A Change of Tag: Now Transformation Unplugged


January 15, 2013

A Change of Tag: Now Transformation Unplugged

by Idris Jala (01-14-13)@http://www.thestar.com.my

Idris JalaALL too soon another year has passed and a new year is born. And I am back with my column but with a different name this time. We started off with Transformation Blues but now its Transformation Unplugged.

A person performing unplugged music is often capable of striking a deep chord with the audience. Likewise, I would like to be able to share facts and information with readers on the dynamically evolving transformation journey of Malaysia through this column.

If what we needed to do last year was to clear misconceptions and, to state our purpose clearly and unambiguously, we now have to go beyond that and grapple with the issues that arise from our being and doing.

There are two things which we must continue to do this year. First, we must keep focus. We need to be focused so that our efforts are concentrated and not diluted to achieve particular aims.

There are only so many resources we have and these have to be utilised properly and efficiently for maximum benefits to be obtained. Diffuse the effort over too wide an area, and the results will only trickle in a slow stream instead of a raging torrent.

For instance, Pengerang in Johor is being developed as an oil hub with planned investments of RM60bil or more. Other states may want to duplicate such an initiative but there are not enough resources such as financing and expertise to carry it out.

We need to concentrate our efforts on building this oil hub as one massive project and make it a roaring success before we even think about building another one somewhere else. We must be entirely focused.

The other essential thing we must continue to do is to press on ahead with the strategic reform initiatives which will transform the way we do business and create wealth. These are the enablers that will help our country become more competitive.

They cover things such as encouraging competition within the local economy, improving public service delivery, developing human capital which includes major changes in the education system, improving public finance, reducing the role of Government in business and narrowing economic disparities amongst others.

These are vital and necessary for the transformation to take place meaningfully and we will continue to focus our efforts in these areas.

Transformation basically involves change towards achieving our aim of becoming a developed nation with an income of at least US$15,000 (RM45,300) per person by 2020. That remains our true north.

To achieve this, we essentially need both a transformation within the Government and the Government working hand-in-hand with the private sector to achieve our overall economic aims – our economic transformation.

In this context, I want to give credit to our civil service who have stepped forward and made the changes necessary in the Government to achieve the economic gains in partnership with the private sector.

I have said time and again that Pemandu is a monitoring agency for the implementation of projects, deadlines and targets. Achievements come from the civil service and the private sector.

Civil service performance has been nothing short of exemplary and is reflected in most of our key performance indicators or KPIs being met and even comfortably exceeded in many cases. Our measurement and monitoring indicates that we have exceeded targets and that is in large part due to the civil service.

A policy does not become a plan and an achievement until you flesh out every detail and hold someone accountable for each. The yin and yang of change is about being and doing – being is about our purpose and doing focuses on what we should be achieving. When yin and yang complement, we get success.

Pemandu does NOT do things by itself. We are initiators and catalysts of change. We don’t implement them but we coordinate them, we monitor them and facilitate change by mustering government support. It therefore follows that we don’t take credit for achievement which belong to the Government and the private sector.

As always, there’s a lot to do before we reach our ultimate goal of becoming a developed nation by 2020. We must make sure that the ship moves fast enough, and importantly too, stays on course.

Datuk Seri Idris Jala is CEO of Pemandu and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. Fair and reasonable comments are most welcome at idrisjala@pemandu.gov.my

The Obama Coalition vs. Corporate America


January 10, 2013

http://www.nytimes.com

The Obama Coalition vs. Corporate America

by Thomas B. Edsall (01-09-13)

The slow implosion of the Republican Party — along with the growing strength of a Democratic coalition dominated by low-to-middle-income voters — threatens the power of the corporate establishment and will force big business to find new ways to reassert control of the policy-making process.

The warning signs are everywhere. The development carrying perhaps the most symbolic significance was the abandonment last week by 85 House Republicans and 40 of the 47 Republican senators of their longstanding commitment not to raise taxes. The tax increase was imposed on the affluent, a core Republican constituency. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page did not mince words, not that it ever does:

The Senate-White House compromise grudgingly passed by the House is a Beltway classic: the biggest tax increase in 20 years in return for spending increases, and all spun for political purposes as a “tax cut for the middle class.”

The potential institutionalization of a majority Democratic coalition of the downscale – including single women, minorities, union members and the young — is equally (if not more) ominous for members of the top 0.1 percent and for the corporations that have profited over the past 40 years.

Voters in this ascendant coalition believe “politicians help the rich get richer and corporations collect record profits while refusing to hire or increase wages or salaries for workers,” according to an extensive study conducted by the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

Although there is a pro-business wing of the Democratic Party — associated with figures like current and former Treasury Secretaries Timothy Geithner and Robert Rubin, and with centrists like Senators Mark Warner of Virginia, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and  Max Baucus of Montana — this faction is in danger of being submerged by a surge of redistributional demands coming from voters in the bottom half, income-wise.

This isn’t the only thing causing problems for what we used to call Big Business — represented by the Business Roundtable, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Bankers Association and other trade associations — which faces a set of challenges that have the potential to threaten its clout.

Economists on both the right and left, from Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University to the Times columnist Paul Krugman, are increasingly talking about the detrimental consequences of high concentrations of economic and political power – concentrations that threaten the innovation that is supposed to be what makes unequal outcomes worth the price.

Daron Acemoglu of M.I.T., who wrote the highly regarded book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty” with James A. Robinson of Harvard, argues that concentrations of wealth and market power allow “the already well off and already well organized” to exercise excessive leverage through “lobbying, campaign contributions and otherwise” that distort market processes.

The wide range of hostility to big business is reflected in the views of Erick Erickson, the influential right-wing blogger at RedState.com who, “through a mix of incendiary posts, canny self-promotion (he has 24,540 Twitter followers) and endorsement of conservative primary candidates” has made himself “a conservative powerhouse.” Erickson contends that a central failing of the Republican Party is its subservience to the business elite:

The Republican Establishment gets their head patted as they sip wine with major C.E.O.s who want Washington to just do something. But these C.E.O.s have something in common. They want Washington to work for them. Washington working for Fortune 500 does not equate to Washington working for families or entrepreneurs or small businesses. We have an unlevel playing field with Washington picking winners and losers with cushy jobs for the elites when they leave the Capitol.

A second development that raises the level of hostility to corporate chieftains is the fact that there has been, over the past decade, a sharp decline in the reward for work.

Margaret Jacobson and Filippo Occhino of the Cleveland Federal Reserve  documented this decline in a paper published in September, “Labor’s Declining Share of Income and Rising Inequality.” The following chart shows the continuing shift in the distribution of national income from labor to the owners of capital, beginning in 2000:

Cleveland Fed

An additional chart put together by the Cleveland Fed demonstrates that from 1948 to 1973 compensation rose at almost exactly the same rate as productivity; in other words, workers gained proportionately as their productivity improved. Over the following two decades, from 1974 to 1995, however, the rate of compensation growth fell behind productivity by roughly 0.25 percent a year, and then fell even further, by 0.5 percent, over the years from 1996 to 2011. For a worker making $25,000 a year in 1974, the failure of his pay to keep up with his productivity growth means that he made $5,763 less in 2011, $43,225, than he would have had his pay kept up with productivity gains, $48,988.

The more workers recognize that their wages are not keeping up with their productivity gains, the more they are likely to press for redistributive government action through tax policy or by other means.

Cleveland Fed

Jacobson and Occhino write

that economists have identified three long-term factors that explain why “the wage-productivity gap has widened and the share of income accruing to labor has declined.” The first is the decline of unions and the resulting weakening of the bargaining power of labor. The second has been the movement of well paying jobs overseas – the “migration of relatively more labor-intensive sectors from advanced economies to emerging economies. As a consequence, the sectors remaining in the advanced economies are relatively less labor-intensive, and the average share of labor income is lower.” The third factor is automation and technology advances which have encouraged a shift from workers to machines — “technological change connected with improvements in information and communication technologies, which has raised the marginal productivity and return to capital relative to labor.”

The shift of income from labor to capital occurs at a time (and may well be one of the causes) of huge increases in the share of income flowing to C.E.O.’s and those at the top of the income distribution.

Although the stars are lined up in favor of the anti-corporate left, American business, when its back is to the wall, has historically proved to be extraordinarily resourceful.

Just over 40 years ago, at a similarly volatile moment, Lewis F. Powell, Jr. wrote a 6,030-word memo to the United States Chamber of Commerce that has gained legendary status: The Powell Manifesto or, as it was formally titled, “Confidential Memorandum: Attack on American Free Enterprise System.” The soon-to-be-appointed associate justice of the Supreme Court warned: “We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.”

In the face of this onslaught, business mobilized and by 1977 was back on top, defeating liberal initiatives like consumer protection and labor law reform during the Carter administration. Then, in 1980, a unified coalition of corporations and trade associations helped Ronald Reagan win the presidency, and the Republican Party wrested control of the Senate.

The 1980 election marked the start of a quarter-century of corporate political hegemony that permeated the administrations of Reagan, George Bush, and George W. Bush – as well as, to a substantial degree, the administration of Bill Clinton.

In other words, the current Republican implosion notwithstanding, it would not be surprising to see conservative feet on Democratic throats before too much time has passed.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/the-obama-coalition-vs-corporate-america/?ref=opinion

Longing for Enlightened Leaders


November 20, 2012

Longing for Enlightened Leaders

by Dr. M.Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

Before Malaysians grant Prime Minister Najib’s request for a mandate in the coming election, we should examine his performance during the past four years. It has been mediocre, satiated with slogans, and drifting amidst an abundance of acronyms.

