Livelihood of yours and mine (3)- Guan Eng: Penang has eradicated hardcore poverty

The Sun
Himanshu Bhatt

GEORGE TOWN (March 30, 2009) : Penang has become the first state in the country to eradicate hardcore poverty by arranging financial aid and economic activities for all 726 households registered under the hardcore poor category.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the initiative was successful partly because of the support of the private sector and social groups who chipped in to aggressively alleviate the hardships of the poor.

"Even though it is difficult, including facing bankruptcy, I am more willing to have the state becoming bankrupt to help the poor and be burdened than to be bankrupted by corruption," he said today.

The implementation mechanism, overseen by the Welfare Department, consists mainly of funding affected families to ensure their incomes are topped up such that they get at least RM500 every month. The department even helped some individuals set up bank accounts to receive the funds.

Lim said checking the state's poverty rate was one of the first things that he had given priority to after Pakatan Rakyat took control of the government in March last year. The state then took a whole year to conduct an exhaustive survey, with the help of socio-economic specialists from Universiti Sains Malaysia, to determine the exact number of hardcore poor. The figures are updated every three months, Lim said, adding that the state was planning to now eradicate general poverty as well, which is classified as income below RM700 a month.

Lim also said a total of RM2.2 million had been collected from the private sector, including philanthropists and charitable businesses, under an initiative called "Partners Against Poverty".

Lim said this in a ceremony to announce the successful eradication of hardcore poverty in Dewan Sri Pinang here. He also questioned what happened to a reported RM1.1 million allocation under the Rural and Regional Development Ministry to help 22 hardcore poor in Penang. Penang Health, Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh rebuked Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen for rejecting the state’s plea for funding to build a housing complex for about 300 homeless people.

Ng reportedly said the state should fund the complex by itself since the project was its own initiative.
On one hand I am happy for the Penang hardcore poor for such a magnificent effort to address their problems within a period of little over a year. This is consistent with Lim Guan Eng's suggestion that money from Petronas can be pumped straight into the hands of the needy rather than channelled through a few main contractors then sub-contractors then foreign labourers then hardware dealers (provided the projects were actually completed). Like Nizar's administration in Perak, there is a swift solution to age-old problems.

On the other hand, I just hope that the CM can tone down a bit on the rhetoric. He need not be in GE mode now, does he? If he rather bankcrupt the State Government, then that would have huge implication on the staff on its payroll and all Penangites (rates paying or dodging regardless) depending on the proper functioning of the state government.

There should also be audited accounts for the receipt and application of the funds concerned. The CM should, consistent with his CAT philosophy, make the modus operandi of the scheme known to all. That'll be nice publicity and also let people in need to get in touch with the right channel. Some feedback from the recepients could give credibility to the CM's claim.

Anyway, I did a quick computation. 726 families @RM500 per month = RM363,000 per month hence RM4,356,000 per year. Donate a semi-detached house a month and you save over 700 hundred families. That shows the income gap between the downright have nots; and the haves a lot.

However, one figure is missing. How many of each household have? RM500/2= RM250 per head or RM500/10 = RM50 per head. Perhaps durex could donate some of their grade C products to aid combating abject poverty.

By the same token, Atlantuya was reported of asking form USD500,000 for whatever she did. That cums to RM1.8million or 4.96 months for the above exercise. If that report is true then that's one heck of price to pay.

Brace ourselves for more rhetoric?

When Prime Minister Najib (he will be when you read this sooner than later) announced that he wants to do away / amend or whatever about the quota system for UMNO election, my first impression was good, great, bravo, a step towards greater democracy in UMNO.

Then I thought about 1 potential impact.

Race-base rhetoric or gestures have always been a tried, tested and successful rallying call for aspiring UMNO politicians climbing up the ladder. People progressing through UMNO Youth ranks would try to out perform each other in showmanship then toned down (or "mature") when they reach national level leadership. Cue: Najib circa 1987 and now.

With doing away the quota system, more candidates will have the opportunity to present themselves as an alternative for UMNO members to cast their votes. Will there be more such antics? Will we see more keris-waving, "them and us" remarks etc?

I hope the top echelons in UMNO can lay down a set of rules for do and don't in party election. Their stance in taking action against certain candidates shows some will in reform. By having some house rules, it can help to promote intelligent & substance over form type of contest amongst its candidates.

By the same token, MCA will face more pressure if there is much such gestures and antics.

I am not against positive racism. It is fine to promote the virtues of your own race by emphasizing or advertising the strength of your race (or country for that matter). However, promoting your own race (or your country for that matter) by talking down on other people would not be constructive at all.

An appraisal of Malaysia’s industrialization

A lot of people credited Mahatir, justifiably, as the prime minister who brought Malaysia into the industrial age. His predecessors started the ball rolling and Mahathir carried the fight forward, aided by petrol money, a generally hard working and intelligent population, stable political environment and good legislative background left by the British colonists. We are rightly proud of our country being able to transform its economic structure and we must also review the pros and cons of this sustained and continuing effort.

Every school going children can recite the FDI and job creation slogan, a boast rightly used by BN in election and other rallying calls. Manufacturers are bigger employers than say, traders and farmers so job creation is definitely an upside impact of industrialization.

However, one must question 2 issues here: 1) high percentage of jobs created are mostly low paying operator positions and 2) a very high percentages of these jobs are taken up by foreign workers.

I wrote earlier that Malaysia is not creating enough jobs were people are willing to pay top dollars for. Trying to remain competitive in the FDI market as a low cost manufacturing destination actually means holding back the advancement of benefit and welfare of the population. Employing a high number of foreign labourers also mean that general wage levels are down. Labour union movements, for historical reasons and also because of high foreign content, remained under developed.

As a result, Malaysia may have and still creating plenty of job opportunities but while quantity may be there, quality of jobs created may have much room for improvement. A telling sight is the housing area near Senawang Industrial Park where a lot of terrace houses suitable for middle level income demography are either unsold, left vacant or cramped with foreign workers. This would put a strain on banks’ profitability and ultimately interest rates available to diligent savers and retired Malaysian citizens.

Another development is the mushrooming of illegal factories. Around Selangor alone, I read somewhere in one of the Chinese newspapers that there were as many as 3,000 illegal factories. These factories could have an adverse impact on environment as well as human/workers’ right issues. One must question why so many people resort to operating illegal factories. Is the licensing process too much of a hindrance? Or are Malaysians too much of a profiteer and disregard their social responsibilities?

There are many successful industrial parks in Shah Alam and Penang populated by renowned international brands. There are also less formidable areas such as Silibin, Sungai Gadut, Alor Gajah Industrial Parks populated by lesser presence. This is no disrespect to the hard working SMI owners but one wonders that after about 30 years of industrialization, where is the renowned Malaysian brand? South Korea, devastated in the 1950’s by civil war while Malaysia prospered by tin demand as a result of that war, have come up with their Hyundai and Samsung.

