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A Piece of My Mind



It is, we in Malaysia believe, far better to have a slice of a growing cake than the whole of a disappearing cake. (Mahathir Mohamad)



Updated: 2018-02-18T20:53:45.322+08:00

 



JPA Scholarship and Political Activities

2017-05-03T10:28:26.751+08:00

I was a PSD Scholar from 2004-2008. In my 4.5 years as a PSD Scholar, I was opinionated and at times vocal against my sponsor, the Government of Malaysia.At a free speech corner in UiTM (pre-U), I had strong opinions on the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, touching on the powers of the Minister and press freedom.When I moved on to the Australian National University, that was the time when the war between Pak Lah and Dr M peaked. I too was critical of the Government. I participated in discussions and forums with visiting VIPs and officers from the Government of Malaysia, and gave my opinion.My criticisms against the Government and leaders were even published on my blog.Never once was I given any letter of warning, reprimanded or financially punished by my sponsor - the Government of Malaysia.In fact, upon graduation, I was called up to serve as an Administrative and Diplomatic Officer (PTD), and after a few months I moved on to serve in the Prime Minister's Department under PEMANDU.Why?The Government has never stopped students from debates or expressing their opinion, or political beliefs, even during the days when AUKU (Universities and University Colleges Act) was enforced.But as students, one must never forget that the focus is on obtaining a degree and not let emotions or obsession with politics divert that attention.The Government spends hundreds of thousands on a student, and if time is spent on politics and emotional criticisms against your sponsor, wouldn't that be a far bigger betrayal of trust and public monies?The Government has also never stopped the civil service from criticising proposals or providing alternative views.But it has to be done in a professional manner, just like any organization or Government globally, including the private sector.On many occasions, I expressed my strong opinions and criticisms in discussions with Ministers and heads of Ministries and Departments, some were heated ones.And we continued for years like this because our intentions and objectives were aligned and clear - we want the best.Never once was I told to tender my resignation, or was I ever suspended.Always be constructive, not destructive.Malaysia is not the only education sponsor with rules governing students when it comes to politics or dissent.I have here with me some images of scholarship conditions from other institutions.Look at the Korean Government scholarship, there's even a pledge against political activities. Look at the Indonesian Ministry of Education scholarship, the Chevening scholarship and lots more out there.Some may argue that these are open to foreign students, but the essence remains the same.No foundation, educational institution, or organization in this world will tolerate or encourage scholarship recipients to criticise their sponsors, or spend much time on political activities.But they are open to debates and opinions on matters related to them, similar to the Government of Malaysia.So today, I know this will draw criticisms from friends and readers, but I choose to stand alongside the PSD Director General, and I support him and the Public Service Department.[...]



Malaysia's new Auditor General

2017-02-24T21:54:35.673+08:00

The Opposition is going all out to discredit Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad, our new Auditor General, just because she isn't from the auditing world and her husband is an UMNO man.

How many of you know Mr Willie Tan? He is Singapore's Auditor General.

He graduated from Cambridge University in UK with a BA (Hon)(Engineering) and MA (Engineering) Degree. He also holds a MSc (Industrial Engineering) Degree from the National University of Singapore.

Yeah, and before he became Auditor General, he served in Singapore's Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Health, the Public Service Division in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of National Development.

Do you know this man Mr Harry Azhar Azis? He is Indonesia's Auditor General, a former politician.

His background was purely economics. He has a degree in Industrial Management, got his Master of Arts in Public Economic Policy from Oregon (USA), and his PhD too was in Economics from Oklahoma.




Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad has been in civil service for 35 years. As Auditor General, she will be in a management role and she will be supported by a battalion of highly qualified auditors, guided by international standards.

I can tell you that she did not depend on her husband to climb the ranks and to achieve what she has today.

I can also tell you that there are some Secretary-General and Directors of Federal agencies who are not politically aligned with Barisan Nasional, some openly.

I won't name them. I am sure Chief Secretary Tan Sri Ali Hamsa knows who they are but these people remained in their positions, some in fact got promoted. Why?

Politicians come and go, and power changes hands. Look at the Opposition states that were once under Barisan Nasional, and look at UMNO that saw leaders come and go.

But civil servants stay on because that is their bread and butter, they have a job to do and their loyalty is to the King and country.

Never attempt to mock the civil service.

Yes, I guess only Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Kit Siang are qualified people to do all sorts. Trust them to talk about our economy going bankrupt. Eh, they have degree or work experience in economics and finance?

And I wonder if DAP Treasurer Fong Kui Lun and DAP Penang Treasurer Danny Law have experience in finance and accounting. Tak takut kena tipu ke?



Amusing comments on Malaysiakini site

2017-02-22T17:42:15.188+08:00

I find the comments in Malaysiakini here on Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia extremely hilarious. They use pseudonyms by the way.ExcerptsA total of 8.27 million households out of 30 million population allegedly earn below RM3,000. To have millions entitled to BR1M shows the absolute failure in gov’t policies.First of all, 8 million applicants are not the same as 8 million recipients.The entire 30 million population, regardless if you are a billionaire or a specialist doctor or a sales assistant can attempt and apply for BR1M, but approvals will only be given based on a fixed set of criteria by the Government.Not all applicants earn below RM3,000.A multi agency team goes thru every single application.And just to give you some insights, the Finance Ministry does not only look at your income statements.They also check you, your spouse and dependents' assets like vehicle ownership. For example, if you declare your income as RM2,000 but you drive a Toyota Camry, sorry lah, the Government knows and you are not getting any BR1M.So, what about the higher number of recipients?In 2012, there were 4.1 million recipients.Under BR1M 2017, to date, there are 5.15 million applications that have been approved while 3 million more applications are being processed (not approved yet).When we first started BR1M in 2012, it was only given to a SINGLE category - households with income of RM3,000 and below.Under BR1M 2017, the net has widened since 2012.OLD: households with income of RM3,000 and below get RM1,200NEW: households with income between RM3,001 to RM4,000 get RM900NEW: Youths with income of RM2,000 and below gets RM450.This explains the higher number.If anything, it highlights the generosity of a "bankrupt, failed" Government that has consistently been saying that blanket subsidies are removed so that more targeted assistances can be given.You should continue to hide behind pseudonyms because your lack of knowledge and emotionally driven comments are disgraceful.Let me highlight one more. A subscriber named Clever Voter said that "Growth of anything less than roughly 7-8 percent conservatively means we borrow to close the deficit."Well, according to data from the Economist, there were no country that grew between 7-8% in 2016 and by the way, Malaysia is the 9th best performing economy in the world last year.So yes, based on the 'Clever Voter Theory', everyone borrowed to finance their deficits.For the year 2017, only India has been forecasted to achieve a growth that fits your 'clever' theory, at 7.4% while Malaysia is expected to be 7th fastest growing economy in the world this year.A clear failure of Barisan Nasional, and it is all Najib's fault.May I suggest, that the Clever Voter and his friends spend some time this weekend in MPH at the Economics textbook section. That will help.Jokers.[...]



Tutorial for DAP MP Steven Sim

2016-11-03T18:20:26.217+08:00

1.     Yesterday, Steven Sim wrote a lengthy article about why he wants to refer Najib to the parliamentary privileges committee here.  2.     Today, in Parliament, Steven Sim was kicked out of Parliament by Tan Sri Speaker because of his persistence in pursuing it.3.     He shamelessly created a fuss and accused Najib of misleading the Parliament in the recent Budget 2017 Speech, not knowing that it is all because of his lack of knowledge, ignorance and effort in doing his own research.4.     Steven Sim said that the development expenditure for the Communications and Multimedia Ministry for 2017 is expected to be about RM495 million. But Najib announced RM1 billion for upgrading broadband infrastructure.5.     As a policymaker and the Director of the famed and "reputable" Penang Institute which takes pride in their researches, I expected more from Steven Sim. Now, he is sending a signal to the nation that perhaps Penang Institute is nothing more than a collection of 'talent' worse than what we can find in a neighborhood college.6.     The Federal Budget is called the Supply Bill. That is why in any of the Prime Minister's speeches, he will always start off with the title "Rang Undang-undang Pembekalan".7.     Article 100 of the Constitution says that"The expenditure to be met from the Consolidated Fund but not charged thereon, other than expenditure to be met by such sums as are mentioned in Clause (3) of Article 99, shall be included in a Bill, to be known as a Supply Bill, providing for the issue from the Consolidated Fund of the sums necessary to meet that expenditure and the appropriation of those sums for the purposes specified therein" 8.     The keyword here is Consolidated Fund. Now what is the Consolidated Fund? It is clearly stated in Article 97 (1) of the Constitution."All revenues and moneys howsoever raised or received by the Federation shall, subject to the provisions of this Constitution and of federal law, be paid into and form one fund, to be known as the Federal Consolidated Fund"9.     The consolidated fund is strictly money that is received by the Federation. Corporate taxes, personal income taxes, proceeds from sale of Federal Government owned assets, proceeds from sale of Federal Government owned shareholdings in entities, and many many more will come here. 10.     In the Malaysian Government, we also have statutory bodies. The agencies (I repeat, agencies) were established with specific roles, usually to cater to industry requirements and for their development. 11.     Examples of statutory bodies in Malaysia include a)     Penang State Government's Penang Development Corporation b)     Federal Government's RISDA, Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), the Malaysian Multimedia and Communications Commission (MCMC) and many others.12.     Statutory bodies are established by law - Akta/Act - in the Parliament or State Assembly. This also means that the objectives, the governance structure and the articles in the Act have been studied thoroughly and debated in Parliament or State Assembly. 13.     Under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988, a fund was established under the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). This is clearly stated under Article 38(1) of the Act."There is hereby established a Fund to be known as the "Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Fund" to be administered and controlled by the Commission." 14.     Let us be clear on governance also. The Commission consists of:a)     a Chairmanb)     three members representing the Governmentc)     not less than two but not more than five other members.15.&nb[...]