If Malaysians are satisfied with KPIs and PEMANDU, or One Malaysia This and Two Malaysia That, then expect more of the same, this time with ever incredulous inanity and flatulent fatuousness.

Najib has not demonstrated any ability or inclination to clean up his administrative house. An early indication of his second term performance is this. Thus far no Cabinet Minister has voluntarily withdrawn from being an electoral candidate. As Najib will not drop them, if they win they will end up in his cabinet again. Nothing would have changed.

A wisecrack definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. That is true only if you let the same cast of incompetent characters carry out the task after they have clearly and repeatedly demonstrated their inability to do so. Pick others more competent and diligent, and the result may well surprise you. It would be far from insanity.

The best advice a science teacher could give a student who repeatedly fails to perform an experiment is to suggest that he pursues music instead, where “practice, practice, practice!” (doing the same thing over and over) may take him to Carnegie Hall. Likewise, the kindest gesture to Najib after he has clearly demonstrated his inability to lead would be for Malaysians to force him into another line of work, by not voting him and his party in.

After over half of century in power, what has UMNO, a party that claims to champion Malays, achieved? Malays today are even more morally corrupt, deeply polarized, and economically disadvantaged than ever before. Those are not my observations. I am merely summarizing what Mahathir, a man who led the country and UMNO for over two decades, said.

Take any social indicator – rate of incarceration, drug abuse, families headed by single mothers – and our community is over represented. Our educational and economic achievements are nothing to be proud of; they are an embarrassment.

Yet UMNO Supreme Council members parade their ‘doctorates’ from degree mills as genuine intellectual achievements. The sorry part is that their colleagues believe them! Spouses and families of ministers brag that their luxurious condominiums are the fruits of their entrepreneurial flair where others see those as reflecting the corruption and cronyism of the system.

Current UMNO leaders are like that inept science student; it is time to force them to pursue other lines of work, anything other than leading us. Voters must be like the strict teacher; flunk the student who repeatedly fails to perform his assigned task. Letting him continue would not do that individual any service; it would only be detrimental to the rest of the class. Voters must flunk these corrupt and incompetent UMNO leaders by voting them out.

UMNO Not A Lost Cause

This does not mean that UMNO is a lost cause; nothing is. Even the most unseaworthy sloop could through imaginative and skilful craftsmanship be brought up to Bristol condition. The operative phrase or caveat is “imaginative and skilful craftsmanship.” Is Najib imaginative and skilful? I never underestimate the ability of an individual to learn or change.

The diminutive, uninspiring and uncharismatic Deng Xiaoping (right) was well in his 70s when he assumed power. He then took his giant nation in a radically different and far better direction.

Unlike Deng, Najib is far from being diminutive physically, but he exceeds Deng in being uninspiring and uncharismatic. Again unlike Deng whose path to power was littered with the carcasses of personal and political tragedies (his son was paralyzed by Red Guard goons and Deng was once paraded in a dunce cap on the streets of Beijing), Najib’s ascend to the top was well paved – by others.

Deng was tempered by life’s bitter lessons; Najib’s the beneficiary of its many blessings. If Najib considers that a handicap and an excuse for his underperformance, then he should look up to another transformative leader of modern times, Franklin D Roosevelt, for inspiration.

Roosevelt, whose name means a field of roses in Dutch, was born into privilege. Yet he uplifted the lives of Americans especially the poor through his New Deal initiatives. His progressive redistributionist policies earned him the sobriquet, “traitor to his class.”

Najib’s name is equally rosy; it means wise, intelligent, or high birth in Arabic. Like Roosevelt, Najib was also born into privilege though not on the same scale as FDR or today. Corruption and cronyism were not yet the norms when Tun Razak was Prime Minister.

Going back to Deng, Najib too spent his formative years as a young man abroad, in Britain, to Deng’s Europe. When Deng left, his father asked him what he hoped to learn. Deng replied, “To learn knowledge and the truth from the West in order to save China.”

I do not know whether Najib had a similar conversation with his father, but one thing I do know. Tun Razak sent all his children abroad to escape the very Malaysian system of education he was championing! Hypocrisy is a good word to describe such a stance. That is one trait Najib inherits from his father.

I risk flattering Najib by mentioning him in the same sentence with Deng and FDR (left). My doing so merely reflects a longing on my part for a leader who could inspire us.

Najib could initiate change now to give us a hint that he is indeed capable of being a “transformative leader” as he so frequently bragged, and not be content with merely mouthing slogans.

He could announce his “shadow” cabinet should Barisan be returned to power. Better yet, revamp his cabinet now and pick his new team to go into the election so citizens could have a reason to vote for Barisan and not merely against Pakatan.

Malaysians do not expect miracles or demand a super team, merely capable and honest ministers. It is not a tall order. Begin by getting rid of those stale politicians in his cabinet. If they haven’t yet made their mark, they are unlikely to do so in the next few years.

Characters like Nazri, Rais, Rastam, and Hishamuddin are like durians that have remained unsold for far too long. They are tak laku (unsellable), not even good for making tompoyak. All they do is stink the place up and lower the value of what few remaining good durians Najib has. Nor are his junior ministers, the next tier of leaders, any better, as exemplified by the recent idiotic utterances of one Dr. Mashitah. She is supposedly better educated, sporting a doctorate of some sort.

I could add a few more names including that of Muhyyiddin, but that would only be divisive. After all, the DPM has as much claim and legitimacy to the top post as Najib. Instead why not join forces and together pick the new dream team.

While he is at it, Najib should also pick a new Attorney General  and Anti-Corruption chief. If Najib were to name individuals with impeccable credentials and professionalism to those two offices, then those old tak laku durians he dropped from his cabinet would not dare create trouble for him.

Najib’s address to the UMNO General Assembly later this month will reveal whether he is content with another session of sloganeering or serious about transforming his party and country. The greater significance is this. By indulging in the former and naming the same old nincompoops to his cabinet and top positions, Najib soils the reputation of our community. It gives the impression that the Nazris, Raises, Rastams, Mashitahs and Hishamuddins represent the best our race is capable of producing or that we are bereft of talents. The shame reflects on all of us.

Malaysia’s New Economic Policy exacerbated Income and Wealth Disparities


November 15, 2012

Malaysia’s New Economic Policy exacerbated  Income and Wealth Disparities

by M Krishnamoorthy, 5:22PM Nov 14, 2012@http://www.malaysiakini.com

The New Economic Policy (NEP) had created new intra-ethnic inequalities and dramatically increased income and wealth disparities in Malaysia.

This is one of the many findings disclosed in a new book, ‘The New Economic Policy in Malaysia’, authored by 12 academicians from various universities in both Malaysia and Singapore. The book will be released next week.

NONEOne of the editors of the book, Universiti Malaya economist Dr Edmund Terence Gomez, (the other being Dr. Johan Sarawanamuttu) said however, overall poverty had fallen and the NEP goals had been achieved in part rather than in their entirety.

NEP was an ambitious affirmative action programme launched by the government in 1971. While NEP nominally ended in 1990, its successors pursue similar affirmative action policies.

It is noted in the soon-to-be launched book that the most prosperous bumiputeras had made substantial economic gains, contributing to serious intra-ethnic wealth and income disparities.

“Spatial inequalities, that are disparities between beneficiaries in different regions, or between urban and rural beneficiaries, had similarly increased. This spatial disparity was partly attributable to the government’s active support of neoliberal policies, such as privatisation of mega-infrastructure projects, and inordinate attention to heavy industrialisation.

“Since the ultimate aim of these policies was to nurture big businesses owned by bumiputeras, this inevitably meant that the poor, including those involved in rural enterprises, had been neglected. Crucially too, a subset of targeted group had become politically powerful, allowing them to also become economically well off,” Gomez told Malaysiakini in an exclusive interview.

Spatial disparities, Gomez (left) added, had worsened after the NEP was implemented because the preferences designed to encourage bumiputera entrepreneurship were disproportionately utilised by members of the targeted group in urban and prosperous rural areas.

“These areas had a level of infrastructural support that was not present in rural regions, including those in Sabah and Sarawak. Affirmative action had not helped develop rural enterprises, even though this was one implicit objective of the NEP.

“Spatial differences have also been exacerbated by the limited ability of the rural poor to take advantage of access to higher education, an issue conditioned on high quality primary and secondary education. This was a further indication of poor infrastructure development in rural areas as well as the capacity of the government to maintain or deliver high quality education in rural areas.”

Only 12% of poor bumi surveyed get scholarship

The issue of the limited capacity of the poor to gain access to higher education was noted in a study that only 12 percent of the bumiputera students surveyed and who had received government scholarships, had come from poor families.

This poor capacity of the education system to foster well-equipped graduates was also noted in this study, drawing attention to a key problem that was also recently acknowledged by the government that of “institutional decline” involving public sector institutions, said Gomez.

In Malaysia, affirmative action programmes targeted at the highest levels of education, adult employment and enterprise development have not resulted in productive outcomes because the government has not ensured that quality education is accorded at primary and secondary schools, the book noted.

“New poverty”, arising from unemployment with the decline of manufacturing, regional under-development and intra-ethnic class differences, has been exacerbated by the limited capacity of the rural poor to make good use of their access to higher education, an issue reliant on a sound primary education.

