Stagflation and Budget 2009

It is possible to have inflation and economy stagnation happening at the same time. Whilst while we know what's inflation (rise in prices of goods and services) stagnation is when the economy grows at about 2-3%. You may want to ask what the heck is a recession then- a recession is when our economy grows...I should say contract rather than growth, at a negative rate. Malaysia is not at economic stagnation yet, at the expected growth rate of 4.6% in 2008 (Source: MIER), but it is very near that stage with the slowed down growth happening this year. At the the same time, consumer prices are also spiking sky high as a result of the fuel price hike in June 2008. The two noticeable indicators that stand out like a sore thumb are:
  • highest 27-year inflation rate occuring in June 2008 at 7.7%
  • GDP is downtrending with constant downward revisions very month (now at 4.6%)
Based on the above ground rules our economic condition is very close to what's being called stagflation- the combination of inflation and economy stagnation. The tricky thing about stagflation is that you are being faced by the rising costs of doing business, but you can't raise the selling price of your products because your business will loose sales volume if you do so.

Historically Malaysia achieved very high GDP rates from 1988 to 1996, in excess of 9%, hitting 10% in 1996. Those were the greatest Mahathir years. During Mahathir's tenure as PM, the only years when Malaysia hit a technical negative growth was in 1985 and 1998- and those were also the years of global economic recession.

Bank Negara and sound monetary policies

I applaud the manner Bank Negara handled inflation by not increasing the overnight policy rate unchanged at 3.50% on 25th July 2008. You may want to ask what's an overnight policy rate about?? It's the interest rate which one bank charges another for lending available funds. This rate is governed by BNM and if it raises we are screwed if we have home loans and so on, because interest rates are going to rise. So what if BNM does not increase this rate? You see, by the book, the central bank should increase interest rates to curb the supply of broad money during inflation but Zeti did not do it. High interest rates will result in the higher cost of obtaining credit- when cost of capital is more expensive to obtain, the supply of money reduces, spending reduces thus inflation is kept in check. For people in who have taken up loans the idea is to force them out of it via bankruptcy. That's the harsh reality of economics.

Zeti in fact recognized the root cause of Malaysia's inflation- which is not natural but cost push inflation, as a result of the government's fiscal policy of increasing petrol prices by 41% overnight at the beginning of June 2008. Immediately following this electricity tarrifs increased 26%; hauliers and fowarders increased their costs by 30-40%. Zeti knew that there's no point increasing interest rates because if BNM did so, Malaysia would be in bigger trouble because the inflation will still be there. That means inflation + higher interest rates. I remember back in 1998, many home owners failed to settle their home loans. I for one was on the lucky side as I got my house pretty cheap because demand for property in that area was bad. Zeti is certainly much smarter that Pak Lah and the rest of the Putrajaya goons. Gotta thank Zeti for watching closely the BN Government.

Budget 2009

This year's budget must prop up the economy ie expansionary, by the adopting the following measures:
-the government must seriously look into further reduction of the petrol price. I understand that it was a global oil crisis at that time but petrol price should not have been increased overnight!!! Luckily I miss that Parliament session with Wee Choo Keong in June otherwise I would have kicked Badawi's ass myself.

-2009 must have tax cuts in personal income tax (corporate tax reduction is a foregone conclusion) to stimulate personal spending and boost the retail industry.
-adopt a deficit budget, with expansionary fiscal policies. A deficit budget of about 4% is expected this time around.
-increase tax allowance for families with children.
-remove service tax completely- service tax holiday for 2009.
-control the prices of steel to prevent construction companies from going bankrupt.
Prices of essential goods will not reduce much unless they are controlled items because they are sticky-downward; and wages, depends a lot on the people's sentiments on inflation. Hopefully inflation will taper off in Q4 to finish at below 6% for the year 2009. With the situation cooler, wage inflation will also reduce, easing out the higher cost of staffing for employers.

Deficit 2009 budget yes, but what's the source of funding it?

Malaysia-Today's new site.

After reports that all internet service providers in Malaysia has been instructed to block access to Malaysia Today, the website portal has now been changed to

I think the only way to stop people accessing the website of malaysia-today, be it whatever domain, the government would have to block access to the entire internet since news travels fast and other blogs will always publicise the whereabouts of malaysia-today.

So, people please visit the new MT and check out the rebirth of our favourite news portal in Malaysia.

