Sunday, February 28, 2010
BTW, balik je dr fishing tadi aku dah rasa lain macam.. badan macam nak demam je!!
Saturday, February 20, 2010
BTW, tadi dah siap buat inti karipap.. lepas ni nak uli doh for kulit lak!
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Safe journey on expressways
By AZMAN ANUAR email@example.com
Since yesterday, Chinese New Year is celebrated joyously. Besides the Chinese, other races also take the opportunity of the long-weekend to plan their own holidays.
While busy with the celebration and holidaying, don’t forget the “tradition” in Malaysia which always see the increase in fatal accidents during the festive season.
We will certainly hear of accidents, especially involving deaths.
The government, through the Royal Malaysian Police, the Road Transport Department, the Road Safety Department and the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) has taken various measures to reduce fatal accidents through campaigns, enforcement as well as Ops Sikap every festive season.
The writer's friend, Mohammad Ismail from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Perlis, has written that we will not arrive a day earlier than the others if we were to drive above the permissible speed-limit, a miscalculation will see us getting “love letters” from the police. We will also not be proclaimed a Formula 1 champion if we were to cut queue while driving.
Therefore, he said, have some patience and abide by all the traffic rules.
During this current festive season, it id best that to plan our journey. The choice is in our hands whether to drive safely or to endanger others.
Although every incidents is fated, we have to make efforts to avoid it because it is our responsibility to protect our loved ones.
So, for those planning to go on holiday which requires long journey, make a choice on how to get to the destination – be it by sea, air or land? If it is by land, which route to take, the normal road or the tolled expressways.
If the choice is the tolled expressway, it is also the right choice. The writer is drawn to a report on “North-South Expressway: Study on PLUS factor to consumers and economy” by the Faculty of Administration and Economy, Universiti Malaya , Jun 2009. The study and suggestions should be given due consideration.
The fact is, the expressways in the country have increased the efficiency of the transportation system , having able to reduce cost. For the rural areas in particular, construction of new highways can divert some drivers from taking a slow, meandering and narrow roads to one which is faster, straight and wider expressways.
The change can save time, reduce the risks of accidents and operation costs.
In compared with other alternatives, when using the PLUS expressway, for example, consumers can save their driving time for every kilometre not only because they can driver at a higher speed, but also because of the smooth driving.
Imagine, the speed limit on expressways is 110kmph while on other roads, it is only 90kmph. If motorists on both lanes are driving at maximum speed, motorists on federal or state roads will take 40 seconds to cover one kilometre compared with driving on PLUS expressways which only takes 32.7 seconds per kilometre.
This means, highway motorists can save 7.3 seconds per kilometre than using normal roads.
This is not empty talks, but a finding of a research by Universiti Malaya.
However, based on the study by Universiti Malaya, the operation cost of a car and lorry varies at several routes on the North-South Expressway compared with alternative routes, but it is better we think of how to reduce operation cost when travelling on expressways.
Fist, it is save because change in vehicle speed will not be as frequent as when travelling on normal roads.
Second, the action of divers changing their direction is less due to the wider size of expressways . This is good for durability of the tyres.
Currently, the public are concern with the high number of road accidents, what more those involving fatal accidents. Fortunately, with the construction of expressways, although fatal accidents do still happened, but the number is still not as high as those reported on normal roads.
According to the Universiti Malaya's research,the government can save an estimated RM0.044 per kilometre when driving on PLUS expressways.
Of the many excuse, driving on expressways is the safest. The main factor is that expressways have more and wider lanes, as well as less bends compared with normal roads.
In fact, their exits are safer compared with normal roads , where there are always traffic congestions at road junctions when a car is turning left or right.
The data from the Universiti Malaya research shows that the benefit which can be obtained by expressway users at RM0.34 per kilometre is cheaper compared with normal roads.
Besides, users of tolled expressways finding the petrol cost absorbed because of toll payments, actually, they benefit more in terms of saving travelling time.
Users of normal roads also benefit when less number of traffic on expressways without toll and federal roads.
Throughout the Chinese New Year celebration, think of road safety. Certainly, we now know the choice to make for a smooth journey.
ARTIKEL DALAM BAHASA MELAYU
Perjalanan selamat di lebuh raya
Oleh AZMAN ANUARrencana@utusan.com.my
SEMALAM dan hari ini, Tahun Baru Cina disambut penuh meriah. Ia juga bermakna, musim cuti panjang masih berbaki. Selain masyarakat Cina, kaum-kaum lain turut 'tumpang' untuk merancang percutian masing- masing.
Dalam sibuk memikirkan hari bergembira itu, jangan lupa 'tradisi' di Malaysia yang menyaksikan kemalangan maut turut akan meningkat sepanjang musim perayaan. Pasti kita akan mendengar berita kemalangan terutama yang melibatkan kemalangan maut.
Kerajaan melalui Polis Diraja Malaysia, Jabatan Pengangkutan Jalan (JPJ), Jabatan Keselamatan Jalan Raya (JKJR) dan Institut Penyelidikan Keselamatan Jalan Raya Malaysia (Miros) telah mengambil pelbagai langkah untuk mengurangkan kadar kemalangan maut melalui kempen-kempen, penguatkuasaan serta Ops Sikap setiap kali musim perayaan.
Rakan penulis, Mohammad Ismail dari Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Perlis ada menulis bahawa kita tidak akan sampai awal sehari daripada orang lain jika kita memandu melebihi had laju yang dibenarkan, jika silap perhitungan surat 'cinta' dari PDRM pasti akan diterima. Kita juga tidak akan diangkat menjadi juara pelumba F1 jika kita memotong barisan dan 'mencilok' di sana dan sini semasa memandu di jalan raya dan lebuh raya.
