Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Credit Cards Snip! (II)

Following the earlier post on the 2 cards I retained, the following are the 8-9 cards I snipped, and my experience attempting to "snip" them. Hopefully I didn't forget about any other cards I may have ;-)

Citibank "Air Asia" and platinum Mastercards

This was fairly easy. They even have a special telebanking option when you call in to "explain" the credit card tax issue. After explaining that I wasn't keen to wait until October to cancel my cards when they expire (don't want the hassle of tracking expiry dates), the Citibank officer proceeded to terminate these cards.

I was given 2 weeks to use up my reward points after termination, and I've duly converted them to RM500 worth of shopping vouchers from Giant (12,000 points) and Robinsons (10,200 points). The missus will have a good day ;-)

HSBC Platinum Visa, Gold Visa and Mastercards

Yup, that's 3 cards from HSBC. There goes my 10% discount every time I take a sip at Starbucks. Sigh. But I suppose, the discounts won't add up to RM50, or spending RM500 per year on Starbucks. Of course, there are plenty of other discount offers at fine dining places, but I'm not a fan of these outlets so the hassle of having make payments monthly for very little in return just makes it too much of a pain for me.

It was easy with HSBC as well, with the exception that because I wanted to convert all my reward points (just to get RM20 cashback), I can't terminate my Platinum card just yet until next week. (With Citi, you can terminate first, convert later). But the Visa and Mastercards saw the end.

Maybank Gold Mastercard

I'm keep the Amex card from Maybank, but my other Maybank card which was seldom used will have to go out of the window. I called the number behind the card, but was informed via an automatic voice message to call another number... odd...

Unfortunately for Maybank, to cancel a card, you will have to go to a Maybank branch personally to terminate it! This is from our country's largest bank. Which century is it living in?

Anyway, went to the SS2 Maybank branch this morning to fill in the form. And guess what? The officer said, actually the branch has no authority to terminate the card as well, they will actually have to forward the form back to the card centre for termination(!)

EON Bank Platinum Visa

This is when the service quality starts getting worse. At least for Maybank, someone picks up the phone fairly quickly to answer the enquiries. For EON Bank, no one picked up the phone during lunch time, despite the phone number being a "Platinum card priority line". Tried a few times and gave up. I managed to get through only later in the afternoon, and ta-da, I have again to personally appear in a bank branch to terminate the card. At least for Maybank, there's a fair few branches around the corner. EON Bank?

Alliance Bank Platinum Visa

Now, Alliance Bank is the worst of the lot in terms of phone service quality. I had to try at three different times - lunch time, tea time, and before dinner time before I managed to get someone to pick up the phone. What is most ridiculous is that after waiting forever, you are transferred to an automatic voice message system asking you to leave your contact number and name for an officer to call you back later. Fair enough, but then the message was soon followed by another, which said that the voice mail box was full and cannot take any more messages!!! And this happened for the 10 times (or so) I called the Bank! And again, this was the special "Platinum card priority line".

Finally managed to get through in the late afternoon, and while I don't have to go to a branch personally to terminate the card, I have to go back to office later to pick up a faxed form, fill it in, and fax it back to the bank. The officer claimed that no termination can be done over the phone due to existing Bank Negara laws... I didn't quibble over this but err.... why are Citibank and HSBC able to do so?

Public Bank Visa Platinum

The phone call was easy for Public Bank, but I still have to fax an official letter back, and so I will.

Hong Leong Bank Visa Platinum

I think I still have a dormant Hong Leong Bank card somewhere... (the bank refused to "cancel" it a few years back when I called to cancel...) I had it because it gave me free Priority Parking outside 1Utama New Wing (worth RM8 each time!) ;-).

Phew. Together with my supplementary cards, the above would have saved me more than RM600 a year. What a silly policy by our Government. I can imagine the amount losses incurred by the various banks, after having spent a bomb on acquiring them. Worse, in a year or two's time, our consistently inconsistent government will once again "waive" the RM50 tax, probably just before the next elections, and it'll start all over again.

Credit Cards Snip! (I)

Ah... finally with some time in my hands as I stayed off work, and found the "will" to call up the credit card companies to "snip" all the credit cards to avoid having to pay the RM50 credit card tax and RM25 for supplementary cards. All my hopes of the Government reversing the new tax has completely vanished.

But first, I have to decide which card(s) to keep and frankly, the decision was relatively easy.

Please proceed to read this post only if you are a little bit of a shopper, or you are keen on the inanity of various credit card benefits, value of reward points and customer service quality. Or if you want to have a peek into how my silly little twisted brain works ;-)

Here's what I did. I decided to keep 2 cards only.

1. Citibank "Shell" Visa credit card

This card offers the best deal in terms of cash rebates, which is better than card reward points. You get 2.5% cashback for Shell fuel purchases, and 0.75% cashback for all other purchases.

Many credit cards offer "up to" 2% cashback (Alliance, OCBC etc.) but read the fine print. You'll only enjoy 2% cash back for monthly purchases in excess of say RM6,000. Otherwise, for expenditure below that, you'll only get cashback of not more than 0.5% Either that or, you'll only enjoy the higher cash rebate if you have carry forward balances - which then doesn't make sense as you'll be paying through the roof in terms of interest. Or you'd only receive the high cash back percentage on certain days of the week.

The 0.75% rebate is also better than all reward points because reward points are worth at best only about 0.55 sen per point. For example, to get a RM50 voucher from Robinson's, it'll cost you 10,200 points from Citibank. This translates to 0.49 sen per point only. If you get a Giant voucher, that's 12,000 points, and each point will be worth only 0.42 sen. And you will still have to go through the trouble of converting your points. Hence getting 0.75 sen back per ringgit you spend is the best offer on the table today.

(Alternative card for those who don't pump petrol or don't use Shell: The Citibank "Giant" card, same deal as Shell (but capped at RM600 per year), except instead of getting 2.5% back at Shell, you get it from Giant)

2. Maybank American Express credit card

This will be the default card I would use if the merchants accept Amex cards. This is because I will get a standard mininum of 2x reward points for every Ringgit spent. At some stores, you can get up to 5x or 10x reward points.

Say if each point is worth 0.5 sen, then I'm effectively getting back 1 sen or 1% back per Ringgit spent, higher than even the Citibank "Shell" card cashback.

And surprisingly, Maybank rewards are the most "value for points" in the sense that you will require the least amount of points to convert to a particular reward. Let's give an example:

For Carrefour RM100 voucher, you require only 20,000 Maybank reward points. However, the equivalent for Citibank will be 24,000 points for a Giant RM100 voucher. For HSBC, it's 22,000 points for a Giant RM100 voucher, and 24,000 points for a Carrefour voucher. For Alliance Bank, it's even worse, it takes 26,000 points for RM100 Giant voucher. Only for CIMB, it's slightly lower at 19,800 points for a Giant voucher. I can go on with other banks, but you get the idea.

For a RM100 Haagen Daaz voucher - it's 18,000 points for Maybank, 20,000 for HSBC, 16,000 for CIMB, 28,800 for Alliance.

For a RM100 Borders/MPH voucher - it's 18,000 points for Maybank, 22,000 for Citibank, 26,000 for Alliance Bank, 19,000 for CIMB and 20,000 points for HSBC.

The "value for points" applies to practically all other products. But I wouldn't suggest you to convert points to products because, they are typically all "expensive". Simplest option is to convert to vouchers, and you can use those vouchers to purchase the products which are regularly on special offer.

For the past year, Maybank also had a special offer where at the 1Utama Maybank Card Centre, you can exchange for RM50 Caltex/Petronas fuel voucher for only 8,500 points, or more recently, RM50 Parkson's voucher for 8,000 points only(!) There's really no better deal for reward points with any bank than these. Hopefully there's more such offers next year.

What's more, recently Maybank Amex did a promotion where you get 15% cashback (capped at RM150 per card per month) for every transaction you do at designated shopping centres such as 1Utama, MidValley and Tropicana City. This offer ends in February 2010. However, do read the fine print as Maybank will only pay out a maximum of RM4 million over these period starting November. Which means that in all likelihood, purchases in February will not enjoy the offer any more as surely consumers using Amex would have spent more than RM26.7 million by then to enjoy the RM4 million cash back.

I must say I was a little "card swiping trigger happy" in December as I bought a new pair of shoes on 30% discount, and will get another 15% cash back from Amex, and a few other such items. ;-)

Hence for Maybank Amex card, not only you get at least double reward points per transaction, you'll get the best "value for points" when you choose to redeem them. Unfortunately, not all merchants accept Amex, and hence my Citibank "Shell" Card will serve as my trusty back up whenever Amex is not accepted.