Further evidence to show BN is irrelevant

The landslide majority win by Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim yesterday has proven that the citizens do not believe in the rhetorics used by the BN machinery. The Permatang Pauh by-election has shown BN dropping to a new level of low, where personal attacks and videos of Saiful's swearing were played during their campaign. Instead of focusing on what they would do for the constituency and the nation, the ruling government preferred instead to resort to character assassination to discredit their rival.

Clearly, the government would rather distract voters from the real issues at hand i.e. the current rising inflation, which is reported to be at an all time high in 27 years, and the fact that the KLSE stock index has dropped 25% this year due to foreign investors losing confidence in this country.

Many comments suggest that BN should contemplate performing a post-mortem. In my opinion, post- mortems happen only to dead bodies, so really BN is officially dead. Remember the coffin being carried out in Permatang Pauh? That is an omen to BN that they are dead.

What killed them? I would say that it was suicide really. The fact that they did not understand the wake-up call from the March 8 elections, the fact that they stay continuously disconnected and selfish towards the rakyat, and the fact that they are using Neanderthal methods and ideology to govern, these are all contributors to their present state. And also, the fact that we have been continuously bashing them in cyberspace sending them the same message over and over again which they choose to ignore and instead instigate that we are traitors, non-patriotic and seditious even.

I hope and pray for the day when we are truly 'Merdeka' from this bunch of goons who think they can run the country by instilling fear and banking on people's ignorance. And judging from the sentiments of the Permatang Pauh voters, who by the way a good majority represent the youth group of age 21-40, that day will come as long as BN continues to dig their own graves.

After Permatang Pauh: The crucial next 20 days

What's the significance of September 16? Here's a list of events that came out of my Google search:

-September 16, 1908- The start of General Motors, the car company.
-September 16, 1923- The birth of Lee Kuan Yew, founder of Singapore.
-September 16, 1956- The birth of David Copperfield, world-renowned illusionist.
-September 16, 1963- The formation of Malaysia from Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak.
-September 16, 2008- The date Anwar Ibrahim promises to form a new Malaysian government.
DSAI has won a tough battle by capturing the Permatang Pauh by-election today- I call it tough because it's a David vs Goliath fight against the BN election machinery. Even so, this August 26 by-election is viewed as walk-in-the-park for Anwar by many political analysts and bloggers alike- the BN 'machinery' was just fresh beaten to the pulp during the last March 2008 General Elections. Anwar, the accredited architect behind the huge Opposition win, was expected to win if he turun ke padang himself, bearing unforeseen circumstances. The Malaysian public know these 'unforeseen circumstances' very well- the results of elections in Malaysia have been proven vulnerable to postal votes and phantom voters' votes. A leading vote count could be washed away by the sudden appearance of the mysterious postal votes.
Above: Lee Kuan Yew-
the least worried guy.

But what happens in the next 20 days is even more crucial in the formation of Anwar's government. BN will go for broke in preventing Anwar's government formation. The sodomy case will intensify- I won't talk about it here- it is disgusting using religion (Quran swearing) as a political tool. What's the last triumph card? Racial riots of course. Incite racial riots, get people killed, get the Parliament suspended and the NOC takes over like in the year 1969. Why are there such conspiracy theories brewing in peoples' minds? Well, this country is run by thugs and crooks right, so anything can happen. After all the king of thugs who propagated the use of the Internal Security Act (ISA) also coined the term 'Malaysia Boleh'.

It wasn't too long ago (year 2006) that UMNO Youth openly supported road thugs Mat Rempit by planning to 'retrain' and convert them. Convert them into what?? Eyes and ears of the Government of course.
Left: Hallo bruder. KJ with a Mat Rempit. Photo courtesy of The Star.

"The ultimate goal of Putera Umno is to make Mat Rempit the eyes and ears of the police and to report on the activities of rogue Mat Rempit."- Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, the Putera Umno chief 2006.

These Mat Rempit guys will be most suitable candidates for creating unrest and disorder. If Anwar has the numbers, it is advisable these numbers turn up and get started to form a new government before September 16. Don't wait any longer because the worst shit hasn't come out yet. Time is passing by, Anwar; after all you have pulled a David Copperfield already.
Left: David Copperfield looking detached.

Unofficial results of the Permatang Pauh by-election

According to an SMS I've received from Permatang Pauh, Anwar's leading by 7,000 votes majority. Fingers- crossed that this result will be official soon!!!

