Wednesday, December 27, 2006

About A Boat...

Let me be clear about the intention of this blog. It is not just meant to espouse my musings as a Malay Muslim Professional, but intends to take a Tangent on things, with the hope it will engender thinking. With this in mind, let me begin this posting, which is all about how Pak Lah can afford a RM30 Million dollar Turkish built Yatch (~US$8.5 Mill at current exchange rate).

Much has been said about this boat, or yatch, but the key issue here is not whether or not Pak Lah as the PM of Malaysia should or should not buy a yatch, but whether or not he can afford to buy one on his salary. (Side-step: for the life of me, I have no idea what nuances separate a yatch from a sailboat, i.e. boat, so my apologies if in my haste, I trivialise the description)

Someone has bandied about a figure of RM30k per month as the salary of the PM, saying this is too low a salary to support a purchase of a RM30 Million boat. Actually, this is irrelevant. Pak Lah is at the time of writing ~67 years of age. I know of no bank that will give a loan for a period of more than say 5 years to someone of Pak Lah's age, if at all, especially with rumours of his medical procedure recently, even if it was for a nasal condition. No offence, but he's just too old to be bankable.

So, the salary is actually out as a method of payment for him, but for more reasons than one. However, he may well have other means.

Means 1: Civil Service Perks = Past Investments

Let's consider a few things here. The first is that Pak Lah has been a civil servant since 1964, for >40 years; man, he's been a civil servant for longer than most Malaysians have been alive! What does this mean?

No, it does not just mean that he has suffered too poor a salary for >40 years to afford a RM30 Million boat, but it does mean that he has had access to civil service perks for that long! Haaa... no, it doesn't mean he has been able to get corruption and kickbacks for that long... haiya!

What I am getting at is that he has had the opportunity to buy real estate under the government's schemes under SPPK, UDA, etc, when they were still worth something. Lets consider these facts:

  1. A bungalow in Damansara Heights bought for ~RM80k in the 1970's is now worth ~RM3.5 Million
  2. A bungalow in Bangsar bought for ~RM200k in the late 70's is now worth ~RM3 Million
  3. For context, a terrace house bought for ~RM45k in TTDI in the late 70's is now worth ~RM500k

The above is typically how honest Malay civil servants of modest means invested in the 70's and 80's to be able to send their children privately for overseas education in the 90's and this century. Even a low to mid-level civil servant's family, especially if both adults are working, could secure a couple of terrace houses in the 70's and be sitting on ~RM1 Million of real-estate today!

So Pak Lah could well have made money from such investments to buy his boat. One expects with his stature as Finance Minister and his numerous expositions against corruption, he must have had some inkling of the oppotunities to invest and grow his assets in the above honest way.

Means 2: The Traditional Way Of Making Money = Inheritance!

Pak Lah comes from a line of noble UMNO leaders. His grandfather was a leading ulama and I understand both his grandfather and father were founders of UMNO. I can imagine these men would have left him some decent inheritance in the form of land at the very least when they passed on.

And land has appreciated rather dramatically everywhere in Malaysia. And where is Pak Lah from? Penang! Hurrah! Imagine the land prices there now, especially around the new 2nd link!

One must also not discount the fact that Pak Lah has recently lost his wife. It is believed that Pak Lah's late wife's family is quite well to do, being a prestigious civil servant family with links to successful business clans too! Pak Lah's marriage to the late Datin Seri Endon was seen to have set him up for a successful civil service career. It is hence also likely that Pak Lah inherited some from his wife's passing.

Small compensation though I am sure from the loss of such a pillar of strength by his side.

Means 3: The Filial Way Of Making Money - His Rich Kid(s?)!

Pak Lah had admitted in the Bangkok Post that his son Kamaluddin is rich! Surely here is a way for Pak Lah to get a decent loan to buy a boat, not by getting Kamaludding to buy it, but by having his son guarantee the loan for the boat for him, so that it is within his limits to pay with his salary.

Besides, Pak Lah is PM, so his housing, transport, medical bills, food and drink, even his holidays are at public expense! So with a guarantor, all RM30K or whatever pay could go to paying for the boat for an extended loan period of say 50 years?

I say kids as I understand Nori is doing some business as well. However, we should probably exclude Khairy here as his rice bowl has been broken by some old man.

I suppose Pak Lah also has siblings and siblings-in-laws that can afford to help him with collateral for the boat, if not secure all of the loan as his far richer son can.

Conclusion - enuff said on the matter!

So, to conclude, lets not waste any more of our time talking about this boat, yatch or whatever. A physicist is said to be able to prove an elephant can be balanced off the side of a cliff with a daisy. In Malaysia, our politicians and their cohorts have been seen to prove even more amazing feats, like how selling a valuable world-renown motorcycle company for a dollar is 'good business'...

... whilst recording the resultant few hundred Million RM loss as 'acceptable', endorsed by the Securities Commission no less!

Lets focus on more important things than the rumoured opaque private financial dealings of a man who just happens to be the PM... like his running(?) of the country for instance... now that's an issue!

Monday, December 18, 2006

What Could A Real More Islamic Policy Revamp Look Like: Ideas On Taxes

We have been a little trapped I feel by the trend of having the powers that be in Malaysia, or those linked to them, establishing the agenda for debate on policies to be implemented in the country. I suppose in some ways this is the fault of our earlier leaders who for the most part, either had good ideas, or had ideas of such grand scheme, not too many of us had the capacity to suitably react!

Unfortunately, the ideas being kicked around these days are pretty run-of-the-mill, or a little too obvious. On top of that, their implementation appear to be a little unsuccessful.

e.g. We will Eliminate Corruption! Really... what a novel idea! I would ever thought of that (LOL). By the way, I thought we were eliminating this corruption thing since 3 years ago now, but why do international monitors now see the country as suffering more corruption?

Well, if we are not happy with this state of affairs, we would be at fault if we didn't try to put some of our own ideas across. If anything, this may lead to gaining credence and refinement for the better of our ideas, with the hope of implementation of the deserving perhaps?

I'm keen on giving this a whirl. Lets begin with something like say... taxes! What changes to the tax code may be interesting to explore in Malaysia? And to add some dimension to it, let's link this policy revamp to a moral code, which to me would be Islam.

OK, in the early days of Islam, 'tax' took very specific forms. One form of tax, called 'Jizyah', began as a tax applied to non-Muslims to provide them parity of treatment as citizens whilst they were exempt of duties defending the nation, which is an obligation according to Islam. In fact, some non-Muslims were exempt from Jizyah due to their taking up the duties of defending the nation side-by-side with Muslims.

So, if this was the case, shouldn't we move to have the salaries of our armed forces as well as probably our civil defence personnel tax exempt? One may even be able to make the argument for civil servant salaries to be tax exempt, but lets start with the armed forces, the police and the fire department, as I doubt there would be much argument that this is in line the principles of Jizyah and its exemption in the past.

(Besides, I've always found it a silly exercise to have our civil servants' pay, which comes from our taxes, being taxed themselves! Seems easier to make the recipient of tax monies as pay to have a reduced pay that's tax free in the first place.)

This may not be earth-shatering as ideas go, but can you imagine the power of extending the theory behind Jizyah. So, what constitutes a warrior in the current world? Would a trade negotiator for FTA's etc. for instance be a warrior worthy of tax exemption? What about athletes at international meets? Do their efforts as warriors for the pride of the nation make them deserving of tax exemptions?

We can even ask what dimensions tax exemption can take. For instance, rather than have all civil servants salary tax exempt, can we consider the idea of having civil servants exempted from any property related taxes other than capital gains? This may not be as lucrative as an annual tax exemption, but it would help remove a hurdle to home-ownership.

