Cherry-picking the TPPA

November 25, 2015

Cherry-picking the TPPA

by Tan Siok Choo

Dato Mustapha Mohamed

Malaysia is fortunate that TPPA negotiations were led by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad – one of a handful of ministers who are intellectually competent, diligent and who are intellectually competent, diligent and without a whisper of corruption.-Tan Siok Choo

CONCLUDED on October 6 this year, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) promises to usher in a new era of free trade among 12 countries that collectively contribute 40% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).

These countries include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

TPPA signatories have promised to cut or eliminate 18,000 tariffs on a vast number of goods and services. Tariffs ranging from 2% to 11% will be abolished for Malaysian made exports including wood products, palm oil, rubber, car spare parts as well as electrical and electronic goods.

Services covered include information and communication technology, retailing, entertainment, electronic payments systems and software.

Comprising 4,500 pages and 30 chapters while weighing a hefty 100 pounds, the TPPA offers thousands of issues for proponents and opponents to cherry pick.

Malaysia is fortunate that TPPA negotiations were led by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad – one of a handful of ministers who are intellectually competent, diligent and without a whisper of corruption.

Mustapa announced MPs will debate and vote on the TPPA at a special sitting of the Dewan Rakyat in January 2016.

Underscoring the remote possibility the TPPA will be rejected, the first reading of Budget 2016 last Monday received 128 votes in favour, 74 against and seven abstentions by PAS members of Parliament.

Two PAS MPs weren’t present in the Dewan Rakyat, three PAS MPs voted against Budget 2016 while suspended DAP MP Lim Kit Siang was unable to vote.

Could dislike for some TPPA clauses prompt BN MPs to risk giving the opposition a victory on this issue? This is unlikely. Mustapa succeeded in ensuring bumiputras, small and medium enterprises and those from Sabah and Sarawak will continue to be preferential suppliers for up to 40% of state-owned enterprises’ (SOE’s) annual purchases.

SOEs include Permodalan Nasional, Tabung Haji and MARA.Similarly, Petronas can continue to give priority to Malaysian enterprises to supply goods and services up to 70% of its annual budget for upstream businesses in the first year of the TPPA and scaled down progressively to 40% in the 6th year of the trade pact.

A major contentious issue in the TPPA is pharmaceuticals. Leading generic medicine manufacturer Mylan has warned it would be prohibited from doing business in TPPA member countries. By disallowing generic drugs, the TPPA could keep prices of drugs in this country higher for a longer period until patents expire.

Malaysian AIDS Council’s policy manager Fifa Rahman said a 12-week treatment for Hepatitis C using the generic version of Sofosbuvir costs RM750.06 to RM1,579.07 compared with an exorbitant RM357,000.


Writing in The Malaysian Insider, Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, and Adam Hersh, senior economist at the Roosevelt Institute, said economists at the UN Conference on Trade and Development have forecast joining TPPA would make Malaysia a net loser because its trade balance would fall by US$17 billion annually.

Sectors that would be hurt by the TPPA include iron and steel, aluminium, mineral fuels, plastics and rubber, Stiglitz and Hersh say.

Challenging the belief that intellectual property rights promote research, Stiglitz and Hersh noted after the US Supreme Court invalidated Myriad’s patent on the BRCA gene, a burst of innovation resulted in better tests at lower costs.

Another controversy is the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system. Using arbitration to settle disputes rather than the courts, foreign investors will have new rights to sue governments for instituting regulations that diminish investors’ profits.

Instead of forcing manufacturers of harmful products like asbestos to shut down and compensate their victims, the ISDS could hit taxpayers twice – paying for the illnesses caused and compensating manufacturers for their lost profits, Stiglitz and Hersh argue.

Although tariffs will be abolished for Malaysia’s major exports like electrical and electronic products, will Malaysians be the biggest beneficiaries in a sector dominated by US and Japanese multinationals?

For products like palm oil, the campaign alleging plantation companies destroy the habitat of orang utans is a bigger barrier than high tariffs.

Hopes the TPPA will reduce corruption could be stymied by Malaysia’s high threshold exempting construction companies from competitive bidding for five years for contracts valued under 63 million Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) or RM374 million. After 21 years, the threshold will decline to a still hefty SDR14 million (RM80 million).

Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen noted other TPPA countries accepted a much lower threshold of 5 million SDRs (RM30 million); only Vietnam’s threshold of SDR 65.2 million (RM387 million) is higher than Malaysia’s.

In summary, TPPA’s benefits must be spelt out in greater detail and more convincingly.

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

ASEAN Economic Integration Possible and Essential

October 29, 2015

ASEAN Economic Integration Possible and Essential

by Dr. Ooi Kee Beng

Ishak Yusof Institute (ISEAS)

Ooi Kee Beng

Just 20 months short of turning half a century old, the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) will officially become an integrated community. On December 31 this year, rotating ASEAN chair Malaysia will declare this to be the case.

The integration has essentially been and will continue to be in the field of economics. ASEAN has been ambitious and proactive in creating a common market and production base. Other areas of integration, however, by comparison and by design, take a backseat, and events there have been more ad hoc and opportunistic.

Given the way things work in this part of the world, understanding this reality requires a historical take that highlights the region’s uniqueness. Southeast Asia as a region had until recent times been largely peripheral to the greater sweep of history. This historical circumstance has many implications, and two of the most important are discussed here. First, let’s look at the region from within.

Political integration inconceivable

Although the region exhibits many cultural layers — and the overlaps vary greatly from country to country — there is no civilizational imperative for the region to integrate politically or otherwise.

A quick comparison with Europe will make this condition quite obvious. In Europe, attempts to unite the continent by force had been occurring since the end of Roman times. In contrast, South-east Asia’s diversity is rendered all the deeper by political and religious differences. This leads to conceptual miscellany in the understanding of basic concepts such as power, leadership, people or the role of patronage in politics.

Political integration in South-east Asia is therefore inconceivable in many ways. Collaboration in this area is more about border security matters, and non-traditional security threats such as epidemics, natural disasters and ecological catastrophes.

Asean Economic Community 2016Economic Integration Benefits are Real and Substantial

The region is also made up of relatively new polities and governments that are still very much focused on nation-building rather than integrating with their neighbours. In truth, it is only recently with budget airlines that South-east Asians have travelled more within the region. Most do not know their neighbours as well as they might imagine.

Second, let us look at the region within the larger geopolitical context. The region functioned both as a destination and thoroughfare throughout history for travellers, armies and missionaries from outside. Movement of people, goods and culture in and out of the region had been very free.

This porous characteristic made the region very vulnerable to colonisation, invasion and other turf wars. In the 19th and 20th century, the region was colonised by the Europeans, invaded by the Japanese, fought over by nationalist movements against the returning Europeans, and was a battle zone in the Cold War.

In the process, labour migration during this period changed the region’s demographics forever, and continues to do so today in new ways.

Gaining independence for many of these countries was not a return to an old polity; it was instead the start of new ways of political organisation that their newly installed governments did not always understand or master.

There is consequently a lot of defensiveness at the national, ethnic or cultural levels. Arguments over which country was the origin for which popular cultural item have been common, including whether the Malaysian national anthem has Indonesian roots or not, for example. And amazingly, after decades of seasonal haze clouding the region due to forest fires in Indonesia, it was only earlier this month that Jakarta accepted help from its gasping neighbours to help fight the fires.

Largely because of these historical geo-strategic and geopolitical conditions, South-east Asia is today almost by default a power vacuum. The nations each by itself cannot keep major powers out. The collective strength that Asean provides for each of its members is therefore highly valued.

Bound by nationalist economics

Suspicions remain so strong that outside powers, whenever they can, will reduce countries in the region to pawns in a bigger game. What is obvious to all is that economics decides the pace and nature of ASEAN integration. However, the economics that binds the region is essentially nationalist economics.

ASEAN’s modus operandi of consensus and unanimous decision-making is thus not a choice but a necessity. None of its members can accept being dictated to by its neighbours through a majority decision.

There are of course those who think that it is time for this tradition to be broken, but no major player really believes that this will happen any time soon. Nevertheless, ASEAN economic integration has progressed steadily, and this provides potential for the region’s new nations to influence international trends towards their own benefits. This is why ASEAN centrality is so important to these countries.