Oleh itu, katanya, tanamkan sedikit sifat 'sabar' dan patuhi segala peraturan yang telah ditetapkan.
Sepanjang musim perayaan ini, elok masyarakat memikir dan merancang perjalanan. Pilihan berada di tangan kita sendiri sama ada untuk memandu dengan selamat atau membahayakan orang lain.
Walaupun diakui bahawa setiap kejadian itu telah tersurat, namun kita perlu berikhtiar untuk mengelakkannya kerana menjadi tanggungjawab kita untuk melindungi nyawa keluarga yang tersayang.
Jadi, bagi mereka yang merancang bercuti dan perlu mengambil masa perjalanan yang lama, buat pilihan cara mana hendak ke destinasi tersebut - jalan laut, udara atau darat? Jika darat, laluan mana yang hendak dipilih, jalan raya biasa atau lebuh raya bertol?
Jika memilih lebuh raya bertol, itu juga pilihan tepat. Penulis tertarik dengan Laporan "Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan: Kajian Faktor PLUS kepada Pengguna dan Ekonomi" oleh Fakulti Pentadbiran dan Ekonomi Universiti Malaya Jun 2009. Kajian dan cadangannya patut diambil pertimbangan wajar.
Hakikatnya, lebuh raya di negara kita telah meningkatkan kecekapan sistem pengangkutan apabila dapat mengurangkan banyak kos. Bagi kawasan luar bandar khasnya, pembinaan lebuh raya baru dapat mengalihkan sesetengah pemandu daripada melalui perjalanan yang perlahan, bengkang-bengkok dan laluan sempit kepada perjalanan yang pantas, lurus dan lebuh raya yang luas.
Perubahan ini membolehkan kos pemanduan dikurangkan kepada banyak penduduk setempat. Kos perjalanan berkurang kerana pemandu kenderaan dan lori yang beralih menggunakan lebuh raya dapat menjimatkan masa, mengurangkan risiko kemalangan dan kos operasi kenderaan.
Jika dibandingkan dengan laluan alternatif lain, apabila menggunakan Lebuh Raya PLUS misalnya, pengguna dapat menjimatkan masa memandu bagi setiap kilometer bukan sahaja kerana mereka dapat memandu pada kelajuan tinggi tetapi juga hasil daripada perjalanan yang lancar.
Bayangkan had laju di lebuh raya 110 kmj sedangkan di jalan raya lain hanya 90 kmj, kalau pengguna di kedua-dua laluan itu memandu pada kelajuan maksimum, hasilnya pengguna jalan raya persekutuan atau negeri akan mengambil masa 40 saat bagi satu kilometer berbanding dengan memandu di lebuh raya PLUS mengambil masa 32.7 saat satu kilometer.
Bermakna, kenderaan pengguna lebuh raya dapat menjimatkan 7.3 saat per kilometer berbeza dengan mengguna jalan raya biasa.
Perkara ini bukan cakap kosong tetapi hasil kajian pakar dari Universiti Malaya. Malah menurut kajian itu juga, secara keseluruhan, masa perjalanan dapat dijimatkan RM0.279 per kilometer apabila pemandu beralih dari jalan raya biasa kepada lebuh raya.
Perkara mengenai keuntungan daripada pengurangan kos operasi kenderaan adalah topik paling digemari pemandu Malaysia. Tiada pemandu yang mahu melepaskan peluang ini.
Bagaimanapun berdasarkan kajian Universiti Malaya, kos operasi kereta dan lori berbeza di beberapa laluan Lebuh Raya Utara Selatan berbanding dengan jalan alternatif.
Tetapi elok kita pertimbangkan bagaimana kos operasi dapat dikurangkan semasa perjalanan di lebuh raya. Pertama, penjimatan berlaku kerana perubahan kelajuan kenderaan tidak sekerap dilakukan seperti di jalan raya biasa.
Kedua, tindakan pemandu hendak mengubah arah haluan kurang berlaku kesan daripada saiz jalan di lebuh raya yang lebih lebar. Hal ini baik untuk ketahanan tayar dan tempoh penggunaannya yang lebih lama.
Ketika ini orang ramai cukup gerun dengan jumlah kemalangan di jalan raya apatah lagi kemalangan maut. Syukur, dengan pembinaan lebuh raya, walaupun masih ada kemalangan maut tetapi kadar kemalangan dan kematian tidak setinggi kejadian di jalan raya biasa.
Menurut kajian pakar Universiti Malaya, dianggarkan kerajaan dapat menjimatkan kos kemalangan kira-kira RM0.044 per kilometer apabila memandu di lebuh raya PLUS.
Dalam banyak-banyak alasan, hakikatnya memandu di lebuh raya paling selamat. Faktor utamanya adalah lebuh raya mempunyai lebih banyak lorong dan bersaiz lebar serta kurang selekoh berbanding dengan jalan raya biasa.
Malah laluan keluar masuk lebuh raya lebih terkawal. Keadaan ini berbeza dengan apa yang biasa dilihat berlaku kesesakan di simpang jalan raya apabila sesebuah kenderaan ingin membelok atau memasuki laluan kiri atau kanan.
Data daripada kajian Universiti Malaya menunjukkan aspek keuntungan yang boleh diterima oleh pengguna lebuh raya pada purata satu kilometer adalah RM0.34 lebih murah berbanding memandu di jalan raya biasa.