Why investigate Najib, Speaker?

2016-10-27T22:03:09.676+08:00

Let me begin by asking, when will the media stop reporting Ong Kian Ming's statements?Earlier today, Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia said that he will investigate claims that Najib misled the Parliament with his Budget 2017 speech.It was in response to a motion filed by DAP Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim against the Prime Minister. Apparently Steven Sim and my favourite MP Ong Kian Ming cited an example where Najib said  Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission will receive an allocation of RM1 billion to improve the quality of broadband services and expand coverage nationwide BUT the Communication and Multimedia Ministry, MCMC's parent Ministry, has a line item of RM57.5 million as “development expenditure” for a “Broadband Project”.For transparency, here's the budget speech line that Najib said"207. At the same time, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) will provide RM1 billion to ensure the coverage and quality of broadband nationwide reaches up to 20 megabytes per second."Here's the Federal Expenditure Document for the Communication and Multimedia Ministry which Steven and Ong Kian Ming referred to.Zoom in to the last line:Looks like Najib screwed up? I don't think so.Let me make it clear here that the Budget was prepared by thousands of civil servants and combed through thoroughly by the Prime Minister, Second Finance Minister and the main man - Treasurer General. In fact, preparations begin every year as early as March.No one, I repeat, no one, make mistakes when it comes to the Budget. Those in the due diligence line can be charged, suspended or sacked.In this case, there are only two people who misled the August House - Steven Sim and Ong Kian Ming.I do not have details on the Communications and Multimedia Ministry but based on my knowledge, there could be two reasons.1. It is a staggered investment by the Government. OR2. Here's probably why - the Universal Service Provision (USP) fund.The USP fund was established under provision of Section 204 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. (Here's the Law, here's the latest Annual Report)The implementation of this law started many, many years ago. It started off with a RM30 million fund by the Government in 2002.Any telecommunications company whose weighted net revenue exceeds RM 2 million will have to contribute 6 percent of their earnings from designated services to the USP fund.In fact, during Rais Yatim's days, it was heavily discussed in the media and by senior bloggers like Rockybru, politicians such as Wee Choo Keong. A fair question next - what is this fund used for?It is used primarily to provide access to communications in underserved areas and to underserved groups. In simple terms, broadband penetration and mobile network coverage.However, the Fund has also been used for various other initiatives such as to upgrade our facilities (ie not just coverage lah, quality too).Take for example, if you look under Suburban Broadband (SUBB) initiative, the  USP fund is used to provide broadband infrastructure with speed up to 20Mbps in suburban and rural areas by upgrading the exchanges, the core network and the cabinet.Again, in simple terms, it means that the cabling and communications tower will be able to provide better internet connections and speed.Now, who misled the public and the Parliament?Not too long ago in May, Ong Kian Ming actually wrote about USP here: http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/339882And not too long ago on 21 May 2015, this 20 megabits per second story was spelled out in the 11th Malaysia Plan, page 7-28.Takkan dah lupa dan tak baca? Was it the time when you were photographed to be sleeping in Parliament?And today you claimed that the Prime Minister misled the Parliament?Countless times we have seen Ong Kian Ming create drama only to be embarrassed the next day. Yet, the media continue to entertain him and publish his nonsensical statements despite his poor credibility over [...]



Misconception and Lies against the Prime Minister’s Department

2016-10-10T12:01:46.689+08:00

With the Budget 2017 around the corner and rumours of the 14th General Election getting louder by the day, we can see that some politicians are beginning to spin stories and shape public perception on the Government negatively.One clear example is the attacks on Budget allocation to the Prime Minister's Department. Some politicians like Liew Chin Tong took the path of painting the picture of a bloated Budget that can be used at the whims and fancies of the Prime Minister.But that’s fine, I shall educate him.First of all, after being an MP for so long, surely you must know the distinction between the Prime Minister's Office and the Prime Minister's Department, as well as their functions. They are not the same and administratively, they are run separately as well. The Chief Secretary, with Ministerial status and sits in the Cabinet, runs the Prime Minister's Department while the Prime Minister and his Chief of Staff manage the Prime Minister's Office.Secondly, the Prime Minister doesn't have the final say or veto power on the Budget and expenditure of the agencies under the Prime Minister's Department. It is the responsibility of the Chief Secretary as financial controller. Every department and Ministry has one.Having made these clear, now let’s take a look at Chin Tong’s accusations against the Prime Minister's Department of having a bloated budget of billions.No doubt, there are many agencies, units and offices here under the Prime Minister’s Department and my last count shows that there are 72 of them. Let me list them down for you.If you look at number 13 in the list above, the Prime Minister's Office is one of the 72. No, not the other way round, certainly not the Prime Minister’s Office overseeing the Department. Even the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Datuk Iskandar Mohd Kaus, is appointed by the Chief Secretary and he is a civil servant.And no, the reason why we have so many agencies under the Prime Minister's Department is not because our Prime Minister is power hungry or they are all political units. In fact, if you are hardworking enough with your research, Chin Tong, you will find that the Chief Secretary is the Chairman or chairperson of many of the agencies under the Prime Minister's Department.I have personally seen the Chief Secretary chaired a meeting of an agency under the Prime Minister's Department because the deliverables cut across many Ministries. Due to the equal stature of the Ministers, they are not in the position to order one another to complete tasks and in some cases, the ball will be passed around. That whip function, has been centralized and placed under the Prime Minister's Department, and in this case it was the responsibility of the Chief Secretary. The Ministers were mere members of the meeting by the way and they had to abide by Chief Secretary's decisions.Let’s talk about money next.The Financial Procedure Act 1957 Section 16 makes it mandatory for the Chief Accountant to prepare the audited Malaysia Federal Government's Financial Statements for the year ending 31 Dec to be presented in Parliament and for the use of all.The funds allocated to the Prime Minister's Department are fully accounted for, audited, and reported in Parliament. The funds are not, and never, used for personal interests or gains.There are two types of budget – operating and development. Over the years, despite the many agencies under the Prime Minister’s Department and being criticised or accused of all sorts publicly, we have reduced operating expenditure which includes salaries and recurrent expenditures, and doubled up Development Expenditure.There are strict rules governing Development Expenditure, a one-off expenditure, and it must be spent on items that bring benefit to the people and country.For example, out of the RM14.3 billion in 2015, PR1MA was given RM 1.3 billion to build homes for some of you in the urban and semi-urban areas so that you have a s[...]



Penang Institute's Loyalty to Guan Eng

2016-07-08T23:38:30.508+08:00

I refer to Lim Guan Eng's latest press statement on 8 July 2016. You can read it here  if you want to but let me summarize it for you.This is worth your time. Just compare the two lines below, extracted from the statement.1.     "...., as the principal funders of Penang Institute, the state government expects loyalty."2.     "I had contrasted the Penang state government’s liberal position with the Federal government which would act against and punish those who dare to dissent publicly."  I didn't know 2+3 and 10-5 will produce different answers. Did Guan Eng just shoot himself in the foot again? So, can Guan Eng guarantee that the State Government, or he himself, will not act against and punish those who dare to dissent against DAP, Pakatan Harapan and the State Government openly?Does this mean that Penang Institute can openly criticise or express different opinion than that of the State Government and DAP now with blanket immunity?I am quite sure you are confused about your political gender. You can't behave like an Opposition member and a Government leader at the same time.I don't think you are drowning your sorrows with alcohol, Guan Eng.Which leads me to wonder why you said these especially when Penang Institute is filled with DAP leaders. Netizens, yes, Penang Institute is a DAP State Government funded think tank, with DAP leaders in it. You join the dots and do the math.The leaders who are in Penang Institute include:DAP MP Bukit Mertajam - Steven Sim Chee Keong as Director Chief Minister, DAP ADUN Air Puteh, MP Bagan - Lim Guan Eng as DirectorDeputy Chief Minister, DAP ADUN Perai - P Ramasamy as DirectorDAP MP Kluang - Liew Chin Tong as DirectorDAP MP Bukit Bendera - Zairil Khir Johari as Executive DirectorDAP MP Serdang, Ong Kian Ming as General Manager of Penang Institute (KL office - yes Penang issues but office in Kuala Lumpur, don't ask me why)... and so on but the rest are small potatoes, if any.Before any of you tries to discredit me, here are the documents that were submitted by Penang Institute to the Companies Commission of Malaysia . Take it and go, for free, from me.Have you lost control of these politicians in DAP, Guan Eng? What are they up to? What are you worried about?And netizens, yes, all of the above are DAP politicians in Penang Institute, a think tank funded by Penang State Government which Guan Eng expects loyalty and advised against "biting the hand that feeds you". What, are you all surprised? Please, DAP is not a church and they are no Vatican or Mecca. It's a political party. Just imagine if Najib and UMNO had said this. [...]



