Credit Rating Agencies can mislead


July 3, 2015

Credit Rating Agencies can mislead

by TK Chua@www.themalaysianinsider.com

We must all take the assessment of rating agencies with a pinch of salt. I am saying this not because Fitch recently changed the outlook of Malaysia from negative to stable. There are precedents to doubt the accuracy of rating agencies. In the US, rating agencies have been sued for giving inaccurate and doctored ratings. In Europe, some of the countries were given very high ratings before they finally collapsed.

FitchStabil macam mana? Tipu

Rating agencies are good at giving reasons after the facts. They tell us grandmother stories on why certain countries were bankrupt after the event happened. But they were useless at telling us before it happened.

Apparently, rating agencies have certain predetermined ways to look at an economy. They are happy when subsidies are withdrawn and GST introduced. They say this will reduce distortion and strengthen government finance and fiscal positions. But they conveniently ignore the need for prudent spending, wastage cuts and reduced corruption.

In Malaysia, one does need to be  analyst to know which is more important given our present circumstances. Sometimes I feel that they make decisions first before trying to find the reasons to justify them. They cite robust GDP growth and improvement in fiscal accounts to justify upgrades from negative to stable.

But who is certain on GDP growth going forward with the plummeting ringgit and diminishing current account surplus in the balance of payments? And how do we justify improvements in fiscal accounts when potential contingencies are looming on the horizon and oil prices remain anaemic?

Look, maybe Malaysia does not deserve a stable rating  at this stage, as  the outlook certainly is worrying and troubling given the many events unfolding.

Vision 2020 in the hands of Village Universities


May 7, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

Vision  2020 in the hands of Village Universities

by Scott Ng@www.freemalaysiatoday

The prevalence of backward thinking makes Mahathir’s project seem like an impossible dream.

I can think of a lot of things to do with RM9,000. Take a week-long vacation in Boracay or some other exotic island and live like some king of a long gone age. Perhaps donate half to charity and save the rest. Or even take the parents out for a first class feast, and maybe even spruce up my work area with memorabilia, as I’ve had my eye on the Hot Toys figurines released in conjunction with the new Avengers movie. Admit it, they are pretty, even if the price tag is daunting.

Perhaps you can think of some better uses for that kind of money, and I’m sure you’ll let me know.. But what you and I can agree on is that it will be silly to spend RM9,000 on a anti-hysteria kit composed of, among other things, chopsticks, salt, vinegar, pepper spray, and formic acid. I don’t know about you, but I can think of some excellent dishes I could make with the ingredients, though pepper spray is largely unproven as a condiment. Sure, you receive some sort of training to use the kit as part of the package, but all in all, the very idea appears to be ridiculous to most sane Malaysians.

Uinversiti Malaysia PahangMost of us know that hysteria is a medical condition that can be treated, and indeed, there are many accredited and established treatments out there that provide the treatment. Best of all, they won’t charge nearly as much as Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP) is asking for its anti-hysteria kit. If nothing else, the kit and its ingredients seem deeply rooted in superstition, but we’ll leave the experts at UMP to regale us with tales of how their kit is rooted in solid medical practice and born of many, many experiments to find the best approach to treating hysteria.

Indeed, if it works, the researchers at UMP must be commended. Give them the full works. The ticker tape parade, national advertising on TV, interviews with the foreign press to prove that our Malaysian universities can indeed make an impact with their research. In fact, be sure to make them datuks, at the very least. All on their own, with easily obtained items, they have made a breakthrough in medical science.

If it works, that is.

Now, in the spirit of the utmost fairness, I will not condemn the kit as a failure. After all, I have not had the chance to sample the kit and the training that comes with it, being a reasonably sane human being who has never had a hysteria attack before. However, I am very much inclined to believe that it is a placebo to replace legitimate medical treatment and counselling. After all, human belief may be one of the most powerful forces in the world.

However, that a public university like UMP can come out and endorse a kit such as this and demand such a price for it makes me lose all hope in the bright and glorious future promised to us in Vision 2020. If anything, we are straying so far from it ideologically and spiritually that we may as well go back to the dark ages and live in hovels, looking to so-called spiritualists to treat ailments of the mind and body with so much snake oil.