Much has been done to bring to fruition the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Many of the measures taken are gradual, slowed by long and laborious discussions and countless compromises. But then, what it is aiming to achieve is impressive as it is.

The AEC blueprint combines 625 million people into one integrated market and production base where the flow of goods, services, investments and skilled labour is free. Between 2008 and 2013, intra-regional trade jumped by 33 per cent from US$458.1 billion (RM1.9 trillion) to US$608.6 billion.

What ASEAN will be saying in December is that most of the necessary measures for South-east Asia to evolve into an economically-integrated region have been taken. Since early this year, it has been claimed that as much as 97.3 per cent of traded products within the region are duty-free.

Measures still awaiting completion most importantly involve removing non-tariff barriers. The significant ones are simplifying custom procedures, harmonising standards, minimising multiple testing of products and labelling requirements. As Malaysian International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed recently revealed, ASEAN has identified 69 such non-tariff barriers and resolved 45 of them.

Things are moving, and at a speed that its members are able to manage. But going forward, the question is whether ASEAN can keep pace with global developments. ASEAN has a tendency to be too dismissive of the relevance of the high speed at which the rest of the world is moving.

Furthermore, one worry often repeated today is that Indonesia, ASEAN’s biggest member, seems distracted by domestic issues, and its President, Mr Joko Widodo, is more interested in national solutions rather than regional ones. Time may not be on ASEAN’s side, and moving up a gear may be the region’s biggest challenge.

* Dr Ooi Kee Beng is the Deputy Director of ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore.

Malaysia: Putting University Research under the Microscope

October 13, 2015

Malaysia: Putting University Research under the Microscope

by Murray Hunter

Why we are laggards compared to Universities in Asia:

  • We have a very low standard in the English language proficiency here in Malaysia and it is considered to be at a critical level which actually affects the well-being and international prestige of this country.
  • We have also a deficiency when it comes to thinking and solving problems. Analytical and critical thinking skills are very important as they help us to evaluate the problem and to make good decisions.
  • We tend to have mind-sets and value systems that are closed. By having a closed mind-set, we will not be able to accept feedback and learn from what others have to offer. We are not exposed to challenges or high standards and this is what makes us unable to cope with diversity.
  • Our poor communication skills also causes a breakdown in our productivity and this creates a poor work environment.

Malaysia is spending about 5.9 per cent of GDP on education and 1.13 per cent of GDP on research and development. However as at 2015, no Malaysian universities have made the top 100 of the THES global or Asian university rankings, or QS World University Rankings. This is in great contrast to universities with a similar start-up time frame in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, India, and even Saudi Arabia, making the top 100 in the Asian rankings over the last few years.

Although Malaysia’s ranking is high (33rd place) in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) world innovation index in 2014, the level of resident patent applications and grants is still relatively low, being ranked 44th. Patent applications have grown from 218 applications in 1999, to 1,199 in 2013, with only 39 granted in 1999, growing to 288 patent grants in 2013. When considering that 10 per cent of these applications have been made by only 10 companies in Malaysia, there is still a long way to go for Malaysian university research to have the impact that some feel within Malaysian Government circles is due.

Malaysian university researchers, according to a Malaysian Government bibliometric study in 2012, recorded an output of 29,815 papers, although these figures may have gone up since then. This placed Malaysia in 45th position in the world, but only 50th based on citations, which is a good guide to the usefulness of knowledge presented. In terms of the research impact measured by citations per paper, Malaysia only ranked 136. This is in contrast to Singapore, Thailand, and Taiwan, which were ranked 46, 75, and 84th respectively. Even papers produced in Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia had greater citation rates per paper than Malaysia.

Malaysian University Research

There are a number of probable reasons contributing to this poor performance. The first reason stems from the organisational structure of the Malaysian research community itself. Research has been organised into clusters with top down priorities formulated by ‘unknown sources’ within particular ministries. These priorities are not always in line with market or community needs. Most often, like the biotechnology plan, the lead time to create commercial and bankable projects is too long.