Update 10.20 pm: Was on the road and received sms from my MP one and a half hours ago saying that the unofficial lead was in access of 17K votes.

Our hopes lie in the voters of Permatang Pauh

Why would I vote for DSAI?
1) He is the only hope currently to bring change to Malaysia. He was able to bring the rakyat's hope of a strong opposition to live through Pakatan Rakyat.
2) You may not trust him, but you have to trust his wife and family. For a man to have such strong unfaltering family support, he must be a good man.
3) He has been beaten and downtrodden, could have left the country and build a good life overseas, but chose to stay and fight it out.
4) He has brains, knows what he's talking about, and yet is not arrogant in his manners.
Why would I vote against BN?
1) I do not doubt Datuk Arif Shah Omar's capability, he looks like a nice man, unfortunately he stands in the wrong party. The fact is BN has not changed after GE-13 and will never change judging from their conduct recently.
2) Although the natural reaction of voters should be to vote for who can serve them well in the constituency, our country is at crossroads right now, and we should look at the bigger picture. Do we want a longkang serving MP, or do we want someone who can bring the nation's grievances to Parliament? Time and time again we put BN candidates with great track record on the stands, but yet they fail us when issues arise. Take for example the hike in fuel price, where all the BN MPs supported the motion.
3) There is only one reason why people still vote for a BN candidate, it's called self-interest. Only people who want to continue securing their business links would vote for BN.
Voters of Permatang Pauh, we have seen you fight ever since 1998, and all of us have emulated your conduct in the GE-13. I have no doubt a resounding victory will be delivered, the question is of what margin? And that is up to you Permatang Pauh voters. This is the time to show your dissatisfaction and protest against corruption, cronyism and racial politics.

Malaysia's tourism industry and the Tourism Minister

Above: Source:

Receipts from tourism have grown 21% from 2006 to 2007 (RM36 billion to RM 46 billion in 2007) and with the total number of tourist arrivals of 17.55 million and 20.97 million in 2006 and 2007 respectively this makes the average receipt per tourist to be RM2,066 in 2006 and RM2,198 in 2007. This makes it a growth in tourist receipt of 6% from 2006 to 2007. That is not a lot, if you take away the Malaysia's inflationary impact from this growth rate. Eventhough the receipts have increased by RM10 billion in 2007, and the tourist arrivals increased 16% in 2007, tourists on the average are not spending a lot more- the increase in average spending per tourist has increased only by 6%.

In terms of hotel guests by locality, the Pakatan Rakyat states hold about 50% of local and foreign tourists in terms of hotel rooms nights. This is based on historical facts published by Tourism Malaysia which I pieced together. The breakdown is as follows:

Kuala Lumpur 16%
Selangor 7%
Penang 8%
Langkawi Island 6%
East Coast 5%
Ipoh 4%
Alor Star & Sg Petani 4%
Total 50%

With the PR states commanding 50% of the hotel room nights it makes sense for Azalina the Tourism Minister to withdraw the tourism MOUs with those states right after she was appointed Minister. However, this kind of hostility is not acceptable. Take a look at Tourism Malaysia's official charter:

To develop Malaysia into a leading tourism nation
To implement the National Tourism Policy towards making the tourism industry the nation's main source of income for the socio-economic development of the country
To turn the tourism industry into a major, sustainable, viable and quality sector which contributes to the socio-economic development of the country
To develop a sustainable tourism industry in order to generate a major source of income for the country
To promote the tourism sector professionally, efficiently and continuously to meet the needs and preferences of foreign and local tourists
To strengthen and upgrade a quality service delivery system in order to ensure tourist satisfaction
To formulate the national tourism policy to achieve the Ministry’s vision, mission and objectives
To implement policies pertaining to the progress and development of the tourism industry
To co-ordinate, monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of tourism programmes and projects
To provide quality and timely Tourism Delivery services
To provide quality tourism activities/programmes to promote participation and appreciation of the tourism industry
To provide superior and viable tourism infrastructure throughout the country
To enforce and implement the provisions of the Tourism Industry Act and the Tourism Vehicle Licensing Act including the regulations there-under, efficiently and effectively
To promote the country as a leading local and international tourist destination
What hogwash. Not even a single point of the above is implemented nor are we near anywhere near of being a tourism hub. No need to go far on - even in Asia, Malaysia is not the leading destination and it won't be, compared to Bangkok and Hong Kong... or even Singapore. In Hong Kong, the shopping malls in Causeway Bay are busy drawing crowds way after 11pm during weekdays. In Malaysia, the shopping places close by 10pm weekdays. There are no religion issues in other countries, but in Malaysia you randomly get raided and accused for khalwat. Look at the forum response here. It does not matter you a re Muslim or non-Muslim, married or single- you still get whacked by the Religious Department if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The tourism infrastructure is horrible- I guarantee you that the guy manning the tourism booth at Jalan Sultan Ismail- Jalan P. Ramlee intersection (right at the corner of Shangri-la hotel) is always at lunch break during lunch time. It's ok if you are a factory guy but a no-no if you are absent from your station in the tourism industry. Other issues are:

