Najib: MAS not for sale

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PUTRAJAYA, Aug 19 ― Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will not be privatised, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today as he sought to allay concern that Putrajaya may dispose of the national carrier.

Amid a recent push for the flag carrier to be sold off, he said the airline was already operating as a private entity.

“I want to make it clear that MAS will not be privatised. MAS is already a listed company shared between Khazanah and public interests,” Najib told reporters here.

“Every dealing in MAS is administered like a commercial body, following the principles of good governance.”

Najib explained that Putrajaya will instead closely monitor the carrier to try and staunch its losses.

Last week, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala said the government should have sold its stake in MAS when he was still heading the flag carrier as it would have still raked in a profit then.

Idris's suggestion was received warmly by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who suggested that doing so may set the flagging national carrier back in the black and up in the skies.

“Sometimes, we find that companies owned by the government lack the drive [to be profitable] because if anything happens, the government will be there to bail them out,” said Dr Mahathir, who was credited with driving Malaysia's privatisation during his 22 years as prime minister.

“So I believe in privatisation, if we privatise it will be a good thing.”

Dr Mahathir said privatising MAS would be good for the national airline, drawing from his experience with Proton Holdings, formerly owned by state investment fund Khazanah Nasional.

Idris’s remark however has been panned by Malay hardline group Perkasa — of which Dr Mahathir is a patron — which viewed it as tantamount to a proposal to sell off state assets.

Today, the prime minister also defended low-cost carrier AirAsia against calls for government servants to choose MAS over it, saying that the airline was also “a Malaysian-owned firm”.

“AirAsia is mostly a Malaysian-owned company too. Its profits are our country’s profits as well,” replied Najib when asked about a number of government servants who choose the low-cost carrier instead of MAS.

“Don’t forget that AirAsia has brought many tourists from abroad,” he added.

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