Sunday, December 30, 2012

What's this animal called 'Corruption'.

I thought that Malaysia had been doing extremely well in eliminating corruption with a number of big fish ( erstwhile called 'sharks) being nabbed and disabled. No, they are not incarcerated really. Just disabled for a while, then restored. But, everyday we hear through the media (especially, the non official channels) that more corruption is going on, and at very high levels....

And so I keep asking myself, what animal is this corruption? Especiaaly since we hear about it in all levels of societies - the so-called post industrial, the industrial and pre-industrial. Is it a kind of communicable disease or sickness like the HIV,TB,drug-abuse and obesity which we can never really eradicate unless we kill off the victims who may not be entirely responsible for the infection.
May be there's something in corruption that underlies every normal economic and business transaction in our everyday life. In other words there could be bits and pieces of corruption in every economic and business dealings and even social transaction , and only when the degree gets too obvious and unethical like asking for money to close an eye over certain rules, do we call it corruption.

Do parents who reward their children with an enhanced allowance or an expensive gift in return for a favor, indulge in corruption? No, that's motivation maybe. Do shopkeepers who give their regular customers a big discount, indulge in corruption? No, that's...what? Just a favor? Incentive? Do the Police who reward a thief in roping in other thieves indulge in corruption? No, that's a reward as it is blendly called. Do political leaders who shower their supporters with gifts, financial assistance and other promises, indulge in corruption? No, those are the benefits for electing them to the offices they hold. Do businessmen who give out a big commission for a huge purchase indulge in corruption? No, that's business.

When many of the things mentioned do not constitute corruption, then what is it? The law may say it's getting a reward for not doing anything that deserves it, abusing power to gain something substantial etc etc..But there's also a bit of that in all legal and monetary transactions.I would be happy to call corruption just an unethical swop of goods or favors. When one person has something that another person wants and the latter has something that the former wants, a swop can occur. Is that illegal? Certainly not if the swop is ethical. You give me what I need and I give you what you want. Only when what you give is not rightly yours, it belongs to the people who gave you the authority to utilize public money, resources or the power to exercise certain action, does it become unethical. It becomes corruption.But when I use the power that I have to get a bigger piece of the rewards I am normally entitled to (like my pay),or raise the price of things so that I can get some of the payment made, that's stealing.
Worse than that, if I squeeze money from another party that is squeezing money from other people or the public, that's more like an animal eating up another animal...

So, what corruption? Manipulating the rules and regulations to benefit oneself is certainly no corruption. Everyone does it sometimes. Every good businessman does that.
I am only left with one answer. If it's done ethically, it's not corruption. If what is offered and what is taken is unethical (or illegal), then it's corruption, often happening at very high levels. Until that which happened at higher levels is stopped, how can we expect it it to be eradicated at lower levels?

Of course, the court of law will decide if and when a charge of corruption arises. The question is: does the court of law take into consideration the ethics of the case or just the facts as it sees fit? I've no answer to that.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year...

An age-old greeting but never too old to use. The older folks must be very happy to hear that old things (antiques) continue to appreciate in price nowadays.

So how is Christmas? I see all the shopping malls coming out in bright lights and fanciful Father Christmas and reindeers. I can hear all the boisterous parties and making-merries, the popping of champaign bottles, the merry greetings and the yo-ho-hos
of the familiar sonorous voice (or its imitation). Yes, the TV is agog with Christmas programs and even the traffic in the streets of Jakarta is smooth like on a 'hariraya' day, as reported by a Facebook friend.Folks are staying in-door to enjoy Christmas with their families.

Yes and I am resting after a few days of hard toil and back-breaking work on a small untended farm (see previous entry). The day is nice and cool, the skies and dark clouds are not turning that dark and threatening as I thought it would in the later part of the day.( Huh, it's already drizzling as I wrote this but ironically the sky seems bright.)

Oh well, let it rain for that can make the in-house parties all the more interesting. Many might not even be conscious of the fact that in a few days time 2013 will stare us in the face. With a smile or with a frown? Some of us can decide on what it will be (with all the means to make it so) while others must face the inevitable with dignity and courage. For Malaysians GE13 is on the slate and they have to make a choice at the ballot box. Do they want more of the same or do they want a change: that's the question.

I would not want to enumerate the issues at hand on this auspicious and festive occasion.But certainly the escalating cost of things - housing, consumer goods, medicinal supplies, charges, rates etc.- as prompted by a lavish spending on the part of the government to prime-pump the economy, must be brought to focus. The push to become a high income nation seems to trigger a push-up in the price of many things that Malaysians used to enjoy at half their current prices. (The price of 'roti canai', 'teh tarik', 'nasi lemak', 'ikan bills', 'gula', toll rates and cost of patrol are often quoted as examples).The prices of houses, apartments and condos, are simply sky rocketing with no obvious intervention from the government.

The new form of road traffic control where regulation-violators are caught by cameras - the Automatic Enforcement System (AES) - has also become a hot issue as is the highly liberal spending habit of government, overshadowing the age-old UMNO-PAS rift and animosity issue.