Note that civil servants are typically not paid so high as to have much cash in hand for the ancillary cost of purchasing new homes, costs which are normally not covered by a bank loan. Tax exemptions such as this one will help reward their daily warrior-like sacrifice for the nation in the spirit of Jizyah.

We can extend this everywhere, from direct taxes for civil servants being at a lower rate geared to criticality of service to the nation - like a big exemption to teachers say, through to the indirect by say making gains from insurance payouts AND INVESTMENTS, tax-exempt for civil servants, encouraging them to take up private insurance to allow then some access to private hospitals, rather than having to rely on public hospitals and clinics only.

Please note that I'm not a tax-cut advocate by any means. However, I tend to think there are a mechanisms to make such mechanisms tax-revenue neutral to the government. OK, the tax exemptions linked to industries like that on home purchases or insurance benefits may be neutral from engendering greater economic activity anyway, but additionally, the government can consider applying taxes to those committed to avoiding public service? I'll leave this open...

Maybe the over-reaching idea here is for some tax experts in government to sit down and study the Islamic morals driven tax laws of old to discover some underlying logic, hence seeing its applicability for the current world. Any finance guys and gals out there even thinking of a Masters or PhD study on these matters perhaps? Would be cool if TAXES of all things could be made so interesting a matter of study given the right dimensions... and ideas...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Singapore's Johor Economic Rape

I was shocked to notice that I hadn't posted in this blog for almost 1.5 months, but maybe it was because I wanted to 'give peace a chance', what with Pak Lah and Dr M meeting and then the UMNO AGM. I should have known better... anyway, let's start again with a bang!

I actually believe SJER stands for Singapore's Johor Economic Rape. Unfortunately, I think Pak Lah was fooled by someone into believing this was a 'quick-win' he could claim to be his own when:
  1. Danga Bay was practically built before his announcement of the SJER. Was it to be enhanced?
  2. Nusajaya was more a mimic of Putrajaya from Dr M's time which had ground to a halt due to Pak Lah's earlier austerity measures. Rumours abound that the main companies (GLC's?) involved in building Nusajaya sold the SJER as a gimic to get Pak Lah to complete it!
  3. This whole integration plan between the 2 ports in Johor and Senai began some time ago, with TS Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary taking controlling of all 3 over the years. In fact, the 'crooked bridge' was supposedly to open a new artery IN ADDITION to the so called 'new' land-bridge.

So, so much for 'My Idea'. The question is, besides the rumoured tricksters behind point 2, could Pak Lah be additionally fooled by the oft-mentioned Singapore-philes influencing or infesting the '4th floor'? My feeling is that the real risk of Singapore's Johor Economic Rape lies in its open borders concept giving birth to such undesirable offspring as:

  1. Allowing Singapore to channel the more negative elements of their 2 Casino projects (otherwise known as IR's), like prostitution and drugs, away from Singapore into Johor. (Imagine Nusajaya turning not simply into a satellite, but more a trans-national slum of Singapore! Sort of like Batam now!)
  2. Allowing Singapore access to resources that are restricting its already un-natural growth (un-natural as built on cheap Malaysian water, gas and labour, etc.); as it gives access to land of which Singapore is in severely short supply, especially after efforts to sell them sand for reclamation by individuals 'cabled' to the present Malaysian government failed.
  3. Giving Singapore unfettered access (and the excuse) to participate in projects which Malaysian businesses could do just as well, at lower cost, and retaining the wealth in country, in an area that is naturally growing into a rival to Singapore, even without the so called SJER (remember, its Singapore's Johor Economic Rape).

The sad thing is, Singapore's Johor Economic Rape may not even be Singapore's fault at all at this stage. We may just have some clever people advising and in Pak Lah's circle that are going around asking Singapore to Rape Johor Economically!!

Btw, I do not dare refer to Singapore's Johor Economic Rape by its new 'formal' name as I understood HRH Sultan Iskandar of Johor did not give his approval to what I assume was the 4th Floor's 'clever surprise' idea and HRH would certainly be 'murka' at being associated to any kind of Rape of his own state!

Sorry if the above seems a little aggressive. Just following Pak Lah's example in his interview with the Bangkok Post - gloves off and 'old men' are fair game in the new Islam Hadhari culture eh?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bahaya Di Sebalik Usaha Pemecatan Tun Dr M Dari 3 GLC, Terutama Sekali Petronas

Apakah di sebalik usaha memecat Tun Dr M dari 3 berkait syarikat kerajaan (GLC), LADA, Proton dan Petronas. Dalam kesibukan hidup kita semua, rasanya ada pentingnya kebenaran tentang perkara ini diutarakan.

Kemungkinan sekali, niat di sebalik usaha pemecatan Tun Dr M dari menasihati Petronas adalah yang paling parah. Sejak awal tahun ini, anasir anasir rakus yang mempengaruhi The Edge dan NST telah mengutarakan ide-ide penswastaan Petronas. Di ambang perjanjian perdagangan bebas dengan US (FTA), usaha ini ternyata untuk membuang Tun Dr M dari pengaruhnya untuk menghalang pengelelongan khazanah negara yang paling lumayan ini, hasil bumi kita dan syarikat terbesar negara, Petronas.

Dalam masa Tun Dr M memerintah dan menasihati Petronas, kalaupun ada salah guna pengagihan wang Petronas, setidak-tidaknya, banyak juga wang Petronas yang memanfaatkan segenap lapis rakyat Malaysia, paling kurang dalam pengurangan kadar cukai dan harga Petrol dan Disel. Tetapi dengan pembuangan Tun Dr M dari Petronas, ia bakal mempermudahkan jalan untuk Petronas dilelong selesai penyokong-penyokong Tun Dr M yang berkesan dan Nasionalis separti Tan Sri Hassan Merican di buang juga.

Cerita Proton cerita lama. Selesai usaha dalang Tingkat 4 si Azlan Hashim menghancurkan syarikat tersebut, niat yang tersirat adalah untuk melelong Proton juga, tetapi lebih sebagai mercu tanda 'kegagalan' usaha Tun Dr M memajukan Malaysia oleh pendukung Lah-isma.

Hal pemecatan dari LADA sebenarnya kecil sedikit. Ia sekadar memberi helah untuk MB Kedah digunakan untuk mengutarakan cadangan pemecatan tersebut.

Saudara-saudari sekelian. Pendek-kata, Lah-isma semakin menular mengganggu-gugat kesejahteraan dan kemerdekaan ekonomi negara. Kini kemungkinan besar Petronas ingin dilelong pula.

Pada Pak Lah, mungkin alasan yang diberi oleh Kali dan sekutunya adalah ia kerana kejayaan Petronas masih terlalu berhubung-kait dengan hadirnya Tun Dr M sebagai penasihat. (Memang betul pun... enjin yang jual kat negara China pun sebab program F1 ilham Dr M, dan Pak Lah masa Petronas bermasalah di Chad, tak nak tolong pun!).

Namun sedarlah bahawa pertelingkahan dengan Pak Lah cuma sekadar helah pemecatan Tun Dr M. Sebenarnya, pemecatan Tun Dr M membuka jalan untuk Petronas dilelong hasil usaha sang-sang rakus yang bertenggek di bahu Pak Lah didalangi anasir luar negara.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Apabila Putar-Belit Media Tidak Ke Mana Melainkan Mengancam Kedudukan Kerajaan UMNO (When Spinning Leads To No-Where - Part III)

Putaran berita sekitar laporan penyelidikan Dr TG Lim dan Dr ET Gomez di bawah naungan ASLI-CPPS mengenai peratusan pegangan ekuiti Melayu yang mempertikaikan pencapaian Dasar Ekonomi Baru dan penyambungnya, Dasar Ekonomi Nasional (DEB/DEN) sudah dibiar membara-semarak terlalu lama. Soalnya, kenapakah persoalan isu ini dibiarkan, malah pada awalnya diapi-apikan oleh media kawalan Tingkat 4 dan sekutu mereka?

