The Costs and Benefits of SOCIAL INCLUSION


June 10, 2017

The Costs and Benefits of SOCIAL INCLUSION

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

COMMENT | Amongst inclusion, integration, affirmative action, ethnic preference or similar policies implemented to redress perceived socio-economic differences or imbalances in social groups, probably the longest lived and arguably most successful of those pursued by the world’s nations have been those of Malaysia in the field of education.

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The beginnings of this achievement in education can be traced to active measures undertaken by the British colonial government to upgrade the economic progress of Malays in 1950 through the establishment of the Rural Industrial Development Authority (Rida).

According to an official history account, Rida had first opened its doors to some 50 students to help in the training of rural Malays in 1956.

Following independence and the May 13 racial violence, Rida morphed to become Majlis Amanah Rakyat or Mara as everyone today knows it.

Since then, this modest educational component of Rida/Mara has grown to become the largest higher education institution in the nation.

Today, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) comprises one main campus, 13 state campuses and 22 satellite campuses. With 17,000 academic and non-academic staff, UiTM offers over 500 programmes ranging from foundation to postgraduate level.

It has some 170,000 students – all bumiputeras and a small number of international students – and teaching is fully conducted in English.

There is no disputing the benefits and advantages that ethnic preference policies in higher education have had for the Malays. UiTM can be said to have spawned an entire generation of the Malay middle and upper class. It has also been the catalyst to the rapid proliferation of Malays in key targeted professional and high income groups during the New Economic Policy (NEP) and post-NEP era.

Putting UiTM under the microscope

The Economic Planning Unit does not appear to have updated a key table showing the racial proportion of professional and high income groups for some years now.

This is probably because Malays have comprised the largest number among accountants, architects, dentists, medical doctors, lawyers, veterinary surgeons, engineers and surveyors in the country for at least one decade, if not longer now.

Less easy to assess are the costs and the impact of this racially structured affirmative action education and training agency on the country’s manpower needs and talent pool. The most contentious issue relates to the closing of the university’s doors to non-Malay students.

Although the university’s Pro-Chancellor, Arshad Ayub, in 2015 called for opportunity to be given to non-bumiputeras to study there, so as to encourage healthy competition and produce more intellectuals among students, his proposal – even though he qualified it by stating that these opportunities should be opened at post-graduate levels and not at diploma and bachelor’s degree levels – has proven to be a political minefield and non-starter.

Contentious issues aside, it is also unclear today the extent to which the Malay poor – indeed, the entire bumiputera poor – are the prime beneficiaries according to the mission objectives of the institution.

Or whether the institution is catering to a privileged Malay middle and upper class which can well afford to meet its educational needs in the same way that the rest of the country’s citizenry are doing. If the latter is happening, not only are non-Malays being marginalised, but also poor Malays and poor non-Malay bumiputeras.

According to a recent report, 3,000 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) school-leavers who failed to pursue further studies despite obtaining excellent results were offered placements at UiTM in 2016.

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Vice-Chancellor Professor Emeritus Hassan Said said the opportunity was being given to to students from poor families and rural areas who could not continue their studies due to various factors, among them financial constraints. This total – even if increased greatly – will be a miniscule of the total number of 200,000 students envisaged for the year 2020.

A stand alone comprehensive and independent review of UiTM is not only necessary. It is overdue for at least three reasons.

One is the dominant role of UiTM in the country’s higher education and manpower planning system.

The second is the very large amount of public expenditure that has been spent during the past four decades on the institution. According to the latest data, the operating budget for UiTM alone in 2016 came up to RM2.23 billion of the total RM7.57 billion allocated to all 20 public universities in the country, or nearly 30 percent.

Even after the latest round of budgetary cutbacks, UiTM is slated to receive an allocation of RM1.67 billion of the RM6.12 billion allocation for all public universities in 2017.

 

Finally, a rigorous assessment is necessary because the government is continuing to position Mara and UiTM as the crucial driver of bumiputera economic and educational development for the coming decades.

Meanwhile there should be concern about the quality of higher education provided by UiTM. In the current Wikipedia article on UiTM, the table below shows that hardly any progress has been achieved by the university in its standing among universities in Malaysia, the region and world.

