I have been making a number of speaking appearances lately. That helped to maintain my visibility within the corporate community since I left my positions with the Securities Commission last March.
The Malaysian Institute of Corporate Governance (MICG) and Unitar invited me to be the keynote speaker at their governance conference yesterday. All aspects of governance, human, corporate and public were touched on by various speakers.
I shared my observations on the progress of corporate governance in Malaysia especially by providing the contexts of why certain positions were taken. Put in place as a response to the financial crisis in 1997, the Malaysian Code on Corporate Governance, which is spearheaded by the Securities Commission, has changed the corporate practices in Malaysia to a respectable position compared to where it was decades ago.
However, the 1MDB issue had dragged perception about our governance standards down and this was reflected in the recent Asian Corporate Governance Associations' assessment where Malaysia is now placed at fourth in Asia, behind Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand. Many people may not realise the efforts made by regulators, corporate Malaysia and other institutions such as MICG all this while in shaping Malaysia as a competitive market with good governance environment.
One key point which I emphasised was the influence of public governance on the governance practises at the corporate side. Given that power is mainly concentrated in the public sector, any practise which results in corruption and abuse of power in the public sector would be transmitted into the ecosystem.
While the discussion about governance would be concentrated on the systems and processes, the human dimension is very critical in shaping the quality of governance. After all, those systems and processes are operated by humans. Hence the issue of minds and hearts should not be ignored.
While the Malaysian Code on Corporate Governance 2016 is being formulated, after considering public feedbacks which were provided in respond to its public disclosure, its focus on corporate culture is a manifestation of the importance of the human part in shaping governance practices. I pointed out that Prophet Muhammad was known as an honest person (Al Amin) before he was chosen to be the Messenger of God. This signals that conscience should take precedence over competence when choosing leaders. An honest leader could leverage on competent advisors but a dishonest but competent leader could abuse his or her competency and create huge problems to all stakeholders.
In closing, I appealed to all Malaysians to do the right thing in whatever decisions which they are making. Do not wait for the world to change but make whatever little change that they can to make Malaysia a better country. This is more critical when they choose people to be given responsibilities which would affect our daily lives.
My presentation could be downloaded here.