Monthly Archives: May 2010

Khalid Ibrahim stays as Menteri Besar and Selangor PKR Chief

May 30, 2009

Selangor Menteri Besar stays as State PKR Chief, says President Wan Azizah

S Pathmawathy (May 29, 2010)

PKR has no plans to replace Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim as the party’s Selangor chief, said PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

“We have no plans to review his position in the party,” she told a press conference in Kota Bharu after issuing the presidential address to PKR’s national congress.

Also present were PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali and DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang.

On PAS’ part, said Mustafa, the party has “full trust” in the Selangor MB as he has been doing a good job. “The question does not arise at all, but we have to do stock-checking as we are already in the middle of the year,” added Lim Kit Siang.

Wan Azizah  was fielding questions on Khalid’s tenure following rumours of a rift between him and PKR vice-president and Gombak MP Mohd Azmin Ali, and that both could not see eye-to-eye on certain matters.

Other key leaders within the party had also purportedly been sceptical of Khalid’s ability to head the Hulu Selangor by-election campaign and his general lack of political acumen.

Lacking skills?

The tensions supposedly ruptured last month in the run-up to the Hulu Selangor polls, after Azmin voiced disagreement with Khalid, who is also PKR’s treasurer-general, over campaign strategy issues.

Azmin (right), however, has rubbished the rumours, and pointed out that it was he who proposed the former Guthrie CEO to be the party’s election director for the by-election.

It was only on the question of when the campaign was to start that their minds did not meet, he added. Earlier in her address to the party, Wan Azizah praised Khalid who she said had borne heavy responsibilities since leading the Selangor government as its Menteri Besar.

“He has defended the principles of transparency and accountability by chipping away at the wastage and corruption that have become part of UMNO’s culture.

“The courage of the Selangor government in introducing SELCAT – exposing all (the state government workings) – is (the type of) renewal that we can be proud of,” said Wan Azizah in reference to the state assembly’s Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency.

Notwithstanding Khalid’s leadership, the PKR top gun warned party members and leaders – especially the excos in Pakatan-Rakyat-led state governments – to defend their menteri besar and chief minister.

While the Selangor government is firm, she said, it is under pressure from UMNO leaders’ plots “to sabotage and seize the Selangor state” from the Pakatan coalition.

“We need to be aware of their agenda,” she added.Nonetheless, said Wan Azizah, congratulations are in order for Khalid and the other Pakatan leaders in the Selangor government who have toiled to administer the state well despite being faced with internal and external challlenges and hindrances.

“Recognition (of good work) does not come free. The Selangor government must continue upholding the aspirations of the people, the aspirations of the party and of Pakatan.”

Subsidy Cuts will be good for Malaysia

May 29, 2010

Subsidy cuts will be good for Malaysia

The proposed subsidy cuts are turning out to be a political football but experts are more optimistic, saying they would boost competitiveness and appeal to foreign investors.

Dr Yeah Kim Leng, chief economist for RAM Holdings, said the long-overdue subsidy rationalisation plan had come at the right time. “The Malaysian economy has, in a way, rebounded so the implementation would not be that burdensome to the people,” he said.

“With inflation below the trend level of 3 per cent, the price impact will not exert a major concern because it will not result in runaway prices.”

He cited three major benefits of subsidy reforms, the first of which was greater efficiency gains overall.“Subsidy savings, instead of supporting consumption, can be directed to productive spending such as education, R&D, healthcare and public transportation,” he said.

The second benefit would be enhancement of the efficiency of the economy.“As we move closer to market prices, supply and demand becomes more market-responsive [and are] driven by price signals,” he said.

Yeah contended that this will allow transport services and basic food industries to be more competitive. “They will become more efficient because they will respond more efficiently to price changes,” the economist said, arguing that non-subsidised prices for goods and services will force resources to be allocated with minimum wastage.

The third and final benefit would be a more resilient economy, strengthened by lower fiscal deficit and government debt. “The lesson of the ‘Greek tragedy’ is quite stark and very relevant in our current context,” he warned.

“We will [need to] build up our fiscal bullets in order to face future shocks,” Yeah said, with the understanding that a resilient economy will be able to withstand jumps in oil prices or even a global recession.

He pointed out that the government does not have the resources at the moment to engage in counter-cyclical spending, saying that greater fiscal resilience will give it more flexibility to do so. Yeah explained that the removal of subsidies will also reduce macro-imbalances, which are of “major concern” to foreign investors. “Domestic investors will also lose confidence in the economy if debt levels build up,” he added.

Tan Sri Dr Ramon Navaratnam, a former Finance Ministry deputy secretary-general, also welcomed the cuts, saying they will do the economy much good.

