Friday, October 31, 2008

Tony Pua "Slams" The Star?

Thanks to the Star for carrying my statement today, but I must say the headline "DAP slams PAS outburst over bumi equity issue" was certainly made to incite controversy. If you read the report, and my actual statement blogged here, it's criticism yes, but "slam"?

I've "slammed" BN and the Government many times in my statements, I've never read a report entitled "DAP slams the Prime Minister...". Sdr Lim Kit Siang has "slammed" BN, it compoment parties and many of the Ministers, e.g., over the recent Eurocopter and ValueCap controversy cases, but no, no such report of "DAP slams Minister of Finance..."

But giving constructive criticism to our Pakatan partners, it's "slam". Sigh. Well, beggars can't be choosers, The Star gives you publicity, we'll just have to look at it on the bright side ;-)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

30% Bumiputera Rule Misguided

PAS Youth's recent outburst against the abolition of 30% bumiputera requirement for public listed companies is misguided despite being well-intentioned.
PAS Youth chief Salahuddin Ayub said that the 30-percent equity must be retained and defended "even if the target has been reached". According to him, "before 1969, the equity of the Malays was almost nil and after 40 years, it is only at 19 percent. If this continues, we need about 20 more years to achieve the 30 percent target."
Firstly, as stated, bumiputeras have failed to achieve the target fo 30% equity despite nearly 40 years of NEP only proves that achieving equity through regulation will not achieve the objective increasing the wealth of bumiputeras in the shortest possible time. In fact, the 19% wealth ownership target, if accurate, has remained stagnant since the 1990s.

Secondly, for bumiputeras to achieve not only 30% of the nation's wealth, but also a meaningful 30%, it is critical for the capital markets to be liberalised to attract global capital and its corresponding talent and economic effects.

Our goals of becoming the regional financial centre since the 1980s lie in tatters as we lose out to many other financial centres in the region. The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange as late as 1993 was the 2nd largest stock exchange in Asia-Oceania region ex-Japan, but today we have fallen out of the top 10, losing to financial markets in Singapore, India, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

As a result, not only are foreign companies not interested in the Malaysian stock exchange, Malaysian companies are similarly heading offshore to more attractive financial markets. Ultimately, the losers are Malaysians themselves.

Hence, taking progressive and deliberate steps towards liberalising the financial markets will allow for a more dynamic economy accompanied by greater wealth creation. It will ultimately benefit the bumiputeras as they form the majority of the population. A more liberal market will also catalyse a more productive workforce who will in turn be able to compete on an equal footing in a globalised economy.

Similarly, PAS is misguided in its response to the appointment of Low Siew Moi as the acting General Manager of Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS) as the Selangor Menteri Besar has stated clearly that she is the most qualified person to fulfil the role at this point of time. By that, it means that she will be able to manage PKNS is the most effective and efficient possible manner, which will ultimate benefit the coffers of the state.

Given the people-centric nature of the policies of Pakatan Rakyat government, the poorest in the state, most of whom are bumiputeras will benefit most from such gains.

The race of the general manager should not be in question at all. It is disappointing that objections have come purely from a racial, and not from a qualitative perspective. PAS in these instances, should not miss the woods for the trees.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hitler's Financial Crisis

I thought this was rather funny, with the global financial markets in a tailspin and commodity prices - metals, oils and grains all tumbling. Nikkei hit a 26-year low (yes, you read that right!) and Hang Seng hit a 5 year low today. And yes, of course our economy's sheltered and we won't hit a recession. Thank goodness we live in Malaysia, heh. So says our ministers. ;-)

Enjoy! ;-)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Would you like a scholarship worth RM3,000 for a certified Video Journalism course at Malaysiakini?

Course Details:
  • Practical workshops held every fortnight (weekends) for 2 months - 10am till 6pm
  • Workshops will focus on reporting skills & the production of video news content
  • Learn principles required to become a Citizen Journalist or a better blogger
  • Earn side income as a part-time video journalist at
  • Fellowships will also be given to the best trainees
The first intake is on the November 8, 2008, & the maximum number of students per intake is 25. Please Email your CV & contact details to surindraj (at) seacem (dot) com or call 03-22843367 ext.111

Friday, October 24, 2008

Syed Hamid Albar's Pride & Prejudice

Dear Tony,

I needed to bring this to someone's attention and perhaps someone can put Syed Hamid Albar in his place. Read this article in Malaysiakini: Q&A: Home ministers 'burn' themselves for society. I was troubled by the consequences if this news is reported in Utusan or Berita Harian and acceted as the truth. Patriotic Malaysians will be wrongly maligned.

