Giant UAE flag raised up at Al Wahda Mall for the UAE National Day celebration
Friday, December 19, 2008
Giant UAE flag raised up at Al Wahda Mall for the UAE National Day celebration
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Arab and Iranian TV stations have gleefully replayed the clip, sometimes in slow motion, of an Iraqi reporter calling Bush a "dog" and throwing his shoes at him -- the Middle East's tastiest insults -- at a Baghdad news conference on Sunday.
The affront was a twisted echo of the triumphal moment for Bush when joyous Iraqis used their footwear to beat a statue of Saddam Hussein toppled by U.S. invading troops in 2003.
"It indicates how much antagonism he's been able to create in the whole region," former Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told Reuters, adding that the incident was regrettable.
Bush had harmed America's reputation and the friendship many had felt for it. "Despite past mistakes in its policies, there was always a redeeming factor. In this particular case, there doesn't seem to have ever been a redeeming factor," Maher said.
Muntazer al-Zaidi, who works for independent al-Baghdadiya television, has shot to local stardom for his attack on Bush and his cry: "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog."
He has also won instant fame abroad -- a poem on an Islamist website praises him as "a hero with a lion's heart" -- although the Iraqi government slated his "barbaric and ignominious act."
Zaidi's crude public display of disdain for an incumbent U.S. president hit a chord with many in the Middle East.
"The Iraqi journalist is a true and free Baghdadi," said a Saudi private sector employee who gave his name as Abu Faisal. "He was brave and did us proud. Bush destroyed (Iraq) so surely he deserved to be beaten with a shoe."
Khalid al-Dakhil, a Saudi university lecturer in social politics, said the incident summed up Bush's impact on the Middle East, which "will haunt this region for a long time."
Dakhil, who said Bush had committed war crimes in Iraq after launching a war based on "lies" that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, nevertheless fretted about the shoe-throwing.
"While understandable, it wasn't the most sophisticated and constructive way to express one's anger at Bush, especially coming from an educated Arab journalist. It reinforces the stereotype ideas in the Western world about Arabs."
Some Palestinians, whose hopes of independent statehood have withered in the eight-year Bush era, relished the moment.
"A shoe company in Hebron claimed the attack on Bush and they will give the attacker shoes all his life," runs one joke being exchanged on mobile telephones in the Gaza Strip.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Connections and the ability to flip assets can get you going places
If you have ever wondered how to get rich in Malaysia – fabulously rich and very quickly at that – here’s a model that you might want to look at very closely. Not easy to do but if you do have a couple of projects in the bag, it will set you up for several lifetimes.
First you need connections – strong ones, the higher the better and if it goes right up to the top all the better. You need this because you need to convince the powers that be that your projects are good.But you might ask if your projects are so good, why do you need connections? Why don’t you just go out and execute? Good questions, those. Here’s the answer - you need the state to give you something to do the deal that will help the nation.
Still can’t figure it out? See, it’s like this. You want to help the country, right? The country needs say a port. But you can’t build a port just like that. You need land to build a port. You tell the state or federal government you need land – cheap land, preferably free to build the port.
Or to take another example, you want to help the country by building a power plant. But look, you need land too and not only that you need the power to be sold. So you want an agreement – an iron-clad one to sell the power to Tenaga Nasional and to pass through all costs.
You see, that’s your reward as an entrepreneur – you get someone else to build the power plant, they guarantee the performance of the plant and someone else guarantees to buy your power and pay for all your costs. Nice deal? You bet. Billionaires have been made that way.
Or you may want to start an air hub. If you are persuasive enough, you can even convince the government to compulsorily acquire the land and sell it to you cheap. Once you have cheap land, lucrative contracts and concession agreements, the sky’s the limit.
Let’s take it a step further. If you want to realise the value of all of these things that you have and still keep control of them, it’s nice to have a listed company into which you can inject them. Inject one asset for shares and you gain control of the company. And then inject others over the years for cash, taking the money out of the company. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?
Do it right and get a flow of assets to inject in (you can do anything with discounted cash flow valuations – just change the discount rate, and presto, the value changes!), and you get a tidy flow of profits and cash into your personal accounts over the years. I mean a really tidy flow.
Just how much can you make this way, you ask? Why don’t you take a guess first? Did you say RM500mil? Guess again. RM1bil? How about five times that and you may be getting into the right order of magnitude.
One Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary actually made some RM4.5bil that way - actually more because he still controls the listed company. (MMC’s latest RM1.7bil deal irks investors7) We are not saying he is the only one, which makes your chances of joining the ranks better – if you are connected to high places that is.But then again, if things change – and that’s still a big ‘if’ – you might not find it so easy anymore.
P. Gunasegaram is managing editor of The Star. He thinks it is high time we changed the way we did business
Monday, December 1, 2008
It is nice to know that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi thinks anyone can become PM in Malaysia. He must think we are stupid and blind to the realities of being ethnic minorities in Malaysia.If Barack Obama was unfortunate enough to have been born in Malaysia, he couldn't even become the general manager of PKNS, never mind, president of the US, the most powerful country in the world.If he became a born-again Christian in his teenage years, keeping in view his father was African Muslim, Jakim would have hauled him off to a religious rehabilitation detention centre in Malaysia, and his kids would have been taken away from him.Michelle Obama would then have been advised by our racist religious authorities to divorce him.