It would be great if Malaysia can boast of renowned international brands and we can actually see these brands scatter among the various Malaysian states. People do not need to leave their home town to find employment opportunities and this represent less strain on national resources on traffic and logistic matters especially during festive seasons.

After the failure of Malaysia Electric Corporation, Proton and Badawi’s nasi kandar stall in Perth, I raised my fingers and count the renowned brand by Malaysians: 3 in 1 Old Town White Coffee (seen this in Hong Kong supermarkets), Jimmy Choo (exclaimed by Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City) and Air Asia (by sponsoring BPL’s referee who until AA shows up, never had or seem to need a sponsor before).

Yes, we have moved forward in terms of changing Malaysia’s economic structure for the better but there are few key areas that we can improve on to raise the general level of living standards.

UMNO Youth wants ban on the term "Pakatan Rakyat"

The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 27 – Umno Youth today suggested that all quarters, including the media, cease using the term “Pakatan Pakyat” to refer to the opposition pact because the loose coalition of opposition parties is not a legitimate entity.

Langkawi Umno Youth Chief Nor Saidi Nayan said the entity called Pakatan Rakyat was not a registered or an approved organisation under the Registrar of Societies’ rules and regulations.

“When was the Pakatan Rakyat approved as an organisation and who made the approval? If there are no approvals, why should the government, our party and the mass media promote this illegal organisation?

“We should ban the use of the term Pakatan Rakyat or any term in reference to any unregistered organisation,” he said when debating the president’s policy speech at the Umno General Assembly here today.

Nor Saidi said that Barisan Nasional (BN), a registed entity comprising political parties which represent the interest of the country’s multiracial community, cannot be equated with the opposition coalition.

“Who is this Pakatan Rakyat?” he asked.
Some people never cease to amaze me. Do you think by stopping publication of a reference term, people would forget it? Pakatan Rakyat, or if Encik Nor Saidi prefers it, coalition of KeAdilan-PAS-DAP came into prominance because of UMNO and BN's decreased level of performance as administrators of the nation. Does he seriously think by banning official channels to mention the term Pakatan Rakyat, all BN's problems will disappear?

Pak Lah spoke about reform. Najib spoke about reform and getting closer to the people and this beauty of a suggestion comes out.

By the way, merely being registered is not an absolute proof of legitimacy, e.g. Balkis (which was de-registered as easily as well). Some of the most powerful coalitions were not registered. The Americans, British, Soviet Union, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, Chinese, Dutch, Vichy French etc came together as a coalition and defeated the Axis-power in World War II. Political-theme bloggers, much derided before 8 March 2008 as they had no registered status as controlled main-stream-media, also gained recognition from the official channels.

By the way, can someone confirm if Tunku Abdul Rahman's Alliance was registered? The Old UMNO was technically flawed as well, right?

Who is this Pakatan Rakyat? Among them, they have 5 Chief Ministers (or 4), a Parliament Opposition leader and 82 representative voices at the Parliament as well as many, many state assemblymen and women. That question actually disrespected tax payers and voters who have made their choices. Then again, in a democracy, everyone has the right to make himself or herself look stupid as long as he or she hurt no one else.

Umno foes applaud Pak Lah’s parting shot

The Malaysia Insider

By Lee Wei Lian and Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani

KUALA LUMPUR, March 26 – In a not-unexpected move, senior Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders latched on to one point in outgoing Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi’s speech this morning: a warning against a return to the “old ways.”

In fact, they were disappointed that he did not speak about the issue more extensively.

In his keynote address at the opening of the Umno General Assembly, Abdullah hit out at anti-reformists in the party saying that those who believed in the “old order” – read Mahathirism – risked hastening the party’s demise.


The above reminds me of Ong Ka Ting's outburst at UMNO as a "bully" after the final results of GE12 were known.

Why can't politicians speak their mind while they are in power? Better late than never but Badawi has missed the chance to become the best Prime Minister the country could ever had.

Striking fear into criminals- a Malaysia styled Fast and Furious movie

The article above appears in the NST (and a few other dailies) today. It's the 202nd Police Day the the PDRM's spanking new Mistubishi Evo 10 is on display on location in Pulapol. We know the intention of getting the Evos are for high-speed car chases on Malaysian roads where the standard Proton Waja patrol car is no match for criminals' higher powered cars. However I have a few questions in mind on these things:

1)Can't the PDRM set up roadblocks to stop criminals instead of chasing them at 300++ kph on the highways. What happened to the usual modus-operandi of barricading the highway at toll stops, etc and line-up their PDRM trigger-happy balaclava-clad personnel for a happy shooting spree.

2)Will there be collateral damage if the high-speed chases take place on Malaysia's trunk roads ie kampong roads. What about the kids playing by road-sides and the motocylists without helmets in those kampong areas near the trunk roads.

3)Will this prompt the criminals to get even higher powered cars to match the PDRM Evos? Me thinks the PDRM Evos will only strike fear into innocent existing Subaru, Evo and other mod-car owners because of the increased likely hood of getting their cars stolen.

4)Who are PDRM trying to emulate?

Above: Pics from around the blogs- a closer look at the PDRM Evo.

Dell's 5% VSS

I'm worried for Dell. Right now 5% of its 5,000 workforce in Penang and Cyberjaya is being offered VSS. Insiders say this VSS is mostly impacting Dell's frontline staff such as its sales people. Six months ago, I also heard another story during a power luncheon.- that Dell Malaysia had begun to outsource a major part of its manufacturing operations and unneccesary staff would be made redundant. Also heard from various sources regarding other retrenchements, which prompted me to do a post here.

When a company outsources his operations, normally the VSS will be 100% not 5%- so are there is more retrenchment to come? I just hope that the 5% is not the tip of an ice-berg.

Malaysia's workforce

Source: Dept of Statistics
1)As at Q3 2008, Malaysia has 11.1 million workers of which 10.8 million are working.

2)Out of the 10.8 million workers. 6.6% fall in the 55-64 age group. That 6.6% is considered 'old' by some parties.

3)Out of the 10.8 million, only about 10% are paying income tax. The remaining balance of the workforce has salaries below the tax band of RM2,500 per annum.

4)Total Government revenue in 2007 was RM140 billion. 50% (RM70 billion) of that revenue came from direct taxes. Out of that RM70 billion, RM20.5 billion (17%) comprise of individuals' income tax. The rest are companies' income tax (46%), petroleum income tax (29%) and miscellaneous types of taxes (8%).

5)About slightly over 1 million workers contribute to RM20.5 billion income tax.

It is not only a question of the aging workforce as reported by The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry here. My former employer, now aged 60, earns up to RM2 million a year, excluding bonuses. Try beating that. Salary, we assume, is proportionate to skill set and demand for that skill set. The question is not of age alone, nor salary, nor skill set. Barking up the wrong tree.

