Archive for the 'change' Category

12
Nov
07

So how many people marched to Istana Negara?

Click here to find out. (Scroll to the bottom of the page)

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16
Jul
07

A harsh assesment of South-East Asian economies(Yes, that includes Singapore and Malaysia)

The following article is worth a read. While many of us may not bat an eyelid with the less than stellar appraisal of Malaysia, some of us will be surprised that Singapore is not that much better too.

From 1993—when the first significant international portfolio investments came into Southeast Asian bourses—to the end of 2006, total dollar returns with dividends reinvested in Thailand and the Philippines were actually negative. Returns in Indonesia and Malaysia were worse than leaving money in a London bank account. Singapore produced less than half the gain of the London or New York markets, with which only Hong Kong was comparable.

I wonder how some of us would feel about that boldfaced quotations?

(Via:Tomorrow.sg)

14
Jul
07

It seems almost cruel to abandon them…

I read the following heart rending article on drought in Zimbabwe, currently presided over Robert Mugabe. This excerpt gives and idea of the dire straits that country is in.

The government is very happy about the food situation as they know they can use food to make people vote for them again,” he says. “They use every advantage.”

At the next village, Grandmother Dedi Ndlovu is complaining about pain in her legs. She harvested just 20kg of maize for her nine grandchildren, eight of whom are orphans. “Not even half a bag,” she says. “In the past we would get six or seven bags. Sometimes I think, what if I get sick and die? What will happen to these children?”

It is a while before I notice something even more eerie than the impending famine. These are villages of grandparents and grandchildren. There is nobody of my age. In a whole day we meet only one person between the ages of 20 and 50.

“All the young people have either died or gone,” explains Pastor Raymond, the local clergyman.

In a country where drought has consumed that land, an inflation rate of 15000% and the government resorting to paying gangsters to make sure shopkeepers comply with price restrictions, you can call the powers that be insane, almost diabolic for thinking about using food to barter for votes.

But what shocked me was the following comment left at the end of the webpage.

…the West should leave Africa to sort out its own problems. However, they are incapable of doing so, and have no intention of doing so, because come hell or high water, African leaders will NEVER act decisively as one to get rid of their dispicable peers, such as Mugabe.

In fact, the West should give Africa up as a lost cause, because that is what it is, very largely. and it will remain so until African leaders …

The crude generalization of Africa and the West as beggar and benefactor should repulse us.

But then in the name of respecting national sovereignty, would anyone just stand by and watch a country waste to ashes?  Could you, after seeing what starvation does to a person, just sit by and pontificate about a country, no even a whole continent, being a ‘lost cause’? Does “God helps those who help themselves” apply in this case?

10
Jul
07

PM on the NEP

Reported in the Singapore Straits Times. I’m sure it will reported in other dailies. I’m going to do a point for point rebuttal. My stand is that the NEP should be abolished, or if not immediately, a clear timetable set for withdrawal (haha, sounds like US army withdrawal from Iraq) of the special privileges for peoples classified as Bumiputera. My comments are in red and interlaced between the paragraphs of the news report.

M’sian PM: NEP still needed to ensure unity

KUALA LUMPUR-MALAYSIA’S leader defended the country’s decades-old affirmative action policy for majority Malays, saying Tuesday it was still needed to narrow income disparity among ethnic groups and ensure national unity.

Here he states the reason for the implementation of such a policy. As far as intentions go, reducing income disparity is noble and much needed. I remember a Majalah 3 segment on army veterans forced to sleep on KL’s streets. It is heart-rending to read of such hardcore poverty.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi acknowledged the 37-year-old New Economic Policy – that gives a host of privileges in jobs, education, business and other areas to ethnic Malays – had been widely regarded as a ‘cost to doing business’ in Malaysia.

An admission to its effects is a good start. But for me, before the talk of economics (even if this is an economic policy) we have to start with the question: Is it a fair, just and good for community development in the long run?

‘But many fail to appreciate the spirit behind the policy,’ Mr Abdullah, who is also finance minister, told an economic conference in Kuala Lumpur.

I think AAB is misinformed here. Disagreement with the NEP does not imply disagreement with the spirit and realities motivating such a policy. Many Malaysians are aware of the need of the hardcore poor in Malaysia and the need to help them economically. Where we differ is in the implementation, vis-a-vis, the NEP.

‘The objective to disassociate race from occupation or social standing is critical in ensuring the long-term unity and cohesion of our country,’ he said.

