Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Cheers and Jeers

All new year celebrations are cancelled this year to sympathise with the victims of the catastrophic flooding in several States in Malaysia, especially Kelantan, Pahang and Perak. Thousands have been evacuated and are being sheltered in relief centres while some thirty deaths have been registered, including women and children. Nothing like this has happened before.
houses submerged

To the devout Muslims, this indeed is an act of God and only Allah SAW knows why such calamity must befall us in this nation, aside from the other tragedies that had shaken us all before this. The fate of flight MH370 is still unknown and the falling prices of oil, rubber, palm oil together with the scandals in huge government-related companies, are all causing cold shivers in our hearts. Allah SAW knows what happened however well the real truths are hidden from the public, and His decisions are always the best for all of us.

But we must also check ourselves and accept the mistakes that we make as human beings. The weather alone doesn't cause the floods. There has been a number of rainy spells in the past with floods that could be satisfactorily managed. How come this time around the water rises to unexpected levels to completely submerge and destroy houses and homes? The rivers and drainages must have been clogged by silts and mud due to outrageous land development, chopping down hills and trees without a care in the world. Catestrophic landslides have been the outcome and don't blame Allah for such disasters.
roads buckling up or caving in

Even the highways and roads are often waterlogged due to haphazard construction without proper drainage. Uneven road construction with bumps and potholes are a common result of the seemingly unsupervised initial or repair works. In Housing areas the construction of oversized and hoop-like humps seemed to be omnipresent, while the yellow stripes near tolls and in dangerous corners are raised high enough to give the cars a good shake up. Old jalopies can easily fall into pieces with constant use. The joints in bridges and flyovers are never smooth allowing water to collect on rainy days and cause flash food along the roadsides.
an overcrowdedrelief center

I wonder if JKR is supervising the road construction and repairs by the private sectors at all. Also whether the humps and bumps constructed to slow down traffic conform to any standards such that they don't scratch the bottoms of cars with low profile. The scratch marks and dents on the bumps and the roads indicate that safety standards had not been adhered to.

Let's take stock of the calamities and catastrophe that had befallen us in 2014. To what extent have we, the citizens of this country as planers, developers, contractors and business people, contributed to the disasters and problems such as floods, landslidea, cave-ins on roads, collapsing buildings and rooves, aside from the economic dilemma and miseries faced by the poor? These are the jeers that we must face aside from the cheers that we hope for in 2015. As we can observe, the prosperous Malaysians have nothing to fear. The country is rich and doing well. But the poor, the disadvantaged, the villagers, the working class, the "obedient servants' of the public, the unemployed, the victims of what is termed as 'natural disaster' whereas much is caused by inconsiderate and greedy humans, continue to suffer.

We hope that those who suffered from no fault of theirs, will be duly rewarded by Allah, and those responsible for such sufferings be duly sanctioned unless they repent. Allah never harms but we harm ourselves.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day and I find the roads between Seremban and KL,also in KL itself, quite free of the sickening jams that we use to experience. By 8 PM the roads were quite deserted for I believe those who celebrate Christmas are all gathered together at home for the Christmas eve dinner while others have also arrived at the places where they will spend the Christmas holidays.

Happy Christmas to every one and a very happy New Year. 2015 will certainly be an exciting year for all in Malaysia - for our friends in other countries too I'm sure - since there are many new challenges and development that will only come into force next year.
a Christmas beauty is always a pleasure to see
For Malaysians one of the greatest expectations is a reduction in the price of gas.(Let's keep political development aside first).The price of Ron95 shot up by 20 sen some time in August and then came down by 4 sen last month. (And that was hailed like great blessing). It is expected to fall below RM2 next year due to the drop in the price of crude oil. But will that also trigger a decrease in the price of essential commodities, thus reducing the cost of living in this country? Everyone has been complaining that the prices for so many essential items have been skyrocketing lately, and there was little that the government could do to stop that. Ask the shopkeepers why prices have been going up and they will say, "patrol price went up and so does the cost of transportation." Few will talk about inflation. But now they might say that the prices of things will go up because the value of the ringgit has gone down. They must, therefore, increase the price of their goods to make some profit.
well, everyone is having a great time!

The greatest scare as a probable cause of price hike in the coming year is the implementation of the GST.

The government has been giving a lot of talks and explanation on radio and TV about GST, to show that it will NOT cause an increase in the price of goods and services. But simple logic says that if the sale of all ingredients and raw materials for producing or supplying anything at all is taxed, the price of the final product will certainly go up. Even now pharmacists are saying that the retail price of medical supplies will go up after GST comes into force. So will the cost of medical services and definitely the price of houses and real estate. The government has not categorically denied such possibility. Since more Malaysians are now getting older and need more medical supplies and services, healthier food and more comfortable homes, the possibility of further increase in what they have to pay for their needs, certainly is a great concern. Especially when the income for public servants and pensioners does not rise by much. Private sector employers can of course raise the income of their workers by raising the prices of the goods and services they provide.

But let us not allow this concern to affect the joy of Christmas and the spirit of the New Year. Many political issues are certainly disturbing most Malaysians now but just switch on the TV to the various channels made available, and one will find so many entertaining programs to make us forget those issues. Hot and controversial issues do not seem to be discussed on TV or radio, so that people will not become unnecessarily agitated. For such discussion or commentaries one must go to the social website and bloggers forum. Everything on the mainstream news channels seems to be okay and Malaysians need not worry at all.

So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year again to all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sending Foreign Workers Home.

