GDP or GNH (The Bhutan Way)–Maybe it’s Time to screw the Economists and start looking at alternative ways to measure what makes life worthwhile
Listen to this TED presentation by Chip Conley and reflect. I enjoyed it and wonder why we continue to measure only the measurable (the tangibles) and ignore the intangibles. As someone who is trained in Economics (and does being taught this academic discipline make a economist?), I am wonder how it is that I can be so misled and still have not abandoned GDP as a measurement of national wealth if I know it is misleading when intangibles matter more today. Maybe it is a force of habit. Should be I Aristotelian or Maslowian? Let me know what you think.–Din Merican
There is concern in Kuala Lumpur that the United States Justice Department’s investigation into the state-owned 1Malaysia Development Bhd., which is ensnared in one of the world’s biggest financial scandals, could be stymied in the wake of the March 10 firing by President Donald Trump of the country’s 46 US attorneys.
The Trump administration announced it had ordered all Obama administration prosecutors to tender their resignations immediately, including Preet Bharara, the most aggressive of the US prosecutors, who said he had met with Trump in November, telling reporters that both Trump and Jeff Sessions, now the Attorney General, had asked him about staying on, which Bharara said he would do, according to the New York Times.
Trump is not interested in Malaya. To him Najib Razak is not a small potato
“We fear (Prime Minister Najib Razak) has Trumped us,” said a member of the political opposition in Kuala Lumpur. “Bharara’s firing has discouraged all the reformers in KL. They think the 1MDB investigation will die.”
That may be too pessimistic. Nonetheless, the concerns over the departure of federal attorneys handling the 1MDB case were compounded by the fact that the case also involves an investigation into the activities of the investment bank Goldman Sachs and its role in underwriting and steering US$6.5 billion in bond sales for 1MDB. Gary Cohn, the current president and chief operating officer of Goldman, has been appointed the head of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisors. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Securities and Exchange Commission head Jay Clayton and Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief adviser, have all been connected to Goldman as well.
In addition, Trump himself called Prime Minister Najib in the middle of the night in mid-November for an amicable conversation at the behest of businessman Syed Azman of Weststar Group, a sprawling Malaysia-based conglomerate with interests in cars, aviation, construction, defense and engineering. Azman’s 40 helicopters shuttle people and goods to offshore oil platforms.
Azman, according to sources in Kuala Lumpur, knows Trump relatively well and plays golf with the President, a real estate tycoon before his election. Some years ago Azman bought two of Trump’s ornate branded jets for use by his own businesses. During the presidential campaign, he re-loaned one of the jets back for use by Trump’s aides. It was repainted in the Trump livery and used during the campaign, a source in Kuala Lumpur told Asia Sentinel.
According to details of the conversation by Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor, Trump, also asked Najib when the latter planned to visit the US, to which the Prime Minister replied, “Wait until you settle in and I will come. I would like to discuss a few things with you.”
The US Justice Department last July announced a sweeping investigation into the activities of 1MDB, with US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch alleging “an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.”
Although he is identified only as “Malaysian Public Official No. 1,” it was clear that Najib was the target of what Lynch called “the largest single action ever brought” under the US’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.
The US Justice Department investigation is a damning indictment of the entire structure surrounding 1MDB. It found that from 2009 through 2015, more than US$3.5 billion in funds belonging to 1MDB were misappropriated from an entity ostensibly created by the Malaysian government to promote economic development in Malaysia through global partnerships and foreign direct investment, and intended to be used for improving the well-being of the Malaysian people.
Despite the allegations, Najib appears to be secure in his job as premier, which he assumed in 2009. In fact, he believed to be solid enough to call a snap election prior to the deadline required for national elections in April of 2018.
Goldman Sachs came into the picture in July last year with the allegations that billions of dollars were diverted from 1MDB for personal use by Public Official No. 1, his stepson and others. It was Goldman that helped 1MDB raise US$6.5 billion in three bond sales to invest in energy projects and real estate. Goldman earned nearly US$600 million to underwrite the sale of the bonds. The lawsuits alleged investors weren’t properly informed about the use and nature of the bonds and that the offering circulars for two of the bonds issued in 2012 allegedly contained “material misrepresentations and omissions” over what the proceeds of the bonds would be used for and the nature of the relationship between 1MDB and International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), an entity owned by the Abu Dhabi government.
Goldman has denied all wrongdoing, saying it had no visibility into whether some of the funds were subsequently diverted into things like the purchase of expensive art work and the funding of the blockbuster movie Wolf of Wall Street, produced by Najib’s stepson and others.
