Friday, October 30, 2009

UMNO Tells MCA & Gerakan "Shame on You!"

This has to be one of the highlights of last week's parliamentary session, when a UMNO long-time backbencher from Sri Gading went on a rampage for 5 minutes against the MCA President who lost the confidence of his members, and the Gerakan President, who failed his own KPI! Enjoy! (It's really quite funny!)

Make no mistake, Sri Gading's also the Permanent Chairman of UMNO!

15,000 Bibles Seized

This article really says a lot about the state of religious freedom in our country, especially on those "managing" religious freedom at the Ministry of Home Affairs headed by Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein today, and Datuk Syed Hamid Albar before that. Read also a similar story reported by Associated Press.

More than 15,000 Bibles in Bahasa Indonesia have been detained by the government this past year.

On Sept 11, Gideons International consignment of 5,000 Indonesia Testaments (Vest) and 5,000 Indonesia/English Bilingual Testaments that Alpha Publisher sent from Jakarta to Kuching were detained by the Malaysian Home Affairs Ministry (Publication).

While in March this year, 5,100 Bibles in Bahasa Indonesia ordered by the Bible Society of Malaysia were also detained by the same ministry.

The reason given for the detention of the Scriptures was because they contain the banned words of Allah, Kaabah, Baitumal and Solat.

“The Borneo Evangelical Church (S.I.B) had written an appeal letter dated Sept 17 to the Home Affairs Ministry in Putrajaya for the release of this consignment. We are now waiting for the answer of the appeal,” said Low Boon Leong, National Field Officer of The Gideons International.

“Even now as the books are detained, we have to pay for the warehouse charges which cost a fair sum of money,” he added. “In the event that we are unsuccessful in this appeal, we will have to send this consignment back to Alpha Publisher in Jakarta,” Low explained.

Rev Wong from the Bible Society of Malaysia said that besides asking the people to pray, the society has written an appeal letter which will be hand delivered to the Prime Minister by representatives of the Christian Council of Malaysia (CCM) and the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM).

He added that there was a high demand for Bibles in Bahasa Indonesia and appealed to the ministry to release the Bibles as soon as possible.

The Christian Council of Malaysia is following up on their appeal to the Malaysian Government to release these Scriptures.

Budget 2010: General Elections 2011?

Regular readers would have noted my constant laments on the BN Governments sky-high operating expenditures over the past decade, and especially in the last 5-6 years.

Hence as the government coffers ran out of money, in part due to having spent every cent of our billions of windfall revenues from the oil and gas sector over the past few years, and in part due to falling oil prices which affects the current government tax collections, it was not a surprise that in the Budget 2010, operational expenditure has been cut by 13.7% from RM160 billion to RM138 billion.

While it was certainly not a "willing" cut in operational expenditure, it is still a welcome cut as our government's operational expenditure had been spiralling out of control.

However, it was still interesting to note that while almost every line item within the Operational Expenditure allocations were cut, 2 related items - "emoluments" and "pensions" - increased significantly.

Operational expenditure classified under "Others" which is essentially discretionary spending by the Prime Minister's Department, has been cut from RM31 billion to RM11 billion. "Supplies and Services" was cut by 22.2% from RM26.8 billion to RM20.8 billion. "Subsidies" were cut by 14.7% from RM24.5 billion to RM20.9 billion.

However, "Emoluments", the largest single component of our operational expenditure, increased from RM38.0 billion to RM42.2 billion, an increase of 11% or RM4.2 billion. Similarly, pensions and gratuities increased from RM13.5 billion to RM15.9 billion, an increase of RM2.5 billion or 17.9%. This sizeable increase in emoluments and pensions is certainly out of the ordinary, and certainly not related to organic pay increments.

I've often criticised the size of the civil service, and its ratio to the population being one of the highest in the world. Hence the sizeable increase in allocation for emoluments and pensions has got to do with either:
  • a. The Government intends to drastically expand the already bloated civil service further, which in my opinion is very unlikely, especially with the registered intent to increase privatisation initiatives... (but then again... ;-)), OR

  • b. The Government has budgeted for a sizeable bonus to be announced and paid towards the end of 2010.
Now, why would there be such a big bonus at the end of 2010? You've got it. It will be in preparation for the elections to be called in 2011, probably in the 2nd quarter, not long after the 3 year anniversary of March 2008 tsunamic elections.

I questioned this in parliament during my Budget speech, and the New Straits Times picked it up ;-)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Budget 2010: Will It Stick?

