Monday, January 24, 2011

Private and Voluntary Organizations

In all developed nations there are a number private and voluntary organizations which play a vital role in promoting the welfare of the country and society. They play a great role in the economic, business, industrial and social development of the country, with their own funding and organizational ability.

These bodies usually cooperate but work outside the government administrative infrastructure. They may get some assistance from the government but do not come under the directive of the government. They are independent and make their own decisions.

Such is the case with the trade unions, the various business, industrial and financial associations, and numerous professional groups or associations. They do sometimes act as a countervailing power to the government when there's no effective opposition to evaluate and criticize government's action.

The government is of course free to befriend any private or voluntary organization, give financial assistance and seek its support in whatever program the government is launching. Or on the other hand to contain its activities if they go against the interest of the government. The big question is: to what extent can government assist such bodies financially or provide funding for its activities from the public coffer? Providing some special funding for specific purposes approved and supported by government isokay. Such approval goes through the normal budgeting process.

But can and should government allocate public funds to a private and voluntary organization as if it's a part of the government apparatus? Furthermore can such bodies use public officials to administer and promote its activities which lie outside the scope of normal governmental operations or represent government on an official basis? Can government premises be used for the operations of such private and voluntary bodies? When all the answers are 'yes' what makes the private or voluntary organization private or voluntary as different from a normal government agency?

If such private and voluntary organizations are allowed to take over some of the government's functions then goverment rules and regulations will be thrown to the dogs. Such fear had cropped up when the privatization of some government services was embarked upon some years ago. The privatized agencies function outside government control since they finance themselves.
But as we all know many run into problems and the government had to bail them out. It ends up with the government coughing out huge sums of public money to support their operations. These privatized agencies are known to be quite lavish in their spending, pay their staff high salaries, and escape all forms of review by the government itself. When faced with financial problems they just seek government's help or raise the charges that they impose on the public for the services they provide.

How much is this costing the government and the public today? And now we have private or voluntary organizations functioning very much like government agencies but not placed directly under government control. Is this another form of privatization? These include the association of VIP's wives and and other associations involved in promoting
the interest of bright but disadvantaged children. With all these extra-governmental activities going on, it might perhaps be better if the civil service is reduced to a minimum and more of the services be handed over to private organizations run on public funding. Another way of doing it is to allow politicians and private sector people to head all the important posts in government services as chosen by the political bosses in power. Or to emulate the American system of administration, important public posts can be filled in by popular votes. These include the post of the Chief Secretary to Government, the Inspector General of Police, the Attorney General etc.

The public and civil service in Malaysia has increasingly been overshadowed and denuded by the authority of the political masters. The privatized agencies have taken over many of the functions the civil service used to be responsible for. When will a new evaluation be made as to what the civil service should continue to do and the rest of the functions be handed over to the private sector or the government sponsored private and voluntary organizations?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Skyscrapers and Luxury Apartments...

The skyline of KL has changed so much that every time you drive on one of the 'lebuhraya bertingkat" or multitiered highways cutting across the city like the lines on your palm, you feel as if you're a stranger in a new city. Especially when all the old landmarks are hidden away and you only see the old roofs or the sophisticated front of new edifices staring at you in the face.
Hey what building is that? you ask the person sitting beside you. Damned if I know, comes the couldn't-care-less reply.

There are so many of the high-rise buildings, not really skyscrapers yet, many of which are modern, high-class, luxury apartments, that you can hardly keep tag of their emergence (as if from nowhere), let alone of their names when not boldly written somewhere on the building itself. Take the new NUKE highway through the Sri Hartamas area and Mont Kiara. for example. All the super-posh apartments must have hit the million or multimillion ringgit jackpot price.