There will be a labour crunch in Malaysia when some 500,000 foreign workers are deported next year under the 6P program. They include workers in the manufacturing, construction, plantation, agriculture and the food and beverage sectors. This has been emblazoned by the NST (Teusday December 16 )predicting that business will be DISRUPTED.The Malaysian Employers Federation emphasised that next year will be a BLEAK one for the industries with the loss of so many skilled workers. It will take a long while to recruit and train new ones from among the locals.workers with technical skill should be retained

While the fact that there are already too many foreign workers working in Malaysia, is a main concern for all Malaysians, we must also accept the fact that these foreign workers fill in positions which Malaysians don't seem to be interested in. The most obvious jobs that foreign workers fill in because Malaysians don't seem to be interested in include attendants at gas stations, house maids, construction labourers and security guards in the shopping malla, shophouses. and even banks.

Why are Malaysians not interested in filling in these positions, no one knows and no serious study has been made Even now when a minimum income has been set by government, we meet these foreign workers everyday at the gas stations while the expenses for getting house maids from Indonesia keep rising exorbitantly. Indonesians (the employees) seem to be setting the pay demanded rather than the Malaysian employers. While the percentage of foreign to local workers as recorded by Bank Negara shows a rise only from 1.9% (383,600) in 2009 to 2.4%(423,000) in 2013, the influx of unregistered and illegal workers could have doubled or tripled their number. Some sources say that the number could have gone up to a few millions.
so also the "artisan"

The manufacturing and construction work seems to be okay for the locals. Still, not enough of them are available thus allowing for an influx of foreign workers, many of them comprising of illegal entrants into the country. Employers seem to like them because they will accept lower pay, work harder with little complaints, and most importantly some of them already have certain skills which the industry requires. A chat with some supervisors at construction sites will elicit the comment that the foreign workers are more skilled and focussed on their work than the locals.sub-professional workers are difficult to find

A cursory look at the 6P programs as drawn up by the Ministry of Home Affairs indicated that while the steps to be taken to reduce the number of foreign workers are clear and explicit, the basis for weeding away their number in view of the skilled labor required by the industries and businesses in Malaysia, had not been considered.

Malysia certainly need all the skilled workers it can get to sustain the fast growing manufacturing and construction sectors. Whatever we have now should be retained in order to avoid any shortage while locals are being trained to take over. In fact a drive to recruit new workers from among Malaysians should be undertaken, including perhaps for jobs as domestic assistants, with proper and attractive income and allowances. Deporting experienced and skilled workers without immediate replacement at this juncture in the development of the country would be a stupid thing to do. Reducing their number should begin with those that can be immediately replaced without much training.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Corrupation and Leakages…...

Malaysia's standing as a corrupt prone country has improved according to recent international survey and listing. Yet, we read in the media, especially in the social and informal channel, about huge scams and shady dealings by government related companies involving billions and millions of ringgit. They make the thousand-ringgit-corruption cases involving government servants look like peanuts or moth-holes hiding the huge rends and tears in the national economy caused by the huge and messy scandals.

The Malaysian AntiCorruptin Commission seems to be doing a fine job, roping in big names and high-standing national figures for thorough investigation. The big "sharks" are now, therefore, being cornered and threatened, irrespective of their camps and cables. But some of the cases being investigated into like the 1MDB with a debt of over RM36 billion and the Cameron Highland illegal land utilisation, involved names that can shake the pillars of the nation. Can the MACC really pull up the rogues in shining armour or the wolves in sheep clothing to face the law? Huge government-related financial scamps are not committed by just a few manipulators; they involve big guns and powerful gate-keepers….The New MACC Emblem

The Custom Department, the Police, and even the lawmakers are all suspect, with some cases already emerging as proof that the suspicion indeed holds some water. Is the MACC powerful enough to unearth the huge internal scamps and scandals buried in the huge and powerful bureaucracies involved? By itself I'm sure the MACC will ultimately buckle up under political and governmental pressure. As already observed some corrupt and scandalous cases after prolonged investigation and even criminal proceedings at considerable costs, just simmered into oblivion. That can also happen to the huge cases being unearthed by MACC.
The old Malaysian Anti Corruption Agency-not powerful enough

What is required is a full, undivided, vocal and explicit support from the public. The public must stand solidly behind the investigations of the MACC and endorse every effort to bring the cases it uncovers to the Court. The public must also keep a very sharp eye on the Judiciary so as to expose and block any undue influence from the powers that be. Ironically, that power lies with the public through its representatives in the government. So the representatives themselves must be watched with relentless caution so that due sanction can be passed when they area found to be not entirely trustworthy…..
New demand by the public

What type of a public do we want to be able to do all the above? That is the biggest question to be answered by the people of the nation themselves. Unless the Malaysian people rise up to the occasion, irrespective of their political beliefs and affinity, and MACC is given a full public sanction to go ahead with its uncovering of the huge scamps and scandals in the country, the corruption, leakages, the rends and the tears in the national economy will continue to pull back the progress of the nation. More, they can pull the nation underwater and drown us all.

With the drop in oil and rubber prices and the huge financial problems faced by some of the major government-related companies in the country such as the 1MDB, the Malaysian Airlines Berhad,etc., the emergence of more corrupt practices and financial scamps in the higher echelon of the public service is really frightening. It would appear that the MACC has an onerous task to save the dnation from financial disaster.

Monday, December 1, 2014

After the Rhetorics and Submissions….

As usual, lots of dramatic speeches (or is it actual dramatisation), acclamations and submissions had been staged at the UMNO General Assembly 2014. Some overacting on the part of the lead roles made me laugh. Recounting success and patting oneself on the shoulder in addition to moaning over some internal party weaknesses, was more than the examination of critical national problems.
the ex-PM listening to the current PM's speech

And the issue brought up were nothing new. They were the same perennial issues - bumiputras lagging far behind in economic progress, escalating costs in housing, consumer goods, rates and service charges, worsening disrespect for the rights of the Malays and the royalties, declining standards of education in 'Sekolah Kebangsaan' (the national type schools) and use of the national language,increasing extremism in religious pursuit, etc. And all the leaders who spoke at the Assembly had their ideas on how to tackle the problems anew, with the Prime Minister insisting on SOLIDARITY as the basic requirement for stability and progress.