What is preventing UiTM from living up to its self characterised description of being “a research-intensive entrepreneurial university’ leading the way for Malaysia to become an innovation-based and knowledge-based economy are just two of many questions that need to be asked by all concerned Malaysians, not just politicians and the university’s staff and alumni.

Losing outstanding minds to Singapore and elsewhere because UMNO practices racial discrimination


May 28, 2017

Losing outstanding minds to Singapore and elsewhere because UMNO practices racial discrimination

by Mariam Mokhtar

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In 2010, another Ipoh born caused a sensation in the newspapers. He did his parents proud, his teachers were equally elated, his birthplace was euphoric to claim he was one of them, and his country would have been ecstatic. His name is Tan Zhongshan and he was born in Ipoh. He chose to read law at university because he said, “Being in the legal line gives you a chance to make changes that have a far-reaching effect.”

Won the “Slaughter and May” prize

In June 2010, Tan received a first–class honours in Bachelor of Arts (Law) at Queen’s College, Cambridge, one of the world’s topmost universities. Cambridge, England’s second oldest university, usually contends with Oxford for first place in the UK university league tables.

Tan excelled as the top student in his final-year law examinations, but he also won the “Slaughter and May” prize, awarded by the Law Faculty for the student with the best overall performance.

In addition, he managed to bag the Norton Rose Prize for Commercial Law, the Clifford Chance Prize for European Union Law and the Herbert Smith Prize for Conflict of Laws.

Tan distinguished himself and was a source of help to his fellow students, according to his tutor and the dean of Queen’s college, Dr. Martin Dixon.

Dr. Dixon said, ““He is probably the best Malaysian student I have seen in the last 10 years. He is the most able, dedicated and one of the most likeable students I have taught in more than 20 years at Cambridge. He works really hard, has great insight and intuition. He is a problem-solver, listens well and learns.”

However, the 23-year-old Tan shrugged off his accomplishments which he said was due to “consistent work and a detailed understanding of the subjects.”

Tan, who plays classical guitar, was modest about his success, “It was a pleasant surprise as it is hard to predict the end results.” Sadly, this brilliant, young Malaysian will not be working in Malaysia.

Tan, who went to Singapore in August 2010, completed his Bar examinations at the end of 2011 and then joined the Singapore Legal Service.

 Malaysia’s loss is Singapore’s gain

 

After completing his A-levels at the Temasek Junior College, the Singapore Ministry of Education awarded Tan an Asean scholarship. Tan will not be the first nor last Malaysian who we let slip through our fingers.

It makes many ordinary Malaysians quietly fill with rage that the policies of our government reward the mediocre or the ‘can-do’ or so so” types and ignore the best and the brightest. When will this madness end?

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Our judiciary was one of the best in the region, but today…Sadly, we have clowns and fools to dictate how our courts are run. The best comedy act was played out in the Teoh Beng Hock trial when renowned Thai pathologist Pornthip Rojanasunand was cross-examined by presumably the best of the Attorney General’s bunch of merry-men.

If that is how Malaysian lawmakers prefer to project their image to the world, then they really need their heads examined.

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Follow Malaysia by setting up a Talent Corp

We are haemorrhaging our best talent to countries that receive them with open arms. Record numbers of Malaysians are leaving – doctors, surgeons, nurses, lawyers, accountants, lecturers and academics, engineers, quantity surveyors. We are experiencing the biggest exodus in our 59-year history.

It is estimated that there are over 1 million Malaysians living and working abroad, many of whom are highly qualified personnel. If the government thinks that it is only the non-Malays who are leaving then they are wrong. Malays are also leaving in large numbers.

Feeling appreciated

What other countries do is to offer Malaysians opportunities – something which is not available, to the majority of Malaysians, of whichever racial origin. Our government fails to realise that people need to feel appreciated and thrive in conditions which stimulate personal development.

Government interference in the things that affect the personal lives of its citizens is what has kept many overseas Malaysians away. At the end of the day, most people value the things that have to do with their quality of life (not just for themselves but especially for their families), the laws, bureaucracy and tax.

Malaysia will soon pay the price for its crippling policies which our government feels unable, incapable or fearful of changing.

The Malay Dilemma Revisited (Updated and Revised Version)–A Strongly Recommended Read


May 23, 2017

The Malay Dilemma Revisited (Updated and Revised Version)–A Strongly Recommended Read

Few countries today have culturally or ethnically homogenous populations, the consequence of colonization, globalization, and mass migrations. Thus, the Malaysian dilemma of socioeconomic and other inequities paralleling racial and cultural divisions has global relevance as it also burdens many nations.

