New-breed bosses rev up Indonesia's state enterprises

New-breed bosses rev up Indonesia's state enterprises

SINGAPORE - Don't say it too loudly because it might upset the bureaucrats, but over the past five years, go-ahead private sector executives have been changing the corporate culture and turning around the fortunes of a clutch of Indonesia's state-owned enterprises.

Pertamina oil company president-director Karen Agustiawan, 54; Garuda Airlines chief executive officer Emirsyah Satar, 53; and Kereta Api national railway boss Ignasius Jonan, 49, have all made an impact on organisations previously known for their leaking budgets and tardy public service.

Listening to them talk is like a breath of fresh air. They are energetic, full of ideas and anxious to make a difference in the service of their country, despite all the myriad problems that come with dealing with the bureaucracy.

"Sometimes in one's life, one should spend some time in the public service," said Mr Jonan, who came to his job in 2009 and has made customer satisfaction one of his main missions - a concept that had never been a priority of the state.

Over at Garuda, Mr Satar's serious attention to safety issues and his financial skills have helped transform the carrier into a world-class airline, flying 17 million passengers a year and boasting a fleet that will have almost doubled to 154 planes by 2015.

At this year's Skytrax World Airline Awards, Garuda was voted the best economy-class carrier, beating such high-quality players as Singapore Airlines. It also moved from 11th to eighth among the world's top airlines.

A career banker, Mr Satar was brought in as vice-president for finance to play a key role in Garuda's restructuring between 2001 and 2003. Two years later, he was plucked from a senior position in Bank Danamon to become the carrier's youngest-ever CEO.

Overdue debt and a negative cash flow presented major challenges.

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