Monday, September 19, 2005

"Cost of outgoing customs and excise chief party was "over the top".

Last Updated: Monday, 19 September 2005, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK

Kuala Lumpur skyline
Malaysia has been rocked by the alleged extravagance
Malaysia's outgoing customs and excise chief is at the centre of controversy over plans to spend a reported $1.3m (£721,000) on his farewell party.

The send-off for Abdul Halil Abdul Mutalib, who retires next month, is now the subject of an official inquiry.

But Mr Abdul Halil said he had no idea how much was being spent and accused his staff of trying to smear his name.

He said they were an "ungrateful lot" and threatened to lodge a police complaint against them.

The controversy began when the New Straits Times newspaper ran a front-page article alleging that the customs and excise department had asked officials to donate 1,000 ringgit ($265; £147) each for Mr Abdul Halil's party on 3 October.

'Over the top'

Most of the 5 million ringgit for the event was to come from department funds, the paper said.

The Malaysian finance ministry said an inquiry into the affair would be completed within a week.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the reported cost of the party was "over the top".

Not even former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had had such an extravagant send-off when he left office last year after 22 years, he said.

Mr Abdul Halil proclaimed his innocence, saying: "I don't know how much they collected. I don't know what they did."

He added: "You are not supposed to investigate me. You should investigate those organising the event."

Thursday, September 15, 2005

"Graft crackdown on track"

Malaysian leader says graft crackdown on track, but businesses call for more

AP Worldstream
Dateline: KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia
Malaysia's prime minister says his crackdown on corruption is beginning to yield results, but prominent contractors say they still have to pay lots of bribes to do business with the government, news reports said Thursday.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told U.S. fund managers during a trip to New York that he remains committed to his campaign to fight corruption. "People believe that I have begun to lose momentum," Abdullah was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times newspaper. "I assure you I have not."

Abdullah told Malaysian reporters accompanying him on the trip that his government's move to introduce several punitive and ...

Thursday, September 8, 2005

"Stemming The Price Rise"

Inflationary Pressures Building Up Fast

The government has announced four steps to ease the public's burden brought on by escalating prices of consumer goods. the steps are:

  1. Not to increase the price of fuel until the end of this year;
  2. Defering any toll increase for this year and next year;
  3. Reduce road tax by 25% (commercial vehicles) to 80% (school buses); &
  4. Increasing aids to senior citizen, disadvantaged children and the poor.

Why did the offer of such niceties? Because:

  1. The Consumer Price Index for the first 6 months of 2005 increased by 2.8%.
  2. In July the CPI increased by 3%.
This had reduced the people’s purchasing power. The government measures are to contain inflation and counter the effects of rising global oil prices.

The move is laudable as it may help in easing inflationary pressures that had beeen building up over the last two year. This quick action is seen necessary to mitigate against the increasing frustrations and disappointments of the communities over the lack of economic priming activities and development projects to sustain the nation's industrial growth which over the past two years had slowed down effectively and in some areas, particularly the construction industry, which has contracted. The reality can be seen in that many Bumiputra contractors are starving for jobs, and many more contractors have projects that are in their tail-end and would be jobless soon unless the government does some pump priming actions to overcome the poignant situation.

However, a closer look at the sweeteners offered, it isn't that sweetening.

Firstly, the promise is that there will be no fuel-price increase until end of the year. We are now in September, which means that the government is giving a three months grace period of sustain current fuel-price and the promise ends thereafter. At such we can expect fuel price increase by January 2006.

Secondly, the promise of no toll increase this year and next year do not affect all the concessionaires except the Penang Bridge operator (UEM). All the road operators were not expected to increase their tolls until 2007. At such, there is in reality, a promise which is not expected to take place at all. The only beneficiary is those who use the Penang bridge.

The third initiative of lowering the road tax is seen as the only realistic benefits the public had benefitted.

The fourth initiative of increase aids to old people and under-privilege children and poor cannot be construed as an new initiative to ease the public's burden. This initiative is suppose to be built into the system of government, irrespective. It is paramount duty of the government to provide aids to senior citizens and the under-privileges and should not be publicise as if it was some new goodies. It bemocks the system administration.