Mungkinkah ini juga sebahagian usaha memperburukan nama Tun Dr M melalui keluarganya, memandangkan ASLI telah dibangunkan dan diketuai oleh anak beliau, Dato' Mirzan Mahathir? Persoalan ini timbul kerana tindakan Khairy Jamaluddin yang mengherdik penarikan balik hasil penyelidikan dan pohonan maaf Dato' Mirzan terhadap laporan ASLI-CPPS tersebut yang diakuinya kurang wajar.

Persoalan yang lebih merunsingkan adalah, kenapakah intipati laporan tersebut yang menimbulkan kontroversi tidak dibangkitkan apabila ia mula-mula dikemukakan kepada Unit Dasar Jabatan Perdana Menteri dan EPU sebagai bahan asas penggubalan RMK-9? Adakah ini kerana Unit Dasar JPM (sebahagian dari 'Tingkat 4') bersetuju dengan intipati laporan tersebut? Adalah harapan ramai yang ini bukanlah unsur 'Lah-isma' yang baru menjelma.

Ramai di kalangan profesional Melayu yang kononnya diwakili oleh anak-anak muda 'Tingkat 4' agak kecewa dengan kepincangan usaha kerajaan Pak Lah dalam mematikan isu ini. Kenapakah kenyataan Pak Lah dan pentadbirannya dalam menyangkal laporan tersebut tidak disertai hujah-hujah yang lebih tegar seperti:

  1. Pernilaian ASLI-CPPS yang ekuiti syarikat milik kerajaan (GLC) seperti TNB, Telekom dan MAS dinilai seolah-olah 70% dimilik Bumiputra (berdasarkan penguasaan GLC oleh kerajaan berkepimpinan UMNO) memanfaatkan Melayu lebih dari bangsa lain mempunyai beberapa kelemahan:

    • Ia tidak berdasarkan kepada pengagihan ekuiti sebenar, iaitu setara dengan demografi rakyat Malaysia yang merupakan pemilik sebenar saham kerajaan dalam GLC-GLC tersebut.
    • Tidak banyak syarikat Melayu atau Bumiputra yang 100% Bumiputra miliknya di kalangan pembekal dan pemegang kontrek GLC. Tambahan pula, banyak pemegang kontrek GLC bergantung kepada pelbagai syarikat lain yang lazimnya milik bukan Melayu ataupun asing.
    • Ia memberi tanggapan yang GLC-GLC pada zaman Pak Lah masih memberi keutamaan kepada syarikat pembekal Melayu, apabila sebenarnya, kebanyakan GLC di bawah naungan Khazanah kini mengutamakan syarikat pembekal milik asing yang memberi 'kos rendah' lebih dari syarikat Malaysia, tak kira milik Melayu atau bukan Melayu.

      Ini kerana, sesuai dengan prinsip 'Lah-isma', GLC-GLC Khazanah kini menumpukan perhatian kepada KPI, bukan lagi kepada usaha membangunkan industri tempatan melalui 'trickle-down effect'. Ajukan sahaja pertanyaan kepada MAS bagaimana pembekal-pembekal mereka kini dipilih dengan sistem yang tidak langsung memberi kepentingan kepada pembekal Melayu, mahupun syarikat Malaysia milik bukan-Melayu.
  2. Sebenarnya tatacara pengiraan peratusan milik Bumiputra yang begitu diperdebatan ini tidaklah begitu penting. Ini adalah Malaysia sebuah negara demokrasi. Oleh itu, apa-apa hak yang wujud bagi mana-mana golongan masyarakat Malaysia, sama ada menerusi pembahagian agama, bangsa, umur, jantina, dsb, hanya boleh dihapuskan atau dipinda dengan persetujuan majoriti rakyat Malaysia.

    Fikirlah sejenak, memandangkan DEB/DEN memberi kelebihan kepada majoriti rakyat Malaysia yang kiat berkembang % penduduknya (hampir 60% berbangsa Melayu dan Bumiputra), tiada kerajaan di Malaysia yang boleh kekal di tampuk pemerintahan atas agenda menghapuskan hak-hak yang kini dinikmati golongan majoriti ini menerusi DEB/DEN.

  3. Terlalu mudah DEB/DEN dituduh hanya memberi kepentingan kepada segelintir orang atasan UMNO dan komponen BN lain. Sebenarnya, DEB dinikmati oleh anak tani yang bermimpi ke Universiti dengan biasiswa, pengusaha kecil yang mengharapkan kontrek kecil untuk memulakan perniagaannya, kontraktor-kontraktor Kelas D, E dan F yang sedia menerima usaha membaiki dinding sekolah atau mencat bangunan sekalipun.

    Inilah golongan yang harus diyakinkan bahawa DEB/DEN tidak diperlukan lagi. Selagi ada golongan yang benar-benar percaya mereka memerlukannya, ia akan terus wujud kerana ia didukung oleh hak demokrasi majoriti negara ini yang merasakan keperluannya.

  4. Ke'tidak-adil'an DEB/DEN sebenarnya ditanggung oleh masyarakat Melayu dan Bumiputra juga. Mereka harus menerima yang dasar ini hanya mendukung setakat 30% pemilikan ekonomi negara oleh masyarakat pribumi, padahal masyarakat ini merupakan majoriti rakyat yang juga kian meningkat.

    Kenapakah pindaan DEB kearah pengagihan kemewahan negara menepati demografi negara tidak dicadangkan? Kenapakah usaha kearah menyama-ratakan pendapatan masyarakat Malaysia tidak diajukan, apabila statistik terkini menunjukan purata berpendapatan bulanan masyarakat Cina sehingga 2 kali ganda pendapatan masyarakat-masyarakat lain?

    Ini kerana berdasarkan prinsip muhibah, masyarakat majoriti Bumiputra Malaysia tidak rakus dan meredhai yang masyarakat Cina atau masyarakat serta golongan manapun berhak memegang kuasa ekonomi yang lebih berdasarkan usaha, ilham dan titik-peluh mereka. Kenapakah sifat toleransi masyarakat Melayu dalam hal ini tidak pernah diketengahkan?

Maka, tuduhan, sangkalan dan tikam-tepis di sekitar paparan pendapat penyelidik pimpinan ahli-ahli pemikir Malaysia yang kebetulan berbangsa bukan Bumiputra sebenarnya tidak membawa banyak makna selagi pengundi majoriti Bumiputra berpendapatan kecil atau kecil-sederhana menerimanya. Jadi kenapakah isu ini tetap dibiar membara?

Ada yang mengesyaki bahawa pendapat yang diajukan Dr Lim dan Dr Gomez ini dipegang juga oleh segolongan ahli Khazanah dan 'Tingkat 4'. Inikah sebabnya pendapat ini tidak disankal apabila dikemukakan ke 'Tingkat 4' dalam penggubalan RMK9? Mungkinkah isu ini belum lagi dimatikan oleh kerajaan kerana penasihat terdekat Pak Lah bersetuju dengan pendapat tersebut? Adakah ini suatu unsur baru 'Lah-isma' yang mula terserlah?

