HDC: Something not quite halal

The Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) was established in October 2006, with the objective of developing the Halal industry and to contribute to the national GDP. The establishment of HDC was approved by the Malaysian Cabinet headed by PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Dato Seri Abdullah Hj Ahmad Badawi with a launching grant of RM25 million as a MOF company.

This GLC like most projects incepted during PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah has a lot of ‘Level Four Boys’ insivible hand in it.

The Halal Industry had huge potential with 1.6 billion Muslims and the market size of USD 1.2 trillion. Many companies with the JAKIM Halal Certification were able to export to Muslim countries particularly in the West Asia. Headed by Dato Seri Jamil Bidin but his leadership is very much to be desired. 

HDC, since its inception engaged many consulting companies to conduct study on the halal market. Most notably was the Halal Master Plan which was conducted by Ethos Consulting but there were many other reports which include the business plan study by a big five firm of which some of the contents were “plagarised” from Ethos and some HDC internal documents. There was also a report conducted by Merdeka Centre based on Halal Industry Surveys and SME Surveys and reported their findings. There was a study conducted by MDS Logistic on A Cluster Study on How to make Malaysia a Global Hub. HDC also commissioned GFRA (Global Food Research &Adviser), a company linked to Kasehdia to conduct a Market Study in Europe and Asean. 

These studies cost the tax payers a huge amount of money but not much of these studies and reports have been implemented by HDC. These reports remain on the shelves of HDC gathering dust. For instance, the Halal Master Plan was approved by Cabinet after the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) submitted the Cabinet Paper in mid 2008 but actions were lacking. EPU had informed HDC to conduct a Halal Industry Event to share with the industry the Halal Master Plan but it was really an act of omission by HDC. To date, the Halal Industry Master Plan is about the best kept secret. 

In its early days, HDC was reporting directly to the Prime Minister’s office to get it started with the RM25 million grant. When Datuk (now Tan Sri) Amirsham Abdul Aziz (former Maybank CEO) was appointed as Minister in Charge of EPU, the Cabinet decided that HDC should report to EPU. However, HDC was restless under Amirsham and Dato Jamil Bidin lobbied to move HDC under Datuk Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the then Minister in the Prime Minister Office in charge of Islamic Affairs more based on personality rather than an objective move. PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah consented with the move much to the displeasure of EPU. When Dato Seri Najib Razak became Prime Minister, the new Minister in charge of Islamic Affairs changed to Mej. Jen. Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom while Datuk Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi moved to the Defence Ministry. Again, Dato Jamil Bidin was restless under Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom and lobbied heavily to move under MITI with Datuk Mustapha Mohamed as the Minister. 

This move had cost HDC major relationship set back with the various stakeholders especially EPU and MOF. During April 2008, the Cabinet under PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdulah consented that Local Halal Certification under JAKIM was to be transferred to HDC and the process of transfer was completed in July 2008. Halal Certification was a different kettle of fish for HDC. It had neither the experience nor the ability to manage Halal Certification. There were blogs that opposed the move and stated that a company even under MOF should not be given the tasks of issuing Halal Certificate. After JAKIM Halal Certification was finally moved to HDC, HDC issued its own Halal Certificate but it was such a shoddy piece of work that the HDC certificate was not recognized by many countries. This has caused shipment of halal goods from Malaysia to be stuck at port of entry of countries due to non recognition of the HDC Halal Certificates. This caused a lot of grief for the exporter and the staff of HDC trying to resolve issues with the non recognized HDC Halal Certificates. 

During the same time, Dato Jamil Bidin had appointed Halim Ihsan in May 2008 who is/was the Internal Auditor of HDC as Strategic Adviser. Halim passed his ACCA in 1976 and was in Coopers & Lybrand, Bumiputra Hella Factoring Sdn Bhd and KPMG before starting his own Audit firm. Obviously, this appointment is a conflict of interest but Halim convinced Dato Jamil Bidin that he had resigned from his audit firm. According to sources, Halim as strategic adviser was part of the CEO’s office with Fahmi (also part of the CEO’s Office then) as his whipping boy.  This is about the one of the biggest mistake amongst many mistakes that Dato Jamil Bidin did as CEO of HDC.