Di samping pengguna lebuh raya bertol mendapati kos petrol 'diserap' kerana bayaran tol, sebenarnya mereka masih meraih keuntungan besar melalui penjimatan masa perjalanan.
Pemandu jalan raya biasa pun turut beruntung apabila semakin kurang bilangan kenderaan di lebuh raya tanpa tol dan jalan raya persekutuan.
Sepanjang musim perayaan Tahun Baru Cina ini, ingatlah keselamatan di jalan raya. Jika ingin perjalanan yang lancar, anda tentu sudah tahu buat pilihan sendiri.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Wajarkah hanya salahkan PLUS?
SAYA terpanggil untuk memberi ulasan terhadap tulisan saudara Iskandar Johari dan beberapa penulis lain di ruangan ini baru-baru ini yang menyuarakan kekesalan dan marah terhadap PLUS. Mereka menyifatkan PLUS sebagai 'cuci tangan' apabila berlaku kemalangan di Lebuhraya Utara Selatan.
Saya tidak menyebelahi mana-mana pihak. Tetapi sebagai seorang peniaga dan pengguna tetap kemudahan lebuh raya PLUS, saya terpanggil untuk memberikan pandangan dari sudut fikiran saya sendiri.
Saya sendiri menggunakan perkhidmatan PLUS ini sejak sekian lama. Tidak dinafikan, lebuh raya ini banyak membantu perniagaan saya serta mengeratkan silatulrahim kekeluargaan kerana perjalanan antara negeri kini begitu mudah dan cepat.
Berbanding dahulu, kalau hendak balik kampung saya terpaksa berfikir panjang mengenangkan jauhnya perjalanan serta risau tentang keselamatan apabila melalui jalan biasa yang sempit dan bahaya.
Pada pandangan saya, kebanyakan kemalangan yang berlaku adalah lebih berpunca daripada kecuaian pemandu itu sendiri. Contohnya, kenderaan kecil seperti Kancil, MyVi dan lain-lain kerap berada di laluan paling kanan. Saya rasa, dengan kuasa cc yang terhad dimiliki oleh kenderaan itu, ia tidak sepatutnya berada di lorong itu, terutamanya selepas memintas kenderaan lain.
Kesannya, berlakulah deretan kereta yang berbaris panjang di belakangnya. Ditambah pula dengan sikap negatif kebanyakan pemandu kenderaan yang tidak mengendahkan peraturan dan gesaan kenderaan di belakang yang ingin memotong. Jadi, terpaksalah kenderaan lain memotong di lorong kiri.
Saya juga selalu melihat bas ekspres dipandu dengan laju melebihi had yang ditetapkan. Jika dihubungi talian 1800 yang tertera di belakangnya, pasti tiada yang menjawab (kempen sahaja ada tapi tiada tindakan). Pemandu bas gemar memandu laju seolah-olah tidak peduli dengan nyawa 30 hingga 40 orang lain yang menumpang bas tersebut. Adakah PLUS atau kerajaan sahaja patut dipersalahkan atas kedegilan pemandu-pemandu yang mementingkan diri sendiri?
Saya juga ingin merujuk kepada beberapa kemalangan yang berlaku sejak kebelakangan ini, terutamanya yang melibatkan lori atau treler yang berhenti di lorong kecemasan. Jika difikirkan secara logiknya, pemandu kereta yang cergas dan segar tentu tidak akan terbabas ke lorong kecemasan sehingga melanggar belakang kenderaan berat yang berhenti di situ. Mungkin juga kereta dipandu terlalu laju hingga pemandu hilang kawalan ke atas kenderaan mereka.
Jika memandu dengan keadaan yang segar dan mematuhi had laju, mustahil pemandu tidak dapat melihat banyak kon yang diletakkan sebagai amaran. Saya bukannya mahu bersetuju dengan tindakan pemandu lori berhenti di lorong kecemasan. Bagi saya, tindakan berhenti di lorong kecemasan amat berbahaya terutama jika laluan tersebut dikongsi bersama dengan pemandu yang tidak cekap, suka memandu laju dan pemandu yang letih dan mengantuk.
Bagi saya, memandu di lebuh raya memang cukup selamat jika kita mematuhi undang-undang jalan raya dan memandu dengan berhemah dan sentiasa peka. Saya sering membaca laporan Ops Sikap dan statistik tersebut jelas menunjukkan kemalangan di jalan biasa adalah jauh lebih banyak berbanding yang berlaku di lebuh raya.
Janganlah jadi 'kerana marahkan nyamuk, kelambu dibakar'. Andaian ini sama seperti kita mempersalahkan guru apabila anak-anak kita gagal dalam peperiksaan, sedangkan anak kita itu sendiri yang malas belajar dan tidak menumpukan perhatian di dalam kelas. Adakah ini adil? Janganlah kita asyik menuding jari pada orang lain atas kelalaian diri sendiri.
Cubalah kita sama-sama muhasabah diri dan jangan mudah menunding jari. Saya dan seluruh rakyat Malaysia amat bersimpati terhadap mangsa-mangsa kemalangan tersebut dan keluarga mereka. Tetapi cubalah juga kaji sikap pemanduan yang mungkin penyebab kepada kemalangan tersebut.
Pada dasarnya, jika kereta tidak di pandu laju, tidak dibawa dalam keadaan mengantuk dan letih, kereta berada di dalam keadaan yang baik, dipandu mengikut peraturan dan had kelajuan yang di tetapkan, saya amat yakin semua ini tidak mungkin berlaku. Malah kita akan bertambah bersyukur di atas kemudahan lebuh raya yang disediakan untuk keselesaan perjalanan kita.