Here's Tony "thrifty shopoholic" Pua signing off for now. I hope you enjoyed the above, my missus thinks I'm insufferable. I'll blog on my lousy experience getting the remaining many cards terminated next. ;-)

Friday, December 25, 2009

GST on The Fairly Current Show

Peter Parker Pua and me had a quick 10 minutes interview with The Fairly Current Show on everything fairly current, including GST, Najib, Pakatan Rakyat and more ;-)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Speech @ Pakatan Rakyat Convention

I was given the task and honour to present the Economic section of the Pakatan Rakyat Common Policy Framework (CPF) during the historic inaugural Pakatan Rakyat Convention. There were a slew of policy outlines contained in the framework (which is available here), but I outlined some of the broader policies within the 20 minutes given to me.

The original full text of my speech is here below, but I probably only read 50% of it, leaving out vast chunks, while going off the cuff for the balance.

Dasar Ekonomi yang mementingkan rakyat dan tidak akan membebankan rakyat sewenang-wenangnya.

Kami membantah perlaksanaan cukai-cukai yang tidak adil ke atas rakyat jelata seperti cukai barangan dan perkhidmatan (GST)

Untuk menjimatkan wang supaya rakyat tidak dibebankan, kerajaan di bawah pimpinan Pakatan Rakyat akan membanteras ekonomi bersifat rasuah dan kroni. Hasrat Pakatan Rakyat adalah untuk mencapai impian sebuah ekonomi yang demokratik dan telus

Pakatan Rakyat beriltizam melaksanakan dasar-dasar pengurusan ekonomi yang bebas rasuah, penyalahgunaan kuasa dan kronisme bagi meningkatkan kepertanggunjawaban, ketelusan dan urus tadbir yang baik.

Kebejatan rasuah dan penyalahgunaan kuasa telah melenyapkan kekayaan dan mengekang pertumbuhan mapan serta menghakis daya saing negara.

Pakatan Rakyat akan merombak sistem tender supaya adil, telus, terbuka dan memberi nilai terbaik untuk wang rakyat. Kita menolak kerajaan Barisan Nasional yang cakap tak serupa bikin. Perdana Menteri yang selaku Menteri Kewangan, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak menekankan bahawa kerajaannya akan bersifat telus dan mengamalkan proses tender terbuka atau terhad untuk mengurangkan ketirisan dan rasuah.

Akan tetapi Kementerian Perdagangan Antarabangsa dan Industri telah menswastakan pembinaan pusat pameran dan konvensyen MATRADE yang bakal terbesar di Malaysia yang bernilai RM628 juta kepada Syarikat Naza TTDI. Pembayaran pula dibuat dengan memberikan sekeping tanah yang bernilai sebanyak RM1.5 bilion mengikut pakar penilai hartanah.

Inilah sebab yang utama mengapa kerajaan Barisan Nasional tidak terhenti-henti dilanda skandal mega-projek yang begitu besar seperti “bail-out” projek LRT dan monorail, projek “double-tracking” Ipoh-Rawang, projek Zon Bebas Pelabuhan Klang, syarikat Malaysia Airlines System, Indah Water Konsortium, dan pada masa ini, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (SYABAS) dengan jumlah wang berpuluh-puluh bilion.

Kami percaya bahawa sebuah ekonomi yang demokratik dan telus yang meramalkan sistem tender secara wajib akan menjimatkan perbelanjaan kerajaan sebanyak berbilion-bilion setiap tahun dan pada masa yang sama, meringankan beban cukai kepada rakyat.


Sebuah kerajaan Pakatan Rakyat akan meningkatkan hasil pendapatan cukai bukan melalui peningkatan kadar cukai ataupun perlaksanaan cukai yang baru. Sebaliknya, kerajaan Pakatan Rakyat akan meningkatkan cukai pendapatan dengan membina sebuah ekonomi kemahiran tinggi

Paksi kepada ekonomi berprestasi tinggi adalah tenaga kerja yang berpengetahuan, berketerampilan dan berkemahiran. Pakatan Rakyat akan membuat segala pelaburan yang diperlukan untuk membekalkan kewujudan warga kerja berproduktiviti tinggi ini bagi melonjakkan nilai tambah dalam kegiatan ekonomi negara.

Negara kita merupakan sebuah negara yang begitu bertuah, yang dikurniakan dengan rezab petroleum yang begitu lumayan. Malangnya keuntungan yang begitu besar pada tahun-tahun yang lalu telah dibazirkan oleh kerajaan Barisan Nasional dan akibatnya, Malaysia terperangkap dalam jerat pendapatan sederhana ataupun “middle income trap”.

Pakatan Rakyat akan menjamin peluang pendidikan tinggi dan latihan berteraskan ketrampilan dibekalkan dalam seluruh sektor perkhidmatan, pembuatan dan pertanian.

Kami juga akan menggalakkan warga neraga yang professional dan berkemahiran yang bermastautin di luar negara kembali ke tanah air dengan menyedaikan suasana kerja yang professional dan menarik.


Kerajaan pusat bawah pimpinan Pakatan Rakyat akan mencetuskan penumbuhan ekonomi yang akan sekali lagi menjadi dinamik dan merangsangkan. Matlamat ini akan dicapai melalui dasar desentralisasi dan pengupayaan pengurusan ekonomi negeri

Selaras dengan semangat persekutuan untuk meningkatkan sistem penyampaian kerajaan, keberkesanan dan kecekapan perbelanjaan, maka pelaksanaan dasar pembangunan dan ekonomi yang meluas perlu diagihkan kepada kerajaan negeri mengikut keutamaan masing-masing.

Desentralisasi mampu mendorong perubahan struktural dalam kerangka ekonomi bagi lonjakan kecekapan ekonomi dan produktiviti menerusi peningkatan tahap kecekapan dalam perbelanjaan selain kesan gandaan yang meningkat hasil perbelanjaan kerajaan dalam ekonomi negara.

Pakatan Rakyat akan memulangkan sebahagian daripada kutipan cukai dari setiap negeri kepada negeri tersebut berdasarkan pengagihan yang adil dan pada masa yang sama, menambah geran per kapita untuk negeri-negeri.

Pakatan Rakyat juga akan melaksanakan formula geran pembangunan dan kesamaan berdasarkan faktor jumlah penduduk, kadar kemiskinan, kawasan pembangunan, kos, pembangunan modal insan dan indeks pendapatan kasar per kapita akan turut diberikan bagi memastikan negeri yang miskin tidak ketinggalan.

Hak negeri-negeri untuk membuat pilihan mengikut kesesuaian sendiri mengenai strategi pembangunan negeri mesti dihormati. Teras kepada hak ini adalah peruntukan kewangan yang secukupnya kepada negeri-negeri berdasarkan sumbangan terhadap persekutuan serta keperluan rakyat. Pakatan Rakyat akan menjamin royalti sebanyak 20% daripada hasil petroleum kepada kerajaan negeri dengan matlamat membasmi kemiskinan di kalangan rakyat. Ini akan termasuk wang royalti minyak yang telah dijanjikan kepada negeri Kelantan yang sehingga hari ini dinafikan dan enggan diiktirakkan oleh kerajaan Barisan Nasional.

Kami juga akan mengagihkan kuasa pentadbiran ekonomi dan perlaksanaan kerja prasarana kepada kerajaan negeri, misalnya hak rundingan saksama dalam menentukan reka bentuk dan jaringan pengangkutan awam.

Pakatan Rakyat akan menjana pembangunan kawasan yang lebih seimbang, sekali gus mencipta bandar sekunder yang produktif di seluruh negara demi mengurangkan pemusatan pembangunan di Lembah Klang

Dasar desentralisasi dapat mengutamakan dasar-dasar penjanaan pertumbuhan tinggi serta berjangka panjang, berasaskan pemahaman ekonomi di mana kerajaan negeri berada dalam kedudukan terbaik untuk menentu serta melaksanakan strategi sosio-ekonomi.


Dasar ekonomi Pakatan Rakyat tidak bersifat hipocritikal seperti Barisan Nasional di mana slogan “rakyat didahulukan” merupakan retorik sahaja malahan Barisan Nasional terus mengambil langkah-langkah yang jelas membebankan rakyat seperti cukai GST, cukai kad kredit dan cukai keuntungan hartanah.

Pakatan Rakyat akan membasmikan cukai paksaan yang tersembunyi seperti tol lebuhraya, perjanjian penjanakuasa bebas dan tariff syarikat air swasta. Kami menolak penswastaan yang membebankan dan akan merunding semula konsistensi dan kontrak yang bersifat menguntungkan kroni dan tidak adil kepada rakyat, termasuk yang melibatkan IPP, tol lebuhraya dan prasarana air, dan jikalau perlu kerajaan bawah Pakatan Rakyat akan merunding semula segala perjanjian tol dan mengkaji pembelian balik lebuhraya PLUS dengan matlamat melupuskan tol dalam jangka masa 7 tahun.