Kenyataan Media MP Serdang

2016-05-26T09:34:42.018+08:00

Kenyataan Media oleh GOH WEI LIANG, warganegara Malaysia dan penyokong setia Ahli Parlimen Serdang pada 26 Mei 2016.Saya merujuk kepada kenyataan media oleh Ong Kian Ming yang dimuatnaik ke laman Facebook beliau pada 25 Mei 2016 di https://www.facebook.com/ongkianming/photos/a.407345125987220.106450.398656786856054/1022468547808205/?type=3Pertama, YB Ong Kian Ming telah bertanya mengapa PEMANDU harus terlibat dalam memberikan perkhidmatan perundingan kerajaan kepada agensi kerajaan yang lain serta entiti di luar negara, sebagaimana yang sedang dibuatnya sekarang?Saya ingin bertanya kepada YB Ong Kian Ming, apakah salah bagi sebuah agensi kerajaan untuk memberi perkhidmatan perundingan kepada kerajaan lain yang telah mengemukakan permohonan rasmi dan meminta khidmat nasihat kita sendiri?Di laman Twitter, beliau juga telah seolah-olah menyoal mengenai pembayaran atau keuntungan yang diterima oleh PEMANDU untuk khidmat nasihat kepada kerajaan atau entiti luar negeri. Saya ingin bertanya kepada YB Ong Kian Ming, bukankah baik kepakaran Malaysia diperlukan oleh kerajaan lain? Bukankah ini satu cara untuk meningkatkan hubungan diplomatik antara negara dan satu perkongsian pendapat, pengalaman dan kepakaran juga yang hanya akan membawa manfaat kepada kedua-dua pihak? Apakah salahnya jika PEMANDU, sebuah unit Kerajaan Persekutuan, menerima pampasan bagi masa dan kos yang telah ditanggung sepanjang tempoh perkhidmatan perundingan di luar negeri?PEMANDU tidak pernah mengabaikan mana-mana kerja, tugasan atau tanggungjawab di Malaysia. PEMANDU sentiasa meletakkan kepentingan Malaysia sebagai keutamaan dan ini jelas terbukti dalam laporan tahunan Program Transformasi Negara yang dibentangkan setiap tahun oleh Perdana Menteri, ketua kerajaan Malaysia.Kedua, YB Ong Kian Ming telah bertanya kepada PEMANDU, sebuah unit hak milik penuh Kerajaan Persekutuan, mengapa dalam laporan tahunan PEMANDU kepada Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia, perolehan dan keuntungan / kerugian yang dicatatkan adalah sifar?Dalam perbualan Twitter, Datuk Lee Hwa Beng telah mencelah dan berkata bahawa adalah tidak normal jika sebuah entiti ada aset dan liabiliti tetapi tidak ada perbelanjaan. YB Ong Kian Ming telah meminta penjelasan PEMANDU.Saya ingin bertanya kembali kepada YB Ong Kian Ming mengapa perolehan dan keuntungan / kerugian yang dicatatkan dalam laporan tahunan Penang Institute, di mana beliau memegang jawatan sebagai Pengurus Besar, adalah sifar juga? Kenyataan ini adalah berdasarkan kepada dokumen yang telah dikemukakan oleh Penang Institute kepada Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia.Isu dan persoalan yang YB Ong timbulkan mengenai PEMANDU, berlaku juga di Penang Institute. Kedua-dua badan berkanun PEMANDU dan Penang Institute mempunyai ciri-ciri laporan dan perakaunan yang sama.Kedua-dua entiti, PEMANDU dan Penang Institute, tidak menerima status EPC iaitu "exempt private company". Syarikat yang menerima sijil EPC tidak perlu mengemukakan sebarang penyata kewangan. Walau bagaimanapun, kedua-dua badan berkanun tersebut telah mengemukakan Penyata Imbangan secara konsisten.Saya nasihatkan YB Ong Kian Ming untuk mencari jawapan kepada persoalannya di Penang Institute sebelum bermain politik dan memalukan diri dengan bertanya soalan kepada PEMANDU sedangkan isu yang sama timbul di entitinya sendiri. Malu bertanya, sesat jalan YB Ong. Jika inginkan publisiti, sila keluarkan kenyataan media dan persoalkanlah Penang Institute.Saya sedia menerima didikan dan pengajaran dalam hal ini sekiranya telah melakukan kesilapan.  Ketiga, YB Ong Kian Ming mempersoalkan adakah wajar mengapa pembayar cukai perlu menanggung kos RM3.9 juta untuk penganjuran Global Transformation Forum selama 3 hari pada tahun 2015, memandangkan pemotongan bajet sedang dilaksanakan di agensi-agensi kerajaan yang lain, termasuklah institut pengajian awam?Mungkin YB Ong tidak sedar bahawa Global Transfor[...]



No water and electricity in Sarawak?

2016-04-29T09:51:39.908+08:00

A few days ago, I read Malaysiakini's headlines "DAP: PM promises 4G internet but no water, electricity after 53 years".

In that article, Mr Leon Jimat Donald who is DAP's candidate for Simanggang slammed the Prime Minister for dangling 4G internet if BN wins but failed to provide electricity and water to some in the state.

He said the BN government should be focusing on rural long houses which are lacking basic services.

I actually flipped open the Auditor General Report 2014 Series 2 page 55 and 56.

The Auditor General Report said that as at 31 October 2014, the 24 hours electricity coverage in rural area had benefited 536,278 applicants or 92.8% of them.

The Auditor General was referring to the Rural Electrification Scheme that was introduced to improve the system and quality of electricity supply from 12 hours to 24 hours.

It is thus extremely incorrect for any party, especially Malaysiakini, to use the phrase "no water or electricity after 53 years". The remaining 7.2% of applicants actually have electricity, although limited.

All of us, including politicians, journalists and even the man on the street, We must stop painting a false picture as though Malaysians live in the jungle like Tarzans or Mowgli from the Jungle Book.

The World Bank actually lists Malaysia as one of the 89 countries in the world where 100 percent of the population has access to electricity.

Rural basic infrastructure is a key focus under Najib's Government Transformation Programme. Since the GTP was introduced, Sarawak has received the largest share of the Budget. Billions, every year.

Just on rural electrification under the RES scheme, Government has spent RM2.15 billion in the span of 6 years between 2009-2014.

But we must not forget a very important point. The Government is not dragging its feet on those who are currently receiving 12 hours electricity only and want 24 hours. The Rural Electrification projects in Sarawak are not easy. There are geographical challenges and management of resources to consider.

Not an excuse, yes the Government must and is working on it, but we must not neglect development in other areas of focus.

That is a recipe for disaster, DAP. Look at other countries.

In the ASEAN region, take Philippines as an example, only 87.5% of its citizens have access to electricity. But the country spent about RM6 billion last year on infrastructure for better mobile internet.

Elsewhere in India, where poverty is widespread and some say it is home to a third of the world's extreme poor, only 78.7% of its population have access to electricity. I don't even want to talk about clean water there.

But while the Indian Government is actively working on improving access to basic necessities, the telcos there are building infrastructure and analysts expect 4G smartphone users to grow from a mere 5 million last year to 180 million in 3 years.

So, why belittle or question Najib and BN's offer to develop other areas of focus?

Why can't Sarawakians enjoy 4G internet, while Government also spends billions in upgrading the quality of access to electricity and water?

Third world mentality politicians in DAP.



Why gag and bind TMI?

2016-02-26T23:42:47.597+08:00

I do not agree with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission's decision to block access to The Malaysian Insider (TMI).

According to Salleh Said Keruak, the decision to block came after TMI published an article which quoted anonymous sources from the MACC's Operations Review Panel.

It is common for media portals to quote unnamed sources. There are cases where the source requests to speak on condition of anonymity.

News portals like Bloomberg, CNN, and BBC have all quoted unnamed sources in their reports.

In cases where articles which quoted anonymous source have broken laws - eg if it was seditious, misrepresented facts etc - a clarification and response should be issued by the affected party.