Ingatlah, kalau kesalahan sahaja yang dicari maka kesalahan sahaja lah yang akan kita temui.
HARGAI YANG BAIK
Johor Bahru, Johor
To HARGAI YANG BAIK, terima kasih atas perkongsian pendapat anda.. mudah-mudahan lebih ramai lagi pengguna & rakyat yg memahami situasi ini seperti anda.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Sebenarnya byk yg apa kerajaan 'terpaksa' lakukan utk memenangi hati rakyat adalah tidak lagi praktikal klu kita mahu jadi negara & bangsa yang maju. Antaranya, terlalu byk subsidi yg perlu diberi kepada rakyat sedangkan peruntukan tu boleh disalurkan utk tujuan lain yg lebih berfaedah. Kesan pemberian subsidi secara berlebihan memberi byk kesan buruk pada ekonomi. Ia mempunya chain-effect kepada ekonomi keseluruhan negara dan kita gagal meningkatkan tahap ekonomi setaraf dgn negara2 maju. Akibatnya juga pendapatan kita jauh lebih rendah dari mereka. Aku selalu terbaca artikel ni di tulis di dalam suratkhabar berbahasa inggeris.. tp blm pernah lagi aku terjumpa artikel sebegini di tulis dlm bahasa melayu, terutamanya di akhbar2 perdana. Bukannya apa, biar ramai sedar bahayanya klu kita terus bergantung pada subsidi.. semua tu tidak baik utk industri termasuk juga sektor pertanian. Bila kita buang subsidi mudah2an para petani dpt penghidupan yg lebih baik. Aku dah tulis pasal ni lama dulu... dan bila aku baca artikel by STAR Managing editor P Gunasegaram (aku juga ada baca similar article by him dlm edisi tahun baru 2010), aku berpendapat ia sgt menarik utk direnungkan oleh seluruh rakyat serta diambil tindakan sewajarnya oleh kerajaan. Kita mesti berubah agar pendapatan kita setaraf dgn mereka yg bekerja di negara2 lain.. jgn lagi jadi masyarakat subsidi.. buang ler subsidi padi, gula, minyak, toll etc!!!
Monday, February 08, 2010
Sunday February 7, 2010
Caught in middle-income trap
By Dr FONG CHAN ONN
A graduate teacher starts at RM2,500 per month in Malaysia, compared to RM6,196 in Singapore and RM15,661 in Hong Kong. Malaysian wages have fallen behind partly due to the gross divergence between the suppressed Malaysian CPI and that of the world.
"Many countries caught in the middle-income trap have deliberately jump-started their economy through a high wage policy" DR FONG CHAN ONN
OVER the last few months, there has been much discussion on the issue that Malaysia has been caught in the middle-income trap. In this article, I will discuss the rationale on why Malaysia has been caught in this dilemma, and some of the steps we need to take to emerge as a high-income economy.
From independence to the 1980s, Malaysia progressed rapidly. From an agricultural society in the 1950s, it evolved into an Asian Tiger Economy by the 1980s, mainly through labour-intensive industrialisation.
However, subsequent attempts to further deepen our industrialisation process met with mixed results; and Malaysia’s economic well-being generally remained stagnant, while many other countries galloped away under the scenario of a rapidly expanding world trade.
This is because of the following factors:
In 1946, the colonial government enforced price controls in Malaya to avoid economic hardships after World War II. This policy holds until this day.
Price-control items include basic necessities such as rice, flour, sugar, fertilisers, milk, chicken and even bus and taxi fares. Because of controls, these commodities are much cheaper in Malaysia compared to outside.
For example, as of December last year, a kilo of raw sugar in Malaysia was RM1.35, while the world price was RM2.20; that of rice is RM2.75 per kilo compared to world price of RM6.75.
Since basic necessities constitute a large component of the Malaysian CPI, the cumulative effect of price controls for over 60 years has been a gross suppression of our CPI compared to world CPI (see Figure 1).
Workers’ annual pay raises are linked to the nation’s CPI. The gross divergence between the (suppressed) Malaysian CPI and that of the world has also led to a corresponding significant divergence of Malaysian wage rates compared to that of the world.
This, in reality, is the major reason why since the 1980s, Malaysian wages have fallen behind wages of the rest of the world (see chart on Page 28). As an example, a graduate teacher starts at RM2,500 per month in Malaysia, compared to RM6,196 in Singapore, and RM15,661 in Hong Kong.
Besides restraining Malaysian wages, price controls also severely distort the domestic economic factor proportions, resulting in many factories using non-efficient economic production processes. With diesel and fuel prices controlled, and workers’ wages suppressed, manufacturers choose to use more fuels and labour as inputs – instead of more machines – resulting in low-quality Malaysian products and, of course, low productivity growths.
Subsidies began in 1961 under the Control of Supplies Act 1961. Subsidised items include petrol, gas, sugar, rice and other basic items.
In the 1970s, when the price of oil was under US$12 per barrel, petrol subsidy was a bearable cost to the Government. However, with the present high oil prices (over US$75 per barrel), this has become a disastrous predicament for the Government to continue bearing.
As Figure 2 shows, the cost of subsidies has ballooned from 3% of government operating expenditure in 1998 to almost 30% in 2008!
The high cost of subsidies in turn restrains the Government’s ability to upgrade infrastructures such as public transport. It also retards the Government’s ability to provide competitive incentives for attracting high-income activities into the country.
The dominance of oil palm and rubber in the agriculture sector is unfortunately a significant drag on the nation’s ability to leapfrog into a high-income economy.