Sebaliknya, penyediaan dan penyenggaraan prasarana awam yang baik merupakan tanggungjawab kerajaan. Perlaksanaannya bawah pemerintahan Pakatan Rakyat tidak akan membebankan rakyat atau menguntungkan kroni tertentu. Prasarana dan kemudahan awam yang baik membolehkan rakyat Malaysia meningkatkan pendapatan boleh belanja dan produktiviti mereka.

Pakatan Rakyat beriltizam untuk ‘Merakyatkan Ekonomi Negara’ bagi memastikan kemakmuran dan kekayaan yang terhasil dikecapi oleh seluruh lapisan rakyat. Sekaligus merapatkan kesenjangan diantara kaya-miskin serta mengatasi ketidak seimbangan pembangunan wilayah akibat pengurusan tempang yang tidak mendahului kepentingan rakyat ramai.
Pakatan Rakyat memperakui bahawa setiap rakyat Malaysia berhak mendapat bantuan berdasarkan keperluan tanpa mengira latar belakang. Pakatan Rakyat bertekad untuk merakyatkan ekonomi negara, agar khazanah negara dapat dinikmati dengan adil oleh semua.

Pakatan Rakyat memberikan jaminan bantuan ekonomi dan pengagihan adil kepada semua berdasarkan keperluan tanpa mengira kaum dan agama. Antara langkah-langkah yang akan diambil termasuklah pemberian bantuan tunai secara terus kepada kumpulan sasar untuk menghapuskan golongan miskin tegar, menyediakan biasiswa pendidikan berdasarkan keperluan dan merit, menjamin mobiliti sosial dengan memastikan peluang ekonomi yang lebih adil dan sama rata untuk semua dan menggunakan penjimatan dari ketirisan dan pembaziran serta jihad menentang rasuah sebagai sumber tambahan bagi program membasmi kemiskinan


Pakatan Rakyat mempercayai bahawa setiap rakyat Malaysia harus menikmati hidup yang bermaruah pada setiap masa. Rakyat yang hilang mata pencarian, warga emas, orang kurang upaya dan golongan berpendapatan rendah mesti dilindungi dan diberi peluang untuk turut menikmati faedah pembangunan ekonomi negara.

Kami akan menubuhkan Dana Penamatan Kerja untuk pembiayaan sementara rakyat yang hilang pekerjaan, subsidi untuk latihan semasa kerja dan latihan semula pekerja dan memperkenalkan usia tamat tempoh perkhidmatan 60 tahun bertujuan memberi peluang kepada mereka yang ingin terus menyumbang kepada masyarakat.

Pakatan Rakyat juga akan memperkenalkan gaji minima yang munasabah untuk semua pekerja Malaysia dan memperkenalkan Akta Peluang Saksama untuk memastikan peluang pekerjaan terbuka kepada semua. Kami percaya bahawa hanya dengan peluang yang saksama, pekerja Malaysia akan berinsentif untuk meningkatkan modal insan, produktiviti dan daya persaingan untuk mencapai tahap kerjaya yang cermerlang dan emolumen yang lebih tinggi.

Kami juga akan menyusun dasar pekerja asing yang bersepadu dan mengurangkan kebergantungan negara kepada pekerja asing dan menyediakan sistem sokongan kepada golongan terbabit dalam sektor ekonomi informal seperti peniaga kecil, penjaja, petani dan mereka yang bekerja sendiri.


Pakatan Rakyat juga akan membantu sebahagian besar rakyat Malaysia tidak berkeupayaan memiliki rumah sendiri terutama mereka yang berpendapatan rendah dan sederhana.

Pakatan Rakyat juga bertekad menjadikan ekonomi hijau sebagai teras kepada era kemakmuran baru yang lestari dan saksama untuk Malaysia. Penyediaan prasarana dan perkembangan industri baru sejajar dengan peralihan ke arah ekonomi hijau akan menjadi enjin penjanaan pertumbuhan ekonomi yang dinamik.

Antara langkah-langkah “ekonomi hijau” ini, Pakatan Rakyat akan memperkenalkan prasarana yang moden, lengkap dan sesuai untuk ekonomi karbon rendah, termasuk sistem pengangkutan awam berintegrasi bertaraf dunia dan sistem kitar semula yang menyeluruh. Kami juga akan memberikan tumpuan untuk membangunkan industri-industri yang berasaskan teknologi hijau seperti pembuatan panel suria dan sel fuel hidrogen.

Pada masa yang sama, untuk mendepani krisis perubahan iklim, kerajaan Pakatan Rakyat juga akan membudayakan amalan kitar semula dengan menyediakan prasarana dan sistem yang menyeluruh, memastikan segala aktiviti pembalakan dan penebangan hutan dijalankan secara terkawal, mengawal sebarang pembinaan di lereng bukit dan kawasan-kawasan berbahaya dan mrendahkan kadar pelepasan karbon selaras dengan piawaian antarabangsa dan meningkatkan daya sistem ekologi untuk menyerap karbon.

Pakatan Rakyat bertekad menjadikan ekonomi negara berprestasi tinggi dan memiliki pertumbuhan mapan. Pemunggahan sumber-sumber dan khazanah negara secara cekap dalam pelaburan dibidang-bidang dan sektor-sektor utama dan strategik adalah penting bagi menjamin daya saing negara.

Kerajaan Barisan Nasional telah selama ini mentadbir ekonomi Malaysia dengan begitu lemah. Dasar ekonomi Barisan Nasional yang mengutamakan kekayaan pemimpin-pemimpin kerajaan dan kroni-kroni mereka telah menyebabkan kerugian besar kepada kerajaan Malaysia dan menjejaskan daya persaingan dan penumbuhan ekonomi kita. Tetapi oleh kerana negara kita bertuah dikurniakan dengan kekayaan petroleum yang dieksploitasi oleh kerajaan Barisan Nasional, rakyat tidak terasa kemerosotan ekonomi.

Akan tetapi oleh kerana Malaysia diserang kemelut ekonomi dunia, keuntungan Petronas jelas terjunam, kerajaan Barisan Nasional terpaksa mencari pelbagai helah untuk meningkatkan kadar cukai dan memperkenalkan sistem cukai yang baru seperti GST untuk mengutip lebih wang daripada rakyat yang sudah cukup derita.

Kerajaan Pakatan Rakyat menganggap tindakan Barisan Nasional sebagai satu langkah yang terdesak, and kami akan bantah pembentangan akta cukai GST sekeras-kerasnya supaya rakyat tidak diwajibkan untuk dihukum cukai atas kecuaian, pembaziran dan penyelewengan kerajaan Barisan Nasional. Sebaliknya, Pakatan Rakyat akan mengambil pelbagai tindakkan berdasarkan prinsip-prinsip yang telahpun dihuraikan supaya produktiviti dan kekayaan rakyat terus meningkat, dan Malaysia akan sekali lagi menjadi sebuah ekonomi yang cukup dinamik, menarik dan berdaya saing.

Hannah Yeoh @ Pakatan Rakyat Convention

Hannah's excellent speech at the inaugural Pakatan Rakyat convention
as a delegate from DAP.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Struggle for Local Government Elections To Continue

The following is the Malaysian Insider report on the Pakatan Rakyat Convention yesterday with regards to the contentious issue of local government elections. Malaysiakini has also got Karpal Singh and Hannah Yeoh's comments.

DAP’s Hannah Yeoh (pic) emerged as the only speaker that critically debated the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) common policy framework, urging the coalition to restore local government elections.

“The local governments collect millions in tax revenue every year, but the public has no say in electing their members,” said Yeoh at the PR’s inaugural convention here.

“Local election will also improve the quality of local councillors, the best candidate will win,” she declared.

In the coalition’s common policy launched earlier today, it is stated that PR is committed to “strengthen local government democracy and democratically enhance the competency and effectiveness of the delivery system and guarantee transparency at all levels.”

Such a choice of words was made to appease PR leaders who are opposed to restoring local government elections. The Malaysian Insider understands that Malay leaders from both PAS and PKR are worried that local governments would be dominated by the non-Malays should councillors are elected openly.

“If local elections is restored, councillors will be more hardworking, thus improving efficiency in the local authorities,” said Yeoh.

She also urged PR leaders not to worry about the outcome of local elections.

“The Chinese and the Indians have voted for PAS, the people have moved away from their fears... We should not be fearful of the third vote,” she added.

Earlier, when opening the convention, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng admitted that the party had to compromise on its commitment to restore local elections.

DAP has been known to be a staunch advocate for the restoration of the local council election while PAS are known to oppose it and PKR are internally frayed on the issue despite having promised to restore the local council vote in its 2008 General Elections manifesto.

Since the suspension of local government elections in the 1960s, councillors have been appointed directly by the state government and this has since been turned into a political reward for ruling party officials.

The restoration of local elections is one of the demands made by electoral reforms coalition Bersih, which also comprise PR parties.