“Finally, reality has set in… This will definitely have a positive and constructive effect on the economy and the future prospects of Malaysia’s socio-economic and political stability.

“The reduction of subsidies can be painful but it is necessary otherwise the economy will fail and decline.” He said subsidy reform will boost confidence in the economic management of the country and make it more appealing to foreign and domestic investors.

“These more realistic policies will encourage them to look at Malaysia’s economy as a good prospect in the long term and not only the short term.”

He added that the removal of subsidies will aid sustainable development and help maintain our standing in the IMD Competitiveness Index at a high level. Navaratnam also took the opportunity to criticise the “old NEP (New Economic Policy) mentality”, which he said was not positive or competitive enough.

“The subsidies syndrome, which is not only present in the price of commodities but right through the system, will take a heavy blow. [This will help] improve the mindset of Malaysians.”

He called the subsidy mentality a “cancer” that must be treated drastically. “If you don’t do [this] you will die in the long term… For too long we have neglected these basic problems in economic management,” he said.“That is why it is so difficult now to try and reduce what you gave so generously without good reason.”

Navaratnam also cautioned against Datuk Seri Idris Jala’s recent apocalyptic warning about the state of the country’s budget deficit, saying Idris might have exaggerated its severity.

“He has taken the situation as static when, in fact, while debt can be high, it is a proportion of the GDP that matters,” Navaratnam said.

“He has to take into account that the economy will be growing in its budget revenue and balance of payment receipts… The proportion of debt servicing to GDP need not be as dismal as he claims it out to be.”

Yesterday, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department had warned that Malaysia risked ending up like Greece if it did not stop “living beyond our means”, noting that the country could go bankrupt by 2019 if the government continues spending on subsidies at the current rate of 12.5 per cent a year.

However, Navaratnam said: “Nevertheless, his warning is well taken and the image of Greece could well be adapted as a possible scenario if we continue with the subsidy mentality in overall economic management.”

Raja Petra in ‘Tak Nak Potong’ Night

May 29, 2010

Raja Petra in ‘Tak Nak Potong’ Night

A coalition of pro-press freedom NGOs are planning a wake entitled the “528 Tak Nak Potong Night” today, (May 28, 2010) to commemorate what they claim is the day that press freedom in Malaysia died.

The NGOs organising the event include the 528 Media Action Group, Writers’ Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI), Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and the Civil Rights Committee of the Kuala Lumpur-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH).

NONESelf-exiled controversial blogger, Raja Petra Kamaruddin (right) himself is set to make a cameo pre-recorded video appearance, scheduled to “Speak Out and Loud” at tonight’s anti-censorship festivities, according to the organisers.

The numbers 528 were picked, said the NGOs, to represent May 28, marking the takeover of Chinese dailies by Nanyang Press Holdings in 2001, effectively putting them under the thumb of the ruling coalition’s Chinese based component party MCA, through its investment arm Huaren Holdings.”

Something which was rinsed and repeated by Umno’s takeover of the Malay daily Utusan Malaysia and its widely speculated indirect ownership of other mainstream media, most notably the News Straits Times and Berita Harian.

From then onwards, the groups claimed in an emailed press statement, the freedom of the mainstream media to report independently deteriorated further, culminating in Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s tightened executive control over them during the Hulu Selangor and Sibu by-elections.

According to the statement, the 8pm event at the Jeffrey Cheah Hall in the KLSCAH building, will feature a special night of performance and screening of censored and banned materials including books, films and art work, or as the organiser labelled them, “potong” materials.

NONEThese include Amir Muhammad’s controversial “18MP” video, former RTM producer Chou Z Lam’s (left) axed Bakun documentary, Pusat Komas’ “Selepas Tsunami” video seized by the government in Sibu, and Lim Sow Seng’s “Lonely KL Press”.

While banned publications showcased that night will include political cartoonist Zunar’s “Gedung Kartun” and Wong Eng Leong’s “Heaven of Demons”.

Joining this are Sharon Chin’s “Banned Books and Other Monsters” exhibition and Liew Teck Leong’s exhibit on “Pull Out: Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984″.

The night will also showcase thought-provoking artworks by Fahmi Reza, Five Arts Centre, Tan Hui Koon, Chai Chang Hwang, Satu Hulu Action Group and Teh Hong Seng.

Propaganda’ disobedience

The NGO have also issued an open invitation to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) President Norila Daud, the Group Managing Director of Sinchew Media Group Liew Chen Chuan as well as journalists, editors and citizens of the Klang Valley to participate in a symbolic action of abolishing the infamous Printing Presses and Publications Act by removing a nail each from the “Pull Out: Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984″ artwork.