Namun kerana golongan Tingkat 4 tersebut tidak mewakili majoriti profesional muda segenerasi dengan mereka, apatah lagi penduduk Bumiputra majoriti yang disebut di atas, pendapat mereka juga seharusnya tidak relevan dalam konteks usaha mengekalkan, membaik-pulih atau meminda DEB/DEN. Oleh itu, bukankah lebih baik isu ini dimatikan langsung dengan segera oleh pentadbiran Pak Lah?

Melainkan Pak Lah sedia untuk UMNO menerima pukulan maut menjelang pilihanraya kelak....

Saturday, October 07, 2006

When Spinning Leads To No-Where (Why Pak Lah's Administration Should Listen and Do, Not Excuse Themselves and Blame the Past) - Part II

Usually I don't post something new until the last post has 'run its course'. However, as I am still annoyed by the attempt of 'someone' to muzzle me by attacking me at work, and have my first nice chunk of free time since then, I thought I'd open my mouth wider.

A typical defence of "Lah-ism" by the 4th Floor and co. is that the corruption currently rife in Pak Lah's era is due to the legacy of corruption over the years of the Dr M era. The further spin around the ineffectiveness of "Lah-ism" to quickly eliminate this corruption is that "changes takes time, in fact many years" and that "instant changes are not possible as it would result in chaos" and further still that "patience is a virtue" that "Lah-ism" holds strongly too.

Let me respond in 2 ways.

Firstly, I quote historical evidence that it is possible to fix many years, decades of corruption even, in a matter of a few years. I present to you the example of former Korean President Kim Young Sam:

Kim Young Sam took less than 1 term to clean up much of the corruption in Korea, even driving the successful conviction of his 2 predecessors as Korean President in the process! This resulted in Korea's ability to quickly re-emerge from the Asian Crisis supported by an already clean beauracracy.

However, as Wiki notes, his anti-corruption drive resulted in himself being implicated in a corruption scandal! What Wiki doesn't note was that prior to than, Kim Young Sam also had to stand aside and watch as his own son was convicted through his anti-corruption drive.

I doubt Malaysia's corruption when Pak Lah took over was any worse than post-dictatorship Korea's, so I reject the idea that Pak Lah's administration can't get something TANGIBLE going at least just because of history. He's had 3 years after all! Over the same period, Kim Young Sam, whilst leading a larger economy and population, was >60% done with his clean-up!

So, is Pak Lah not moving forward in his anti-corruption drive because the problem has become so much bigger since he came to power, or because he doesn't know how to deal with it and neither do his advisers, or because he and his followers are afraid an anti-corruption drive would convict his son/son-in-law/ friends/whatever?

Secondly, if the 4th Floor does not want Dr M to take credit for the bulk of Malaysia's current and coming successes, like our 'first Malaysian in space' for instance, then they cannot expect him to take all the blame for corruption today. Such a thing only creates a convenient scapegoat of all of Pak Lah's failings whilst he rides the remnants of the wavecrest of success created by his predecessor.

We citizens should always maintain that the government of the day has to be held accountable for the problems of the day. And sure, the past government may not have left things easy to handle, but then the measure on the present government should also be on how well it remediates any past mistakes.

However much Dr M may have benefited or damaged the country, his time is over. When we criticise the current government, we should do so with the hope for change for the present and future, not as a throwback to past events. And this includes criticism of Pak Lah's administration for not getting even an inch of real progress righting past wrongs and continuing to drag its feet on implementing its own publicly expressed priority of reigning in corruption!

Lah-ism's proponents should stop apologising for Pak Lah's shortcomings and indeed themselves embark on constructive criticism of him. Criticism of Dr M and his time as a method of apologising for the weakness of the Pak Lah's administration just puts a needless finger of blame to history and is pointless, unproductive, and truly not in the spirit of Vision 2020.

Friday, October 06, 2006

When Spinning Leads To No-Where (Why Pak Lah's Administration Should Listen and Do, Not Excuse Themselves and Blame the Past)

I had a bad experience of having 'someone' who didn't like my writing on "Lah-ism" trying to silence me by sabotaging me at work. Fortunately, the higher-ups at my company are quite enlightened and just request I don't start dragging them into it, seeing as to them these 'someone' appear quite malicious by their attack on me.

Since then, I've been too busy to really write, but I did get some notes of support and advise by those I vented my spleen to (which amounts to a few thousand people in the NGOs I post messages to). Though I am grateful for much of the suppport, I am not agreeable to some advice that I should calm down as such a thing is normal when one embarks on discourses such as I have.

(I call my discourses 'the truth', but others may not agree.)

Anyway, I do not accept that just because something is the norm that it is necessarily right. So, I persist, only now, with some vengeance...

So on the topic above, the NST tried to spin Pak Lah's admin out of trouble again recently. This time it was on the Geneva-based World Economic Forum's "World Competitive Index" that showed Malaysia under Pak Lah has become less competitive in ranking against other nations, dropping 1 spot to 26th out of 125 nations from 25th last year.

The 'spin' was that we're one of the Top 10 most competitive in Asia and No 2 in ASEAN; we're 6th in Asia below Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the "Pretending Lion".

Funny that Pak Lah's media guardians bothered to spin this, Dr M would have just ignored such a thing, but I'm looking for the URL for your viewing pleasure.

In the meantime, my comments are:

What other country is there for us to be better than in Asia than the ones we're already above? Thailand was the biggest threat but is now in trouble. The problem is whether we can stay up and improve against others especially as we seem to be slipping against the rest of the world!

Let's put aside Dr M here and focus solely on Pak Lah's performance here. So, what has Pak Lah done to help us improve our competitiveness globally which has resulted in us dropping a spot from last year when I believe we already were supposed to be improving?

The report said Malaysia's competitiveness would be improved: "if the (Pak Lah) government was more successful in reducing the public sector deficit. Improving the health of the workforce and access to education would also do much to enhance the country's competitiveness"

Comment: Hold on, I thought Pak Lah was doing nothing but reducing public sector deficit, so much so that we are suffering record inflation. And after all the hype that Pak Lah's 'new' focus is education, what's up with this criticism?

The report also said:"The "notable competitive disadvantage" and the "most problematic factors for doing business" in Malaysia include inefficient government bureaucracy, corruption, crime and theft, restrictive labour requirements and inadequately educated workforce."

Comment: Hmmm... I thought these were also the focus areas of Pak lah's admin. So, despite all the hype of 'had work' in these areas, why is the criticism still strong against our bereaucracy, corruption and rising crime? Already commentted on the education focus hype.

So based on all the hard work and focus by Pak Lah's admin on the quoted problem areas, Malaysia has GONE DOWN in global competitiveness, specifically because we are WEAK in PAK LAH'S ADMIN'S supposed AREAS OF FOCUS!

So forget about Dr M. Why is Pak Lah's team not reaching his own established and much hyped targets for the nation? That's the real question Pak Lah's apologists should be answering from reading this report.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Analisa Politik Semasa Sekitar Pendukung Kepimpinan Pak Lah (atau Kenapa Sambutan Dingin Terhadap Cadangan Tun Salleh Abbas)

Agak terdesak sedikit masa dan tenaga saya untuk mengembangkan lagi penulisan dalam hal bahaya inflasi yang menghantui ekonomi negara serta perbezaan falsafah ekonomi Pak Lah dan Tun Dr M. Maka, saya memilih untuk rilek sejenak sambil meransangkan perbincangan tentang tunjang kepimpinan Pak Lah.

Pak Lah seorang ahli politik yang berpengalaman dan didukung oleh ramai pengikut yang setia. Walaupun kesetiaan oleh golongan pro-Pak Lah tradisional mungkin digugat tempohari akibat tuduhan 'pelelong negara' yang dilemparkan terhadapnya secara langsung dan tidak langsung oleh Tun Dr M, namun sokongan Pak Lah masih kental dikalangan penyokong profesional beliau.