Just for not being Malay, Umno would have overlooked his obvious talents and intelligence, and they would have denied him permanent residence or a citizenship and he can forget about any potential scholarships, job promotions or a place in a public university.Like Vijay Singh, world champion golfer, he would have been forced to emigrate to live elsewhere.If Barack Obama had advocated equal opportunity and equal rights in Malaysia, he would have been demonised by* Utusan Malaysia* as being anti-Malay and anti-Islam and taken into custody under the ISA just like what happened to Teresa Kok, and he would have had Molotov cocktails chucked into his parent's house, and had curly daggers waved at him.
I challenge Umno's gutless politicians to tell Barack Obama, president-elect of the United States of America what opportunities he would have had if he were born in Malaysia
Thursday, November 13, 2008
A government official who witnessed the unsavoury encounter recalled to The Malaysian Insider: "It was not pleasant at all. The MPs were not interested in hearing any explanation. They were making all sorts of accusations and complained that they needed funds to carry out their political activities for the year.''
After being abused, the minister marched into Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s office in the tower block to seek guidance. Since then, senior government officials and other ministers have also complained of being pressured by elected representatives and Umno warlords over the award of contracts.
This anecdotal evidence suggests that Datuk Seri Najib Razak will face a tough task of making the open tender system the norm and making the procurement system in government more transparent when he becomes the prime minister in March.
In the past few weeks, he and other government leaders have sprinkled their speeches liberally with the open tender system. In his first meeting at the Finance Ministry, he made it clear that direct negotiation will be the exception rather than the rule.
In doing so, he sounded much like Abdullah in his first 100 days in office. The PM promised to dismantle the opaque manner of awarding contracts, which resulted in bloated concessions and privatisation projects being given to well-connected individuals and companies during the Mahathir era. But if he is honest, Abdullah will admit that he fell far short of his targets.
Despite leading the Barisan Nasional to a handsome victory in March 2004 and having a 91 per cent approval rating among Malaysians, more often than not he succumbed to pressure from Umno warlords and awarded contracts on the basis of direct negotiations.
A government official said: "I don't think there were threats involved because the PM's position was secure. It was a case of rewarding supporters and understanding that it is expensive to become a politician here.''
The pressure is going to be just as intense on Najib and Umno officials who occupy senior positions in government to deliver the largesse. More so in this election season where millions of ringgit are being spent by individuals who want to be elected as deputy president, vice-president, supreme council member, division chief, branch chief, etc.
In 2004, those vying for a place on the relatively unimportant Umno Youth exco spent close to RM1 million to buy support. This time, more than 40 individuals are competing for a place on the 20-seat exco.
The winners and losers expect to recover their "investment'' after the election season. The easiest way to do this is to enter direct negotiations with the government to build schools, bridges and other infrastructure. More senior party members will have their eye on more lucrative projects including the transmission cable to send electricity from Bakun to Peninsular Malaysia and the plan to develop prime real estate in Jalan Cochrane.
Yes, it is going to be tough to say no to these warlords bearing big brown envelopes. But some government officials argue that Malaysians should also accept that the open tender system is fraught with weaknesses.
"Our open tender system is not always transparent. Some parties seem to have access to inside information and know how to tailor their bids accordingly. What the government needs to do is ensure if there is direct negotiation, then parties have the capability to carry out a contract and do not profit excessively. And when there is an open tender, it must be a truly clean process. Only then there will be confidence in the government procurement system, '' said a senior government official.
Can the open tender system become the norm in Malaysia? Perhaps, one day when Umno politicians lose their sense of entitlement and political patronage is not so prevalent. Until then, we can only hope.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
But unlike the last two relatively short recessions, this one could be much longer and more severe, potentially bringing with it anxiety and job losses not seen in many years.
“In thinking about recessions, people will naturally think back to the last couple” in the early 1990s and in 2001, said Paul Ashworth, senior US economist at Capital Economics in Toronto. “What they should be looking back at is further.”
That requires dredging up memories of the economic slides in the 1970s, when an Arab oil embargo starved the nation of energy, and the early 1980s, when unemployment and inflation soared.
The last recession — coinciding with the collapse of the tech stock bubble and the terrorist attacks of 2001 — lasted just eight months. It was known more for the slow “jobless” recovery that followed than for the depth of the downturn.
Many economists agree that the nation won’t be so fortunate this time.
“I don’t think we can escape damage to the real economy,” former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker said this week in Singapore. “I think we almost inevitably face a considerable recession.”
The Fed’s current chairman, Ben Bernanke, delivered a more measured, but similarly grave assessment to economists, saying the recent financial turmoil “may well lengthen the period of weak economic performance and further increase the risks to growth.”
The signs of stress are starting to show: The US has lost 760,000 jobs since late last year, and retail sales in September plunged 1.2 per cent, the largest drop in three years.