Most of the time, if not all the time, media portals will carry that clarification and in some extreme cases, the media portals will apologize for the 'error' and for damaging the reputation of the affected party.

I must say that TMI have been fair to readers like me who often send in articles for publication on TMI's site, some of them were clarifying and explaining issues when the Government came under attack by netizens. I appreciate the space and opportunity given by TMI and I made full use of my relationship with TMI, why can't the Government?

The Government and MACC could have chosen a more democratic path. Issue statements to clarify the points in the article, not block access to the news portal.

Also, the Government and MACC have an alternative option which is to take legal action against The Malaysian Insider if they have broken any law. We have sufficient laws in our country to sure that all parties are protected.

Blocking access to The Malaysian Insider is an act against freedom of the press and information.

It is also quite pointless since netizens can easily access the site through proxy sites, or read the articles either on mirror sites or Facebook.

We must seek to engage media portals and journalists, not gag and bind them. We must learn how to work together in this ecosystem, not engage in war with high handed tactics like this.



Zahid Hamidi and his Bangladeshis

2016-02-14T21:52:09.596+08:00

I am extremely disappointed with the way our Government handles its communications. We have a million people in civil service and every single Ministry has a corporate communications unit.No one stepped up to help explain about this 1.5 million Bangladeshis issue and left the Deputy Prime Minister alone in this mess.All sorts of allegations and questions are being thrown at the Government recently:(a) BN wants to bring in 1.5 mil Bangladeshis for GE14(b) Why 1.5 million? Where did this number come from?(b) Government doesn’t care about providing jobs for localsLet us spend some time to discuss them.(a) 1.5 mil Bangladeshis for GE14?GE14 is about 24 months away. We are talking about 1.5 million Bangladeshis here.There are about 6 flights between Dhaka and Kuala Lumpur, serviced either by an Airbus A320 or a Boeing 737 with 180 seats in each plane.  Assuming that the Government reserves all the seats in the 6 flights and tell the rest of the commercial passengers to take the sampan instead, that's 1,080 Bangladeshis a day and it takes 4 years for the entire 1.5 million to reach our shores.And please, 1.5 million Bangladeshis to rig the electoral roll of which seats in Peninsular Malaysia? We are talking about bringing in extremely visible and noticeable humans, nearly twice the population of Subang Jaya and Petaling Jaya combined, not hamsters.(b) Why 1.5 million? Where did this number come from?I am disappointed that none of the industry associations stood up to defend the Government. Every year, you knock on the doors of Ministers and Ministry officials to complain about shortage of workers and you want the Government to open the flood gates to bring in foreign workers.Now that the Government is being criticized for helping you, you chose to stay silent?The Government has no agenda or interest at all for bringing in foreign workers. I can assure you this.The entire 1.5 million is based on industry demands over a certain period. Not the whole lot of 1.5 million Bangladeshis are coming in tomorrow morning on a Boeing plane.And the 1.5 million workers are most certainly not just to top up the existing pool of foreign workers that we have here already. Most of them, I believe, are to replace those who have to return to their home country annually, either by choice or because of regulations.Take the oil palm industry for example. It is an extremely labor intensive sector. Did you know that there are over 400,000 workers in the upstream sector where 24% are locals and 76% are foreign workers?In 2013 alone, the oil palm sector applied for permits to bring in 65,000 foreign workers via the Home Ministry. A majority of them were brought in to replace the outgoing pool of foreign workers at that time.And every year, the plantation companies submit labour requirements statistics to the Government and we are always short of 30,000 workers. Yes, till today.This is just the oil palm upstream industry. I've not even touched other sectors such as the domestic services, construction, manufacturing, food eateries, cleaning services etc.Imagine the number of foreign workers that are leaving our country every year which require replacement. Yes, hold that thought and understand that these are the number of foreign workers that industry associations want the Government to help bring in.(c) Government doesn’t care about providing jobs for locals?Never in my 5 years of working in Government, have I ever missed a single year of complaints from industry captains in sectors that I cover - from upstream plantations to downstream manufacturing.The truth is, Government has always been making it difficult for our local industries to hire foreign workers.The Government adopts a three-pronged strategy for this.First, through incent[...]



You got it all wrong, GSIAC

2015-10-01T12:30:47.286+08:00

Two days ago, I came across headlines that said Malaysia's GDP per capita in 2014 has exceeded world average for the first time.This little piece of happy news was splashed across all print and digital news agencies, both local and international. I wasn't too excited about this piece of news because the key focus now should be the compensation of employees as a percentage of GDP.That matters more to the people. That's income into our pockets and we should speed up the progress.The contribution of Compensation of Employees to Malaysia’s economy accounted for 34.3 percent only in 2014. Out of a RM1.1 trillion economy, people like me and you received only 34.3 per cent of it.Anyway, I began to have doubts on the news when I found out that it was the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council who came up with a statement on the economy.GSIAC and MiGHT claimed that:Malaysia's GDP per capita in 2014 exceeded the average of all countries worldwide for the first timeMalaysia's GDP per capita was at US$10,830 in 2014 while the average of all nations worldwide stood at US$10,804.In 2010 national per capita GDP was US$8,752, some 8% below the then-world average of US$9,513And apparently the numbers came from World Bank.Since World Bank data is one of the most easily obtained, I dug up the spreadsheet and cross checked the numbers in less than 5 minutes.I was shocked when I saw the numbers. The following table is an extract from World Bank's GDP per capita spreadsheet. GDP per capita (USD current prices) Year Malaysia World 2010 8,803 9,458 2011 10,126 10,356 2012 10,508 10,444 2013 10,628 10,610 2014 10,933 10,725 So here are the facts:Malaysia's GDP per capita exceeded world average in 2012, not 2014 as claimed by GSIAC and MiGHT.Malaysia's GDP per capita in 2014 was US$10,933 and not US$10,830 while World average of GDP per capita in 2014 was US$10,725 and not US$10,804 as claimed by GSIAC and MiGHT.Malaysia's GDP per capita In 2010 was US$8,803 and not US$8,752 while the then-world average was USD9,458 and not US$9,513 as claimed by GSIAC and MiGHT.Now, where did you get your numbers from, GSIAC and MiGHT? Who did the research?Surely your numbers can't be from the World Bank, I am looking at the latest official spreadsheet that was downloaded from http://data.worldbank.org/  If you don't already know this, Wrong decisions can be made with imperfect or misrepresented information. Numbers can affect investment decisions and in your case, strategic planning or at the micro level the scientific conclusion.As a responsible council and Government agency, we must always be careful when we go public with numbers. You lose credibility easily unless you can defend them. This celebrations and news on 'first time ever in 2014' should end now.[...]



What's next, BERSIH?

2015-08-31T10:39:13.108+08:00

The weekend’s yellow themed rally is over now. It was a very peaceful, disciplined rally I must say.People expected tear gas and water cannons to be used on the BERSIH participants but none of that happened. In fact, the police were there to ensure everyone's safety - divert traffic, gave advice to organisers and participants etc.This, we should look at positively. Thumbs up to the police!But there is a bigger picture to this that we must not miss.Now that the 2-day BERSIH rally is over, to those who wore yellow shirts in KL and other cities, those who changed their Facebook profiles to yellow, those who stayed at home, we as Malaysians must all ask the hard questions now.Where do we go from here? What's next? What do we want to achieve by the next General Elections?We must not forget that BERSIH is about clean and fair elections. It is about reforms to the system.One of the primary reasons people marched over the weekend was because of the USD680 million 'political donation' which went into Najib's account.People demand transparency, people want him to resign because of it.No one knows from whom it came from and people demand a tell-all answer from Najib despite MACC's statement that it wasn't from 1MDB but from the Middle East.No one knows how it was spent on elections and let’s not beat around the bush, the people want answers. The full version.But we can prevent all these from happening again and secure the better, brighter and transparent future that we all want, if BERSIH is willing to return to the objective of the movement and stay true to it. A few weeks back, on 14 August, the Government announced the establishment of the National Consultative Committee on Political Funding. The members of the committee include Akhbar Satar who is the President of Transparency International Malaysia, Wan Saiful from IDEAS, as well as activist Richard Yeoh. This committee was set up to examine and evaluate legal mechanisms and rules used in other countries to curb and prevent corruption in political funding. They will also be drafting the legal and regulatory requirements to facilitate the monitoring, transparency and accountability in political parties funding.They have a year to complete this task, way before the 14th General Election is due. Whether anything will come out of it, I don’t know. There’s always the ballot box where we can exercise our right to vote if we are disappointed with the outcome.But before it even kicked off, Opposition leaders like Nurul Izzah were quick to throw in conditions and said "we cannot and should not proceed with such discussions".Why not?Let’s face it. Elected reps earn between RM5,000 – RM15,000 depending on whether you are an MP or ADUN and which state, plus the annual allocation of RM200,000 or more for the constituency.Do you think that’s enough to feed a family, send kids to school, pay for political operations, contribute to local community, donate a token back to your party, fund programmes and the politician’s election campaign and at the end of the day, still have some savings for retirement?Political parties receive political donations to fund programmes, operations and elections. No politician or political party will unconditionally deny that they received donation from any individual or company.Nothing is free and funds must come from somewhere. Do we not want to know who or which company donated to UMNO, BN, DAP, PKR, PAS and the politicians, if any?How much was given to them, what was the political donation spent on and why did they contribute to the party?This is a grey area. An unsupervised, unlegislated space.Questions like “why don’t you show your accounts first?”, “who donated that RM 1mil an[...]