In November 2007, the group organised the largest street demonstration in Kuala Lumpur in a decade, mobilising some 60,000 protesters to demand for free and fair elections.

The coalition’s effort in mobilising support contributed to Barisan Nasional’s worst electoral performance in Election 2008, which was held just four months later.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Government Transformation Programme" Open Day

Visiting the "Corruption" booth, and getting briefed by the Lab leads (pic by KwongWah)

I had a very good and friendly chat with Datuk Seri Idris Jala,
but I can't remember at all what I was talking about doing all these hand gestures!
(Pic by Sinchew)

I spent more than 3 hours at the "Government Transformation Programme (GTP)" Open Day at the Sunway Convention Centre this morning, looking at the various booths touting solutions to Prime Minister Najib's Key Result Areas (NKRAs).

I don't have time to write down all that I think at this point of time about some of the booths (Corruption, Crime, Urban Public Transport, Education) but the report below by Malaysiakini gives an overall flavour to my thoughts. ;-)

It's also interesting to note that the only Members of Parliament who visited the GTP Open Day was from Pakatan - Dr Hatta Ramli and myself in the morning, Lim Kit Siang, Teresa Kok and Fong Po Kuan in the afternoon. None came from Barisan Nasional... ;-)

Well, excerpts from the Malaysiakini report:
Petaling Jaya MP Tony Pua described the exhibition as part of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's election manifesto for the upcoming 13th general election. He admitted that there were plenty of good suggestions and when asked if the opposition would be threatened by Najib's latest move, Pua replied, "If he is able to achieve it, yes".

Asked if he thought the civil servants were capable of implementing the proposals, Pua replied "No" without skipping a beat.

He also expressed doubts that cabinet ministers were in full support of the proposals made, such as the one to disclose all government tenders. He cited his recent three unsuccessful attempts in the Dewan Rakyat to seek more details of the controversial Matrade Convention Centre in Putrajaya.

"There were a lot of good suggestions made (in the six NKRA) but whether the government can really accept all these suggestions is a big question mark," he said.
From Bernama:
Meanwhile, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua said it could not be denied that the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) Board, led by its Chief Executive Officer Datuk Seri Idris Jala, had done a decent job.

"There are many great ideas expressed by the laboratories in the six areas, such as education and crime," he told reporters here.

"However, there is still room for improvement as these ideas are not complete as admitted by the team themselves," he added.

"The team has came out with many good ideas and the next challenge for the government will be on implementing these ideas for the people's benefit," he said, adding that transparency in implementing projects would be one crucial challenge to the government.
From The Star:
PJ Utara MP Tony Pua said: "There is no denying that Pemandu has helped a lot in putting this together in six weeks but the proof is in the doing."
(I actually said "pudding" but the reporter wrote "doing". Maybe I need to work on my Malaysian English ;-))

First Pakatan Rakyat Convention

Below is the programme for the historic first Pakatan Rakyat Convention tomorrow. I have the honour of being one of the leaders selected to present part of the Common Platform with a focus on the economy, together with Salahuddin Ayob from PAS and R Sivarasa from PKR.

Hopefully it will be a successful event and the police won't buat kacau. ;-)

0800 : Pendaftaran bagi wakil media di Tingkat 4, Auditorium MBSA.

0900 : Pembukaan

0915 : Ucapan Perdana Ketiga Pimpinan Tertinggi dan Perasmian Bersama Konvensyen - Saudara Anwar Ibrahim (Ketua Umum KeADILan), Saudara Lim Guan Eng (Setiausaha Agung DAP) & Saudara Hj Abdul Hadi Awang (Presiden PAS).

1015 : Rehat

1045 : Pidato Dasar Pakatan Rakyat (dipengerusikan YAB Khalid Ibrahim) - Saudara Salahuddin Ayub (Naib Presiden PAS), Saudara Tony Pua (Setiausaha Publisiti Kebangsaan DAP), Saudara Sivarasa Rasiah (Naib Presiden PKR) dan Perbahasan oleh 2 perwakilan setiap parti.

1245 : Makan tengahari di Laman MBSA.

1345 : Sambungan perbahasan oleh 3 perwakilan setiap parti (dipengerusikan Saudara Teng Chang Khim).

1530 : Majlis Penutup (dipengerusikan Saudara Wan Abdul Rahim Wan Abdullah).

Rumusan oleh 3 Pimpinan : Saudara Karpal Singh (Pengerusi Kebangsaan DAP), Saudara Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat (Murshidul Am PAS), Saudara Anwar Ibrahim (Ketua Umum KeADILan).

1700 : Majlis bersurai. Sidang media di Tingkat 3
See you there! ;-)

Petronas Dips Into Cash Reserves

In an exclusive interview with The Edge Financial Daily published in the 16th December, the Petronas Chairman, Tan Sri Hassan Merican disclosed that Petronas will not only be maintaining its RM30 billion dividend payment to the Federal Government, but due to the sharp decline in its profits expected for the full financial year ending March 2010, Petronas “will tap into [its] cash reserves to pay the dividend”.

Petronas had earlier announced that its net profit before tax for its half year ending September 2009 stood at RM31.2 billion versus RM63.3 billion in the same period a year ago, or a sharp decline of 50.7%.

In fact, Petronas had to borrow approximately RM15 billion in July via the issuance of 10 year conventional notes and five-year Islamic sukuk. This means that Petronas is in effect borrowing money to pay dividends to the Government!

I had in my speech during the Finance Bill 2 (2009) on 15th December specifically raised the fact that the Government is “sucking Petronas dry” leaving Petronas with very little to reinvest for future returns. However, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Dato' Chor Chee Heung vehemently denied my assertion. He said
...selain daripada itu juga... dividen daripada Petronas kepada kerajaan sudah begitu banyak tahun tidak berbeza-beza. Kita simpan. Maksudnya Petronas mempunyai retain profit yang begitu banyak sekali dan kalau tahun lepas RM30 bilion, tahun ini juga kerajaan akan mendapat dividen RM30 bilion. Ini saya ingin memberitahu Dewan yang mulia ini iaitu Kerajaan Barisan Nasional membentuk kerajaan di negara ini selama 50 tahun lebih its not for nothing you know my friend.
I had immediately rebutted that the Deputy Minister did not know what he was talking about by providing figures derived from the Government's own economic reports and financial statements. I had argued that the percentage of Petronas profits retained for reinvestment has dropped from 42.5% in 2005 to 31.2% (2007) to a low of 21.1% (2009).

In fact, the Government has increased its dividends from Petronas annually over the past 5 years. In 2005 the dividend paid by Petronas was only RM9.1 billion. It was increased to RM13.0 billion in 2006, RM20 billion (2007), RM24 billion (2008) to RM30 billion in 2009. The above figures completely refute the Deputy Minister's statement in parliament.

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.

The Government had insisted that it is introducing the Goods & Services Tax as a measure to reduce its dependence on revenues from the oil and gas sector. However the above evidence shows clearly that the over-dependence on the petroluem sector was caused by the BN government which had milked Petronas recklessly over the past decade. Now that Petronas is unable to fulfil the Government's insatiable appetite, Barisan Nasional is now turning to the rakyat to fund its bloated expenses by implementing various new taxes such as the credit card tax, the real estate property gains tax and the goods and services tax.

With Petronas now having to dip into its cash reserves, it is clear that the Government is slowly but inevitably killing the goose that lays the golden eggs, and from the replies given by the Finance Ministry in parliament, the Government is also clueless about it.

We call upon the Prime Minister to enact a legislation to ensure that our golden goose gets the necessary protection and will not be recklessly abused, by

  • legislating that Petronas retain at least 50% of its profits for future reinvestments.

  • ensuring that the windfall revenue are only invested in economically productive and necessary sectors such as human capital, renewable energy and green technology.

  • legislating that at least 20% of these contributions should be “saved” when economic growth exceeds 3% per annum in a National Stimulus Fund for use during economically challenging times.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Another Finance Minister Who Can't Count

The 2nd Finance Minister tabled the controversial Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill yesterday. To justify the implementation of the Goods & Services Tax, Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah had claimed that “the rakyat will not be burdened under GST”:
  1. The household expenditure for the lowest income group will see savings of RM14.52 per year

  2. The highest income group will have RM346.92 savings.
At the same time for businesses, the Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni also stated that:
  1. Exporters would end up having tax savings of RM1.4 billion under the “zero-rated” system

  2. Impact studies showed that businesses overallstood to save RM4 billion in taxes under GST as professional services would be exempted.
However, despite the savings by the rakyat as well as businesses, the Government will still be able to increase its receipts from GST by more than RM1 billion compared to under the previous regime of Sales and Services Tax, which collected nearly RM12 billion from businesses alone.

The Minister's statements does not make sense just as money does not grow on trees.

If businesses will reduce tax contribution by RM5.4 billion as stated by the 2nd Finance Minister, while at the same time increase the collection of GST to more than RM13 billion, it can only mean that the additional RM6.4 billion must be collected from the rakyat!