Every recession is driven by its own dynamic and psychology. The current slump started with the collapse in the housing market and got worse with sharp restrictions on credit that pressured consumer spending and businesses.
That is a different environment from 1973, when an oil crisis was the culprit, squeezing US businesses and consumers. In the early 1980s, raging inflation and high interest rates took their toll.
Both periods saw millions of Americans out of work. In 1975, the unemployment rate peaked at 9 per cent. In 1982, it jumped to 10.8 per cent.
Most economists forecast a sharp increase in the number of people who lose their jobs. But they do not see it leading to unemployment on the scale of either the 1970s or 1980s.
The jobless rate is currently at 6.1 per cent, and many economists expect it to rise to about 7 per cent early next year — a level the country has not seen since 1993. Some analysts believe the unemployment rate could eventually climb close to 8 per cent, which hasn’t happened since 1984.
But this recession could begin to feel like those of the past not just because of lost jobs, but because of fear about the future.
In the 1980s, as the nation struggled with inflation and a transition from a manufacturing economy to one based on services, Americans had “a huge amount of uncertainty and anxiety that lingered on for a long period of time,” said Bart Van Ark, chief economist for The Conference Board.
“That element I find comparable to what we’re seeing today, but some of the underlying dynamics are very, very different.”
In 1973, the US economy had been growing for three years and unemployment had dropped to well below 5 per cent.
Then, on Oct 6, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched surprise attacks on Israeli-held territory while Jews were observing Yom Kippur. Arab members of OPEC soon cut off shipments of oil to the US and other countries that supported Israel.
Oil prices rose sharply and forced rationing of tight supplies. Drivers lined up at filling stations on odd or even days depending on the number on their license plates. Some stations ran out of gas.
A recession is typically defined as a period in which the economy shrinks for two quarters in a row. In the 2001 recession, the quarters weren’t even consecutive.
But in the 1970s, the recession stretched on for a year and a half. Nearly 2.2 million people lost their jobs. By the end of 1974, the Dow Jones industrial average had lost more than 40 per cent of its value. At the same time, the nation was focused on the Watergate scandal and the vacuum left by President Richard Nixon’s resignation in August 1974.
The economy began to recover in spring of the next year. But inflation, which had eased as the oil embargo was lifted, spiked again. By 1980, prices were rising at an annual rate of 13.5 per cent.
Anxious about a hostage crisis in Iran and President Jimmy Carter’s administration inability to tame inflation, Americans elected Ronald Reagan president. But it wasn’t at all clear how his plan to increase defense spending would cure the economy’s ills.
Volcker, appointed by Carter to lead the Fed in 1979, took on inflation by sharply raising interest rates. It worked, but made life even more difficult for consumers at a time when the nation was doubtful about its economic future.
“That was the feeling at that time: hopelessness, in terms of how do we get out of this situation,” said Anthony Campagna, author of “The Economy in the Reagan Years.”
The next recession did not come until 1990, as preparations for the Gulf War drove up the price of oil. But the 1.6 million jobs lost was much less severe than in the previous downturn, and this one lasted for just eight months.
When it recovered, the economy staged its longest expansion on record — 10 years of growth. The next recession, in early 2001, was similarly short-lived. The number of people out of work rose sharply, but compared with some past recessions, unemployment rate was relatively mild.
The fact that the last two recessions were so short, the damage relatively limited and the preceding good times so long has helped many people forget the pain of a more severe economic slump.
“We’ve become a little spoiled, actually,” said Todd Knoop, a professor at Iowa’s Cornell College and author of “Modern Financial Macroeconomics: Panics, Crashes and Crises.”
That could make this recession feel particularly intense.
Said Jay Bryson, global economist at Wachovia Corp.: “I think no matter how you measure it, this coming recession will be worse than the last one.” - AP
Sunday, October 12, 2008
From right: Datuk Patrick Lim with PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi and ex Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Koh Tsu Khoon looking at the model of Penang Global City Centre
More expected to leave as Najib erects his own inner circle of power
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — Two businessmen close to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi are quitting their positions, as an expected exodus of his inner circle begins.
The two men — New Straits Times Press (NSTP) deputy chairman Datuk Kalimullah Hassan and Equine Capital chairman Patrick Lim — have been attacked in the past by former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, for allegedly benefiting from Abdullah's reign.
News of their resignations from their respective companies comes just days after Abdullah's announcement that he intended to step down as Premier in March.
With Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak set to take over the premiership in five months' time, the circle around him is expected to rise, political observers and bloggers say.
Kalimullah is also group executive chairman of ECM Libra Investment Bank, which has made headlines with major deals in the past few years.
But he is better known as the controversial editor-in-chief of the mainstream New Straits Times newspaper, and has been accused by Dr Mahathir of being a key "spin doctor" for Abdullah.
Dr Mahathir, who appointed Abdullah as his successor in 2003, has in recent years become his most bitter critic.
The former premier blames Kalimullah for allegedly blacking out his comments not only in the NST, but also in other mainstream media.
In a column in the NST on Friday, Kalimullah defended Abdullah's short reign and harshly attacked critics such as Dr Mahathir.