No matter what, the new year and 2013 is coming up. Are you smiling or frowning? That can tell a lot about your stand on current controversies facing the government, whether you are pro, con, or couldn't-care-less. But one thing is certain. Those benefiting from the BRIM, the cash-gifts from government, the bonuses and other direct assistance, are certainly smiling. The only question that might pop up here and there is: why only now and not years ago?

Merry Chirtmas and a Happy New Yeart to all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Working in the Field...

How many of us town folks have really worked on the field, clearing the wild shrubs and undergrowth, the elephant grass and the thorns, using simple and traditional agricultural tools? No, no giant mowers or tractors. Use them and you'll only be watching, not working and sweating it out.
I bet many will just say: why torture yourself when there are so many modern mechanical equipment to do the works for you. All you've to do is drive them or get someone to do it. Just pay.....

Well that's the modern men and women, the softies, the flabbies, the obese for whom work is only in the posh and luxurious offices.The place to sweat it out is the gym, the golf course, the tennis and badminton courts etc. Sweat it out a little then spend hours in the spa....

Well, the pleasure of really working in the field with your bare hands is just something else which, I'm sure, many of us have forgotten. No, I'm not talking about a small patch of garden which has just been left fallow and is now overgrown with some wild grass and shrubs. I'm talking about an acre or so of thick elephant grass with wild shrubs and thorns that can rip your pants or skin. After a heavy downpour the land is soft in places and a tractor which tried to clean up the land got bogged down silly. (see pic).

You just have to set up a makeshift camp and work on the land with simple equipment like the hand-carry or flymowers, the rakes, the hoes and the 'parangs' (hacker long knives!). I never thought I could do it with the help of the wife and two other friends.It was a real challenge and we are not young and brawny people. And the weather kept changing like an old spinster's mood, very hot and dry in the morning, warm and wet in the afternoon. (No, a spinster's mood doesn't necessarily change like that and can take many other forms.)

My body and joints ached and grumbled every night after a hard day's work. But we pressed on clearing a small patch each day. And when it was all done, oh my, what a wonderful feelingI had. It was like the greatest conquest of my life, and my body took it with a hesitant relish. We're now ready to take up the job of planting whatever we want in the field.
What is more, since the place is close to a village town where my wife hailed from, many villagers saw us sweating it out and many dropped by for a friendly chat. Some teased us, calling me a miser and a cheapskate, making my wit work on the field. But she just laughed and said that she enjoyed cutting the elephant grass with a sharp hand carry mower - the flymow. The owner of the nearby eatery where we had our food and refreshment was most happy as much as the repair-shop owner who took care of the problems that our light equipment had.

Most importantly the friends who helped us were jubilant. They were happy that the money we spent did not go to just a single tractor owner and could be shared between them.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Pleasure of Driving....

Driving on the country roads and even in the vicinity of city and town areas, used to be a pleasure. Especially with the loved ones by your side. You could talk and chatter all you want, crack jokes, and of course, say sweet nothing to someone holding your hands and showering you with sweet....smiles.You really don't need both hands to drive.

Not anymore. Driving in the jammed up roads of today is nothing less than a torture. In the cities especially at peak hours, it can turn one into a nervous wreck.Aside from the bumper-to-bumper crawl when your whole attention must be focused on the brake lights of the vehicle in front of you, you've to keep watching what the cars on the left and right lanes (if you took the middle one) might do. A sudden swerve into your lane, with or without any signal, will make your heart jump into your mouth, in spite of which some curses or blasphemy might issue from your throat. Chances are the interloper into your lane might even get angry with you for not letting him or her change lane. That will make your blood pressure shoot up.

That's not all. The second driver on your left or in the back seat might get rattled up by your inappropriate reaction to the intrusion. Or the driver on your right might get riled up by your sudden swerve to avoid the same, that is if your didn't really bump into his side. The disturbance caused could be simply disparaging.

One would have thought that driving on the rural countryside with the beloved one on your side could still become a romantic cruise. It's certainly not so anymore. The road could be jammed as in the city area or too many lightweight motorcycles could be bothering you. But teen that is not too bad, Worse is the speed limit set up everywhere, especially on straight and nice roads where putting an arm around the loved one's shoulder is still exciting. Before you realize it, you could be overspeeding or committing some other traffic offenses as caught by the AES or police cameras. Yes, you can claim trial but the pleasure of driving is no more and the road has become a risk not only to your life but also your purse.
Since the Automated (Traffic Control) Enforcement System was launched two months ago in Malaysia, it was reported that over 250,000 summons had even issued using 14 cameras.This means that if 28 cameras were used over four months a million summons could be issued, grossing a possible fine of RM300 million, or almost a billion a year. Multiply the number of cameras and a few billions can be made on the road users who must pay other taxes and tolls, and a continually increasing cost of gas. This is indeed the easiest way of making money ( please don't call it highway robbery!), next to imposing a heavier toll. Since more and more cars will be coming onto the road every year, this really looks like a very promising business,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Political and Economic Transformation...