A Government corporation like the Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation, controlled by bureaucrats is put in charge, where market needs often don’t make sense to the administrators. Projects are often kept in the hands of these corporations rather than commercialised, just to show the bureaucrats are doing their jobs.

Malaysian research is hindered by a lot of unnecessary costs, and bureaucracy. Although agencies like the corridor authorities were set up with the view to decentralising research and development, most initiatives are still top down and controlled by bureaucracy. These authorities are notorious in not talking to local community groups and develop strategies like paddy estates that local communities cannot accept, thus becoming ‘white elephants’. In more sinister terms, many of these research and development projects turn over community assets to government linked companies (GLCs), with little or any community benefit.

The second major problem is the nature of Malaysian academia itself. Research is a prerequisite to promotion within the Malaysian University system. This requires academics producing papers to apply for senior faculty positions. In some of the newer Malaysian universities, entering prototypes and products into technology and invention exhibitions is a way around producing papers. Consequently a large proportion of research funds go into making up promotion materials, travel, and accommodation, rather than actual research. Having a research grant is seen by many researchers as a means to travel, be it to an exhibition or conference in some exotic part of the world.

As a consequence, much university research output has little community or market relevance. The paper or prototype was produced to achieve a publishing KPI, or gain a medal at any of the international exhibitions around the world. Paradoxically, Malaysian researchers are travelling the world, but actually producing little, if any output of any commercial nature, even with the awards they are winning.

Many researchers with the above objectives in mind tend to work in isolation to industry and the community. Unlike Thailand, universities in Malaysia don’t have the same need to outreach to the community, so there are very few research projects undertaken within local communities. There is also very little collaboration with industry. This is probably not the complete fault of the researchers as industry in Malaysia, tends to be still unsophisticated when it comes to university collaboration.

As a consequence very few production prototypes ever get scaled up to commercial production. Even if there are willing parties, university bureaucracies often stall efforts to commercialize research with high financial demands, and lack of time due to other responsibilities like teaching by the researchers.

Many complex areas of research today, say in biotechnology, require teams of specialists to make specific disciplinary contributions to research. However, although in Malaysia we see many papers with multiple authors, most of them passengers. Deans, Vice Chancellors, or senior members of faculty are often put into paper authorships to curry favour for promotional purposes.

Malaysian universities have tended to put emphasis on producing large quantities of papers, rather than quality. Many academics are practicing ‘chequebook academia’ by paying to place articles in journals that can publish them within a month or so from submission. The quantity of paper output rather than academic weight is the prime KPI of Malaysian universities today.

In addition, many of the papers produced originate from the work of students, who may or may not have their name on the paper as co-author. The author has witnessed the ludicrous situation where many a Malaysian academic delivers a paper at a conference, but is unable to answer questions from the floor during question time. Some Malaysian academics are producing over 30 papers per year from this method.

Malaysian academics are very hesitant to take up alternative methods of research, such as ethnography and narrative in the social sciences. This is a symptom of a general will to innovate in the area of research. The preferred route is a safe one where other research tends to be duplicated within a Malaysian context. So in an engineering conference or invention expo, one will tend to see lots of solar panel concepts that have been revamped into new contexts, as an attempt to be novel.

Malaysian academics tend to follow local leads. If for example, Balanced Scorecard is popular at a particular university, then one will see a number of faculty members doing their PhD thesis on Balanced Scorecard.

Innovation is desperately needed in Malaysian university research, but the panels who vet research grants tend to be bitterly conservative and penalise any academic who tries to be innovative.

Malaysia needs to look at what China is doing with university research. It is quickly becoming a powerhouse, looking at contemporary problems and issues with strong research teams. The language barrier is being broken with good editors employed to work up papers to international standard.

Malaysian university research needs a paradigm change. Instead of following national agendas instituted by bureaucrats, bottom up thinking needs to be appreciated and accepted. Most technologies already exist, and don’t need to be re-invented. What is needed is applying these technologies to community and industrial problems that exist outside local universities.

Citations to research need reward rather than the production is raw papers. A realisation is needed that patenting concepts and products that have no commercial value is a futile pursuit, although it fulfills a university KPI.

Grant panels need to practice meritocracy, and grant fund to the most innovative rather than conservative.