In business, preferential treatment have led to serious wastage of government resources, according to the book. The Vendor Development Programme (VDP) and the Global Supplier Programme (GSP), said Gomez, were introduced to help SMEs become manufacturers and suppliers of industrial components, machinery and equipment used by large-scale industries and multinational companies.

“The VDP and GSP were hardly successful in nurturing entrepreneurial bumiputera SMEs as they were based on selective patronage, while non-bumiputera-owned companies were not allowed access to the domestic and foreign markets created by the government through these vendor programmes,” said Gomez.

Petronas Chief Executive hints of his impending departure


November 12, 2012

Petronas Chief Executive hints of his impending departure

by The Malaysian Insider

Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abas (left with the Prime Minister) has hinted that he may not stay long at Petronas under its new succession policy after pushing through reforms to distance itself as the country’s piggy bank in the last two years he has been its CEO.

“I’ve identified my successor and I’m ready to leave any time. Even tomorrow. I don’t believe in self-preservation,” Shamsul told Financial Times (FT) in an interview published today.

Petronas’ Chief Executive and board serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister who have over the years tapped into the state oil firm’s funds to build their dream projects and bail out their mistakes.

The man who succeeded the state oil company’s long time chief executive Tan Sri Hassan Marican (right) in 2010 has been determined to shake off its government links and revamp the way it conducts business to instil discipline and control over how its funds are spent and to justify its Fortune 500 tag in order to pursue its commercial interests, the international business daily reported.

Petronas has also been straining for independence against its government ownership by negotiating a cut in an annual subsidy it pays to state coffers that fund some 40 per cent of the national Budget and help offset rising exploration costs abroad as production dwindles at home, FT report.

“It’s no longer a one-man show,” Shamsul told FT. The paper highlighted that Shamsul has been determined to overhaul Petronas’ image as a government-owned business as he tries to rescue its C$5.3 billion (RM16 billion) purchase of power giant Progress Energy Resources, which has been snubbed by the Canadian government as having no “net benefit” to the north American country.

The paper noted Petronas has been working to redress the imbalance of seeing 42 per cent of its overseas income making up only 10 per cent of its earnings.

The CEO told the paper he could not have carried out the reforms “without the support of the Prime Minister” Datuk Seri Najib Razak. But it noted that Shamsul, who has been at Petronas for 37 years since 1975, is also a product of the system he criticises. He appears to understand that his time there may be up soon and has prepared for it.

Shamsul’s predecessor Hassan was believed to have left Petronas due to clashes with Najib back in late 2009 over the appointment of a former senior aide as a Petronas director despite the Prime Minister having absolute powers in board appointments.

Hassan was widely credited with turning Petronas into the only other state-run major international player in the oil and gas space apart from Norway’s Statoil. Since then, he had been appointed to the board of several foreign firms, including as director of Singapore’s Sembcorp Industries.

 

Penang and the Future of Urban Planning


November 9, 2012

Penang and the Future of Urban Planning

by Zairil Khir Johari

When one thinks of Penang today, a few things come to mind: the best food in the world, living heritage, multiculturalism, the hills, the beaches, CAT governance and, inevitably, traffic jams.

Of late, the last has been worsening, so much so that the Guinness Book of World Records should be invited to visit Penang Island on a long weekend to marvel at what is indisputably the world’s largest car park.

 An oft-repeated statistic also never fails to astonish: Road Transport Department data from 2009 reveals that there are about 1.75 million motor vehicles in Penang, compared to an adult population of roughly one million. Yes, that amounts to almost two vehicles per adult.

 Be that as it may, the extraordinary proportion of vehicles alone does not explain the nefarious traffic congestion. After all, one person can’t possibly drive two cars at the same time. What is really exacerbating the situation is a toxic combination of two factors: one a more recent phenomenon and the other a legacy issue.

 Success breeds development

Firstly, there are more vehicles crisscrossing the island today because Penang has, to put it simply, become a more happening place. Excitement has grown over the last few years due in part to the conferment of UNESCO World Heritage status on George Town, as well as an explosion of commercial activities stemming from an increasing number of development projects and multi-billion ringgit manufacturing investments that translate into higher employment, stronger purchasing power and healthy consumerism; hence the mushrooming of boutique hotels, eclectic bistros and a revival of the social scene.

As various international commentators have noted, Penang is buzzing again. And news travels fast, especially when it is promoted by such sources of information as The Economist, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Times, Yahoo! and even famed lifestyle magazine Monocle. As a result, more and more people now want to come to Penang.

In short, a confluence of culture, cash and cars has resulted in this seemingly interminable traffic malady which inflicts its worst on weekends and holidays.

At the same time, one cannot deny another direct corollary of success – development. And in a water-locked, land-scarce city, development will invariably take a vertical rather than a horizontal form, thus contributing to higher density per capita and, as a result, increased pressure on the existing infrastructure. Now, contrary to what one may instinctively think, this by itself isn’t necessarily a problem.

While density, especially in recent times, has become something of a taboo in Penang, it would be awfully imperceptive to blame density for the sake of it. Such a postulation would ignore the fact that many of the most liveable cities in the world, such as Vancouver, Sydney and Singapore, are also some of the most densely populated. After all, the viability of public transport is predicated upon a necessary level of density. A dense urban form also minimises per capita carbon emissions and reduces energy costs.

Yet density by itself does not work unless it is accompanied by sufficient infrastructure and a logical ecosystem. In other words, it has to go hand-in-hand with proper planning. Seen in this light, Penang’s success in the last four years has unfortunately also exposed a deep-seated flaw – Penang was simply not designed for it.

 An irrational urban form

The reality of Penang today is that we have an urban form that is sprawled and disjointed, with a gaping disconnect between residential areas, commercial centres and public infrastructure. Such a design is in fact the hallmark of an urban model based on mid-20th century Americana-style zoning and a culture of automobile-dependence.

The premise of the post-war American dream was thus: owning a dream home (complete with garage, front lawn, backyard and swimming pool) on your own piece of land. Naturally, such forms of low-density residential development were only possible by expanding development into the peripheries of the metropolitan area. In short, cities began to spread outwards.

With the availability of cheap fuel, expansive highways and acres of parking spaces for malls built even further out, Suburbia was successfully created. Unfortunately, such an urban form could only go so far. As populations (both human and vehicular) increased, Suburbia began to crack under pressure.

With rising energy costs, waning income growth and diminishing availability of credit, the American urban sprawl model has now been revealed to be unsustainable and cost-ineffective.

In the case of Penang, the American influence is undeniable. Inspired by Suburbia, and having never imagined a day when vehicles would outnumber people on the island, Penang’s urban planners in the 1960s and 1970s began to adopt a sprawled and zoned approach. The previously densely-populated city core that once saw residential and commercial cohabitation was quickly hollowed out. New suburban residential areas were demarcated, and to ensure quality of life, commercial and industrial areas were kept as far away as possible.

Public transport was ignored as it was believed that middle class suburban Penangites would be able to afford cars (and on this point they have not been disappointed).

As a result, we have inherited the situation today in which industrial estates have been carved out all the way to the south of the island and on the mainland, while residential developments pepper the northern coast and central valley. Such an urban form, considered ideal 40 years ago when the population was smaller and less people owned cars, is now the very reason why people find themselves stuck in intractable jams as they attempt to make the illogical commute from residential corridors to commercial and industrial zones through tarmac arteries that are simply unable to handle the rising volume.

Back to basics

 There is of course no quick fix to this ignominious problem. However, it is comforting to note that the solution may not be impossible. Firstly, adequate infrastructure must be provided. This involves not only road constructions such as bypasses and highway building where appropriate, but also a major investment and prioritisation in public transport.

But even more importantly, whatever remedy taken must not only be evidence-based and designed in consideration of current and future mobility needs – an approach duly acknowledged by the state government’s commissioning of the soon-to-be-released Transport Masterplan, but must also form a logical part of a bigger and more holistic urban planning approach.

The good news is that no reinvention is required. As observed by MIT Media Lab director and architect Kent Larson, pre-automobile cities like Paris are actually agglomerations of smaller villages. On their own these villages are self-sustaining ecosystems, with the availability of every basic necessity within a 20-minute (or one-mile) radius – a school, a clinic, a gym, a grocer, a café, a post office.

Such a system works because it makes sense. No long traveling is required in order to access basic amenities and fulfil basic needs. Living, working and playing occur in the same neighbourhood. In fact, such a design naturally encourages walking and cycling. Any necessary outside travel is then undertaken via public transport which serves these dense, self-sustaining “villages”.

Believe it or not, Penang once upon a time used to display these very same features. Unlike the clusters and sprawls which typify the state today, Penang’s pre-automobile urban form was actually a sustainable one.

 In pre-sprawl Penang, George Town was where most people lived, worked and played. Every necessary destination was reachable by foot or, if it was a little further, by bus. Today, the island has been completely delineated by zones which separate residential, commercial and industrial activities. At the same time, people have no choice but to travel between these zones by automobile because it is simply impossible for public transport to efficiently service the chaotic sprawl that Penang has become.

As Penang strives to become an internationally competitive city, it is imperative that we transform the incoherent urban form that we have inherited into one that works.

In other words, we need to create a sustainable city that is able to connect people, via efficient public infrastructure, to homes, amenities, centres of employment and trade. Moving forward requires us to look to the past.

