TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Elia Massa Manik, 51, perching at the top of the organizational structure of state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina, seems to have the Midas golden touch. His name first began to orbit when he managed to restore the finances of Elnusa, a subsidiary company of Pertamina, from a losing to a profitable entity in a period of just one year and a half, ending in 2012.
His golden touch next landed him the top job at the state-owned plantation Perkebunan Nusantara III. As of March 16, he has been instructed to take over the steering wheel of Pertamina, whose assets now amount to Rp 600 trillion. But the 162 subsidiary companies under its wing seem to have lost their way under a confusing dual leadership, prompting Minister of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) Rini Soemarno to fire Pertamina CEO Dwi Soetjipto and his deputy Ahmad Bambang, last January. "During my days at Elnusa, I felt the (management) was boxed in," said Massa Manik, adding that, "my mission is to change that."
Massa Manik, an environmental engineer who graduated from the Bandung Institute of Technology, is now spearheading Pertamina's seven mega projects, with the goal of making Indonesia self-sufficient in fuel by 2023. He promised to complete the restoration of old oil fields at Balikpapan in East Kalimantan, and at Cilacap in Central Java, which had been become inoperable and, in fact, affected the supply of oil at the start of this year. ¡°I want to work fast on this," said Massa Manik.
After work last Sunday, Massa Manik met with Tempo reporters, Raymundus Rikang and Reza Maulana at his office in central Jakarta to discuss his first month in office. Excerpts:
What's the story behind your appointment as the new Pertamina CEO?
I never expected it. I was contacted by State Secretary Minister Pratikno on Friday (March 10), who told me to be prepared to become Pertamina CEO. "Pak Massa, can you be ready? But I'm not promising you anything," said Massa Manik. That's all he said. Even my boss, the SOE Minister Rini Soemarno never said anything at the time. Only on the following Tuesday (March 14), did she inform me of the appointment, by telephone.
But no job guarantee at that time?
The fact that she informed me meant that she had discussed it with the President. On Thursday (March 16), I was sworn in. It was that simple.
Were you given a specific mission by President Joko Widodo and Minister Rini?
Value creation. I was asked to develop values within the company. She also asked that I immediately carry out internal consolidation and to achieve the company's unmet targets.
According to rumors, you were selected because you are the protege of Luhut Pandjaitan, coordinating minister for maritime affairs. Is that true?
Not true. He is my mentor. I first got to know him when I started working at Kiani Kertas (Luhut is currently the company's chief commissioner). Pak Luhut and I communicate intensively, but we never discussed Pertamina. He is very forthright towards the President.
Are you also close to Rini Soemarno?
I met her when I was CEO of Pandega Citra Niaga (a company owned by the Soemarno family). But communication with Ibu Rini happened just before the swearing in. She is another mentor of mine. As a leader, her forte is her alacrity in making decisions.
Some people claim your success in rescuing companies from bankruptcy is how good you are at fiddling with financial reports.
That's a terrible characterization and an unfair view. I am someone who does not like fiddling with financial reports. We should be open and frank. If one is lucky, so be it, but if you're not, you're not. (His previous company) Perkebunan Nusantara still lost money last year, but they made some profit before I moved to Pertamina. (*)
Read the full story in this week's edition of Tempo English Edition