As a form of protest against what they claim to be the heavy hand of government media censorship, the NGOs are also inviting the public to join in their fight via simple acts of civil disobedience.

NONEThose unable to join the protests in various forms like, flash mobs or writing complaints send to the mainstream media were urged to stop watching and reading what they call “propaganda” media and switch off their TV sets for an hour from 8pm-9pm as well as refrain from buying newspapers today.

‘Media complicity’

The group added that while May 3 is World Press Freedom Day and May is press freedom month, in Malaysia, the relevance of this day was reinforced by two exposés of self-censorship in TV stations, one after the other.

NTV7 censored Editor’s Time, a current affairs programme, in reaction to a text message complaining about the show.

The former producer of the programme, Joshua Wong Ngee Choong, who resigned on April 20 over this self-censorship by NTV7, claimed that the text message was forwarded from the Prime Minister’s Department to his supervisor.

Despite Wong’s explanation that allegations in the complaint were baseless, the TV station placed restrictions on the programme.

No discussions on political issues or the coming Hulu Selangor by-election were allowed while opposition politicians were banned from the popular forum. Just a week later, state owned TV channel TV2, axed a current affairs series after running the first couple of episodes.

The programme’s producer Chou alleged that his 10-episode daily programme on the social and economic plight of indigenous people displaced by the Bakun Dam project, was shelved to prevent negative feedback ahead of a by-election in the state.

The NGOs contended that Chou’s exposé paints a stark picture of media complicity to deprive the public of their right to information citing distress that in both cases, a by-election was cited as the excuse for abandoning discussion of current affairs. This goes against the public’s right to be properly informed before discharging their duty to vote.

PKR to go for Quality

May 28, 2010

PKR must plumb for Quality

by Terence Netto (May 27, 2010)

PKR deputy president Senator Dr Syed Husin Ali today opened the Wanita and Youth divisions of the party with a call to create a leadership corps drawn from within a pool of cadres imbued with the highest ideals.

pkr national congress 301108 syed husin aliSpeaking to a joint assembly of both wings of the party at the Kelantan Trade Centre in Kota Bharu tonight, the veteran politician said the process of creation of this leadership corps must be refined and closely monitored.

“This process must entail immersion in leadership training and party organisation courses and also require work among the masses such that the latter are geared towards organising and fighting for their rights,” said Syed Husin.

He said PKR did not require strength in numbers so much as quality of membership. “We need members who are of high quality from the standpoint of discipline, political awareness and involvement.

“We need members who understand, uphold and adhere to the basis of the party’s struggle to the point where they do not lose their compass even when they find themselves alone,” he said.

Giving no hint that this would be his last speech to a party assembly as deputy president, the former academician offered to help out in the process of leadership training, thus hedging the question of his intended retirement this year.

Syed Husin had earlier this year hinted that he would not defend his post at party elections scheduled to be held at a special assembly towards year’s end.

The hint raised fears of a potentially divisive contest for the deputy presidency that he has held since the party he led, Parti Rakyat Malaysia, merged with Parti Keadilan Nasional to form Parti Keadilan Rakyat in 2002.

Alluding to the issue of defections from PKR, a phenomenon that has marred the party’s image over the past year, Syed Husin told the assembly that he viewed the entire situation as a “cleansing process”.

He noted that every major political party in Malaysia had experienced the phenomenon of defections at various points in their history, observing that several had gone on to higher levels of strength and accomplishment.

Syed Husin said a sure way of preventing defections from the party was to marinate members in the party’s ideology.

Building blocks of party’s ideology

He acknowledged that PKR had yet to fully formulate an ideology because of what he described as its “rainbow” beginnings.

Syed Husin said the party was formed out of an assembly of members who originated from different political backgrounds, including some who had no previous experience of politics. He said this meant that many members with a political past found it difficult to trim their sails to fit PKR’s but that those without such a past were open to molding. Thus this made courses and training for members a matter of necessity.

Syed Husin said the party’s ideology should be formulated from the building blocks of its struggle for justice for all Malaysians.

He cited the building blocks as justice for all, concern for people’s welfare, forging a united nation, and promotion of moral and ethical values for national well-being. He said PKR could not go wrong if it held unswervingly firm to this basis of its struggle.

Barry Wain at University of Malaya

May 28, 2010

Barry Wain provides insights on Mahathir at University of Malaya

by Hafiz Yatim

What was supposed to be a highbrow discussion of Barry Wain’s Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent times led by the author himself at the nation’s oldest university turned out to be a critical session on the Fourth prime minister.