The question then is, how is it that the Minister can come up with figures whereby both the lowest income group as well as the highest income group will enjoy savings?! The savings which will exceed RM6.4 billion for businesses is inevitably shifted to consumers, regardless of whether they are low wage workers, retirees, students or your average man in the street.

As such, the Pakatan Rakyat Anti-GST Taskforce will over the months of January to March when the parliament is not in session, undertake various measures to increase the awareness of the rakyat and receive feedback from various academics, industry experts as well as the public at large with regards to the Goods & Services Tax bill proposed by the Minister of Finance.

These measures will include:
  • convening Parliamentary Roundtable discussions with industry experts
  • convening a Parliamentary Caucus of Members of Parliament on GST
  • conduct nationwide forums at all state capitals and major cities nationwide
  • print information leaflets on GST for the public
  • setting up an information web site on the impact of the GST
  • setting up a public feedback email:
We seek public participation and assistance to carry out the above programmes and we look forward to hearing from the rakyat.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PAC Must Investigate Matrade Exhibition & Convention Centre

Questions to Finance Minister(s) on RM628 million MATRADE Exhibition & Convention Centre: Why the Elegant Silence?

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) has awarded a RM628 million contract to Naza TTDI to build Malaysia's largest exhibition and convention centre in exchange for a 62.5 acres of prime land near Mont Kiara. The contract has been awarded in a highly opaque manner with no tender for the project or auction for the piece of land. The Naza TTDI group managing director SM Faliq SM Nasimuddin has already suggested that an iconic building higher than 100 storeys could be built on the site.

I've raised the issue with regards to the award of a new RM628 million Matrade Exhibition & Convention Centre (MECC) mega-project in parliament over the past month. The first time was when the Deputy Minister of Finance, Datuk Seri Dr Awang Adek was winding up the committee stage debate for the 2010 Budget for his Ministry on 23 November. He responded that he was completely unaware of the matter and asked me to refer to the Prime Minister.

The second time was yesterday, when debating the Finance Bill (2) 2009. The other Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Wira Chor Chee Heung responded that due to the “sudden” query of the matter, he's unable to reply my query when winding up the debate.

The only time when we received any reply on the question was during the committee stage debate on the MITI, where the Minister, Datuk Mustapa Mohamed insisted that the transaction was “value for money” and even told the press that the Government got the MECC “for free”.

The Government, and in particular the Finance Ministry headed by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak himself appears to be maintaining an “elegant silence” over the issue, hoping that it will just go away.

In the interest of ensuring good governance and promoting transparency, the Government cannot hope kill the issue with its silence. The following simple questions must be answered:

1. Why was there no open tender to award the construction of the Exhibition & Convention Centre?

In his recent keynote speech at the National Economic Outlook Conference by the 2nd Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah had emphasized on the critical need for “competition” in Malaysia. He said that:
Entrepreneurs need to know that the public institutions are transparent and are run by the highest standards of governance. Entrepreneurs need to know that they do not compete in a market whereby their competitors seemed to possess institutional advantage. We need to see better competition policies and better regulatory environment which can allow market forces to operate in an orderly manner...

If there is one operative word that runs through consistently in all the points that I have just put across to you just now, the word would be competition. 1 Malaysia equals inclusivity and by being inclusive, we introduce competition. We have to increase the level of competition in all the relevant sectors of our economy... We want to see a steady decline in those that suffer from the “dependency syndrome”.
Why is the Finance Minister telling Malaysians about the merits of “competition” on the one hand, but at the same time, continue to allow opaque direct negotiations which has resulted in countless scandals and millions of ringgit in losses in the past?

2. Why was there no open auction for the 62.5 acres of government land given to Naza TTDI?

The Prime Minister had himself promised that “the Government planned to maximise income on all its existing assets, including on parcels of land that have not been developed, via open tender.” In addition, he has also stated that “opting for the tender system will curb corruption and bring back the people’s confidence in the Government.”

The MITI Minister had disclosed that the 62.5 acres of land was only worth RM197 million. However, established property consultants have valued the land to be worth between RM970 million to RM1.5 billion. The only credible mechanism to establish its true market value has to be via an open auction system for the land.

The question then is why did the Prime Minister approve of the transaction despite having himself stated his disapproval for the direct negotiation mechanism?

I will be making a formal request to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of which I'm a member to investigate this particular transaction.

The questions I will ask will include:
  • access to the feasibility study conducted by MITI
  • comparative market study against the performance of local and overseas competitors
  • the determination of cost of RM628m for the convention centre
  • the determination of RM197m valuation for the 62.5 acres of land
  • the rationale behind approval by MOF for direct negotiation without tender, and
  • an audit of proposal evaluation process by MITI and MOF
  • the need for the Government to get into the business of operating an Exhibition and Convention Centre
It is important that the PAC takes up this investigation as we need conduct more prevention exercises instead of waiting for projects to become incurable such as the multi-billion Port Klang Free Zone and the double-tracking project scandals.

Why Is Khazanah Disposing GLC Shares?

Khazah has in the past 3 months been aggressively selling down its stakes in many of its majority owned government linked companies (GLCs). The latest disposal was the sale of 86.75 million shares of Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) at RM8.10 each raising in exchange RM703 million for Khazanah.

In October and November 2009, Khazanah also sold approximately 114.9 million shares of PLUS Expressways Berhad, raising more than RM360 million. Prior to that, Khazanah had also sold 5% of Malaysia Airports Berhad in September.

(Note: the 114.9 million shares (RM360m) is higher than the 95.6 million (RM310m) shares published in other news portals because I had provided the wrong info, hence it's not their fault. Apologies)

On the surface, Khazanah has sold these shares on the pretext that they are intended to increase the free float and liquidity of the Malaysian stock market. It has been suggested that this would enhance the participation of foreign institutional investors.

However, it is uncertain if these sales are made with the sole intention of increasing the free float of these companies. For example, while Khazanah has disposed of 86.75 million shares in TNB, 50 million of these shares were placed to the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) which have little impact on TNB's free float.

(The Star had an article today which I missed earlier when issuing my statement. It notes that foreign funds were unhappy with the 50 million placement to EPF, for the same reason which I had raised)

In reality what has actually taken place is the TNB shares which were previously held with Khazanah, are now held by another government related institution, the EPF. The only difference is that the EPF which is funded by Malaysian workers have paid RM405 million for these shares to the Government of Malaysia. The EPF has also been a net buyer of PLUS shares.

As a result, it is critical for Khazanah to be transparent with the public as to the full rationale for these sales and what wil Khazanah do with the billions which will be raised from these sales.
(I)Will Khazanah be channelling these funds back to the Federal Government, which at this point of time is desperate for additional funds to top up its declining oil revenues and plug the budget deficit? It may possibly appear that the Government is so short of funds, that it is not only raising various new taxes, but also selling its stakes in GLCs to raise funding.

(II)Or will Khazanah be utilising its additional funds to top up investments in its biggest project – Iskandar Malaysia, which is facing shortfalls in investments due to its over-dependence on Middle-Eastern funds such Dubai World and Damac Properties? In addition, is Khazanah selling the GLC stocks because it needs the money to complete the required infrastructure for the land which has been sold to foreign investors as rumoured in the financial circles?
The above questions are particularly pertinent since Khazanah is also planning a US Dollar Exchangeable Sukuk next year to raise additional funds, secured with its shares in the Malaysian GLCs. This shows that the intent of Khazanah is not entirely to reduce stakes to “improve liquidity” of the local stock market, but actually to raise funds, as issuing sukuks will not improve market liquidity.

Khazanah must therefore explain fully the above questions to ensure that public funds are not abused, and more importantly, good money will not be used to chase after bad. Otherwise, not only will Khazanah be reduced to managing RM20 million heritage sites, it will also lose the trust of the Malaysian population.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

PKFZ: "Why Must I Pay?"

Amidst all the hoo-ha over various people being charged on falsifying hundreds of million ringgit claims with regards to the Port Klang Free Zone project, I've asked the Government to stop payment to the developer, Kuala Dimensi (KDSB) and its bondholders until it has been proven that KDSB has carried out the work.

It was hence quite amusing to read the response of KDSB CEO, Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing in the Malay Mail today ;-)
Tuesday, December 15th, 2009 10:57:00

KUALA LUMPUR: Mired in controversy, Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB) CEO Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing has bluntly refused to settle outstanding loans to bondholers in the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ).

"Why should I settle outstanding loans? We have completed what was required of us and handed over the project to the port authorities.

It is not my fault if they didn’t move on,” he told The Malay Mail at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

“We are contractors and if there was a delay in handing over the project, they should have terminated our contract or sent us warnings for the delay.”