High Flying Investment Banker Leissner
Nonetheless, Tim Leissner, once Goldman’s star banker in Southeast Asia, stepped down from his position last March, either voluntarily or because he was suspended, as investigations widened in Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, France and other countries in addition to the US.
There is no indication that the investigations into 1MDB and Goldman have been stopped. Justice Department officials in New York and Los Angeles are said to be continuing to search for additional assets connected to 1MDB and the Najib family to sequester under the kleptocracy statute.
In addition, all presidents have had the authority to dismiss regional US attorneys, who are political appointees and serve at the pleasure of the President. However, unlike Ambassadors, for instance, the prosecutors are almost always professionals widely respected in their field.
Bharara, who rules over Manhattan, was appointed in 2009 by President Obama. He has earned a reputation as an aggressive prosecutor who has taken on a wide range of white-collar crimes and won a flock of convictions.
The Desperate Godfathers of Hududism in Malaysia–UMNO’s Najib Razak and PAS’Hadi Awang
The 18 February 2017 rallies both for and against the bill to amend the 1965 Criminal Jurisdiction Act, known as RUU 355, have opened yet another political and social schism in Malaysian society. RUU 355 began as a private member’s bill by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party’s (PAS) President Hadi Awang and seeks to raise the penalties for certain crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of sharia courts in Malaysia.
Public opinion appears divided on the issue, as the continued politicisation of religion takes precedence over authentic religious debate on the matter. Some see the bill as a facade for the eventual entry of hudud — Islamic — laws into the country. PAS held the rally in support of the bill, which drew a reported 20,000 people, while the counter rally was organised by the non-governmental organisation Bebas and drew a much more modest crowd of around 200.
Hudud –The Political Hypocrisy of It All
Support for the bill is significant enough. Various surveys, including one conducted recently amongst university students, indicate Malay-Muslim support for the amendment and for the implementation of Islamic laws. The pro-RUU 355 rally emphasises this and the numbers indicate some level of moderate success for PAS — mobilising 20,000 odd people for a rally is no small feat.
But as the subject of this bill is central to the party’s aims, larger numbers could have been expected. This suggests a difficulty in appealing to urban folk and that mobilised supporters from other, more remote parts of the country account for the majority of the turnout.
This Guy does not know where he is coming or going in Malaysian Politics–UMNO to PKR to DAP and what next?
The counter rally, held at the same time but at a different location to the PAS gathering, better demonstrates the mood regarding the bill. While the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) was critical of the bill when it was first announced, it eventually distanced itself from the counter rally completely. The only DAP name who attended was Zaid Ibrahim, and that was in his individual capacity rather than as a party member.
The DAP’s absence is unsurprising as the issue puts it in a difficult position: the DAP may not support the bill, but attending the counter rally would cement the perception that they are an anti-Malay and anti-Muslim party. The discourse surrounding this issue has been very black and white; support for the bill is seen as a Muslim’s religious duty, while opposition to it is deemed vehemently anti-Islamic.
The general public’s low attendance at the counter rally suggests that the issue was not significant enough to take to the streets in numbers. For Malay-Muslims, the fear of reprisal for attending a rally seen as anti-Islamic is a significant factor in keeping people away. It appears easier for the pro-RU 355 rally to draw Malays, as the narrative is more populist, keeps with a conservative Islamic position and is supported by major Malay parties like the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and PAS.
As for non-Muslim participation, it appears this issue is neither relevant nor attractive enough to drag would-be participants out of bed in the morning. They can hardly be blamed as many voices from the pro-RU 355 camp constantly state that the amendment will not affect non-Muslims.
Although this amendment does not mean that non-Muslims are suddenly going to be tried under sharia law, having two legal systems for two different groups of people brings the notion of equality before the law into question. For a multicultural country that should seek to be inclusive instead of exclusive, these amendments are not helpful, especially when considering the knock-on effect it will have on the country as a whole.
Past cases of overlapping jurisdiction between sharia and civil courts, such as conversion cases or burial rights of non-Muslims indicate that the separation of the courts is not clearly defined. While the bill aims to raise the penalties for certain crimes under sharia law such as murder and theft, some constitutional experts argue that these crimes fall strictly under the purview of federal, not sharia, law. This bill exacerbates an already highly polarised society divided along racial and religious lines.