In essence this quick action is seen to alleviate any possible form of revolution or uprising and tensions within the bumiputra communities out of frustrations over the new regime’s inability to generate economic activities, particularly the lack of projects coupled with rising cost of living without the parallel rise of income. The current economic outlook seem to be treading towards deflation.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Monsoon Cup in Terengganu

Monsoon Cup in Terengganu

Arnaz M. Khairul
New Straits Times
Monsoon Cup in Terengganu
Byline: Arnaz M. Khairul
Edition: Main/Lifestyle

HATCHED from an idea on an empty day out fishing by none other than Prime

Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Monsoon Cup, the fourth
leg of the Swedish Match Tour, will take to the seas on Nov 29- Dec 3 at

the Terengganu Heritage Bay in Pulau Duyong.

The most prestigious match race series, seen as a preparatory series

for the Americas Cup, the Swedish Match Tour is aimed at livening up

activity, both sporting and economic, in Terengganu during the monsoon

season between October and March.

And the idea for Terengganu to host a leg of the Tour was the

"Abdullah To Woo Top Fund Managers With Story of Malaysia's Resilient Economy"

Innovation, Branding & Leadership Woes

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will next week embark on an aggressive plan to sell Malaysia to some of the world’s most powerful fund managers. He will bring to them a story that is not well known outside Malaysia: the story of a country with built-in defences against any economic downturn. The story of a country that can depend on oil and gas and palm oil when the manufacturing and services sectors slow down. His target audience will be 40 fund managers in London and New York, representing some of the world’s top investment companies. This is the first time that he is leading a roadshow with the sole goal of selling Malaysia as a safe and productive place for investments. Accompanying him on the Malaysian Global Roadshow, to the two cities, will be corporate captains of some of the brand name Malaysian companies. They are Datuk Azman Mokhtar of Khazanah Nasional, Tan Sri Francis Yeoh of YTL Corp, Ananda Krishnan of Usaha Tegas, Tan Sri K.T. Lim of Genting Bhd, Datuk Nazir Razak of CIMB, Datuk Ahmad Zubir of Sime Darby, Datuk Tony Fernandes of AirAsia and George Ratilal of Petronas. The roadshow is initiated by Merrill Lynch and ECM Libra, an investment bank.

Pak Lah believes that he has a track record of public sector reforms, including the revamp of government-linked companies (GLCs), to support his message to fund managers. Also, with the ringgit peg removed, there is likely to be less resistance by fund managers to investing in companies here.

The roadshow is also to tell fund managers that there is much more to this country than political stability and its natural resources, two of its main selling points in the past. "Malaysia is built like a Boeing 747. If one engine shuts down, it can still carry on smoothly," Abdullah’s sales pitch.

Great mission Pak Lah and we wish you every success. I am sure you have brought along with you great entreprenuers as a back up.

But, sir, have you considered certain possible questions from your audiences? Would you consider the likely questions that may pop-up in your missions as stated below:

If the foreign investors asked you about the Malay Agenda and your son-in-law's recent statement of which he loudly proclaimed: “No need to hide. This is the Malay agenda. We want 30% equity for the bumiputras so that they will be on par with the other races.” Other races also include Mat Sallehs and all other foreign investors of which many of them are also Chinese and Indians. How would these investors who are Chinese and Indians, Punjabis, Mat Sallehs and Mamaks invest in our country if they pump in their monies and your son-in-law says he wants and is determine to get 30% from them?

Another problem that can surface is: when these investors wants to buy shares in our public listed companies, such as MAS, Telekom, Proton, Tenaga Nasional, etc, and when these companies are suffering losses and mismanagement largely due to the built-in and inherent dysfunctions system, the Malaysian government and UMNO in particular would not allow foreigners and other races who are experts and specialist in turnaround management to be appointed to helm these institutions. UMNO Youth Leader and Education Minister Datuk Hishamuddin said the proposed appointment of a foreigner to lead the nationally-owned carrier by Khazanah could be likened to allowing the country to be recolonised, albeit in a new manner. “Don’t look at it from the commercial aspect but (we) should look at the bigger agenda, that is the Malay Agenda,” Hishamuddin said. Sir, how are you going to respond?

