Friday, February 16, 2007

Lmabyrinth of Corridors

labyrinth of Corridors

Another Corridor in the pipeline and this time, it's for Sabah.

Since the first corridor of development was conceptualized in 1996 by Mahathir with little success, his successor, Pak Lah had mooted many more corridors.

Since the day when he came into power (1st November 2003), Pak Lah had began his premiership by restructuring the development plan for the nation and to re-aligned the economic development activities.

The newly appointed Prime Minister began his first mission by scrapping the RM14bil Double-track Railway project awarded by Dr Mahathir to MMC- Gamuda on the second-last day of his tenure (30th October 2003).

Many more projects were scrapped or postponed such as Putrajaya Monorail, Dedicated Highway from KL-Putrajaya (which was later resumed), Bakun dam, Crooked-Bridge, etc.

Pak Lah defended his actions by stating that he wanted to reduce foreign borrowings and free-up the tight cashflow the government was facing.

He was accused for being tight with money of which he denied vehemently. In an interview with CNN Lorraine Hann, He said he was only being frugal, that is, careful with money that belongs to the government of the people.

Ever since Mahathir launch his tirade on his successor, Pak Lah had been a changed person, in particular, with the economic management.

The acting prime minister had since then launched many super-corridors; only the Multi-Media Super Corridor is associated with Mahathir.

We now have, the Southern Corridor, which was initially named South-Johore Economic Region and have now been renamed as Iskandar Development Region of Johor which the government paraded would involved RM382bil development expenditure.

The Mentri Besar of Johor said that an initial RM60bil projects would be launched within the next few years.

Pak Lah had also launched the Northern Region Corridor encompassing Penang and Kedah.

The 2nd Penang Bridge which was initially scrapped (not approved) was launched under the 9th Malaysia Plan. The bridge project would cost about RM3bil to complete.

Apart from the bridge project, a monorail project worth about RM2bil was also on the pipeline and expected to be awarded soon.

There is also the Eastern Corridor that encompasses Pahang and Trengganu.

Pahang had slated a Multi-media Super Corridor that is analogous with the one in Cyberjaya. It was a great ambition but nobody dare to bet the timing of the initialization of the project as it would require multi-national corporations to invests multi-billions to ensure its success. Observing the progress of Cyberjaya, many investors are suffering from paranoia.

If that was enormous enough, the government continue to parade avalanche more of projects to motivate the people, in particular, UMNO leaders and detractors who were either siding with Mahathir or sitting on the fence.

The Nilai Vaccine facilities costing RM350mil was launched.

So far, nothing had happen on the ground, and we could only presumed that the investors may still be sourcing for funds or that the bureaucracy is holding them up.

Not enough? Many more mega news to roll.

The World Biggest Court Complex was paraded. It was situated in Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur. It cost the government RM300 million.

Work on the project started in March 2004 and was scheduled to be completed in February 2006.

There is also a plan to set up a police station in the complex.

On 3rd Nov 2006, the government announced that RM100bil worth of projects would be rolled out soon.

10-high impact projects worth at least RM100bil are expected to be rolled out to boost the economy. These projects would involve fundings by private financing initiatives (PFIs). Minister in the PM’s department Effendi Norwawi said the government will seek the best source of fundings and the government would also consider foreign-currency dominated bonds as a source of financing.

So far, nobody heard about the funders and none of the projects had taken off. It probably was a premature announcement or it could be projects that were proposed by the private sectors, particularly from some multi-nationals corporation. I think the government should not try to include private companies' investment in their announcements as if it was an initiatives from the government. This had caused much confusions to the public and tend to feed us with illusionary hope and expectations that had so far being conjectural and illusory.

On 28th November 2006, there were far greater announcements.

The newspaper spinned: The Worlds Biggest Palm Oil Company merger was formulated.

Three of the country’s largest plantation companies are to merge to create the world’s largest plantation company. The three – Sime Darby Bhd, Golden Hope Plantations Bhd and Kumpulan Guthrie Bhd – along with six other public listed companies, either owned by these three companies or involved in plantations, will undertake a merger exercise worth RM31.4bil that would likely create the country’s fourth biggest company.