Political and economic transformation had now become the buzz words for the national leadership ( especially in UMNO, the principal wing of the ruling Alliance government).Political transformation requires the leadership to place the electorate (rakyat) first in all forms of consideration and decision-making and giving emphasis to performance. It also requires the leaders to go down to the field and meet the people, not wait for them to come to the leaders about their problems.

Economic transformation focuses on raising individual income especially among the poor with a family income of less than RM3000 a month, and making the country a high-income nation. Several public 'handout' and 'bailout' programs together with mega development projects had been promulgated to activate the transformation.

But from the political talks and complaints of the people on the street today, we need more than just a political and economic transformation. We need a personal,social and moral transformation which will give Malaysians a 'developed society' kind of attitude.
There are just to many narrow-minded self interest, blatant disrespect for neighbors and fellow citizens, lack of concern for the right of others, class distinction and superiority feeling, the holier-than-thou attitude, etc. etc going around. The multiracial nature of our society aggravates the situation.

What we need is an integral transformation proses, where all the divisive elements of the Malaysian society can be minimized and all the positive elements integrated at the personal, social, and cultural level. In plain language racial consciousness must be replaced by a 'we're all Malaysians and we must swim or sink together' kind of attitude. Political parties should stop ridiculing each other and threatening that the nation will go kaput if other parties come into power as if all other parties are useless.People shouldn't go about thinking that only their rights and interests matter and others' can go to hell. We must learn to respect the rights and interests of other people.(The lack of concern for others is clearly illustrated on the highway where some diver behave as if the road belongs to them alone). Kids, especially the offsprings of the wealthy, today show a kind of haughty, devil-may-care attitude that will develop into an egocentric narcissism as they mature.

The Malaysian multiracial society must undergo an integral transformation process to prevent further disintegration caused by political exclusivism or partisanship. This is all the more urgent when political leaders are making the political divide more pronounced and irreconcilable, leaving no room whatever for working together as shown by political parties in developed countries.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Murderous Tautology

"You fired those rockets at will
without a care for who you might kill
we have no choice but to retaliate in self-defence,
the whole world, especially US, knows the score
and Hamas must face the consequence
though the people of Gaza as a whole must suffer."

"We will continue to harass you
usurpers of our land and destroyers of our homes and families
those who chose to make peace with you are certainly untrue
to their faith and the Quranic warnings against the Jews,
we are prepared to die in the cause of our battle
to free the Ummahs from Dajal's evil."

"Yes, they have a right to self defence, (damn you)
they can't just allow their homes and cities to be reduced to rubble
and the best defence is an offensive - an air attack on the enemy's hq,
it's just unfortunate if the collateral damages are terrible
we have to and will continue to support our friends
who are surrounded by unfriendly neighbors but with greasy hands."

"No, we must call for an immediate cease-fire (you bastards)
the destruction and bloodbath caused are just too inhuman
call ourselves civilized while women and chidren are gruesomely butchered
and we hold conference after conference to draw up a peace plan:
what we have is a deadlock between obstinate claims
between people who love to get themselves killed or maimed,"

Oh, Allah All-Knowing and All-Mighty,
Please protect our brothers from the murderous hands of their foes
the Palestinians had suffered for years from turmoils and brutality
give them a break by softening the hearts of all those
who hold the power to wage wars and the weapons to cause deaths and agony,
stop the tautologies and let human beings find peace and understanding
in the various ways they pray to you and seek your blessings.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

2012/13 AD - 1434H.......

The Islamic calendar just took us into 1434H while the Georgian calendar will take us to 2013AD in less than a month and a half. How fast is time moving, yet it's so slow when we are waiting anxiously for something to happen with a hope of seeing a change for the better.On the other extreme time moves so fast when we see something undesirable approaching us.Tragedy always hits us before we're ready.

Things are still dangerous and uncertain in some of the Islamic countries, especially in the middle east and Africa. On wonders sometimes as to who or what really caused the fightings and bloodbath, the sufferings and the deaths. Are the Muslims themselves responsible for the turmoils and the massacre, or are there outside provocateurs and agitators, be they Muslims or otherwise?

The Islamic greeting "Assalamu alaikum" means "Peace be on you all" and it reflects the nature of the true Muslim - a peaceful and well-meaning person. The religion preaches a peaceful and forgiving attitude towards life, being trustworthy and helpful to those in need of help, and treating life on earth as a bridge to an afterlife where Heaven awaits the good and God-loving while Hell awaits the bad and unGodly. How you interpret 'the good' and 'the bad', the "God-loving' and the unGodly' depends on the faith you hold and the holy book that you based your faith on.

I wonder sometimes as to why some people question the faith and religion other people adopt. Aside from the fact that people often adopt the religion they are born into, the choice is basically theirs.The unfortunate thing is that the young are often not taught enoungh of the faith and religion their parents adopt to remain faithful to that faith and religion. Sometimes the method of teaching is unattractive, too authoritative, oppressive or too prohibitive for the young.What more when the enforcement of the religion is too inhibitive for the young who are just beginning to understand and enjoy the meaning of life. Especially when religion is supposed to enhance and liberate the soul....