- not enough direct flights from Europe and major Asian cities into places such as Langkawi, Labuan and the East Coast of Malaysia. Most of these flights are to the KLIA and it takes the average foreign tourist a hour more by flight and 6 hours more by road to get to say, Langkawi from KLIA. Travel expenses increase as well.
-cabbies in Malaysia charge high fares.
-the Islam factor- room raids, bar raids, terrorism (dunno why there's this scare)
-cleanliness factor- dirty toilets, roads etc.
-lousy handicap facilities
-high crime-rate (yikes- even the citizens are terrified of this!!!)

Left: Sunset at Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.

In Malaysia if you are in the hotel industry you get penalized if the Federal Govt wins (not the other way around)- as in the case of the terminated MOUs. Its even worse if you are in a city hotel doing Government business- the 9th June 2008 RM2 billion fiscal cut on Government entertainment did more harm than good. Anyone with simple understanding of economics know that the economic pie is fixed, all segments in the economy are relative to one another. For those new to economics jargon a fiscal policy is something of a policy or act which the government aims to influence the economy with, i.e. taxes, reduction in spending, etc. Government spending is still major fuel to the various economic sectors in Malaysia- the RM2 billion entertainment cut was actually an exchange for a RM2 billion reduction in revenue for the retail and hotel sector. Any economics student would have know this, but not the experts at Putrajaya, wtf... but the Tourism Minister was pretty silent when this cut was announced in June 2008.

Historical crude oil prices and Malaysia's historical petrol prices

Malaysia petrol prices

1990 - RM 1.10 (increased RM 0.21)
01/10/2000 - RM 1.20 (increased RM 0.10)
20/10/2001 - RM 1.30 (increased RM 0.10)
01/05/2002 - RM 1.32 (increased RM 0.02)
31/10/2002 - RM 1.33 (increased RM 0.01)
01/03/2003 - RM 1.35 (increased RM 0.02)
01/05/2004 - RM 1.37 (increased RM 0.02)
01/10/2004 - RM 1.42 (increased RM 0.05)
05/05/2005 - RM 1.52 (increased RM 0.10)
31/07/2005 - RM 1.62 (increased RM 0.10)
28/02/2006 - RM 1.92 (increased RM 0.30)
05/06/2008 - RM 2.70 (increased RM 0.78)
22/08/2008 - RM 2.55 (decreased RM0.15)
25/09/2008 - RM 2.45 (decreased RM0.10)
15/10/2008 - RM 2.30 (decreased RM0.15)
01/11/2008 - RM 2.15 (decreased RM0.15)
15/11/2008 - RM 2.00 (decreased RM0.15)
03/12/2008 - RM 1.90 (decreased RM0.10)
16/12/2008 - RM1.80 (decreased RM0.10)

World crude oil prices
Year US Average $/bbl
1949 20.21
1950 19.73
1951 18.43
1952 18.08
1953 19.01
1954 19.57
1955 19.58
1956 19.43
1957 20.83
1958 19.73
1959 18.87
1960 18.43
1961 18.31
1962 18.19
1963 17.89
1964 17.60
1965 17.20
1966 16.84
1967 16.56
1968 16.00
1969 15.95
1970 15.52
1971 15.85
1972 15.36
1973 16.59
1974 26.39
1975 27.00
1976 27.26
1977 26.78
1978 26.14
1979 32.98
1980 49.63
1981 66.20
1982 55.98
1983 49.80
1984 47.18
1985 42.40
1986 21.62
1987 25.68
1988 20.14
1989 24.22
1990 29.03
1991 23.00
1992 21.59
1993 18.68
1994 16.86
1995 18.17
1996 22.40
1997 20.39
1998 12.66
1999 17.78
2000 29.54
2001 23.39
2002 23.78
2003 28.42
2004 54.93
2005 47.97
2006 58.30
2007 64.20