Wain (below), started yesterday’s evening session in University of Malaya with recounting his fascination in writing about Mahathir, owing to his interests in Southeast Asia and the rise of dominant political figures here like Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), Suharto (Indonesia), Sihanouk and Hun Sen (Cambodia) and Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore).

NONE“As Malaysia was a rising Southeast Asian country, I thought it would be fruitful to write on Mahathir. I had interviewed the Fourth prime minister, three times before writing this book.”

One of the lesser known things, Wain, 65, disclosed to the 100 plus audience that despite Mahathir being known to be anti-American, the former premier was agreeable to the country signing an agreement with the United States to allow the US army to conduct jungle warfare training in Johor.

Mahathir, the author said, had opposed the presence of the American 7th fleet in Singapore, but he did not make a public disclosure of 1984 agreement.

Wain, a former Asian Wall Street Journal editor said this showed the two contrasting characters of the Malaysia’s Fourth prime minister.  “Despite Mahathir’s passion for politics, such matters were never discussed at home,” he said, adding he verified this fact with Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, the former premier’s wife.

“Hasmah said politics was never discussed at home. Even when Mahathir had written the infamous letter calling for the first premier Tunku Abdul Rahman’s resignation following the 1969 racial riots , the matter was not made known to her or the family,” he said.

It was as if Mahathir had compartmentalised his life, said Wain in providing an insight into Malaysia’s long serving Prime Minister. Wain had mentioned this compartmentalised thinking in an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini. He also said while Mahathir was bent on the physical development of Malaysia, not much was centered on human capital development of the country.

Ong: Conduct research on brain drain

Political analyst, Ong Kian Ming, one of the panelist who reviewed the book concurred with Wain, saying that studies should be conducted on this issue.

“For example, the Public Services Department spent a lot in awarding scholarships to Malaysians for overseas studies. However, when they return, do they work or contribute their best minds to the government and civil service?” he asked.

“I can say 99 percent of them are working outside the government. As a result the civil service here is still incompetent.”

Ong, who had just completed reading his PHD in Political Science at Duke University in the US, said why can’t Malaysia emulate her southern neighbour ,Singapore, in that the best minds are all in the government sector or in government- owned companies.

Prof Edmund Terence Gomez, another panelist agreed that despite all the harping on the New Economic Policy, Mahathir’s tenure as prime minister, was not used properly to achieve its goals. “He wanted to produce Malay millionaires but instead of helping others, they in turn kept the money and had gone richer,” he said.

Gomez said if we look at the top seven companies in Bursa Malaysia, one can see how many are majority owned by Bumiputeras.

The professor in economics also said what was important in the New Economic Model, introduced by Najib was the aim to reduce all leakages while focusing on capital development.

Wain: Investments not coming in

Wain noted that foreign investments to Malaysia had dropped compared with the 1990’s. “What is a source of concern is also that Malaysian businessmen themselves are not reinvesting in Malaysia but are doing so in some other countries. Money is not coming in but instead it is going out.”

“The recent 10.1 GDP first quarter growth was as a result of government spending.”idris jala pemandu subsidiesHe agreed with the findings released by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Idris Jala (right), yesterday that if subsidies were not cut, the country would go bankrupt.

Wain, who was also the now defunct Far Eastern Economic Review editor said besides subsidies, the Goods and Services Tax would have to be imposed to widen the broad base of taxes, through which the government could boost its revenue.

The author was also asked his opinion on why Mahathir supported Perkasa, as it goes against his mooted idea of Vision 2020, of seeing the many races in Malaysia unify, and to which the reply was succinct: the former premier was a person who likes the limelight. “He craves media attention and that is the reason why,” he said.

Responding to another question whether he would write a second book on Mahathir since some topics like Sabah and Sarawak and aspects of his children were not covered extensively, the author said no, as his second would be on Southeast Asia.

Wain, said a sixth reprint of the book is in the works and that 4,000 copies of the books were sold out in Malaysia since the ban was lifted on April 23, and another 5,000 copies had just been recently ordered.

He also said that he had given a copy of his book to Mahathir but had not either personally met him or knew his response to it.

Mindset and Cultural Change Needed for GTP success

May 27, 2010

Mindset and Cultural Change needed, says Chief Secretary to the Government

Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan said today the utmost essence to the success of the Government Transformation Plan (GTP) is the mindset and cultural change of the people.

He said the mindset and attitude of Malaysians would also determine the future success of the government, because although the government could set visions and policies, it was society in its collective vehicle that could deliver it.

“It would be naive to even suggest that by virtue of the blueprints of the plans and commitments set out by the government, the country will be a developed country by a certain timeline.