Malaysia’s basic instrument in ameliorating these horizontal (between groups) inequities has been its New Economic Policy (NEP). Its core mechanism being preferential socio-economic and other initiatives favoring indigenous Malays and other non-immigrant minorities, as well as massive state interventions in the marketplace. In place since 1970 in the aftermath of the deadly 1969 race riots, NEP has been continuously “strengthened,” meaning, ever increasing resources expended and preferences being imposed with greater assertiveness.

Malaysia succeeded to some degree in reducing her earlier inequities and in the process created a sizeable Malay middle class. There was however, a steep price. Apart from the marketplace distortions and consequent drag on the economy, those earlier horizontal inequities are now replaced by the more destabilizing vertical variety. NEP also bred a rentier- economy mindset among Malays and other recipient communities. Those preferences now impair rather than enhance the recipents’ (in particular Malay) competitiveness, the universal law of unintended consequences being operative.

Initiated by Prime Minister Razak in 1970, his successor, Mahathir, raised NEP to a much more aggressive level, only to have that initiative today corrupted and degraded by, ironically, Tun Razak’s son, current Prime Minister Najib. By July 2016, the US Department of Justice alleges that “Malaysian Official 1” (aka Najib) illicitly siphoned over US$3.5 Billion from a government-linked corporation, 1MDB. Corruption on such a gargantuan scale was the predictable and inevitable consequence of Malaysia’s New Economic Policy and state interventions in the marketplace.

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The book chronicles Mahathir’s and Najib’s perversion of a once noble endeavor. Najib now adds another volatile mix. Desperate to hang on to power, he adds religious fanaticism to his already corrosive corruption and destructive incomptence. He now cavorts with extremist Islamists, threatening and undermining the nation’s still fragile race dynamics. Malaysia is today still burdened and blighted by Najib’s inept, corrupt, and chauvinistic leadership, with no end in sight. This would inevitably undermone the current fragile but still peaceful racial equilibrium in the country.

Instead of arbitrarily-picked numbers and targets, Malaysia should focus on strengthening Malay competitiveness through enhancing our human and social capitals. Modernizing the education system to emphasize the sciences, mathematics, English fluency, and technical training would address the first. Curtailing royal institutions and other vestiges of feudalism, as well as the regressive form of religion as propagated by the state, would develop the second. It is difficult to wean Malays off the special privilege narcotic when the sultans are frolicking at the top of the heap.

Beyond chronicling the failures of both the Najib and Mahathir Administrations, the author offers these alternative strategies for enhancing Malay competitiveness. Apart from improving the quality of our human and social capital through modern education and responsive institutions, the author advocates removing or at least toning down the stifling influence of official religion.–Dr. M. Bakri Musa

Hishamuddin’s steps to power: Loyalty pays off


April 17, 2017

COMMENT:

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I have been very critical of Prime Minister Najib Razak on many issues, corruption and governance among them; more often than not, I have been brutally so. Frankly speaking, his record has been dismal since taking over from Tun Abdullah Badawi in 2009 (with thanks to the machinations of his political mentor, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad). Najib’s popularity is now at an all time low.

However, Najib’s decision to give Defence Minister Hishamuddin Tun Hussein Onn a special role in his administration is, in my view, a very strategic, politically astute and timely one. Every leader needs an aide he can trust, not someone who has ambitions of his own to be the 7th Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Hopefully, together and with the help of the charismatic  UMNO Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin, Najib and Hishamuddin can forge a strong alliance to face Malaysian voters in GE-14 on a Malaysia-centric political and socio-economic agenda rather than a Malay nationalist-Islamist one, with a view to bringing Malaysians together again.

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Najib, Hishamuddin and Khairy –a Formidable Combination for UMNO

Hishamuddin to Najib is what Tun Hussein was to Tun Abdul Razak with one fundamental difference. Tun Hussein was a reluctant politician who had the premiership thrust upon him. Our 3rd. Prime Minister was also a man of integrity, a lawyer of excellent aristocratic pedigree and a loyal son of Dato’ Onn Jaafar, who was UMNO’s founder President.