The big question is: Who can afford them? Certainly not the government servants (except in the Ministerial or YB category), the factory workers or the budding entrepreneurs and businessmen. These places can only be bought by the billionaires and millionaires from Malaysia or abroad, especially from Japan and Saudi Arabia. I recall Tun Mahathir's article on Kampung Baru.
If the Malay pseudo-slump area were to be opened up for development and filled up with modern high-rise buildings, who can afford to buy up or rent these su[er-expensive premises as a business center or a luxury home. Certainly not the people in Kampung Baru, not all of them anyway for there certainly are some who have joined the millionaires club. The same question can be applied to the thousands of super-posh apartment buildings springing like mushrooms in KL and the greater metropolitan are, extending to Puchong and Kembangan.

Certainly KL has become too expansive for the common citizens of the country. Especially the original settlers and 'orang asal' who have not become the nouveau riche - including the GLC bosses, businessmen, politicians or corporate executives. These exceptions remain a very small group in the 'orang asal' population as a whole. Their faces could be lost in the throng of millionaires and billionaires in the country. Kuala Lumpur is not for the "orang kampung" anymore, just like "orang Kampung Baru" if the area is opened up for modern development. You can't expect the budding businessmen to open up business in the golden triangles of Kuala Lumpur. They will fold up before one year, especially when they can't participate in the very lucrative night-entertainment, gambling. GROs, multi-level selling and other trades which involve commodities, activities or dealings which are "haram", "bida'ah", or even "syubahah" to the Muslims. . Most of the super-rich tycoons usually have a hand (or just a little finger) in these business though never directly. You cannot get rich by just selling "pisang goreng" or 'kacang putih". You must get your fingures into many and several lucritive business.

So, where does that leave the 'orang asal' ?( I avoid the terms "Bumi" or "Orang Melayu" because they are full of racial overtones!). Wish I can offer an answer. Once certainty is that KL bukan lagi mereka punya. The Skyscrapers and Suoer Luxury Condos are for the super rich, millionaires and billionaires. Unless the government wake up to this fact and do something to ensure that there are some 'orang asal' in the new imposing edifices making up KL skyline, we'll have a foreigners' city in the heart of the country.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Quest for Modern Technology

In our drive to become a high income nation, the introduction and adoption of modern technology is a sine-quo-non.
Malaysia has made an astounding progress in this regard, especially in the field of communication and transport. We now have our own satellite and GPS system and our automotive industry. Even agriculture has introduced the use of some of the latest high-tech machines and equipment such as the multifucntional and walking tractor.

But most of the high-tech machines and eqipment we use are imported with car production as an exception. After a brief period of borrowing japanese technology, our automotive industry is now striving out on its own to produce cars for local consumption and export. In the IT department some of our own home-grown products are now in the market

Unfortunately, most of the modern tenological equipment and gadgetaries that we use in Malaysia are still imported. Aside from the mini radios, tvs, cameras etc. many of the high-technology equipment used in farming and manufacturing are huge and very costly. In agriculture the walking tractor seems to be the smallest equipment available. Even the grass mowers and kubota tractors are too big and expensive for personal and individual use. They are all imported.

Only in the production of light agricultural equipment such as machines related to the gathering and processing of oil palm and the processing and packaging of food products have we been able to produce our own. The recent MAHA show had displayed many of these. The Malaysian Technology Development Corporation appears to be more interested in the import of the big equipment and machines rather than promoting research, development and production of light equipment and instrumentsfor our daily use.

We just don't seem to able to traslate our technological ideas into mechanical innovation. I rememer years ago when Tun Mahathir as Prime Minister suggested that a special tractor which can float on the slimy mud of the ricefield be invented since tne ordinary tractor will sink too deep into the rice fields. Until today no such machine has been developed and put into commercial use. Many of the ricefields have been abandoned until recently when a new initiative had started to replant rice on a commercial basis using some very heavy ploughing and harvesting equipment. How successful is this endeavor remains to be seen.

I myself have been trying to get a ride-on mower that is small and affordable for mowing the grass and clearing the garden and the larger housing compound in rural homes. Not the big one as in the picture.