Given the plantation terrain, oil palm harvesting and rubber tapping remained manual in nature and (unlike grape or wheat harvesting) not easily mechanised. Up to this day, they remained as low-wage activities, fossilising our dependence on foreign labour (about 300,000) for the continued “vibrancy” of the plantation sector.
The unavoidable presence of these foreign workers in plantations also meant that many labour-intensive manufacturing operations could still continue to exist in the countryside (even in face of local worker shortage) because of the easy “mobility” of these foreign workers from estates to factories. This also means that it is very difficult for the Government to disallow or curtail foreign workers in non-plantation sectors, when it sanctions such a large presence of foreign workers in plantations.
The cumulative effect is that there are now about 2.3 million low-skill foreign workers in Malaysia, making up about 20% of the workforce. They are in the manufacturing, petroleum, construction and domestic-help sectors. Lately, they have also penetrated into retailing, food and beverage, tourism and hotel industries.
Where do we go from here?
South Korea’s GDP per capita is US$16,450, Singapore US$34,346, Hong Kong US$29,559, while Malaysia is still at US$7,469. It must be remembered that in the early 1970s, we were at parity with these countries. In five years’ time they would be even further ahead. What are the bold steps we need to undertake to enable us to leap out of this middle income trap?
I will attempt to elaborate on some of these steps:
Phasing out subsidies and price controls
Price controls and subsidies have created artificial market prices that distort the domestic factor proportions and impede economic efficiencies. The Government has to be bold to find ways to phase out price controls and subsidies; maybe not all at once but over a time frame of say five years. Malaysia is a small country and we cannot live in isolation from the rest of the world economy.
Petrol subsidies, in particular, should be removed within one to two years; while extensive information campaigns are carried out to enable motorists to adjust to living within the context of petrol prices being set in accordance with the world crude prices, as is the practice in many other countries.
In conjunction with the phasing out of subsidies and price controls, the Government must introduce a transparent system of social safety net, providing welfare assistance to the needy, the disabled, the aged, the unemployed and the poor. A coupon-system (together with MyKad) can be introduced where those in need are given subsidies for basic necessities and other essentials such as petrol.
Of course, this implies the need for the Government to create a nationwide data-base of those in need, not unlike the registration system for welfare payments, but more comprehensive in nature taking into account employment status and also proving channels for verification and counselling.
High wage policy
Malaysian wages have been suppressed by market factor distortions for too long. The Government should encourage our wages to be pushed up in line with the rest of the world. When the rakyat can take home more pay, they are then better enabled to adjust to the reality of world prices that will be felt when controls and subsidies are phased out.
Many countries caught in the middle-income trap have deliberately jump-started their economy through a high wage policy. Singapore is a good example; in the 1980s, its economic progress stagnated and the Singapore Government deliberately compelled companies to increase their wages by 50% or more. Though painful at first, this ignited “a second industrial revolution” in Singapore when companies became much more capital-intensive and focused on high-end manufacturing and financial activities. Today, it is a vibrant economic hub of Asia.
We could introduce a similar high wage policy by initially requiring vulnerable sectors such as plantation and agriculture, labour-intensive manufacturing, construction and services (such as restaurants and hotels) to have decent minimum wages.
The plantation companies, in particular, should be required to pay higher wages to attract more Malaysians to work in this sector.
As an example, the 2008 Annual Return of the Asiatic Group – a typical mature plantation company – shows that its total wage payment (RM83mil) constituted only 18% of its before tax profits (RM456mil); and it can certainly even double its wage bills and still remain extremely profitable!
Employers would then have to use more equipment in the new scenario; many of our skilled workers who are now in Singapore can then be enticed to return to these higher skill positions, and in the process uplift the productivity of our economy. The multiplier effects of this would be translated into higher wages for the supervisors, managers and other professionals as well.
The traditional incentives offered by Malaysia in the form of pioneer status and capital investment allowances are not attractive anymore. High-tech start-ups are risky ventures; they need large capital, and hence access to venture capital and government assistance. They also need speedy Internet access and rapid logistics.
They cannot work in an environment where restrictions are placed in terms of equity ownership or employment of expatriates. They, most of all, expect rapid decision-making by us in processing their applications. In early 2000, the Indian information giant Infosys wanted to invest in Malaysia and sought approval for their expatriates to work here; our hesitancy and delay in decision-making caused them to relocate to Mauritius!
We should follow the world trend, and be rapid, decisive and agile in our engagement with high-tech entrepreneurs. We have to introduce innovative incentives to attract them to come here. This includes the offer of cash grants (as a form of venture capital), and R & D research grants to companies to set up their bases here.
In keeping with the common practice of many other countries, the Government must also be willing to offer work permits and permanent resident status to highly qualified scientists and other highly educated individuals to entice them to work in Malaysia not only as a second base but also as a second home.
IT infrastructure and public R & D centres
Malaysia was among the first to recognise the importance of IT by the establishment of our Multi-Media Super Corridor in 2001. But other countries have since superseded us in IT infrastructure. Consider this: our Internet download speed is only 2.2 Mbps, compared to South Korea’s 23.6 Mbps and Singapore’s 8.0 Mbps; our broadband penetration rate is only 30% compared to South Korea’s 97%!
Entrepreneurs now expect to be able to work through their notebooks while commuting in rapid trains and cars. They expect to be able to do video-conferencing while on the move. Our current download speed does not allow for these, and more importantly does not allow the functioning of many of the new IT applications.
The Government needs to quickly bring the state of our IT infrastructure up to parity with the global standard as a precondition for pushing Malaysia towards a high-income economy.