A Newco, Synergy Drive had proposed a material corporate exercise that would involve a change of business direction by the respective companies. Synergy Drive was registered on Nov 7, 2006, The rationale behind the move was esoteric. The three major companies in the exercise have a combined net profit of RM1.7bil and a land bank of slightly more than 600,000ha. These companies on its own merit had been successful and profitable. Nobody can understand why there's a need to merge such successful and profitable outfits. Someone must have a great dream to exorcised the billions in profit.

Big news and bigger news are now the spin of the day. Spinning the headlines again: Malaysia to built the World's Longest Undersea Power Link Project.

One of the country’s most ambitious projects — to lay undersea power cables from Sarawak to Peninsular Malaysia — may be revived. Costing RM9 billion, the cables will transport up to 5,000 kilowatts of electricity from the Bakun hydroelectric dam and two other new proposed plants in Sarawak from 2014.

The 670km-long network of cables would be the longest in the world, longer than the 580km line between Norway and the Netherlands. Dr Lim Keng Yaik said: "Coming so far from Sarawak, that means we have to invest in big cables. It is all economics, so we have to work out whether it is worthwhile but most certainly it would be after 2014 and beyond." "The cables will have to travel almost 700km from Bakun to the tip of Sarawak and another 670km under sea crossing Indonesian territory to Ulu Sedili before it is channeled to Yong Peng, Johor, where the national grid is located," he said.

Billions worth, everything now is billions, no more millions? Another RM15bil projects being paraded to the public.

Well, Pak Lah proved that he has the ability to outdo Mahathir. In Mahathir's heydays, the foreign press labeled him mega-project king-makers. Petronas Twin-tower was RM2bil, KLIA was RM9bil and Putrajaya was to be RM20bil.

The frugal man decides not to be frugal anymore. He too wants to leave a legacy - mega legacy - such that the people could celebrate his tenure (I hope that we are not celebrating a nation to be bankrupted).

Billions after billions of projects were announced. It keeps coming and it keeps spinning.

Nobody dares to predict when this spins would slow down.

That wasn't enough, we have another RM6bil agro sector goldmine.

Not enough to cause bulimia? Another RM10bil public transport project for Klang Valley. It keeps coming and gets scary, oh sorry, excited and sexcited.

Businessmen were getting sexcited by the behemoth and amorphous opportunities that will avail with these avalanche of billions. It seems the billions will continue to rain and won't stop.

Another RM40bil projects fast tracked!

The government keeps announcing the billions and each and every one of them are meant to be fast tracked.

Raindrops (of projects) keep falling on our heads...

Have you ever seen these rains?

It was unprecedented in the history of Malaysia's economy and even Mahathir was awed. Soros must have caught up with this news and probably that's the reason he visit Malaysia, not so much of his intend to pay a courtesy call to Mahathir, but maybe, to ask Mahathir to introduce him to Pak Lah. Sadly, Soros then discovered that Mahathir has no more influence over his successor. Soros would have got it better if he had visited Khairy.

Was that enough?

Well, I wanted to stop the billions here but there's still a few more interesting projects for the avarices.

RM600mil was allocated for Class F contractors. Nobody knows how many of these projects had been awarded nor is there a monitoring and tracking system for the public to view and kept informed. The system is transparent - cannot be seen!

Another RM800mil worth of contracts for 270 Penang Malay contractors?

The ministers had so much to announce and many wondered when did Malaysia had so much money to fund all these projects.

We can't stop this fun...I love billions. RM1bil shopping funds for Education Minister.

During Mahathir's time, we knew he borrowed extensively to fund the projects. In Pak Lah's tenure, nobody knows and the monies must have been pouring in from some guys...I wonder it's Bill Gates or Warren Buffett or LTCM. Probably I am could be from Suharto's family or Marcos or Mugabe.