No Longer Carrefour in Malaysia, now Aeon from Japan


November 1, 2012

No Longer Carrefour in Malaysia, now Aeon from Japan

by AFP

PARIS — French retail giant Carrefour said Wednesday it had sold its network of stores in Malaysia to Japan’s Aeon for for an enterprise value of 250 million euros ($324 million).

“The transaction is part of Carrefour?s strategy of refocusing on its core activities and allocating its resources to mature countries where it occupies strong and established positions and emerging markets where it has strong growth potential,” the French retailer said in a statement.

An enterprise value usually includes the value of the debt of the company being acquired minus cash in the business.Carrefour said Aeon would gain a leading position in the Malaysian market with the sale.

With 26 hypermarkets, Carrefour was the fourth largest retailer in Malaysia with net sales of 400 million euros in the year to June.A major retailer in Japan, Aeon already has 29 stores in Malaysia.

Carrefour, the world’s second-biggest retailer by sales after Walmart, has been seeking to rejuvenate its performance which has been held back by the slowdown in its core European markets.

The shakeup and refocus of its operations helped generate a 2.1 percent-increase in third-quarter sales.Earlier this month sold off its operations in Colombia for an enterprise value of 2 billion euros.

-AFP.

Koon Swan honored


October 31, 2012

Koon Swan honored for Contributions to Politics and Business

by Teoh El Sen@http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Former MCA Chief Tan Koon Swan will be awarded a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his contributions to politics and business at the 4th World Chinese Economic Forum (WCEF) next month, announced MCA President Dr Chua Soi Lek today.

Tan will be among seven others to be conferred the award at WCEF which will be held in Melbourne, Australia starting November 12.

Congratulating Tan, Chua said:”It is time for what we call redemption. He has gone through a very difficult time and he deserves the award. The prosecutor in his case has admitted to being wrong and has exonerated him… time has proven that he (Tan) is innocent.”

Chua added that it was high time that Tan, who he described as a “well-known corporate figure”, have his hard work and contributions recognised.

The Singapore Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) in 1985 slapped Tan with 15 charges, including criminal breach of trust (CBT) and share manipulation following the collapse of Pan-Electric

Industries, which temporarily halted the Malaysia and Singapore stock exchanges. Tan, who had a stake in Pan-Electric, was found guilty and jailed two years. He was MCA President between November 1985 and September 1986, before quitting after the scandal.

Glenn Knight, then Director of CAD, in his recently-launched book, “Glenn Knight: The Prosecutor”, apologised to Tan for the “wrongful prosecution”. In his words, Tan was “technically an innocent man”.

Knight’s book was disputed by Singapore’s Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), which said that Tan’s conviction stood and he remains guilty of the crime that he had admitted to.

Others receiving the lifetime awards are Dr Jonathan Choi– Chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce (for Community Leadership); Jannie Chan – Vice Chairman of The Hour Glass Ltd & President, ASEAN Business Forum(for Women Leadership);Councillor Ken Ong – Melbourne City Council (for Community Leadership); Jenny McGregor – Founding Chief

Executive Officer, Asialink Centre, Australia (for Leadership in Asian Studies in Australia); Vincent Lee Fook Long – Executive Deputy Chairman, The Star Publications (Malaysia) Berhad(for Media and Communications); Vincent Lo – Chairman, Shui On Group (for Leadership in Property Sector); Liew Kee Sin – President/Chief Executive Officer, SP Setia Berhad Group (for Property Development Leadership).

Meanwhile, Chua said the WCEF, being the first time held outside of Malaysia, was a very significant event for both Asians and Western countries.

“The way to go, as Australia has identified, is to maximise and tap into the growing economy of Asia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea. It is often said that the centre of gravity of the economy has shifted from the West to the East.

“The economic growth in the next few years is very positive about this part of the world, rather than America and European Union, who have not put their house in order. Whereas in Asia, growth has remained uninterrupted,” he said.

The Last of the Malaysian Newspaper Mohicans


October 30, 2012

My Friend Syed Nadzri: The Last of the Malaysian Newspaper Mohicans

Source:

http://uppercaise.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/syed-nadzri-bids-farewell-to-balai-berita/

Syed Nadzri Syed Harun, Group Editor of the New Straits Times, said farewell to the editorial staff this evening, at a sombre tea party on the 2nd Floor.

His impending departure had been talked about for the past month and word was that he would be taking up a directorship at a large corporation, but for the moment that is just shop talk.

The newsroom focus is more about who might replace him: next in rank is Managing Editor Nuraina Samad.

For the past year, however, it has been Group Managing Editor Jalil Hamid, former Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, who has been calling the shots in the newsroom, as Ahmad Talib did before him and occasionally still does.

Syed Nadzri’s departure comes against a backdrop of constant sniping from pro-UMNO bloggers, especially those allied to Mahathir Mohamad as well as Najib Razak, determined to root out anyone still at Balai Berita seen to be allied with former Deputy Chairman Kalimullah Hassan.

Syed Nadzri rose through the ranks, beginning as a sports reporter with The Star before he moved to Balai Berita on the News Desk. Even as group editor, he would often be at a terminal near the desk in the afternoons, going through copy, rather than in his office.

Last month he was honoured by the National Press Club with its Lifetime Achievement award for his contributions to the industry.

With his departure, the NST has probably seen the last of the professional journalists holding the position, although the appointment of NST editors has always been subject to approval by UMNO Presidents.

Political appointees as group editor-in-chief, responsible for both the NST and Berita Harian, have been the NST editor de jure for many years, with the NST Group Editor (editorially responsible for the New Straits Times and New Sunday Times) reduced to a figurehead position responsible for day-to-day affairs.

Now with the New Straits Times Press swallowed up into the bowels of Media Prima, with television revenues covering for NST losses, and the politicisation of the group media in preparation for the coming general election, it remains to be seen whether there will still be a group editor’s position to be filled.But they do say nature abhors a vacuum.

Ali Hamsa touts Malaysia’s PPP Model in India


October 26, 2012

Ali Hamsa touts Malaysia’s PPP Model in India

Bernama reports:

The public-private partnerships (PPP) initiative,  one of the major transformational approaches in the public sector in Malaysia, has worked well for the country’s development, says Chief Secretary to the Government Dato’ Seri Dr. Ali Hamsa.

The PPP model allows government allocation for development projects to be reduced and it can shift its attention to projects that will be implemented and funded by the private sector.

“The PPP experience has shown that truly business is no longer usual. It has also enriched both the public and the private sector, especially by sharing of best practices,” he said at the biennial conference of the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management. His presentation was titled “Reaffirming the Public Service Ethos: The Malaysian Experience”.

“Within a short period of time PPP has become a major mode of private sector driven financing for development projects,” said Ali. In just two years, it has attracted RM65 billion in private investment.

He said while government contracting with the private sector is not new, the emergence of public-private partnership as a form of policy implementation and service delivery was a new development for Malaysia.

“PPPs present new challenges in terms of contract specification, accountability arrangements and governance mechanisms,” he said.

Ali also said the Public-Private Partnership Unit (UKAS), which leads PPP implementation, has taken proactive steps to enhance integrity within its organisation.

Among the major functions of UKAS is to manage the Facilitation Fund, negotiating concession terms and conditions for PPP and the Facilitation Fund and implementing value management process.

UKAS has put in place specific measures to ensure that its function, roles and activities are implemented transparently and with integrity and, adhered to all specified regulations, he added. — Bernama

Keeping Economies Ticking


October 4, 2012

http://www.nst.com.my

Keeping Economies Ticking

by Dr. Zeti A.Aziz, Governor, Bank Negara Malaysia

The global economy has now entered into a period of slower economic growth despite the significant and wide-ranging pro-growth policies that have been implemented across the world. Why then has the world not been able to achieve a sustained long-lasting recovery? What has been holding back this prospect?

In addition, rapid and significant changes in the global environment have also brought with them new demands and new challenges. Our understanding of the factors that are containing the global growth prospects and the consequence of the new environment will better position us to face a fundamentally new landscape and to manage its challenges.

The topic on the big shift that is being experienced in the world today is indeed relevant. While the international and national attention is currently focused on the immediate challenges of the global environment, equally important, however, is to recognise the long-term changes that will reshape our future.

My remarks today will focus on the immediate challenges of the global economy, taking into account fundamental factors that are likely to affect the growth outlook. The second part of my remarks will touch on the key imperatives to best prepare us for the new global landscape, so as to be better positioned to succeed and survive in this new environment.

Policymakers in the world economy have continued to be confronted with policy challenges since the onset of the global financial crisis. While the policy responses have focused on addressing the origins of the crisis — on the extensive build-up of excesses, over-leverage and over-indebtedness of the private and public sectors, breakdown in the functioning of financial markets, loss of competitiveness, and loss of confidence in the financial system and the economy, the concern now is on achieving a sustained economic recovery that is accompanied by job creation.

Half a decade into the crisis, and this has yet to be achieved. In recent months, the global economy has again experienced a broad-based moderation in growth from an already modest pace. This has stemmed largely from renewed weakness of recovery in several of the major advanced economies.

In the United States, the significant monetary accommodation, reinforced by the large-scale financial market interventions and the significant fiscal stimulus during the early stage of the crisis, has averted an economic depression, but it has not, however, brought about a sustained recovery.