I will be raising this issue in my budget speech today, assuming all goes according to plan. The parliament spends weeks debating the budget each year. The Barisan Nasional MPs will of course often go out of their way to "praise" the magnificent budget. While the opposition MPs will try to eke out the weaknesses and challenge the Ministers in parliament. The Budget is then without exception, passed without any amendments, as law.

The problem is not so much that the Budget is passed without any amendments (i.e., Parliament becomes a rubber stamp). The bigger problem is, despite the Budget getting passed annually as Law, it gets trampled upon once it hits the Government departments. As highlighted annually by the Auditor-General's office, the Government significantly over-spends whatever has been budgeted, alters the use of funds without necessary authority, and most obviously, abused the Budget by purchasing items which are either not needed or at astronomical prices.

The question then is, what then is left of the sanctity of the Parliament? Below is a statement which I had issued last week before the Budget was announced seeking that the Prime Minister will announce ways in the Budget to enforce financial discipline, but sadly, there's no mention of financial discipline in the Budget 2010. Most assuredly, come next year, we'll find out that the Government has once again, overspent the limits.

The culture of poor management, unplanned and unapproved expenditure has resulted in the persistent excess spending over annual government operational budget

The Auditor-General's report has over the past few years consistently highlighted the persistent and rampant unplanned and unapproved over-expenditure and cost-overruns by the Government departments and ministries. The year 2008 was no different, as the Auditor-Genera's report is littered with such examples of poor management by the various government departments and ministries.

Among the more glaring examples include:
  • the purchase of equipment at wildly inflated prices by the Ministry of Human Resources, such as the Miri training institute (ILP) paying nearly 3,000% above market price for a RM990 pole platform or the Kepala Batas ILP paying 800% above market price for a RM1,500 cabinet.

  • The purchase of a piece of land measuring 6.86 hectares in Balakong by Syarikat Prasarana under the Ministry of Finance at up to 40% higher price than recommended by an independent valuer in July 2008. Syarikat Prasanara paid RM31.03 million despite the RM22.17 million valuation conducted. The piece of land has yet to be used to date.

  • The Federal Territories state development agency (PPN) was found to have over the 3 consecutive years audited expended up to 59% more than the value of projects which have been approved.

  • The Ministry of Education paid RM57,493 for landscaping supplies and works which cost between 470% to 880% more than the highest prices offered in another quotation sourced by the Audit-General's office.

  • It was also disclosed that 9 ministries had exceeded their approved and budgeted expenditure by more than RM3.6 billion; for e.g., the Ministry of Education exceeded budget by RM1.24 billion, Finance by RM772 million, Health by RM690 million and Defence by RM658 million.
The result of the government's excesses, poor financial discipline and abuses, over the past 9 years since the year 2000, the Government's operational expenditure has always exceeded the Budget passed by the parliament by at least 5%, often making a complete mockery of the annual Budget debate by the country's legislature. The actual government operational expenditure versus the government's budgeted expenditure since 2000 is illustrated in the table below (in billions):

(Click table for larger image)

Therefore, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, who is both the Finance and Prime Minister must take concrete actions to stem and check the increasingly endemic financial ill-discipline in government departments to ensure that every cent of the rakyat's money is properly expended in accordance to approved and budgeted limits. This pervasive culture have created additional fiscal strains to the government coffers which hampers the Government's effort to stimulate our economy with the widening budget deficits. Officers who have been unable to comply to expenditure limits, and who are clearly responsible for reckless expenditure as per some of the examples above must face serious action such as sacking or suspension to ensure that such mistakes or abuses are not repeated.

Otherwise, the complete lack of regard to the annual approved budget in parliament over the past 9 years have rendered the budget debate nearly meaningless as whatever allocations approved by the Parliament gets completely ignored, and the actual expenditures are significantly different from the one approved. In the coming budget announcement, to redeem the credibility of the proposed budget, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak must hence not only announce his proposed expenditure, especially in the light of the need for expenditure cuts, he must also announce specific steps to be taken which will rein in the reckless disregard by the Government departments to ensure that the targets and objectives of the Budget are met.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Budget 2010: Goodbye Credit Cards...

I wrote a quirky personal piece for TheNutGraph with regards to the Credit Card tax to be implemented from 2010 onwards.

I must say that Budget 2010, announced by Datuk Seri Najib Razak on 23 Oct 2009, contained quite a few surprises for better or for worse. And my observation is from someone who has poured through the government's budget over the past five years.

For one, I'll have to start picking up the phone over the next few weeks to cancel my many credit cards. An unwelcome announcement was that beginning 1 Jan 2010, we will be taxed for every card we own, regardless of whether we are or aren't in debt.

At RM50 per card, and RM25 per supplementary card, that's probably enough to set me back at least RM700 per annum. Yes, I have indeed a whole string of credit cards, but thankfully without any debt attached to them.