PJ Utara Member of Parliament Tony Pua was the latest to question why the government had given a guarantee to settle KDSB’s debt obligations when there was a possibility that KDSB might be proven to have failed in performing a satisfactory job on PKFZ and therefore, should not be paid in full.


On claims that the government should not pay KDSB or its bondholders while waiting for the RM1.4 billion dispute to be settled in court, Tiong, who is the MP for Bintulu, said:

“That’s good, but who is going to pay the interest? Delay means interest and KDSB cannot be made to pay.”

On August 26, 2009, the Port Klang Authority (PKA) had sued KDSB for wrongful or excess claims amounting to RM1.4 billion.


The Opposition had argued that if the court decides Kuala Dimensi had made wrongful or excessive claims, then the outstanding loans due to the bondholders must be settled by the owners, since they borrowed the money, not the Malaysian government.
For the full text of the article, check it out here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Water Talks: Don't Blame Selangor Government

In an interview with The Star Bizweek on Saturday, Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad (PAAB) CEO, Ahmad Faizal Abdul Rahman blamed the Selangor Government for the delays in the state's water consolidation exercise where talks have exceeded a year. It was highlighted that “long after being adamant about leading such talks, the Selangor government recently threw in the towel” and “requested that PAAB to step in to lead the talks.”

Firstly, it should be noted that the State Government has not requested that PAAB step in to lead the talks.

Secondly, the failure of the water talks to date is not due to the Selangor Governnment. Instead it is the Federal Government's insistence that SYABAS remains the concessionaire for water distribution in the state. During the negotiations, the state government had even accepted a compromise proposal where SYABAS will remain 51% majority shareholder of the during the negotiations with the conditions that an independent professional management as well as equal board representation. However, even these highly reasonable terms were refused by both SYABAS and the Federal Government.

The fact that the Federal Government had been secretly negotiating a RM320 million interest free, unsecured and backloaded 20-year loan facility to SYABAS serves only to prove the Federal Government's bad faith in the entire water talks, for while the state government is negotiating hard the terms of the new concession, the Federal Government is offering SYABAS a way out for its major cashflow problems which disincentivises the need for SYABAS to deal with the state government.

The absolute lack of commitment on the part of the Federal Government is clear when the Minister refuses to use its powers to cajole SYABAS to the negotiating table with the State Government. Now that PAAB is conducting the negotiations however, Faizal can now claim during the interview that “there's not much room for negotiations”, for the concessionaires have to “take it or face arm-twisting with a fistful of the law. Section 114 of WSIA gives power to the Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister to force water players to hand over the assets for the sake of 'national interest'”.

Faizal has also admitted to favouring the concessionaires with terms such as “certain things previously not recognised as assets are now recognised as assets. Otherwise its not palatable to the concessionaires.” In addition, he also disclosed that PAAB will be taking into account the fact that the concessionaires “liabilities are much higher than the tangible assets”, which means the rakyat will have to bear the liabilities of these concessionaires as part of the taking over of water assets.

The process undertaken by PAAB as explained by Faizal is not a consolidation or restructuring of the state's fragmented water industry with multiple players. All PAAB is doing is to purchase the 4 concessionaires assets at high prices but will continue to issue operating and maintenance license to them. In essence, PAAB is only bailing out of the troubled concessionaires while the fragmented industry remains.

The Selangor state government has definitely not thrown in the towel, for it is our responsibility to ensure that the rights of the rakyat are fully protected and not allow them to be taken advantaged of by the concessionaires. We will, over the next few weeks, take all necessary actions to ensure that our goals for the people of Selangor are achieved.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Oil Curse Strikes

I wrote a fairly extensive piece more than 2 years ago in June 2007, which was published in Aliran (after being rejected by The New Straits Times), and blogged here (Part I and Part II), on "Oil & Gas Windfall: Boon or Bane?" At that point in time, the Government wasn't at all concerned because the oil prices were hitting the roof, peaking at US$150 per barrel in July 2008. Nobody then thought that the party will soon turn into a crisis.

Now that the oil prices have declined by some 50% today, or as low as 20% of its peak just a few months ago, the chickens have come home to roost. Previously ignorant and complacent, the Barisan Nasional government is now hard up for cash, as its revenues from the oil and gas sector gets severely hit. The solution as the Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak says, we need to make up for the shortfall by taxing the rakyat more. Hence our 2010 Budget is all about taxes, the new credit card tax, the real estate property gains tax and the upcoming goods and services tax.

UMNO veteran, former finance minister and chairman of Petronas, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah spoke his mind today, that "the country has squandered its oil wealth".
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 — Petronas founder and former Finance Minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said today that Malaysia had squandered its oil wealth and had become an “oil cursed” country dependent on it like a narcotic for quick fixes.

In his most scathing remarks yet about the management of the country's oil reserves and the economy, Tengku Razaleigh said oil money had been used as "a giant slush fund that has propped up authoritarian rule, eroded constitutional democracy and corrupted our entire political and business elite."

"Our oil receipts, instead of being applied in the manner we planned upon the formation of Petronas, that is, according to its original developmental purpose, became a fund for the whims and fancy of whoever ran the country, without any accountability.

"The oil that was meant to spur our transition to a more humane, educated society has instead become a narcotic that provides economic quick fixes and hollow symbols such as the Petronas Towers. Our oil wealth was meant to help us foster Malaysians capable of building the Twin Towers than hire foreigners to build them, a practice in which we preceded Dubai. I would rather have good government than grand government buildings filled with a demoralised civil service," he said in his speech at the Young Corporate Malaysians Summit here today.

He said that when he started the national oil company in 1974, he did not foresee that he would one day wish that the country had not discovered oil.

The Umno veteran said that Malaysians were no longer productive and no longer used their ingenuity to improve themselves to take the leap forward...
For the full article, visit The Malaysian Insider or

LRT Extension Feedback

The following is the statement from Moaz Ahmad of TRANSIT with regards to the planned extension of the LRT lines from Kelana Jaya to Putra Heights and Sri Petaling.

The Association for the Improvement of Mass-Transit will submit a copy of their feedback on the proposed Railways Scheme for the extension of the Ampang LRT Line (LRT Sistem 1) and Kelana Jaya LRT Line (LRT Sistem 2) from their current terminals to a new integrated terminal in Putra Heights.

We hope that this feedback will convey to the Director General of Railways and the Minister of Transport that TRANSIT is extremely concerned about the planning of public transport in the Klang Valley.

TRANSIT raises its concern about the current language of the Railways Act 1991, which treats all forms of railways as the same. TRANSIT believes that there are significant differences between an urban mass-transit railway and a rural or intercity railway and that the Railways Act 1991 or future Public Land Transport Act 2010 (SPAD Act) should identify and define these differences.

In our submission, TRANSIT also questions why the proposed railways scheme is different from the Selangor Structural Plan (2006).

Although TRANSIT recognizes that the Federal government has the responsibility to regulate transport (including public transport), the State Governments have a significant role to play with respect to the planning and land use associated with that transport.

TRANSIT also questions whether a complete public transport planning study and economic feasibility study were conducted for these proposed lines. If these studies were conducted, why where they not made public?

We are aware that a survey of residents was conducted in 2007 and wish to know why the results were not made public.

TRANSIT also believes that the language of the Railways Act 1991 does encourage the Director General of Railways and the Minister of Transport to direct the Railway company to submit further information to them or to the public regarding the railways scheme.

TRANSIT asks the Director General of Railways and the Minister of Transport to play a more proactive role in the planning of public transport and Railways Schemes by directing their officers to improve the structure of the public display and directing Railway Companies to make public all studies related the planning and analysis of their Railway Schemes.


Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
on behalf of TRANSIT


The Association for the Improvement of Mass-Transit (TRANSIT) is a public transport advocacy group that represents the voice of the public transport user, a stakeholder and shareholder in public transport who is often ignored by the other stakeholders (the operators, civil servants and wakil rakyat). TRANSIT aims to be a source of knowledge about public transport, and a watchdog for public transport service.


Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad is a company 100% owned by Ministry of Finance Inc. Prasarana owns the assets of public transport lines LRT Sistem 1, 2, 3 as well as buses. LRT Sistem 1 and 2 and a number of these buses are operated by RapidKL Sdn. Bhd. under the brand RapidKL, while other buses are operated by RapidPenang Sdn. Bhd. under the brand RapidPenang. LRT Sistem 3 is operated by KL Starrail Sdn. Bhd. RapidKL, RapidPenang and KL Starrail are all subsidiaries of Prasarana.

Railway Scheme

The Railway Scheme is the proposed route for the construction or extension of a Railway Line (in this case, the extension of LRT Sistem 1 and LRT Sistem 2), as well as the detailed information submitted to the Director General, Department of Railways as mandated under Section 7 and Section 8 of the Railways Act 1991.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Federal Government to Bail-Out SYABAS!