Yes, that’s true. But essentially something out of a Tingkatan 5 Sejarah textbook. My point is, duh….so then what, is NEP the only solution?

Europe’s envoy to Malaysia, Thierry Rommel, last month criticised the policy, or NEP, as discriminatory and amounting to protectionism against foreign companies.

Mr Rommel also warned the NEP could thwart free trade talks between the European Union and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes Malaysia.

Mr Rommel’s comments angered the government and sparked calls for lawmakers to review the NEP.

PM Abdullah said it was the NEP that led to stability in Malaysia during the Asian financial crisis a decade ago and spared it from racial riots.

This is debatable. Frankly, anyone can put whatever they want in front of: “__________ prevented widespread unrest during the AFC.” Much has been said of Mahathir’s bold pegging of the MYR against the USD and how it prevented things from spiralling out of control. Whatever the case, the PM should quote a bipartisan study or give a reason to such claims.

‘The expansion of an educated and multiethnic middle class, thanks to affirmative action policies, had mitigated the risk of mass unrest but great disparities in income and social mobility still exist between ethnic groups,’ he said.

Again, this is very true. I do not disagree with his assesment here. But if he intends this as a justification to continue the implementation or to renew the NEP, it is a non-sequitur. As it stands today, one can argue, and confirm this by empirical study that the NEP has widened, instead of reduced the income gap between rich and poor. As more of a nation’s population is able to participate in a economy driven by the middle class, income disparity between those at the fringes of this economy is bound to increase. What we need to close this gap is more creative solutions, and certainly not one that continues to classify poor=Malay, hence NEP. The poor exists among Malaysians of all nationalities.

‘Whereas this may be just another issue in other countries, ethnic-based disparity strikes at the heart of national unity for Malaysia.’

BS. Ethnic based disparity has been at the heart of of national unity for many other countries, including Malaysia. Such an overt simplification of the world is shocking, especially coming from a PM. Malaysia is not the only heterogeneous country in the world. Australia struggles with relations to the Aboriginal peoples, the US during the civil rights movement, RSA and even Indonesia, which is far more diverse than we care to realize.

The NEP was started in 1970 when corporate ownership by ethnic Malays – who make up about 60 percent of Malaysia’s 26 million people – was 2 percent.

The aim is to raise Malay corporate ownership to 30 percent by 2010; it stands at 19 percent now.

These numbers have been disputed. I’m sure you all know the incident.

Many Malays have complained the policy has benefited only a few well-connected people. Minority Chinese and Indians, as well as foreigners, also see the NEP as a discriminatory tool.

It is seen as such, but as far as perception goes, this reflects an underlying moral reality. Let’s face it, it is simply NOT FAIR.

Chinese, who form a quarter of the population, control 40 percent of corporate wealth. — AP

Comments are welcome.

01
Jul
07

What a breath of fresh air

The Times reports that newly appointed British PM, Gordon Brown ‘plans to give up some of the royal “prerogative powers” enjoyed by his predecessors including important public appointments, the right to recall parliament during holidays and sending troops to war.’

This is significant in light of the recent spate of attempted terror attacks on British soil-the latest being a botched car bomb attack on Glasgow Airport.

There are some things that are constant, no matter whether we are an Asian democracy or a Western one-accountability should never be sacrificed for the sake of security. And in the case of Malaysia where the cabinet is a de facto oligarchy being able to get away with “the authority of the government cannot be questioned.” our former colonial masters have shown us of what caliber our cabinet is really made of.

Just to illustrate that the Parliament is not a government department (as so famously asserted by some minister in the cabinet)

Brown has placed great emphasis on making ministers more accountable, restoring power to the civil service, not resorting to “spin” and handing back power to MPs. 

27
Jun
07

Fruitful discussion

Last night’s PCM was great!

We had a really fruitful (and long) time of discussing a familiar verse: The one where Jesus calms the storm.

So one of us looked at the passage and came up with an alternative reading (different from the one about having faith that Jesus can calm the ‘storms’ in your life)

What if the disciples were not pleading for their life when they woke Jesus during the storm? It’s a mixture of desperation and frustration and anger with Jesus for sleeping soundly while the rest were working hard to keep the boat afloat.  Waking him up, the retort was more a sarcastic request than any genuine plea for their lives.