Jan-08    84.70
Feb-08   86.64
Mar-08  96.87
Apr-08  104.31
May-08 117.40
June-08 126.33
July-08  126.16
Aug-08 108.46
Sept-08 96.13
Oct-08   68.50
Nov-08  49.29

DBKL is doing a bad job at maintaining roads

KL has one of the worst roads in the list of Asean cities I've been. Even the KL city centre is plagued with potholes and perpetual road digging which never ends. No need to talk about Wangsa Maju- lived here for 9 years and the road conditions have never improved. My car have fallen in ditches a couple of times, due to lack of proper work-in-progress signages and no cordoning of dug-up roads plus bad street lighting.

Hong Kong: Work-in-progress in Northpoint, HK. Properly codorned-

off for the night.

Stop imposing your values on me

"Malaysia's Islamists want Lavigne concert cancelled "

Read the article here and the final decision here

Malaysia cancels 'too sexy' Avril Lavigne concert

I can't believe Malaysia is being sidelined for countries like Phillippines, Thailand and Indonesia because we are being too narrow-minded! Indonesia is an Islamic country too am I right? Why then do we have different values from them? Is it because we are 'holier' and therefore 'better' than them? By not allowing 'western culture' to infiltrate us, our youths will remain pure and untainted? Hey, while we're at it, why not ban MTV and get Astro to pull all the entertainment channels off their list? That way we will remain "clean" and "uninfluenced".

I do not deny that every person has their right to practice their own religion, and if it is practiced out of purity of heart, then may they achieve a much higher ideal that they so deserve. However I cannot accept people imposing their values and beliefs on other people. Seeking to enlighten others is all well and good, but when they force it upon others, the opposite reaction happens and people retaliate. It is utterly ridiculous to say that concerts will corrupt teenager's minds and influence them in a bad way, therefore banning the concert is a solution.

If parents strongly believe that it is a bad influence, then they should exercise their authority over their own children and stop them from going. However, PAS youth should not try to 'mother' everyone, and impose their believes on us. We are independent people with freedom of choice and if I want to damn myself to hell by watching a concert, then so be it. Who is the ultimate judge at the end of the day? As long as my actions are not illegal, not of public concern and I am not a threat to the members of the public, then it should be left alone.

Also, do not forget that bringing in concerts will indirectly boost the economy as revenue will be pouring into the country for the companies involved in sponsoring the concert. We need these kinds of opportunities to promote ourselves at the international level.

My father voted of PAS on March 8th in the Titiwangsa constituency with a hope that PAS together with Pakatan Rakyat would bring about a change, therefore PAS should not forget that their main responsibility should be to work towards good governance and eradicate corruption not the banning of concerts. As for the Arts, Cultural and Heritage Minister, I expected nothing more from him.

BN should stop lying to themselves

Yesterday, I was tickled with laughter over Najib's remarks that the only reason why Anwar has been promoting the quota allowance for non-bumiputra's admission into UITM is because he does not have the support of the majority of Malays. According to Najib, Malays either support PAS or Umno, therefore Anwar needs to garner the support from Non-malays.

This seems to me a ridiculous statement. And I make this observation from my point of view as a citizen living in the urban city of Kuala Lumpur, where my neighbors and friends are culturally, religiously and racially diverse. Speak to any urban Malay living in Kuala Lumpur, I guarantee you that one out of three professes their support for PKR. The reason being that PKR is able to capture the younger generation of voters who have grown up in the 80's and 90's era where globalisation has kicked in, the means of transportation in travelling not only around the country, but around the globe has become increasingly easier and more affordable.

These are the people who have traveled the world, garnered enough knowledge and realize that the way forward is to be more competitive and to constantly challenge oneself in this 'dog eat dog', 'survival of the strongest' world. These are the people who shy away from the Islamic professions of PAS, not to say that they are non-religious, but because they believe that religion and the state has to be separate and imposing one's religion is not the best way to profess love for that religion. These are the people who are tired of the constant manipulation and corrupt practices by Umno and their BN components, using racial divide as their 'command and conquer' technique.