When asked by Malaysiakini: "But how do you suggest making people feel their Malaysian-ness, if they feel that they are being treated unequally?"

Syed Hamid Albar has this to say: "You should see Malays when they fill in their nationality, a Malay would put Malaysian but others would put Indian Malaysian or Chinese Malaysian. Why do you do that? ... "

I'm utterly shocked by his remark and think that he should be corrected or reprimanded. I know with 100% certainty that all my friends and family members don't write in forms "Indian Malaysian" or "Chinese Malaysian" when asked of our nationality. We are all Malaysians and should be treated equally. Period.
It's only when we are queried about our race, which disappointingly is a required field in all government related forms, we'll offer our race information. To begin with, all government and public forms should NOT ask for race information!

I feel sad for Malaysians when we still have Cabinet members and BN MPs that are bigots. I hope the change that we have all been looking forward to since March 2008 will materialise soon. There are so many wrongs to be corrected in Malaysia. AP permits, another RM5 billion of public money for Valuecap (wasn't it established with RM10 billion during the last crisis?), Eurocopter ... The list is endless.


Tony P: This is a clear case of a Minister manipulating sentiments and reality. I've never ever written "Chinese Malaysian" or "Malaysian Chinese" in my life despite having filled probably hundreds of immigration forms. Even for those, if there are those of such persuasion, it'll just be too long to practically do so. This Home Affairs Minister is a disgrace to Malaysians - the BN government are the ones who insist on putting the "race" and "religion" column onto all forms, when we have been asking what's its relevance.

In the meantime, Syed Hamid Albar continues to fumble over the arrest of Sinchew reporter, Tan Hoon Cheng. When asked about this by Malaysiakini, Syed Hamid blamed the media for highlighting the matter.
“I think I would laugh at it, but I will tell you that it was not the core and fundamental reason (for her arrest).

“That was the reason that was highlighted by the media. If you listen to what I said – there is a threat and the police perception of this threat to public order, to security. That is the reason this person was (arrested under ISA).

“Maybe they want to bring her in to ensure that nothing happens to her. I mean this is not the (only) reason – surely you are matured enough to know that this is not the reason.

“A person like me would not use an irrational thing (like this) but I was hit very badly on this thing to say that ‘Oh, it is for her protection’ when it was never the core or the fundamental issue of her arrest,” he virulently defended himself.
Frankly, his answers remained completely un-understandable and irrational, and it's a clear case whereby staying mum is probably a better prescription and talking dumb.

Gerakan Sunset

Please note before reading on that I have absolutely nothing personal against the sole Gerakan backbencher in the Parliament from Simpang Renggam, Liang Teck Meng. I've spoken to him briefly previously and he seems pretty much like a "nice guy". However, as the flag-carrier for the party seeking to so-called revive itself and its relevance in Malaysian politics, I was keenly awaiting to hear what he will say in his speech, on behalf of Gerakan, to debate the 2009 Budget.

Let me just say that I was totally disappointed, albeit not too surprised at its contents, which you can read here in the Hansard pages 125-129.

He spoke about floods in his constituency...
...masalah banjir di kawasan Simpang Renggam... Kami gembira mendengar berita bahawa sebuah syarikat jurutera perunding bernama DZA Consult Sdn. Bhd. telah dilantik...
praised his party president...
...UNESCO telah mengisytiharkan Melaka dan Georgetown sebagai tapak warisan dunia. Georgetown yang dikendalikan dengan begitu sempurna dan baik oleh Kerajaan Barisan Nasional bawah pimpinan Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon serta dasar-dasar yang munasabah untuk mengekalkan sejarah seni bina dan sebagainya. Kalau bukan jasa Kerajaan Barisan Nasional maka tidak akan wujudnya tapak warisan dunia pada hari ini.
criticised our local taxi service, and justified his Taiwan visit...
... selepas melancong ke Taiwan sebelum ini dan juga pemerhatian saya selepas melawat ke Singapura, ke Vietnam, Hong Kong dan Macau, saya dapati perkhidmatan teksi di negara kita amatlah teruk...
asked the Government to not forget to build roads in Simpang Renggam...
... saya rasa gembira bersama dengan anak Sabah dan anak Sarawak kerana kerajaan mempergiatkan usaha untuk melaksanakan projek infrastruktur untuk dua negeri ini. Saya harap kerajaan juga jangan lupa negeri Johor terutamanya kawasan Simpang Renggam....
That's it.

