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Selangor chief taking 'ouster' in stride

Publication Date : 03-02-2014


Here is one sketch of Khalid Ibrahim: He lives in a large bungalow in posh Damansara Heights that could be mistaken for an old Malay palace.

Expensive chengal wood covers large parts of the exterior. The house has a swimming pool and at least three cats, but not a single maid.

Attend a meeting at the house and his wife Puan Sri Salbiah Tunut or one of their four children would likely serve the drinks and cakes, said Selangor officials who have attended meetings there.

There is no gym at the house but a taiji master comes twice a week to share his moves with Khalid.

Here is another sketch of his life:

The Menteri Besar (chief minister) of Selangor runs Malaysia's wealthiest state like a corporation. It has accumulated some 3 billion ringgit (US$896 million) in state reserves in his first five years as chief minister, an unheard of feat when the state was run by ruling party Barisan Nasional.

The 67-year-old multimillionaire shuns the official residence of the chief minister, allowing it to be used for official gatherings and meetings.

The 14th Menteri Besar of Selangor gets driven around in his own black Lexus RX vehicle.

"He is a straight man in that civil servants under him know he won't tolerate corruption or wastage," said a Selangor official who has worked with the menteri besar since his first term in 2008. "But at the same time, unless your work is really bad, he won't shout at you."

Khalid graduated from the University of Malaya with a Bachelor's Degree in Economics and later obtained an MBA from Australia's University of Queensland. He began his career as a teacher, then became a lecturer, before turning to the corporate world.

To many - both admirers and critics - he runs Selangor like he did when he was chief executive at federal state fund Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) for 15 years, and later, as boss of Kumpulan Guthrie - the giant plantation and property group - for eight years.

If looked at from an investment perspective, he has had a successful run in Selangor but perhaps underperformed from a political angle.

Khalid of the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) is facing intense media focus following news that he might soon be ousted from his post by party chief Anwar Ibrahim.

When asked about the difference between the investment world and politics in a 2012 interview, Khalid's answer was prescient when you hold up a mirror to what is happening today.

Back then, he said that when investing, one could calculate successful outcomes based on price-to-earnings ratios, dividend yields and other set parameters.

"But when you are in politics, outcomes cannot be calculated... politics is random, things move," he told Malaysiakini TV.

Anwar is contesting a by-election in Kajang constituency in Selangor. Widespread expectations are that he will later replace Khalid, in order to douse the bitter fight between Khalid and assemblyman Azmin Ali that has rocked the state government.

Azmin, deputy president of PKR and a close confidant of Anwar, has been pushing to become Menteri Besar for years.

What happens next to Khalid is important for Malaysian politics. This is because the three-party Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance wants to make Selangor a showcase state. This will show its administrative capabilities and persuade voters to back them to win federal power at the next general election in 2018 or earlier.

Selangor is Malaysia's wealthiest state in terms of revenue generation because it hosts big international businesses and manufacturers. It is home to the country's largest port and airport, along with giant companies from Sony to Carlsberg, Motorola to Panasonic and Ikea.

And Khalid has been doing just what the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) wanted. He has presided over a surge in state revenues, curbed corruption and offered business-friendly policies.

In a statement explaining why Anwar needs to contest in Selangor, PKR strategist Rafizi Ramli - the self-claimed brains behind the "Kajang move" to remove Khalid - said "Khalid's administration has set a gold standard in integrity and prudence in managing public funds".

In other words, the man has done wonders. Still, Rafizi argues that Selangor now needs to resolve its traffic woes, build more affordable housing and resolve its water resources issues, which presumably Anwar can do.

Khalid himself appeared to take things in is stride with the buzz surrounding him.

He told a group of reporters last week amid speculation over his ouster - "It doesn't really matter. I can tell all of you that I am very fortunate. It is already the end part of my career."

He added: "I've told people (that) I believe in a two-term management. I subscribe to the American two-term management (system); and before you complete your two terms, you have to prepare the succession," he was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini online news.

Asked in the same interview what he would do when he retired, he said he wants to write books and spend time with his grandson Arif.

And "reluctantly entertain" the family cats that share his house.


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