Over the past 9 months, the Selangor State Government and the Federal Government has attempted to iron out the differences over the water industry consolidation exercise in Selangor in an amicable fashion, behind closed doors. Unfortunately, despite the goodwill shown, the Federal Government had appeared adamant about granting the water concession license to Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (SYABAS), which is a private company owned and managed by Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd.

It now appears that the water talks between the state and federal government is completely futile for not only is the Federal Government insistent on awarding the license to Syabas, it has all these while been planning a bailout of Syabas which is suffering from poor management and major cashflow shortages.

In a press statement issued by Malaysia Rating Corporation (MARC) yesterday, it has affirmed’s (SYABAS) RM3.0 billion Bai Bithaman Ajil Commercial Papers/Medium Term Notes Programme (BBA CP/MTN) ratings of MARC-1/AA-.

Among the rationale for maintaining the AA- rating despite the cashflow problems faced by Syabas as well as the mounting number of legals suits for outstanding debt by its creditors, MARC said that
Mitigating the increased event risk faced by noteholders and pressure on SYABAS’ credit profile in the near-term is a 20-year back-loaded interest free unsecured RM320.8 million loan which SYABAS expects to receive from the federal government by the end of the year. The proceeds of the interest-free loan will be used to partially defray the past due amounts to the WTP operators.
MARC was informed by SYABAS that it has reached the final stages of concluding the loan agreement and drawdown is expected by end-December 2009.

As part of this “back-loaded interest free unsecured RM320.8 million loan”, SYABAS will only need to commence repayment only from 2014 with amounts less than RM5 million until 2025, with the overwhelming remainder payable only from 2026 onwards! And as the statement implies, the loan is completely interest-free and requires absolutely no collateral from Syabas.

This is a shocking development and we must ask the Federal Government why it is using tax-payer's monies to provide life support to a private company, and at such lucrative terms? Even when the Government forked out RM4.6 billion in soft loans to Port Klang Free Zone which is a 100% government owned entity, a 4% interest rate was charged. And when governments all over the world undertook “bail-out” exercises to rescue private companies such as banks and motor companies, the tax-payers' monies were utilised under very strict terms. In fact, the Government of United States and United Kingdom became the largest, if not majority shareholders of these companies such as Citibank, General Motors, Crysler and Royal Bank of Scotland.

It is only in Malaysia where the Government is so generous to private concessionaires where “back-loaded, interest free and unsecured” loans amount to hundreds of millions are possible.

The Selangor state government has submitted an extremely comprehensive proposal to take over and restructure the water industry in the state without requiring any special sweetheart deals involving the tax-payers' monies from the Federal Government. In fact, two other key water industry players, SPLASH and ABASS had already agreed to the offers by the Selangor State Government before the overall deal collapse due to non-cooperation from SYABAS and Puncak Niaga, and the clear lack of support from the Federal Government.

The fact that SYABAS is facing critical cashflow problems reflects the complete failure of its privatised management, and should serve as the key reason why the state government should be allowed to take over these concessionaires and be given the opportunity to consolidate and restructure the fragmented and inefficient industry.

In providing a lifeline to SYABAS at such mind-boggling terms, the Federal Government is only doing it at the expense of the Rakyat. We will like to make a last ditch appeal to the Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak to intervene to revive the water restructuring exercise under the state government to ensure that the rakyat's interest are fully protect. There is no point in the Government going to the public to justify all sorts of higher taxes but at the same time, fail to utilise the Rakyat's monies in the must responsible and accountable manner.

Petronas Profit Dips, Rakyat To Bear The Burden

As Petronas profits dip 50.7%, will the Rakyat will have to pay for the Government's past excesses?

Petronas’ net profit before tax for April-September 2009 stood at RM31.2 billion versus RM63.3 billion in the same period a year ago, or a sharp decline of 50.7%. At the same time, revenues dropped 37.5 per cent to RM98.2 billion from RM157.2 billion ringgit.

The drop in profits is largely due to the decline in crude oil price during the period ranged between a low of US$50 in April to a high of US$75 achieved in August, averaging in the region of US$67. With the global crude oil price languishing around US$75 since September, it does not appear that the October 2009 to March 2010 period will improve significantly.

Therefore, the estimated annual profit expected from Petronas for financial year ending March 2010 will be in the region of RM 65 billion as compared to RM89 billion, or an overall decline of RM24 billion.

As a result, the sharp drop in Petronas profits will add further pressure onto the Government's revenue source for the 2010 financial budget as it's original estimates of RM56 billion collection from the petroleum sector may not materialise in full. If the Government is unable to either find additional revenue or reduce its expenditure, then the budget deficit for 2010 is expected to increase significantly above the projected 5.6%.

It is hence disappointing that despite the Government having collected bumper revenues amounting to RM217 billion from Petronas over the past 4 years (2006-2009) as a direct result of escalating oil prices, it did not have the simple foresight of putting aside any of these income for future use when the oil price declines. In fact, not only was every cent of the oil and gas windfall revenue over the past decade has been spent in full, the Government incurred additional debts on top.

As a result of the past excesses and wastages through irresponsible expenditure, corruption, incompetence and mismanagement, the Government is now caught with declining revenues and is finding it difficult to pay for its operational expenses, including servicing its rapidly increasing debt obligations.

In the light of the above, we call upon the Government not to take the easy way out to tax the rakyat more to make up for the revenue shortfalls by implementing measures such as the credit card tax, the real property gains tax and the proposed goods and services tax.

Instead, the Government to take this valuable crisis opportunity to restructure the large and bureaucratic Government machinery to be more lean and efficient. Before the Government even consider taxing the rakyat more, it should firstly implement fully transparent and accountable best practices for the implementation of Government procurement and projects.

In addition, the Government must also seek to implement additional measures to raise revenue from other sources which does not affect the livelihood of the masses, such as implementing an open auction system for the Approved Permits issued to import luxury foreign cars which can raise more than RM2 billion a year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

We Need Hospitals For Our Hospitals

Are our hospitals stricken with cancer as we continue to struggle to complete their construction on time and on schedule?

Malaysiakini yesterday revealed once again, another botched up public infrastructure project by the Malaysian government. The Shah Alam Hospital was originally budgeted by the then Selangor state government in 2007 at approximately RM300 million (The Star, 15/03/07), was eventually awarded for RM482 million, or 60.7% above its original budget.

The project was awarded to Sunshine Fleet Sdn Bhd which had absolutely no experience in construction of buildings, much less the specialised skills required for a public hospital. The construction and commissioning of the hospital project was however fully sub-contracted to financially distressed Isyoda Corp Bhd in November 2007.

Isyoda was however unable to complete, and withdrew from the project and the company filed winding up proceedings against Sunshine Fleet before the case was settled out of court in May 2009. The project was subsequently awarded to another fairly new company, GM Healthcare Sdn Bhd. As reported by Malaysiakini:

However, it may be sailing into troubled waters, just as Isyoda did. GMH is also beginning to suffer from the huge amounts of advances and expenses demanded by the turnkey contractor, Sunshine Fleet. Sources close to the project said such appropriations of funds for “expenses” other than construction costs may “have an adverse economic effect on the project”.

The question that the public is asking is whether the project will complete on time by November 2010 next year, and what additional cost is expected to be incurred by the Government to ensure that the hospital gets completed. In addition, what assurance does the rakyat have that it will not be another hospital project which is “completed” but becomes saddled with poor workmanship resulting in subsequent years of delay?

Malaysia has already got a history of more than half a dozen of botched up hospital projects, and it appears that the Shah Alam Hospital will become another name on the long list which includes:

  • Kota Kinabalu’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital (October 2008)

    Poor maintenance and planning led to infrastructure failure. ICU and surgical units were shut down. Several hundred patients were transferred out after three blocks were declared unsafe by engineers. It is learnt that the QEH management had reported the hospital’s deteriorating conditions as early as 2000. The Health Ministry was supposed to carry out maintenance and repair work on the hospital from time to time through its concession company, Syarikat Faber Mediserve Sdn Bhd.
  • Pekan Hospital, Pahang (June 2007)

    Scheduled for completion in 2003, the hospital was finally handed over to MOH in March 2007. Among defects found were leaking pipes, collapsed ceilings and problems with the main water tank.

  • Sultan Ismail Hospital, Johor (April 2007)

    In September 2004, the hospital which cost RM550 million was shut down for 17 months due to a fungus problem. 2 years later, large portions of the ceiling had to be removed due to structural inconsistencies. The company responsible for maintenance work at the hospital: Pantai Medivest.

  • Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital, Alor Star, Kedah (March 2007)

    Built at a cost of RM550 million, the hospital was opened 4 years after its scheduled completion date. Health Minister, Chua Soi Lek admitted that the contractors lacked expertise.

  • Sultan Abdul Halim Hospital, Sungai Petani (February 2007)

    Overflowing human faeces from a toilet forced temporary closure of an ICU unit at the state of the art hospital which cost RM450 million to build. A smilar leakage had occured in the hospital caferia due to a defective sewerage pipe. There were also collapse ceilings.