The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry should drill down as to why the rest of the nearly 10 million are not contributing tax. Well, we all it's the tax band for sure, but what are their training needs? Are these 10 million people doing alright or not? Analyze that data properly and see if they tell a story. From there identify what's really wrong.

RM3.2b 'injection' this week

The Sun

PETALING JAYA (March 22, 2009) : Projects valued at RM3.202 billion under the Mini Budget will be awarded this week, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.
The awarding of projects comes just 14 days after the Mini Budget was tabled in Parliament by Najib who is also Finance Minister.
Of the total, RM1.3 billion is to be awarded to contractors for the improvement, upgrading and development of facilities and infrastructure of schools. A total of 322 schools, throughout the country, have been identified.
Another RM95.5 million worth of projects will be awarded for the rehabilitation and improvement of police stations.
"The awarding of these projects so soon after the Mini Budget was tabled in Parliament shows the seriousness of the authorities in dealing with the global crisis which has also affected Malaysia," said Najib in a media statement issued yesterday.
"It is also proof of the government's serious concern for the people's well being and to stimulate private sector activity and confidence," he added.
People with conspiracy theories and over-imaginative brain cells would point out that the release of funds coincide with the UMNO AGM. I would say to the analyst-script writers-wannabes, stop the speculation and focus on the real issues - livelihood of yours and mine.

Tan Seri Khalid Ibrahim mentioned that leakages would defeat the purpose of the stimulus. True, that's why MACC should have one of its main terms of reference in tracking and ensuring these leakages can be detected and prevented.

However, I am concerned with the trickle down effect. The time taken can be too long and the coverage is not wide enough. How many contractors will get paid? As with any construction project, it takes time for the stages of completion to be reached and verified then payment released to the main contractor who will cancel to the subcontractors and the sub-sub the meantime, foreign construction workers, local hardware businessmen will get their you see you and me being mentioned yet? Just like the moment, I can hear little voices asking, "are we there yet? are we there yet?"

Oriental Daily reports on Datuk Bandar meeting up the "exclusive" Wangsa Maju resident club

The news article above is related to the posting here.

Fairus quit as Penang Deputy CM

The Malaysian Insider- Fairus Khairuddin, the Penang deputy chief minister, has quit, confirming swirling speculation about his position amid a cloud of suspicion over his conduct. The PKR man submitted his resignation to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng of the DAP, and it has been accepted.

Lim made the announcement at a press conference in Penang today. However, the CM declined to disclose the reasons for Fairus’s resignation. But it is understood that the resignation was made on the instructions of Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who is keen to contain any damage Fairus’s conduct would have on the Pakatan Rakyat alliance.

Fairus’s position as deputy chief minister had become untenable because he faces a mountain of allegations over suspected abuse of power. Speculation about Fairus’s resignation had surfaced this week after an anonymous text message was circulated saying that he was instructed to quit by Anwar over allegations of abuse of power. Fairus’s appointment as deputy chief minister has been a source of controversy and he has been told off by Anwar for not even visiting his constituency. He was also forced to quit as Penang Football Association president due to his lack of enthusiasm.

Speculation is also rife that he is one of two PKR leaders in Penang accused of corrupt dealings involving a quarry. Lim said today Fairus’s effective resignation date will be April 8. The DCM will be on leave until then.
Fairus will continue as Penanti assemblyman.
Lim Guan Eng declined to disclosed the reason for resignation? Come on, LGE, where is your CAT!? Is there something to hide?

Fairus is quitting because of something wrong he did or something he should be doing but did not. Whatever the reason is, if LGE provide some explanation, at least it shows that his adminsitration has set certain standard of performance that was not met. It would send a strong signal to all and sundry that his administration do not tolerate slackers, unlike the BN adminstration that he has always been critical of.

LGE's silence in this matter will render his other strong statements as mere hot air or "cakap tak serupa bikin". People have high expectation of him. As with Badawi, the higher the expectation, the bigger the disappointment and the bigger the back lash.

Unless LGE is under a gag order.

Pakatan Rakyat adminstration is barely a year old and it has to face entrenched pro-BN mentality, untangle previous messes, learn on the job and overcome sceptism. I can understand and tolerate hornest mistakes but not practising what it has been preaching would not be very welcome.

Turning points in the Malaysian political scene

When I was a school going child, Malaysian politics is about racial segregation, culminating into “Operasi Lallang” in 1987. Hard pressed in the 1990’s election, a photo and an advertisement of bad taste changed the fortunes of a hard-pressed incumbent ruling party and they won that general election. People spoke of opposition parties as if they are a bunch of criminals and good for nothing. Chinese population reject PAS just as Malays would reject DAP.

Fast forward to 2008, the mould cast for so long has been broken. I stood side by side a Malay chap in Keadilan drab waiving a DAP flag in Taman Melati on 8th March. I waived and gave a thumb’s up to a PAS supporter in Seremban on the same day and he replied with a broad smile and another thumbs up. I saw and heard myself, Chinese uncles and aunties, young and supple Chinese in theirs 20s, cheering loudly as PAS Secretary Kamarruddin Jarjis spoke before them in DAP Negeri Sembilan’s fund raising dinner a fortnight ago. These scenarios were most unimaginable when I was in my youthful and supple 20’s or earlier.

Students of history can point out various turning points in history. The course of history is filled with turning points, events that changed the course of events and steered them away from expected chartered voyage.
So, I wonder, what were the events that transformed the thinking of Malaysians from that of the 1970’s – 80’ s to what some of us have come to in the present days.

I have listed down the following as the apparatus or events that I think contributed to the turning point. History is written by the victors and I hope my little piece here can be a reference footnote in times to come.
1. Internet
2. Anwar’s sacking
3. Economic crises of 1997
4. Mahathir’s lack of succession planning
5. Urbanization of Malaysia

I rank introduction of internet as the most important tool (but not event) in giving rise to the turning point. Internet broke the back of controlled main stream media’s monopoly of propaganda and opportunity to shape public’s opinion & perception.

It allows opposition politicians to disseminate their side of argument and more importantly, via avenues to air readers’ comments, allow common folks to realize many of us feel the same discontentment, anger and frustration. Lim Kit Siang was among the first to exploit usage of blogs and the awareness of his messages increased significantly. Other politicians from both camps follow suit. Personal blogs have become an important part of a politician’s tool of trade.

The writings of the likes of Raja Petra Kamarruddin, M.G.G. Pillai I believe inspire the mushrooming of more and more socio-political blogs. Such blogs mould the thinking of ordinary folks. It rallies support, as in the case of these anti-ISA vigils, the Bersih Campaign Walk and other public gathering. Bloggers are no longer deemed as “unemployed women” as one former minister dismiss them and even given space in national controlled media by the new minister.

Internet news portal like Malaysiakini and lately the Malaysia Insider present a very different view point from the controlled few. They also inspired the emergence of more neutral newspapers such as Sinaran.