In Europe, an economic contraction is being experienced, resulting from the combination of fiscal austerity, tight credit conditions, and continued uncertainty and volatility in the financial markets. While important progress has been made recently in Europe on the arrangements that will contribute to containing significant high-risk events, and in paving the way towards a more sustainable and integrated European region, its immediate-term effects on economic recovery is likely to be limited.

 There are several factors that are containing the potential for sustained growth in these economies. This can be classified into seven categories.

First is the gradual process of unwinding the excesses that had been built up over several years. These include the high degree of indebtedness by households, the financial sector and public sector.

Second is the significant long-term structural adjustments that are needed to regain relative competitiveness. This will involve greater efficiency and innovation within existing industries, and the shifting of resources out of industries in which these economies no longer have comparative advantage into new industries which have comparative advantage.

While the former may result in economic gains, these may not necessarily be accompanied by increased employment, and the latter may result in temporary economic dislocation and increased unemployment. Thus, even if such policies were to yield results, they may not produce a robust recovery of economic activity and a reduction in unemployment in the short and medium term.

The third is the need for the introduction of new institutions and the transformation of existing institutions to render them relevant to the changed environment. While existing institutions may need to be transformed, merged or even dissolved, new institutions may need to be established to facilitate management of the new environment. The same will hold true for businesses if they are to remain competitive and, in particular, if they should venture into new areas and across borders.

The fourth category of factors concerns economic and financial management. Macroeconomic policies in most of these economies have been pursued to the limit, rendering limited policy flexibility. Monetary policy accommodation has resulted in substantially low interest rates which have been brought down to near zero levels, while the cumulative fiscal expansion during the period 2007-2009 has amounted to an average of four per cent of gross domestic product.

In addition are the potential intended or unintended consequences of the international regulatory reforms. The reforms have focused on building a stronger global regulatory framework and raising the resilience of the banking system. While still in their early stage of implementation, concerns have been raised on their implications for the cost to both the financial intermediation process and to the real economy.

An important change in our environment both at the national and international levels is the increased interconnectedness within the financial system and the global economy. This greater interconnectedness, and hence the greater interdependence, requires having in place the governance arrangements for greater coordination.

Fifth is that these arrangements have not been put in place  at the national and international levels.  In addition, corporations or organisations in this new environment can no longer function by departments or sections, but as an integrated organisation.  This also requires new governance arrangements.

For an economy or a financial system, we have seen how a crisis in one segment was thought to be confined, but it had pervasive consequences on the entire financial system and the economy.

Sixth, is that despite the increased connectivity of the world, as exemplified by the swift spread of the financial crisis and economic shocks throughout the global economy and international financial system in 2008, the institutional arrangements for the cross-border dimension of policy-making have yet to reach the levels commensurate with the degree of economic and financial integration in the world.

Finally, seventh, the response to the crisis needs to be comprehensive. While addressing weaknesses and lapses is important, equally important is the enabling environment for the measures to yield results. Pro-growth policies are vital for this.During the Asian financial crisis, Malaysia gave equal attention to financial sector resolution to restore the financial intermediation process and thus credit supply. Equally, emphasis was placed on addressing the problems of borrowers.

Debt restructuring and mechanisms for support were put in place for the corporate sector, small and medium-scale enterprises and the household sector. This supported growth of the economy and at a fraction of the cost of the financial sector resolution.

In this current environment, the emerging economies are challenged by both the weakening global growth and the spillovers arising from the policy actions in the major advanced economies. While continuing to register reasonable economic growth, the momentum of the growth has moderated in most emerging economies, affected by slowing external demand and uncertainty in the financial markets.

Nevertheless, ongoing shifts in the emerging economies have contributed to sustaining our econo-mies. It is the growing importance of domestic demand in most of Asia’s emerging economies that is creating a huge cumulative domestic market, and this is resulting in greater regional integration with an increase in inter-regional trade.

Greater regional and inter-regional integration of the emerging economies through the proliferation of interlocking networks of trade, investment and finance, has contributed to provide mutually reinforcing support to economic activity in the emerging economies.

In Malaysia, the decline in external demand while affecting overall growth, has been partially offset by stronger domestic demand, following the robust resumption of private consumption and investment activities, and the diversification of exports to the regional economies. In addition, the wide-ranging reforms since the Asian financial crisis have resulted in strengthened financial intermediaries and a more developed financial system. This has allowed for the economy to better intermediate the volatile cross-border flows without disruption to the financial system.

Also, Malaysia’s economic flexibility has allowed us to shift resources from industries in which we no longer have comparative advantage to new areas of growth. It is these factors that will continue to underpin the positive growth outlook of the Malaysian economy into the near to medium term.

The changing global landscape presents significant new challenges for both the developed and emerging economies. Important is to be well-positioned to manage the new risks and to build the necessary capability and capacity to have the agility and flexibility to adjust to the rapidly changing conditions. As the emerging economies aspire towards achieving higher levels of income and living standards, a different path from that which led the way for the advanced economies will now need to be considered.

The current global financial crisis and the Asian financial crisis have provided us with many important lessons that should form the underpinnings for our business models and our policies for growth and development. A key priority of policy should be to balance the need of ensuring sustained stability while having in place the necessary foundations to secure long-term development.

Avoiding and preventing the build-up of excesses is a critical imperative. The recent crisis has forcefully shown that markets cannot be exclusively relied on to rein in excesses. Market discipline needs to be complemented by policy interventions to effectively manage the build-up of imbalances in the financial sector and in the economy.

In the financial system, this involves putting in place more comprehensive regulatory frameworks, complemented by enhanced surveillance arrangements and relatively more intrusive supervisory oversight. It also involves having wide-ranging policy tools, including macro-prudential policies, to mitigate and manage risks emanating from excesses in the system.

As the experience in advanced economies has shown, the source of imbalances can arise in a number in segments of the economy, including from the household, the financial and the public sectors. This underscores the importance of prudence; to ensure that growth is underpinned by sustainability and not excesses. A further lesson is to build buffers during the good times to better position us to withstand future shocks.

Equally important for policy in the emerging economies is to put in place the necessary foundations for long-term growth. The first is to create a competitive environment that allows for greater economic flexibility. This includes reforms for a sequenced and gradual removal of distortions prevailing in the economy, lowering the costs of doing business, and to streamline the involvement of the public sector in businesses.

The second is to accord importance to investments in modern infrastructure, and to enhance technological readiness that will enable the economy to prepare for the changing economic and financial landscape.

Another area of significance is to ensure balanced and inclusive development. Indeed, in the emerging economies, this is becoming increasingly urgent as the benefits of rapid development have not been evenly distributed, and income inequality has risen further even in the developed economies. Going forward, economic empowerment will increasingly depend on access to technology, high quality education, healthcare and social security systems.

Equally important is greater financial inclusion. Without policy intervention, the trend towards greater inequality could potentially intensify. In Malaysia, many of the necessary policy strategies for long-term growth in these areas of significance are already at various stages of implementation, with considerable progress in certain areas.

As the technological gap between the emerging and advanced econo-mies converges, it will become increasingly critical for an emerging economy like Malaysia to transition from growth based on capital accumulation, to growth based on productivity improvements. In addition, the rising global inter-connectedness characterised by the emergence of highly intricate networks such as the increase of global manufacturing supply chains, increases the susceptibility of industries to both cascading failures, as well as to the rapid re-orientation of business competitiveness through disruptive innovations such as in the mobile computing industry or the possible rise of additive manufacturing.

To advance forward in this direction, human capital development is pivotal. It leads to greater value creation, enhanced technological readiness and the capacity to innovate and adapt — all of which are key for firms to operate in the new landscape. Productivity is thus not only a function of physical technology, but of talent development, given the increasing dynamic and complex environment.

In the area of regional collaboration and cooperation, the Asian region is well ahead in the areas of surveillance arrangements, financial safety nets and crisis management. These frameworks and arrangements were established in the period of relative stability since the Asian financial crisis. The establishment of regional arrangements and platforms, including the building of regional financial infrastructures and markets, is not only aimed at facilitating the efficient intermediation of financial resources in the region, but also at safeguarding financial stability in the region.

This trend paves the way for coordinated policy actions to manage and mitigate the risks and vulnerabilities to the region. Given our diversities, there is also tremendous opportunity for the private sector, in particular in Asean, to integrate further in the areas of trade, investment and finance, and to leverage on the respective comparative advantage that exists in the region.

While we could best prepare for the future using all the knowledge that we have, the transition towards the new landscape will continue to be paved with uncertainty and new challenges. Further, there will be increasing complexity in the functioning of the global economy and international financial system.

In this environment, perhaps the best compass for policy-makers and businesses is one that is centred on principles; in particular, on ethics and integrity. Recent experiences in the advanced economies have put this into question. This needs to be restored.

The next generation of policy-makers and leaders in business will be defined not by the power they hold and the amount of wealth they amass, but by the stewardship they exercise in serving the people and the responsibility they demonstrate to their communities

*Governor Zeti’s Address at the Khazanah Megatrends Forum 2012 on  October 2, 2012

Reckless Government Spending no longer affordable


September 28, 2012

BUDGET DAY: Reckless Government Spending no longer affordable

by Koh Jun Lin(00-27-12)@www.malaysiakini.com

The country’s growth has been driven by “goodies” and infrastructure projects, both of which are bad news for Malaysians because it increases government debt, said Kuala Selangor MP Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad.