"One thing Najib will not have to worry about is a predecessor breathing down his neck, slandering him, his Cabinet, his party colleagues, his family, aides and friends. Because, for all his weaknesses, Abdullah is a decent, religious man," Kalimullah said in the column.
He joined NSTP in 2003 as group editor-in-chief before relinquishing the position in 2006 to become deputy chairman.
He tendered his resignation from the board on Sept 3, and it will take effect from Dec 31, online media TheEdgeDaily.com reported on Thursday.
As for Lim, his links with Abdullah were thought to be so close that Dr Mahathir had cynically referred to the businessman as "Patrick Badawi".
His resignation was officially announced to the Malaysian stock exchange in a statement on Friday. Among projects linked to him is the multimillion-dollar Monsoon Cup sailing regatta held annually in Terengganu. The event has drawn criticism for its ostentatious show of wealth before poor coastal villagers.
Lim was dealt a severe blow in August when a planned RM25 billion project in Penang was dropped. The Penang Global City Centre was nixed after opposition parties took over the state in the March general election.
There are widespread expectations that other top changes will occur soon in Umno-linked companies. These could include the Media Prima group, which controls the NST as well as several television networks, including TV3.
A former senior editor of a local daily said: "They will leave because they know where they stand." — The Straits Times
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
He said: "Ask them if they have forced me out." A few shook their heads but Malaysia's fifth prime minister is not leaving office in March 2009 because he wants to. He is leaving because he has to.
There are still a few months to go but the epitaph will not be kind.
"He was weak, he was reluctant to do things which he should've done," says Chandra Muzaffar, a political analyst and academic.
After promising so much in 2004 when he secured a record victory at the polls, Dr Muzaffar believes Abdullah Badawi squandered a mandate for reform because he could not deliver.
"There is, I think, a personality factor at play - the reluctance on his part to antagonise people, to do things which a reform-minded prime minister will have to," he says.
The man who is almost certain to succeed him has been groomed for the job from the day he was born.
The man who is almost certain to succeed him has been groomed for the job from the day he was born. Najib Razak is the son of Malaysia's second prime minister. He has been in parliament since his early 20s.
"People expect him to be tougher," opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim told the BBC.
"The government under Najib will be ruthless."
He believes that little will change come next year when the handover takes place.
"Nothing is resolved, he is surrendering to a person who is badly tarnished," he told me.
That is a reference to sensational claims that the deputy prime minister was involved in the murder of a woman.
Najib Razak has strongly denied the allegation.
One of his closest advisors is on trial for the killing.
In an interview with the BBC last August, he did admit that there had been questions about his reputation but said: "I think I have cleared my name... my conscience is clear."
There are those who see this British-educated economist as the insider who can bring about change.
"Najib knows that if Umno [the United Malays National Organisation] and the Barisan Nasional [National Front] don't change, in the short term, they will be in deep trouble," says political analyst Dr Muzaffar.
But he believes that he will not promise a raft of radical reform, like the changes Abdullah Badawi promised for the judiciary and the corruption agency, adding:
"What impels him to bring about change is not so much a commitment to reform as a commitment to power."
The reason Abdullah Badawi is going is because he came close to losing power.
In Malaysia's 51-year history that has never happened.
The same side has been in charge from Day One.
The country had continued its impressive economic growth under his watch.
But divisions which have haunted this multi-racial and multi-religious nation at times bubbled to the surface once more.
When his second general election as leader came around earlier this year, the people punished him.
Malaysia's minority Chinese and Indians deserted the government in droves. The prime minister was humiliated. The Barisan Nasional won but with a much reduced majority. Support for the opposition swelled to unprecedented levels.
In the days and weeks after the result, Abdullah Badawi faced down his critics.
Then came the first sign of mounting dissent in the ranks.
He agreed to hand over to his number two in 2010. That failed to allay the fears of those who thought the government was doomed unless it changed leader and direction.
So after months of in-fighting he is going, much earlier than he said he planned to go.
"In all my years of service, I've always been guided by my conscience - I've always placed the interests of the nation above all," Abdullah Badawi said as he announced his decision.
"It is with this in mind that I announce I will not be standing... in the coming party elections."
He said he was going to ensure unity.
End of the road
Unity is a crucial theme in Malaysia. This is a country of different races, different religions, with people of vastly differing wealth. For 51 years it has remained mostly stable and peaceful, but fundamental problems remain.
The increasing role of Islam, the religion of the Malay majority, worries the country's 35% non-Muslims.
A decades-old economic policy which gives preferential treatment to Malays still causes bitterness and anger. Malays can jump the queue for university places, government jobs and housing.
Abdullah Badawi's reign will stretch to almost six years by the time he steps down but he may be remembered most for events in the final months.
With an invigorated opposition threatening to take power, the prime minister and his government resorted to desperate acts.
An opposition member of parliament, a journalist and a prominent blogger were arrested and detained under strict security laws. They were deemed a threat to national security.
Anwar Ibrahim is facing a trail for sodomy, an accusation many believe is fabricated and politically motivated.
Malaysia is at a "historic crossroads" the prime minister said as he announced his departure.
"We must reform and mature," he added.
