Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, August 23, 2010

Abu Bakar applies development training to public, private sectors

Datuk Jaafar Bin Abu Bakar

Datuk Jaafar Bin Abu Bakar came to the University of Wisconsin–Madison halfway through his career as a government servant, starting as a land administrator in with the Malaysia's Federal Land Development Authority and later joining Malaysia's civil service.

He graduated in 1980 from the Center for Development, now part of the La Follette School of Public Affairs. While in Madison, he led the center's student association.

Abu Bakar returned to Malaysia and was given important government appointments before working in real estate development in the private sector. "After graduating from the center, I was given a higher task in development planning and heading one of the government agencies," he says.

Education has been important to Abu Bakar throughout his career. He was a fellow with the Economics Development Institute at the World Bank's International Bank of Reconstruction and Development in Washington, D.C. in 1977. Seven years later he participated in the Young Managers Programme at the European Institute of Business Administration in France. In 1998 he attended a course in public enterprise policy and management in developing countries at Harvard University in the United States.

Being an officer of the Malaysian administrative and diplomatic service, Abu Bakar was named deputy general manager of the Central Trengganu Development Authority in 1980. He was director of the Kelantan Land Development Board and deputy general manager of the South Kelantan Development Authority. He served as general manager of the Kelantan State Economic Development Corporation from 1984 to 1990.

In addition, Abu Bakar served on the boards of several government-owned companies and as a council member of the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority. He completed his public service as deputy secretary-general of the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.

"While in the government, I helped to implement different projects under national development plans at various levels," Abu Bakar says. "I also helped to run state-owned enterprises and worked on trust agency activities. I believe in a commercial approach to management government-owned companies, a concept that was taken up as policy and developed into corporatization and privatization."

Moving into the private sector, Abu Bakar became group general manager of Koperasi Usaha Bersatsu Malaysia Berhad in 1991. During his tenure, KUB was restructured through the acquisition of Kesang Corporation Berhad, which changed its name to Damansara Realty Berhad. "My best achievement was the restructuring of one of the ailing companies — resuscitated into profitability in 1993," says Abu Bakar. He became executive director and then served as managing director until 1995.

He went on to serve as executive chairman of Cold Storage (Malaysia) Berhad and president of President of Uniphoenix Corporation Berhad, which he also led through a restructuring. He now has his own real estate company in Kuala Lumpur.

Abu Bakar has four children and five grandchildren. His eldest works with a bank. The second is a doctor in the United Kingdom. The third is a businessman, and the fourth is in London doing her accounting degree.