Ini termasuk bukan sahaja golongan yang sudah dilabel 'Tingkat 4', iaitu golongan muda, kebanyakannya anak-anak kakitangan kerajaan yang baru menceburi bidang politik dan perasan mereka 'mewakili generasi profesional muda'; ia juga termasuk segolongan ahli politik yang sudah lama menjadikan alam politik alam kerjaya mereka sambil mengekalkan imej profesional mereka.

Golongan veteran politik profesional yang pro-Pak Lah ini amnya merupakan pengikut-pengikut Tun Musa Hitam, bersama-sama dengan Pak Lah dalam 'Team B', yang pernah menentang Tun Dr M pada pemilihan UMNO tahun 1987, dibawah kepimpinan Tunku Razaleigh Hamzah (KuLi).

Perlu dijelaskan di sini yang golongan penyokong Pak Lah ini bukanlah kumpulan Team B yang merupakan penyokong-penyokong KuLi yang, selain dari Dato' Ibrahim Ali, amnya mengambil kedudukan berkecuali dalam sengketa Pak Lah <-> Tun Dr M. Ia juga tidak termasuk pemimpin-pemimpin utama Team B atau kemudian Semangat 46 yang jelas bermaafan dengan Tun Dr M seperti Dato' Rais Yatim dan Dato' Kadir Sheikh Fadzir.

Golongan veteran ini termasuk Setiusaha Agung UMNO sekarang, Dato' Radzi Sheikh Ahmad dan bekas pemimpin BBC, Dato' Shahrir Samad.

Saya ingin memberi perhatian lebih kepada Dato' Radzi dalam penulisan saya pada hari ini, bukan sahaja kerana Dato' Shahrir amnya lebih dikenali, tetapi juga kerana sebagai Setiuasaha Agung UMNO pimpinan Pak Lah, Dato' Radzi merupakan general rasmi utama Pak Lah dalam pertempurannya dengan Tun Dr M.

Siapakah Dato' Radzi Sheikh Ahmad ini yang begitu tekun melawat itik dan dusunnya di Kubang Pasu dua kali dalam minggu sebelum pemilihan UMNO Bahagian tersebut yang beliau sendiri akui sudah lama tidak dijenguknya?

Penting bagi rakyat Malaysia mengetahui bahawa, Dato' Radzilah pemimpin UMNO yang secara tidak langsung mengakibatkan krisis kehakiman berlaku pada tahun 1988. Kerana itulah beliau kini disyaki berusaha mendalangi penutupan usaha meninjau kembali krisis tersebut secara mendalam yang diusulkan oleh Tun Salleh Abbas.

Tiadakah yang hairan bahawa pada masa segala jenis tohmahan dan tuduhan dilontarkan ke arah Tun Dr M dalam usaha pincang untuk menidakkan persoalan yang dibangkitkan beliau tentang kelemahan kepimpinan Pak Lah, kenapakah kerajaan tidak terus sahaja mengorek kudis sejarah krisis kehakiman pada zaman Tun Dr M. Kalau benar Tun Dr M bersalah dalam hal tersebut, kenapa tidak dedahkan sahaja segalanya.

Sebabnya jelas, walaupun Tun Dr M bertindak keras terhadap Hakim-Hakim utama negara pada masa itu, tetapi sebelah mata rakyat sering tertutup dari fakta sejarah di mana badan kehakimanlah yang sebenarnya mula bertindak keras dan menyerang kerajaan Tun Dr M dengan mengharamkan UMNO tanpa mendapatkan dahulu kata putus ketentuan dari Pendaftar Pertubuhan.

Kenapakah Allahyarham Tan Sri Harun Hashim, seorang hakim yang berwibawa, bertindak demikian? Kerana beliau termakan hasutan serta dusta beberapa ahli Team B yang diketuai olah Dato' Radzi Sheikh Ahmad.

Dato' Radzi seorang peguam yang pintar. Beliaulah yang mengusulkan dan mendorong usaha 11 orang ahli UMNO untuk mencabar kesahihan pemilihan UMNO 1987 yang berakhir dengan kemenangan Tun Dr M sebagai Presiden dengan majoriti yang tipis. Dato' Radzilah yang menggunakan hubungan guaman, politik dan peribadi untuk mengatur supaya Hakim-Hakim yang terlibat dalam kes tersebut ada hubungan keluarga atau peribadi dengan KuLi dan Tun Musa.

Para hakim mahkamah kita pada masa itu mungkin berwibawa, tetapi mereka juga manusia biasa. Dan apabila berdepan dengan tuduhan yang membuktikan saudara dan teman mereka mungkin berpeluang merampas kepimpinan negara menerusi keputusan kehakiman mereka, naluri setiakawan dan persaudaraan mendorong mereka kearah pengharaman UMNO.

Dato' Radzilah pencanang di sebalik pengharaman UMNO tersebut.

Tetapi Dato' Radzi dalam canangannya terlupa yang para kakitangan awam yang berwibawa juga wujud di pejabat Pendaftar Pertubuhan (ROS). Kerana mereka tidak setuju dengan keputusan berat sebelah Hakim-Hakim tersebut, mereka memberi keutamaan kepada Tun Dr M dan para pengikutnya untuk mewujudkan UMNO Baru.

Tersalah langkah Dato' Radzi, dan apabila ini berlaku, beliau mendapati dirinya bukan sahaja pada pihak yang kalah pemilihan, tetapi terkandas sebagai penderhaka di luar UMNO Baru. Pada masa inilah Dato' Radzi membuat kesilapan yang parah buat badan-badan kehakiman negara. Dato' Radzi terus mencanang dalam usaha melagakan lagi para Hakim dengan UMNO Baru dan kerajaan pimpinan Tun Dr M. Perlagaan inilah yang menyebablan krisis kehakiman 1988.

Semua ini angkara Dato' Radzi. Kini beliau tergesa-gesa berusaha menutup segala usaha mengkaji semula apa yang berlaku pada tahun-tahun gelap 1987-88, sewaktu beliau memporak-perandakan alam politik, kerajaan dan kehakiman negara Malaysia.

Dato' Radzi tahu yang kalau beliau benarkan kajian semula dilakukan, ada risiko tinggi yang para penyokong Tun Dr M, malah ahli Semangat 46 sendiri yang masih ingat dan tidak dapat memaafkan Dato' Radzi, akan mendedahkan segala pekung yang sekian lama tersembunyi mengenai jenayah penderhakaan terhadap bangsa dan negara yang dilakukannya.

Inilah juga sebab kenapa Dato' Radzi dengan begitu tekun cuba menjahit-tutup mulut lantang Tun Dr M tentang kelemahan Pak Lah. Beliau takut yang dalam kelantangan Tun Dr M, mungkin ada tersasul-sebut antara bukti kelemahan Pak Lah adalah yang Dato' Radzi, orang yang paling bertanggungjawab dalam pengharaman UMNO, telah dilantiknya sebagai Setiausaha Agung UMNO pimpinannya.

Dato' Radzi ada menyatakan dalam temuramah dengan akhbar Star awal tahun ini yang beliau tidak bercadang bertanding lagi dalam pilihanraya akan datang. Alhamdulillah. Tetapi mungkin ada baiknya Dato' Radzi pergi lebih dahulu dari itu. Ternyata UMNO sekarang dan UMNO yang diderhakainya dahulu tidak memerlukannya kasih sayang sama seperti itik dan dusunnya di Kubang Pasu.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Pantai "Political-Economic Bail-Out"

It would seem the Pak Lah administration is now responsible for a new political phenomena in Malaysia, the "Cross-Border Politico-Economic Bail-Out".