Further, one of the most effective methods for rapid societal debuts of new scientific ideas and innovations is the availability of public R & D centres for niche areas, where high school and university students can be encouraged to experiment with their ideas.
This was how Steve Jobs was stimulated to design the first Apple personal computer in the 1980s in Silicon Valley. And a major reason for the success of the present Korean film industry is the Seoul Animation Center; a centre where Koreans who have interest in animation for movies, computer games, or digital advertising could drop in, play around with their scripts and hopefully end up with viable commercial products.
The Government should follow this trend by setting up R & D centres in 3-D Animation, Computer Accessory Inter-face, Micro and Nano-Technology, Horticulture, Aquaculture and others deemed suitable to our resource endowment. With the proper involvement of schools and colleges, this could lead to the formation of interest groups focusing around the availability of facilities at the centres. Ultimately, this will lead to more passion for science and technology among the young, and the germination of new ideas for products and services.
Leverage on Malaysian professionals and experts overseas
According to an estimate by MEF, there are at present more than 500,000 Malaysian professionals working abroad; and they are in major cities such as New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Singapore working and doing research in areas like medicine, financial services, engineering, accountancy, logistics, construction, venture capital and other services.
In my interaction with many of them, they said that they very much want to contribute to Malaysia’s progress. Given the right conditions, I feel that they could be persuaded to set up base here. Unfortunately, often times, we have not engaged them sufficiently.
As an example, the renowned UK liver transplant surgeon Datuk Dr Tan Kai Chah wanted to set up base in Malaysia but could not do so because, as a Malaysian, he was required to do a compulsory three-year government service. Singapore, having gotten wind of this, headhunted him. His liver centre in Singapore is now very much sought after by patients near and far.
Learning from this, we should attract our Malaysian professionals to return to Malaysia, by the Government setting up a Special Group to identify them and then engaging those who are interested to return or at least set up base here.
This engagement should be done discreetly so that their individual requirements can be assessed and met, and their problems resolved. If their foreign spouses want to work, if their children need special education, if they need R & D grants, etc, all these we should be able to resolve. Then and only then can we gain leverage on the large pool of brainpower that we already have.
We should act quickly in this respect, for such talents are being aggressively headhunted by other governments. The Government should do all it can to ensure that our professionals, with their wide international exposure, will end up on our shores and not become other societies’ assets.
Kuala Lumpur’s location at the heart of Asean and its multi-cultural environment enhance its attraction for many emergent high-income activities. We have often forgotten that KL is only 300km away from Singapore and it also has access to deep seaports and airports. Fortunately, AirAsia did not forget this and, riding on the wave of budget air travel, has developed KL as the low-cost air hub of Asia-Australia. With our current lost-cost structures, KL could similarly be developed into the low-cost shipping and logistic hub of Asia.
The Government should also aggressively promote KL as the focal centre for business transactions between East (China, Korea and Japan) and West (India and Middle East) Asia.
A few enterprising Taiwanese direct-sale companies have already established processing centres and warehouses in Malaysia for export of their products to the Middle East because Malaysian-labelled products are more easily accepted in these markets. This is only the beginning of a new wave of opportunities, as East and West Asia get better connected.
Flooded with sunshine, strong winds and free from natural disasters, Malaysia is an ideal location for green renewable energy R & D and manufacturing. Renewable green energy has to be promoted to be Malaysia’s new strength. The world’s top three solar companies have now located themselves in Malaysia. One of them (Sun Power) is building the world’s largest solar power manufacturing plant in Rumbia, in my constituency in Malacca.
The Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (Mida) must work hand in hand with the solar companies to come up with incentives and a strategic policy to match that of China, which is currently the world leader in solar power. We must seize this opportunity to nurture a cluster group of ancillary suppliers to provide materials and supporting services to the solar companies, just as we did when we started with E & E in 1972. We must not miss this boat to build a “Solar-con” manufacturing base to equal that of the silicon hub of Penang.
Medical care and pharmaceutical trials
With an aging population all over the world, high quality medical care has become an emergent high-value economic sector. Highly-trained Malaysian medical specialists are working by the hundreds in Singapore, London and Dublin. More importantly, they are highly respected in their fields. They could and should be encouraged to set up base here and transform Malaysia into a world-class international medical centre. The big advantage is that our cost is half that of Singapore, and one-third of that of Hong Kong, the United States and London.
If we reorganise ourselves, we can be among the top in this area. The urgent necessity is for the Government to reconsider compulsory government service for recognised Malaysian medical experts. Isn’t it better to allow them, already in their late 30s, back to create employment and build up our medical base, as opposed to rigidly requiring them to work for three years in government service at great personal and family sacrifice to themselves?
Malaysia, with our multi-ethnic population and extensive bio-diversity, is an ideal place for R & D in pharmaceutical products, particularly in the conduct of trials for new drugs, before their formal acceptance by the authorities. This can be in the area of cancer, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, bone conditioning, and heart diseases. The Health Ministry and Mida should quickly formulate a new strategy to attract pharmaceutical companies to seriously consider Malaysia as their new destination for R & D and trials.
Oil and gas activities
Petronas is known worldwide for being a successful national petroleum company. Petronas has done really well for the country in terms of generating oil and gas revenue from both Malaysian and non-Malaysian fields. Unfortunately, unlike the E & E sector, up-stream oil and gas production has not resulted in the emergence of a corresponding vibrant downstream oil and gas sub-sector. We are still very dependent on foreign oil and gas ancillary suppliers for many of the specialised downstream services, such as rig and platform maintenance and repairs, safety training, search and rescue, and other related R and D activities.