Are you bankrupt of ideas, Chin Tong?

2015-08-16T10:36:41.317+08:00

YB Liew Chin Tong's piece - Five ways to save the Malaysian economy – is good but the recommendations are flawed, if not full of rhetoric.Let's talk about numbers and not play with politics or emotions.Because when we become emotional, we lose our ability to make rational judgement or decisions.After my first article - Malaysians are now currency experts? - I have been labelled with all sorts of profanities when in fact the key message was Malaysia is not the only country that weakened against the US Dollars.There are multiple factors for the weaker Ringgit which I've shown in my 2nd article ( Export-commodity prices and the Ringgit ) and the obvious factor of all is commodities prices - oil, palm oil and rubber - that crashed from their respective highs in 2011.This is not about Government, Opposition or politics. We talk about facts, policies and numbers, and numbers don't lie.Now, back to Liew Chin Tong's recipe to save Malaysia.(1) Get Najib to quit as Prime Minister and (2) Name a new and competent Finance MinisterLet’s evaluate on how the Government handled this ‘crisis’. Leave 1MDB aside for now, which let me be clear that I have slammed the Government and supporters since May 2015 in blogs and social media and I will continue to do so depending on the Auditor General's Report.In a letter dated 26 December 2014, the Government ordered all Government departments, statutory bodies, GLCs and GICs to adhere to the following:".. syarikat milik dan berkaitan Kerajaan serta badan berkanun dan syarikat subsidiarinya perlu memberi keutaman kepada pelaburan domestik serta menangguhkan serta merta pembelian aset di luar negara bagi mengurangkan pengaliran keluar dana"Here's the letter:The Government knew what was coming. Indicators were clear especially from the crash in commodity prices.Three weeks later on 19 January 2015, the Prime Minister, Treasurer General and Governor of the Central Bank addressed the nation, analysts and media.The Government slashed their operating expenditure and announced new measures to continue to boost the domestic economy.As a result, look at our Q1 and Q2 GDP figures. Our economy grew at 5.6% in the first quarter, 4.9% in the second quarter. Malaysia performed better than many other economies and we beat analysts' forecasts.What would you have done differently, Chin Tong? But if you ask me, if there’s something I’m unhappy about, it is the fact that some GLCs clearly ignored the Treasury Instruction and are actively scouting for, if not buying, properties and companies to acquire overseas. This puts pressure on the Ringgit, so, where’s the whip? I blame this on the weak leadership.(3) Set GST at zero rateGST is expected to contribute RM23.3 bil to Government. But we have abolished Sales and Services Tax that gave us RM17.2 bil last year.We have also reduced both individual and corporate tax rates which will cost us perhaps RM1 bil - RM 2 bil in revenue.We can expect lower revenue from the oil and gas sector of approximately RM27 bil.So, by setting GST to zero, it will cause the Government to be short of close to RM70 bil for Budget 2016 and years to come if commodity prices stay at current levels.Why make populist but irresponsible recommendations like this, Chin Tong?(4) Halt big ticket crony projectsI am shocked that you want the Government to halt projects like Malaysia-Singapore High Speed Rail and MRT. We all thought you wanted better public transportation.Of course, if Government cancels these projects that were meant for the people, it will be additional political capital for you. You can then accuse the Government of wasting money on compensation and accuse the Government of not doing en[...]



Export-commodity prices and the Ringgit

2015-08-13T18:07:15.574+08:00

1.    If we look at the big picture, the Ringgit has been badly affected by confirmed as well as expected macroeconomic decisions in two of our major trading partners.2.    The possible increase in US interest rates around September will strengthen the dollar further – theoretically investors will pull money out of other countries and invest in US securities with higher returns now.3.    And yesterday when China devalued yuan against the dollar, Ringgit went down further.4.    But our Ringgit to Dollar exchange rate has been declining since the good days in 2010/11.5.    Commodities prices do contribute to the strength of our currency, especially when a significant percentage of our industries are either directly or indirectly linked to oil, palm oil and rubber.6.    Since 2010/11, the prices of the most important commodities that we produce and export crashed. These commodities are crude oil, palm oil and rubber.7.    Price of crude palm oil fell 47% since 2011. Palm oil peaked and was traded at RM3,811 per tonne in February 2011. In August this year, it is traded at RM2,034 per tonne.8.    Price of SMR20 rubber fell 69% since 2011. At its peak, SMR20 rubber was traded at RM16.89 per kilo in February 2011. In August this year, it is at RM5.16 per kilo.9.    As we all know by now, price of crude oil (Tapis Blend) crashed as well. For the period 2011-2014, crude oil was traded at above USD 100 per barrel, peaked at USD 119 per barrel in 2012. In July this year, it was USD 59 per barrel, which represents a 50% drop in crude oil prices.10.    Notice how the change in prices of our commodities relate to the exchange rate.11.    In 2011 when crude palm oil price was trading at a high of RM3,811 per tonne and rubber was RM16.89 per kilo, the value of exports from these two commodities alone were RM74 billion.12.    Again, today, the prices of both commodities - palm oil and rubber - are 47% and 69% lower.13.    When crude oil was above USD100 per barrel in years 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, the value of our crude oil and condensates export were between RM32 bil - RM 44bil.14.    Again, the price of crude oil per barrel in July has halved from the previous years, and should come in a few percentage lower in August.15.    The above does not include export value of derivatives and value added products as well as supporting and related industries that supply goods and services to other commodities-producing countries also.16.    Prices of commodities are not the sole factor for the fall in Ringgit value against USD but it is a contributing factor.17.    You may continue to read and believe emotional posts on social media and the politicians that by removing Najib or Barisan Nasional, things will be better. That is your democratic right.18.    But the next time you see such posts online, why not ask yourself, your Facebook friend or the politicians a few questions?19.    If you are sworn in as Prime Minister tomorrow, will the Ringgit strengthen by itself, will commodities prices swing upwards or what exactly are your plans to strengthen the Ringgit? 20.    Discuss or have a good laugh.[...]



Malaysians are now currency experts?

2015-08-13T18:19:13.199+08:00

Today, the Ringgit breached RM4.00 for a dollar.When I logged in to my Facebook and Twitter accounts, 9 out of 10 posts that appeared on my timeline were slamming the Government on the Ringgit.To sum them up, youths who dominate social media today were posting comments as though tomorrow spells the end for Malaysia.And in just the past month, I saw how Malaysians transform from being constitutional experts, to aviation analysts and now economics.Some even went as far as pushing the blame on UMNO and Najib. There's this group called Suara Rakyat who likes to say "other countries are doing better because UMNO is not there in their country".Of course, when you have a narrow, myopic view, you will tend to miss out the fact that over the 5 year period,•    Russian Roubles lost 114% against USD•    Indonesian Rupiah lost 51% against USD•    Indian Rupees lost 38% against USD•    Norwegian Krone lost 37% against USD•    Australian Dollars lost 24% against USD•    Euro lost 20% against USD•    Thai Baht lost 10% against USDDo I need to go on? One of the contributing factors faced by these countries is the drop in oil prices. Crude oil was trading at US$70-80 / bbl few years ago and today it has fallen below US$ 50 per bbl.Also, US is not our only trading partner and the performance of our Ringgit is not measured against US dollars alone. When we look at the Ringgit,  •    we strengthened against Canadian Dollars (2%)•    we strengthened against Indian Rupees (10%)•    we strengthened against Japanese Yen (14%)•    we strengthened against Indonesian Rupiah (18%) I don't need to name more currencies, do I?Do you know that the value of our trade with India, Japan and Indonesia is close to 20%?Understandably, we are quick to feed on negative news and quick to comment like an expert on our Facebook and Twitter. That's how things work these days.Of course, none of you made reference to 1998. No one remembered the time when the Ringgit crashed to as low as RM4.725 for a dollar on 7 January 1998 (BNM selling rate, over the counter was more than RM4.80).All of you, who were quick to comment about the state of our economy on your Facebook, were still in school.So none of you knew, none of you remembered, none of you experienced what happened in 1998 when Anwar Ibrahim was Finance Minister.Back thena)    People were losing jobs or had difficulty in getting jobsb)    Households were squeezedb)    average lending rate was 12.16%c)    Inflation was close to 3% without subsidy removals. If any of you doubt the 2-3% inflation numbers today and felt it is way higher, apply the same thought to 1998-1999.And yes, average lending rate was over 12%. Those were the days.You may say it is history and you may continue to slam the Prime Minister, the Central Bank and the Government for today's numbers.But the next time before you get upset and share your anger on Facebook or Twitter, ask yourself whether or not the Ringgit - Dollar exchange rate affects you, and how.1.    Do you shop online from US websites? 2.    Are you planning to fly over to US for a holiday?3.    Are you a Malaysian studying in the US?4.    Do you import goods to be resold in Malaysia?5.    Do you buy necessities and food from the US to use here?6.    Do you at all use the US dollar in your daily life?Because my dear, on[...]