As an accountant, Halim has no knowledge of the intricacies of the Halal Industry yet he would interfere with operational matters in Halal Integrity, Halal Certification and Industry Development Divisions of HDC. He operated by undermining the various VPs of the HDC divisions buy going direct to their staff and making decisions for them without notifying the VPs first.  While Halim should only focus on Strategic matters, the interference got worse. Quite a few high level staff resigned as a result. During the time, when JAKIM Halal Certification was under HDC, with the consent of Dato Jamil Bidin, he sent Fahmi to head the Halal Certification Process. Fahmi’s high handed approach did not go well with the JAKIM staff and about 30 staff decided to go back to JAKIM Hq and do not want to be under HDC. This was again the doing of Halim but Dato Jamil Bidin was equally to be blamed. To date, Halim is still in HDC but some thought the damage he has done to HDC is unprecedented and staff morale is at the lowest in HDC. 

In March 2009, Dato Jamil Bidin hired Farid Hamid, the ‘big five’ Consultant who developed the HDC Business Plan as mentioned earlier, he “plagarised” contents from the Ethos Halal Master Plan and some HDC internal documents. Again, as consultant to a ‘big five’ firm, he has very little knowledge about Industry development particularly about SME development. He was made the VP of Operation and this appointment can be regarded as Dato Jamil Bidin’s  big mistake. 

It was said that what Farid wants, Farid gets and since Dato Jamil Bidin is a very hands-off person, Farid is running the show although he lacks experience in Industry development and Halal Certification. He has a very high handed approach and would threatened staff with termination if he did not get his way. As a result, he has suspended 3 industry development staff and accused them for insubordination. Those suspended are intending to take legal actions against HDC. The staff morale is extremely low and most staff in HDC is just marking time until they get offers from other companies and they would leave in droves. 

When Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom was appointed Minister for Islamic Affairs under Prime Minister Najib Razak, the first thing he did was to  move back Halal Certification to JAKIM. The Cabinet made the decision after feedback from various government agencies such as EPU, MOF and JPA. Since Dato Jamil Bidin had ruffled EPU with his move from Amirsham to Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, EPU was very much in favour for Halal Certification to be moved from HDC back to JAKIM. Besides, HDC through Halim and Fahmi had destroyed a lot of goodwill in JAKIM. 

HDC is now under MITI and this will pose the biggest challenge for Dato Jamil Bidin. MITI has SME Corp handling SMEs including Halal SMEs with the availability of proper funding and grants. At the same time, Matrade also promotes Malaysian companies abroad including Halal companies and is currently the custodian of MIHAS, the largest Halal exhibition in the country. MIDA provides attractive incentives by attracting investment into Malaysia including Halal investment. HDC will be marginalized with the move to MITI and needs to find their niche. The marginalization of HDC is Dato Jamil Bidin’s own doing and will be his biggest mistake and regret ever.

For the record, the World Halal Forum is championed by non other than Khairy Jamaluddin, son-in-law of PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah.

In the final analysis, HDC was never an ill concieved idea. It was just about insincerity of people exploiting the circumstance and flavour of the government’s effort moving forward for the betterment of the muslims. The hopes of the rakyat were high. Then again, as the Chair of OIC PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah could have done more. Probably he had really bad very close advisers.

The HDC episode is a very good example of people with acute lack of experience in macro planning and management attempting to thread onto turfs they have very little comprehension about. Time and again, people with wisdom, exposure and experience deficiencies should not be allowed into strategic roles. As some people thoroughly believe, the ‘Level Four Boys’ would never get anything right. And for the HDC, like other not well thought through programs crafted by ‘Level Four Boys’, never delivered what it supposed to do.

Wasting money and failure to deliver hopes at all if not any dues, by any justification is definitely Non Halal.

Published in: on November 17, 2009 at 19:54  Comments (14)