“..And He got up and (C)rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm…” (NASB)

Nice one, the disciples now knew they had unleashed a beast, so to speak. Jesus was no longer some respectable rabbi and amazing miracle worker. He was more than that.

“…And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? (D)Do you still have no faith?…” (NASB)

We could interpret this as Jesus claim to divinity.  Not so much faith in what he could do, but faith in who he was. At first they were afraid that they would die, now the were really afraid of who stood before them. He was God.

They say familiarity breed contempt. Nothing highlights it clearer than this account, and the response that Jesus gives to such attitudes.

And after that sharing, the entire PCM was quiet for a whole 2 minutes.

15
Jun
07

Vision 2057

“…34. A HUNDRED YEARS OF MERDEKA WILL SEE THIS SOCIETY, THIS NATION, ACHIEVE THE UNIMAGINABLE. WE WILL HAVE NOBEL LAUREATES, TRULY GLOBAL CORPORATIONS, RESPECTED AND MARKET LEADING BRANDS, INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED POETS AND ARTISTS, AMONG THE LARGEST NUMBER OF SCIENTIFIC PATENTS IN THE WORLD, SOME OF THE BEST SPORTSPERSONS ON THE PLANET – DARE I EVEN SAY THE BEST FOOTBALL TEAM IN ASIA. OUR STUDENTS AND PROFESSORS WILL DOMINATE IVY LEAGUE UNIVERSITIES AND OUR OWN UNIVERSITIES WILL BE CITADELS OF EXCELLENCE FOR INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARS.

35. WE WILL BE PIONEERS IN ALTERNATIVE ENERGY, DRAWING ON OUR STRENGTH IN BIOFUELS. OUR CITIES WILL BE THE MOST LIVABLE IN THE GLOBE BLENDING COSMOPOLITAN FACILITIES THAT ARE ROOTED IN OUR TOLERANT AND JUST SOCIETAL ETHOS. WE WILL HAVE MANAGED TO SUCCESSFULLY FIND OUR PLACE IN THIS WORLD. THE RISE OF REGIONAL ECONOMIC POWERS WILL NOT HAVE LEFT US IN OBLIVION, BUT MOTIVATED US TO FIND OUR COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE AND LEAD IN MANY STRATEGIC INDUSTRIES. WE WILL BECOME A TRUE LOGISTICS HUB, THE UNDISPUTED ISLAMIC FINANCIAL CENTRE, AND THE GLOBAL REFERENCE POINT FOR BIOTECHNOLOGY AND MODERN AGRICULTURE.

36. THIS IS THE MALAYSIA IN MY DREAMS FOR 2057. THIS IS WHAT I MEAN BY TERBILANG. ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE, ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF ADVANCEMENT.

…”

Thus saith AAB in his speech at the KL Business Club Dinner last night. Big words-no, not the caps-indeed.

Looks like somebody is trying to stamp his mark on the pages of history too. If Mahathir will be remembered for Vision 2020, AAB wants to be remembered for Vision 2057.

Taking him literally to his word, I think that AAB was just being shallow.

Accuse me of being a naysayer, but big words spoken in a context of a nation whose 18 year olds are forced to go on a state sponsored summer camp just ring hollow.

Vision 2057 is AAB’s vision for a Malaysia that will be built on the ability to pride itself for it achievements-not achievements that are defined on our own terms-but achievements that are defined on what other countries think are “achievements”. It’s keeping-up-with-the-Joneses at the level of international relations. Go down his list, which one these are from a uniquely Malaysian point of view?
And without a point of view, how do you (AAB) expect Malaysian intellectuals to be taken seriously in Ivy League universities?

Go down the list and you will see a list of things that AAB hopes Malaysians will be in 50 years time-the sort of things that have already been achieved today (by other countries) but which AAB thinks will still be “achievements” in 50 years time. (e.g. how can we be a “pioneer in alternative energy” when the EU has started such research a long time ago?) Give the man a change of spectacles; he needs it in more ways than one-Malaysia already has many “internationally acclaimed poets and artists”. Yasmin’s “Mukhsin” won 2 awards at the Berlin film festival for instance. And we had many others in the past before stale religious conservativeness choked it all away.

Maybe it’s a feel good session, an after dinner banter. In that case I shouldn’t take him too seriously, and so why should I take him seriously in the future?

Also read: Lim Kit Siang’s take on it.




About me

moogleBorn and bred in KL, Malaysia. Now studying for his Phd in Singapore. Learning to walk one fall at a time.
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