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Hishamuddin,  on the other hand, is a thorough bred UMNO politician who rose through the ranks at a measured pace. One needs to look at his resume to note that he has held key Cabinet positions. He performed  well and served the Prime Minister and UMNO loyally. Finally, his hard work and dedication to his responsibilities have earned him the right to take on this new job. But it is difficult to say that the premiership is his for the taking.

The incumbent Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Zahid Hamidi is a formidable rival with strong support among the UMNO grassroots and Malay nationalists of the extreme right. But at least Hishamuddin is an alternative who represents the moderate face of UMNO, which will be more acceptable to voters and UMNO’s Barisan Nasional partners (MCA, MIC and Gerakan) than the plebian Zahid. I did not mention PAS because I think this Hadi Awang-led Islamic party is headed towards political extinction after GE-14. –Din Merican

Hishammuddin’s steps to power

 by Scott Ng
 
The new Minister with Special functions occupies an unusual but maybe pivotal role.
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Hishamuddin as Malaysia’s Defence Minister in Singapore

 

The appointment of Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein to the position of minister with special functions is one of the more curious political moves in recent memory. The buzz is that Prime Minister Najib Razak needs his first cousin as his right hand man. So one must wonder what must be running through the head of current DPM Zahid Hamidi, especially so close to a general election.

Zahid’s ambition has been noted by several quarters, with some critics believing that he veers too far to the right for the comfort of the public. Nonetheless, the DPM is a valuable asset to the Najib administration, but Hishammuddin’s sudden ascent has thrown the succession plan into disarray.

Hishammuddin certainly has a much better reputation with moderates than Zahid, and perhaps can be seen as something of a peace offering to those spooked by the new religious fundamentalist and ethno-nationalist approach of UMNO.

Unlike his cousin’s other lieutenants, Hishammuddin has kept a low public profile. While he is not looked to for an opinion like Khairy Jamaluddin is whenever a crisis erupts, he is seen as a quiet problem solver, brokering important defence deals in the Middle East and working with China on defence interests.

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Overall, he is seen as better spoken and more temperate a candidate for leader than Zahid, but memories may be long when it comes to perceptions of a politician’s character. People still remember his belligerence as UNMO Youth Chief. He brandished a keris during his speech at the UMNO General Assembly of 2005. He might have to do a little work to shake off that memory if he is truly positioned to take over as Deputy Prime Minister.

Nonetheless, Hishammuddin’s presence may yet prove to be appealing to the more cosmopolitan of the right wing and an acceptable compromise for the moderates and the left. Such an appeal is something that BN probably feels it needs in facing GE14.

However, the appointment does not signal a complete shift to the middle ground. GE14 is shaping up to be defined as a Malay vs Malay fight. If one thing is certain, it is that all parties will fight over the hallowed motherland vote and the insults will fly thick.

Hishammuddin may yet walk out of this the biggest winner, but only if he is the contrarian of his party and maintains the professional image he has groomed for himself over the past decade or so.

There are some who theorise that Hishammuddin’s appointment signals the beginning of a transition, that our Prime Minister is preparing to step down. If that is true, then all eyes will be watching how he behaves during the coming election campaign period.

At this point, Malaysians simply want a win, and if that win comes in the form of an heir apparent with all his clothes on, it will be a positive start.

Scott Ng is an FMT columnist.

Numbers and Shifting Assets –Old Game by Sime Darby


April 13, 2017

A QUESTION OF BUSINESS | Numbers and Shifting Assets –Old Game by Sime Darby

by P. Gunasegeram@www.malaysiakini.com

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Sime Darby Restructuring benefits Investment Bankers, but not its shareholders. Let the evidence of its past merger and demerger exercises confirm this view.–Din Merican

It will be more accurate to say that plantation-based conglomerate Sime Darby Bhd’s proposed demerger of its businesses will not create value by itself but only if benefits of the intended demerger, coming nine years after its massive merger, is realised by proper execution.

The billion-ringgit question this time around is whether the proposed demerger will create value for the group when it seemed not to have the last time around when it was merged with other major companies.

Recall that this conglomerate, majority owned by Permodalan Nasional Bhd or PNB, the operators of the national unit trust scheme, merged mainly with Guthrie and Golden Hope – both under the PNB stable too – to become the largest plantation operator in the world in 2008.