Nothing, absolutely nothing on the key matters which affects Malaysia, on the key issues why Gerakan was almost wiped out in the last general elections. Nothing at all from all the bravado and hype in recent weeks in the media on how Gerakan about setting up a special task force to review the Internal Security Act (ISA), Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Universities and University Colleges Act in order to "strengthen the parliamentary democratic system", or become a "louder conscience in Barisan Nasional" and have a meaningful role in the coalition. There wasn't even any real concrete critique of the Budget which we were debating, despite its many obvious flaws which were pointed out even by his own BN colleagues.

Nothing. All talk outside parliament, but not even a whimper in Parliament where it matters. Even the rowdy Kinabatangan, who is often the butt of our jokes and anger, does a hundred times better job in Parliament in acting as the "conscience of Barisan". And that says a lot.

As Sdr Lim Kit Siang has also highlighted on his blog when we are seeking endorsement to have ISA debated (note: not a request for abolishment), we are also hearing pin-drop silence from both Gerakan and MCA. Chicken.
Lim noted that the situation does not bode well for MCA and Gerakan, whose top leaders have called for a review of the ISA, that their MPs had not shown more support for the petition.

Lim said the failure of these two parties to translate the resolutions made at recent annual conferences - to push for a review of the ISA - would be tantamount to betraying their delegates.

“It means they have betrayed the mandate of the annual MCA and Gerakan delegates’ conference,” Lim said, adding that 74 Pakatan MPs signed the petition. The signatures of the remaining Pakatan MPs could not be obtained as they were overseas at the time.
Maybe, just maybe, the top leader(s) in Gerakan is still wishing for a senatorship for a ministership in the Badawi-Najib cabinet, and is clearly willing to remain in servitude to UMNO to the very end.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Our EPF Savings In Jeopardy

The Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced two days ago that the Government will inject RM5 billion into ValueCap Sdn Bhd to invest in “undervalued companies”, presumed to be those listed on Bursa Malaysia. This was part of the initial slew of high-level measures announced by the Finance Minister, who at the same time confirmed that there will be no cut in the budgeted expenditure for 2009, currently debated in Parliament.

He then further announced yesterday that the source of the RM5 billion additional investment will not be from the Government's budget but instead be sourced from Employee Provident Fund (EPF)!

To me, directing EPF to fund RM5 billion ValueCap investment to shore up Bursa Malaysia is an abuse of Government's authority and puts to risk hard-earned savings of millions of its contributors. This clearly is an example of Barisan Nasional's bad governance and damages the credibility of Datuk Seri Najib as our new Finance Minister.

This RM5 billion off-budget measure raises several very worrying questions and concerns:
  1. 1.What measures have been put in place to ensure that the RM5 billion will be utilised in a fair and transparent manner and not be used instead to bail out Government-linked or crony companies whose stock prices have plummeted during the current financial crisis? Will ValueCap for example, be investing a substantial amount into Malayan Banking Berhad who has been hit badly, to a large extent due to its purchase of Bank International Indonesia at exhorbitant prices?

  2. Secondly and more critically, how will supporting the prices of stocks listed on Bursa Malaysia actually change the fundamentals, including but not limited to the efficiency and productivity, of our economy and its companies? 

  3. Most importantly, while agencies such as the EPF are under the purview of the Finance Minister, he has no basis to direct the EPF to make particular investment decisions. EPF investments is led by an investment panel, headed by Y.Bhg. Tan Sri Samsudin b. Osman and they should be given the leeway to decide what they regard as the best investment approach to protect and grow the hard-earned savings of ordinary Malaysians.
As a trustee of members' savings, the EPF must discharge our responsibility with sincerity, honesty and trustworthiness at all times. The investment panel's key objective should be looking at making investments at best prices to maximise returns, instead of investing for the purposes of supporting the stock market which will inevitably put at risk the EPF contributors' interest.

