IRDA CEO Harun ‘resigns’?

Harun Johari

In the midst of nationwide focus on PM VI Dato’ Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak’s innaugral budget today, rumour is brewing that IRDA CEO Harun Johari “resigned” from the controversial Iskandar Malaysia authority. Spat with several parties seemed to have escalated into the former PTP CEO leaving office ahead of his contract expiry, which end of the year.

Iskandar Malaysia

Rumour around Johor Bahru looms that Harun is leaving, along with Head of Integrated Planning Ahmad Suhaili Idrus and Head of Strategic Communications.

Iskandar Region Development Authority (IRDA) is an authority which was said to have engaged thirty different consultants to do blueprints which have yet to prove any results, exactly three years after it was launched as Wilayah Pembangunan Iskandar by HRH Sultan Iskandar of Johor. Some of the projects undertaken were said to be farmed out to consulting groups.  Controversial projects such as the RM 850 million Nusajaya-Danga Bay 16 km highway attracted a lot of criticsm, including local politicians. Being the UMNO fixed deposit, Johoreans relatively are unhappy with the progress of much elluded Federal Government ambitious project down south. Many compare the exorbitantly costing highway against the RM 1.4 billion Senai-Desaru 71 km highway, which was funded via Ranhill’s private funding initiative (PFI).

IRDA is thought to be duplicating some of the existing government agencies’ roles, be it Federal or Johor State. An example of projects undertaken by IRDA with direct Federal Government budget are upgrading and building of new roads around Johor Bahru, which in the past had been undertaken by JKR. Some of the monies spent by IRDA was thought to be ‘unnecessary and wasteful’. Such as the ‘rebranding’ of IRDA, which include changing of the corporate logo which was said to be RM 5 million.

There are concerns that IRDA is ‘realising’ Iskandar Malaysia to be ‘peripheral facility’ to Singapore, as per envisaged by PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Dato’ Seri Abdullah Badawi’s aides back in early 2006, namely Political Secretary Dr. Vincent Liew. Recent talks about bringing middle income Singaporeans to live within Iskandar Malaysia as they might not afford to live in  city-state as the 650 sq. km. island is aiming towards becoming a place where only high income earners and spenders live. Today’s 2010 budget announcement of reduction of income tax to a ceiling of 15%  for “knowledge workers”, which is 11% lesser than the rest of the country clearly illustrate the ‘concentration towards enticing Singaporeans’. It is a discriminatory policy which expected attract a lot of negative reaction by the Malaysian public. At the moment, the ceiling personal income tax rate of Singapore is 20%.

On the otherhand, some of the ongoing efforts to develop business within Iskandar Malaysia includes initiatives deemed to be ‘low value and human resource intensive activities’ such as call centres into Johor Bahru where else the high value activities remained in the republic. In short, IRDA is facilitating Iskandar Malaysia being turned into a ‘backyard-“dirty & smelly”-supporting-industrial-zone’, if not ‘dumping ground’ for Singapore to propel their kiasu economic growth. In the meeting with Prime Minister Brig. Gen.(NS) Lee Hsien Loong in Langkawi May 2007, PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah agreed that Singapore is admitted into the Iskandar Malaysia joint task force for immigration, environment, tourism and transportation policies and action plans. Many Johoreans view this decision as “selling out to the Singaporeans”.

In the recent Forbes CEO Conference in Kuala Lumpur last month, Iskandar Investment Berhad announced a USD 13 billion investments ‘locked in’ for the 2,600 sq. km. region formerly known as South Johor Economic Region. This include Legoland, which plan to attrract at least 1.5 million visitors per annum to their RM 750 million (80% funded by Khazanah Holdings) 40 acre theme park in Nusajaya scheduled to be opened by 2012.

Harun was appointed to office with recommendations of Khazanah Holdings Bhd. CEO Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar and the blessing of PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah. So far, not much can be desired from IRDA’s performance  being the ‘co-ordinator; between EPU, Johor State Government, Khazanah Holdings, local Johor conglomerate such as Johor Corp and even local indigenous business communities despite already spending hundreds of millions Ringgit. By and large, IRDA failed to reach out to the most important stakeholder within Iskandar Malaysia, the rakyat.

If delivery and performance are the main issues, then it is probably true that Harun and seniors executives of IRDA left or will be leaving soon. Now, it seems there is far too much attention and pressure is on a ‘Federalisation wet dream’ of PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah’s ‘Level Four Boys’, which is deemed to be affecting UMNO’s ‘fixed deposit’.

*Updated Saturday 24 October 1300hrs

IRDA CEO Harun Johari tendered his resignation on Thursday 22 October 2009 after meeting with MB Johor Dato’ Abdul Ghani Othman. ‘Infighting and gross non co-operation’ within IRDA was blamed for his untimely departure.

Biggum Dogmannsteinberg reporting live from the southern most city in continent Asia.

Published in: on October 23, 2009 at 17:48  Comments (85)