Read the full article at TheNutGraph ;-)

Najib The Public Transport Driver

Another letter from Moaz, the public transport activist on the fact that everything 'public transport' is in effect in the Prime Minister's hands.

Most Malaysians are now aware of the poor state of our public transport. Even if they do not experience the congestion, delays and overcrowding on a daily basis, they are probably familiar with the situation and they can probably talk for hours on the causes and the effects.

Some might blame it on the division of responsibilities among 13 different government agencies. Others might focus on the competition between companies. Still others may call for LRT extensions or other solutions. But everyone wonders who is supposed to be taking responsibility for fixing the problems in our public transport.

The answer is as interesting as it is surprising; when it comes to public transport in Malaysia, it is our Prime Minister Dato' Seri Najib who is firmly in the 'driver's seat.' He also bought the bus, planned the routes, and is working to get all parties talking to each other to improve public transport.

Most Malaysians may not be aware that Dato' Seri Najib was appointed as Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Public Transport back in 2007. The Cabinet Committee was the first government organization that was really tasked to improve public transport from the low 16% usage to a higher 40% usage. And while the Cabinet Committee does not meet that often, they are the most important public transport body in the country for the moment.

As Finance Minister, Dato' Seri Najib is responsible for the Ministry of Finance, the owner of infrastructure company Prasarana (which owns the assets of the RapidKL LRT lines, KL monorail line, RapidKL buses, and even the Langkawi Cable Car). Dato' Seri Najib is responsible for ensuring that Prasarana is buying the best-quality buses, and that RapidKL is planning the best routes and operating in the most efficient, service-oriented and cost-effective way.

Anyone who has read the Auditor General's recent report would know that Prasarana has done a poor job with procurement in the past, and there is general agreement that RapidKL is not doing what they promised - so we expect that Prime Minister Dato' Seri Najib will have to shake things up a little bit.

As Prime Minister, Dato'Seri Najib was responsible for introducing a Key Result Area for Public Transport, with specific goals to improve public transport to 25% usage in urban areas (down from the earlier 40% goal). And while we may be disappointed that the goal was reduced, we are happy to see that significant attention is being given to improving public transport, with the Performance Management and Delivery Unit engaged in a lab to find solutions for the KTM Krisis, and the Minister of Transport chairing the Urban Public Transport panel.

Lastly, it appears that Prime Minister Dato' Seri Najib has taken it upon himself to become the Chair of the Land Transport Commission when it is formed in 2010. TRANSIT suggested that the Prime Minister be the person in charge of the Land Transport Commission in a paper written for the Finance Ministry back in 2008.

What this means is that Prime Minister Dato' Seri Najib will be responsible for unraveling the complicated relationships between the 13 different agencies and pushing forward with a positive agenda for public transport in Malaysia. It will not be easy for him because he will be taking on 4 different and significant roles.

Dato' Seri Najib will have to guide the Land Transport Commission into existence, navigate a treacherous political minefield to bring 13 different agencies in line, dissolve the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board, improve the public consultation process, win back the support of a jaded public, and make sure that the bus operators and taxi drivers behave.

On top of all of that, he will have to find the money to build public transport networks that serve all Malaysians, not just the residents of KL, and ensure that the money is partitioned out fairly and reasonably and not overspent or wasted or lost to corruption.

It is certainly not going to be an easy task. But hopefully, the people will give Dato' Seri Najib all the support and feedback and suggestions that he needs, through:

letters to the Malaysian media; and
comments on his blog:


Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
on behalf of TRANSIT

Budget 2010: Goodies for IT?

The following are my comments quoted in an article by ZDNet Asia.

...however, not everyone were impressed by the IT-related goodies dished out by Najib's first national budget since assuming premiership. Opposition party, Democratic Action Party (DAP), noted that the government failed in its target to achieve 50 percent broadband penetration by 2008.

"And as Najib admits, [broadband penetration] lags at only 25 percent today," Tony Pua, the DAP's national publicity secretary, told ZDNet Asia. "The recent Oxford-Cisco Broadband Quality study placed us at an embarrassing 48th out of 66 countries analyzed."

During his address Friday, Najib said Malaysia's broadband penetration rate was 25 percent, compared with Singapore's 88 percent, Japan's 64 percent and South Korea's 90 percent.

Pua said in an e-mail interview: "The high-speed broadband project is a recycled project announcement as it has been in existence since 2007. The fact that the prime minister has to include this project again in his 2010 budget speech shows a complete lack of ideas as to how we are to achieve the revised 50 percent goal by 2010."