Perhaps some people don’t want to have a First World mentality. Maybe they’re content to be scared of shadows, to imagine demons around every corner, playing with our minds and afflicting us with illness and disorder. Perhaps they may be right. There are, after all, more things in heaven and on earth than we can possibly imagine, but this is certainly not a right step in either direction.

It is this kind of thinking that we must cast off, that Mahathir rejected when he dreamt of Vision 2020, of a modern Malaysia where we live in prosperity and harmony. That dream seems so far away now, and as long as we allow the likes of this to poison our minds, perhaps we may never develop ourselves into First World citizens.

MIER to Putrajaya: Listen to the People


April 22, 2015

MIER to Putrajaya: Listen to the People

By Zurairi AR@www.themalaymailonline.com

The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) urged Putrajaya today to pay attention to the public when formulating national policies instead of resorting to knee-jerk reactions, as Malaysians fret over a decline in living standards and quality of life.

Ahead of the 11th Malaysian Plan, MIER said Malaysia urgently needs to adopt an approach that focuses more on enhancing the well-being of the public when managing economic and social development.

“Behavioural approach to policy, listening attentively to the voices of the rakyat, should be the new direction,” MIER said in its Malaysian Economic Outlook for the first quarter of 2015 presentation.

“Doing so will help avoid policies and measures that will result in deadweight losses and the society ending up worse-off than before,” said the report released in its 20th Corporate Economic Briefing.

“Welfare of the rakyat should be the key priority and this calls for greater social capital and strong collective action,” it added.

ED MierCountries that have adopted such an approach includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Nordic countries, MIER said. Pointing to the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), MIER Executive Director Dr Zakariah Abdul Rashid said that Putrajaya must not be “too harsh” towards the public, apart from considering their feedback on the consumption tax.

MIER also warned against a lack of openness and transparency, gap in policy credibility, weak institutions, poor governance and low ethical and moral values, saying these attributes will affect the public perception and that of investors.

“There must be good signalling for market participants to react adequately, while ‘gradual approach’ and extensive consultations will surely help to avoid uncertainty and negative perceptions of stakeholders and rakyat as a whole,” said MIER.

MIER predicted that Malaysia will reach 5.0 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) growth this year, slightly above World Bank’s forecast of 4.7 per cent.

– See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/listen-to-the-people-economic-think-tank-urges-putrajaya#sthash.NOYWFy1m.dpuf

Attracting Malaysian Talent Home is tough for Johan Merican


April 9, 2014

Malaysia struggles to woo Malaysian experts home due to ‘better life’ abroad–A Tough Job for Johan Merican

 by MD Izwan (04-08-14) @www.themalaysianinsider.com

TalentCorp CEO Johan Mahmood Merican says the agency has several incentives to make it easier for overseas Malaysians to come home, including tax exemptions on their cars. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, April 8, 2014.

TalentCorp CEO Johan Mahmood Merican says the agency has several incentives to make it easier for overseas Malaysians to come home, including tax exemptions on their cars.–  pic by Najjua Zulkefli, April 8, 2014.

Higher salaries, better professional opportunities and a comfortable life – these are the main reasons Malaysian professionals living abroad are reluctant to return to Malaysia, TalentCorp said.

According to its statistics, TalentCorp managed to bring back 2,500 Malaysians working abroad, but the figure is small when compared with a 2011 World Bank estimate that almost a million Malaysians are working outside the country.

TalentCorp has received almost 4,000 applications in the three years since it was established in 2011 to address the brain drain in the country.

“It is a combination of several factors. First, the quality of life is related to salaries, second, professional opportunities and third, a comfortable life, ” TalentCorp Chief Executive Officer Johan Mahmood Merican told The Malaysian Insider recently. However, the gap in quality of life is not too big when Malaysia is compared with other countries, he said.

“For example, the salaries in London are definitely high but we must increase their awareness about the quality of life after living costs are taken into account. Sometimes, the gap is not that big,” he added.

In terms of professional opportunities, Johan said Malaysia was still capable of offering the best opportunities as the country’s economic position was still good.

“In many other developing countries in the world, their economies are relatively slow but Malaysia’s is steadily progressing,” he said.