But of more immediate concern are the turmoils, enmities and animosities among the adult Muslims themselves, as caused by political interests and affiliations, be it between Muslims in the same country or among Muslim countries. How could you as Muslims hate and antagonize other Muslims whereas you are supposed to be brothers and sisters? How could you fight and kill each other violating all the rules of good conduct and religious ethics in Islam? Can you truly say you are a Muslim when do all those things?

I hope the year 1434 H will make all Muslims sit back and think of what they are and where they are in today's world. If you could not live happily with fellow Muslims, can you ever live happily with others? Do you always think that you're a better or 'purer' Muslim than your neighbors in the same country or abroad? What does Allah and His Prophet say about who the truest or purest Muslim is? Wallahu alam.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Our Younger Generation

The US Presidential election has just been over and Obama was returned to office with a narrow margin over Romney. It was commented by CCN that Obama won in most of the States with a large voting population of youths and Latinos. Over in Malaysia, many had also commented that in the forthcoming general election, the younger voters would have a primary role in deciding who will be returned to power.

Let's not ignore the fact that even the youths who are below voting age have a great influence on how the forthcoming General Election will turn out. How come? They have a great influence over their parents - the voters. Children nowadays have as much influence over their parents as they do in determining what is to be cooked for lunch or dinner, or whether the family will just eat out. They also in many ways influence the furnishing, the decorations and the electronic equipment that you can find in the house.

The children and youths of today are the adult citizens of tomorrow. As such their education and nurturing, in and out of school, must be given a very special attention. Our concern must not only be centered on their getting as many As as possible in the examinations they have to go through, but must be focused on the total development of their character and personality. That includes the physical, mental and spiritual or moral aspects of development.

In terms of physical development, I don't think we in Malaysia face much of a problem today. Aside from a few cases of undernourishment, the more widespread danger today is of obesity among the children.Overfeeding and over pampered? Probably, but the parents love doing that. Mental development through the education system and at home, has faced a number of controversies, especially in regard to the school curriculum and syllabus, while expensive tuitorals at home have caused considerable worries to the lower-income parents.

School curriculum and syllabus in as much as the education system as a whole need to be constantly reviewed and the Ministry of Education claims to be doing that all the time.However, many feel that some of the so-called innovation and revamp in the system had led to less desirable results than the old 3R system manned by Kirkby- Brinsford Lodge- and even Normal-trained teachers. We still don't know whether its the curriculum, the syllabus, the system or the teachers who are at fault but the victims are the children of today, the citizens of tomorrow.

The ethical, moral and spiritual development of today's children and youths has of course been severely criticized by many. But there's nothing much that the schools can do except introduce some civic and religious classes. The ethical and moral standard of our society as a whole must be reviewed in the light of today's materialistic values and reverence for money and wealth.

After years off expanding higher secondary and tertiary education in Malaysia with several colleges and universities coming into being, we are rocked again with the realization that more children and youths now opt for the arts rather the sciences in furthering their education. Only 20% of the secondary school students opt for the sciences, says one report. Why so? For an easy answer one has only to ask how many high paying jobs in the market today require a science degree? You'll find a great number of science degree holders holding administrative and general management jobs.
The requirement to pursue a degree in computer science is also not too stringent to bar students from the arts stream to go it. So, where is the incentive to take up science? Giving some allowance to parents to encourage their children to take up science is certainly not the answer to the problem.

Only a good job market for science degrees will do the trick. How a switch to science will affect the development of our children and youths in terms of their ethical, moral and spiritual development is another issue to be dealt with.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Food Poisoning...

You never know when it will strike. You may even get it from a posh restaurant let alone from the cheaper ones or the food stalls operating under a tree. It doesn't matter whether you're a medical doctor or the average man who would eat anything when you're hungry.

Food poisoning could be very serious or just a severely upset stomach.
The serious ones will involve vomiting and purging to no end until you feel listless or even lifeless.There's so much of body fluid lost that there is the immediate danger of dehydration. In such a case you have to go to the hospital immediately.You will be put on the drip and given so many pills that you'll feel really miserable. You might have to stay in the hospital from five days to one week to allow you tummy to recuperate.
The not-so-serious one is more more interesting as far as I am concerned having suffered the attack a number of times.Yes, it's just as bad in terms of the puking and purging, but only for a short period.After that it's just the tiredness, the lack of an appetite and the need to just rest and go to sleep which can be very bothersome.

But think again. You have no appetite for anything at all and that's very good for your tummy.It's a chance to give the old mill a good rest. Yes you've to imbibe a lot of liquid to compensate for the loss. The nasty thing is that you cannot fart or something will come out with it. When your tummy growls and grumbles, you just got to tolerate it without opening the valve to let out the fowl air. Otherwise you'll have to rush to the toilet for a thorough wash and change your clothes. The use of pampers is an interesting idea but I'd rather just slip some tissue papers in my underwear, in case there's a leakage. It made me think of old age when you could get too sick to take care of your cleanliness and someone else had to do it for you. At least I learn how to do it with the help of the ubiquitous tissue papers.