He added that the tax relief on broadband subscription benefits only some 1.8 million or so tax payers, who are among the higher income group and hence, are likely already broadband users.

"What would have [been more effective] would be direct grants or subsidies to new subscribers, which have not signed up for broadband accounts," he said.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stop Bleeding Petronas Dry

This statement was released before the budget was announced on Friday by Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak. Unfortunately, there's no measures mentioned in the budget to prudently manage our oil wealth.

The Government must not bleed Petronas dry or kill the goose that lays the golden eggs

The Government has over the past decade funded the drastic increase in budget expenditure and its corresponding deficit with the phenomenal increase in oil and gas revenues from Petronas, as a result of the sharp increase in global petroleum prices which increased from a low of US$16 per barrel and hit the peak of US$150 in July 2008.

The contribution by Petronas to Federal Government has hence increased from RM19 billion in 2004 to RM43.9 billion in 2006 to an expected RM67.8 billion in 2009. In percentage terms, oil and gas revenue constituted 20.1% of Federal Government revenue in 2004, and this reliance increased to an estimated 43.5% in 2008. This contribution comprises of dividends, taxes, royalties and export duties payable to the Federal Government.

In fact, for 2009 in dividends alone, Petronas increased its dividends by 25% or RM6 billion to RM30 billion from 2008 despite a 14 per cent decline in net profit to RM52.5 billion due to lower crude oil prices and higher operating costs.

On top of this, royalties are also paid to the state governments, with the exception of Kelantan, which amounted to RM2.3 billion in 2004 and increased annually to RM6.2 billion in 2009.

The resulting impact is that there is a drastic reduction in retained profits by Petronas for its reinvestments. Reinvestments by Petronas is imperative as the Malaysian oil reserves are expected to only last for another 20 years or so. Without the necessary reinvestments, whether to discover new oil fields in Malaysia or to secure oil production rights in other oil producing countries, Petronas which is currently ranked 80th largest corporation in the world by Fortune 500, will be with inevitable decline.

However, due to the increasing contributions to the increasing appetite of the Federal Government, the amount of retained profits for reinvestment has declined significantly over the past few years. The percentage of retained profits for future investments has declined from 42.5% in 2005 to 31.2% in 2007 to on 21.1% in 2009 (see Table 1). This trend is extremely alarming as most of the oil majors in the world such as ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Texaco and ConocoPhillips retain more than 50% of their annual earnings for future investments.

Table 1: Petronas Profit Utilisation 2005-2009 (in billions)
(Click for table a larger image)

The reckless increase in the Government's operating expenditure from RM80 billion in 2004 to RM161 billion in 2009, and the resulting need to sustain and maintain our big government has resulted in the inevitable temptation to dip into the Petronas coffers. What is worse is when the monies are abused and used for wasteful expenditures as highlighted in the annual Auditor-General's reprot. The outcome in the longer term be killing Malaysia's goose that lays the golden eggs.

We call upon the Prime Minister to announce in the 2010 budget measures and legislation to ensure that our golden goose gets the necessary protection and will not be recklessly abused.

1.We should set a medium term goal of Petronas retaining at least 50% of its profits for future reinvestments.

2.In addition, even the revenue contribution to the Federal Government must be managed and controlled to ensure that the windfall revenue are invested in economically productive and necessary sectors such as human capital, renewable energy and green technology.

3.In better economic times when the growth rate is above 3% per annum, at least 20% of these contributions should be “saved” in a National Stimulus Fund for use during economically challenging times.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Budget Preview: CNA Report

Below is my comments from the Channel News Asia preview report on the Budget announcement for later today. Called me an 'economist' instead of a 'politician'! Hah! ;-)

Tony Pua, an economist, said: "One of the problems Najib faces now is he's in a scenario where he's between a hot rock and a hard place. Najib is stuck because he can't find the money. He knows he needs to spend. He needs to boost and continue to sustain the deficit.

"But because in the previous years, there's no surplus, no savings, he's not able to find the money, especially when oil prices halved from the peak."

Government sources said the 2010 deficit may be reduced to 5.5 per cent of the GDP, so as not to affect Malaysia's sovereign ratings. There are hints the government could roll back billions of dollars spent in subsidies and cut back on expenditure by 15 per cent.

Mr Pua continued: "More importantly, where the money is spent needs to be measured carefully. Otherwise, you can spend all the money, but it's not going to productive sectors. So you end up burning all the cash.

"We believe that he needs to bite the bullet now, put in measures to strengthen the government institutions and the financial management of the economy."

There may be disappointment for the over one million strong civil servants hoping for bonuses.