Although overall research output is increasing from universities within Malaysia, emphasis must now be put on producing quality research, if Malaysia is not to continually fall behind its other ASEAN neighbours.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

Transformation Blues Minister rebutts Bloomberg’s William Pesek

June 20, 2015

COMMENT:I am very skeptical about whatever Mr.dato-din-merican Transformation Blues  says on the state of our economy. He uses statistics with amazing ease  in  his rebuttal to Mr Pesek’s article. We know that statistics can be massaged for purposes for which they are intended. Malaysians are familiar with this kind of public relations exercise.

Minister Jala has been spinning too often and now has a serious credibility problem. Throwing statistics  around  will not  change public perception about the Prime Minister’s mismanagement of the economy.

Let us face reality. The 1MD debt problem is like an albatross around our national neck.  It has been badly handled by  company and Treasury officials and the Prime Minister himself. Minister Jala should be providing the answer to what happened to the RM42 billion debt? Why has he not commented on it in his rebuttal?  He must know that the issue has undermined public trust and investor confidence.

What transformation is he talking about when we know that our economy is up against some very  serious challenges in the years ahead. For example, we are in the middle-income trap and I have not seen any attempts on the part of the Najib administration to deal with this major challenge. We are still a commodity export economy, dependent on palm oil and oil and gas.

We have been talking about a knowledge economy for as long as I can remember, yet we are unable to fix our standard of education from primary to tertiary level. Our Research and Development policy is shrouded in mystery.

We know that the Prime Minister is not providing the leadership the country badly needs since he is pre-occupied with his own political survival.

Minister Jala should be talking to ordinary people to get a better understanding of their situation and  listening to economists who have contrarian views on our government’s  fiscal policy, and development strategy as  outlined in the 11th Malaysian Plan (2015-2020).

What is Minister Jala’s intention in making this point:

Because of our achievements, I was invited to share our experience at both Harvard and Oxford universities this year. At the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, I had the privilege to share Malaysia’s success story with government ministers from many countries. Last month, I was invited to share our experience with Russian ministers in Moscow.”

What success story is he telling his audience at Oxford and Harvard and the Russian Ministers in Moscow?  Are they gullible? My readers and I on this blog are not.–Din Merican

In addition to the above, I wish to add my good friend Dr. Bakri Musa’s  rebuttal to our Tranformation Blues Minister’s response to Mr. Pesek’s article as follows::

“The facts, however, are these. Between 2009 and 2014, Malaysian Gross National Income grew by 47.7 percent …”

Facts and figures by themselves mean nothing. What is the comparable figures for our peers – Taiwan, South Korea or even Vietnam. Not to mention Singapore or China. To quote the man, let me repeat again (… and one more time!), facts and figures must be put in proper perspective!

Oops! I forgot that our peers are now Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan in which case Jala’s figures are indeed impressive.Yes, our growth rate is higher than Japan, Western Europe and other advanced countries but those countries are already there, cruising at high altitude. Malaysia is still trying to take off and ascending. It cannot afford a low growth rate without risking a stall.

As for our devalued ringgit, Jala seems impressed by Zeti’s confidence rather than what the market is telling us. It is pathetic that Jala would consider his invitation to Harvard as an endorsement of the government’s policies. Jala should instead visit our universities and schools and discover how pathetic they are.

More important than what Jala tells those Harvard folks or how honored he was to be invited, what did Jala learn when he visited Boston and what lessons can he impart onto our local institutions. Or was Jala, like so many ministers on their “study” visits abroad impressed only with the glitz and ceremonies?–M. Bakri Musa

Transformation Blues Minister rebutts Bloomberg’s William Pesek

by Dato Seri Idris

Guitar Playing Singer Idris JalaRebutting with Pemandu Statistics

When I read William Pesek’s latest commentary on Bloomberg View, I barely recognised the country he was writing about.

He starts by referring to Malaysia’s “underlying economic distress” and “prolonged slow growth”, which he says are caused by “race-based policies that strangle innovation, feed cronyism and repel multinational companies”.