You still need 3-5 days for your tummy to recuperate, even if you don't take any medicine, said a friend - Dr Ganeson. He had an attack himself after having some food in a posh restaurant. Yes he had all the knowledge and medicinal facilities to take care of himself and yet, " I had to suffer for five miserable days," he said.

Well, if a medical doctor himself had to suffer, how could I complain. 3-5 days of rest, eating very little except for some soup, bread and Milo O - and some 100 plus for energy - must certainly have some salutary and recuperative impact on the body...and soul.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Evaluating Progress and Development

The subject of evaluating progress and development has been debated and examined by scholars and political leaders for decades, since the third world began to embark on planned development. The measures and indicators used kept expanding and changing while the developed countries themselves began to feel that some of the measures they used had become absolute or irrelevant. Using the economic indicators alone such as setting a poverty line based on income and utilizing the food consumption index to indicate the existence of poverty, might show that poverty exists even in the developed countries.

Development and progress in society must be reflected through many other measures beside the economic indicators. Even the poor living in an environment with well-developed public services, excellent infrastructural facilities, cheap and efficient public transportation system, plenty of food available at very reasonable prices, can live in comfort. At the other extreme in a developing country where public services are not too dependable, infrastructural facilities are at a minimum, transportation is difficult and food is very costly, even people in the medium income bracket may find life to be very difficult and demanding. The standard of living achieved could be much lower than that enjoyed by the so=called poor in the more developed countries.
In Malaysia for example, people earning above RM1000 a month used to be able to live quite comfortably in the 60s and 70s. Now even people with an income of RM3000 a month are classified as eligible for receiving government handouts ( a Public assistance program called BR1M). Salaries in the public sector had been raised a couple of times but each time that happened the cost of living as mainly decided by the cost of housing, food, transportation and medical expanses,went up as well, sometimes preceding the actual payment of the new salary scheme. A loaf of bread which used to cost only RM1.20 now costs RM2.80. The cost of cup of coffee or tree sprinted from around RM.50 to RM1.80. The rental for a single story terrace house went up fro about RM200 a month to RM800.

So, while the economy is doing well and income had improved so much with a corresponding improvement in the standard of living, the poorer people (poorer as compared to the rich businessmen and political leaders) may not be that happy. Development and progress could be at a standstill for them, being unable to catch up with the rise in the cost of living.The evaluation of development and progress must take into consideration what the social scientists called "citizenship outcome" which include the evaluation of political alienation or support, participation in the public and economic transformation programs (is the common man outside the party circle really involved?), is the attitude of the public in tendem with the immediate goals of government, is the value-nexus of the population changing as desired by the government etc.

The irony is that the economic development of the country could be healthy but the attitude of the common man towards government policies may not though all the financial assistance given are welcomed. The situation is made worse when the billions and millions of ringgit spent on development are seen to enrich the already wealthy more than the poor and the average citizen working hard for a living.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Reality of Today

What is reality? Everything that you see and consider as reality will appear different and mean differently to other people. You see an old man trying to help a young girl who had slipped and fell on the road and someone will say that dthe old man is trying to take advantage of the young and helpless girl. You help a man escape from his pursuers and you might end up in jail for preventing a police officer from carrying out his duty to arrest a thief.

Reality does not always depend on the facts of the matter but HOW THE FACTS ARE INTERPRETED. AND PEOPLE ALWAYS INTERPRET THINGS DIFFERENTLY thus leading to different conclusions about the same thing or occurrence. Even when fed with the same information, people may still end up with different conclusions. Why?

Because a piece of information contains many facts and different people give different importance to the various facts. The facts are interpreted according to their onw viewpoint and they SELECT what is most important according to their own level of consciousness, attitude and values. ONLY PEOPLE EXPOSED TO THE SAME LIFE EXPERIENCE, EDUCATION SYSTEM AND CONDITIONS OF LIFE MAY SEE THINGS - THE REALITY- IN ABOUT THE SWAME WAY.

This is probably why people of the same ethnicity and nationality might have a more or les similar interpretation of things or a similar perspective about things while people of a different ethnicity or nationality hold a different interpretation and understanding about them entirely.Thus a man who prevents another man from being killed might be a hero to some while others might accuse him of shielding a murderer.

This is the problem facing us in trying to bring about peace in this world today. The peacemaker may be seen as the provocateur by others while some other people see the provocateur as the peacemaker.Thus different countries and people will throw their support in different direction and instead of bringing peace to the troubled country, we bring them more trouble and destruction. We are plagued not by just different PERCEPTIONS of things but by different INTERPRETATIONS of things.and can never, therefore, come to the same conclusion.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Can We ever be Happy?