These are the people who are fed-up, tired and struggling to make ends meet. They are sick of the government, they cannot subscribe to Pas' ideology, yet they cannot fit-in with the dominantly Chinese DAP, these are the people like me. Does it matter that I'm not Malay? No, because as long as we still talk in terms of racial demographic, we will never really be able to move forward and embrace our cultural diversity.

I do not profess to say that PKR is the best political party ever, but currently it is the only one which I feel I would be likely to fit in. It does not care that my forefathers were from China, and it speaks languages that I understand best, English and Bahasa (I admit I have a poor grasp of my own mother tongue). It professes to be multi-cultural and multi-racial, and is SEEN to be multi-cultural and multi-racial. It is not the best, obviously not with the lights of people like Zulkifli Nordin as one of the MPs, but is there any other alternative?

And because there is no other alternative, PKR is seen to be the only party that can bring a wave of change and has adapted to the current sentiment of young urbanite voters. That is the support they garner, it is the support of youth, of people who are desperate for change, and who feel any kind of change is better than the current situation. Lets forget whether these people are malay or non-malay, that's besides the point, and UMNO is still not getting the point!

Desa Setapak is congested as ever

I had to drive through Desa Setapak to get something 2 nights ago- had to get dinner actually. Jalan 4/27a was traffic nightmare (road heading into Desa Setapak- on the left is Wangsa Metroview and right is Menara Alpha and the Section 2 flats) in the past but it's just gotten worst. Cars park on the left and right of Jalan 4/27a leaving only a small squeeze for my car. This area's economy and population is boomed, bursting at the seams. DBKL is not doing anything except carrying out raids on hawker shops and extorting money from shop operators for non-compliance. This place is a mess at night- and it's one of the best places to get food anytime.

Does anyone have any bright ideas to improve Desa Setapak?

About Forty Years Until the Oil Runs Out

By Michele Chandler
Stanford Graduate School of Business

STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS—If the world had to rely on the United States for all of its oil, the supply wouldn’t last very long—one year to be exact.

According to calculations by Gilbert Masters, Stanford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Emeritus, current oil supplies in all nations combined would last the world for only about 41 years. Masters painted the sobering picture of the world’s looming energy dilemma during a January conference on environmental sustainability.

He was one of more than a dozen speakers urging attendees to “Reduce Your Ecological Footprint,” during a three-day conference jointly sponsored by the Stanford Business School Alumni Association and the University’s Woods Institute for the Environment. Other topics covered included an analysis of Wal-Mart’s efforts to offer more environment-friendly consumer products and the explosion of interest on the part of venture capital firms in investing in sustainable companies.

Canada’s supply of oil could serve as the world’s only supply for six-and-a-half years. Central and South America combined would have about three years’ worth. Africa contains only a 2.7-year global oil supply, while Europe and Asia combined have 3.3 years total. Half of the world’s oil reserves—enough to last 23 years—are found in the Middle East nations of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates.

With new oil sources not guaranteed, Masters said, more companies are showing interest in renewable energy, including solar and wind power, and electric-powered vehicles.

He cited a Morgan Stanley report from October 2007 saying that the market for environment-friendly products and technologies will reach $1 trillion by 2030.

The potential of power that uses fewer resources has also caught the attention of the business world. Venture capital investments in “greentech” businesses have risen to $2.4 billion in 2006, up from only $0.9 billion in 2005, Masters said. VC investments in solar power alone reached $1.2 billion by the end of the third quarter of 2007.

The United States leads the world in oil consumption, with about half of all the oil use powering personal vehicles. Car companies have been pushed to develop cars that get better mileage or use alternative fuels because of legislation including a mandatory increase in corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards. As part of a broader energy bill approved in December, the U.S. Congress passed increased CAFE standards that require passenger cars and light trucks sold in the United States to get 35 miles per gallon, the first increase in average fleet fuel economy in 32 years.

Masters is bullish on the development and wider adoption of electric-powered vehicles.

Unlike oil, which is increasingly expensive and scarce, “Electricity is an inexpensive fuel,” said Masters who advocates generating electricity for cars from sunlight using photovoltaic technology.