The Sedition Act 1948 remains in force. And at least two more issues are to be incorporated as a no-no: insulting a religious faith and inciting a break-up of East and West Malaysia. On top of everything, UMNO has to revive a 'youthful soul' in order to win the next general election.

Fine. the talk is done and now we wait for the action. The price of gas, Ron95, will be reduced by 4 sen per liter as of December 2014 after a hike of 20 sen. There is yet no sign of a reduction in the price of housing; all signs show a rise to the RM1 million mark or more. Car prices don't seem to come down, only the rebates seem to increase a little. Food prices? Not even one item seems to decrease in price. The well-loved 'satey' increased in price from 80 sen to RM1 while that of the 'otak-otak'(fish paste wrapped in coconut leaves) increased from 50sen to 80 sen. The price of other delicacies, I'm sure, follow suit. Malaysians cannot any longer have a simple meal and drink for less than RM10. The rent for a single storey terrace house could go up as high as RM800-RM1000 pm.
eating place of the rich

Obviously the goal of becoming a developed nation by 2020 is fast becoming a reality in terms of price hikes. In terms of Income Per Capita, the goal may also be achieved with a continued rise in GNP. But chances are that the actual increase in the income of the average Malaysians may be 'eaten up' by the rising cost of living.And the low-income folks who are enjoying the BRIM (One Malaysia Cash Assistance) which has been increased up to RM900 per issue (only three times a year), may not be able to buy much with the gift.
eating place of the lower income group

But more significant than all that is the solidarity factor as stressed by the Prime Minister. The school and even the higher education system including the universities, seem to be breaking up young Malaysians into groups according to economic classes, race or religion.The rich can afford to go to private schools and universities ( which are multiplying in number) while the national schools (sekolah kebangsaan) are mainly for the poorer Malays.
The National Type Schools ( Chinese and Tamils) cater for the other young Malaysians, who never had the chance to mingle with the young Malays from a very young age. From this point of view the National School concept had failed to lay the foundation for a common Malaysian identity among the children.

Can the working life and the market forces bring about the multiracial solidarity that we aspire for? The UMNO General Assembly 2014 gave to clue to answer this question. The importance is stressed but the means to achieve national solidarity (unless that was just a call for UMNO members to consolidate their interests) was not discussed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

UMNO General Assembly 2014 - Will it be different ….

UMNO the leading party in 'Barisan National' (the Coalition which forms the government in Malaysia) will hold its 68th General Assembly 2014 from today (Nov.24) to November 29. It's preceded by an UMNO youth-club leaders convention which discussed the issue of 'hyper connectivity' in communication as faced by the world today.It's attended by student leaders from within the country and overseas.

From the Runner Up news to the General Assembly one can already have a feel of what's going to happen. There will be a lot of animated oratories and rhetorics on a number of issues faced by UMNO in preparation for the 14th General Election in the country, having suffered a number of reverses in the last election. Three States i.e. Selangor, Pinang and Kelantan had been lost to the Opposition while Kedah and Perak were retained by a narrow margin.The MCA - the Chinese component of Barisan- was badly defeated and so was MIC - the Indian component of the Coalition government.
the leaders on stage

The main trusts of the issues are obvious and well known- the plight of the poor urban Malays vs the wealthy Chinese tycoons, the increasing income gap between the Malays and non-Malays,the survival of UMNO in the face of increasing distrust and opposition (even hatred) by the younger generation of the country from all races, the erosion of the Malay culture and Language by foreign modernising influence, the need to transform UMNO to make it more relevant in this age(whatever that means)etc.
glittering highrise condos that few Malays can afford

Those are issues which the leaders and delegates seem to be concerned with. What about the concern of the common Malaysians? Misuse of power and corruption among the politicians ( and also government officials who are currently being hounded by the MACC ( Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission), escalating prices on all major consumption goods including toll rates, services charges and the price of gas, fear of further price increase due to the GST which will come to force next year, clearing doubts on the independence of the Judiciary in deciding on politically sensitive issues (like the sodomy case of the Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim), the declining effectiveness of the Police in combatting on-the-street crime,burglary, house-breaking, mugging, kidnapping etc, the lack of discipline among school children and the controversy surrounding the education policy, the wisdom of giving alms to the low income group through BRIM rather than working out a more permanent solution etc.
beggar boy in the midst of a wealthy community

There seemed to be a wide gap between what political leaders in UMNO and the 5300 prosperous looking delegates, and what the common Malay and man-in-the-street are concerned about. The lofty ideals and goals of political development with UMNO's problems of maintaining and gaining more support in the light of stronger opposition, may not resolve the problems of the poor and needy in the midst of plenty, increasing crimes in the street with brutal murders as against stepping up action against traffic offenders through the issue of more summons and higher fines, and increasing racial tensions due to lack of respect for each others' rights.

There're 755 proposals (Usul) which will be discussed according to the Chairman of the Committee on Proposals and Spokesman of the Assembly, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin. One wonders whether the real plight of of the people (especially the poorer Malays) in facing the escalating taxes, rates and charges, costs of buying a decent house while the towering and glittering condominiums in the cities will certainly not be affordable to the small businessmen and even the civil servants, and corruption seems to surface everywhere involving hundreds of millions or even billions of ringgit. The rape of the Cameron Highlands by unscrupulous farm operators, for example, shows how the rich and powerful can erode the wealth of the country with complete freedom. This in mo case is an isolated phenomenon.

Let's hope that UMNO's General Assembly this time brings forth more solutions to the critical problems faced by the country rather than mere resolutions on what the party has to do to survive.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Highrise swallowing Bungalows, Semi-Ds and Terrace Houses.

Everywhere in and around Kuala Lumpur we see high-rise buildings going up to more than 30 storeys, coming up or already towering above the old town centres and residential areas. This is more notable in suburban areas where the poorer of the urban settlers had made their single or double-storey homes in the early days of history. The new highrise buildings stick out like glassy lego cubes in various shapes and forms.