The facts, however, are these:

1. Between 2009 and 2014, Malaysian gross national income grew by 47.7%.

2. Growth last year was 6%, and over the next four years the OECD predicts Malaysia will enjoy annual growth of 5.6%.

It would be perverse to characterise this as “slow”. By contrast, the Economist reported last month that “The European Commission is forecasting growth in 2015 of 1.5%, which would be the euro area’s best outcome since 2011.” A growth rate nearly four times that of some of the most advanced economies in the world hardly suggests “distress”.

3. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak launched Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme in 2010. Let me highlight some key achievements:

  • Third, as detailed in the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects report 2014, Malaysia’s efforts at reducing poverty have been a great success, virtually eliminating absolute poverty to less than 1%. Since 2009, the income of the bottom 40 per cent households has increased by a compound annual growth rate of 12%, even higher than the national average of 8%. Inflation has been kept in check at only 2.4%. And through the implementation of minimum wage legislation, we have lifted 2.9 million people immediately out of absolute poverty.
  •  First, in the last five years, annual investment growth has been 2.5 times more than in the preceding years. Each year, total investment reached a new record for Malaysia. The bulk of this investment is from the private sector. If the private sector has no confidence in Malaysia as alleged by Pesek, why would they put in record investment year on year under the Najib administration?
  •  Second,‎ the country’s fiscal reforms are being successfully implemented, cutting Malaysia’s fiscal deficit for the past five years, while keeping public debt at only 53% of GDP.This level of public debt level is far lower than in many countries, such as the US, UK, France, Japan and Singapore.

4. We touched the lives of five million people through rural roads, electricity and water projects. This represents possibly the biggest government expenditure over a five-year period in the history of Malaysia. All of these were done in the name of inclusive economic development.

That should be enough to dispel the suspiciously negative picture Pesek paints. But let me address some of his other inaccurate accusations, too.

5 As for the alleged failure to “dismantle race-based policies that strangle innovation”, let me quote from a report in a respected international news organisation:

  • “Malaysia eased rules governing overseas investors, initial public offerings and property purchases, peeling back decades of benefits to ethnic Malays. Foreign companies investing in Malaysia and locally listed businesses will no longer need to set aside 30% of their equity to so-called Bumiputera investors, Prime Minister Najib Razak said today. He also raised overseas ownership thresholds in the fund management industry and at local stockbrokers.” At Initial Public Offerings, “Publicly traded companies will no longer have to meet any Bumiputera equity requirement under today’s liberalisation measures.” If Pesek disagrees with any of the above, perhaps he might discuss it with his editors. The report was published, after all, by none other than Bloomberg.
  •  At another point, he writes that Najib has “deepened the economy’s reliance on oil and gas production”. The International Monetary Fund believes otherwise. The headline on its “Economic Health Check” report this March was: “Favourable Prospects for Malaysia’s Diversified Economy”.

6. Pesek rounds off his imaginative piece of writing by declaring that “the ringgit’s fluctuations are a decent summary of the country’s wayward course in recent years”.

Perhaps he would like to discuss this with Malaysia’s Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, one of the most admired central bank governors in the world. She has repeatedly said that the ringgit is undervalued. Here is what she said recently: “When the oil price plummeted, the wrong perception of the degree of dependence of the Malaysian economy on the oil and gas sector led markets to think that we would be more affected than others. Of course, the ringgit is undervalued. It doesn’t reflect our underlying values, which are solid and strong.”

7. Pesek’s opinions do not seem to have a strong connection to the facts. He gives away his true agenda when writes that “Asia-based journalists have missed (Tun Dr) Mahathir Mohamad since he left office in 2003” and suggests “a return to old political leadership” is “urgent”.

It may be that nostalgia for the past and his distance from Malaysia have clouded his judgment, and led him to write an unsubstantiated hatchet job on the current prime minister in order to please a former Prime Minister about whom he gushes, his “mercurial governing style and fiery rhetoric made for great copy”.

He certainly seems to have changed his mind about Dr Mahathir. Only last year he wrote: “The insular and jury-rigged system of affirmative action, national champions and fat subsidies over which Mahathir presided now holds the economy back. The Malaysian leader also had a tendency to embarrass his nation on the international stage with his nutty anti-Semitic tirades.”