But Friday's budget will still be keenly watched, as the Prime Minister outlines how he intends to steer the economy in the medium to long term.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Budget 2010 Forum cum Books Launch

Budget 2010 Forum cum Books Launch

by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)


by DAP Economic Bureau

Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak will be announcing the country's budget for 2010 on Friday, 23 October 2009 in Parliament. This will also represent his very first budget as the Prime Minister, and it comes at a most critical time as the country seek to recover from one of the worst global recessions in living memory. How will the Budget affect the man-on-the-street? What is the outlook for the Malaysian economy? Has the new Prime Minister done all the necessary to transform Malaysia's economy?

The event will serve as a twin launch of the books listed above, one, a “Dummies” guide to understanding our national budget, and the other, an in-depth analysis of what should be done; which caters to readers who are both new to finance and economics or those who are well-versed in the subject.

In conjunction with the launch, a forum will be held to discuss the Budget 2010:
Date : 26 October 2009 (Mon)
Time : 8pm
Venue : KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall , Jalan Maharajalela
The Panelists for the forum will include:
  • Lim Guan Eng, Penang Chief Minister
  • Tony Pua, MP for Petaling Jaya Utara
  • Charles Santiago, MP for Klang
  • Liew Chin-Tong, MP for Bukit Bendera
  • Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad, MP for Kuala Selangor
  • William Leong, MP for Selayang
All are welcome and attendance is free. You will also be able to get special discounted rates for the books at the launch, autographed by the party leaders.

For more information, please contact Carmen Leong @ leongooikuan(at)gmail(dot) com

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why Can't Petrol Stations Sell At Lower Prices?

MACC Must Investigate UMNO Chiefs

SPRM perlu menyiasat kes penyalahgunaan kuasa dan penyelewengan peruntukan kawasan parlimen oleh Ahli Parlimen Barisan Nasional dan Ketua Bahagian UMNO

Setiap kawasan parlimen telah diperuntukkan sekurang-kurangnya RM500,000 setiap tahun dalam program penyenggaraan infrastruktur awam (PIA), infrastruktur asas (PIAS) dan projek pembangunan kecil, luar bandar kawasan parlimen (PEKA). Untuk kawasan yang diwakili oleh Barisan Nasional, peruntukan ini adalah dikuasai oleh ahli parlimen, manakala untuk kawasan yang dikuasai pembangkang, peruntukan ini adalah dikuasai oleh Bahagian UMNO ataupun Barisan Nasional tempatan. Peruntukan ini adalah disediakan oleh Kementerian Kewangan dan diuruskan oleh Unuit Penyelerasan Perlaksanaan, Jabatan Perdana Menteri melalui Pejabat Daerah ataupun Pejabat Pembangunan Negeri (PPN).

Antara 93,432 projek yang telahpun diluluskan daripada tahun 2005 sehingga Nov 2008, walaupun Jabatan Audit Negara hanya membuat lawatan ke 96 tapak projek, Ketua Audit Negara telah mendapati banyak masalah dalam sekurang-kurangnya 10 projek. Antara isu terpenting yang tertimbul adalah penyalahgunaan kuasa dan penyelewengan peruntukan dan pengurusan projek yang menglibatkan UMNO Bahagian tempatan.

Misalnya, Jabatan Audit Negara telah mendapati bahawa pembinaan bumbung gelanggang futsal di Pusat Khidmat Masyarakat Seputeh, Kuala Lumpur yang siap pada Dis 2007 dengan kos RM98,372 terbazir kerana kemudahan tidak digunakan dan terdapat pokok menjalar. Begitu juga dengan pembinaan tempat duduk penonton di Taman Danau Desa, di kawasan Seputeh yang siap pada Jun 2007 dengan kos RM48,960. Penjelasan yang diberikan oleh PPN adalah bahawa ia “telah digunakan sepenuhnya setelah selesai pemilihan semula Ketua UMNO Bahagian Seputeh pada November 2008”.

Di Taman Danau Desa, Seputeh, Kuala Lumpur, didapati 3 projek iaitu membina gelanggang tertutup bernilai RM134,463, dewan orang ramai (RM130,313) dan pusat rekreasi (RM135,653) yang telah ditawarkan kepada 3 kontraktor yang berasingan pada Sep 2007 tidak dilaksanakan. Semakan Audit mendapati ketiga-tiga kontraktor tersebut telah membina satu dewan orang ramai yang bernilai RM400,429. Gelanggang tertutup dan pusat rekreasi tidak dibina. Penjelasan yang diberikan oleh PPN adalah bahawa “pergabungan ini dibuat atas permohonan Ketua Bahagian UMNO Seputeh”.