It should also be able to vacuum the rubbish not cleaned up by the local authorities. It will also be most helpful if such a machine can pull a little plow used for gardening. I suggested this idea to a graduate electrical engineering student and she said that that would make a good study at PhD level. Many people expressed a need for such a machine since mowing the garden and housing compound of a hector or less can be a very expensive affair nowadays. An average citizen with a love for tending the garden and keeping the compound around his home clean, would now need an arsenal of gardening equipment to do the work himself ( See pic for my own version of his need). Get the 'have-mower-will travel -men' to do the job and you have to cough out a few hundred ringgit a month to keep a well-trimmed lawn.

There're actually many things that Malaysians can invent for their own use or adapt for household use. The sling-mower for example uses a machine that can be adapted for other uses like for moving a buggy and perhaps act as the propellant for a boat. You find such long-stem propellent being used by the Thais on their river. The coconut scraper uses the same machine with some adaptation. The push-mower with clever adaptation can become a self driving machine and the blower can be used for separating the good rice from the husks. MTDC should be looking into these areas of technogical development so that simple machines with advanced technology can be produced by Malaysians for everyday use. It is all these simple. cheap yet hightech tools and equipment procuced locally and made available to everyone that would make our society more modern and sophisticated.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Celebrating 1.1.11 in the Village.

Yes. I joined the crowd to usher in 2011 at MATIC ( Malaysian Tourism Information Center) on the last night of 2010. There was a big crowd for the Center was holding a final rehearsal for the 1.1.11 celebration to be launched in the morning. The Homestay Association was presenting a showcase of all traditional dances and songs from different States, including the Zapin, the Makyong, the Hadhrah, the Rodat, the Sewang, Semasau etc. AT 12 midnight a firework display lit up the sky over the Centre, echoed by the booms and flashses of other displays held at various other places like the KLCC and Merdeka Square. (see pic)

After the display the crowd at MATIC joined the young dancers on and around the stage to dance through a couple of popular tunes like 'Cuti-cuti Malaysia'. 'Malaysia Truly Asia', 'Poco-Poco', Sewang, the Samasau. Banghla, etc. Even at 1.30am the weekend fair at MATIC was still crowded with the singing still going on, on a special stage set up for the occasion. Flashes of fireworks can still be seen in the sky. The cheers and humming at the Center was suddenly broken by the shrill wailing of a police patrol car entering the area. Heads turned. What happened? Oh, just somebody who got drunk and became too rowdy, came an answer.
The sun rose with full glory on the morning of 1.1.11. I had earlier decided not to attend the launching of the Homestay Show nor the full show that night for I have seen so many of such occasions. I wanted to go back to my village and see how the new year was celebrated, if at all, for I don't remember seeing any such celebration.
Sure enough, there was none at all, not even a flag, a bunting or any sign of celebration. The countryside and the rural areas in Malaysia don't celebrate the New Year. The merry-making is only confined to the urban centers. There was no sign that such celebration had been held in the night either. I had gone back to the village armed with my arsenals to do some weeding and grass-cutting, raking dead leaves and burning rubish - to clear up the compound of my old wodden home which had remained unoccupied for several years and also the village home of my wife.

It'is just a usual pastime engagement for me on weekends, to give my body a proper physical shakeup by doing some tough menial job. Staying in the village home also brings back old memories and the fun of listening to the music of the mosquitoes, the crickets and the other denizens of the rural night.
But on this new year day of i.1.11, on my way back to my wife's village house in the evening, I passed by the children's playground close by the road. The uncared for sight took me by a real surprise.

Being unprepared for what I saw, I could only take a few pictures to show what i mean. Is this the playground that the village children are supposed to enjoy themselves in. The boys in the picture don't seem to care but I felt very sorry for them. Doesn't the Headman in the village care to do anything at all about such a situation? This playground is very close to the Community Hall, UMNO village headquarters. Doesn't anyone really care for the children of the village?
I have seen other uncared for children's playground in other villages. But not as bad and dangerous as this, with plastics bottles and all forms of rubish being strewn about. No wonder Aedis can easily find a nice place to breed and launch their attack on the vlllagers.

I hope the year 2011 will put an end to such sorry sights.