Kemaman, Miri and Bintulu are now vibrant oil-related towns. Petronas can play a more significant nurturing role and spin off more of these related activities (which are now sub-contracted to foreign suppliers) to independent Malaysian entrepreneurs of all races, so that we can begin to transform these towns into mini Houstons. Besides its economic benefits to the country, this would also greatly endear Petronas to the hearts of the average Malaysians.
In this article, I have argued that Malaysia has been inhibited from fulfilling its true potential by distortions (in the domestic economy) caused by various policies since independence; by phasing out these distortions and focusing on our strengths in new areas, we can and would emerge as a high-income economy in the not too distant future.
Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn was Prof of Applied Economics and Dean of Faculty of Economics and Administration, Universiti Malaya. He served in the Government as Deputy Minister of Education (1990-1999) and as Minister of Human Resources (1999-2008). Currently, he is the MP for Alor Gajah.
Friday January 29, 2010
The middle income trap
Stories by SHAILA KOSHY, SHAHANAAZ HABIB, KAREN CHAPMAN, LESTER KONG, TAN SHIOW CHIN, TAN EE LOO, SHAUN HO AND JOSHUA FOONG
It is going to be a challenge for Malaysia to achieve its Vision 2020 goals by that target year.
After two decades of considerable progress at reducing poverty and improving the quality of life in critical areas like housing, transport, communications, health and education, Malaysia is now exhibiting signs of a middle income trap and is in the “danger of being stuck in the middle”.
Many factors have contributed to the country’s slower growth over the past year – among them is that Malaysia is being supplanted as a low-cost export and services base by emerging economies such as India, Vietnam and China.
These larger emerging economies with their relatively low wage costs and sizeable domestic consumer market have been able to attract foreign direct investments away from more established economies.
The compound annual growth rate of FDI into Malaysia from 2000 to 2007 was only 1% compared to 30% for India, 12% for Vietnam and 10% for China.
In addition, Malaysia’s competitiveness has deteriorated and its ranking in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index has slipped to 24th place last year from the 21st spot in 2007.
To achieve the goals under Vision 2020, Malaysia would need to grow by 8% per annum until 2020 but given the current economic and business climate, this would be a huge challenge.
So despite having made the early transition from a low income to middle income nation, Malaysia has not been able to propel itself into the ranks of higher income nations.
Instead, countries like Singapore, Japan and South Korea are in fact widening the gap between themselves and Malaysia, which is a phenomenon economists refer to as “the middle income trap”.
Malaysia’s performance on some key social measures, too, does not bode well of its ability to achieve the social goals of Vision 2020 to be a moral, ethical and economically just society.
Public safety has worsened in recent years with an increase in crime, including vehicle thefts, snatch thefts and robberies.
Corruption in Malaysia is also perceived to be on the rise while in education, the country lags behind countries like Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore.
While Malaysia has made progress in reducing poverty, there are still more than 44,000 hardcore poor households in the country.
Malaysia, too, is in a challenging fiscal position with the public’s increasing expectation demanding for high quality public services, stimulus for a recessionary economy and a quick resolution of important concerns like crime and education.
But Malaysia’s ability to finance improvements in its performance is limited, given that the country’s fiscal position has been worsening since 1997.
The country too had its largest budget deficit (of -7.4% of GDP) in 2009 in more than 20 years.
In fact, the budget deficit has been deepening consistently since 1997 and this has contributed to historically high levels of government domestic and external debt, which is not sustainable in the long run.
Malaysia therefore faces a dilemma where there is an urgent need to reduce spending and yet deliver big economic and social growth.
Therefore, the Government has to prioritise the allocation of funds to the most important areas, do more with less and roll back subsidies and other distortions in the economy gradually.
Friday January 29, 2010
Preconditions that are key to high income
QUESTION TIME By P GUNASEGARAMp.firstname.lastname@example.org
Smashing through the middle-income barrier requires nothing more than following a few basic tenets – and sticking to them.
NEXT month, the great secret will be revealed. The Government will tell all about how it plans to move us into higher income. You can be sure it won’t happen overnight; the mechanics require certain preconditions.
We can have the best brains and the most renowned consultants advising us to come up with the most elaborate of plans, wonderful execution programmes and a system of monitoring and feedback. But if some preconditions are not met, the plan is doomed to failure even before it starts.
Here are 10 of them. They are by no means exhaustive but they are a good place to start. If you are one of those who say that these are simply not possible, then my reply would be that then we will have no high income.
1. Open things up and go for more growth per person. High incomes are derived from two things – greater production of all kinds of goods and services and especially those which we can produce better than others, and ensuring that the higher income gets distributed across the board. We should pull out all stops to greater growth, working more smartly and rewarding productivity in the process. We must move away from labour intensive economic activity to get a more value-added person. Everything in bureaucracy must be geared towards this. The other preconditions relate to this all-important first precondition.
2. Encourage all businesses small or big. In fact, small and medium businesses account for more of a country’s production than the big ones and need even more encouragement and incentives. For too long, we have concentrated on attracting large labour intensive but knowledge deficient activities such as assembly of microchips. And we gave these foreign investors huge tax breaks. In many cases the tax breaks simply went to the host countries these companies came from which taxed them instead. We need to encourage all kinds of investors – the corner café, the flower shop, the computer service etc. These are the businesses which improve the quality of life and generate greater income in the process.
3. Have automatic approvals. It is important to cut the discretion of officials. This discretionary power gives rise to all sorts of abuses and delays. If I want to open a restaurant, the licensing should be automatic so long as I have met the current list of conditions. Action should only be taken against me if I have not met the conditions. In effect, it will do away with licensing and promote the free and unfettered operations of all legitimate business.