Jabatan Audit Negara juga mendapati bahawa bangunan orang ramai di Taman Sri Endah, Bandar Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur yang dibina dengan harga RM98,825 dan siap pada Okt 2007 tidak digunakan. Penjelasan yang diberikan adalah bahawa kemudahan tersebut “telah digunakan sepenuhnya setelah selesai pemilihan semula ketua UMNO Bahagain Bandar Tun Razak”.

Dalam satu kes lagi, satu tempat asuhan kanak-kanak dan peralatan permainan serta kerja berkaitan di Taman Tenaga, Bandar Tun Razak telahpun siap dibina pada Okt 2007 dengan harga RM179,126. Akan tetapi, lawatan audit mendapati penggunaan bangunan ini tidak mengikut tujuan asal. Sekali lagi dalam penjelasan yang diberikan, “memandangkan saiz ruang yang sempit dan kegagalan memenuhi kriteria untuk dijadikan pusat asuhan kanak-kanak, Ketua UMNO Bahagian Bandar Tun Razak telah menukarkan fungsi asal bangunan berkenaan...”

Kes-kes yang dikemukakan oleh Jabatan Audit Negara di atas dengan secara langsung telah menunjukkan penyalahgunaan kuasa dan penyelewengan kerana penggunaan wang kerajaan telah dikuasai oleh Ketua UMNO bahagian tempatan yang tidak mempunyai sebarang berkedudukan dalam pengurusan kerajaan.

Ini juga membuktikan apa yang dinafikan selama ini, iaitu peruntukan kawasan parlimen yang tidak diwakili oleh ahli Barisan Nasional adalah dikuasai oleh Ketua UMNO Bahagian dan Kerajaan Barisan Nasional telah mempergunakan wang rakyat untuk kepentingan UMNO.

Pemeriksaan Audit juga telah mengemukakan banyak lagi kes-kes projek yang ditukar skop serta-merta tanpa kelulusan, projek yang lewat disiap, pembiayaan yang melebihi peruntukan dan kemudahan yang tidak digunakan. Kes-kes ini yang berlaku dengan begitu kerap telah menimbulkan kecurigaan terhadap pegawai-pegawai PPN dan juga peranan ahli-ahli parlimen Barisan Nasional tempatan.

Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia (SPRM) perlu menyiasat kesemua kes beratus-ratus ribu ringgit yang telah dikemukakan oleh Jabatan Audit Negara dengan bukti yang cukup kukuh dengan secepat mungkin, dan bukan sebaliknya membuang masa dengan “fishing expedition” secara buta-buta terhadap wakil rakyat Pakatan Rakyat tanpa sebarang asas mengenai isu peruntukan kawasan.

Jika Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak benar-benar iklas dengan seruannya di mana “rakyat didahulukan, pencapaian diutamakan”, kes-kes yang dikemukakan mestilah disiasat dengan sepenuhnya dan amalan penyalahgunaan kuasa UMNO ini mestilah dihentikan serta-merta.

Friday, October 16, 2009

UK Racist Party Forced To Accept Non-Whites

Will the same happen here for all our race based parties? Whatever happened to the Race Relations Act which Barisan Nasional agreed to, and subsequently reject without reasons? Check out UK's race relations act here, where "direct race discrimination" occurs when a person treats another person less favourably on the grounds of colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin or "indirect race discrimination" when conditions are set where a smaller proportion from the victim’s racial group can comply with, and cannot be shown to be justifiable irrespective of the colour, race, nationality or national and ethnic origins of the person to whom it is applied.

Anyway, the race-based far right British National Party (BNP) was forced to accept non-Whites by the Equality and Human Right Commission (unlike our Suhakam which is toothless) and the UK Courts.
During the case, the commission argued it had a statutory duty, under the Equality Act 2006, to enforce provisions of the act and to work towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination. This duty includes preventing discrimination by political parties.

The commission sent a letter on 22 June 2009 to the BNP setting out its concerns about its constitution and membership criteria which appear to restrict membership to those within what the BNP regards as particular "ethnic groups" and those whose skin colour is white. This exclusion is contrary to the Race Relations Act, which the party is legally obliged to comply with.

The commission asked the BNP to provide written undertakings it would amend its constitution and membership criteria to ensure, and to make transparent, that it does not discriminate against potential or actual members on racial grounds.