Initially at that time, the expensive merger, costing some RM500 million in fees alone, was greeted by an enthusiastic market and galloping prices of palm oil which saw Sime Darby become the most valuable company on the local market for a while.

Eight listed entities were involved in the merger, proposed end-November 2006. They were Sime Darby Berhad, Sime Engineering Services Berhad, Sime UEP Properties Berhad, Golden Hope Plantations Berhad, Mentakab Rubber Company (Malaya) Berhad, Kumpulan Guthrie Berhad, Guthrie Ropel Berhad and Highlands & Lowlands Berhad.

The early reception by the market for the merger was enthusiastic. The share price almost doubled to RM13.30 by January 11, 2008 after the completion of the merger, from RM6.75 when the deal was announced end-November 2006.

But Sime Darby would never hit that level again. Barely two years later, its energy and utilities division chalked up heavy losses of over RM2 billion, entering into areas it had no knowledge off. Its then-CEO faced charges in court but was subsequently cleared.

Paradoxically, the energy and utilities division was a minnow but was able to get contracts because of Sime Darby’s size – it turns out that size in this case was not used to get viable contracts but enter into risky ones.

Despite a new CEO, Mohd Bakke Salleh, who sold the errant division in 2011, Sime Darby’s share price has been lacklustre and languished at around the RM7-8 level until excitement over the demerger emerged last November. The share trades around RM9.30 now.

Still Sime Darby is big, representing PNB’s largest investment in the stock market after Malayan Banking and is regularly among the top five most valuable companies listed on the Kuala Lumpur stock market, with a value of over RM60 billion. And it’s the only conglomerate in the top 10.

However, although known as a conglomerate, it continues to be heavily plantation based with over half of profit coming from that sector. Its fortunes are therefore intimately tied with the price of palm oil, its main plantation produce.

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Bakke said at a press conference end-November last year that the plantations unit may be demerged and listed separately next year, followed by its property division. That had sparked some interest in Sime Darby shares again.

In January, Bakke confirmed in a statement that Sime Darby will create “pure play” listed entities for its plantation and property divisions. Others, including its BMW distributorship, port operations and trading, will remain under the existing listed entity.

Meantime, PNB group chairperson, former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Wahid Omar, said last month that excitement over the restructuring of Sime Darby amongst others have led to a RM20 billion increase in the value of PNB’s six main listed entities.

True value creation

However, such an increase in market value arising from perception can be very short-lived as illustrated in the previous share price movements of Sime Darby. Short-term market sentiment should never be mistaken for true value creation which is creating value in the production process by improving productivity.

At the end of the day, that is the only way to create value – by improving productivity. Is a merger or demerger going to create value by itself? No, never.

It can if a merger results in economies of scale or where there are overlapping functions in which case staff can be laid off. That effectively means less people doing more work – an increase in productivity. But even so, the truly enlightened company will think of redeploying staff into other areas instead of laying off, although that’s the quickest way.

But most mergers destroy value – studies at the time of Sime Darby’s merger in 2008 showed that 85 percent destroyed value. It’s not hard to see why – sometimes mergers take years before their values can be realised and valuable time is wasted. Meantime, productivity suffers.

In a demerger, it is possible that the increased focus and concentration on the core business can result in higher productivity but there has to be a focus on that by competent management.

On balance, demergers may have better chances of creating value than mergers but the most important factor is who is managing the change. If the same people are doing the same things in the same old, expect neither mergers nor demergers to create value.


P GUNASEGARAM says value cannot be created by simply rearranging the same assets differently – someone has to work the assets more efficiently. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

Kampong Chhnang Province
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Kampong Chhnang is one of the central provinces of Cambodia. Neighboring provinces are Kampong Thom, Kampong Cham, Kandal, Kampong Speu and Pursat. The capital city of Kampong Chhnang Province is Kampong Chhnang. Wikipedia
Area: 5,521 km²
Population: 472,616 (2011)
Area rank: Ranked 14th

NOTE: I am on an assignment to Kompong Chhnang from April 13-15 and will not be blogging during this period. I will also not be on Facebook either. Take care.–Din Merican

Listen to Dr.Farish Noor–Public Intellectual and Academic @The Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


April 12, 2017

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Listen to Dr.Farish Noor–Public Intellectual and Academic @The Nanyang Technological University, Singapore:

http://www.malaysiakini.com