Anwar’s sacking in 1997
I would rank this as the most significant event that contributed to the turning point. Prior to Anwar’s sacking, the Malay community would, by and large, united under a feeling of “us and them” mentality. There is no possibility of non-racial political philosophies and political parties to make in roads to the communities’ mindset. Even the imprisonment of Lim Guan Eng following the Malay girl incident has not hit home the message of cross-racial politics but surprisingly, it is the Mahathir vs Anwar saga that provided the point of no-return for it.

The Anwar sacking, sodomy trial and imprisonment ushered in an event I could not imagine at the time – a divided Malay community. If previous differences were fought out and settled behind closed doors within political parties, it was the first time I see Malays, common Malays would dine with me in the same warung or mamak stall that took their frustration and confrontation onto the streets. Devoid of the “Chinese nemesis”, for the first time in my memory, Malays were fighting for justice and against evil.

It may have brought a realization to the Malay community that beside the Chinese bogeymen, there was perhaps more worthy causes to fight for, such as justice and principles of good governance. Subsequent political rallying cries within the Malay community have evolved from the monotonous racial nature into more universal principles of justice, transparency and good governance.

This paradigm shift has brought Malays closer with the Chinese and Indian communities hence the formation of Parti Keadilan and Pakatan Rakyat.

Economic crises of 1997
The demise of the “Asia miracle” then has exposed the terms and concept of “nepotism” and “cronyism” into Malaysian vocabulary. The words and their concept, once made clear to most in Malaysia, helped explain to Malaysians that reasons behind the “haves” and “have nots” have more to do with privileged connection than racial origins. No longer applicable is the common notion that “Chinese are rich because they exploit the Malays”; which I would say, contain some trueth way back in the previous century but the whole truth is worth another article or three.

Mahathir’s lack of succession planning
There is a corporate buzzword “succession planning” whereby new talents are groomed to take over when the incumbent rode into the sunset. Yet, Mahathir has ensure all his capable deputies – Musa Hitam, Razaleigh Hamzah and Anwar Ibrahim have reached their pinnacle in his administration hence a brain drain within the ranks of UMNO and by association, top national leadership. The only deputies whose positions were secured during Mahathir’s premiership were Ghaffar Baba and Abdullah Badawi.

The current criticisms of “flip flop” decision-making, ridiculous public statements made by ministers and uninspiring governance and leadership post-Mahathir era has fueled discontentment and push many neutral voters to vote against Barisan Nasional. I believe these voters can easily revert back to BN if there is improvement in their stewardship but only if UMNO made up lost time in grooming truly capable and fair-minded leaders.

Urbanization of Malaysia
It is easier to practice the “divide and rule” policy of the British colonials when you keep the communities in different parts of the country. However, when you take the Malays from the rural area to urban areas, they would face the same livelihood issues as all the other city dwellers. Mono racial issues can still make some raw nerves tingle but high cost of living, crime rates and unsatisfactory public service delivery systems would water down narrow mono-racial concerns. It also enables people of all races to suffer the same problems and they would have the same rallying calls and common grouses.

The old political capital built on the foundation of racism is still a marketable commodity. Malaysians care more about racial and religious issues than judiciary, corruption, public negligence related issues. I believe, however, patriotic Malaysians should embrace change and adopt what is positive and discard what is negative because no nation can ever progress with deep-rooted and irrational divisive emotions and practices amongst its citizens.

Black magic and politics

In Malaysia- if you ask me black magic is nothing new in politics. When Tun Daim was Finance Minister back in the 80's he regularly consulted a bomoh in Petaling Jaya, even more before Budget time. To avoid unneccesary publicity Daim booked personal whole-day sessions with this bomoh.

According to PJ folk, this bomoh has customers consisting of PDRM too. Now, now..

Break-in at Wangsa Maju school

WANGSA MAJU KUALA LUMPUR , March 17- 3 foreigners broke into the compound of SJKC Mun Yee at Taman Teratai early Tuesday morning. After overpowering the sole security guard, the suspects made their way to the first floor of the school's administrative block and forced entry into the school staff room by shattering its glass window with a fire extinguisher. The suspects escaped with a microwave oven. No one was hurt.

By afternoon it was reported that the police had not yet made their way to the crime scene.

Bravo UMNO!

Bernama - Wednesday, March 18


KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 (Bernama) -- Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam will remain as the Melaka Chief Minister.

He said Mohd Ali was only prohibited from contesting in the upcoming Umno elections but remained as the chief minister.


Running a political party is so much more demanding......but BRAVO to UMNO when it is due for fighting corruption.

Town Hall meeting, oops UMNO meeting

Below: Meeting in progress

It was about 9pm when we reached Pusat Komuniti Ibu Kota Wangsa Maju where the town hall forum was being held. New mayor Datuk Ahmad Fuad is touring town meeting residents- the previous night it was Segambut constituency and tonight was Wangsa Maju's turn. No Pakatan Rakyat MPs are invited for this meet-the-residents series- but Wangsa Maju MP Wee Choo Keong turned up anyway. Since the election it is becoming a trend for KL MPs to be ignored, side-stepped or totally uninvited for official functions- so 'gate-crashing' is nothing new to this MP.

The majority of attendees were UMNO folk from various sections of Wangsa Maju. It was an eye-opener to listen to grievances of Wangsa Maju folk, but after an hour or so, the occasion got a bit repetitive and monotonous. I could sense the Datuk Bandar's aching ears. The good -gracious audience was falling asleep. The list of problems were the same- developer matters, land issues, parking woes, clogged drains, poor maintenance of public amenities, etc etc. A quick check in the waiting room saw drivers, security personnel hammering away on their own GameBoy/ Nintendo sets while waiting for their 'masters'.

Overall, the meeting was more of an UMNO meeting which could do better with fairer presentation from all races in Wangsa Maju.

Update: I heard that the Datuk Bandar later clarified these events were organized by his office people and he had no knowledge that the Pakatan Rakyat KL MPs were excluded from the town hall meetings held in their respective constituencies.
Below: The mayor's official vehicle

Above:Interview by the Press
Below: Having a word with Datuk Bandar
Above: "Why no fair representation from Wangsa Maju..."
Video courtesy of LWT

A little Summary

Since March 08, I can remember

1) a little walking and shouting outside Komtar

2) a little gathering and shouting about pigs in Selangor

3) a "squatter conscious" individual and his merry making friends

4) a much bandied about relocation exercise scheduled in the middle of September

5) a much touted 50 person study tour that hitherto, we know nothing about what they learned

6) a respected, tough and hardworking single lady was given a mandatory rest of a fortnight and given plenty of eggs as supplements

7) some re-matches of a certain popularity contest, although the participants are less inclusive than the last big 1 in March

8) some complicated exercise of changing class monitor that involves changing minds of a few, a tree and a few very important people

9) over-pitching of some pictures which compared to what I can get from the internet and that hamsap bookstore, is nothing and I once heard a little boy describing that's what his grandparents, parents and uncles & aunties do anyway.