It is also another episode in the overall Islamisation trend happening in Malaysia that directly and indirectly affects all groups in society. Various incidents in the past few years point to how religious relations in the country can easily sour. A church was forced to take down its cross display in 2015, there have been recent issues with the usage and distribution of paint brushes containing pig bristles and there is now moral policing of dress code at government buildings.
The issue is complicated further because it is primarily for political rather than religious purposes. Putting aside PAS’ ambition to see this through, the bill is an obvious affirmation of the party’s own religious credentials. In the current climate, this helps to regain the trust of its core supporters, which also explains why the UMNO has jumped on the bill’s bandwagon. It helps the UMNO bolster its image at a time when the administration has suffered a dip in popularity. The timing of this issue is also convenient, as elections are due to be held by 2018.
As it stands, it would not be surprising if the bill passes next month when it comes to parliament. Opposition members who oppose the bill are likely to be absent from the vote for fear of being branded anti-Islamic. If the amendment passes, the biggest concern is whether it will worsen existing racial and religious polarisation in the country. Given the political dimension of the bill and the looming general election, a more inclusive Malaysia is not yet on the horizon.
Rashaad Ali is a research analyst with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Donald Trump flew out of Washington on Friday but was unable to leave a gathering storm of allegations, intrigue and unanswered questions about his ties to Russia behind him.
It was Watergate, now it is likely to be Trump Towers Scandal–Momentum to Impeach 45th POTUS grows stronger, thanks New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN
The US President’s joint address to Congress this week was well received but was rapidly overshadowed by revelations that his Attorney-General, Jeff Sessions, had twice spoken with the Russian Ambassador during last year’s presidential election.
As it has emerged that other members of the Trump campaign – including his son-in-law Jared Kushner – also met with the Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, the Kremlin connection seems destined to be the putative scandal that will not go away for the White House.
In Florida, the President was due to visit a school and meet Republican leaders on Friday but Democrats kept up the pressure in Washington. They argued that Sessions’ meetings with the ambassador contradicted his own sworn statements to Congress during his confirmation hearing. Sessions claimed on Thursday that he met the ambassador in his capacity as a senator, not as a campaign surrogate.
On Friday, the White House tried to steer criticism of Trump associates and their meetings with Russian officials away, by drawing parallels with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, who was photographed meeting with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in 2003.
In a characteristic diversionary tactic, Trump tweeted an old photo of Schumer and Putin smiling and snacking together with the message: “We should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!”
Schumer swiftly replied: “Happily talk re: my contact w Mr. Putin & his associates, took place in ’03 in full view of press & public under oath. Would you &your team?
Happily talk re: my contact w Mr. Putin & his associates, took place in ’03 in full view of press & public under oath. Would you &your team?
Chuck Schumer added,
Speaking to reporters, the White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders echoed the president: “I mean Chuck Schumer sitting and having drinks with Putin and that’s not a news story, but apparently a volunteer for a campaign bumping into one at a conference where there’s, again, dozens of other ambassadors is newsworthy.”
Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, said the Attorney-General’s decision to recuse himself from an investigation into Russian-backed hackers’ interference in last year’s presidential election did not go far enough.
“Everybody knew that there was something completely out-of-order that was going on, so for him to say, well, I was just meeting with him in the normal course of a senator meeting with an ambassador, the Russian Ambassador, everybody knew was hacking our system is beyond naive,” she told an event organised by Politico in Washington. “It’s almost pathetic. It’s almost pathetic.
Trump’s Attorney-General Jeff Sessions may have committed perjury
“So he did not tell the truth, and now it has come out that he did not tell the truth, and now what you see is there are other people in the Trump administration who have met with the Russian ambassador, in view of some one of the biggest intelligence officers of the Russian government, in Washington DC.”
Some US media reports have suggested that Kislyak acts as a spy recruiter, a charge that Moscow has ridiculed as paranoia.
Pelosi added: “So this recusal is an admission that something went on but it’s not sufficient. There are two things. One is the recusal as a surrogate of then candidate Trump’s campaign and having communication with the Russian government knowing they were hacking our system. That’s what the recusal is about, however narrow it is.
“The other part of it is the possibility of perjury, which is punishable by law for anybody else. Certainly we should have that be standard for the highest-ranking law enforcement person in our country.”
Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse Trump for president, told his confirmation hearing in January that he “did not have communications with the Russians” and did not know of any by other campaign staff.
Democrats have variously called on him to recuse himself from all potential investigations, retestify before Congress, resign or be charged with perjury, while demanding an independent commission to investigate. Richard Blumenthal, senator for Connecticut, urged the embattled attorney general to return to the Senate judiciary committee to “testify under oath” about the conversation at his office with Kislyak.