Now that responsibility will fall to someone else. The era of the man known affectionately as Pak Lah, meaning Uncle, is almost over.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
In front of Souk Madinet at Jumeriah , Dubai.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Playing badminton in one of the courts at Abu Dhabi
However the weather has improved greatly and it is now 38 degree, about Malaysian weather. Not only rain I have yet to see any dogs running around, very unusual in Malaysia. Managed to play badminton here with my colleague and a group of Malaysian at one of the badminton hall at an international school at AD. Played on Wednesday and Sunday night same day as I played in KL.The hall is fully air-conditioned with 4 courts and is also equipped with free water dispenser.
To obtain a local driving license in UAE is not as simple as in Malaysia. It is not only costly but time consuming. Registered for my license early this month at the Emirates Driving Company at Mussafah which is about 20 minutes ride from AD. You need to get your Malaysian license translated first and get endorsement from the Malaysian embassy here. Then you need to pass your eye test before you are allowed to open a file. After this process you will have to attend for the theory class lesson which is spread over 4 days of 2 hours per day.
When you have attended all the 4 days lessons you have to pass the theory test before you are allowed to go for the road test. For all these you have to pay AED20 for the eyes test, AED100 for opening the file and AED780 for the theory class. I have passed the theory test and will be going for the road test next month. Then you need to pay for the license which is about AED250 but is valid for 10 years.
Surprising road drivers in UAE drive faster than KL drivers, maybe due to the wider roads over here.Ocassionally you can witness emergency brake at the traffic lights junctions. They like to speed and then suddenly apply their brake; very uncommon in KL.Parking is another problem in the Emirates due to limited parking space. Most of the cars parked haphazardly like in KL.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Kok, 43, walked out from the Jalan Travers police station at 1.40pm, accompanied by her lawyer Sankara Nair and her personal aide, Mandy Ooi.She was greeted by her visibly elated parents.Kok was immediately hugged by her 71-year-old mother, Poon Seh Kwon, who gave her daughter a bunch of white and pink roses.
I don't know what I've got into... I don't know what is the real reason (that) caused me to (be) put behind bars for one week," she told journalists as she left the police station.
Kok, who is also the Selangor state executive council member, expressed that she was still slightly shaken but glad that she was released."(There is) no reason at all to put me under ISA... What have I done? What have I said?" she asked.
During the whole one week, they didn't show any proof or evidence to show that I made statements that have caused racial and religious tension."The parliamentarian said that she felt like "fool" when she was incarcerated not knowing the grounds for her arrest.
When asked the reason for her release, Kok said, "I don't know... I don't know why I was charged... Of course, they have to release me; they find no case against me."Kok thanked all those who had campaigned for her release including those from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, such as "her friend" Zaid Ibrahim who had resigned as the de facto law minister following her arrest.
Deputy inspector-general of police Ismail Omar said that Kok was released after investigations showed that there was no reason to detain her any further.Kok held a press conference two hours later at the DAP headquarters in Petaling Jaya.
‘Honey, I'm home; I've had a hard day'Minutes after the IT-savvy and affable politician was released, she updated her social networking Facebook account.
At 1.35pm, she posted an entry in her Facebook saying, "Teresa sings ‘Honey, I'm home, I've had a hard day, pour me a cold one da da da...", which immediately attracted comments welcoming her release.DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang also appeared to be surprised by Kok's early release.
Lim wrote in his blog that he received a phone call with the caller identification ‘Teresa' at 12.56pm while he was having lunch in Ipoh, Perak and he had wondered who was using the MP's mobile phone."But it was her on the line and I wondered how she wangled the use of her phone while in detention. But no, she did no such improper thing. She told me that she was being released
Bravo. The irresistible pressures for her unjust and undemocratic detention had succeeded," wrote Lim, who is also the Ipoh Timor MP.Last Friday, Kok was arrested under Section 73(1) of the ISA at 11.18pm, allegedly for sparking religious and racial tension ostensibly for her role in an Islamic matter.She was arrested on the same day with controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Sin Chew Daily journalist Tan Hoon Cheng, who was however released after 18 hours.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
This the full report from Wall Street Journal Asia....
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced this week that he has enough parliamentary support to unseat the current government, led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. If he does, Abdullah's lacklustre economic management will be largely to blame.
The prime minister has not introduced any substantive reforms during his nearly five years in office, preferring to rely instead on opening up the government purse. Under the Ninth Malaysia Plan announced in 2005, he expanded public-sector spending to RM200 billion annually from RM160 billion. In his Midterm Plan Review this year, he increased this outlay to RM240 billion. The national debt now stands at RM285 billion, up from RM192 billion in 2004. The official fiscal deficit has risen to 4.8% of GDP this year, from 3.2% last year. Revenue is being spent faster than it is coming in.
It's hard to argue that these outlays have served the broad public interest. Much of the funding has been channelled to elites in the majority Malay community, under the country's pro-Malay affirmation action programme. That has created discontent with many Malay who don't see the full benefits of the programme, and among the minority Chinese and Indians, who are excluded from it altogether.