NONEHe said last night that on top of the government debt of RM477 billion (or 53 percent of the gross domestic product, out of the statutory limit of 55 percent), the government has also assumed RM116 billion in liabilities from statutory bodies and government-linked corporations.

This, combined with widening income disparities and over-dependence on oil and gas revenues would not allow for reckless spending, said Dzulkefly, who is also PAS Research Centre Head.

“Even when it is close to the elections, it would not allow them to be recklessly giving goodies and handouts, as free as they would like to. But of course, it goes both ways and Pakatan Rakyat should not also do that,” he said, before detailing the coalition’s alternative budget, which aims to achieve 5.2 percent growth while also slashing the budget deficit by 3.5 percent.

Dzulkefly was speaking as a panellist during a pre-budget forum organised by Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.

He also told the 50-odd members of the audience that an economic boom-and-bust cycle normally last about ten years, but Malaysia has been having budget deficits for 14 consecutive years, which he described as “strange”.

“We have seen the boom and the bust times, while others – even Indonesia, Thailand and Australia – are having good times and enjoying not just a balanced, but a surplus budget…That tells a lot about how reckless and unscrupulous (we are) in terms of fiscal discipline in the development that we all choose,” he said.

Issues of competitiveness, sustainability and the poor

NONEEarlier in the forum, political scientist Dr. Ong Kian Ming (right) gave the audience a run-down of the statistics to paint a grave picture of the economy.

This included a relatively high income inequalities, “pockets” of poverty especially in rural areas, a drop in the Global Competitiveness Report rankings and the Corruption Index and poor achievements in education.

All these take place while the government debt increases from RM267 billion (47 percent of the GDP) to the current RM477 billion, as well as increasing pollution.

“From these three issue of uplifting the poor, competitiveness and sustainability, they are actually very serious concerns. It has to be addressed not just by the budget, but also by larger government policies,” said the academician, who had recently joined DAP as an election strategist.

NONEMeanwhile, Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj (left) told the audience not to expect a good budget from the government because “the ruling elite in the BN (Barisan National) has not got clue there is a problem,” he said.

He said this could be seen from the government’s talk of liberalisation, privatisation, and lowering corporate taxes to draw investors, and questioned whether such measures are still viable.

The PSM politician said measures to protect workers rather than capitalist, such as a retrenchment fund, are needed instead in order to fuel domestic consumption.

This would in turn encourage investors and entrepreneurs to produce goods and services to meet demand, rather than investing excess funds in financial speculation.

No plans to deal with depletion of oil and gas reserves

The last speaker, Malaysiakini chief executive officer Premesh Chandran, said that Pakatan Rakyat’s policies thus “had done well, but could do better”. Some areas of improvement include coming up with concrete plans for improving public transportation, making the spending of constituency allocations transparent and address healthcare issues, particularly in Pakatan Rakyat-led states.

Premesh also warned that a “perfect storm” is forming, because Malaysia’s population is ageing and does not have the wealth (mainly oil and gas) to support them, and there are no plans to deal with the eventual depletion of oil and gas reserves.

Prior to the start of the forum, a 30-minute candlelight vigil was also held outside the venue in solidarity with Suaram. The human rights NGO is the subject of several ongoing investigations, which it claims to be politically motivated.

It is Time to Hold Our Sports Officials to Account


August 13, 2012

It is Time to Hold Our Sports Officials to Account

by Tan Siok Choo@http://www.thesundaily.com

IF officials involved in Malaysian sports were bonds, far too many are likely to be classified as junk. Only a handful could conceivably qualify for a top notch rating of AAA.

In recent months, some notable decisions were irrational, if not ludicrous. One example was allowing our strongest Olympic gold medal contender, Dato’ Lee Chong Wei, to take part in the Thomas Cup.

Given that the Thomas Cup is a team event and Malaysia’s chances of winning this year were poor, was it worth jeopardising Chong Wei’s bid to win the country’s first gold medal in the Olympics for a non-achievable victory?

He seriously injured his ankle at the event held in late May. Despite a shortened training period, Chong Wei won the first game against gold medallist Lin Dan and lost by just two points in the third deciding game in the finals.

This raises one poignant question: could Chong Wei have won a gold medal if he hadn’t been injured?That 29-year-old Chong Wei is now being asked to consider competing at the next Olympics in 2016 also highlights another issue – the near-total lack of succession planning in sports.

In contrast, China’s Chen Long who won the bronze medal and has often been touted as Lin Dan’s successor is only 20 years old.

Malaysia’s lack of a pipeline of world-class sports individuals is due to officials’ over-emphasis on short-term gains at the expense of long-term growth.

For example, instead of awarding wild cards to promising individuals for the London Olympics, less credible criteria appear to have been used. As Head of Mission Tun Ahmad Sarji said “there is no point sending an athlete who is almost at the end of his or her career.”

Another example of misplaced priorities was the refusal by state officials from Kedah, Negri Sembilan, Penang, Selangor and Terengganu to allow their athletes to take part at the World Junior championships in Barcelona.

Their refusal stemmed from the fact the date of the global under-19 meet clashed with that of Sukan Malaysia (Sukma) held in Kuantan last month.

What is the rationale for giving priority to a national event held every year over a global event that would have provided excellent exposure for young athletes?

That America’s 17-year-old Missy Franklin and China’s 16-year-old Ye Shiwen won gold medals in swimming in the Olympics emphasises the fact that youth is increasingly an asset in global sporting achievement.

Admittedly, not all officials deserve to be rated below investment grade. In London, Pandelela Rinong won a bronze in diving – the first Olympic medal for the sport and the first won by a Malaysian woman. That she is only 19 years old means she can be a contender for the 2016 Olympics.

Like Chong Wei, Pandelela exhibited steely determination to fight and win the bronze medal after her first dive relegated her to 10th position among 12 contenders.

Pandelela’s success also suggests the official tendency to often short-change women in terms of funding, foreign coaching and participation in overseas meets is both myopic and self-defeating.

That Malaysia’s divers also won medals at the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and world championships is due to the decision by the Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia and the National Sports Council to hire a foreigner as coach – Yang Zhuliang from China.

Yang’s success in diving’s prompts the question whether badminton – where coaches like Morten Frost Hansen (left), Fang Kaixiang and Rexy Mainaky left in unhappy circumstances – would have done significantly better if foreign coaches had been given the same clout over players as Manchester United’s manager, Sir Alex Ferguson rather than treated like disposable cutlery.

Although squash isn’t an Olympic event, Dato’ Nicol David has dominated the sports. Her longevity as the world number one is a tribute to her undeniable talent and single-mindedness in achieving global success.

However, even gifted individuals require good coaching and early exposure in the international arena. Nicol was a double world junior champion. At 23, she became the youngest world number one in January 2006.

Going forward, top sports officials should undertake a cost-benefit analysis of their financial support for sports associations. Future allocations should be based on results achieved per capita.

If 10 divers, trained by one foreign coach, won one bronze in the Olympics, then diving deserves a bigger allocation than other sports.

After the badminton final in London, Chong Wei apologised for his failure to win a gold medal. Chong Wei’s apology wasn’t necessary. It is Malaysia which owes Chong Wei and other sports personalities an apology – for allowing officials unfettered discretion to mismanage their charges and their sports.

Opinions expressed in this article are the personal views of the writer and should not be attributed to any other organisation she is connected with. She can be contacted at siokchoo@thesundaily.com

Scare Tactics Won’t Work with Malaysian Voters


July 25, 2012

Scare Tactics Won’t Work with Malaysian Voters

by Oon Yeoh (07-25-12)@www.thesundaily.my

WHEN will elections be? The latest murmurings are that it could be in September. Who knows whether there’s any truth to that. But there are signs that elections are near. Lately, there has been a lot of talk about communist infiltrations and warnings of May 13.

I find it amazing that some politicians still think such issues resonate with today’s voters. Let’s deal with the first issue: Communism. Seriously, is there still a single person in Malaysia today who’s afraid of communism?

Let’s look at the communist countries. I can only think of two that are still sticking to that discredited political system: Cuba and North Korea. Is there any chance of Malaysia becoming like Cuba and North Korea? It’s ridiculous even to ask such a question.

OK, what about China? It’s a communist country right? From a political standpoint, yes. But from an economic perspective they’ve opened up so much, Mao Zedong wouldn’t recognise it. Hey, that iPad you’re using was made in China.

But some political elements obviously think that the Red Scare is still relevant. First, you have the allegation that communists have infiltrated BERSIH. Next, you have accusations that those same communists (from Cuba or North Korea, I’m not sure) have infiltrated Pakatan Rakyat. Can somebody tell these guys it’s 2012?

I’m not scared of communistic elements in our midst any more than I’m scared of ghosts. Why? Because I’m not convinced they exist.

Second issue: May 13. Yes, those racial riots were real and bloody. But they happened in 1969. Its ghost was exorcised a long time ago. Any remnants of it were dispelled after March 8, 2008.

Yes, there are voters old enough to remember May 13. But they have seen how Malaysia has changed, grown and matured over more than four decades since.These people know full well that the situation today is nothing like that of 1969.

As for the youth of today, even the Reformasi movement of the late 90s is too far back for them to relate to it. Operasi Lallang in the late 80s? They probably think it was a gotong-royong exercise. May 13, 1969 – that’s so far back that Lim Kit Siang was then an up-and-coming politician who had just been elected to Parliament.

