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.