  • Ampang Hospital, Kuala Lumpur (March 2007)

    Scheduled for completion in 2004, the hospital only opened in 2007. The pediatric ward was fungus ridden, the ceiling were infested with fungi and the sewage pipes were leaking. Health Minister, Chua Soi Lek, said that glitches were to be expected in new buildings.
Despite the long history of such botched up projects, the Malaysian government has not learned its lessons and today, continues to award public infrastructure construction and building contracts of hospitals via direct negotiations, often to unknown or inexperienced companies.

It is completely unacceptable that the Government continues to benefit connected and influential individuals by awarding direct contracts despite the extensive list of failures, resulting in the losses amounting to billions of ringgit. What is worse is that the Government is now expecting the rakyat to pay for its follies by introducing various new and higher taxes such as the credit card tax, the real estate property gains tax and the soon to be introduced Goods and Services Tax.

I raised the Shah Alam hospital project in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Meeting yesterday to request that this on-going project gets thoroughly investigated before it becomes terminally ill. I received tentative agreement from the committee that the National Audit Department will be directed to conduct the initial investigations, and will report to the PAC on its findings for deliberation.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Increase Productivity Instead of Raising GST

Above is a clip from my press conference in Parliament this morning in response to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak's comments that the GST will not burden the middle and lower income rakyat. I thought of course, the comment was nonsensical. ;-)

You can also read the full report on Malaysiakini or The Edge.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

LAST CALL: DAP PJ Annual Fund Raising Dinner 2009

Come join us in our annual fund-raising dinner (halal) to support the DAP Petaling Jaya Utara Service Centre operations organised by the DAP Damansara Branch.

The speakers for the evening will include:
  • Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, Menteri Besar Selangor
  • Tony Pua, MP Petaling Jaya Utara & DAP National Publicity Secretary
  • Lau Weng San, ADUN Kg Tunku & DAP Selangor State Secretary
  • Hannah Yeoh, ADUN Subang Jaya & DAP Selangor State Treasurer
  • Dr Cheah Wing Yin, ADUN Damansara Utama*
  • Khalid Samad, PAS MP Shah Alam
* to be confirmed

The price of the dinner tickets are as follows:
  • RM600 per table or RM60 pax
  • VIP tables are also available for RM1,500 per table
Please contact Ms Carmen Leong @ or 016-2208867 to book your tickets!

For those who are not able to make the dinner, donations are also very much welcome ;-). Cheques should be written to "DAP Damansara Branch" or cash can be deposited at DAP Damansara Maybank account: 5141 9634 2008. Credit card payment is also available upon request.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Is the 2nd Finance Minister for Real?

The Second Finance Minister gave a keynote speech at the National Economic Outlook Conference 2010-2011 organised by the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research on the 1st December, which must have shaken the audience to the core, not because the content of his speech had anything new or shocking, but because it was the first time a Finance Minister had stated the obvious which all Malaysians knew about, with regards to the country's economy.

According to the AFP report, Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said:
"Malaysia is trapped in a low-value-added, low-wage and low-productivity structure," Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah (left) told an economic outlook conference. Among its peers China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, Malaysia's economic growth over the past three years was second-lowest, he said.

"Our economy has been stagnating in the last decade. We have lost our competitive edge to remain as the leader of the pack in many sectors of the economy. Our private investment has been steadily in decline... While Singapore and Korea's nominal per capita GDP grew within the last three decades by 9 and 12 times respectively, ours grew only by a factor of four."

In a withering assessment, Ahmad Husni said the services sector is underdeveloped, private investment is half the levels before the 1997-98 Asian crisis, and the manufacturing sector is suffering from lack of investment.

...He called for sweeping measures including an emphasis on meritocracy and ensuring all Malaysians are given "equal opportunity to participate in the economy".

"We must also consider the gradual dismantling of our open-ended protection of specific sectors and industries which have introduced a climate of complacency and artificial levels of supply... The long-term success of the nation's economy must take precedence over the short term interests of a few protected groups."
This is a speech which sounds as if it has been lifted word for word of the blogs of the Pakatan Rakyat leaders! In fact we have been saying the same over the past decade and we are ecstatic that a Finance Minister is finally listening for it is better late than never.

However, the “earth-shaking” speech will be a sheer waste of time and effort if it is not put into real concrete actions. We would like to call upon the Minister to move a ministerial statement on the country's real state of the economy and to allow for debate in the Parliament so that both sides of the house can unite for once on the urgent “wide-ranging reforms” needed to restart the country's engine of economic growth.

This is particularly urgent in the light of recent measures by the Government which runs completely counter to what the 2nd Finance Minister has raised such as the direct award of the mega-Matrade Exhibition and Convention Centre to Naza TTDI which serves the “short term interests of a few protected groups” and the complete lack of competition in the other projects awarded by the Government resulting in the continued decline in competitiveness.

Hence we hope that the Cabinet Ministers will no longer sing unbelievable and unrealistic praises of the Malaysia's economy in Parliament when responding to queries from its members. Instead they should all discard the knee-jerk denial syndrome mentality to ensure an honest assessment which is critical to adopting the right measures to heal the malaise in our economy.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

GST: First Blood

I issued my first press statement opposing the proposed Goods and Services Tax today. This will probably be the first of the many to come, and should we not be successful in pressing the Government to withdraw the bill, then, it will be a nationwide campaign all the way to the next General Elections! Prior to the recent announcements, I've already debated this issue in Parliament

Second Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanazlah has revealed yesterday that he expects the new law on the GST to be passed in March next year, and will be fully implemented by January 2012. He had earlier mentioned that he expects the GST rate to be set at 4%.

We would like to point out that while there are some theoretically sound reasons for the implementation of a GST system in Malaysia, it is totally inappropriate for the Government to impose GST any time in the near future as at this point of time, it will only serve as a heavy burden to the rakyat at large.

We would like to outline here 3 pre-conditions before a GST system can be imposed in Malaysia:

1.Malaysia must first achieve the “high income” status bandied about by the Prime Minister before imposing GST.

Today, out of a population of 27 million, there are in effect only 1.8 million tax-payers who pays any income tax, or only 6.7% of the population. Even if we were to take into account only the 12 million working population, it is only 15% of them who have pay any taxes. The 85% who don't pay are those who actually don't qualify to pay any taxes because their income is too low. However, with the implementation of GST, every single one of them whether they are earning RM500 a month or RM1,500 a month or even RM2,500 a month, who don't current pay any taxes, will be forced to bear the heavy burden of the GST.

Therefore, it is only fair that the income levels of the average Malaysian is raised to a level where the overwhelming majority of working Malaysians are already taxable before the switch is made to a GST or indirect taxation system.

2.The Government must get rid of all “hidden taxes” in our daily goods and services first before any new tax on such services are imposed

The rakyat are already heavily burdened by “hidden taxes” payable to Barisan Nasional (BN) crony concession companies such as the toll on the highways, or the huge subsidies to the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) as well as the high water tariffs to the privatised water concessionaires due to the lob-sided contracts signed by the Government with these parties. These “hidden taxes” are paid daily to these crony companies which amounts to billions of ringgit a year enabling them to make astronomical profits annually.

Hence until the BN Government demonstrates the political will to restructure these concessions to ease the sufferings of the man on the street, imposing the GST will only rub salt to the would of the people for we will then have to not only pay for high toll, electricity and water rates, we will have to pay GST on top of them!

The BN Government must demonstrate that it does indeed believe in its slogan of “people first”, and not in reality, “crony concessionaires first”.

3.The Government must exhaust all avenues of raising funds and ensure that maximum value is extracted from all Government assets before any attempt to raise additional taxes from the rakyat.

For example:
  1. The Government has refused to openly auction the 30,000 to 60,000 approved permits (APs) issued annually to private connected companies to import foreign vehicles which can in itself raise up to RM1.8 billion per annum. In contrast, the Second Finance Minister claimed that the new GST will only raise approximately RM1 billion per annum.

  2. The Government has refused to conduct open tenders for its privatisation exercises to ensure the best quality at the lowest cost such as the building of the new mega-Matrade Convention Centre for RM628 million.

  3. At the same time, it has also refused to openly auction its land for sale but has instead awarded a 62.5 acres piece of prime land at a valuation of RM197 million to a private company, when the independent property consultants have valued it between RM970 million to RM1.5 billion!
With so many other means of raising additional funds and mechanisms to reduce cost for the Government to carry out its programmes, there is absolutely no necessity for the Government to be imposing the GST at this stage, especially in the light of the fact that 85% of the working population will be heavily burdened because their income levels are still low.

We call upon the Prime Minister to fulfil the above conditions first, including his own promise to achieve a “high income” society, before even contemplating to reform the tax system with the implementation of the GST.