4. Cut bureaucracy right to the bone. The whole idea of a bureaucracy is not to block but to facilitate. It is to serve the public, not to become a hindrance to the public at every turn and corner. The civil service must work in partnership with the private sector. The days of patronage politics and profits must be put firmly behind us. And, yes, do have open tenders, bids, auctions and etc to maximise government resources.
5. Think domestic. It is ironic that we still favour foreigners over locals in terms of incentives that we give for investment and other things. The Malaysia My Second Home programme, for instance, allows a person to come into the country and bring in a car tax-free! Now no retired Malaysian who keeps his money here and stays here gets that kind of treatment. Is it any wonder then that money is leaving Malaysia? We must encourage our locals first and foremost without discrimination.
6. Set up a technocracy. It is a pity that most of our ministers are politicians first and technocrats second. In fact, many of them have absolutely no idea of what their ministries are about, and do not have any special knowledge or training. Civil servants have been repeatedly frustrated in their jobs by meddlesome ministers who want to show they have power. We must put technocrats in key positions. Ministers must be instructed to take care of the big picture and let the technocrats get on with their jobs.
7. Revamp education. Education cannot be right when we feed ill-equipped students into a mediocre higher education system and produce graduates who can’t find jobs. We must think in terms of equal opportunities in all areas but especially in education because we need good, well-trained people to improve productivity. Good people start with good education. Period.
8. Go for services. Yes, manufacturing and related industries are important, but it is the services sector which is the main component of the economy, accounting for close to 60%. Thus it is in services that we should concentrate our efforts. There is tremendous potential in tourism, education and health which are yet to be fully and intelligently harnessed.
9. Fight corruption like your life depended on it. Indeed, all our lives, or at least their quality, depend on us uprooting and getting rid of widespread corruption once and for all. The worrying thing is that corruption in Malaysia has got much worse over the years with corruption among politicians being the worst of all. We must take an uncompromising stand against it. It is no coincidence that the most developed countries in the world also have the least corruption.
10. Encourage excellence. We must bring forth a culture of excellence. This of course has strong links with education and learning. Performance must be linked to rewards. In the 60s we had the best hospital in South-East Asia (Universiti Hospital in Petaling Jaya) and among the best universities (Universiti Malaya). But we have just let things deteriorate and rot.
In short, it is not just a plan which will help us escape the middle income trap – a situation where a country’s income grows rapidly with things like foreign investment and low costs and then stagnates because it can’t make the transition to growing on its own. The preconditions are basic but it needs an unprecedented change in attitudes.
> Managing editor P Gunasegaram says if we don’t meet quickly at least eight of the 10 preconditions above, we will be stuck in the middle-income trap for some time to come.
Saturday, February 06, 2010
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
by Reader's Digest Magazine, on Wed Jan 20, 2010 10:37am PST
From 30 Minutes a Day to a Healthy Heart
Portion distortion is one of the prime causes of America's obesity epidemic, yet most of us don't realize that we overeat -- or that when it comes to reining in calories, serving size is crucial. Here's how you can downsize your portions and still feel satisfied.
1. Contemplating seconds? Wait 10 minutes.Your stomach needs about that long to signal the brain that it's full, so stall before helping yourself to more mashed potatoes or lasagna. Keep the conversation going, tell a joke, or if you're dining alone, read the newspaper or walk around the house. If you're truly hungry after the delay, have seconds of the veggies or salad.
2. Quit the clean plate club. One in four Americans eat everything they're served no matter how big the portions, surveys reveal. A better strategy: Eat a healthy portion, then stop. It's better to waste a little food (and save it for tomorrow) than to overload your body.
3. Never eat directly out of the bag, box, or carton. Put the portion on the plate right away and put the package away, then sit down and enjoy.4. Like big portions? Do this. Overload your plate with vegetables or salad with a smidgen of dressing or have a big, steaming bowl of broth-based soup. These water-rich, low-fat foods are so low in calories that a big portion isn't a problem.
5. Use a salad plate as your dinner plate. Less real estate means automatic portion control.
6. Make "small" your default setting. When ordering food or drinks or buying packaged food at the store, automatically go for the smallest size of any high-calorie items. (The exceptions: Salads and veggies without added fat.) Get the small latte, the 6-inch sub instead of the 12-inch, the small cookie instead of the 4-inch chocolate chip behemoth. Calories you haven't bought can't end up around your waist.
7. Go single-serve. Buy or make ice cream, sweets, or other high-cal foods, in individual serving sizes. Instead of a half-gallon of Rocky Road, buy ice cream sandwiches; make cupcakes instead of cake; and buy single-serving bags of chips.
8. But read the label first. Many packaged foods and drinks look as if they provide one serving are actually meant to serve two or more people. However, the calories and other nutrition info on the label are for just one serving, so read the number of servings per container first. Then be sure to eat or drink just one serving.
9. Pack your leftovers before eating. Sure, it's easy to put a healthy plate of food in front of you. The trouble comes when the plate empties and you have more of each food sitting in front of you in alluring serving bowls. The answer: Package and store leftovers before you sit down to eat. That way, getting seconds becomes a whole lot harder and feels more inappropriate.10. Round out the meal with raw produce. As you transition to more modest portion sizes, you may find yourself craving more food with your meal. The answer: a piece of fruit or a crunchy, large serving of celery, carrots, or peppers. There is no easier, healthier way to "beef up" a meal than with an apple, an orange, a big helping of watermelon or cantaloupe, or a sliced tomato.