Abdullah's stewardship has had a real impact on the economy. Capital flight has risen sharply; Malaysian investment abroad now exceeds inward foreign investment. The Kuala Lumpur stock exchange has lost almost one-fifth of its value this year to date. Malaysia's currency, the ringgit, saw its biggest one-month loss last month since the end of the dollar peg in 2005. Although GDP growth has averaged a robust 5% annual growth under Abdullah, that record is now under threat. Inflation reached a record 8.5% this summer. Job creation has reached record lows, as unemployment, particularly among young majority Malays, remains high. Ironically, only the opposition-led state governments are attracting new foreign investment — and without the federal government's help, no less.
Abdullah's 2004 attempts to promote growth and investment — such as through the promotion of the biotechnology and agricultural industries — have failed. He also fumbled discussions with the United States on a free trade agreement, which have now stalled. What Malaysia really needs is education reform and the liberalisation of its labour markets to improve its economic competitiveness.
The political opposition, in the form of Anwar and his Pakatan Rakyat coalition, have seized on these issues. They have promised to root out corruption and to implement a new economic policy to address the concerns of all ethnic communities in Malaysia. Their platform aims to move beyond populist spending to introduce structural reforms in government procurement programmes and in the management of government-linked companies.When Abdullah assumed office in 2004, he inherited an economy in need of structural reform. Malaysians have had to pay for his poor stewardship through higher prices, stagnating wages and growing private sector debt. Soon, Abdullah may have to pay the political price for that record.
Monday, September 8, 2008
This is an incredible move on the part of our seemingly mentally unstable if not near insane government. It’s the magnitude of inaptitude compounded by sheer propensity that is simply beyond comprehension.
The whole government machinery seems to be collapsing. While the people hunger for solutions to the soaring inflation and worsening unemployment, their elected representatives choose to fly away en bloc on public expense.
Is ours a despotic or deranged nation? All signs point to a resounding ‘yes’.
Arianna: Carrots await BN MPs on Taiwan agri tour’. That should have been the headlines. And if the Anti-Corruption Agency has any brains, it should start investigations into this so-called study tour. Any way one looks at it, it smells rotten.
The majority of us may not be products of Oxford but even a farmer can see the ruse behind the intent. No matter what Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and his deputy, Najib Tun Razak say about the trip, Malaysians know it was done to foil Anwar Ibrahim's September 16 plan to form a new federal government.
Never mind Sept 16. I want to know where the money for the trip came from. It has corruption written all over it.
Don’t talk to me, a Sabahan, about democracy and respecting the mandate of the people. You Umno and BN, yes, I am talking to you. Did you not set the precedent way back in 1994 in Sabah? Remember the coup d'etat? We in Sabah did not give the mandate to BN to form the state government but the Umno-led BN staged a coup d'etat that forced then opposition Parti Bersatu Sabah out of office.
But lo and behold, what goes around comes around. Now you Umno/BN leaders, know exactly how we, the rakyat, felt when you ignored our mandate, lured some unprincipled and mercenary MPs so that you could rule Sabah.
Now, it's your turn to cry.
Tim Finian: Bon voyage Bung. There's always a possibility of returning to find that your country has changed hands and you are without a job.
So, if I were you, I'd keep a level head with my feet planted firmly on the ground and not enjoy myself too much. You never know what's in store.
ChanCK: A lot of events happening these days are very coincidental.
Do we need 49 ministers to learn agriculture technology at this time? Since this is an agriculture boot camp, shouldn’t our agriculture minister and his deputy minister go on the trip, along with a handful of agriculture officers? This would have been cheaper than sending 49 ministers.
Furthermore, are the other 47 ministers so free as to attend this great agriculture boot camp? Haven’t they got more important things to attend to at their own ministries ?
JTB: A study trip to educate our members of parliament is certainly a good idea. Okay, so you have detractors saying that Barisan National is so afraid of its MPs crossing over to Pakatan Rakyaat that it is taking them out of the country. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that BN has been spooked by Anwar Ibrahim.
However, that is not my point. I am disappointed with the insensitivity of Tiong King Sing, the chairman of the Backbenchers Club. I find it highly offensive that Tiong has not taken into account that it is the month of Ramadan and most of our Umno Muslim members of parliament are supposed to be fasting. This is an appropriate time for them to contemplate and reflect on their deeds, not go gallivanting overseas.
Tiong is an East Malaysian and I do not know if he realises that Sept 16 is Malaysia Day, when Sabah and Sarawak joined the Federation. Tiong, do you not think this is a valid reason for you to be with your fellow rakyat in East Malaysia to commemorate this event instead of being a tour leader in Taiwan?
From your actions, it seems that you subscribe to the BN notion that Malaysia Day is not that important. If that is the case, say so, get out of East Malaysia and move to West Malaysia.
YUMCIOUS: Of all places in the world, why Taiwan? If you really want to learn agriculture, you should visit Israel and see how they manage to cultivate great products under the most hostile environment on earth. Oh wait, we have no diplomatic relations with the Zionists.
Perhaps these 49 MPs are there also to visit their Legislative Yuan to learn how to throw punches and have cat-fights? Isn’t that what Taiwanese representatives are famous for? Oh wait, we have no official diplomatic relations with the Taiwanese either.