For the first time in history, a financial arm of the Malaysian Government (Khazanah) is BAILING-OUT a FOREIGN ENTITY (Parkway) for the sake of saving the POLITICAL Miss-Step of the Finance Ministry.

Khazanah has now come in to save Parkway's and Pak Lah's bacon by forming a 'JV' with Parkway, supposedly in the works for the 'past year':

Questions that remain include ...

1 - How much is this due to Pak Lah's admin suddenly realising the extent of betrayal to national interest his Finance Ministry has committed in allowing the Parkway deal to go through in the first place?

2 - Why has Parkway been allowed to profit from this deal after only 10 months when Parkway is in reality in a very difficult position with Malaysian regulations allowing Parkway to be forced to dispose of FOMEMA and Pantai Medivest, its two most profitable subsidiaries, at low prices to Malaysian/Bumiputra investors; 2 of whom were recently rejected!

Note that Pantai accounts for ~50% of Parkway's EBITDA growth over the past year, and the FOMEMA and Pantai Medivest portions of Pantai in turn accounts for ~50% of Pantai's profitability.

3 - Why is Pak Lah allowing Khazanah to bail-out Parkway, a foreign entitiy owned and controlled by Singaporean and US interests, when he has the day before refused to assist Petronas in sorting out Petronas' problems in Chad? Are Singaporean and US companies now a bigger priority to Pak Lah's admin than Malaysian companies?

4 - With Khazanah in a position of such strength, why is Dato' Azman Mokhtar's Khazanah so generous towards Parkway, 'buying' Pantai shares at a 5% PREMIUM to Market Value (Khazanah's JV is 'buying' the Pantai shares from Parkmay @ RM2.65/share whilst 26 August 06 Market Closing Price is @ RM2.51/share)!

5 - Khazanah is also being doubly generous, by endorsing and facilitating Parkway's INCREASE in ownership and allowing Parkway to continue to CONTROL Pantai whilst it is now a clear Minority Shareholder. Why not commit to Pantai being Malaysian run, as it had been for many years of growth prior to Parkway's acquisition of it?

It is unbelievable Dato' Azman has not gone for Parkway's jugular in this - or has he been stopped from doing so by the "4th Floor"?

Some open discourse also on the web:


It would appear questions remain of the legality of the original purchase of the controlling share of Pantai in the first place by Parkway. With the Proton-MV Agusta and ECM Libra-Avenue scandals, are we seeing yet another symptom of an Enron-like desease spreading across the Economic Management of our country? See details here...

It would seem that the government continues to guide Malaysia down a meandering course towards political and economic oblivion...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Pertempuran Mahathir <-> Pak Lah Juga Merupakan Pertempuran Ideologi Ekonomi Dan Pembangunan (Bahagian 1)

Tun Dr Mahathir pada zaman pentadbirannya telah menggerak pembangunan negara bedasarkan prinsip "Economic Nationalism" atau Ekonomi Nasionalis. Prinsip Ekonomi Nasionalis bukanlah prinsip baru yang dibawa oleh Mahathir, malah ia juga didukung oleh Perdana-Perdana Menteri sebelumnya. Tetapi yang berbeza adalah pendekatan lebih aktif dan mendorong yang diambil oleh Mahathir.

Prinsip Ekonomi Nasionalis merupakan prinsip yang mementingkan kepentingan dan hala-tuju negara secara menyeluruh, termasuk dari segi politik, keadilan sosial, kebudayaan, keselamatan dan lain-lain dalam menggubal rancangan dan menggerakkan pembangunan ekonomi negara. Antara ciri-cirinya prinsip Ekonomi Nasionalis Mahathir ini termasuk:
  1. Aktiviti-aktiviti ekonomi utama atau strategik di Malaysia haruslah dimiliki, dikuasai atau sekurang-kurangnya melibatkan syarikat atau rakyat Malaysia sebagai penggerak utama.
  2. Pembangunan negara tidak boleh mengancam, malah harus terus menjamin kemerdekaan Malaysia dari segi fizikal, mahupun ekonomi, kebudayaan, pemikiran dan sebagainya
  3. Pembangunan haruslah seiring dengan pengagihkan kekayaan ke segenap masyarakat secara aktif untuk memperbesarkan kelas pertengahan ("middle-class") supaya ini semakin menjadi kelas majoriti rakyat Malaysia. Pengembangan kelas pertengahan ini juga mengutuhkan lagi ekonomi dalaman negara dengan membangunkan aktiviti ekonomi dalam negara.
  4. Pembangunan haruslah meningkatkan daya-saing dan kedudukan Malaysia di mata dunia.
  5. Dengan adanya 4 ciri-ciri yang awal, kerajaan Malaysia juga harus melibatkan diri dalam projek-projek penjanaan ekonomi tersebut secara langsung.

Pendek kata, Ekonomi Nasionalis mementingkan rakyat, badan atau syarikat Malaysia sebelum yang asing. Ekonomi Nasionalis mementingkan rakyat yang ramai sebelum yang sedikit dan mementingkan manfaat untuk semua sebelum manfaat untuk individu. Ekonomi Nasionalis juga pada lahirnya agak "populist"; contohnya ia mementingkan pengurangan pengangguran sebelum pembangunan ekonomi yang menyebabkan penganguran.

Kerana itu, kerajaan Malaysia di zaman Tun Dr Mahathir terlihat jelas dengan aktif menjanakan ekonomi negara dengan projek-projek Mega seperti jambatan Pulau Pinang, Lebuhraya Utara Selatan (PLUS atau nama tidak rasminya, Lebuhraya Mahathir Mohamad), Koridor Raya Multimedia, KLCC, Proton, dsb. Namun, hasil lebih penting dari projek-projek ini bukanlah bangunan, jambatan, kereta, kilang atau lebuhraya yang dibina sahaja.

Ekonomi Nasionalis memberi kepentingan kepada projek yang memberi lebih manfaat kepada kumpulan rakyat yang terbesar. Inilah sebab kenapa PLUS diutamakan dahulu dari projek-projek Mega yang lain. PLUS dibina sebagai projek yang boleh memanfaatkan rakyat di sepanjang pantai barat Semenanjung Malaysia, jalinan kawasan kepadatan penduduk paling tinggi dan perkumpulan penduduk paling ramai di Malaysia.

Falsafah ini juga terlihat dalam perjalanan sesuatu projek Mega. Contohnya, dalam pembinaan LRT di Kuala Lumpur, penempatan stesen dan landasan adalah berdasarkan kepadatan penduduk yang terbesar dan penduduk yang paling mundur ekonominya. Makanya, kawasan kepadatan tinggi berpendapatan rendah seperti Gombak diberi keutamaan berbanding kawasan kepadatan rendah berpendapatan tinggi seperti Bukit Damansara.

Dari segi ekonomi, pra-syarat kerajaan Mahathir yang pembangunan projek-projek Mega wajib melibatkan syarikat Malaysia, juga telah membangunkan pelbagai syarikat tempatan yang kini berupaya merentap dengan syarikat-syarikat dari negara yang lebih maju untuk p elbagai projek di seluruh dunia. Syarikat-syarikat seperti UEM, MMC-Gamuda dan YTL inilah yang bakal terus menjana pembangunan Malaysia di masa hadapan.