The 2nd Finance Minister's attempt to reassure the public that ValueCap will make money for EPF isn't reassuring at all, as it fails to consider the very real possibly that ValueCap can at the same time lose money for the people!  Why must EPF be forced to invest via ValueCap when it has its own investment panel?

And since our financial institutions have been declared to be sound and financially stable, and hence not susceptible to the current global financial crisis, the Government should let the market dictate its stock prices, while the Government focuses its spending areas which will generate high economic multipliers for the economy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Public Accounts Committee - Toothless Tiger?

Further to my post earlier with regards to Deputy Prime Minister's interference over the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), there has been many comments that it's really a toothless tiger.

Well, let me put it this way, the PAC is without a doubt a "toothless tiger". It has absolutely no power take punitive actions or even for its proposals to the Government, is merely that, proposals. The Executive more often than not, ignores these proposals.

However, at the same time, the PAC does have its worth and usefulness, which similarly cannot be doubted. We can call up and questions officers of the Government and they are required to respond.

To cut a long story short, with critical information in hand, which we would otherwise have no access to, it is possible for us parliamentarians to make our statements and push our agenda. And this advantage can certainly not be underestimated. ;-)

Najib Lords Over Public Accounts Committee?

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament was one of the items I've been wanting to blog about for a few months now.

The role of the PAC is to scrutinise and monitor the utilisation of funds approved by the parliament for the use by the State. This will include any public entities and organisations, public accounts and any items which the PAC decides as fit for investigation.

The committee comprise of 13 members, of which currently, 5 are from the opposition, roughly reflecting the composition of the Parliament.

I've been appointed to the Committee since sometime in May, and I must say, there has been frequent meetings called to discuss various issues ranging from the issue of subsidies, abuse of VISA-on-arrival, illegal immigrants, performance of Khazanah companies, the Middle-Ring Road II maintenance fiasco etc. Items coming up include the Maybank BII deal, the Department of Registration (JPN) of Sabah (over denial of citizenship issue), the Telekom Malaysia RM12 billion contract and more. Frankly speaking, there are probably more issues than we can practically meet on, thanks to our Government for creating these controversies.

Due to the sensitive nature of these investigations, the independence of the PAC must be protected at all cost. Hence when Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said two days ago that "the cabinet had agreed that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) scrutinise the acquisition of the Eurocopter EC725 helicopters to replace the ageing Nuri helicopters", I immediately issued a statement stating that such a statement makes a mockery of Malaysia's parliamentary system.

In addition, on behalf of the PAC, Najib said “the PAC would begin the process as soon as possible”.

As a member of the Parliament's PAC, while we welcome the Deputy Prime Minister's willingness to cooperate with the investigations, I find it a total mockery of the parliamentary process that any scrutiny by the PAC requires the “agreement” of the Cabinet. Worse, it appears as if Datuk Seri Najib had a major say in when the investigations can proceed.

The PAC made the decision to investigate the Eurocopter deal last Wednesday and it does not require the “approval” of the Deputy Prime Minister or his cabinet. The PAC is an independent institution of the Parliament set up to scrutinse the actions of the Government, including its cabinet and hence, any inference of subservience to the Cabinet is will be completely ludicrous and render the PAC incapacitated.

The Deputy Prime Minister and the Cabinet must respect the independence and integrity of the PAC. They must stop denigrating the Parliament and its institutions to tools of the Executive to achieve their own ends. In addition, they must cooperate fully with the PAC at all times, including if the Deputy Prime Minister himself, or members of his cabinet are called to be queried on various scandals which affects them or their Ministries.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Better Mum or Dumb?

This piece of parliamentary interaction (Hansard Pages 64/65), which I thought quite amusing, happened last Thursday while Azmin Ali [PKR-GOMBAK] had his turn debating the 2009 Budget, and was emphasizing on the fact that the budget is already rendered irrelevant due to the changes in the global economic circumstances.

Dato' Abd Rahman Dahlan [BN-KOTA BELUD] was eager and anxious to interject GOMBAK a few times, and was finally given permission by the latter.
[KOTA BELUD]: Terima kasih Tuan Yang di-Pertua, terima kasih Yang Berhormat Gombak. Tadi pada mula perbahasan Yang Berhormat Gombak ada mengatakan bahawa pihak pembangkang menuntut Menteri Kewangan yang baru untuk membentangkan bajet yang baru berdasarkan keadaan ekonomi semasa dunia. Saya ingin hendak tanya kepada Yang Berhormat Gombak pada tahun 1998, pada waktu itu Ketua Pembangkang yang berangan-angan menjadi Perdana Menteri sekarang ini adalah Menteri Kewangan. Pada waktu itu situasi ekonomi dunia juga meruncing seperti sekarang ini.