Oh, I give up.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Working hour at the construction site also change to observe the Ramadan month. There are 2 shifts. Morning shift is from 7am to 1pm and night shift from 8pm to 2pm.There is no site activity from 1pm to 8pm.Muslim staff at our office goes off at 3pm.
There are so many free things in Abu Dhabi. Water and electricity supply to the Emiratis are free. Bus service and parking is also free to the public and there is no Income Tax over here. It is really shameful to know that with so much oil in Malaysia, we are still struggling with budget deficit ever year and nothing is free in Malaysia.
Last weekend ( Weekend over here is Friday ) went to Marina Mall with Yong.Took the free bus service from my place to the shopping mall which is located about 5km away. The French hypermarket Carrefour and Ikea are located at the mall. Only Carrefour is open during the Ramadan, Ikea will open only at 8pm.There is also a Cineplex at the mall and cinema ticket is priced at 30 dirham each which is about RM27.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
After 10 days of intensed campaigning by both Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional camps, finally the people of Permatang Pauh have delivered their verdict, a bigger support for Anwar and the best Merdeka gift to the nation. Both camps pull in all their resources with BN even to the extend of reducing fuel rate by 15sen and the DAP controlled state government declaring polling day a state holiday to win this crucial by election.
Below are extract from Asiasentinel...
Can the opposition leader translate electoral success into a parliamentary majority?
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim staged a dramatic comeback Tuesday with a victory in a by-election that puts him again at the heart of Malaysian politics. With his apparent return to parliament, he has taken the first step towards his promised ouster of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition as prime minister.
The former deputy prime minister has vowed to take power for the opposition on September 16 by luring ruling coalition lawmakers to his side.
Anwar won about 60 percent of the votes in his rural northern district in Penang in a vote seen as a crucial test of ethnic loyalty in a country where race has long been the determining factor in political success. He soundly drubbed his opponent, Arif Shah Omar Shah, the candidate of the United Malays National Organisation, in a lurid campaign in which a variety of UMNO officials charged him with being a lackey of the United States and world Jewry in addition to having committed sodomy with a former aide.
UMNO also called Anwar a traitor to his race for proposing to replace the countr's 40-year-old New Economic Policy, an affirmative action program for the majority Malay race, with an income-based poverty eradication program. Anwar retaliated by saying UMNO betrayed the Malays because the system has enriched only a rent-seeking elite.
Some 70 percent of the voters in the district are ethnic Malays and Muslims, whose allegiance since the country’s independence has been with UMNO, the leading party in the ruling coalition. It appeared as the polls closed that voters had shrugged off the charges against him. An estimated 70 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.
The big question is not just whether Anwar can convince enough federal lawmakers to cross the line and join the opposition, which currently has 81 lawmakers in the parliament while the Barisan has 140. There are also nagging questions for the stability of Anwar’s unwieldy coalition of his own predominantly ethnic Malay and middle-class Parti Keadilan Rakyat, or People’s Justice Party; the largely Chinese and pro-socialist Democratic Action Party and the Islamic Parti Islam se-Malaysia, or PAS. There have already been serious strains between the fundamentalist PAS and members of the DAP and Keadilan.
Keeping the three ideologically opposed parties from breaking up will require enormous skill and a good deal of luck. Already, the three are fighting for membership, with PAS regarding attempts by the DAP to recruit ethnic Malays as an encroachment on the Islamic party’s turf and vice versa. Many political analysts forecast a long period of instability for what heretofore has been one of Southeast Asia's most stable countries.
For instance, Anwar also could face problems from a bill that governs the use of DNA in criminal cases, which was tabled in the parliament yesterday for second reading over opposition protests. Home Affairs Minister Syed Hamid Albar rather unconvincingly told reporters the timing of the bill was only coincidental
“There is no sinister motive, don't look at it as though there is one," Syed said yesterday after tabling the bill. Anwar, facing charges that he sodomized a 23-year-old aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, in June, refused to provide DNA to police, saying the sample might be misused in a bid to frame him.
The bill, which appears certain to pass given the current control by the national coalition, provides for compulsory extraction of DNA in sexual abuse cases. It would also provide for the establishment of a forensic DNA Databank, the use of DNA profiles and other provisions. Anyone refusing to give a sample would be liable to a fine of up to RM10,000 and a possible year in prison. Although it would be extremely unusual in commonwealth law to make the bill retroactive, the question is whether previous samples could be used as evidence.
Anwar, once an UMNO star politician and the protégé of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, was ousted from the party and arrested in 1998 on similar charges of sexual perversion. He was forced to give a DNA sample at that time. The charges, which were ultimately reversed after Mahathir left office, resulted in Anwar’s spending six years in prison.
Malaysian politics have been in turmoil since national elections on March 8, when the Barisan lost the two-thirds parliamentary majority it enjoyed for 50 years.
Since that time, UMNO has been engaged in a furious internal struggle, with Mahathir accusing Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi of wrecking the economy and the political structure of the party itself. After charges were laid against the former prime minister for rigging the judiciary for political reasons, he quit the party and has since engaged in an effort to bring down Badawi.