“I’d like him to explain what was said during that September 8 meeting,” Blumenthal told MSNBC’s Morning Joe program. “And what came of it, and also what other meetings there may have been, because if he misled us as to that meeting, what other meetings might he also have failed to disclose?”
The congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, has called for Sessions to quit, saying he “clearly misled” the Senate about contacts with Russian officials, and demanded that a special prosecutor be appointed.
Schiff also accused the FBI Director, James Comey, of withholding crucial information about its investigation into Russian meddling in the election, and raised the prospect of subpoenaing the agency.
“I would say at this point we know less than a fraction of what the FBI knows,” the California Democrat told reporters after a briefing with Comey. “I appreciate we had a long briefing and testimony from the director today, but in order for us to do our investigation in a thorough and credible way, we’re gonna need the FBI to fully cooperate, to be willing to tell us the length and breadth of any counterintelligence investigations they are conducting. At this point, the director was not willing to do that.”
Speaking to Fox News on Thursday evening, Sessions, a former senator from Alabama, reiterated that he did not discuss the campaign with Kislyak. “When I campaigned for Trump, I was not involved with anything like that,” he said. “You can be sure.”
Despite the conclusions of US intelligence agencies, Sessions refused to say whether Putin favoured Trump over Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. “I have never been told that,” he told the host, Tucker Carlson. “I don’t have any idea, Tucker – you’d have to ask them.”
Trump has consistently denied business or political ties with Russia but has also been conspicuously reluctant to criticise Putin and raised the prospect of reviewing sanctions against the country. Opponents argue there is circumstantial evidence that Trump colluded with Moscow to help his campaign but definitive proof has remained elusive.
Last month Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign amid controversy over his discussions with Kislyak in late December.
The Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the eye of an oncoming political storm in Washington DC
On Thursday, it emerged that Kushner joined Flynn at a private meeting with the Ambassador at Trump Tower in New York. Another campaign aide, Carter Page, did not deny meeting Kislyak during the Republican national convention. And the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump’s son, Donald Jr, was probably paid at least $50,000 for an appearance late last year at a French think tank whose founder and wife have strong ties to Russia.
He tweeted: “This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win. The Democrats are overplaying their hand. They lost the election, and now they have lost their grip on reality.”
Note: Yes, Tan Sri, to civil service reform or right sizing (as you call it) but it requires political will. First let us remove top civil servants who are only good at buttering up corrupt politicians.Both the Chief Secretary to the Government Ali Hamsa and Secretary-General to the Treasury Irwan Siregar, for example, should be asked to go on retirement followed by incompetent senior servants (the deadwood) who should be replaced by a new corp of civil servants chosen for their competency and courage to speak to power.
Is this the face of a reformer? Look elsewhere, Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff.
Next, open up the civil service to all Malaysians, not just Malays and then stop recruiting Malay graduates who are not employable elsewhere and finally, disband Cuepecs since this union is an obstacle to any reform.
I bet you Najib Razak is not the man who is likely to take tough action against civil servants since they form the backbone of UMNO’s political support.
So let us not talk about right-sizing the civil service when we know the Prime Minister will not undertake civil service reform since his political survival is at stake. We are a failed state with a dysfunctional political system and a civil service which is performing sub-optimally.–Din Merican
Right-Sizing the Malaysian Civil Service?
by Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim @www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT: There have been a lot of emotional reactions from Cuepacs and Perkasa about my statement regarding the oversized civil service. Perhaps the sensitivity is due to the fact that the civil service is mainly Malay and Malay dependence on the civil service for employment is very high.
The right-sizing of our civil service through a voluntary separation scheme is badly needed. There are ways of doing it in a humane and caring manner.
First, the government can start with retraining of redundant employees by giving them free courses on skills development: computers, English, basic accounting, corporate law, etc – all the skills needed to make them employable in the private sector.
I am sure once the employees get these skills, many would like to leave as soon as they reach optional retirement age. The government employees will self-separate.
It should be noted that there are thousands of civil servants, where both husband and wife are in the government service. In many cases among the lower level categories, one of them is doing part-time business like selling kain, tudung, kuih, religious books, etc, to earn more money. They probably have business ambitions but cannot afford to leave the government, because they have no capital.
Imagine if an offer is made for a voluntary separation package of RM40,000 for 20 years of service. The chances are one of them will take the package, while the other one will continue to work in the government until retirement to enjoy the medical benefits for the whole family. Thus, the government is helping the Malay wife or husband to become an entrepreneur, a genuine one because they have a track record.