He concluded: “Malaysians must find fresh inspiration by looking forward, not back to 1990.” We agree. Why does Pesek now think we should look back to a system he described in such a derogatory manner last year?

8. Malaysia has undergone an impressive economic transformation under Najib and the country is on course to reach the goal of becoming a high-income nation by 2020 – as the figures and achievements I have mentioned above make clear.

Because of our achievements, I was invited to share our experience at both Harvard and Oxford universities this year. At the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, I had the privilege to share Malaysia’s success story with government ministers from many countries. Last month, I was invited to share our experience with Russian ministers in Moscow.

9. I wonder why it is that many countries and institutions can see the progress we are making, but Pesek chooses not see any of it? His latest outburst is consistent with a series of slanted articles that unfairly run down Malaysia and its leadership.

10. Differing opinions are bound to be expressed on Bloomberg View. The defence of “fair comment”, however, does not apply to getting facts so woefully wrong. We would hope that the editors at Bloomberg agree, and will correct or take down such a disgracefully biased and ill-informed article.

* Datuk Seri Idris Jala is CEO of Pemandu and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

Freedom and Development go hand in hand, says UM’s Dr Lee Hwok Aun

September 10, 2014

Freedom and Development go hand in hand, says UM’s Dr Lee Hwok Aun

by Lee Shi-Ian

Dr Lee Hwok AunIn its journey towards being a developed nation by 2020, Malaysia appears to have forgotten that freedom is also another measure of development, said Universiti Malaya (UM) lecturer Dr Lee Hwok Aun.

Lee, the UM Academic Staff Union coordinator for the “Solidarity4AzmiSharom” movement, cited Norway, Sweden and Taiwan as examples of developed countries which also encouraged freedom.

“Do not judge development merely based on financial factors only. Freedom is also another measure of a Azmi Sharom 3country’s development and maturity,” Lee told a crowd of students after the lunchtime “hartal”, or strike, held to protest against the Sedition Act and the sedition charges against UM Law Professor Dr Azmi Sharom.

Azmi also spoke to the crowd of about 100 students, who braved the hot weather to listen to the “outdoor lectures” on freedom. Many of the students participated in the protest earlier.

Azmi said freedom of expression was very important as it played a vital role in a nation’s development, saying without conflicting ideas, there would be no good ideas.”If everyone was just a follower who agreed with what their leaders said, the nation would just chug along without any new ideas or creativity,” Azmi said.

dr-ahmad-farouk-and-din-mericanAmi is also President of the UM Academic Staff Union. Lee and Azmi were joined by another academician from Monash University, Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa (left pic with Din Merican)  who is also the chairman of the non-governmental organisation Islamic Renaissance Front.Farouk said people like Azmi were a rarity as they were bold and courageous enough to speak up instead of keeping silent.

“Academicians should also share their knowledge with the world, and not merely within the confines of a classroom or academic journal.”

Lee said countries which have more freedom such as Taiwan, Norway and Sweden have all achieved developed nation status, and this included freedom of the press.”The principles of Vision 2020 are not being adhered to by Putrajaya, which is using a colonial-era law in the Sedition Act 1948 more frequently than ever now.”

“Instead of there being more freedom as Malaysia approaches 2020, the nation seems to be regressing with more and more people falling afoul of the Sedition Act.”

Azmi said a developed country needed a strong and free press to report on corruption and abuse of power.“Otherwise, the public will remain in the dark,” he said, and warned that “a heavy price” will be paid by political parties which relied on oppressive laws during the general elections.

Azmi Sharom Hartal

Azmi  said “nobody was looking for absolute freedom of expression” in Malaysia. However, there appeared to be no curb on the restrictions imposed by Putrajaya. “That is the problem with Malaysia, there is no limitation on the limitations. Freedom is the ideal, you do not have to justify the freedom, you should justify the limitation.”Freedom is what gives us dignity as human beings. We cannot be dignified without freedom,” Azmi said.

Azmi pleaded not guilty to sedition charges on September 2 over comments made in an article on the 2009 Perak constitutional crisis while speaking about the current Selangor Menteri Besar impasse.