AirAsia boss: Southeast Asia needs to fix this

Tony Fernandes, the AirAsia CEO with a cult-like following across Southeast Asia, is once again lashing out at the region's weak policy institutions.

"It's high time for us in Southeast Asia to have strong, independent institutions that can drive investor confidence," he told CNBC on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Dalian on Wednesday.

The 51-year old Malaysian, one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people and co-chairman of English football club Queens Park Rangers, is known for his outspoken nature, especially when it comes to his home country.

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In June and July, Fernandes publicly voiced his criticism against the administration of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, saying the government was too focused on politics instead of issues like job creation and education.

Prime Minister Najib has been embroiled in a political storm amid allegations of graft and financial mismanagement at state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which owes $11 billion in debt and whose advisory board he chairs. In July, the Wall Street Journal reported that nearly $700 million was deposited into Najib's private bank account.

Malaysia's anti-graft agency has since verified the funds were a donation from the Middle East, announcing in August that it would ask Najib to explain why the donation was deposited into his account. Both 1MDB and Najib have denied any wrong doing.

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Meanwhile, the country's oil-exporting economy is in trouble as the ringgit repeatedly breaches lows not seen since the Asian Financial Crisis on the back of falling crude prices.

"Throughout Southeast Asia, politics has been the overriding force while economics and people have come second. I think it's prevalent in not just Malaysia, but a few countries," Fernandes told CNBC.

"As a businessman, I hope politicians go back to managing the economy, putting people first and dealing with the politics later. "

Indeed, it's not just Malaysia in the doldrums. Neighbor Indonesia is experiencing its own woes as President Joko Widodo comes under criticism for stalled reforms, internal political rifts and the rupiah's 17-year trough. This week, Widodo unveiled new fiscal stimulus measures aimed at shoring up the currency as well as increasing investment and consumer spending.

Fernandes also brushed off any concerns arising from China's recent yuan devaluation.

While the move is undoubtedly another cost increase, AirAsia's pricing elasticity will be able to weather through it without hurting demand and margins, he explained.

"The growth for me in dealing with this currency crisis is ancillary income," he said, referring to revenue derived from non-ticket sources, a key source of profits for low-cost carriers like AirAsia.

"Ancillary income is growing massively... We have a huge database of names, and an ability to sell duty free and foreign exchange. People value our database, so I think we're going to ride through this crisis and come out stronger vis a vis our peers."