Dari segi sosio-budaya pula, laungan "Malaysia Boleh" tidak mungkin sebati dalam pemikiran masyarakat Malaysia di penghujung era Mahathir sekiranya kejayaan pelbagai projek dan inisiatif ekonomi yang lepas tidak terlihat keberkesanannya. Rakyat Malaysia melihat jelas yang kita sendiri berupaya membangunkan negara sendiri tanpa perlu berpaut kepada mana-mana pihak atau negara luar.

Dalam politik antarabangsa, pembangunan ekonomi Malaysia pada era Tun Dr Mahathir membolehkan Malaysia bertegas dalam pelbagai isu namun kekal pada kedudukan berkecualinya. Ketegasan kerajaan Mahathir dalam mendukung kebenaran yang membayangi kehendak rakyat Malaysia, seperti dalam isu Palestin, mendorong negara-negara lain untuk mengagap Malaysia pimpinan Mahathir sebagai pemimpin negara-negara seumpamanya.

Ekonomi Nasionalis juga memberi rakyat banyak kelebihan secara tidak langsung. Contohnya, prinsip Ekonomi Nasionalislah yang mendorong kerajaan Mahathir mengekalkan subsidi petrol dan diesel serta harga elektrik yang lebih murah di Malaysia selama yang boleh dan hanya merubah atau menaikkan harga sekiranya terdesak dan juga secara beransur.

Walaupun tindakan ini berhasrat meningkatkan daya saing industri kecil dan berat negara dengan mengurangkan bebanan kos, ia juga membolehkan rakyat menikmati harga keperluan tenaga yang murah. Mahathir dengan prinsip Ekonomi Nasionalis sedia melihat kerugian ditampung oleh TNB dan pemegang-pemegang sahamnya yang lebih mampu asalkan tindakan dalam mengekalkan harga rendah memanfaatkan negara secara keseluruhan.

Dasar-dasar Ekonomi Nasionalis Mahathir juga jauh pandangannya. Selain dari Wawasan 2020 yang hingga kini kerap diwar-warkan, dasar-dasar khusus kerajaan Mahathir dari awal pentadbirannya juga bersifat begini. Contohnya Dasar Kependudukan Negara untuk mencapai 70 Juta penduduk menjelang 2100 berhasrat memantapkan kemerdekaan ekonomi negara dengan meramaikan rakyat yang bakal menjana ekonomi tempatan.

Kita akui bahawa walaupun banyak usaha yang berjaya membangunkan ekonomi pada era Mahathir, tidak kurang juga kegagalan yang menimpa usaha kerajaannya. Contohnya, isu Perwaja, isu kronisma dan kelumpuhan ekonomi negara setelah diserang spekulator asing pada tahun 1997-98 terus menghantui beliau. Namun, secara keseluruhan, Tun Dr Mahathir telah membuktikan model Ekonomi Nasionalis Malaysia boleh membawa jaya.

Namun prinsip Ekonomi Nasionalis tidaklah begitu popular di alam kapitalisma Barat yang mementingkan kepada pembangunan yang dijana oleh sektor koprat atau individu hampir secara eksklusif. Lazimnya, di Barat, kedudukan kerajaan dalam ekonomi hanyalah dalam hal pembentukan dasar fiskal atau pencukaian untuk menggalakkan pembangunan ekonomi dan menarik pelabur mahupun usahawan.

Dikalangan negara Barat, hanya negara Perancis yang jelas mengamalkan prinsip Ekonomi Nasionalis.

Sejak tampuk kepimpinan negara beralih kepada Pak Lah, ternyata prinsip Ekonomi Nasionalis semakin terkubur. Pak Lah bukanlah seorang ahli ekonomi dan beliau sendiri mengakuinya dengan penubuhan pelbagai badan tambahan untuk menasihati beliau dan kerajaan di dalam bidang ekonomi. Malangnya, hampir kesemua badan penasihat yang menasihati Pak Lah sekarang dipelopori oleh ahli ekonomi berpendidikan atau berideologi Barat yang anti-Ekonomi Nasionalis.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

If Malaysia's Economy Is In Great Shape, Why Are The People Complaining... Suffering?

I propose we take a second look at claims that our economy is doing well.

One assumes that the government is sincere in reassuring us that the country's economy is doing fine, what with the GDP being quoted at potentially achieving anywhere between 5.3% and 5.6%. This was even made subject of editorials by Wong Chun Wai and other stalwarts of the Pak Lah governments' handling of the economy. However, some observations can be made:

1 - People are grousing about an increase in the cost of goods. Some pooh-pooh this as being due to abuse by traders taking advantage of the increase in the retail price of fuel due to the government's 30 sen subsidy cut earlier this year - hard to believe that ALL Malaysian traders are like this, so an unlikely complete reason.

Nevertheless, whatever the underlying reason, the inflation is real, quoted as anywhere between 3.9% to 4.5% over the course of the year.

So, even if the GDP growth is sustained at the level quoted, with inflation included, our real growth appears to be more ~ 0.8-1.7% this year, far worse than at any time since the late 90's Asia crisis.

Maybe my stats are wrong here coming from a humble non-Oxbridge Engineering degree holder, but the above scares me as as 0.5% is usually seen as statistical noise, we appear to be on the brink of...

2 - Unemployment, including graduate unemployment, is at a scale unseen of in the country since I ever bothered about these things (I graduated in 1997). Again, some are pooh-poohing our graduates as being ill-prepared and ill-educated, but in the past, there were always outlets for these individuals through general trading, tradesmanship and skilled profession entry points via public and private sector projects, both mini and mega.

And the above doesn't explain high unemployment in general; i.e. including non-grads. It also did not explain and continues to struggle to explain how our foreign worker shortage ended up being a foreign worker glut in such a short space of time, leading to crime, etc. How did the foreign labour employment market contract so drastically in our 'growing economy'?

3 - 1-2% growth is still growth. However, why are there grouses from the people that they are not feeling growth but feeling a need to tighten their belts or contract their individual or family 'economies'? Is it to do with the distribution of this growth in wealth? Is it possible that only some are experiencing a growing economy when a vast majority of the people aren't?

If the observation of some foreign analysts is true, that Malaysia's growth now is too export driven and has no strong domestic element, maybe then this is why the people are not gaining, only the exporters are and are unwilling or unable to channel it back to domestic growth?

Or could it be more insidious, that a select few are getting richer at the expense of the many in the domestic economy, taking away the strength of turn-over in the domestic economy that only the many can generate? Any rich guys getting richer seen about town lately?

Just some observations... comments?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Let's be Clear of some Real Grouses WE THE PEOPLE understand PROTON's CURRENT CHAIRMAN has to answer for (outside of the still continuing stuck-window saga)

  • The sale of MV Agusta seemed to conclude in a matter of days, or at most weeks, and without extensive stakeholder engagement, where even the Italian partners and management of MV Agusta expressed surprise at the conclusion of the sale! Strange when the purchase process took months of very public deliberation and stakeholder engagement.

    Sure, the propaganda around the sale of MV Agusta hints at the purchase being an isolated Dr M - Tunku M decision. However, the truth is that international newswires, including the BBC, reported an engagement and due dilligance process ~1 year prior to the finalisation of the purchase of MV Agusta. With the 3-month initial due-diligence stretching to months longer, all publicly reported, the purchase deal was done with the agreement of the Proton board and Khazanah, backed by a lengthy due diligence, audits from Big 4 firms as well as support from MV Agusta's creditors such as Citibank.

    In contrast, where was the due-diligence around the sale of MV Agusta? Hence, the manner of the sale, to an unknown entity and for a measly fraction of the purchase price (even with the debt transfer) with no discernable due diligance, is a major source of angst!