10) some stubborn member today is given the liberty to play truant for a year while his dad is being hustled to see whether he belongs to the Big House or not

11) what else?????

all I have to say is .....

I hope there is political maturity and respect for common sense when it comes to political gamesmanship in this country.

In vying for power, please respect the basic foundation on which it is built, i.e. confidence and trust of the people on the capability of the political parties who offer to serve and lead.

There should be no place in the voters’ heart for political leadership who thrives and depends on any other means.

The colonists left a bad taste in our mouth but 1 good thing they did left behind was a system and a culture of law and that has set us apart from Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei. Is there any patriot would want to give up our advantage?

Dear Deputy Health Minister ......

I read the below from

Puan Teo Nie Ching [Serdang]: Terima kasih Tuan Yang di-Pertua. Okay, mengenai soalan kedua ataupun bahagian kedua saya. Saya telah menerima banyak aduan yang mengatakan bahawa kebanyakan doktor latihan siswazah ini, mereka bekerja berterusan hari pertama hari ini, malam on call dan juga esok kerana kekurangan doktor-doktor ataupun doctor latihan. Saya rasa sampai hujung tahun lepas, bilangan hospital swasta telah meningkat ke 209 buah.

Tambahan pula kementerian telah menerima 55 permohonan untuk membuka hospital swasta dan kita semua tahu gaji di hospital swasta adalah lebih lumayan dan gaji di hospital kerajaan adalah di antara RM4,000 sampai RM10,000 sebulan, tetapi di hospital swasta gaji adalah di antara RM10,000 sampai RM100,000 sebulan. Sebagai akibatnya, 7% doktor pakar pilih untuk bekerja, berkhidmat di hospital swasta di mana mereka hanya berkhidmat untuk 30% pesakit yang mampu untuk membayar untuk harga perubatan yang lebih tinggi.

Jadi saya risau bahawa sekiranya kementerian terus meluluskan permohonan untuk membuka.. [Dewan riuh] sabar sikit, untuk membuka hospital swasta, jadi bagaimana kita boleh memastikan bahawa kita mempunyai kakitangan ataupun doktor-doktor...

Dato' Haji Tajuddin Abdul Rahman [Pasir Salak]: Bagi chancelah, budak-budak.

Puan Teo Nie Ching [Serdang]: ...yang mencukupi untuk bekerja di hospital kerajaan dan supaya doktor latihan ini ataupun doktor-doktor pakar kita tidak perlu bekerja berterusan lebih daripada 24 jam.

Datuk Dr. Haji Abdul Latiff bin Ahmad: Peraturan 24(3), saya tak perlu jawab dan saya akan jawab dalam penggulungan nanti. Pasal doktor bekerja berterusan ini, itu memang sebahagian daripada training dan cara bekerja. 24 jam kalau on call kemudian esok dia akan bekerja seperti biasa. Itu memang dah amalan daripada azali. [Dewan riuh]

Jadi kalau mereka sama ada di hospital swasta mahupun di hospital kerajaan, kalau mereka rasa teruk bekerja dengan izinlah, saya rasa they are in wrong profession. Terima kasih”

Having my dad suffered a long and painful death from what I perceived as medical negligence and system failure, I feel compel to suggest that the problems with healthcare in Malaysia is not going to improve with the level of sensitivity showed by the Deputy Minister.

The issue at hand is government hospital doctors are under paid and had to work long hours. The Deputy Minister talks about “they are in wrong profession”.

Has the Minister thought about whether

1) the ratio of doctors & hospitals to patients in each respective areas are reviewed periodically and ensure adequate healthcare personnel, services and equipment are provided to the tax payers?

2) the doctors are provided with sufficient equipment and administrative staff in running the hospitals?

3) there is an adequate procedure to manage duty roosters to ensure sufficient personnel are at station at all time?

4) adequate facilities is provided to our doctors to let them have sufficient rest period so that they can be at a good physical and mental state to tend to the tax payers who are in need of help?

5) is there a properly functioning system whereby doctors and evaluated, counseled and assessed so that the best doctors can be retained, sent for further training and remunerated properly in terms of financial and non-financial rewards whereas under-performing doctors are either to be further re-trained or re-assigned out of harms way? there should be a similar system for all staff in government hospitals.

Can't be more eloquent than this fellow:

“During my 2 years in Ranau, I’ve heard and seen it all, patients with cerebral malaria, a condition unheard of in Peninsular Malaysia, coming in after 48 hours to the hospital from places like Kaingaran and Karagasan, with relatives having to push the ‘private taxi’ through mud, spending RM50 on fare during the monsoon season, the equivalent of 2 months oncome, this too when petrol was only around RM1.20 a litre….

“Emergency surgery such as caesarean sections, appendectomies and even ectopic pregnancies had to be performed in our little district hospitals by Medical Officers with little more than 4 months housemanship experience…..

Page 12,”The cries of Sabah by Lim Kit Siang – ‘Don’t neglect Sabah, please’ by Another Doctor, 11 October 2008”

We need compassionate and right thinking people to run the ministry.

Quiet days at KLIA

Touched down before 8pm at KLIA on last Friday evening and it was one of the quietest evenings at the airport. The flights came in but where were the people? No queues at the Immigration check-out, the ERL nor the airport limo counter. The budget taxi queue ,normally long on Fridays evenings; but this time I merely waited for 5 minutes before catching my cab.

My take on the RM60mil stimulus package

The Finance Minister’s RM60bil stimulus package gives us an opportunity to gauge the capability of the Prime Minister in waiting and his team of advisors.

I like the tax relief on interest on housing loans and provision of incentives to students to take up post-graduate courses instead of joining the job market at the moment. Good for our students. However, we must ensure there is a proper delivery system is in place. People must know where and how to apply, is there any red-tape, fairness or restriction?

However, I am not sure about the creation of 163,000 jobs. Are they jobs with government departments? Is this going to result in more red tapes and bureaucracy? We moan about the time taken to get things down in government departments and imagine having more people to get through before you get your license, permit approved and what not. When you need to stimulate economic activities, red tapes and the likes must be reduced, not increased.

By adding another 163,000 workers together with the necessary to equip them, government expenditure involved can reach up to astronomical proportion.

When I look at previous budgets, the biggest component is “government operating expenditure”. I always wonder why the federal government never mentioned about the word “cost cutting” in their budget. Cost saved can be channeled into welfare, infrastructure development, healthcare and education instead. How to initiate cost saving measures? The annual Auditors’ General Reports, which are always a heartache to read can point to so many opportunities to review and cut costs.