“The third factor, there are a lot of reasons for that. It’s true that there are some Malaysians who are worried about education, crime and the political scenario in the country,” he added.

The country which has the highest number of Malaysians wanting to come home is Singapore, followed by the United Kingdom, China, Australia and the Middle East.

According to a World Bank report, Malaysia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was US$303.53 billion (RM995.43 billion) in 2012. Malaysia’s GDP represents 0.49% of the world’s economy.

“When they have been out of the country for too long, it will be hard for them to come home. At least, we appreciate their efforts by giving them incentives.”

The administration of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has targetted Malaysia to become a high-income nation by 2020 through Vision 2020, which was introduced by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

As part of efforts to achieve the goal, Najib also introduced fiscal steps to reduce the country’s deficit, but that have affected the inflation rate.

Up till 2013, TalentCorp was allocated RM65 million, but it has received criticism over the huge allocation as it did not reflect in the number of talents brought home.

“TalentCorp is not only about bringing workers from overseas, we also have other programmes such as graduate employability and helping foreign talents,” Johan said.

The area in which most talents have decided to come back to is the business service sector, followed by oil and gas, finance, electronics, information technology and health.

“We support the Economic Transformational Programme (ETP) and not just overseas programmes. We help drive the ETP,” he said, adding that TalentCorp was in line with the government’s goal of achieving a high-income nation by 2020.

Johan also said that TalentCorp does not take on the role of a “recruitment agency” for the talents brought home.

“We do not operate like a recruitment agency because we are a government agency. We do not look for jobs for them; it is up to them to find jobs.However, we realise that Malaysians who have worked overseas for too long will not necessarily be used to the local professional culture so we are prepared to help them to get in touch with recruitment agencies or executives,” he said.

Realising that the move to bring back talent is not easy, Johan said TalentCorp has prepared several incentives to make it easier for them to return to Malaysia.

“When they have been out of the country for too long, it will be hard for them to come home. At least, we appreciate their efforts by giving them incentives.”

Among the incentives are tax exemptions on cars the applicants would like to bring back to Malaysia under the Return Expertise Programme (REP).Johan said it was not fair for others to judge TalentCorp’s work just based on allocations to the agency, as there were other activities that they take on.

“You cannot take a whole amount of allocation and divide it by one activity… we have other different activities.Maybe our activities hardly get any coverage, but we are managing talents in a different aspect,” he said.

In 2011, a World Bank Report revealed that Malaysia was experiencing a huge brain drain to other countries, with almost a million of the country’s professional workforce reported to be working overseas.

According to the report, the migration is caused by the imbalances of the New Economic Policy (NEP), with Indians and Chinese making the highest numbers.

The World Bank warned that if the situation was not addressed as soon as possible, it would slow down the economy and halt the country’s development.

Following the report, Putrajaya set up TalentCorp and introduced programmes to lure Malaysian talents from overseas. – April 8, 2014.

Racism is a cover for corruption


November 18, 2013

Perkauman alat selindung aktiviti rasuah pemimpin, kata bekas Naib Canselor UM

 

 Isu perkauman digunakan oleh sesetengah ahli politik di Malaysia bagi melindungi kegiatan rasuah yang dilakukan pemimpin terbabit, kata bekas Naib Canselor Universiti Malaya Tan Sri Dr Ghauth Jasmon (gambar).

Beliau berkata isu perkauman juga dimainkan bagi melindungi salah laku selain mengelak mereka yang terlibat daripada dituduh atas aktiviti tidak bermoral itu.

“Jika negara dipenuhi dengan pemimpin rasuah, mereka akan menggunakan isu perkauman untuk melindungi kesalahan bagi menarik perhatian.

“Adalah penting kita memisahkan manusia dengan politik. Di Malaysia, kita selalu diingatkan oleh ahli politik tentang masalah perkauman malah terdapat juga kumpulan tertentu yang menyokong isu tersebut,” katanya semasa ucaptama Persidangan Asia Barat dan Afrika 2013 di Kuala Lumpur hari ini. – 18 November, 2013.–http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

image 
 

Of Parliamentary “APES” and Penchant for Con-Sultants


November 17, 2013

Of Parliamentary “APES” and Penchant for Con-Sultants

A Kadir Jasinby A Kadir Jasin

On June 27, I published a posting entitled Malaysian Parliament vs Animal Planet. On November 14, judging from media reports, the Dewan Rakyat was transformed from the more respectable Animal Planet into a mere zoo.

