THE Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM) has again earned the ire of air travellers but for its elegant silence this time.
This is despite the newly minted hands-on proactive Transport Minister Anthony Loke publicly chastising and instructing Batik Air (formerly Malindo Air) for an unannounced eight-hour overnight delay.
Subsequently, while officiating an AirAsia special Chinese New Year discounted fare offering, Loke rebuked when asked about air fare refunds as follows:
“We have a system in place, an authority in charge, the MAVCOM is the right platform to lodge a complaint. The minister’s office is not a complaints bureau”.
Of course, the minister is right. He can only provoke the relevant agency but cannot run it for them. Yet MAVCOM has maintained its elegant silence, seemingly treating the minister as yet another complainant like the millions of air travellers.
But MAVCOM proudly claims through the Malaysian Aviation Commission Act 2015, it is mandated to provide a mechanism for protection of consumers, and dispute resolution among aviation industry players.
Old issue but still grounded
During Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) first stint in government when similar issues cropped up, it was reported on June 1, 2018 among others, that the salary of MAVCOM’s executive chairman (a retired civil servant) was RM85,000/month, which is about four times the salary of a prime minister (PM). I commented then (under a pseudonym) which I reproduce below:
“Let’s put this in perspective. To finance the annual salary of the MAVCOM boss alone, one million passengers have to forcibly pay RM1 by law, or the equivalent of 10,000 middle-income earners voluntarily contributing RM100 on average to the Hope Fund to save our nation.
Can you imagine the anger and frustration of the passengers, or the folly of the patriotic sacrifice of the nation’s saviours?
Isn’t the choice patently clear? Both cannot exist in tandem. Granted, what was the achievement for that high salary – resolving a number of complaints and, of course, the alleged claim of preventing GE14 (14th General Election) voters from travelling?
Now multiply that by the highly paid board of directors and senior staff in MAVCOM. Is that proper justification for basically acting as a clearing house for complaints? Now multiply that by the number of GLCs and other statutory bodies.
All these are basically regulatory bodies or monopolies where revenue falls onto their laps. One should not compare their top brass’ compensation with that of the private businesses, where every dollar has to be earned in a highly risky competitive environment.
However difficult and ingrained this matter is, the government has to act expeditiously. I always believed the best lesson from the Hope Fund – for all its pros and cons – is the pressure the people can now exert on the government to demonstrate efficiency, transparency, and accountability.
You cannot appeal to 10,000 well-wishers to voluntarily contribute money or force one million passengers to pay, when all it takes is to remove one unproductive fat cat. I hope the government makes the right choice.”
Civil service and business are poles apart
Granted this is only a matter of handling complaints, but complaints are best indicators of how well other tasks are handled.
Any organisation can only be as good as its people, especially its leader. The current executive chairman is a retired top civil servant from the Transport Ministry. A civil servant, by its very nature, is not trained to run a competitive market enterprise, even though it is a monopoly.
We all know how government agencies address public complaints – our calls and letters invariably get ignored, and whistle-blowers get harassed.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has rightly ordered that political appointments be terminated with immediate effect, pending a full review. He should also include retired civil servants in that category.
Civil service and business are miles apart in terms of management. We don’t want civil service culture in business. Even if we have qualified civil servants, they should prove their worth immediately – not serve their full term and get replaced by another civil servant. – Jan 5, 2023
Dr Raman Letchumanan PhD, is a former Senior Fellow at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, a former director at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, and a former head of environment/disaster management at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. Contact: [email protected].
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.