Blame the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 on bad governance

Malaysian AirlinesBy Karam Singh Sethi
March 16, 2014

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory: The Bush Administration was behind 9/11. The moon landing was a huge hoax. And my personal favorite, political elite and socialites of the world are actually reptiles bent on human enslavement.

Clearly, if something cannot be completely disproven there must be fragments of truth.  Speculation around the missing flight bound for Beijing is similarly starting to run amuck

The loss of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is, however, painfully logical to those accustomed to Malaysia’s scathing bureaucratic disorganization.* Records go unrecorded and file cabinets amass while suitable Internet stands idle. China recently purged Malaysia of command over search efforts due to severe response lag and bumbling missteps.

The search area for Malaysian Airlines flight 370 on March 13. Wikipedia Commons.

The search area for Malaysian Airlines flight 370 on March 13. Wikipedia Commons.

Putting Faith in Bamboo Binoculars and Fish Hooks

The flight departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at 12:41 am with 227 passengers and 12 crew.  The plane was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6:30 am. Contact was lost with the plane at around 2:40 am but it wasn’t until 7:30 am that Malaysian Airlines announced the plane as missing — more than five hours later than international guidelines require.

This is typical and unsurprising.  Efficient bureaucratic protocol is overlooked in favor of illogical values.  A few days ago, Malaysian government officials asked a prolific “Bomoh” (spiritual healer and leader) to perform rituals that may help find the missing aircraft.

During my prayer, my eyes hurt and my vision turned black.  I think the plane is still in the air or has crashed into the sea.  I will come back in another two days…and I will bring something,” he said

Thank God.

Why did it take 5 hours to report the missing plane?

Bad governance.

Malaysia Airlines is a state-run firm, and the Malay elite has a history of poorly managing their companies.

One comprehensive study of government-linked companies, conducted by a group of economists in Australia and Malaysia, found that Malaysia state-run firms had worse corporate governance than publicly traded Malaysian companies not controlled by the state.”  That explains why Malaysia Airlines lost around $350 million in 2013, partly due to decreases in investment.

It’s fair to assume that Malaysia Airlines employees were watching the West Bromwich Vs Manchester United game on Saturday evening, instead of paying attention to the radar screens.

*Karam Sethi recently completed a Fulbright Grant teaching English in rural Malaysia. 

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