The RM22 bil 'hole'

2015-06-24T10:19:37.329+08:00

Budget 2016 is not too far away and Government agencies - especially Treasury and the Economic Planning unit - have begun the preparations since March. It should be tabled in Parliament in 4 months time in October.I decided to look at some numbers and back of the envelope calculation, I found a RM22 bil 'hole' or deficit.No, I am not even talking about the annual budget deficits at over RM30 bil. I believe we are short of RM22 billion for 2016 just by looking at the Government's revenue which will be affected as a result of GST and crude oil prices, ceteris paribus. And I hope the Government is aware of this. I stand corrected.GST RevenueThis year, GST revenue is expected to contribute RM23.3 billion (that's what the Government said before so many other things were exempted from GST)And with GST in place, we must not forget that the Government has agreed to forego some revenue.The abolished Sales and Services Tax gave us RM17.2 billion last year.The Government announced that individual income tax rates will be slashed by 1-3 percent. Let's just assume it is a 1% reduction, that's estimated to be a loss of revenue of RM260 million.Companies will enjoy a 1% tax reduction. That's another RM728 million gone.The net gain from GST implementation stands at no more than RM5 billion.Petroleum RevenueThe Federal Government's dependence on oil has been declining from RM64.2 bil or 40.2% of total revenue in 2008 to just RM67 bil or 29.7% of total revenue in 2014.But note that in 2014, Brent Crude oil averaged at USD100 per barrel.However in 2015, the average Brent crude oil price is expected to be at USD61 per barrel. That's a 40% drop.PETRONAS' contributions to Government is calculated based on previous year's price, ie in 2016, dividends are calculated based on 2015 crude oil price.If we assume that crude oil prices throughout 2016 and dividends are down by say 40%, that means the oil revenue to Government will also be down by 40%.That's approximately RM27 bil.Net positionThe Government's tax revenue has always been enough to cover operating expenditure but never enough for development expenditure - agricultural subsidies, grants for smallholders, build schools and roads, etc.In the past 5 years, the Government's budget deficit averages at around RM36.5 bil, all due to if not mainly because of borrowings for Development Expenditure.Now with GST and lower crude oil prices, the Government stands to gain an extra RM5 bil from GST policy but face a shortfall of RM27 bil from petroleum revenue - in net terms, that's a RM22 bil hole.This hole could be bigger if GST revenue targets are not met.So where's the money going to come from?Does it mean the Government have to slash the development expenditure budget? I don't think so. This affects a lot of votes especially in rural areas or states such as Sabah and Sarawak.Can the Government afford to cover this with borrowings? I am not sure.RM22 bil is approximately 2 percent of GDP. Malaysia's 2014 debt to GDP ratio closed at 53% in 2014 and we have a debt ceiling of 55%.Perhaps, it is time for GLCs to pay some dividends, if they are making money and not giving extra headache to the Government.We'll see. I am looking forward to October when the Government tables the Budget 2016.[...]



1MDB saved us money?

2015-05-24T15:45:39.074+08:00

I've not penned my thoughts down in an article about 1MDB since this circus began.Most of us are short of filing for a missing persons report on 1MDB management. You run the operations on a daily basis, not the Prime Minister. Leaving the Prime Minister and the Government alone when under attacked for your mess is definitely not professional, what more to say with the flip-flop Parliamentary replies that were based on points submitted to the Ministry.Anyway, after reading the arguments written by independent parties who 'defended' 1MDB recently on online news portals and social media, my fingers became itchy and here I am typing this.I read that the arguments supporting 1MDB's existence and its hands in the takeover of the IPPs were:a) 1MDB bought the IPPs.b) There is a revised power purchase agreement.c) TNB registers higher profit as a resultd) Malaysian consumers benefit from lower tariffe) Petronas will not have to incur higher subsidy which benefits only these private companiesf) Consumers are the ultimate winnerg) We should thank 1MDB for saving our country from excessive subsidy granted to IPPs from the earlier regimeI'm not sure if these people are actually experts or consultants but as much as I know with my amateurish knowledge, PETRONAS subsidies do not benefit only these private companies or IPPs. The Government subsidises gas at approximately RM10bil a year annually, depending on gas prices, through Petronas by keeping gas prices below market rates. These subsidies are enjoyed by everyone who uses gas such as the manufacturing sector and of course including TNB and the IPPs.What's the agenda of these people by singling out that only the IPPs benefited with words like 'mistake done since 1990s' and throwing shots at Tun?I will give in if you say the point of controversy here is the quantum which TNB pays to the IPPs.The electricity sector is broken down into three parts - generation, transmission and distribution. Back in the 1990s, Tun wanted to break down the monopoly of electricity generation by TNB after the nationwide blackout.The only issue was, who was willing to come in to a highly regulated industry? Let's not beat around the bush. When we mix government regulations, politics, and the magic word "demi rakyat" together, it's a no-go zone basically for any investors. I think some of the telco CEOs are hating their jobs now, if you know what I mean.I've read somewhere that the IPPs were allowed to have returns on investment of 20%. Was that excessive or fair I leave it to you. But just to highlight, the average lending rate in the 1990s were between 8-12% and investors were able to get annualized returns of about 18% from investing in stocks. I don't even want to talk about opportunity costs in construction and properties at a time when Malaysia was booming. While we are on this, isn't it true that TNB also owned shares in the IPPs?Going back to the 1MDB argument, it seems to me that 1MDB has two objectives only -(1) to buy over IPPs, sell electricity cheaper to TNB, TNB make more profits(2) properties such as the development of TRXI will leave point 2 for another day.I find it rather amusing to see how 1MDB is being marketed or positioned to be the saviour of the energy sector. Hilarious when I read that because of 1MDB's takeover of the IPPs, the Government saved money and 1MDB charges lower rates to TNB which then increased TNB's net profits. And along the way, the rakyat enjoyed low electricity tariffs.If that is the case,(a) At what rates are the IPPs (under 1MDB now) selling to TNB? I take it as 'at a lower rate', but what is it? Cost price,[...]



I believe

2015-04-14T09:47:52.613+08:00

I believe Tun Dr Mahathir had noble intentions when he raised a few questions publicly to the Prime Minister. At his age, what else could he possibly want? Tun spent 3 decades of his life in Government (22 years as PM) and continue to give advice on issues even after his retirement. He only wants what is best for the party and the soil that we stand on today - Malaysia.I believe the Prime Minister still has the highest level of respect for Tun, judging from his tone and angle during the Soal Jawab. The sacrifices and contributions Tun made in developing unity and growing our economy throughout his years as Prime Minister are engraved in the hearts and memories of many of us. He gave the good years of his life to this country.I believe Tun's questions on 1MDB were fair. Many are confused with what's happening. But the confusion stem from the complexity of the topic (money markets and corporate finance are dry topics to many) and further complicated by the many statements out there. There have been too many contradicting statements including those from the Treasury and 1MDB CEO. Let's not forget the fact that people also read Sarawak Report and The Edge's stories on this topic. I wonder why the Government or Treasury hasn't setup a 1MDB Taskforce (Comms) just like we always do with other issues. If we are gonna talk, shouldn't we have just one source, one voice and one storyline with solid facts?I believe that the RM50 billion assets and RM42 billion liabilities are on the table as audited. But we must understand also that 1MDB is losing money with these assets and investments. Soon, the net assets will become net liabilities if we do not restructure not just the debt but also the subsidiaries and the operating procedures soon enough. We cannot depend only on monetizing some of the 'idle' assets quickly, such as Tun Razak Exchange. We must never forget those companies and transactions that cause 1MDB to be in the red. Otherwise, profits from TRX will just end up covering the losses elsewhere. I know we have the expertise in Government, Treasury and other investment arms to help turnaround this into a success and I believe we can.I believe the Prime Minister has taken bold steps and was being transparent in his actions on 1MDB. He made the right move when he ordered the Auditor General to verify 1MDB accounts after which the report will be passed on to the Public Accounts Committee which comprises of Opposition leaders like Tony Pua. Let's be fair and honest here. Did you expect the Prime Minister to make this move? Surely not if you think he has something to hide. Whatever reasons or explanation the Prime Minister gives on 1MDB will never be accepted by critics now. As supporters of the Government, the party and as concerned citizens, we should wait for the Auditor General's Report on 1MDB before we comment further.I believe we should applaud the Prime Minister when he agreed with UMNO Youth's request that the audit should be thorough and completed as soon as possible. This is the single, most credible piece of document that could answer all questions out there, hopefully, and we must have it on the table fast.I believe the Economic Planning Unit of both Federal and State Government of Johor should come out publicly to share and explain the cost benefit analysis for the proposed crooked bridge (within the borders of Malaysia). The Government can afford a bridge but the benefits must far outweigh the costs for anyone to invest in it. Besides environmental and legal issues, of course. Surely someone has done some studies on this project, no? [...]