The new condos and apartments cost close to or even more than RM1M per unit now. There's no way the average income earner can afford it unless he or she is willing to be in debt for almost throughout his or her life.
Only the business tycoons, the wealthy and rich and the novo riches ( especially those who got rich after coming to power in the political system), can afford them. In and around the multi-storied and closely bunched-up concrete and glass structures, are constructed modern infrastructural facilities that cause land and property prices in the area to shoot up like crazy.

Beautiful. That's development and modernisation. That's progress for the nation.But what happened to the older and poorer inhabitants of the area, now made tremendously poor in comparison. Living there becomes terribly expensive with assessment and property taxes going up according to the new rate imposed in the area, the price of consumer goods and services shoots up, and the entire social structure of the past is destroyed, including the traditional local culture. The new societal way of living with the ego of the rich, the crimes and lawlessness that greed and wealth bring in human society, and the 'mind your own business' attitude among the new settlers, can make the area so foreign to the old settlers'

More importantly, they might not have become rich and 'accultured' enough to survive in that area. They are swallowed by a new form of dog-eat-dog life where survival of the fittest is the rule and the rich and powerful dictates everything. Must we be surprised at all if society as a whole in a developing nation then becomes haughty and disrespectful towards each other (unless you're of the same class), differences become more meaningful than similarities, there's no social cohesion to hold communities together, and the population fall apart as the nations becomes more urbanised.

One needs only to look at the suburban areas of Kuala Lumpur and all the major towns and cities in Malaysia to note the impact of the new high-rise culture on the traditional way of life of the people. Other than the economic impact in terms of rising cost for property, land, assessment and taxes, price of consumer goods and services, the high-rise culture spreads a new kind of individualistic, self-centred and disruptive attitude
that destroyed all the ethics of hospitality, mutual respect (in terms of religion and multiracial trust). community cooperation and solidarity which Malaysians have developed in the years prior to the advent of the high-rise intrusion.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Spend, spend, spend….

There's a belief in the economic circle that the more money a government spends, the faster will development occurs. Put more money in people's pocket and let them spend it lavishly. Demand for consumer goods goes up, the market expands and the economy will boom.

How wonderful. If that is true the government can then just allocate billions here and billions there, create mega projects here and mega projects there, approve hundreds of millions for this and that project at the whims and fancies of the leaders to please their supporters.Development gets going, the government gets more support,
people are happy spending money, and if you belong to the low income group you can get cash assistance from the government every now and them.
can everyone lives like this?
Question is: how does government get the money to spend? Tax the rich and kill the geese that lay the golden eggs, pull in foreign capitals by opening wide the doors of economic opportunities in the country, give foreign investors as much freedom as possible to take away the profits they make in the country, sell the assets of the country as much as possible, borrow money by selling bonds and debentures, make liberal use of deficit budgeting, or what?

Will the economy of the country really boom or will it boomerang? Shouldn't a country spend only as much money as it can afford at any time and ensure that the immediate needs of country and people be taken care of first rather than embark on very ambitious programs to become a rich and developed nation as quickly as possible? There's a Malay saying: "Mau kaya cepat" (to get rich quickly), and it leads to disaster. There is also the possibility of achieving an allusion of wealth, like what the credit cards can give to the middle-income wage earner. Only when the cash-flow takes a real dip will the actual damage be known.

Malaysians today seem to be really enjoying a generous budget for the year 2015 with a lot of tax cut and increases in cash assistance for the low income group. Shopping Malls and business centres everywhere seem to be
always full of people and the roads are jammed with luxurious cars. Heavy cranes and mechanical equipment are seen everywhere in the towns and cities constructing new infrastructural facilities and buildings to hasten the paste of development and modernisation.
this still exists
Yet…..there are gripes and groans of fear and disappointment about government spending. Despite announcements on the influx of foreign investment in the country the boom it brings are also having some boomerang effects. Prices of consumer goods are going up as usual and the price of condominiums and semi-D houses or bungalows are
going into millions. One can foresee the administrators and servicemen going back to the villages to build or purchase their homes for the towns and cities are becoming too expensive for them. Only the rich businessmen and political leaders can afford to remain in the cities.
candidate for a welfare home

One wonders how long the spend, spend, spend, approach to the economic development of the country can continue.
The earlier we reevaluate the spending capacity of the nation as against its income and liabilities, and give the welfare of the people more emphasis than economic development per se, the better.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Happy Deepavali to Our Hindu Friends

In general, Diwali (or Deepavali) signifies the triumph of good over evil, of righteousness over treachery, of truth over falsehood, and of light over darkness. What Dewali signifies seems to cover the major areas of concern that the whole world faces today. Evil ( the dark forces), treachery (design and intrigues), falsehood (misinformation and disinformation), and the "darkness" which is not ignorance but self-pride, superiority complex and the holier-than-thou attitude casts over our worldview and self-awareness, are the major causes of friction and divisiveness in the world today.
lets light up our hearts

I think we all can learn more from the spirit of Depavali in contrast to what we can learn from the other major festivals of various religions. Each religious festival has of course its own special significance and spiritual value but Deepavali seems to cover more areas of human concern other than the festivities, at least in theory. The pujaas and prayers as I understand it, really cover all aspects of human knowledge and relationship. Other than focusing on the triumph of good over evil, righteousness over treachery, truth over falsehood and light over darkness, they also cover the relationship between parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters - with a day in the week-long celebration to promote such relationship. I wonder if it also includes a prayer for humaneness, justice and world peace.
spread love and brotherhood

As a multiracial country, we celebrate Deepavali together with our friends, like other festivals including Aidil Fitri/Adil Adha, Chinese New Year, Christmas, Gawai etc. Visits from house to house no longer seem to be the vogue nowadays in preference to the "open house"celebration which may take place at the hotels, clubs and community centres. Even the greeting cards have all but disappeared in preference to greetings and well-wishes sent through the Facebook, SMS, Chatbox etc. This development makes the spreading of the festive mood, spirit and conviviality faster, more pervasive and hopefully more intensive.
let mother earth thrive

We wish all our Hindu friends happy Deepavali and may the festival of lights help to enlighten us all on the ultimate purpose of life on this earth and not be intoxicated by its fleeting ..material and physical pleasures. More importantly, let the leaders of the world learn a little from what is meant by the triumph of good over evil, righteousness over treachery (and deceits), of truth over falsehood, and light over darkness )of the deceptive kind). Let us light the candle of love and compassion in our hearts and cease the warring and killing of our own kind in the pursuit of our own convictions and desires.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rubber price down...