I keep looking and following the life stories of the rich people in the world and in my ownn country. Powerful and rich people who seem to have everything in life in abundance. People who never know what is human sufferings.

Are they really happy in life? Is everything always rosy and are they always smiling with happiness?

You be your own judge, but I feel that underneath the cover of posh living and supreme luxury and comfort that they enjoy, they are still human beings with a lot of human problems which money alone cannot solve. Money and power can certainly solve a lot of problems but many personal problems elude the dissolving power of money and the liquidating potency of power itself. Yes you can buy off people and get them to do what you want with money, but certain things you just have to do yourself, Yes you can exert political or military power on people and countries who or which fall out of line to make them toe the line you want, but you can't stop them from creating more problems for you.

Perhaps some of the happiest people on earth are not necessarily the rich and mighty. When people smile and appear to be very happy and contented with life I take a very close look at their economic wellbeing. They are certainly not always rich, In fact some of the very rich seemed to be unable to smile because of the problems they face or more importantly, of the nagging issue: how to become richer? Or how not to become poor again? As they say, those on the lowest level of life do not have to fear falling down anymore. The higher you re the greater the fear.

Those living on the luxury of power on the other hand will always be unhappy for the power can leave them any time. Everyday they have to be concerned with their supporters so that they will keep supporting them and their enemies who will continue to tug at their pillars of support.The saying goes that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. And so those who live by guiles and pretenses will certainly be uncloaked one day. It's only a question of time when that will happen and some will be lucky to leave the world before that happens while others may not. Often the law will catch up on them once they are out of power.

In the meanwhile the smiles of the happy faces of the common men (and women) who don't have much to worry much about in terms of acquiring or losing, keep on smiling. Are they really happy? Only God knows but they give you a certain amount of comfort and satisfaction, giving you the confidence that they certainly are some happy peole in this world.

And they may not be rich or powerful.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Back to the Basic.....

After 57b years of Independence, Malaysia stands on the brink of becoming a developed country. In fact some people say that it already is, that's probably referring to the urban areas. Go to the rural areas and although one can see modern housing and some traditional houses given a very modern and sophisticated look, with many cars during holidays when the Malays go back to their 'kampungs', the farms, the rice fields, the rubber smallholdings, and the large tracks of undeveloped land give a clear sign of underdevelopment.

All countries have their unattended backyards and slum areas although they are developed and the people are living in a post-industrial era. But the farms and orchards. if the country has a significant agricultural sector, will be full of modern machinery and equipment with modern tools available for any kind of agricultural work.

That to me is the basic difference between a developed and a developing country. When farmers still use traditional tools and equipment on their farms, rice fields and small rubber holdings, use bicycles or lightweight motorcycles for transport, and produce agricultural products in small quantities for self consumption or sale to petty traders in the local area,we have underdevelopment still staring at us in the face.

The question is why can't the small and even middle-size farms, rice fields, rubber small holdings, orchards etc get modernized with the widespread use of modern equipment and agricultural tools? Uneconomical to use big machines? Why don't they use smaller machines? Costly? Or simply just not available

I would say with certainty that the small machines and equipment are just not available or just too expensive. Why? Because we've to buy them from oversea and even if they are cheap in the developed countries (probably where they are manufactured), the price over here would be exorbitant. The small Japanese Kabota hand-plough for the rice field, used to be popular in Malaysia but they are not used anymore for they are expensive and not economical to use by small farmers. The small plough-cum-tractors that were displayed at the MAHA shows, were very expensive and beyond the mens of small farmers. I've been trying to find a small lawn-mower which one can ride on without success.The one available is huge and certainly uneconomical for use in the average homes.

Can we become a fully developed country when the small-holders sector in all our 4000 or more villages are still very traditional and not very productive. Large tracks of land remained unused and undeveloped because it's too costly to hire the large back-hoe tractors to clear them. Even power-saws,blowers, fogging machines and sprayers are very costly to buy although we now have some cheap ones from China and Taiwan. But maintenance cost could be very high since they break down very often.

I wonder if the government is looking into this matter. We are so obsessed with megaprojects and million dollar programs that the production of little modern machine and equipment for the small and medium-scale farmers is totally neglected. So long as we have to buy them from oversea at exorbitant price, the small-holders sector of our economy, and it's a huge one, might remain underdeveloped.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Smiling 2013.....

Look around after the announcement of the RM251.6 billion budget for 2013 by the Prime Minister cum Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Everyone from ministers to bus drivers, towkays to fishermen,professors to students, seems to be smiling.There's a bag of goodies held out for everybody.

The billions and millions of ringgit allocated to specific groups of people involved in different aspects of the national economy and social services, just boggled my mind.I look for summaries to get a holistic picture of where the money comes from and where it goes to but what I find more in the print media are details of the allocation to various sectors of the economy and groups of citizens. How much of the RM251.6 is allocated to operating expenditure and how much for development is not highlighted although there is a breakdown in terms of percentage - something like 80:20.