It was the climax of yet another uncivilised behaviour of our elected representatives, when the Opposition PKR member from Padang Serai, N. Surendran was suspended for six months for allegedly insulting Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia outside the House on November 12.

How I wish the government of Prime Minister Mohd Najib Abdul Razak acts equally swiftly and decisively on the plights of the rakyat, like the plan by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall to hike assessment rates by as much as 200% or the spike in deadly shootings around the country.

It is interesting that the National News Agency, Bernama should use the term “allegedly” to describe the circumstance surrounding the Surendran’s suspension. Does this mean that the charges against the PKR member were never conclusively proven?

According to Bernama, the suspension motion, which was tablednancy-shukri-menteri-bn-pbb-sarawak by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri (left) amid protest by members of the Opposition, was passed via block voting.

The Opposition questioned the legitimacy of the motion, triggering a heated argument, which lasted almost 90 minutes.

When the division was called by Deputy Speaker, Datuk Ronald Kiandee, 92 BN parliamentarians voted for the motion while the opposition representatives abstained.

On Tuesday, Surendran was given a marching order by Pandikar Amin for challenging his decision to reject an emergency motion he proposed over the alleged demolition of the extension to Sri Maneswarar Kaliyaman Temple extension in Jalan P. Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur.

The dissatisfied Surendran told a press conference outside the chamber that Pandikar Amin was bias and likened the Dewan Rakyat to the Zimbabwean Parliament.

They deserve no honour

I have no intention of honouring the bravado of these people, be they on the government or opposition bench.These people are not fit to be elected “wakil rakyat”. Sadly, over the years, we see more and more of these characters being elected to the august house.

I miss the gentler and more decorous days of the Parliament when members were more civilised, tolerant and more gentlemanly in their verbal exchanges.

As one former members of Parliament noted, those were the “jahiliah” days when liquor was served in the Parliament and some members took time off to play a round of poker.

Has the current breed of politicians lost the ability to debate with civility, flair and candour using powerful yet inoffensive terms and expressions? Or does this mean that the standard of the Malay language and the intellect of today’s YBs are so inadequate that they have resort to uncouth language and vulgarities when making their points?

Somebody should broadcast parliamentary debate in totality for the entire period of sitting so that the rakyat can judge for themselves who are humans and who are apes among the YBs. Maybe live telecast will force them to be more civilized and thoughtful.

It is puzzling that a temple issue should lead to expulsion. I am not saying that it was not an important issue, but no less important were debates on top government leaders and important people spending RM182 million last year alone on private jet travels.

Or more shocking is the revelation by the Finance Ministry that the Federal government had spent RM7.2 billion since 2009 to hire private consultants for national projects.

dilbert-consultants

It is clear that Mohd Najib as PM and Finance Minister loves private consultants despite the government having a whopping 1.4 million staff. This is not counting his special envoys and special advisers with ministerial status.

In response to question by the DAP MP for Kelana Jaya, Wong Chen, the ministry revealed a gradual rise in the bills for private consultancy firms from RM1.3 billion in 2009 — the year Mohd Najib became PM — to RM1.63 billion in 2010, RM1.8 billion in 2011, RM1.82 billion in 2012 and RM722 million from January to October this year.

In a damning indictment of the civil servants, the Finance Ministry said: “The capabilities of government researchers are limited in terms of their competency and human resources.”

If they are not good, sack them or train them. What’s the point of having a million over civil servants and paying them better salaries if Mohd Najib has to rely on outsiders and foreigners? Actually we can get free consultancy from such multilateral organisation as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank if we want to.

As a footnote, I congratulate a former BN MP, who now chairs a statutory body, for telling two Ministers –Mustapha Mohamed and Idris Jala – in a meeting with journalists a few days ago to stop hiring foreign consultants. I would not ask if he dares saying that if he was still an MP.– kadirjasin.blogspot.com, November 17, 2013/www.themalaysianinsider.com.