There are several tax benefits like accelerated capital allowances, increase in tax exemption threshold on retrenchment compensation and utilizing current year tax losses to off-set previous year tax losses. However, the fundamental disadvantage of these approaches is 1) the taxman is only taking less from you but you are not receiving any assistance, unless you can accept taking less from you equals to giving something to you and 2) there is a time delay effect.

Stimulus by definition should be quick, direct and tangible. Of course, we can console ourselves that as Malaysians, we should be grateful for every bit of crumbs coming our way.

The Star on 11th March reported the allocations of millions of ringgit to subsidize food and keep toll rates down went well with “most” Malaysians and the brief report on page 3 mentioned less than 10 names. Although I fail to understand how the Star can conclude that the feedback from 10 or less Malaysians can reliably reflect most of the other 26 million, the main point is the people’s money is still being used to bail ourselves out alone. I would like to know if there is any Petronas funds been used to subsidized foods and toll.

I wrote previously about the supply chain in Malaysia and I believe structural reform is much more effective in managing prices. Why do we need the agreement with IPPs? Why do we need toll concessionaire agreements which guarantee profits that could erode the need to control cost amongst the operators?

Stimulus means to stimulate or promote economic activities (duh!) and sometimes, this can be achieved with minimum costs. The Pakatan Rakyat’s initiative to grant freehold titles to long time dwellers actually possesses enormous multiplier effect. By having secured land titles, owners can develop their land and banks can have collateral to disburse funds. Also, by cutting down administrative bureaucracy, free up capital restriction, speeding up the various paper work processes in federal, state and local authority level, business can move faster.

If you have a national car that is more than 10 years old, you can get RM5,000 discount to get a new national car. This sounds great but what about people who can’t afford a car? Really, is this a stimulus action or is really a government assisted “Great Proton Stock Clearance Sale”?

Classic Mahathirism at work when government spending is allocated to several companies carrying out development work such as the new LCCT at KLIA and Penang Airport but does this benefits the small business owners, wage earners in general? The above project should be classified as necessary development work and not stimulus package under exceptional economic circumstances. Recession or no recession, improving our capacity is a must. Again, there is a time lag effect in terms of benefit following through. Besides, there is always the issue of leakage involves.

Stimulus means helping people to be able to spend more and earn more. Lim Guan Eng mention about putting money into people’s pocket directly and I agree it would work. Giving employers cash rebate in direct proportion to their contribution into workers’ EPF could aid business cashflow, preserve job and encourage compliance. The government should consider suspending for a year payment of tax deducted at source for workers and advance payment of corporate tax for small businesses to aid cash flow of the man in the street.

The doubling of foreign levy can mean higher cost of business although it meant for forcing local businesses to replace foreign workers with locals. I am not sure if this will work as most local employers deemed foreigners are better blue collar workers. It is a window of opportunity for the locals to reclaim their employment opportunity but how well we grasp it is another story……

I am all for positive racism

Let’s be honest, Malaysians are racist. We have a race base governing system, we have a race base upbringing and we also have race base statements drumming into our minds day in day out. Is racism bad? Are cars bad? Well, cars maim and kill more than guns in Malaysia but when used properly, automobile bring enormous benefit to Malaysians. If man (and woman) conquer hostile environment since the caveman ages and turn adversity to advantage, racism is just another issue to be dealt with in the same way.

First of all, Malaysians should not take racism too seriously. It is not a unique Malaysian problem. Last year, when I was immersing myself in chest-deep level seawater, I had a 30 minutes talk with an Australian woman in bikini about racism in Australia. (Don’t laugh at my apparent ineptness at striking up the right kind of conversations with women in bikinis).

Australians have a more diversified population than us hence Malaysia is not that unique. Although North and South Korea are technically still at war, some of the things I have read in mainstream media seems to suggest that the De-Militarized Zone is located on the wrong peninsular.

Other countries suffered worse form of racial discrimination and came out stronger and better. Africans were kidnapped and sold as slaves in the United States since the 1600’s. They were whipped, burnt, raped, castrated and god knows what else. Yet white men fought along side the blacks to liberate them. The process was long and painful; from the Civil War in the 1860’s all the way through to the 1960’s civil movement.

2 TV shows in the 1970’s speaks a lot of the Americans’ desertion of racism. Roots highlighted the suffering of blacks and the immense injustice perpetuated by the white slave owners. The book by Alex Haley makes more painful reading than the TV series. The Jeffersons showed a rich Negro businessman taking funny liberties at his gentle and not so bright white neighbour. One series highlight the injustice and cruelty of their forefathers so that such act should not be repeated while the other uses humour as a tool of reconciliation, if I interpret correctly.

Another TV series that Malaysians enjoy immensely is Mind Your Language, where we laugh at non-English students struggling to pick up English and the suffering of Mr. Brown the teacher.

But can you imagine any TV series, books and movies of similar message can be made by Malaysians amongst Malaysians? The fate of “apa khabar orang kampung” can be used as a reliable gauge. There was a poor imitation of MYL but it was hardly worth a second look.

We can make serious viewing or laugh at other people’s racism but not our own. Gordon Banks, one of the greatest goalkeeper in history said something to the effect that he did not work too much on the strong part of his game but concentrate working on the weakest parts of his game.

One of the best phases I have heard while working in multi-national corporations is “Diversification and Inclusion”. People from different countries, religious background, sexual orientation, and cultural upbringing are not to be discriminated on these basis. Mutual respect and acceptance is the call of the day. I would add that for our society, inter-racial “tolerance” is a bit on the negative side. I prefer the words “accommodation” and “acceptance”. We should celebrate the diversity and richness of our culture. Malaysia can attract English and Chinese speaking investors and tourists, or Middle East investors with citizens who can interact better with them.

We should emphasize on the similarity of different races rather than, at present, emphasizing on the differences of different races. There is nothing wrong with other people who have a different lifestyle than yours so long as we understand each other and let things be the way it is. Life would be too boring, isn’t it? Mukhriz spoke about closing down Chinese and Indian language schools but then he did not talk about closing down Chinese and Indian restaurants did he? The richness of language skills in Malaysia should be celebrated as much as the variety and taste of our food.

Of course, I can hear people pointing out those problems that resulted in NEP. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for special programmes tailored to the needs of different races. Chinese don’t have the same problems as Indians who also don’t have the same problems with Malays. We can have special programmes for particular segment of the society and also have nation-wide, homogenous programmes for all.

The concept we must abandon is the zero sum game. Help the Chinese and the Malays will be at disadvantage blah blah blah. CRAP. I once read in Readers’ Digest where a little girl who had 3 siblings asked her mother, “Mommy, how do you divide your love between the four of us?” The mother replied,” dear, my love is multiply, not divide.” Malaysia has enough resources, I strongly believe, to look after all races properly. We are that resource-rich, hard working and intelligent enough to do so. Thinking otherwise is downplaying the potential and capability of your own country and that’s not very patriotic isn’t it?