Although Oil palm has taken over as the primary product of the country, rubber is still the main source of income for many Felda settlers and rubber smallholders in Malaysia. They used to enjoy a very comfortable life when the price was pretty high, even for the untreated latex. When the price of rubber was at its peak, even government servants like policemen and teachers left their job to tap rubber.
the oldest scene in Malaysia

Now the price of rubber has dropped. As reported by Rosli Zakaria of the New Straits Times (October 7, Business Times p. B7:
"At the current price of less than RM2 per kg it is realistic enough to say that many of the 500,000 smallholders, now earn less than RM700 a north and they have fallen under the poverty line. (Malaysia's poverty line is pegged at RM763 a month.)

"The are rubber smallholders living in rural areas, who were onces the backbone of the Malaysia economy. There is no end in sight for their woes unless ways are found to increase the demand and use of natural rubber."

Many smallholders have hung up their rubber-tapping knives to earn money from other small business activities. With the monsoon around the corner there is no hope for a rise in rubber price until March next year. Even factories which used to bus raw latex are closing down and laying off workers.
source of income for men

That's as bleak a scenario as it can be when the country is striving to become a high income nation. The price of petrol has just been increased by 20 sen per litter and the prices of other consumer goods are expected to do the same as in previous case of price hikes for patrol, including the bus fares for school-going children. To top the spiralling prices is that of homes and shophouses which are fast approaching the million mark in the case of the former while the prices of the letter will certainly drive the bumiputeras back to the villages.
and women too

What is the government doing to jack up the price of rubber? We used to hear of efforts by the Ministry of Primary Industries and that of Domestic Trade and Consumerism in previous years to hold discussions with world authorities on rubber and palm oil prices, to keep the prices at a reasonable level to ensure sustained production. We hear nothing of such efforts now except to control the prices of essential consumer goods, which in many cases are not effective enough, and giving alms (the so-called BRIM) to those earning an income of less than RM3000 a month.

Are we going to keep beating our breasts to say that we are going to become a developed nation soon with millions of people still waiting for the next instalment of BRIM to help out with their insufficient income. Are we still proud to say that our export has increased by the billions when the national debts keep rising and the import bill is eating away at our increased productivity?

The rubber smallholders used to be the backbone of our economy.Is nothing to be done to keep them as such because the backbone is now based on commerce and trade which the rural population has no say in? What's going to happen to the half a million rubber smallholders?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Celebrating the Hajis…..

Come October 5, hundreds of thousand new Hajis will complete their pilgrimage mission. Mecca and Madinah will be flushed with the new Hajis from all over the world. The new and modern facilities provided by the Saudi Government will really be put to the test in terms of their sufficiency and efficiency.From some of the pictures I see in the Facebook, even the three-tiered "tawaf" walkaway around the Kaabah is filled to capacity.
the 3-tiered tawaf walkaway seems full

The Muslims know what it means to complete the Haj mission as required by Islam if you're physically and financially able to do so. It completes your Fifth Rukun, the final requirement to become a "good" Muslim, at least in terms of your efforts to become so. Whether your Haj and other supplications to Allah, are accepted by Him depends on His magnanimity alone.

Those who have gone through the discipline and drills of completing the Haj mission, at both the physical and spiritual level, will certainly not want to recommit the sins of the past. They will surely shudder at the voraciousness, self-pride and haughtiness, the hostilities, cruelties and the ungratefulness of the people to their Creator, as seen in the world today. Religious decorum and sensitivity in some cases. just do not exist anymore, as shown by those involved in political struggle for power and war. The fear of God, by whatever name you call Him, seemed to have vanished. The weapons of war seemed to be their God, by which they live, threaten and control other people, and by which they will die. Material wealth on the other hand guarantees their wellbeing. There seemed to be no more place in their hearts for God, or any fear of Him and the day of Judgment….
a lot of trying experience involved

I wonder what the Hajis in Muslim countries feel about the atrocities and savageries of war in their country. Don't they want to resolve their differences in ways sanctioned or approved by Allah, or are they just to powerless to do so? I'm sure there lots of Hajis who are leaders in their midst. While "Jihad" is sanctioned by Allah and the Prophet (SAW), brutal killing is still not approved by any verse in the al-Quran….

Islam is a religion of peace but as some cynics would say, " You need to go to war to secure peace." The world today is too full of conflicting and contradicting believes, ideals (if not ideologies), aspirations, hopes and goals, to allow people to live in peace and harmony with each other. Yet, aren't all good and ethical ideals, values and the end-goals of life the same for all human beings ( excluding the perverts and insane!). I's only the means to achieve a happy life that differ and human beings are just fighting to uphold their belief in the best means, thereby becoming very mean at times!Don't human beings realise this simple truth?