Voluntary separation schemes, like those in the private sector, cannot be forced upon because it is illegal to terminate a worker who has not done anything wrong and has been a loyal employee.
Automation can replace human labour
The scheme should affect those whose functions are no longer needed because automation can replace human labour and because, with technology, there is no more need for sending letters or face-to-face service – ie the human-intensive work is no longer relevant in 21st Century Malaysia.
In the banking sector, there is no need to go to the branch for transactions. That is why banks are closing down their branches and terminating their employees.
Malaysian Civil Servants pledging to serve the corrupt UMNO regime led by Malaysian Official No. 1.
I believe the government can also look at closing down completely, or partially, certain offices and branches without affecting the quality of service. The redundant civil servants should then be deployed to other functions or retrained to prepare them for the separation scheme.
While the government right-sizes redundant civil servants, it will have to continue to recruit those that are needed for specialized expertise in the fields of finance, economics, research, medicine, education, science, environment, law, etc. This should be encouraged as the civil service must continually upgrade the quality of its staff.
The government should be focusing more on quality, rather than quantity, because this is the way to increase productivity and efficiency in the civil service.
We should have a much smaller administrative service to support the functioning of government ministries and departments. This can be achieved by decentralizing and empowering of authority to reduce the multi-layer approval process.
A lot of progress has been made in recent years to improve the counter delivery services in several departments, with the use of technology and the simplification of procedures. Logically, there should be less need for manpower and the redundant staff can be offered voluntary retirement with an attractive compensation package.
If it takes some years for the government to recover the heavy expenditure of the separation scheme, then it is worth it. We can hope that with smaller government, the economy as a whole will become more efficient and with dynamism and growth in private sector activities, the government will collect more taxes to recover the cost of the separation scheme.
With less spending on wages and pensions as a proportion of the budget, there will be more room in the operating expenditure to spend on upgrading the facilities in schools, universities, hospitals and research departments, which today do not get enough budgetary allocations to keep them in proper working conditions.
I believe the government should start planning a right-sizing program of the civil service now, so that it can be done in a proper manner, rather than wait until there is a financial crisis, at which time government employees will be retrenched without justice for all their years of loyal service. This has happened in Greece, as I mentioned previously.
Tan Sri MOHD SHERIFF MOHD KASSIM, a former Secretary-General of the Treasurer, is a member of the G25 Group of Eminent Malays.
Recommended READ by Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim:
In deciding to investigate an allegation of racism against one of its associate professors, Universiti Malaya gives itself an opportunity to prove to the Malaysian public that it upholds a high standard of decency.
We await the findings of the five-member investigation panel and the university’s follow-up action. However, one wonders whether Universiti Malaya would have bothered to look into the matter if it hadn’t received a directive from the Education Ministry. Indeed, it did not have to wait for the directive. It should have maintained an alertness to issues that might affect its reputation and it should act speedily.
The allegation came in a Facebook posting by a student. The article, titled “Voice of an Indian student”, has gone viral.
The student said the lecturer, in reprimanding her and another student, dispensed with the courtesy of calling them by their names and instead called them “India”.
Here, in brief, is the story according to the Facebook posting:
The lecturer said, “India, I don’t like Indians sitting together.” After making a disparaging remark about a private university, she added: “When Indians sit together, they will plagiarise and copy one another’s assignments. I recognise Indian traits.”
The abuse continued. She pointed to the student and her friend and told them to sit separately, saying, “I will ensure that the two of you will not be in the same group for your assignment. I know what Indians are like.”
This Ikan Bakar Man–Jamal Yunus– is a racist. Najib and UMNO support him and so Najib is a racist and UMNO is a racist political party. Q.E.D.
Then she insulted the other Indian students in the class. She made no excuses for her behaviour and said she did not mind if no one promoted Universiti Malaya because she preferred to teach smaller classes.
So, is this what you learn in a top Malaysian university – racism, intolerance, rudeness, insensitivity? When asked for his reaction, one postgraduate student said, “Academicians in Malaysian public universities should uphold a high standard of ethics. Making stereotypical racist comments against students is very unbecoming and reflects badly on the university and the degrees it confers.”
The student who wrote the complaint has demanded an apology from the lecturer.
The Fun Loving but Insecure Malays
An apology to the direct victims of the insult is not enough, if the lecturer is indeed guilty. She should apologise to the public and the apology should be published in all the mainstream papers. And Universiti Malaya must sack her.