I am not really in favour of having race-base party talking and fighting for their own race only. I prefer a Malaysian base party who is able to view all of us as one and also have the intelligence to analyze and compartmentalized issues affecting citizens base on different race, geographical areas, physical disability, income level and whatever. Life is no longer simple these days.

A good government and administration should be good at identifying and solving problems whether it is specific to a racial group or physical disability attributes, or confined to a age group or addresses. If base on the zero sum rule, if the government allocate funds to the blind, the deaf should protest because their interest is compromise and if the government allocated funds to the deaf then the blind would protest also.

So you see, race is just another way of compartmentalizing our beautifully diversified country. That’s all.

Livelihood of yours and mind (2): earning capacity and distribution of income in Malaysia

I am extremely grateful and humbled by the generosity of the blog owner to allow me to participate in his blog as a guest writer. My views are mine alone and if you have a beef with what I have written, your objection should be directed to me and not to my gracious host.

While we bitch about high cost of living, we might grumble less if our take home pay is high. Have you ever heard Christiano Ronaldo complained about how expensive a Ferrari is and he ain’t gonna get one? Rather, he bought one and recently wrecked it by ramming it into a tunnel before the eyes of Edwn Van der Sar. (Unless of course, you are a rich Ah Pek who hides your money under the pillow and drink kopi-o under a tree and call Old Town Kopitiam “robbers”)

We talk about how expensive Hong Kong is as a place to live in. I have a lady friend who has to share a 300 square feet apartment with her sister which cost her HKD3mil / RM1.5mil and yet with her assistant manager’s pay, has traveled on her holidays to Europe, Asia and the Pacific Isles, covering a distance that the once might Genghis Khan can ever dream of. Eat your heart out, Mongolian!

The question is, how can Malaysians improve their purchasing power? A respectable assistant manager in Malaysia has perhaps enough money to go to Redang, Bangkok or Vietnam after paying off his or her car and housing loan. Apart from the inflated costs we have to pay for, the answer certainly does not come from having tertiary education institutions that produces tens of thousands of unemployable graduates who has a liking for walking about chanting against competition and changes in enrollment practices.

We need to create jobs that people are willing to pay top dollars for. We need to attract, facilitate and encourage businesses that generate high revenue and profits. We need to have sufficient qualified and talented people regardless of race, religion, sex and cultural background to fill post or if not, allow foreign talents to come in and provide learning opportunities to locals.

Singapore houses regional headquarters for many multi-national corporations and together with Hong Kong, hosted a number of international financial institutions. Even Shell locate it biggest refinery in a little island off Singapore.

Malaysia is still heavily leaned towards labour intensive manufacturing activities. Not only this command a lower share of the value added within the supply chain, we ended up propping up the disposable income of households in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Myanmar and God knows where else! Mahathir’s attempt to create our own Silicon Valley has given us a misguided housing development project instead.

Changi Airports are filled with Caucasians, Japanese, Koreans and who have you that looked like high- powered business executives. In KLIA, we have high numbers of Indonesians, Bangladeshis, Vietnamese, Burmese and who have you lining up patiently to be herbed to plantation, construction sites, factories or secondary forests.

Our government of today must focus on creating an environment that would attract high value jobs as well as top businesses into Malaysia and that involves liberating immigration red tapes, improving infrastructures & safety, improving turn around time of the relevant federal, state and local authorities, revamping our educational system and provide a more “fun and liberated” living environment.

We Malaysians also have to look at ourselves. Generally, our employers prefer to keep more profits to themselves than to remunerate their people. On the other hand, employees generally want to earn more and work less. The way Malaysians approach work is also short of creativity and innovation. While Singapore is already on e-filing of statutory forms for example, many of the Malaysian small audit firms tend to employ runners ferrying documents to and fro from office to Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Which statement we hear more often in our work place? 1) “we need to brain storm to come up with a solution to this” 2)”well the previous guy did it this way so I am doing it the same way”. We need to constantly look at the way we do things to make our processes faster, cheaper, more effective and efficient. We need an education system that teaches us to think, innovate and a Malaysian mentality that allows people to be self-critical, experiment and learn from mistakes.

There must be a mid point somewhere for employers to willing to pay more and employees willing to work more. Decades of NEP have resulted in 2 kind of mentality. 1) “I need not work so hard because I am going to make it anyway” 2)”why bother working so hard? I ain’t gonna get it anyhow”

We need to liberate the mindset of Malaysians. I have the idea of making debating a compulsory subject in schools. Make debating sessions contribute 10% of the examination marks. This would force our students to think, articulate their thoughts, develop an inclination of logic over emotion, be more proactive hence become a better individual compared to one breed from hours of fact memorizing.

Malaysia also needs to liberalize union movement. Let employees have an avenue to defend their rights and a representative voice to talk to employers. The days of communism are over. If banks can have their union, why not the other sectors? We don’t see Karl Marx, Chin Peng and Lenin wannabes populating the leadership of Persatuan Pekerja Maybank do we?

Distribution of income is a big problem in Malaysia and is no way resembles the dacing insignia of Barisan Nasional. I have seen Sabahans’ attap houses built next to the tar roads above some stinking water patch and I have seen mansions in Damansara dan Taman Tun. In Japan and Europe the income gap is perhaps half of Malaysia. Again, how many of us heard the good old gospel of “it is not what you know but who you know.” Not many of us can go far if we do not know somebody of importance.

Malaysians need to look at granting opportunities to their fellow countrymen base on ability, not on network and relationship alone. One prime example is who is more qualified to be the Finance Minister of Malaysia from within UMNO ranks? Tengku Razaleigh who was one of the founders of Petronas or Dato’ Seri Najib, whose qualification to head the F Ministry is because of ….. can someone help me here???

The government of the day has a subtle role in moulding the people’s thought and practices, more than we ever aware. If our federal and state governments operate on open tendering, meritocracy, efficient and transparent mode hence allowing the population to feel the benefit of these practices, Malaysians from all walks of life will tend to follow suit. To prove my theory is right or wrong, it is up to the elected government of the day!

Lastly, another important role the government plays in distribution of income is its role in welfare. Let me ask you guys a question: “where is the nearest Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat around your house and what can you get from them?” Ok that was 2 but hell, here is another one “have you seen a JKM team walking about your neighbourhood identifying people that require assistance?”

My answer would be “No, but I have seen 2 alien spaceships, a herd of abominable snowmen, Bala the declarator, YB Hee Yit Foong and 5 orang bunian. Nope, ain’t no welfare officers around.” If there are 3 “yes” to the question, then there is a huge improvement in re-distribution of income from the haves to the haves not.

Lastly, all my best wishes to all in this difficult economic climate.

Livelihood of yours and mine: how can the country helps itself and its people

I once came across a Taiwanese comic where the father chided the whole family, “Our bills have gone out of control! We will have a family meeting now and you all should examine yourselves!” The mother, son and daughter huddled together and after a quick discussion, shot back, “we have identified the root of the problem dad, you simply do not earn enough!”