11 Days from GST

2015-03-21T20:13:16.692+08:00

We are 11 days away from the implementation of GST. You might think that the Government is going to make more money out of you. But did you know that, as a trade off, the Government stands to lose about RM20 bil from you for the implementation of GST? I will explain more later. Actually, we have been talking about introducing a new, fairer tax system since the days when "someone" was Finance Minister in 1990s but I guess he had other ambition and priorities.It stayed as nothing more than mere talk till one day in 2013.On 29 August 2013 in Securities Commission, Treasurer General Tan Sri Irwan Serigar's announcement set off a media frenzy and those of us who were there saw journalists and analysts busy typing on their smartphones.I can still recall the exact words. Tan Sri said, "GST is a must, no longer an option."Ever since then, there are so many tax experts and web portals out there explaining about GST. I did a quick search and found the following links. Some are newcomers with easy to understand graphics:a) www.apaitugst.com (newbie and trilingual, makes you understand from the simplest perspective)b) www.gst.customs.gov.my (all that you need to know, textbook-ish)c) www.loanstreet.com.my/learning-centre/GST-In-Malaysia-Explainedd) www.imoney.my/articles/why-malaysia-needs-gst e) www.gst.com.myThere's no excuse in terms of implementation or knowledge. Every single piece of info, in whatever form, they are all out there. From the point that it was formally announced in Parliament in Oct 2013 till today in March 2015, the entire economy and population had more than 500 days or 17 months to learn about GST and to adjust to the forthcoming GST.It is either you want to do it and understand it, or you just can’t be bothered and prefer to be abusive and grumpy.Over the past week, I saw and heard so many excited chatter among friends and relatives about the holiday they just booked in MATTA Fair and when the conversation moved on to politics, it was all guns blazing at GST. It shows how ignorant we Malaysians are. The countries that you are traveling to have GST too, you know? China’s GST rate is at 17%, Korea (10%), Indonesia (10%), Thailand (7%), Vietnam (10%). Even Burkina Faso and Burundi have GST!A total of 6.3 billion people lives under a GST regime in the 169 countries. Surely, there’s a reason why countries implement this tax system.In Malaysia, we have over 6 mil registered taxpayers but only less than 2 mil actually pay taxes. We have over 500,000 registered tax paying companies but less than 110,000 pay taxes,Any country in our position would have thought about GST. But it wasn't an easy move for the Government in today’s political climate. The Government had to give something back in return for people to accept GST and these are not small sums. Take a look:(a)   Government will abolish the Sales and Services Tax (SST). And did you know that in 2014, Government received RM17.8 bil from SST? They are gonna lose this. (b)   Those who earn RM4,000 per month and below will no longer need to pay income tax. For the rest, it will be a 1-3% reduction in tax rate. The Government received RM26.7 bil in 2014 and just a 2% reduction means the Government is letting go RM530 million.(c)   Government is reducing corporate, cooperative and SME income taxes. In 2014, the Government received RM68 bil. At 1% reduction, that's another RM680 million gone from Government revenue.Welfare and cash handouts have also gone up. Just BR1M alone costs [...]



Malaysia's RM 744.7b external debt

2015-03-12T23:18:35.529+08:00

I have not read what the Ministry of Finance prepared for the Prime Minister in Parliament. But media outlets, both print and online media, went out with headlines like "Malaysia's external debt tripled to RM740 billion".I won’t blame the media here and I must say this - Treasury should be more politically sensitive in future.The statement gave naughty ideas to poster boys like Suara Rakyat to go all out by pushing content such as “Hutang Negara RM744.7 billion - Hutang negara di era pemerintahan PM Najib Razak!”Some even went as far as saying that the Government was hiding numbers and massaging statistics in the past few years.In actual fact, it was in 2013 when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) proposed a wider coverage for external debt. The international standards was prescribed to all member countries to comply with. This redefinition of external debt was to include several more items that were not covered before. External debt now takes into account the non-resident holdings of local-currency denominated debt, deposits, loans, liabilities etc irrespective of the currency denomination of the debt. External debt by maturity and instruments Old definition New definition Inter-bank borrowing in foreign currencies Maintain Inter-company borrowing in foreign currencies Maintain Bonds issued abroad Maintain Other loans in foreign currencies Maintain Trade credits - NEW Non resident holdings of domestic money market instruments - NEW Non resident holding of domestic bonds - NEW Current and deposits - NEW Other liabilities by non resident - NEW Source: BNM Q1 Bulletin - Economic and Financial Developments in the Malaysian EconomyIn Q1 2014, BNM adopted this new definition of external debt and the first redefined external debt number was published. That was one year ago! So before anyone gets excited, please don't. Sudah basi, old news!BNM’s Q1 2014 bulletin reported that our country's external debt (both private and public) was RM700.1 billion and the higher external debt was attributed largely to higher offshore borrowings by the private sector and non-resident holdings of ringgit denominated debt securities. It is related to the company that many of you work with, it is related to the Mat Salleh in your company HQ with an account here, it is related to your Japanese banker whom your company owe money to.If anyone actually bothered to dig further by clicking and opening BNM's External Debt report on their website, you will notice that-  Federal Government debt - medium and long term offshore borrowings - have remained stable and low. It was RM13.8 bil in 2009 and for the financial year ending 2014, it only increased marginally to RM16.8 bil.-  In terms of ringgit denominated Government securities held by non-residents, it currently stands at RM151.4 bil.If you add both up, the total debt exposure of Federal Government 'externally' is just RM168.2 bil (22.6 percent of total external debt).The balance here which is RM744.7 bil - RM168.2 bil = RM576.5 bil, this is not Government's debt at all. These belong to the private sector, the banking sector, and others such as deposits held by non-residents.To pin the whole country's external debt on Najib is unfair.It is clear to many that debt is not necessarily a bad thing as long as you have growth. You borrow to grow your wealth through strategic investments, just like how we borrow money to buy properties.As long as Najib and Zeti sets the [...]



Gender Inequality and Women in Malaysia

2015-03-08T21:02:42.882+08:00

It might sound awkward that a man is talking about gender equality but just to clear this, in Emma Watson’s words, “Men, gender equality is your issue too”. I will take that invitation and begin to talk about gender inequality and women in Malaysia.Let’s look at the Gender Gap Report which first started in 2006 and look at how we fared in 2014. Gender Gap Report Ranking (Malaysia) Rankings – categories 2006 2009 2014 Overall 72 100 107 Economic participation and opportunity 68 103 104 Educational attainment 62 77 100 Health and survival 80 103 102 Political empowerment 90 113 132 I am not sure how to explain the rankings nor do I have the time to go through the complex methodologies used but in relative terms against other countries, perhaps what I can conclude is we are progressing but at a slow pacemale domination and chauvinism still existsLet’s try to have a fair assessment on where we stand with local statistics.In our workforce, Malaysia has come a long way since 1982. There were less than 1.8 mil women employed in 1982 with a labour force participation rate of 44.5% and unemployment rate of 4.6%. But in the most recent 2013 statistics, we saw the number of women employed almost tripled to about 5 mil with a labour force participation rate of 52.4% and unemployment rate of 3.4%. This means that more than half of women of working age are employed and this is a first in the Najib Administration and the only time we have breached 50% since 1982. I believe it will most likely remain at this band of 50%-60%.Another recent encouraging news we read was from Hays Asia Salary Guide 2015. The employment of women in senior management roles in Malaysia has actually increased from 29 per cent in 2014 to 34 percent in 2015. But if anyone wants to be negative about this, we can. Put this in another way, after so long, we still see men dominating the senior management roles. In political leadership, the numbers are disappointing. I realized that there are only two women Ministers in our Cabinet - Nancy Shukri (Minister in PM's Department) and Rohani Abd Karim (Women, Family and Community Development Minister). In Penang's State Exco, there's only Chong Eng. In Selangor's State Exco, they have two - Daroyah Alwi and Elizabeth Wong. In Kelantan's State Exco, they have one women Exco - Mumtaz Md Nawi.We can perhaps understand why if we look at the pattern in the GE 13 election results. In the recent 13th General Election, we saw a total of 168 female candidates named out of the 727 Parliament and State Seats. 71 women candidates were from Barisan Nasional, 77 from Pakatan Rakyat while the rest were independents or non BN and non PR. That is just 23%.The results? 80 female elected representatives only. That’s a winning rate of 48% and participation rate of 11% in our houses of representatives. That’s not good. How did this happen?Here’s my message to the voters. If gender was a key criterion when you voted in the 13th GE, perhaps you should do us a favour and stay at home in the next election.In the Federal Government, we have seen a marked improvement where women today hold almost all of the key posts - from international trade and economic planning to welfare, education and healthcare. We have a total of 11 top ranked women in Government today. Perhaps, I should name them here: Name Position Tan Sri Mazidah Abd Majid Deputy Secretary GeneralCabinet, Prime Minister’s [...]