While a typical car using conventional fuel “costs you 14 cents a mile just to buy the gasoline, if you had a hybrid, it would cost you half that, about 7 cents a mile,” said Masters. Purchasing electricity during off-peak hours would cost about 1.5 cents a mile.

Factor in a “smart garage” generating photovoltaic technology with roof tiles and consumers would have enough power “to drive one of these plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars about 12,000 miles a year,” Masters said.

Photovoltaic technology also has implications for American homes and offices.

About 40 percent of all photovoltaics are being purchased and installed in Germany, Masters said, and the industry has generated about 40,000 jobs. All kilowatt hours produced by residents’ homes must first be sold to the utility company. By contrast, in the United States, homeowners who generate photovoltaic power only sell leftover power, he added.

An outsider's view

Yesterday I had a long chat with a friend whom I hold in very high regards. He is the man who gave me my first responsible job and guided me patiently, acting not only as a friend but as a mentor as well. He is not born and bred in Malaysia, but is a Singaporean. However being in Malaysia for the past 5 years has given him a good understanding of how Malaysia works internally and he is able to compare and contrast the government we have, and the government he is used to having back in Singapore.

He raised a few crucial points which perhaps we have always known and felt all the while, but it is interesting to see how our country is perceived by an objective bystander looking in. The first question I raised was, how do the Singaporeans or foreigners view Malaysia's current political situation? The answer was; "it is the laughingstock of the international arena".

The second question I raised was, how does the situation in Malaysia affect its neighbouring countries like Singapore? He said; "probably not much except in terms of foreign investors when they are looking where to put their money. Of course with Malaysia in a limbo, investors would rather turn to Singapore which is perceived as a more stable environment".

Then without further questioning, he raises his views on why we are in the situation we are today. In short, he says it is sad to see a nation which is full of natural oil resources, palm oil, rubber, rice and our own agriculture be poorer than a nation which is smaller than the size of Johor Bahru, has no resources whatsoever and relies on the exports of other countries. In fact, he believes we could close our doors to the outside world and be self-sustaining, that is how rich our nation is.

He talks about Terengganu, who should be one of the richest states due to their oil reserves. The royalties alone for the past four years could have been enough to build schools, roads, better housing facilities and what-not. However, go to the state of Terengganu and you will see one of the poorest states in Malaysia, with the citizens surviving on selling "ikan masin" and "keropok lekor" at the side of the road to make a living. The sad thing is, oil reserves run out, and Terengganu is estimated to only have four years of reserves left.

Then he makes a comparison to Singapore's government; the complaint that some people have is that Singapore's ministers are one of the highest paid in the world. They rake in about $1 million per annum. However here's a good point he makes; would you rather pay 1 million a year to a government official when you know where the country's resources are going, or would you rather have ministers who siphons off 1.2 Billion a year of the country's resources to offshore foreign accounts?

Most people, in fact everyone will admit we have a corrupt government. Nobody will believe our government is clean. However the problem lies in the fact that we have accepted this as a way of life. And we have accepted that there is nothing we can do about it. This acceptance has caused us to give up our ideals of a transparent and fair, corruption free government.

This is why people say that there is nothing we can do to change anything. Even putting a new government in place will not eradicate this 'way of life' that we are so used to. But the truth is; it is because we accept it to be the way of life that it will never change.

Just like if we were born into poverty or slavery, and we accept it to be our fate and that things will never change, then it will never ever change. The mindset we have is so important in guiding us to where we want to be in life, so really the decision lies in our hands...are you willing to accept the condition we are in now? Because I know I'm not.

The stagnation of a nation.

Ever felt like life seems to be stagnant? Perhaps on the wider scale, our country's social, economical and political development seems to be stagnant. We hauled the opposition in for a big victory, hoping for change, hoping for a better life for the children of this country, but yet nothing has seemed to change?

Patience is a virtue, but why do i feel like I'm running out of patience? I know, the change is for a better, no matter what people say, but yet I wish things would move on. A song seems to come to my mind, and every time i hear it, the lyrics somehow seem to describe my life currently and also the situation around me. Don't mistake me for a teenage pop fan, but somehow these lyrics seem to strike the very core of how I feel at the moment;

One Republic
Stop and Stare

Stop and stare
I think I'm moving but I go nowhere
Yeah I know that everyone gets scared
But I've become what I can't be, oh
Stop and stare
You start to wonder why you're here not there
And you'd give anything to get what's fair
But fair ain't what you really need
Oh, can you see what I see

They're tryin' to come back, all my senses push
Untie the weight bags, I never thought I could...
Steady feet, don't fail me now
Gonna run till you can't walk
But something pulls my focus out
And I'm standing down...