So much of details as to who gets hefty allocations and who gets RM100-500 one-off payment that I could't see the wood for the trees. Can't classify the "gifts" under proper programs to achieve certain targets, so that at the end of the year the degree of achievement can be ascertained. It's like take the gifts and enjoy yourself, in which case the gift is never enough. All will smile when the handouts are given but after spending them and they see the huge chunks of inducement packets others are getting, the smile will disappear. Moreover the inducement packages go on and on for years....

Yes, we all need the quick-cash-supplement, especially when prices of foodstuff, clothings, housing, reading materials etc keep shooting up. The top-up policy cannot be sustained when prices of goods, service charges and rentals keep going up. It's more important to control the prices by increasing production and lowering the cost. Even the 1 Malaysia shops which offer cheaper prices than the usual retailers can only offer competition to the latter, not a solution to the problem of increasing prices.

No, there is no need for me to repeat the allocations made in the 2013 budget, for the papers are full of them. To evaluate whether the amount allocated is magnanimous or ridiculous is meaningless when the cause of the problem requiring added allocation is not explained. It's a happy budget and let's be happy about it until something begins to prick us in the pocket or the butt. One thing that worries me. When the big tycoons, the fund managers, and the towkays are laughing, we the customers had better watch out.The more they take the more we have to pay.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Religious intolerance...

Religion is supposed to save humanity from destruction and hellfire. bring peace of mind and serenity of soul, teach humility, kindness and tolerance. But is religion doing that today? And don't tell me it's the religion - whatever religion and religious belief - that's wrong. It must be the followers- and that's all of us - and the preachers that had fouled up things, including the words of the Apostles and God Himself.

If one wishes to take the best from all religions of the world, one will find many similarities in the definition of goodness, compassion, religiosity, and the straight path as prescribed by the sacred Book of the various Faiths. Only the name of the one God or Deity may differ, together with the names of the Messengers and Apostles. All the religions of the world preach brotherhood and compassion among human beings of whatever creed and belief, living in peace with each other and finding satisfaction and fulfillment in life through seeking endearment and the blessings of their Creator.
But that seems to be the last thing which religion does to us today. We make it a battle cry, an excuse for creating havoc and killing each other, insulting each other, denouncing each other and trampling on each other's birthrights. We insult and denigrade the name of each other's Lord, the Prophets and Apostles revered by different followers, provoke each other by doing so and ended up destroying and killing each other. How can human beings, the most intelligent creation of the animal world and the most advanced in intellectual development, be that stupid.

Yes, the provocation and the insults could originate from the work of some twisted brains and convoluted minds, as claimed by some authorities, in the case of producing the film, the Innocence of the Muslims.But why must the media play it up rather than clamped it down? Surely some people wanted the film to do its damage - and the damage had been done. More it continues to cause havoc and international bitterness. If the cause of religion had thrown nations to war in the past it can still do so now.Unless human beings stopped their stupidity and begin to understand and appreciate religion as it should be.

As for the Muslims, they can take any amount of insults as had been imposed on them in the past by foreign powers. But don't insult their God, their beloved Prophet and their religion. Hellfire can descend on earth earlier than doomsday if such insult continues.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Role of the Civil Service in National Development

In a democratic government where the national leaders are elected through a direct or a collegiate election system, politicians fill in public posts in the Executive and Legislative branch of government. Only posts in the Civil Service and the Judiuciary will be held by professionals, although countries adopting the American system assigned top posts in the Civil Service and Judiciary to elected officials.

Thus, the Civil Service and Judiciary under the British system, being strictly manned by professionals, are mandated to be neutral or apolitical. However, the officials must necessarily be subject to the policies and official directives of their political bosses.But to what extent? How far can the political bosses exert their influence on the career officials in carrying out their duties according to the laws and regulations, before the latter can complain about "political interference." Can officers 'advise' their political bosses when certain directives and instructions go against explicit rules and regulations or even against the law? Who will protect the officers when they refuse to do anything against the regulation or the law until such regulation or law is amended?

Such matters form the basic dilemma of the career public officials in fast developing countries where the political bosses (as elected officials) have almost absolute power.
This can literally reduce the career officials to the position of a 'yes-man' vis-a-vis the political bosses, irrespective of their rank and seniority in the service.Thus, even the Chief Secretary to the Government,the Secretary Generals of Ministries, Heads of Department,Judges, the Police or Army Chiefs etc. would not be able to execute their duties and responsibilities according to the rules and regulations but according to the dictate of the political bosses.

Surely this is a most undesirable state of affairs in a developing country where many experiments in development are being undertaken. Political leaders will be persuaded by the pressure and arguments exerted by their supporters but career officials must study facts, figures,the regulations and the law before recommending any course of action to their bosses, their reputation and trustworthiness being dependent on the merit of their recommendation. The easiest thing to do is to say 'yes-Sir' to the political bosses and that can cause untold damage and incur all the undesirable consequences of a bad decision made by the political bosses. Who then will take the blame?