Saya hendak tanya kepada Yang Berhormat Gombak, Ketua Whip yang berangan-angan menjadi Menteri Kewangan kononnya. Pada waktu itu beliau adalah setiausaha sulit kepada Menteri Kewangan tetapi pada waktu itu saya tidak teringat walau saya tahu pada waktu itu Menteri Kewangan yang Ketua Pembangkang sekarang ini tidak membentangkan bajet alternatif walaupun pada waktu itu ekonomi dunia merudum dan pasaran saham jatuh, kadar faedah melonjak angkara Ketua Pembangkang menaikkan interest rate. Pada waktu itu Kementerian Kewangan, Menteri Kewangan yang bertanggungjawab tidak membentangkan bajet alternatif. Ini adalah satu hipokrit, satu putar belit, lidah bercabang, talam dua muka. Tolong jawab.
And rightly so, GOMBAK went straight for the “kill”:
[GOMBAK]: Tuan Yang di-Pertua saya gembira kerana memberi laluan kepada Yang Berhormat Kota Belud sebab kalau dia tidak bercakap tidak nampak dia tidak cerdik. Akan tetapi bila dia buka sahaja mulut nampak kedangkalan dan kejahilan seorang pemimpin UMNO. Apa yang berlaku tahun 1997, 1998 boleh check rekod dalam Dewan Rakyat. Dalam menangani krisis kewangan pada ketika itu Menteri Kewangan membentangkan dua kali revised bajet dalam Dewan Rakyat. Masa itu dia budak hingusan di Sabah sahaja dia tidak tahu.
And I couldn't resist adding further:
[PETALING JAYA UTARA]: Terima kasih Yang Berhormat Gombak.

Adakah benar bahawa pada tahun 1997 pada masa itu kita tidak ada pergerakan harga minyak seperti pergerakan yang kita tengok hari ini. Di mana harga USD140 se barrel turun kepada USD70 . Pada masa itu harga minyak adalah hanya antara USD12 dan USD15 sahaja. Pada masa itu hasil negara kita, hasil kerajaan negara kita tidak rely kepada hasil daripada Petronas kita tidak hanya lebih kurang 10% sahaja. Tidak macam hari ini di mana Petronas sumbangannya lebih kurang 46.4% daripada kesemua hasil negara kita. So situasi sudah tidak sama. Tidak boleh gunakan isu 1997 untuk 2009. Terima kasih.
KOTA BELUD sank low in his chair after that, and not adding anything else during GOMBAK's 40 minute speech ;-)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

ISA: The Sword of Damocles

My second article for The NutGraph, the Sword of Damocles is now up.  It's about the threat of ISA that we opposition leaders faced, practically on a daily basis.  In fact, I remember quite a few times on my blogs, both on Education and here, where I've been "warned" by concerned readers to be careful with my comments because we have a ruthless and unjust government.

Was I concerned?  Not really.  But now with Teresa's arrest... possibly life will just be a little different.
I AM breathing a little easier now. Teresa Kok, Member of Parliament (MP) for Seputeh and state assemblyperson for Kinrara was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) on 12 Sept 2008 for some fictitious crime. She was released after being detained for seven days, when the police found no basis for detaining her any longer. [...]

But for a few hours and days after her arrest, my heart was beating just a tad faster. In my line of work, the ISA is like the sword of Damocles hanging over the head, ready to drop at any time. For opposition politicians like me, we tend to ignore the fact that it's there. I personally take comfort in the fact that I'm not as big a fish as I'd like to think. [...]

Teresa's arrest, however, changed all that. It demonstrated that despite not having committed any crime, as long as there are parties that wish to frame you for "crimes" you never even committed, the threat of the ISA is real and immediate.
For the full article, check it out here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gerakan Bravado

Recently, clearly still stunned from the outcome of the March 8th elections, minority parties in Barisan Nasional such as MCA, MIC and Gerakan are beginning to be more vocal, and offering more palatable soundbites.