In an order issued at the Central London county court this morning, the BNP agreed to use all reasonable endeavours to revise its constitution so that it does not discriminate, either directly or indirectly on any "protected characteristic" – for example on the grounds of race, ethnic or religious status – as defined in clause 4 of the equality bill.
Is this the reason why Malaysia can't have a race relations act? Because UMNO, MCA and MIC will cease to exist based on their race-based ideals thereafter?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Halal Chinese Food Caterer Wanted

Hi guys,

I need help. I'm looking for a reliable halal caterer to cater food for our DAP Damansara Dinner function in December @ Dewan Banquet MBPJ. The one we used for last year served terrible food and hence our search for a new one.

However, we are finding it very difficult to find a halal caterer who can serve a 8 course Chinese-style dinner... so if any of you out there knows anyone at all, please don't hesitate to contact my assistant, Carmen Leong @ leongooikuan (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks so much in advance! ;-)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Khairy Asks "Who is DAP?"

Many would have read Khairy's UMNO Youth speech by now. It contains some marked changes from UMNO Youth speeches from the past. Less "ketuanan Melayu", more "open competition". Whether the rank and file will pay heed to his "clarion call" will determine if UMNO survives or perish.

But the speech wasn't all about the need for change, he took the opportunity to hentam the Pakatan Rakyat parties as well. More specifically, he whacked DAP:
...who is DAP, really? Masking its almost mono-racial character with the chimera of a multi-racial platform - when in truth, DAP's priorities are unmistakably racial.

"After 40 years of Lim Kit Siang being a parliamentarian, the opening of one Malay branch was deemed fit to shout about, as though it was an astounding achievement. DAP is multi-racial only in name, for its actual agenda is couched in racist sentiment," he said.
I hereby openly challenge Khairy to name 1 instance where Lim Kit Siang or DAP uttered anything that is remotely racist. All our statements are available publicly both on our blogs, or the party's official website. Khairy should point out any article or statement in there by our leaders, which are so called "couched in racist sentiment" to back his claims.

Unless of course Khairy feels that when we talk of UMNO leaders being corrupt is a racist statement, or when we berate the stench from the RM12.5 billion PKFZ scandal as racist, or when we seek to protect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of minorities of their freedom as racist. Then, I would have really got nothing left to say.

Otherwise, if Khairy is unable to bring up at all any iota of evidence that DAP is racist, he should just go hide in his corner and play with his marbles, and stop making baseless statements to stir racial sentiments.

Khairy should look at himself and UMNO in the mirror, and count for himself the number of times the term "Malay" is stirred, and the manner in which all policies and speeches revolves around the race supremacy and dominance concept, instead of the Malaysian concept, and then decide who is the real racist party in this country.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Public Transport - Penny Wise and Pound Foolish?

Below is an open letter by regular commentator on Malaysia's public transport system, and a founder of TRANSIT Malaysia.

In the past 5 year that I have been watching and analysing public transport in Malaysia, the phrase "penny wise and pound foolish" keeps coming to mind.

This phrase refers to the idea that someone can be so focused on small amounts of money that they do not pay attention to the larger amounts of money that are being lost. And this description is especially apt in Malaysia where we attempt to save millions of ringgit on public transport but end up losing billions of ringgit as a result.

The government of Malaysia never wanted to take up the cost of investing in and operating a public transport system. For that reason, the bus industry was largely privatized. This system operated well for many years, until the government made two crucial decisions that hurt public transport. First, the government invested in private cars, and second, as part of an effort to increase "competition" and cut costs, the government allowed too many companies to enter the public transport markets.

The result of the government's 'penny wise' decision to not invest or operate public bus transport led to massive congestion in Malaysian cities that has cost the local and national economy billions of ringgit every year in terms of lost productivity, wasted time and air pollution (among others).

Instead of spending a little bit of money and increasing regulation and enforcement, the government made the 'pound foolish' decision of taking over bus companies to create Intrakota - which they then merged with CityLiner to become RapidKL. And congestion has only gotten worse.

When it was recognized that there was a need for a higher level of public transport in the form of a rail network, the government allowed KTMB to introduce the KTM Komuter service. Back in the 1990s the government and KTMB were quite "penny-wise" by using existing tracks, building simple stations with small roofs and stairs but no lifts, and buying a small fleet of 60 Electric Multiple Unit trains.

The result of the government's 'penny wise' decision to build the KTM Komuter service at the most basic level has led to massive congestion on the KTM Komuter service as demand has increased by 200% while the number of operating trains has decreased by 65%. KTM Komuter is carrying 3 times the number of passengers with 1-half of the trains. And yet, the government still shows no interest in investing in the new Komuter carriages that are desperately needed.

When it was recognized that there was a need for mass-transit in the cities, the government allowed private companies to take charge of the planning, financing and operations of the LRT and monorail systems. Back then the government was not ready to take on the massive costs of investment in "light" rapid transit, so allowing private companies to take charge reduced the amount of money the government would have to spend.