Another RM5bil project for Johor.MB for Johor said it was Raya Gift. I wonder anyone had received the Raya gift, if at all.

The RM5 billion South Johor Economic Region was unveiled by Pak Lah on Nov 4, 2006. Ghani said the people of Johor were blessed to receive such good fortune.

Another RM600mil highway for Selangor.

A new RM600mil highway project under the 9th Malaysia Plan to link the Kesas Kota Kemuning Interchange with the Federal Highway is set to roll out by next year. Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, witnessed the signing ceremony between the Government and concessionaire Projek Lintasan Shah Alam Sdn Bhd (PLSA) .

Another KL-Kuantan rail was approved by the cabinet on DEc 18, 2006.

If Pak Lah continues as PM for the next 19 years (so that he will match Mahathir's record of 22 years PMship), Malaysia would have the World largest network of railways.

There is already a rail project linking Malaysia-Kumming and another in Borneo, linking Brunei and Sarawak. The total worth will exceed RM200bil.

Of course there will be the Double-track railway which was terminated and will be revived.

Syed Mokhtar is seen smiling... his luck and good fortune had shine again.

Railway is transportation and lacks fun?

Well, don't worry. Effendi Norwawi is going to get Disneyland to come to Malaysia.

If Japan and HongKong can have Disneyland, why not Malaysia?

Disneyland owners must be damn excited about this prospect.

Malaysians would be, what Ghani called, Blessed to receive such great fortune. By the way, Johor was slated to have this project and it must have satisfied the MB.

There is also the West Coast Highway which would be another RM2bil project on the way.

Chan Ah Chai is waiting anxiously for the cabinet's approval and if he can have few rounds of golf with Pak Lah and a few teh-tarik sessions with EPU and Nor Mohamad Yakcob, then it would be a celebration for Talam who is now technically insolvent. IJM and Syed Mokhtar will be more willing to buy over Talam if this project is secured definitely.

Of course, we can't stop the celebration.

What more with Maya and the Maju.

This is the new RM400 million Palace Complex which was deemed necessary as the current Istana Negara is old and the place is too small for the King and his entourage.

But the King had to wait a little while as it will take another 3 years, god willing, to get the place ready. It probably won't be ready in 3 years as the contractor is an unknown and we have a historical record of projects delay. Matrade building was delayed for 7 years. It would be considered a success if this project can also be ready by 7 years delay.

Tanjung Tokong, a super fast track project!

UDA Holding Bhd will spent RM750mil for the redevelopment of Tanjung Tokong project and 2nd Finance Minister Nor Mohamad Yakcop had promised that it will be super fast tracked to complete within 6 years.

Constuction work was suppose to begin in October 2006 and the project is slated to compete by 2012.

So far, we have heard of nothing concrete.

In order to get all these projects off the ground, the nation may need funds to the tune of trillions.

An initial US$56bil (RM200bil) will be necessary. I am not sure how Pak Lah will get this RM200bil... Petronas may have to contribute probably half of it and Khazanah will need to contribute a quarter of it by way of foreign loans via bonds. The balance could be from taxation and duties. Customs department and IRB will be able to generate RM60bil and if that's not enough, the police could ship in by way of increasing the issue of summonses, and the local authorities could help raise funds from increasing the quit rents, assessment taxes, licensing and fees.

There is a sense of hope...Malaysia had achieved a trillion mark in trade and, of course, if the trade is up, taxes and duties will increase in tandem.

Again, observing the scenario, if Pak Lah is given another 19 years as PM, the trade may even increase to hundreds of trillions. I hope it will not be denominated in Rupiah.

I don't know whether we should cheers and sing a song, but I am anxiously waiting for informations on the progress of all these projects. The waiting game had been on since last year and till now, the signs are blur. Will we be kept blur-blur for another few years?

Well, why can't we be positive and have high expectations? My darling said: Sleep and don't bother as Chinese New Year is just 48 hours away and the many bosses I work with are still having problems in their collections. BTW, I received a bonus from my good boss...little but enough to buy myself a drink. Cheers!