What relevance does May 13 have to today’s political scene? Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad put it best when he said that back in 1969, if you were to damage a fancy car, you could be sure you’re destroying a non-Malay’s vehicle. But today, if you throw rocks at a Mercedes-Benz, a BMW or a Ferrari, for that matter, you could very well be destroying a Malay person’s car.

The same applies to a house. If you torch a fancy bungalow today, you can’t be sure whether it’s a Malay, Chinese or Indian home. Economic inequality might still exist, but the disparity in wealth among communities has been greatly reduced compared to four decades ago.

But it’s not just that everyone’s better off financially today. People are also more rational and less likely to react to provocative acts.

Remember the cow head incident? And what about those pig heads thrown in front of a mosque? And then there was arson at a church. None of these potentially incendiary acts led to riots.

Middle Malaysia realises that these are the desperate acts of a few extreme elements in our society. People today are more educated, more aware and more enlightened. They will not fall for such machinations.

The legendary Sir Gerald Templer, who fought real communists in the early 1950s, famouslyremarked that the answer lies in “winning the hearts and minds” of the people. And Templer, who was the British High Commissioner in Malaya at the time, achieved that by instituting political reforms that captured the imagination of the people.

There’s something to be gleaned from Templer’s strategy although the war today is no longer fought in the jungle but through the ballot box. You don’t win the hearts and minds of people by scaring them with threats of a potentially bleak future. You do so by giving them hope for a better tomorrow. The coalition that does that best will be the one that wins over today’s electorate.

Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

Water in Selangor: A Crisis of Corruption and Cronyism


July 23, 2012

Water in Selangor: A Crisis of Corruption and Cronyism

by Nathaniel Tan(07-21-12)@http://www.malaysiakini.com

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

COMMENT: Have you ever been made to buy something you didn’t need? Or worse, have you been deceived, intimidated and bullied into making an entirely unnecessary, overpriced purchase?

It would appear that this is what we are facing with Syabas, this “water crisis” it keeps getting excited about. However, if we examine the hard facts closely, we will see that the only crisis we are facing is an all too familiar crisis of corruption and cronyism – centred tightly around the RM8.65 billion Langat 2 Water Treatment Plant.

Do we really need the Langat 2 plant?

We all know politicians use taxpayer-funded mega projects to make money. The bigger the mega project, the bigger the kickbacks – and RM8.65 billion is plenty big.

With that much money at stake, the last thing ‘well-connected’ individuals care about is whether the project is actually needed, or whether it truly benefits the rakyat or not.

NONEThe Selangor government is all for preventing this RM8.65 billion gravy train from riding out, and its position is simple: there is plenty of water in Selangor, and if there is any shortage at all, it is due to failure, or worse, failure on the part of Syabas.

Here’s what Syabas doesn’t want you to know about this water “crisis”: it’s not about how much raw water there is (since the dams in Selangor are all clearly full); it’s about how Syabas is failing dramatically to efficiently convert enough of that raw water into potable water.

(Technically speaking, the main company responsible for treatment of water is Puncak Niaga Bhd, which in turn owns 70 percent of Syabas. Both companies are in essence run by the same people. For the purpose of this article, ‘Syabas’ refers to both Puncak Niaga and Syabas.)

Not all the raw water that goes into a water treatment plant becomes potable water – that is, water deemed fit to run in our taps at home. The technical term for the amount of raw water that is wasted due to inefficiencies in the water treatment plant is called “non-revenue water” or NRW.

32pct of water produced by Syabas is wasted

Syabas’ level of NRW is 32 percent. This means that a whopping one-third of the raw water that enters a Syabas water treatment plant goes entirely to waste.

Syabas must be congratulated here, for succeeding in wasting more water than Dhaka, Bangladesh, where the NRW is only 29 percent. Eastern Manila managed to bring down its NRW from 63 percent in 1997 to 11 percent in 2010.

pulau ketam klang water shortage 051108 01More developed nations have even lower levels of NRW – Germany’s NRW is only seven percent, while the Netherlands and Denmark have achieved NRW levels of six percent.

Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that they are advanced, developed Western democracies? Oh, wait a minute, Singapore’s NRW is five percent.

It looks like under Syabas’ brilliant management, we have managed to waste six times more water than our neighbour to the south whom we like so much to make fun of. Thank you, Syabas!

There is also talk that Syabas is not given enough money to improve its services. However, the question is, would you give more money to a company that demonstrates zero ability to put that money to good use, and in fact has wasted away all the money that has already been given to it?

Quite simply put, all we need to do to ensure a sufficient water supply for the Klang Valley is to drastically reduce the amount of NRW. For that, we don’t need a RM8.65 billion water treatment plant, or to throw money at the problem – we just need cleaner, better managers.

Is Syabas turning off the taps?

It’s little wonder that Syabas has never had much incentive to improve its efficiency or quality of its service – for it does not have any competition. This simple fact has rendered many an industry in Malaysia completely defunct. Automobiles, airlines, telecommunications and power generation are all industries where cronies get rich, and Malaysians pay high prices for crap quality.

melaka pig farm demolition 050907 waste waterA monopoly like Syabas is able to take this game one step further. When you have complete monopoly over the water industry, you don’t have to wait for an actual water crisis to justify an RM8.65 billion white elephant mega project. Even in the midst of heavy rain every single day, all you need to do is turn off the taps, and voila – “water crisis”.

I think we’ve all noticed the increased frequency of water cuts in the Klang Valley recently. A simple question remains: are the taps turned off because of a water shortage? Or because some people want you to think there’s a water shortage?

Is this all to justify a RM8.65 billion water treatment plant that no one needs – a plant that might make a few lucky people extremely rich, while impoverishing the rest of the nation?

Is Syabas threatening us?

One of the ‘best’ quotes I have read throughout this saga comes from Syabas Technical Services Executive Director V Subramaniam, perhaps a minor pawn sent forth to spew such brilliant statements as:

“The water crisis at present is the result of a shortfall in treated water for distribution caused by the refusal of the state government to issue the development order for construction of the Langat 2 treatment plant.”

Does Syabas take us for dummies?

According to this logic, if the Selangor government approves the construction of Langat 2 today (a project that will take years to complete), then the water crisis will disappear tomorrow.

Sounds a little suspicious? Perhaps Subramaniam’s statement is technically correct, in that the state government’s refusal has indeed precipitated a ‘water shortage’ – except that he is silent on whether the said water shortage is natural – or manufactured by unscrupulous people to achieve even more unscrupulous ends.

Who is politicising the water problem? There should be a law against this sort of thing. Oh, wait. There is this thing called the Water Services Industry Act (WSIA), which was passed by the BN-dominated Parliament in 2006.

This law provided for the de-privatisation of the water industry and its return to the respective state governments, for privatisation had clearly proven to be a disastrous failure across the board.

The water industries of BN-led (for now) Malacca and Johor were successfully deprivatised following the gazetting of the WSIA. But what happened to Selangor post-2008?

Both sides like to accuse each other of ‘politicising’ the water problem, but when the facts show that the federal government had allowed deprivatisation in BN-held states while preventing it in Selangor, the truth becomes clear to all.

Let’s not forget that Syabas is run by Rozali Ismail, the ready-to-run-for-Parliament Selangor UMNO treasurer who, despite creating a spectacular failure of Syabas and being accused of using millions of Syabas’ funds to buy pipes from his own company in Indonesia, is still paid a salary of RM425,000 a month as CEO.

The Selangor government has openly stated that it plans to slash the monthly salary for this post by 90 percent. While Syabas is dead set on exponential increases of up to 75 percent on water tariffs, Selangor has pledged to cap any tariff increases to 12 percent. So, who is looking out for the rakyat, and who is looking out for themselves?

BN plundering before an inevitable defeat?

NONEMenteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim is the man most keen on the de-privatisation of the Selangor water industry and the takeover of Syabas by the state government.

This is the man who increased the cash reserves of the Selangor government five-fold from RM400 million in 2008 to RM2.1 billion in 2012.

Under UMNO and Najib Abdul Razak, the federal debt – a debt our children and grandchildren will have to pay – has since the year 2007 nearly doubled to RM421 billion this year.

Who do you think is better suited to run our water industry? Are we going to allow people who are bringing the nation to the edge of a real – not manufactured – economic crisis to bully us into footing the bill for a RM8.65 billion megaproject that nobody needs?

Are these high jinks the latest attempt – along with FGV, George Kent and the innumerable new spending initiatives the Prime Minister has recently announced – to bleed the nation’s coffers completely dry for personal gain before finishing a full term in office in 2013?

It seems the BN has serious fears of losing power, and is trying to take out as much as it can before having to face an angry electorate next year. If the BN was confident of a victory, surely the general election would have been held by now.In any case, the unscrupulous among us are welcome to play their games.

Turning off the taps and replacing the flow of water with the flow of painfully illogical arguments is less likely to pressure the state government to forsake the interests of the rakyat, and more likely to point the finger back at those truly responsible for scaremongering and criminal mismanagement.

Nazir Razak: Hardworking, Smart and Professional


July 2, 2012

The Financial Times Monday Interview: Nazir Razak

Nazir Razak: Hardworking, Smart and Professional

By Paul J. Davies (July 1, 2012)

Nazir Razak does not seem the “princeling” type, but then that is an accident of birth.

The 45-year-old Chief Executive of CIMB, Malaysia’s second largest banking group, is part of the country’s near “royalty” in the words of one investor.