For example, at the recently concluded Gerakan national conference, Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon today suggested that the "Barisan Nasional (BN) set up a special task force to review the Internal Security Act (ISA), Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Universities and University Colleges Act in order to strengthen the parliamentary democratic system."
He made it clear that his party was against all laws of detention without trial and called for their abolishment as one of the five resolutions on strengthening democracy and human rights passed at the national delegates (NDC) conference today.
There's no question about the statement above. As a responsible parliamentarian, it must be supported wholeheartedly.

The question then is, with all these "talk", what is Gerakan going to do about it?

Firstly, all UMNO leaders have shown total disregard to the comments made by the Gerakan President. I've not seen any, none who has not resigned from the cabinet positions anyway, Minister or UMNO leader who has come out to support, or even offer sympathy and empathy to the views presented by Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon.

Tan Sri Koh himself, has even highlighted previously that "the party will review its role in the Barisan Nasional (BN). And if the review finds Gerakan no longer has a "meaningful" role in BN, then it would pull out of the coalition."

So, may I asked the honourable President, does Gerakan still have a meaningful role in Barisan Nasional? One would have expected a more sincere and sympathetic response from their UMNO masters, in the light of the damage in the last general elections, but no, absolutely none at all.

Secondly, will the lone representative from Gerakan among the backbenchers in Parliament, use the opportunities presented by the Budget as well as the subsequent DNA and UUCA bill debate to forcefully, without unnecessary and face-saving disclaimers, reject these bills. Will Gerakan exercise their so-called "louder conscience" in Parliament and vote accordingly? Or will they in my opinion, remain as empty vassals, and remain subservient to UMNO in perpetuity.

In the interest of Malaysia and Malaysians, I hope for the former, but in reality, as much as I'm reluctant to pass judgement prematurely, it is only likely to be the latter.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Budget Deficit Target Under Threat

The Government's 2009 financial budget which had been highly aggressive with a record RM207.9 billion expenditure and overly optimistic in its revenue projection of RM176.2 billion will only lead the Government to fail to meet its budget deficit target for the 2nd year in a row.

For 2008, despite having projected a decline in budget deficit from 3.2% in 2007 to 3.1% in 2008, the Prime Minister has announced that the Government has failed to keep a lid on the deficit, which will balloon to 4.8% this year. This increase in deficit was despite an RM14.5 billion increase in revenue from the earlier projected RM147.1 billion, thanks largely to the substantial increase in oil prices in 2007/8.

For 2009, the Government has projected a 3.6% budget deficit. However, in the light of the global economic crisis triggered by the financial markets turmoil in the United States, it will no longer be possible for the deficit target to the maintained.

In the 2009 Budget, the Government has projected a substantial revenue contribution from the petroluem sector of RM75 billion, which will comprise 46.4% of the Government's total revenue. This record contribution from the sector is based solely on the assumption that the global crude oil prices remaining sky high, and the Malaysian crude, the Tapis blend will average US$125 per barrel for 2009.

Table: Revenue Contribution of petroluem sector
to the Government relative to price and output 2004-2009

(1)2008 budget estimate presented in 9/2007
(2)2008 revised budget estimated presented in 8/2008
Sources: Malaysia 2008/9, 2007/8 Economic Reports; Petronas Annual Report 2007/8
However, with the global recession and curtailed economic demand, global oil prices have fallen dramatically, with the Tapis blend now costing under US$100 per barrel. With nearly all analyst agreeing with a bleak 2009, it is now anticipated that oil prices may fall further.

The more than 20% fall in crude oil prices will have a major impact on the Government's revenue. We anticipate that at US$100 per barrel of Tapis blend, the Government will lose an estimated RM14 billion in expected revenue from the sector.

Without a any reduction in the Government's planned record expenditure, this will mean a massive increase in the Government's budget deficit to a precarious 5.4%, from its projected 3.6%.

Aside from the Petroluem income tax, the Government has also projected a RM3.3 billion or a 6.7% increase in personal, cooperatives and corporate income tax revenues despite a cut in corporate tax rate by 1%, adjustments to lower personal income taxes as well as the global economic slowdown. The government has also estimated the crude palm oil (CPO) price to average RM3,000 per barrel in 2009 although it has already dropped to less than RM1,800 today. This will only mean substantially lower profits for the Malaysian plantation companies. Any threat to these tax collections will hence further undermine the Government's ability to maintain its fiscal prudence.