Stop and stare
I think I'm moving but I go nowhere
Yeah I know that everyone gets scared
But I've become what I can't be, oh
Stop and stare
You start to wonder why you're here not there
And you'd give anything to get what's fair
But fair ain't what you really need
Oh, can you see what I see

What you need, what you need...

Stop and stare
I think I'm moving but I go nowhere
And I know that everyone gets scared
But I've become what I can't be
Oh, do you see what I see...

Yes, we know we're moving forward, but yet it feels like we've never moved at all. Even in personal life, you know you're going somewhere, and you think you've made the right moves to reach that destination...but somehow it feels that everything comes so slowly, that no matter how hard we work or how much effort we put in, we're constantly in the same place, doing the same things and we feel that somehow we are insignificant, and nothing we do will change anything.

10 years ago, and today, the same allegations are thrown against Anwar, the same reasons for the allegations are there. The country faces the same problems 10 years ago and now, politically, economically and socially. Again, the racial card is used, talks between UMNO and PAS just like they did close to 40 years ago.

It seems that history does repeat itself, and as Hegel observes "We learn from history that we never learn anything from history". This seems to ring true in the history of this nation.

Burgernomics: The Big Mac Index

Ever heard of burgernomics? It is a compilation of the price of Big Macs in all countries around the world (except India), first published not-so-seriously by The Economist in 1986. It is intended to show the purchasing power of the average person in each of these countries using the purchasing power parity 1 (PPP) theory. Why the Big Mac? Because it is perceived to be a standardized food product through out the world in terms of quality and taste, hence the price of the Big Mac tells a lot about its unit cost and the ability of each average person is willing to pay for it in any given country (except India- there are no Big Macs in India, only Maharaja Macs because cows are sacred there; chicken and lamb is used as beef substitute). The Economist magazine also produces other indexes such as Starbucks's Tall Latte index, and the Coke index.
Left: The Chicken Maharaja Mac 

The left shows the Big Mac Index of a few of my favorite countries. Let's take a look at Malaysia and USA; what this index tells us about the Ringgit.

Formula for the Big Mac Index

= (PPP- forex rate)/forex rate   


Above: The Big Mac Index of a few countries

The negative 52.75% tells us that the Ringgit for a Big Mac is 52.75% undervalued compared to the USD. 
Of course there are critisms against the Big Mac Index:
  • the Big Mac is expensive in countries other than the USA and this may not give a true indication of the PPP ie it is not a mainstream cheap meal in India as compared to USA.

  • different levels of competition in different countries, different tax structure and culture acceptance will affect the pricing of the Big Mac. 
Despite the criticisms, the Big Mac Index still tells us a lot of a particular economic conditions! 

1 Purchasing Power Parity- created by Gustav Cassel 1920. A product assuming that it is available throughout the world should only have one price. But because of the imperfect world, different economic conditions in each country influence each of their foreign exchange rate resulting in that particular product being priced differently. The PPP compares the price of the same basket of goods in different countries. The argument is that the price for the same basket of goods should be the same in any given country but otherwise priced, because of the differences in inflation and cost of living in the different countries. The full 2008 Big Mac Index is as below:

What instant noodles tells us about the economy

A quick visit to Carrefour Express Wangsa Metroview last Wednesday showed that Maggi Mee perisa ayam (chicken flavor) had risen to RM4.50 for a 5-pack. I could not miss it because the huge Maggi mee display was right at the entrance of the store. Ironically the sign said 'special promotion'. The price was like RM3.15 per 5-pack right? Did you ever noticed how the price of the 5-pack reflects the price of a bowl of a mee in Malaysia. For example a bowl of mee in SSL Noodle Shop Wangsa Maju costs about the same without the extra add-ins. No rocket science there, but the price of the 5-pack Maggi mee is really close to the hawker's bowl of mee. At RM4.50 for 5, instant noodles are no longer poor man's food, but one single pack is still about 20% of the price of a bowl of noodles.

Lights out, but business as usual

The main fuse of Wee Choo Keong's office blew last Wednesday night and operations shifted from the office to the coffee shop downstairs. Business continued past 12 am thereon.