Thirdly, Johor's Chief Minister Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman had criticised the current semi-meritocracy system and called it discriminatory and oppressive and the sole cause of an uneven playing field. If our universities and corporations are to be run by the people who are graduates from our public universities who were admitted without meritocracy and ultimately graduated without the necessary competencies and of which the system administrators manhandled by UMNO Youth would elect or direct all the appointments of executives and senior management based on race and skin colors, would you think the foreign investors are altruist who will be coming here to pour in their billion dollar investments just to help provide employments to UMNO and to give hand-outs to your son-in-laws and his acolytes?

Fourthly, do you believe that these foreign investors are morons and didn't understand our system of renting-seeking and Kautim management? Even Mat Sallehs told me that in Malaysia, everything must Kautim. Didn't you know about it? Just ask your son and son-in-law.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

"New Bridge Go Ahead"

Partly Crooked & Partially Straight Bridge

NST today reported that Malaysia will build the bridge to replace its portion of the causeway under a plan that will allow Singapore to do likewise later.

Malaysia has decided not to wait for Singapore's decision, of which Johor is claiming that this delay is retarding their potential economic growth.

Is this a good idea? Or is this idea bull-dozed by some of Johor political masters to achieve an unfulfilled objective of yesteryear in the name of economic disaster potential? The decision seemed to suggest so.

Did Johor really need the half-bridge bow? If Singapore's side will not be expanding the bridge lanes over their portion, then, on completion, we would be having a large bottleneck situation which creates more traffic control problems and nuisances. Ultimately, we would have made a dragon with a snake body. Is that what we want? In the words of Murphy, would it be that "the solution to a problem will ultimately breed new and far potent problems?

It seemed that whenever a decision is made, our political masters do not seemed to possess rational thinking. They ignore the process of critical analysis and strategic analysis such as PESTE Analysis and SWOT. It is like thumping the chest and signing checks that the body may not be able to pay. This decision is definitely made to satisfy a coterie, of which some form of reward is flowing and passing below the surface of water. It seemed the oligarch is hard at work again.

Best of luck to asses!

"Malaysia has waited too long for Singapore to respond. We have no choice but go it alone"

Malaysia to build half a bridge over troubled waters: report

Last Update: Sunday, September 4, 2005. 7:18pm (AEST)

It is reported that Malaysia will start work on a controversial new bridge halfway to Singapore, even though its neighbour has yet to announce plans to build the other half over the waterway which separates them.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has given the "thumbs up" to the new bridge and Singapore would be told Tuesday of the decision in bilateral meetings, the New Straits Times reported, citing unnamed sources.

The newspaper said the new bridge on the Malaysian side had been designed to allow Singapore to link up to it later - a move that would apparently leave the bridge half-built across the Johor Strait.

"Malaysia has waited too long for Singapore to respond. We have no choice but go it alone," said a source.

While other bilateral feuds have been settled amidst thawing relations in the past year, the construction of a bridge across the narrow strait remains a thorny issue.

Malaysia's decision was prompted by the near-completion of a new 1.1 billion ringgit ($346 million) customs, immigration and quarantine complex in the southern state of Johor which faces Singapore, said the newspaper.

Malaysia wants traffic to flow to the new complex.

"We have no choice but go it alone because work on the new CIQ complex in Johor Baru is reaching an advanced state of completion," said the source.

Technical details of the bridge will be shown to Singapore on Tuesday at the bilateral meetings in Putrajaya, Malaysia's administrative capital, said the newspaper.

In 2000, when Singapore rejected Malaysia's proposal for a bridge to replace the 80-year-old causeway now linking the two, then-premier Mahathir Mohamad came up with the idea of what became known as "the crooked half-bridge".

The 1.45 kilometre half-bridge would have carried an eight-lane highway some 25 metres above the strait before curving and descending gently to link up with the causeway from Singapore at the border between the two countries.

But Mr Abdullah last December presented a new design for a conventional straight bridge linking the two sides.

Singapore said it would review the project to ensure "balanced benefits".