As the Parliament will commence its debate on the 2009 Financial Budget from Monday next week onwards, the new Minister of Finance, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak should table a new, revised and improved financial budget in parliament. This is especially required in the significant events which had occurred since the former Finance Minister had presented it in Parliament on 29th August, including the collapse of the global financial markets as well as commodity prices.

As part of the “new” budget, the new Minister, as his first task in Parliament to slash operational expenditure which has exploded in recent years under Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's administration, from RM80.5 billion in 2004 to RM154.2 billion in 2009, or by 91.6%.

In the light of the volatile economic circumstances, Datuk Seri Najib must not only spew rhetoric about Malaysia's sound economic fundamentals and be in denial about the economic fallout which is about to hit us very hard, but instead take action and demonstrate his ability to soundly managing the country's financials to reassure investors and return the loss of confidence in Malaysia's economy.

Otherwise, the failure to even defend the budget deficit in his first year as the Minister of Finance will seriously erase any credibility he may have in managing Malaysia's economy.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

New Economic Advisor @ DAP

There's a new economic advisor to DAP secretary-general in town. It's a position I've held for the past 18 months helping the party boss and DAP itself with economic policy-making. Well, in the light of the developments over the past 6 months since elections - the fact that I've been elected an MP, and am also now the DAP National Publicity Secretary - it's time for new blood to take over ;-)

Let me then introduce to you our latest "catch", Teh Chi-Chang.

Chi-Chang, 37, was the Director, Head of Malaysia Equity Research before being promoted to the Director for Utilities and Media, Asia-Pacific Equity Research at Citibank Investment Research, his last held position.

Prior to his experience at Citibank, he was the Executive Director cum Head of Research at Hwang-DBS Vickers Research in the country.

He received his MBA from Cambridge University in 2002, is a certified Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and graduated with a first-class honours degree from University of Warwick in Accounting & Financial Analysis in 1993.

His introduction in his new blog states that:
I decided it was time to put more "life" into the work-life balance and give back to society after 14 years in the equity investment world. I have been lucky - I have had to work very hard but scholarships and good jobs have come my way. It is my dream that all Malaysians will have the opportunity to develop to their fullest potentials. My contribution to realising that dream is sharing my economic and investment expertise with those working to make a difference.

Hence my decision to sign up as Economic Advisor to DAP Secretary-General and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. Reasoned debate backed by sharp analysis and incisive critiques will make for better decisions and a thriving nation. And I hope my actions will inspire other Malaysians to also join in and share their talents.
His credentials are certainly impeccable and I'm certain that he will contribute greatly to DAP's policy-making credentials and competence in the months and years to come.

He blogs @ Analyst At Large, and he has also written on why he has decided to join DAP. Once again, a very very big welcome! ;-)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

MIC Makan Padi

I had to chuckle when I saw this translated report from the Tamil press in the Star today. It was said that:
The MIC will continue to monitor the development of Tamil schools in the country and extend its help in their growth.

the MIC, through its president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, was looking into the development of all Tamil schools in the country and also ensuring speedier action in rebuilding them.
Umm... yes, they'll certainly keep watch to look out for land allocated for Tamil schools by developers, which can be alienated to MIC, oops, or is it to Samy Vellu?

Can you trust them to look after your padi?

Sightings in Beijing (I)

The imposing presence of this ancient incense-burning pot
@ Hongluo Temple in the outskirts of Beijing

Guarding the Supreme Harmony Gate (Taihemen) @ the Forbidden City

While these pair guards the Heavenly Purity Gate (Chaoqingmen) @ the Forbidden City

Let's learn the pose in preparation for 916... oh, are we too late? ;-)

The imposing 15th century Arrow Gates of Qianmen of the Ming Dynasty inner city walls
overlooking the newly renovated heritage street along Qianmen Dalu

The Temple of Heaven Park was a hive of exercise and activities in the morning

Early morning Chinese Chess @ the Temple of Heaven

Musical basking galore all over the Temple of Heaven park

The Red Gates with Lion knobs stands between
all who enters and exits in Imperial China

The Olympic Badminton Drum outside the Temple of Heaven

年年有余 - As literal as you can get ;-)