The infighting has sapped the morale of the government and resulted in a descending stock market. Concerns over inflation and magnitude of the loss raise further questions about Abdullah Badawi's leadership and whether there will be more political instability. UMNO nominations start next month, with Badawi a target. UMNO's inability to thwart Anwar in the Pematang Puah by-election, despite the spending of vast amounts of money, doesn't help. Given questions over Badawi's leadership, the rising prices of energy and food have contributed to the souring of voter opinion on the Barisan. Widespread charges of corruption, particularly over the fixing of judicial posts, have also contributed to the malaise.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Skylines of Dubai city on the way back to Abu Dhabi
River scene inside Souk Madinat Shopping Mall
Inside Souk Madinat Shopping Mall
Me at the Souk Madinat Shopping Mall river view
Me in front of the Beijing Olympics display at Dragon Mart
Me and Yong on the boat ride across the Dhow river.
Dubai is a city of fascinating constrasts, offering a distinctive blend of old and new. It’s where East meets West. In less than a century, under the visionary leadership of Dubai’s ruling Al Maktoum family, it has transformed from a small fishing village into a modern city full of surprises.
The first place we visited, the Abra Station where we took the boat ride across the Arabian Dhow River near the commercial district. The river cruise only cost us 1 dirham each and it took only 10 minutes to reach the other side of the city. Board a cab to Dragon Mart which boasts to have about 3,000 shops in the Mall mostly operated by the Chinese. Took quite a number of photos at the Beijing Olympics displays at the Mart. Earlier crossed over the road where there are many blocks of apartments labeled with China and England apartments. Have our noodles at one of the restaurant run by the Chinese near the China’s apartments.
Our next stop was at the most expensive hotel in the world, the towering 7 star Burj Al Arab hotel. Took quite a number of shots at the hotel entrance and the Wild Wadi water park at Jumeirah.Went over to Souk Madinat Shopping Mall which was just a walking distance from the hotel. The shopping mall was quite traditional and they even have restaurants, bars and entertainment.
Cabs ride in Dubai is more expensive than Abu Dhabi and we spend quite a lot on taxi fares. Some ride could cost more than 60 dirham. Turned back by the long quee for the bus to Abu Dhabi and decided to take cab back AD which cost us 50 dirham each.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Below is the full extract from Malaysiakini...
The Permatang Pauh by-election is slated to be held on Aug 26 (Tuesday) while the nomination day would be on Aug 16 (Saturday), announced the Election Commission this morning.
The EC also said that it would use the latest electoral roll for the by-election, which will see 57,969 registered voters being eligible to vote. There are also 490 postal voters.
The by-election is being called following the stepping down of PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail last week, to allow her husband Anwar Ibrahim to contest.The by-election allows Anwar his chance to go back to the constituency where he began his career 26 years ago. He is the overwhelming favourite to win the seat.Incarcerated in Sg Buloh prison for five years and suspended from running for elections for another five, Anwar is poised to reprise his role as the Permatang Pauh parliamentarian.In 1992, Anwar began his career in the little known Penang seat after beating PAS' Zabidi Ali and DAP's Tan Ah Huat. Despite being a newcomer, Anwar won comfortably with a 14,352-vote margin.Among his PAS victims are vice-president Muhamad Sabu, information chief Mahfuz Omar and Mazani Abdullah.During his imprisonment and suspension, his wife Wan Azizah defended the seat in 1999, 2004 and 2008.The closest Barisan Nasional ever came to wresting the seat from the Anwar family was in 2004 when Wan Azizah managed to hold on to it by a whisker of 590 votes against Umno's Pirdaus Ismail.However, with her husband beside her and the swing in voters' sentiments, Wan Azizah defended her seat with a commanding 13,398-vote margin in the March 8 polls.Although, BN deputy chairman Najib Abdul Razak had said that the coalition will defend the seat, BN has yet to decide on who they will field against the former deputy prime minister in Permatang Pauh.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Me at Abu Dhabi Mall
Inside Abu Dhabi Mall
The subway where I take to go to Lulu Hypermarkets.
Lulu hypermarkets where I usually buy my Filipinos dinner
The laundry shop
My two friendly laundry assistants where I got my laundry done
The Kabus shop
It is the beginning of August…weather had yet to reach the peak. Yesterday after our weekly dinner in one of the few Chinese Restaurants in Abu Dhabi, we went to the Gold Centre to shop at the many jewellery shops. There are also many shops selling furniture imported from Malaysia at the centre. Surprisingly there is not a single security guard at any of the gold shops while all the gold and diamond were openly displayed.Malaysian robbers will have a free time over here.
Partly due to the terrible heat over here, I need to have my haircut early and got it done in one of the Indian hair saloon for only 10 dirham. The villa I am staying is located very conveniently to the numerous groceries shops, hair saloon, and some big shopping centre like Al Wahda Mall centre and Lulu Hypermarket. Did my Window Live Messenger with my wife regularly at one of the Internet Café for only 5 Dirham per hour which is also walking distance to my villa.