Nurul Kabir
September 18, 2008. Dhaka

The decision of the board of directors of Biman Bangladesh Airlines to appoint a former air force official as the new managing director of the company is, in our opinion, an unfortunate and disappointing move. It comes at a time when we have been hearing so much of the need to corporatise Biman, particularly following its transformation into a public limited company in July 2007. On many occasions, we have written in these columns, supporting the plans for the corporatisation of the national carrier, particularly with the view to improving overall management and rooting out the endemic corruption, which has for years beset the airline. However, by following the old practice of hiring ex-air force officials to head the national carrier, the Biman board has suggested that it is perhaps not ready to undertake the drastic restructuring that is required to save the ailing carrier.

We find this decision particularly baffling because just a few weeks ago, Biman had advertised in national dailies to solicit applications for the post of managing director, setting strict criteria for eligibility which had suggested that the airline would finally hire someone with not only the experience of running a major airline but someone who has a proven track record of excellence in the sector. Although we cannot comment on the new managing director without finding out more about him, it is safe to presume that the person in question has no experience of running an airline, much less a successful track record. We wonder how being an ex-military official and chairman of the civil aviation authority qualifies someone to take up the job of running an airline, which is a completely different beast, and that too at a time when the company needs to go through a process of complete restructuring and corporatisation.

Unfortunately, without going through with an exhaustive process to find the best person to head Biman at this time – if such a person was not available here, an international search could easily have been carried out – the board of Biman took the short-cut of hiring an ex-air force person which has been the common practice here. Just because both are essentially to do with airplanes does not mean that being in the air force qualifies someone to become the managing director of an airline. This may be obvious to most but has continued to evade the senses of those who govern our national carrier.

If, however, this administration is serious about bringing qualitative change to Biman, it must take certain step immediately. It must bring in competent management, allow the management to streamline the airline and carry out the corporate restructuring that is necessary and put an end to corruption. The recent decision with regard to the hiring of a new managing director is, in our view, a step in the wrong direction.

Nurul Kabir is a senior journalist and the Editor of The Daily New Age.