Saturday, October 24, 2009


KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 — The country’s showpiece economic corridor, Iskandar Malaysia, has been rocked with the sudden resignation of chief executive officer Harun Johari just months after his appointment.

He also becomes the second CEO to exit the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) since it was set up in November 2006, following the footsteps of Datuk Ikmal Hijaz. Harun’s departure will raise more red flags over a project which has been long on announcements and master plans but painfully short on visible changes on the ground.

It also calls into question Khazanah Nasional’s acumen in picking senior officials to drive this ambitious project.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Harun tendered his resignation on Thursday but talk of his possible departure has been swirling since it became apparent that he was not on the same page as senior Johor officials including the Johor mentri besar, the co-chairman of IRDA.

A stalwart at Shell for more than two decades, he was the CEO of the Port of Tanjung Pelepas before being tapped for the IRDA spot. An introvert, he brought in a clutch of former executives from Shell to shake up the lacklustre IRDA and focus the staff on achieving goals. His strength at Shell was to get the processes right but his critics argued that he lacked charisma and confidence for the senior position.

Powerful Johor civil service officials complained that he did not engage them directly. He also faced some resistance from IRDA staff who were loyal to Ikmal. In July, he became the target of a blog called IRDA Watch.

It is unclear who will replace Harun but Johor politicians feel that the position should be given to a senior official of the Johor civil service, instead of leaving the head-hunting to Khazanah Nasional.

In the Budget unveiled yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced an attractive tax structure for those working in Iskandar in an attempt to kick start a project which showed much promise when launched from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2006.

But bureaucracy, politicking and lack of leadership has seen confidence about turning Iskandar Malaysia into a global metropolis and the country’s next engine of growth curdle into cynicism.

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