  • Many who study Proton's quarterly performace figures expressed suspicions that despite the sale of the debt of MV Agusta, Proton still chose to perform a debt provision at the quarter of the MV Agusta sale, attributing this to losses due to the MV Agusta sale. The debt provision seemed exhorbitant, making people wonder whether Proton was actually trying to hide real operational losses it had incurred following dismissal of Tunku Mahaleel and the departure of a core of his team, including the highly reputable CFO.

  • When a CEO is dismissed / allowed to lapse in his contract / encouraged to leave, one expects the replacement to do better. Else, why dismiss the earlier CEO?

    However, Proton's performance has not improved since the departure of Tunku Mahaleel, but has taken a turn for the worse, with the biggest low when Azlan unveiled the "luxury" Waja.... ??!!!??!?!!!.

    Some of the decline has been arrested since the arrival of Syed Zainal, but ironically, all the successes of Syed Zainal can also be attributed to the plans laid out during Tunku Mahaleel's time.

    E.g. the Campro Engine replacement for the Waja, the SRM or Satria Neo's (late) delivery, even the vendor quality assurance program were all plans Tunku Mahaleel laid out. In fact, resistance to the vendor quality assurance program by 'influential' vendors is supposed to have been one reason for Tunku Mahaleel being ousted from the CEO position.

    So, why did the Proton board need to remove Tunku Mahaleel, if Chairman Azlan's more direct leadership since could do no better, and in some ways, have done far worse!

  • Finally, Proton's current problems are symptomatic of a directionless leadership. There is much given to slogans and press releases of success, but if one takes away the plans of Tunku Mahaleel that they have implemented, they are struggling for direction. Otherwise, why would Proton be regressing by negotiating with Mitsubishi on building cars together (probably a Mitsubishi knock-off), when Proton has already demonstrated the capacity to build from scratch?

    The current Proton leadership has a penchant for proclaiming the NAP defines the strategy they are following, but as the NAP is non-specific, non-detailed and bereft of real-life big rules and big picture ideals of where Malaysia wants to position its automotive industry in the regional, let alone global market, Proton is basically directionless. The NAP is so poor as a guide to Proton that if anyone is willing to pay me for a few weekends, I, a non-expert, could probably come up with something better!

Maybe I'll do it anyway.... but for now, can someone convey the above to Azlan Hashim so he (and others) will at least just stop yammering on about how they have 'answered' Dr M's questions on Proton? Some real answers would be nice too...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Should Malaysians Lose Sleep Over Dr M's Recent Laments?

Assalamualaikum and Good Morning!

Thought I'd begin my blogging life by posting what I had already shared in other forums. Our ever vocal 'returning' Prime Minister, "Dr M", has been causing ripples of late. I cannot help but note the ever evolving strategem of the mainstream Malaysian media attempting to distract Malaysians from real problems (such as raised by said) facing us today. I suspect Dr M is keeping a veritable howitzer of other issues affecting us the people directly in reserve should Pak Lah's admin fail to intelligently respond to the bazooka of issues he's already shooting at them.

Interesting also that the diversion strategy of blaming Dr M for past wrongs, real or imagined, is not working!

It may be nice to have Dr M answer for them, but almost all can be put to the current PM and cabinet to answer, with many of them being party to most of the decisions! Note that many of the policy 'wrongs' being slung at Dr M have not been changed, hence, the more practical question one asks is why the government of the day has not reversed or mitigated some of the decisions that they appear to be confessing to the people they believe to be wrong?!

Even when Pak Lah's admin tries to address the problems of old, they seem to have their priorities wrong!

E.g., why did the Gov. allow TNB to raise electricity prices first before getting the IPPs to change their supply contracts to TNB? Are the IPPs and their tycoon owners more important than the Malaysian people in Pak Lah's advisors' view, such that they are happy for common Malaysian folk to be burdened first before the multi-million-billionaires among us are?

Let me share a tangent (in Malay here, our National Language):

"Saudara-saudari sekelian. Soalan yang sepatutnya lebih meresahkan semua rakyat Malaysia adalah, apakah sebab Dr M berasa beliau perlu bersuara sedemikian adalah kerana beliau sudah tiada jalan-cara lain untuk berhubung dengan Pak Lah?

Mungkinkah ia bukan sebab beliau sendiri tidak pernah berusaha terlebih dahulu untuk memberi nasihat disebalik tabir, tetapi sebenarnya kerana beliau telah berulang kali dihalang atau tidak diendahkan suaranya apabila cuba memberi nasihat, bimbingan atau pendapat secara sulit.

Malah, saya percaya timbulnya krisis ini bukannya kerana Pak Lah sendiri yang enggan mendengar nasihat Dr M. Pada hemah saya, ada segolongan yang berkepentingan yang senentiasa menghalang bukan sahaja Dr M, malah penyokong-penyokongnya, dari menyampaikan nasihat, teguran serta pendapat secara langsung mahupun tidak langsung kepada Pak Lah...

Buktinya jelas - Dr M tidak melenting kerana ada sebab yang sudah diberikan kepada beliau secara sulit tentang pembatalan projek-projek yang beliau rasakan tidak munasabah - kalau ada, tentu ia sudah didedahkan dalam kemarahannya. Beliau sendiri menyatakan yang beliau tidak senang kerana TIADA JAWAPAN yang diberikan kepada soalan susulan beliau tentang tindakan kerajaan.

Contohnya, beliau telah mengetengahkan fakta yang kerajaan Singapura sudahpun bersetuju pada zaman beliau yang pembinaan jambatan 'scenic' tidak bersyarat dan bertanya kenapakah timbul isu bekalan pasir dan izin ruang udara Malaysia sebagai sebab pembatalan sekarang. Soalan ini adalah antara soalan-soalan yang belum dijawab.

Rakan-rakan sekelian. Orang Melayu hormat kepada orang tua. Dr M seakan-akan bapa kepada generasi pemimpin sekarang, apatah lagi hubung-kaitnya dengan kita masyarakat muda yang membesar dibawah penjagaan kerajaan pimpinan beliau.Oleh itu, tindakan pemimpin-pemimpin dan mereka-mereka yang menggesa Dr M untuk diam adalah satu tindakan yang kurang sopan.

Mungkin kerana itulah Pak Lah kelihatan masih agak kelu, kerana dalam kesopanan beliau, Pak Lah sedar yang untuk mendiamkan Dr M adalah tindakan yang luar-biasa kasar bahasanya.

Harapan saya adalah Pak Lah sendiri mula bersuara dan mungkin memulakan usaha mengesan dan mengenepikan anasir-anasir yang terlibat dalam pemutusan hubungan erat antara Dr M dan Pak Lah sebelum ini. Mungkin itulah langkah pertama yang wajar diambil olah Pak Lah dalam menangani cabaran ini."

Concerns on the above barriers of communication between Dr M and Pak Lah was validated by someone in Pak Lah's cabinet in the following Berita Harian report that was tapped into by Jeff Ooi among others:

Interesting also to note that Pak Lah's administration may well have more to be worried about than Dr M in the coming months. With Aziz Samsuddin, Ishak Ismail and previously Ali Al-Habshee, all UMNO Ketua Bahagians, voicing support for Dr M, the real powers to unseat the PM, the leadership of the UMNO delegates to the general assembly, have indicated that the ground, the grass-roots, are restless. The risk for the Pak Lah administration is that this may be an indication of a snowballing of dissent within the rank and file in UMNO.

Pak Lah's administration has to address the real problems and not put much hope in the spin-doctors, mainstream media yes-men and the like distracting the Malaysian people away from them. May the answers Pak Lah has promised to be forthcoming be the truth, unhindered, unfettered, unspun and convincing, even if it means his government admitting that some of their actions have been wrong...

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