Well the Hajis in Muslim countries might want to reflect on this as they celebrate the "crowning" of the new Hajis on the eve of Eidil Adha. For the non-Muslims, you have your own ways of acknowledging the height of spiritual achievement and levels of religiosity. If those at the very top can somehow bring home the discipline and experience of achieving the height they have achieved to the common men and women, it will be something like requiring all Muslims to perform the Haj. The discipline and the experience might help to rekindle the fear in God and the Day of Judgement in the people of today, to make this world a more peaceful and pleasantplace to live in. While modern science and technology had improved the facilities of life so much, the facilities will not ensure anything if people start harassing and killing each other due to their aspirational and ideological differences. Modern war machines will just hasten the destruction of the world.
spreading the spiritual experience

Let's learn a little from the Hajis, the Imams, the Priests, and the Men-of-God of the world. After all when we die we would all go to the same hereafter world to face our Creator. If you have the blood of innocent people on your hand, whoever your are, you'll certainly have to answer for it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Giving Cash Assistance to the Low Income People….

BRIM - the periodic cash assistance given to people earning less than RM2,000 to RM4,00 a month ( a new limit), has received both positive and very negative comments. The amount varies from RM250 per issue for bachelors to RM650 for adults with family earning less than RM4,00 or senior citizen , and given with no string attached. So far government has issued it three times spending about RM14 billion offering relief to 17 million recipients (from memory and subject to correction)

The smiles on the faces of recipients when the money was issued are well documented in many press release. Some said that the money would be used to pay for the school expenses of their children, others to pay the road tax for their cars, yet others to buy a new handphone or a PC. One thing is certain where a purchase is involved. The money won't be enough for anything special and it offers only a one-time spending opportunity or relief from financial burden.
the recipients don't look poor at all

So, to what extends can the money help to alleviate the effect of poverty? And it's not coming every month or even once in three or four months. It comes when the government feels it's good to give the needy a little piece of cake or a lollipop….

What impact such spending on development and promoting the welfare of the low income group is certainly questionable. Of course, to those with a very meagre income a few hundred bucks is a lot of money and a big help. But can you count on it when it comes at unknown time and very infrequently? No wonder the exPM of Malaysia Tun Dr Mahathir says it's a complete waste of money. There certainly are better ways of helping the low income group to meet the high expenses of modern living on a regular and consistent basis.And more importantly, with better results. And certainly this is no way to help achieve the objective of raising the per capita income of Malaysians to US$15,000 by the year 20202 unless the issue that 90% of the income goes to about 10% of the population does not matter to the government, no matter who the 10% comprise of.
a common sight in the richer villages

It's a great feeling to spend a few days in the rural village where one originates from. As I've said often, weekend holidays offer the village a full view and understanding of the progress achieved by this country, in the villages where poverty is supposed to linger on tenaciously. But you see beautifully renovated houses, new ones coming up big and imposing, luxury cars lying around on the green courtyards, sophisticated handphones and I pads being carried around by young and old…..where's the poverty that justifies BRIM? Some young people that I met are just smiling when I mentioned about it, saying that it's just a gift from Pakcik Najib. In two days the money's gone and we will wait for the next give, when government needs our support.
a crowded compound when everyone is back

The real poor and sick that I met are none richer by the gift. The old and bedridden are not even able to apply for the gift. And there's no one to help them get it. Only the able, resourceful and determined secured the gift, although they don't seem deserving at all, or really appreciate it. But doesn't want some extra cash in your pocket.

Today ( September 16 )is Malaysia Day, the day Malaysia was formed. Was there any celebration or ceremony at all in the city, since I've been in the village? I don't see any sign of celebration, no flags flying on cars or on buildings, no excitement among the crowds. Have the people lost their enthusiasm for such celebration? I wonder why?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Criticim vs Condemnation

People usually hate to be criticised. They loved to be flattered or praised. This is irrespective of their being leaders or ordinary citizens. If you're not careful with your criticism you might get a punch in the nose by the person criticised if he is an ordinary person, or some form of prosecution or persecution if the person is some kind of a leader, depending on the severity of your criticism. He or she might even file a civil suit seeking payment for damage to his or her reputation.

Only in the developed nations is criticism of leaders or between ordinary citizens accepted without fear or fury. It is considered as a healthy input for self rectification or improvement. Even the President and other high dignitaries can be criticised without getting the police involved in tracking the critic and throwing the book at him or her. TV and radio shows often become very popular because a lot of critical remarks are made against certain popular leader, making both the critic and the leader criticised to become even more popular.
Everyone hates criticism and welcome praises
In Malaysia criticism against the government and its leaders is often considered as an act of opposing the government.Hence, those involved in making such criticism can get into a lot of trouble, even when the criticism is made in personal website such as the Facebook, Blogspot. Twitter, Chat page etc. You can get hauled up by the police for some silly or cynical remarks made in FB. Whether intentional or not the remarks can turn out to be seditious, damaging or just contemptuous. More serious, it can be considered as an act of disloyalty or traitorous, a vicious condemnation of the king country and people.

Thus, a lot depends on how you criticise, There is such a thing as healthy criticism, where the intention is merely to show some weakness or defects in whatever is being discussed so that it can be improved further. And there's such a thing as outright condemnation, without any fair appreciation at all of what good has been done or the beneficial aspect of whatever is being discussed. The Opposition and the Government seemed to be the champion in the latter practice. Whatever is done by the Government is always considered 'undesirable' or 'wasteful' by the Opposition and whatever is done by the Opposition will be considered harmful or treacherous by the Government. The public, of course. expect them to do so and must make up their own mind as to who is right…

In a democracy, ordinary citizens can of course make their own easement and criticism of the leaders in the country whether the leaders are in the Government or in the Opposition. People may agree or may not agree with the views expressed as long as no harm is done. But when a very influential citizen and an ex-leader of the nation like Tun Dr Mahathir levels a criticism on the current Prime Minister, it can really cause a stir. It adds weight to all the criticisms that had been made by other innocuous critics of the Premier, especially on the issue of Government spending and the outright cash gifts (BRIM1,2 and 3) to the so-called low-income people - not just the poor and impoverished. The habit of giving away large amount of money to finance certain projects just before a general election is also criticised for it produces a familiar odour of corruption which the country if fighting against.
the national transformation program
and the architects

While the progress of the NTP (National Trnsformation Program with the target of making Malaysia a developed nation with a per cap income of US15,000 (RM47,400) by 20202, is considered on target by Minister responsible for monitoring its progress, many fear that the country's economy is heading for trouble. Though it is said that we have reached a per cap income of US$10,00 last year, what does that mean if 15% of the population take 85% of the cake and 85% share the remainder 15%. One would check the distribution figures and the nature of property and asset ownership to ensure that everyone is having a fair share of the country's wealth.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Transformation: the Good and the Ugly.

