as the UK government is now facing problems due to the previous Labour’s party initiatives to create a welfare state to which Tan Sri replied that the basic solution to the problem is that the state would only spend what they have therefore would not end up in the same situation as the UK. Overall, the session proved to be a great success as students who attended left the hall with more awareness on the practical issues of governance, and those living in Selangor became better acquainted with the future plans for their state. It is hoped that this session would get the ball rolling for more successful Speaker Series sessions in the future.
Nur Shahidah Deen