The result of the government's 'penny wise' decision to let private companies take charge is that the Klang Valley has 3 separate public transport lines that are poorly integrated and use different technologies, and that all 3 companies were unable to meet their projected revenues, which required costly government takeovers.

Today Prasarana has taken over the operations of STAR, PUTRA, CityLiner and Intrakota and replaced them with the RapidKL public transport service and demand for public transport has declined to 16% in Malaysia and less than 20% in the Klang Valley - and the economic losses have continued to mount.

Unfortunately, we have not learned our lesson and continue to apply the same 'penny-wise, pound-oolish' approach. The KRA Urban Transport Panel knows that solutions have been clearly identified but they are still asking the operators for 'feedback' - continuing the 'penny-wise' approach. The public blames KTMB for inefficiency and suggest that they should be 'penny wise' and cut costs but they forget that the problems are caused by the lack of investment - which is only going to cost more in the future. Other people are expressing a 'penny wise' concern that Prasarana has moved to a new office at Bangsar, but they are not concerned about the RM15 billion cost of the proposed LRT lines.
The only way we are going to see real improvement in public transport is when we stop being 'penny wise' and 'pound foolish' and start investing money in public transport to build a system that is well-planned, efficient and very, very effective.


Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

DAP Alternative Budget 2010 Launched

Picture courtesy of The Edge

A little late with my update, but as you may well have known, the Alternative Budget for 2010 prepared by DAP has been officially launched. You may also download a PDF copy of it here.

There has been a fair bit of media reports and commentary on the budget as well. My favourite of all the extensive reporting will be the one written by Hazlan Zakaria and Aidila Razak of Malaysiakini entitled "DAP unveils 'rakyat first budget'". The funniest bit of the report was when it was written that I "claimed that state governments are held hostage by the 'Wimps and fancies of the federal government.'" (!) I was referring to "whims", but I'm happy to accept the "wimps" of the federal government as well ;-).

Other reports written by Malaysiakini are here - "DAP's shadow budget right on the money" (special thanks to Dr Lim Teck Ghee for his positive remarks ;-)), "Oil wealth to fuel DAP's shadow budget" and "DAP announces 'alternative' budget for all Malaysians".

The Malaysian Insider has also it's fair share of reporting - "DAP's alternative budget calls for a fair share of revenue" and "Guan Eng blames budget deficit on 'BN corruption'".

Even The Star did a short, but positive write up in "DAP draws up shadow national Budget", while The Edge provided good coverage on "DAP unveils alternative budget".

Finally, we'd like to thank our excellent 'A' team comprising of Teh Chi Chang (lead), Lee Kok Yew, Cheah Yi Peng, Lew Yin How and Sugashini Kandiah for their dedication and contribution towards the preparation of this Alternative Budget 2010. It would never have seen the light of day in its current form otherwise (if at all). Special mention is also be extended to John Lee Ming Keong and Ho Horng Yih for providing their views and input on the education sector. And finally, on behalf of the team, we'd like to thank Dr Woo Wing Thye of University of California at Davis, who to took time to review our early drafts of the Alternative Budget and provided us with invaluable insights of “fiscal federalism”.

Happy reading and constructive views welcome! ;-)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

DAP Alternative Budget 2010

DAP will be officially launching our Alternative National Budget for 2010 this week! For those interested in the National Budget and Economics, you are welcome to join us for the launch and press conference held by party secretary-general Sdr Lim Guan Eng together with our Members of Parliament and state assemblymen.

The details of the event are as follows:
Democratising Malaysia's Economy: DAP Alternative Budget 2010
Date: 7 October 2009 (Wednesday)
Time: 11.00 am
Venue: Rocket United Cafe (1st Flr), 18 Jalan SS2/63, Petaling Jaya
A copy will be made available for download from the DAP website after the launch, or a hard copy of the Alternative Budget can be purchased for RM15.

For those who are attending, we will appreciate a RSVP to Carmen Leong @ leongooikuan (at) gmail (dot) com to assist us with seating and light refreshments.

We will be submitting our proposals to the Pakatan Rakyat Top Leadership Council for consideration and adoption after taking into account the views and opinions of our coalition partners.

Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak will be announcing Malaysia's Budget on 23 October 2009, after the 3rd parliamentary session for the year begins on 19 October.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Bagan Pinang

Amidst rushing a few writing projects, particularly the DAP Malaysia Alternative Budget 2010 for release this week, I stole some time down to Bagan Pinang to celebrate mooncake festival yesterday, and of course, to help the cause of the Pakatan Rakyat campaign ;-) (Picture courtesy of Malaysian Insider)