Malaysians have been facing livelihood issues for decades. In my humble opinion, there are 2 sides of the issue – high cost of living and unfair distribution of income resulting in certain quarters not earning enough.
Here is my 2 cents worth on the first part, i.e. high cost of living.

I suppose most of us would view the prices we pay for goods and services comprise of cost of production plus the profit element to the business. In Malaysia, there is every possibility that the price we pay for consist of cost of production, cost of inefficiency, cost of corruption, normal profits and super normal profits hence the phenomenon of significant price increases we see every day.

I remembered back in the mid 1990’s, a plate of mixed rice near my office cost me RM1.80 but now I am lucky if I can pay RM4.00 to get something similar. That is a whopping 122% increase over some 15 years and a simple average of 8% per annum. Talk to the hawkers and their living standard might not differ too much from 15 years ago except for hand phones and Astro. Where did our money go?

Modern business modules advocate shorter supply chain, which would guarantee freshness, lower prices and shorter delivery time. One thing that is not transparent to all and sundry is the supply chain in Malaysia. I hope the Domestic Trade Ministry can make public the supply chain of common goods and services. We can then see how many times the goods changed hands from producers, distributors, deals, retailers and eventually to you and me.

The Malaysian defense ministry needs a consultant to assist it to deal with French submarine manufacturers and this makes me wonder if this sort of practice is the norm rather than the exception. (By the way, how much experience Razak has with submarines?) The public has the right to know the make up of our supply chain while the government of the day who issues the relevant licenses must justify the existence of the various parties in the link.

Free and intense competition promotes better and more creative deals hence lower prices for the consumers. Take a trip down to Singapore and see what I mean. I have come across deals such as free KFC vouchers if you top up your handset’s prepaid top-up, free hand phone if you sign up for particular mobile phone network, further discounts on discounts if you are a Robinson’s card member etc. I am not much of a shopper even I can’t miss out on the fact that there are much more better deals in Singapore than in Malaysia. If there are more businesses competing with each other, there will be more job opportunities and better options for consumers.

Those in the know might agree with me that to get a business license in Malaysia is not a quick process. There are many unlicensed hawkers around KL and a few of them I spoke to mention how difficult it is for them to get their license. On the other hand, I also heard of many licenses been granted to certain individuals who would make a tidy rent-seekers’ profit. Was there not a case of the son of someone important with the Police who was involved in the Ramadan temporary license incident a few years ago?

Then of course, the old chest nut about corruption. Need I say more? Businesses have no other way then to re-coup their cost from the consumers. Another thing is the funny structures Malaysian business have evolved into, thanks to Mahathir’s mutated privatization programmes. Theoretically privatization is meant to lower tax rate, allow more the efficient private sector to take over the provision of public services that would allow consumers to get better and cheaper services.

In the toll concessionaire companies, the above fundamental reasons for privatization has been completed turned over. Not only there was no tendering process to get the most economically justified candidate (back in 1982, YB Lim Kit Siang questioned why UEM was given the contract when its quotation was the highest of the 3 received), the fact that there is a contractual guarantee of profits would negate the incentive for the concessionaire to be efficient and cost conscious. In fact, we can see that uncontrolled cost overruns are being paid for by the tax payers in one way or the other. It would be interesting to examine the directors’ and staff remuneration schemes and their procurement process for everything from tar to pencil case.

In a recent seminar, YB Teo Nie Ching spoke of a contract can be void if the person signing it was of unsound mind. Any administrator of public money agreeing to the profit guarantee terms is either of unsound mind or sense of fair play. It is also my understanding that a contract can be voidable should there be a fundamental breach of terms and conditions. Recently, Tan Seri Khalid spoke about breach of a condition pertaining to tendering process by Syabas……

Our weak ringgit has resulted in imported inflation or causing import items to be out of reach of many. One way to bring down prices is to have a stronger ringgit that will cause the price of imported raw materials and finished goods to be lower in ringgit terms. I am no foreign currency expert but I believe the strength of the currency can be determined by the demand for it. The biggest and most obvious stumbling block to foreign investors are the capital requirement regulation in Malaysia. The huge number of foreign workers here, I imagine, would dump more ringgit in exchange for their home currency when they repatriate home their wages.

Lastly, mis-implementation of the NEP has resulted in Malaysia becoming an “anti-talent” destination. In his memoir, Lee Kuan Yew spoke of Tun Razak’s interpretation of “talent drain” as “trouble drain”. God knows how many brilliant entrepreneurs, business managers, research and development experts, professionals and keen workers we lost over the years. I believe they would have come up with creative and effective business modules, practice good work ethnics, leadership that would have made Malaysia a more vibrant and competitive business environment.
It is perhaps time for us to allow talent, domestic and foreign, to flourish in Malaysia. If the government is worried about uncompetitive people lagging behind, they can either 1) strengthen the welfare department with money wasted on unwanted submarines and jets or 2) allow an environment whereby Malaysians are hardened by rigorous competition from both domestic and foreign circles as there are no running away from it. In this way, any inefficiency and complacency in Malaysians nurtured by a protective shell can be stripped away hence a more competitive work culture will ensure to the long term benefit and survival of the nation.

We can't speak Inglis

Mahathir was right. After the GE in 2008, Malaysians have become more racist. But then it depends on the context of the discussion. I, amongst Malaysians for one, can be labeled as racist when talking about Ketuanan Melayu, racial rights, kebangsaan schools and so on. But then I talk about it because I feel there's room for improvement. 'Room for improvement' is an understatement too- certain things just have to be thrown out of the window.

Take the massive street protest against using English in teaching Maths and Science for instance. There is grave concern of loosing Bahasa Melayu as a language. Also, the teachers and students who are failing to grasp Maths and Science because of the language change are banging their heads on chalkboards. Some Malays are even afraid of loosing the Malay identity.

Have you ever heard of an international deal written in Bahasa Melayu? Or subject text reference books written in this language? They probably have to be translated from English first. I have interviewed many graduate-candidates to fill the vacancies in my office before and I find that majority Malaysian local uni graduates of all races just can't speak proper English. Non-graduates can speak better English because they move out of the Malaysian education earlier than the graduates. The Malaysian education system does not equip Malaysians to operate in an international environment. The Malaysian education system is just good for Malaysia. There's too much Malay, too little English. If I employ a 100% of local-uni grads in my office I'll be dead- I'll have to review all my contracts, liaise with all my important customers and have no hours left on the clock.

It's a question of economics not a question of loosing ethnic/ cultural identity. Lately, I find that many of my China and Indonesian colleagues speak better English than me. Are the Chinese and Indonesian loosing their identity? I don't think so. I am very worried when I compare how Malaysia is progressing against other nations. I don't think Malaysia is progressing at all- to progress one has to invent and reinvent. How to do this when we can't even read English.