Transformation is the rallying call of the Malaysians today. Our leaders talk about economic transformation, political transformation, value transformation (traditional to modern, rural to urban, local to global etc.), educational transformation (from emphasising the 3Rs to preparation for the need of the labor market, from emphasising basic skills to imparting marketable skill etc.) and national-image transformation ( from a multiracial country to a one-Malaysia image with racial origins deleted from all personal identification documents, although the names like Abdullah, Wong Kam Choon, Daljit Singh, Sameon etc will still tell a story.

The government has developed detailed mechanism to evaluate the transformation process in several areas of development with Ministers working full-time on evaluating the progress made each year.The administrative mechanism is called the National Key Result Area (NKRA) evaluation system where six areas of national improvement are identified as the basis for the desired TRANSFORMATION. The areas include: improving access to quality education, reduce crime rate, eradicate corruption, raise the living standing or low income people, strengthen rural infrastructure and improve the public transport system. A minister is put in-charege of each area of concern.
The NKRA -a complex evaluation system

And the result? We're making very good progress according to the government.Only the political transformation involved doing something with the image of the coalition government i.e. BARISAN NASIONAL ( THE NATIONAL FRONT)and the constituent political parties involved especially UMNO, and the leaders within the party, who are alleged to be more concerned with enriching themselves rather than developing the country and the people. The Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) as another major constituent of BARISAN, had been losing support while the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) had problems with establishing a new leadership as authoritative as Samy Veloo was. If corruption is to be stamped out in this country, many believed it should start with checking on the issuance of multibillion and multimillion government contracts and what kickbacks are involved. Even the issuance of smaller contracts to cronies must be stopped, down to the level of village heads (ketua kampung). If political bigwigs and little lords at the village levels continue to enrich themselves through corrupt practices , don't ever hope that corruption among lesser public officials and businessmen will ever stop.

From the economic point of view, the Chinese are rich and superrich because they have been in business since Malaya was a British colony. They had monopolised the business world and the urban centres.
Their entrepreneurs controlled the industries and their middlemen controlled the business outlets and distribution centres. The rich Indians are also traders, businessmen and professionals. Now look at the Malays. Most of the very rich are political leaders, their business colleagues, and strong supporters and assistants or runners. The genuine businessmen who had made it rich can be counted on one hand.
The rich Malays
rich Malaysians
The political and economic landscape has to be transformed. Can the current leadership do it? The Pakatan Rakyat consisting of the Party Keadilan Rakyat, DAP and PAS offers a good alternative as shown by the results of the 13thGE. But the members are now at odds with each other as a result of several issues topped by the choice of a Chief Minster for Selangor, the richest State in Malaysia. The battle for power and wealth seems to haunt the Pakatan Rakyat as it did the BARISAN NASIONAL where the pecking order had now been well esestablished. So can the transformation be undertaken at all without disturbing the current political order?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Back to the Village for Celebration….

When I was a young boy my friends and I used to go to the town for celebration after the Aidilfitri prayers and the feasting at the mosque (or madrasah) were done. We went to the movie to see a new Malay film or sometimes just frolicked around with other friends. There was't any big shopping malls or complexes then to roam around and watch people enjoy themselves shopping or eating at the food courts. We just enjoyed the town's offerings.

Now, people in the towns and cities go back in droves to the villages to celebrate festive days like the Aidilfitri and Aidil Adha. Those who could not get any leave of absence to go back to their hometown and villages for the occasion felt very bad about it. The towns and cities become quite empty - or at least the roads become so. I suppose even the non-Muslims take the opportunity to go on vacation for the period of the public holidays.
going back to the villages

The Muslims especially the Malays who do not go back to the villages for the Adilfitri (or Aidil Adha) vacation are normally those who no longer have their parents or any close relatives in those villages. Or who never came from the remote villages but originate from the towns or cities themselves. Some whom I talked to, felt very sad about not having a place to go to in the village. Their 'kampung' on the vicinity of the towns or cities have become a part of the metropolitan area and lost its rural splendour.

Going around the rural villages during the festive days, gives one a full realisation on how the nation has progressed. The wooden houses have been renovated to feature some of the the most modern architectural designs, combining traditional Malay woodcraft and the wonders of concrete, fibres and aluminium. We have wooden frontages and concrete halls and kitchens aplenty, replete with modern furnishing and cooking facilities. In the huge courtyard are expensive cars glittering in the sunlight - not three or four but going up to eleven or twelve. All the kids returned home with their new luxury cars and hordes of children. It's a sight that warms the heart tremendously for those who have many children, and a sad, sad moment of reflection for those who have none. The gathering of children and relatives is what that makes the festive days a real festival. And now they all come back home to the kampung….
the 'halaman rumah' (courtyard) filled with cars is a common sight

Rural roads can become jammed up. Especially with a lot of food and fruit stalls lining up the road and inviting travellers to slow down for a good look or slowly stopping by to make a purchase. In Negeri Sembilan the Seremban-Kuala Pilah road is famous for this, especial between Ulu Bendul/Terachi and Tanjung Ipoh, my hometown. The trip can take up to two hours on a really bad (or good shopping?) day. You can really get all the varieties of food stuff and local fruits or appetisers that you want.
a group pic of relatives

On the fourth or fifth day after Aidilfitri, the villages are quite empty again with only one or two old cars left behind. The towns and cities are crowded to the brim again. All attempts to make the rural areas more attractive to the young to live and work in, seem to have little results, except in rural ares where an urban sprawl had been created. But these places have little that can give a village atmosphere and even the Malay population there will go back to their villages for a few days of authentic 'hariraya' celebration to satisfy their nostalgic yearning.