“GTP is only an engine. So is the 10th Malaysia Plan, so is the New Economic Model. All of these initiatives must see a corresponding mindset and cultural change in our society,” he said in his keynote address at the national conference on Improving Accountability and Public Service Management Efficiency here.

The one-day event was organised by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s (UTM) Institute Sultan Iskandar (ISI). Sidek also stressed that Malaysians must not be complacent with what they have achieved but to continue setting new benchmarks.

This was important as the world today was malleable and fluid to the surrounding environment, he said. “We must never begin to think that we have arrived, for when we start thinking so, the seeds of arrogance and complacency will seep into our minds, our way of life, our society.

“Our own attitudes to work and life will define where and how far our country can go,” he added. He said the people must also be agile enough to adapt, adjust, adopt and rise to the occasion as well as move beyond comfort zones and always push the limits.

“We can no longer live on the philosophy of ‘leave me alone’ or ‘live and let live’. To make it collectively as a nation, we must today live by the motto ‘live and help live’.”

In this regard, Sidek called for co-operation from all sectors in society to work together. “If we want to be relevant, and continue to be relevant, we have simply got to be extraordinary and unusual.

“Ultimately, we can only be so if the people want to make it so. Governments and markets cannot do it singularly. Media and NGOs must assume their due roles in nation building too for the collective good of all,” he added. — Bernama

Manage Our Public Expenditure prudently

May 27, 2010

Comment: Yes, Minister Idris Jala is justified in warning all of us about our fiscal deficit which is increasing rapidly. But just asking us citizens to do away with subsidies is not sufficient. At best, it is a good start towards breaking our subsidy mentality. More needs to be done to cut our fiscal deficit. We need to get our financial house in order. The principle  to be observed should be that government must maximize returns on the tax ringgit.

I urge our  intelligent Minister  and his team to look at public expenditure with a very critical eye. The salaries and perks enjoyed by civil servants must match their productivity. Right now, their productivity is shockingly low and yet the government continues to be generous with CUEPECS, especially ahead of General Elections. This has got to stop  as the government cannot continue to be a generous employer. Bonus and increments must be performance based.

Serious attempts must be made to manage public expenditure so that the government can drastically reduce wastage. It is time to adopt proper procurement and open tendering procedures; leakages can be detected early  if we have a good system in place, and those caught with their hands in the till, so to speak, should b penalized and in extreme cases they should face the full brunt of law for breach of trust and corruption. In this regard, a strong case can be made for a thorough review of the existing planning and budgeting system so that it is in sync with the KPIs that have been introduced in ministries and government agencies.

So far, the Government gets an A for raising taxes and other revenues, but I will award an E for  its management of public expenditure. Budgetary discipline in matching revenue and cost is an absolute must, if  government is to control its burgeoning public spending and reduce the fiscal deficit. –Din Merican

Malaysia risks becoming another Greece says Idris Jala

Malaysia risks becoming the next Greece unless voters swallow subsidy cuts that will see the price of petrol, food, electricity and other staples rise, a government minister warned today. A government think-tank charged with producing plans to cut the country’s subsidy bill presented its plans to the public in  a bid to win acceptance for painful cuts, which have yet to be voted on by the government.

NONEIdris Jala, a minister in the prime minister’s department who heads the body advising the government, said that Malaysia’s debt would rise to 100 percent of gross domestic product by 2019 from 54 percent of GDP at present without the cuts.

“We don’t want to end up as another Greece,” he told a roadshow, referring to the European Union member whose debt woes have unsettled global markets.

Malaysia spent 15.3 percent of total federal government operating spending on subsidies in its 2009 budget when its deficit surged to a 20-year high of 7 percent of GDP.

The cabinet discussed the subsidy proposals on Wednesday, but any decision on cuts could be months away, a government source told Reuters.

Political analysts and economists say the failure of the government to push through previous subsidy cuts casts doubt on whether it can do it this time, especially with state elections looming in Sarawak, a government stronghold that is under threat from the opposition.

The proposals presented would see petrol prices for the benchmark RON95 blend rise by an initial 15 sen per litre from their current price at some stage this year.

The benchmark RON 95 grade currently costs RM1.80 ringgit per litre.  Under the proposals presented by the advisory body, the price of petrol would be hiked some time this year followed by two price hikes totalling 20 sen per litre in 2011 and two more totaling 20 sen per litre in 2012.

In 2013-2015, the price hikes would slow and by the end of 2015, the price of RON95 would stand at RM2.60 per litre, according to the plans that have yet to be approved by the government.  The forecasts were based on a crude oil price forecast of $73.06 per barrel for 2011 and $79.41-$94.52 for 2013-2015.

– Reuters