Inside Malaysia, he is seen by some as an unofficial Finance Minister to the Prime Minister – his eldest brother, Najib Razak. Their father was Tun Abdul Razak, Malaysia’s second Prime Minister after independence from Britain.

Outside South-East Asia, however, many people may never have heard of him or CIMB. While he draws himself humbly as a small player getting his chance on a bigger stage, he has got there through an aggressive acquisition-fuelled expansion across the region.

The latest deal was to cherry pick a handful of investment banking businesses from Royal Bank of Scotland, the UK lender majority-owned by the government, in a cut-price deal. “I never thought this moment would come, where CIMB could get its hands on an asset like this at that value and have a good go,” he says of the RBS deal.

Mr Razak’s growing regional clout is winning him admirers among clients and rivals. Investment bankers in Hong Kong and Singapore say he is one to watch and CIMB the most likely Asian bank to become a true regional rainmaker.

But his proximity to power at home, in a country that ranked 60th in Transparency International’s corruption perception index, raises inevitable questions. Malaysians who are aligned with opposition groups or who have lost out on business to CIMB point to his government links as instrumental in his success.

Mr Razak does not deny that as head of a large company he holds some sway with political leaders, but only in so far as others in similar positions do. “We are a successful business that doesn’t get involved in that stuff [corruption],” he says. “But I’m not going to deny the fact that it is a problem.”

Pushed on his influence with the country’s Prime Minister, it is difficult to tell whether the family tie is a benefit or an irritant. His voice for once is slightly strained in reply: “I do have family occasions, but I wouldn’t say that I have more influence with the present PM than I did with previous PMs, if you like. Therefore, the relationship is more derivative of my position running the bank rather than family.” With a touch of pique, he adds that his brother has been leader only since 2009, while he has led CIMB’s investment bank since 1999. “But I suppose people forget that,” he says.

Mr Razak is soft-spoken and affable and he has a relaxed, natural smile. But the bank’s expansion, which since 2004 has taken its staff from 1,000 to 40,000 and its balance sheet from $4bn to $95bn, highlights a ferocious ambition.

In the small, careworn room in CIMB’s modest offices in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur where he is talking to the Financial Times, there hangs a large black and white photo montage commemorating the original formation of the bank in 1974. It was a venture between the national agricultural bank and the local Sanwa Bank with Baring Brothers and London Multinational Bank.

The attendees at the launch event were a mix of Malays, Sikhs, Hindus and moustachioed Englishmen in stiff suits, illustrating the cultural heritage of Malaysia and CIMB. Somewhat awkwardly, the man presiding over this ceremony, Mr Razak’s father as Prime Minister, was responsible for starting the positive discimination policies in favour of ethnic Malays that still provoke controversy in Malaysia today.

But Nazir Razak himself, whose part-British, part-Malaysian accent would not sound out-of-place in any of the countries represented in the photo, is proud of the bank’s diverse staff and management. It is one reason why he thinks cultural differences between his business and, for example, the Australian parts of RBS he now owns, should not prove problematic.

“Diversity is our second nature,” he says. “You look at the make-up of our community here and . . . the vast majority of my leadership team; they’re all very international people.”

Peers and rivals admire him for his equal comfort in south-east Asian and more Anglo-Saxon cultures. As a 13-year-old Mr Razak was sent to study at Oundle School in Northamptonshire. His choice of Bristol University over the London School of Economics, highlights a sober nature. “From Oundle, everything was very disciplined from what time you wake up to what you do the whole day and suddenly the full freedom of London . . . I couldn’t trust myself,” he says.

Across Asia, he is seen as very hard working, smart and professional, according to about 20 clients, bankers, and investors spoken to for this article, none of whom questioned his propriety.

Hugo Young at Aberdeen Asset Management, the UK fund manager that is CIMB’s biggest private shareholder with a 10 per cent stake, says that while Mr Razak may be high-born, he has worked his way up from the bottom at CIMB. “He has earned his position and he has professionalised the business in a way that few other Malaysian businesses have been,” he says.

Aside from his high-profile brother and father, Nazir Razak’s uncle was also a Prime Minister, he is also very close to Azman Mokhtar, who runs Khazanah, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund which in effect controls CIMB along with the country’s national pension scheme. And Mr Razak’s wife is the daughter of a former central bank governor.

Ironically, perhaps, these tight links with the rest of the establishment pose the greatest threat to his own future if the upcoming elections result in a regime change, kicking out the political party that has ruled Malaysia since independence.

“It is obviously a vulnerability [for him],” says Mr Young. “It is not so much political or connected to his brother, it is more that he is a part of that almost royalty, that power in Malaysia.”

Mr Razak says that he runs a large company for his shareholders and from that perspective does not give politics much thought. He has certainly steered clear from any public involvement, but he remains realistic about the pace and difficulty of domestic reform. “Najib’s got a hell of a task . . . but I think he’s giving it a very good go.”

He says the country must combat corruption, give more free rein to market forces and roll back government ownership of business – through privatisations such as this month’s multibillion-dollar part listing of Felda, an agri-business group.

This is the only way that Malaysia can hope to progress beyond middle income status, which would bring much greater recognition to the country and some of its leading companies, like AirAsia, Axiata and CIMB.

Mr Razak jokes that there was a bit of a muddle when he hosted David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, at a dinner this year. “We had a good laugh because he got a bit confused as to who was buying what when I introduced him to the [Royal Bank of Scotland] Asia head,” says Mr Razak. “His final remark was: ‘I’ve got some more of that if you want it’.”

It will have been quite apparent to Mr Cameron, however, that this “princeling” wasn’t born yesterday.

Dr. Hamsa Ali makes a Wrong Start


July 1, 2012

Dr. Hamsa Ali  makes a Wrong Start

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee @www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: In his first public interview since assuming the position of  Chief Secretary, Dr. Hamsa Ali, said all the politically correct and bland things that one expects from someone eager to show Malaysians that he is up to the challenge of a big job.

From being a cheerleader attempting to rouse the morale of his troops (according to him, the performance of the civil service has been “excellent”) to sounding patriotic and humble (“We need to continuously raise the bar to be among the best…”; “we can’t treat what we do as a job as what we do must benefit all Malaysians”), the orchestrated and carefully calibrated interview with the New Straits Times was clearly meant to impress and get Malaysians on his side.

Corruption in the Civil Service

Unfortunately, it failed to address the two most important failings of the civil service. The endemic and systemic corruption that Malaysia is suffering from could not have taken place without the collusion of the country’s civil servants. Closing one eye or acting as facilitators to businessmen and political leaders is standard operating procedure for more than a few in the upper reaches of the bureaucracy.

Everyone knows that doing business in the country has to pass through a thicket of civil servants. This includes big ticket multi-million dollar projects often given out under the pretext of so-called ‘national interest’ where the opportunities for massive corruption and kickbacks are especially prevalent.

Besides grand corruption, there is also low level and petty corruption by enforcement and other officers preying on ordinary citizens including the poor or marginalised. Whether it is getting a licence to operate a restaurant or securing a multi-million dollar contact for the ongoing ‘Cowgate’ scandal, the public is fully aware that knowing the right jalan (road) can hasten the path to approval or delay or doom a business proposition. It appears that the businessmen and political leaders engaged in activities that have brought windfall and undeserved gains know who the ‘right’ civil servants are.

The fact is that few high-level corruption cases ever see the light of day. Government officials living beyond their means and official income are not hauled up to answer for their unexplained wealth. This inertia has encouraged a culture of corruption to be deeply embedded within the bureaucracy.

Ethical and clean civil servants have suffered in silence fearing that their opposition to hanky-panky would result in setback to their career advancement prospects. It must be disappointing to them that the Chief Secretary did not say a single word in his interview about reforms to clean the civil service of corrupt and unethical practices, especially at the highest levels of the civil service.

In bed with Barisan

Another major failing of the civil service is that it has been successfully co-opted by Barisan Nasional (BN) to act as the tool of the ruling party. Far from being a politically neutral actor, the civil service has failed to observe strict administrative impartiality. Especially in developments related to the political life of the country, key bodies such as the Judiciary, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Police, the Election Commission (EC), and the official media have helped to strengthen BN’s political grip. They have also been instruments used to undermine democratic rights and freedoms of Malaysians.

Instead of untying the umbilical cord between the BN and the civil service, the Chief Secretary gave a pointed hint that he is likely to reinforce it. In response to a leading question whether “some civil servants are being influenced by promises made by the opposition”, his reply was that “They should know better. Don’t be taken in by empty promises.”

Although he qualified this reply by stating that “[a]s civil servants we must be loyal to the king and serve the government of the day”, the intent of his reply was clear.

A string of lacklustre Chief Secretaries

Hamsa Ali may prove to be the latest in a series of lacklustre and mediocre Chief Secretaries in the country. Mediocrity breeds mediocrity. Because of their poor leadership, the civil service has seen few reforms. Today, we have a  bloated 1.4 million-strong body that has been a victim of  as well as an  accessory and beneficiary to the abuses and misrule of the country.

The new Chief Secretary has the opportunity to begin the difficult process of cleansing the civil service and making it efficient and trustworthy. For this to happen, he must focus on removing the two principal obstacles which stand in the way of a rejuvenated and clean civil service. Can he do it or is he like many others before him having his eye on his post-retirement benefits?