In Malaysia there is no doubt that the political leaders have outclassed the career officials in pushing through development efforts, career officials often being too cautious and wary about making mistakes. They have been known to drag their feet until the late Tun Abdul Razak at one time and later Tun Dr Mahathir shook them up and instilled in them the frontiersmen spirit. They spearheaded new development programs like Felda, Felcra, Mardi, Pernas, Petronas, Proton, etc and all the privatized development programs.

When the initial jobs were all done, a new generation of civil servants who did not go through the Tun Razak's and Tun Mahathir's attitude transformation program, took over as leaders in the Civil Service. We don't hear them anymore talking as loud in support of their bosses, filling in the details of work to be done, and directing their staff like the old hands. INTAN tries to toughen up the new batches of civil servants through a rigorous six-months DPA course but let them go through paramilitary training without proper and adequate conditioning. That has resulted in two fatal casualties that will shake up the entire training concept formulated by INTAN and PSD.I wonder if that is another indication of the lack of pragmatic and cognitive shake-up which Tun Razak and Tun Mahathir gave the top civil servants in their time.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Cycle of Goodness (the COG)

Give away more money to the people, that boosts up domestic demand, enhances trade and business, government collects more tax, and therefore has more money to give away to the people. That seems to be the long and short of the Cycle of Godness, the COG, that can spin faster to make the country a high income nation.
Sounds good and simple. Yet, many poor and developing countries could not initiate that cycle. Why?

The common answer is: government has no money to give to the people. Yet, the government as we often observe has money to aggrandize itself, supports and is supported by wealthy people living in western-style luxury and comfort, establishes grand embassies with opulent residence and transport facilities..etc..etc..Foreign assistance and aid often flow in enormous quantity, yet fail to reach the needy...
The rich become richer, the poor poorer, was and is still the buzzword. Many development thinkers think that it's not so mush a question of whether there is money to give to the people as the question of HOW government distributes the goodies. Do they reach the rock-bottom, ground level, where the poor scrounge for a living? Giving cash directly to the poor was considered a bad policy. It must be given through appropriate and formal agencies and government organizations. What happened is that the agencies and organizations become rich and colossal monsters devouring the massive allocations (trust funds) they receive. ( Some say even international organizations designed to help the unfortunate people of the world had become such monsters!)

Nonetheless, the COG concept supports giving funds directly to the poor and unfortunate. Malaysia's BRIM 1, 2 and 3 illustrates the point. So do many other "durian runtuhs" programs. Earlier leaders had been very reluctant to give direct handouts including hefty pay rise for the public servants. Result: healthy growth but minimal. Now, PM Najib had reversed the order. The economy seems to be responding in a very positive way.

But, prices of things and the cost of living are also shooting up. Cost of building materials and residential homes and business premises had skyrocketed. Has the government machinery controlling these items been streamlined and charged with new obligations to see that housing developers and real estate dealers are not squeezing consumers and clients to death? Look at the number of "Bank Lelong" notices plastered all around the country. Low cost houses ( link houses and terrace homes)are now crossing the half million ringgit mark. What's the government doing about this or is the policy now: buy if you can afford, otherwise go back to the village?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

55 Yrs of Independence....

After 55 years of Independence or Merdeka, I see that people become more and more insensitive or lukewarm to the anniversary celebration. I don't see flags flying around on cars and busses, fluttering atop building, and the whole city being lighted up. The centers of activity for the celebration are few and numbered. It's not like the whole nation rises up in pride and jubilation.

I keep thinking that this is probably due to the fact that government is handling everything. The Merdeka celebration is fully orchestrated by government, from arranging the parade, the processions, the music, the dances, etc. We pick the schoolchildren to do most of the stage-filling jobs, the acrobatics (if you can call it so) but more like becoming the pom-pom dancers. Actual participation by the people and the crowd is practically nill. You only go to the Merdeka Square to watch, almost the same same thing every time, sometimes tolerating the sun or the rain. So, it's not surprising if people chose to stay at home and watch everything on TV.

How to allow people to participate actively in the processions and all the shows? The organizers need to think about that, inviting every form of participation that people want. Musical performances along the street by professional or amateur bands with dance group to invite participation from the crowd could be a draw. Street dancing in fancy dresses could be another crowd puller with free participation from the crowd, moving along determined routes around the Square. Even opposition groups could be allowed to participate by mounting their own shows, with participation from the crowd and no 'ceramah' or politicking. ( Who wants to listen anyway when dancing and singing is the order of the day or night.}

Whatever it is we have to break away from the old tradition of presenting cut-n-dry performances, exploiting the schoolchildren under the rubric of participation, and limiting the participation of companies and agencies to a semi-fancy dress march through probably accompanied by a float. Why don't we allow them to perform in whatever way they want to entertain the crowd. Such entertainment could even start on the eve of the anniversary.

I feel that the Merdeka celebration should also allow Malaysians to show their artistic talents, express their joy and pride in whatever way they want under the light and within the premise of the Merdeka Square. People don't want to be mere spectators anymore, they want a piece of the action. Isn't that what merdeka is all about?