Friday, July 18, 2014

When Everythings Seems to go Wrong…..

Another tragedy costing Malaysia 295 lives (if there are no survivors) has hit us. MH17 shot down at 33,000 feet in the air, four months after MH370 was lost in thin air without any trace. Up to now the remains of the plane had still not been found.
hell fire in the sky

On the ground armed terrorists in Sabah and armed law-breakers on the streets seem to have no fear at all of the law enforcers in the country. While the Traffic Police are issuing thousand upon thousand of summons for traffic offences, angry drivers are getting more inconsiderate and ruthless with the traffic jams getting worse on all major roads and thoroughfares.Slow drivers hugging the right lanes on highways can cause a lot of accidents yet they are never taken off the road. So are drivers who run over the double lines to overtake others, even at corners.

terrorists gathering forces
I'm not qualified to comment on political development and the intriguing things that are happening.But the views we read from political analysts and seasoned commentators seem to only generate a lot of heat but no light. What's really happening in the corridors of power and who is in real control is still a great mystery. The public can only see things going wrong on many issues. But no one can put his or her finger on the actual cause(s) of the problem.Sudden interruption in the water supply is still a frequent occurrence in KL and elsewhere while government's battle cry "rakyat didahulukan,kecekapan diutamakan" ( the public is of first concern and efficiency is a priority) has often been quoted as an insult. Some public services are still not up to the mark or not giving priority to the poor and helpless.
no problem if you can pay up
But thank Allah, everything seems okay on the surface. Yes, on the surface of things Malaysians are enjoying a peaceful and prosperous life, Never mind if the price of houses, cars, gas, power, food, clothes etc are doubling up (even a slice of pineapple curry can cost RM1.50 when before it was just 50 sen and a small fried catfish up to RM3), if your income is enough to cope up with the rising cost. If not, wait for BRIM to help you out i.e. if you don't starve before its issuance. For the rich Malaysians, life here can even be a party or a ball. All the monetary fines imposed by law on Malaysians who break any of them would not hurt the rich: only the poor and low-income people will suffer more. Even in criminal offences the rich seem to be able to fight any case against them until it drags on for years and ultimately end up with an
acquittal. It's the same with any civil case against a powerful personality. Nothing happens in the end….

As long as the law and its enforcement is not equally applied on the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, without fear or favour, everything done to foster development and justice will go wrong somewhere, made wrong or bent or stretched to favour the rich and powerful. For so long as the punishment for wrong doing is
monetary in nature, the rich in Malaysia wouldn't care two hoot for the law. They can pay the fine, even buy their way out or turn a small issue into a big political battle by turning it into a racial problem.

Malaysia has enjoyed stability, peace and harmony before. The leaders were very concerned with rural poverty and the unfortunate Malaysians. Now that even those who were poor and unfortunate before (ike the early settlers of Felda) have become rich, greed sets in and everyone wants to make a pile as quickly as possible. It has become a land of greedy opportunists and wealth seekers. If the leaders realize this fact, they might begin to take action to set things right and not allow what is right to go wrong.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Abolishing the Paupers and Beggars...

What a blow for the host country of the World Cup to suffer 7 goals to 1. It just shows that anything can happen in football for there can be many a slip between the feet and the ball. I hope Brazil had not been frolicking too much the night before the game. The worst defeat can come in the best of time.
Oh no, Brazil is out

And the worst thing can also happen in the most auspicious time of the year in any country. Malaysia as in other Muslim countries, for example, is respecting the month of Ramadhan when prayers, good deeds and helping the unfortunate people in society are given top priority. Giving food and alms to the paupers, the beggars and the impoverished, is considered as a way of cleansing the soul and washing away your sins.

But, the media is agog with the anger of common Muslim citizens over government efforts to rid the country of paupers, beggars and the the homeless who are roaming the streets to take advantage of the month's drive for kindness and compassion for the unfortunate. At any food bazar where Muslims are busy selling and buying food for breaking their fast and the crowd is overwhelming, the beggars and alms-seekers also proliferate. You will not only see the beggars and physically impaired souls holding out their tin-cans or begging bowls to the crowd passing by, but you can also see well-dressed volunteers holding out colourful collection boxes to collect contributions to certain foundations of funds.
where else to go for help?

Many kind hearted Muslims are crying out against the authorities' efforts to round up these beggars and impoverished charity seekers and put them in welfare homes. Even free food kitchens where these unfortunate members of society can get some chow for their empty stomachs, are being viewed as encouraging pauperism and must, therefore, be abolished. The effort is seen as a necessary cruelty to clean up the streets from the bad image and nuisance caused by these unfortunate lots.
free food is encouraging begging?

This sounds more like trying to abolish poverty by decree. Taken to the extreme even alms givers and good samaritans may be fined or taken to task for "encouraging" pauperism and street begging. Can we ever overcome poverty by abolishing the street beggars and alms-seekers - not including those collecting donation for certain foundations of funds of course? Where do you want to place all the beggars and 'miserabs' if government is not even building enough welfare homes or home for the poor and disabled to accommodate and care for them, let alone establish a "social security system" that guarantees some monetary allowance for the poor, unemployed and handicapped. In Malaysia most of the 'old folks homes' are run by voluntary organisations.

Brazil, the host country for world Cup 2014, is now out of the competition.That doesn't mean that the Samba Festival should end. Even if Malaysia is proclaimed by its leaders as doing very well economically, should it try to abolish poverty with a cruel hand, and especially in the month of Ramadhan, the month of charity and compassion?