Extreme 'nudity' in the Najib Administration

2015-03-06T10:01:28.122+08:00

Has anyone of you read the Singapore's 2013 Auditor General Report? Here's an extract.Based on the audits for this year and the last six years, AGO observed that procurement has continued to be an area prone to lapses....AGO observed instances of non-compliance .... These included - waiving competition on weak grounds, allowing bid alterations by certain bidders after tender had closed, not disclosing evaluation criteria upfront in tender documents, not evaluating tenders properly and obtaining approvals retrospectively.Yes, I’m not kidding. That was from Singapore’s 2013 Auditor General Report. Google it! But I’m not here to talk about their report. Today I think we should focus on the ‘extreme nudity' in Najib's Administration.After Najib’s first election victory as Prime Minister and Chairman of Barisan Nasional in the 13th General Election, he made an announcement which stunned many critics and supporters.His first 'bold' move was when he invited a "predator" into the Cabinet by announcing that the then Transparency International President Datuk Paul Low will be his Cabinet Minister in the war against corruption. My colleagues and I were speechless in front of the TV when that announcement was made. I went as far as tweeting "Bro @NajibRazak, terus terang saya cakap. Bro ada bola".To invite your enemy or critic into your own office or home is only possible if you have nothing to hide.In 2012/3, PEMANDU called for a public consultation to prepare the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) 2.0. I remember hearing comments that some of the NGO reps, activists and Government officers who participated in the Fighting Corruption workstream actually told the Prime Minister "Sir, you gotta get this done. You need to have the political will and do this for the country".What was it that they were referring to?They wanted Najib to change the reporting practice of the Auditor General's report to three times a year instead of once a year. The series of 3 reports will be concise but must continue to contain key information, instead of a thick brick, so that none of the issues escape public attention. Just to put into context, Singapore's annual Auditor General Report (tabled once a year) is about 80 pages long while ours is 894 pages with extremely detailed information.All eyes were on Najib at that time but I heard he was expressionless. No one knew what he was thinking. After hearing this at that time, I told my friends that Najib won’t do it. Come on, who wants to change the format from a thick annual AG report into three series that will be tabled three times a year? The Government will be grilled three times instead of one and there will be a high level of scrutiny on every single line each time.Weeks later, I was told that many of those in Government were stunned when the Prime Minister made his decision. He actually agreed to do this 3 parts or series AG Report which will be presented to all three times a year. He also went a step further and agreed that the issues highlighted in the reports will be hung out as dirty laundry permanently in a dashboard until action is taken. You can see it here - http://arts.audit.gov.myNow, why would he agree to carry out these initiatives?A week or two ago, I came across a blog post by my blogosphere senior Datuk Ahiruddin Attan. Apparently, Najib personally appointed journalist R Nadeswaran (aka Citizen Nades) to one of MACC's main panels. He is not exactly a friend of Barisan Nasiona[...]



The politics of Presidential jets

2015-02-09T17:30:24.710+08:00

Just a few days ago, the President of Indonesia made his maiden official trip overseas. He chose Malaysia as his first stop.This, if you ask me, is an honor and perhaps the highest respect which reflects the strong relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia since we established diplomatic relations on 10 October 1957.But it was another part of his arrival which caught some of us by surprise. He arrived in the state-owned USD 91 mil Presidential jet, a Boeing 737-800. This aircraft which comes with a USD27 mil cabin interior was delivered in 2014 to the Government.Yeah, Indonesia has a Government jet too. And yet, some of us are of the opinion that despite stable and positive economic conditions here, the Malaysian Government should not own or use business jets that are currently made available for use by His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Heads of our states, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, as well as senior Government officials.At times, I think we overlooked the fact that Obama has a Presidential jet despite the national debt of USD18 trillion, or Japan owns an Air Force One even though the country has a public debt that is twice its GDP (public debt per capita of about RM300,000 per person).If anyone read international papers or portals during the World Economic Forum, you will notice a piece of news that did not appear locally in Malaysian sites or media for unknown reasons.The Newsweek's headline on 19 January 2015 caught my attention - "Private jets descent on Davos for World Economic Forum". Did you know that approximately 550 business and government jets flew into the region for the Forum (CNN's site says 1,700 planes, but you get the point)? And there were nearly 200-300 helicopter flights from Zurich airport to Davos.A quick research online showed that Togo in West Africa, with a population the size of Selangor, has a Government jet for its President, a state in India - Andhra Pradesh - has a business jet and chopper for its Chief Minister, Namibia has a Learjet 75 jet for its President and Belarus, whose GDP per capita is on par with Pahang, has a Presidential jet too.Surely, there is a reason why Government leaders around the world travel in chartered or Government owned jets.We should look at the bigger picture and understand the fact that we can’t expect Government leaders to wait and sit around in airports or wait for multiple connecting flights while some simply shuttle in to the nearest airport. Let us not forget that times have changed and there are many international events or summits such as the World Economic Forum, the OIC summit, the G20, the East Asia Summit, APEC, ASEAN and the dozens of bilateral visits that leaders make to strengthen diplomatic relations and to boost investments or trade.There are also unfortunate, 11tih hour events like aviation crisis, international negotiations, State funerals and others which make commercial flights (be it via passenger planes or chartered planes) become challenging and complicated especially in terms of flight time and delays. With the demanding, hectic schedules and travels, both international and domestic, Governments today simply cannot forgo the convenience of official aircrafts. It is high time that we grow up and look beyond petty politics.[...]



Numbers don't lie

2015-02-04T08:59:37.383+08:00

During a briefing session to economists and media reps in Putrajaya International Convention Centre on 20 Jan 2015 that was held after Prime Minister's Special Address Budget 2015 2.0, a couple of words from Bank Negara Governor Tan Sri Zeti Aziz caught my attention.I mean, she is the world's best central banker. Every word that she says carries more weight than any other individual in Malaysia and we should pay attention.In her reply to a few questions on Malaysian Ringgit's performance against the US Dollar, Tan Sri said:"Of course, when we built up our reserves, we were criticized for accumulation of too much reserves which were far in excess of those required by a country of our size... and this is what reserves are for, that is why we built up buffers.""......the ringgit should strengthen to reflect our underlying fundamentals which remain solid and strong"She is right. Just compare the two Press Releases by the Bank - one issued in 1999, another just a couple of weeks ago (summarized below)22 Oct 1999 (http://www.bnm.gov.my/?ch=en_press&pg=en_press_all&ac=598&lang=en)as at 15 Oct 1999, international reserves amounted to RM113.9 billion or USD29.9 billionadequate to finance 6.2 months of retained imports.8 Jan 2015 (http://www.bnm.gov.my/index.php?ch=en_press&pg=en_press_all&ac=3133&lang=en)as at 31 Dec 2014, the international reserves amounted to RM405.5 billion or USD116.0 billionsufficient to finance 8.4 months of retained importsCountries must maintain a healthy level of reserves to protect themselves against shocks and external economic crises. Today, our reserves have grown almost 4 times since 1999 and can cover 8.4 months of retained imports which makes us almost as strong as India’s import cover.I did a quick check on IMF's spreadsheet on official reserve assets and other foreign currency assets. Out of all the reporting countries, based on the consolidated official and confirmed November 2014 statistics, Malaysia hasthe 9th largest international reserves in Asia andthe 18th largest international reserves in the worldHisham (@econsmalaysia) is right. The turnover of foreign currency market transactions averaged at USD241.1 bil monthly in 2014. Speculation, if true, at USD1.4 bil (less than 0.6% of total turnover) is just a drop in the ocean. It could also be easily managed by the Central Bank (costs them just 1.2% of their total reserves) and send a strong signal to speculators – pay up your losses and go home. This is the strength of our Government, Central Bank and economy.Two weeks ago on 22 January, in Fortune magazine with a readership of 5 million globally, they said “Meanwhile, in Malaysia, an incumbent government is offering credible pledges for smarter economic management”. Four days later on 26 January, Moody’s Credit Outlook was positive again on Malaysia and I quote, “Malaysia's revised budget leaves sovereign's fiscal consolidation trend intact”.The underlying fundamentals of our economic structure remain strong and solid. Despite the global economic conditions and challenges, we must not forget that:Malaysia remains on the steady growth path at 4.5% - 5.5%Inflation will come in at 2.5-3.5%, a level that is manageableNajib’s message that we are committed to reduce fiscal deficit from 3.5% last year to 3.2% this year, on track to balanced budget in 2020Debt to GDP will be kep[...]