Monday, August 04, 2008

Khairy Face-Off

I've been off only for a few days from blogging and I'm getting complaints already ;-)

Well, besides a day which I took off to quietly enjoy my 36th birthday (and to remind myself that age is certainly catching on...), there just wasn't time to sit down and blog properly despite having at least 7 posts in draft mode(!).

But skipping the drafts and coming to the most recent event yesterday when I had a "face-off" with the honourable Member of Parliament from Rembau, Khairy Jamaluddin as well as the Selangor state assemblyman for Seri Setia, Nik Nazmi. Nik is also the youngest candidate in the last general elections, and is now doubling up as the political secretary to the Selangor Menteri Besar. The forum was held at the Malaysian Student Leaders' Summit, hosted by the UK and Eire Council for Malaysian Students (UKEC).

I won't go into the details of the session which lasted some one and a half hour long, which was certainly lively on the issue of subsidies and the tongkat mentality in Malaysia. Nik has blogged it here, with the Star headlining Rembau here and Malaysian Insider terming the debate as a "stalemate".

(Heh, Nik and I must have done a real crappy job of it if it was 2 against 1 and still ended stalemate ;-))

Khairy gets squeezed in this threesome

And there are other bloggers who blogged about it as well so far, Rajan R with a specific reference to the issue of foreign labour and low wages, and Shannon Shah, who will be writing for the soon-to-be-launched "The Nut Graph", was happy to see a democratic debate alive in Malaysia. I'm sure there'll be other sites which I've missed who have blogged the event.

Khairy revealed that I will be crossing over to Barisan Nasional on September 16th

I've only got a few points to add from the debate.

Firstly, possibly the only bit which I thought I could have answered better when pressed by the moderator with regards to the issue of forcing the hands of the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to renegotiate the purchasing power agreements (PPAs) versus the concern of upholding the sanctity of contracts.

I had ended the line of argument by saying that the Government must have the political will to act in the interest of the public. I could probably have better express my point by making the Government weigh the cost (if any) of the grossly unfair PPA contracts which benefits very very few, versus the cost to the public and the overall Malaysian economy in the years to come. In my opinion, a mistake has been made by the government, and a responsible government will have to take the side of the people it serves.

Secondly, it was a rebuttal which I had wanted to make while debating a point with Khairy, but I didn't, so that the debate can move on to subsequent points. But I thought, definitely worth putting in the rebuttal here at the very least.

In a gist, Nik and I have argued that gradual reductions in subsidies should be done only after 2 key issues, a comprehensive social safety net as well as a efficient public transport system has been put in place.

Khairy had argued that funds were diverted to other important functions such as the RM4 billion food security fund, hence the savings from the "reduction" in subsidies could not be sufficiently allocated to public transport.

I, in return argued that the overall government budget has increased by some RM40 billion since 2004, hence there is no excuse for the lack of expenditure in essential projects like public transport. This increase was largely contributed by payments by Petronas to the government which increased in tandem with the rise in oil prices.

Khairy then argued that while there was an increase in government budget, the funds were utilised for development projects in the interest of the people, hence it was a question of priorities.

I then replied that the priorities were obviously wrong because over the past 10 years since 1998, the government has increased development expenditure from approximately RM20 billion to RM42 billion (2008), while, operational expenditure which comprises rental, wages, pens and paper, maintenance etc., ballooned from about RM40 billion to RM129 billion (2008)! Hence most of the increase in expenditure, financed by our Petronas money was not going to development.

Khairy responded that I have underestimated the importance of maintenance, as it was certainly critical to upkeep our infrastructure, for there is no point building new schools if we don't maintain them.

I let the argument rest there because I thought my point has been made and the audience should be able to judge it accordingly. But I was certainly eager to add on that the reason why our maintenance cost is so darn high is simply because it costs so much more to maintain our infrastructure than to actual build them! The case in point was the RM120 million MRR 2 flyover, which had cost RM70 million to repair in 2004, and now the pillars are cracking again! Or the countless other examples of bailouts - LRTs, MAS, MATRADE etc. Or the schools maintenance scandal, where RM30,000 was paid for RM3,000 worth of renovations. Not to mention of course, our Proton Perdana repair bills!

Khairy obviously doesn't take "no" for an answer ;-)
(Pictures courtesy of Nik Nazmi)

Well, the debate wasn't ever going to have any clear cut winners or losers. Such debate rarely does, unless one party is completely doofuss. What was important was the fact that a meaningful debate was carried out and the panelist has the opportunity to present their views and the audience gets to make (hopefully), a more informed opinion.

I hope that the 500+ audience who attended the forum yesterday had a good time and as I mentioned during the forum, I certainly hope that more will be inspired to join us in playing our part of change and make Malaysia a more progressive nation, whether with the government or the opposition (DAP preferred of course! ;-)) at some point in their lives.


Fernando said...

"3 Kingdoms in Malaysia" @ (大马之三国演义)

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony,

Happy 36th Birthday & May U & Your Family be blessed with Health, Wealth, Prosperity & Power.

Cheers buddy,

Anonymous said...

"In a gist, Nik and I have argued that gradual reductions in subsidies should be done only after 2 key issues, a comprehensive social safety net as well as a efficient public transport system has been put in place."

"Comprehensive social safety net"????? I can think of a Monty Python reference here (no, not the holy hand grenade, the other holy thing...)

Chin Wan said...

First of all, Happy Birthday! I hope it was awesome for you and your family.

Secondly, it is my opinion that certain basic human needs such as water, electricity, transportation and health care should belong to everyone. Nobody should profit from it. Charges charged for these utilities/facilities should only be used to cover the operational cost.

Lastly, kudos on the debate/forum!

Anonymous said...

Happy 36th Birthday

i also from batu pahat

zackdanial said...

Happy Birthday YB .

Not to worry by 2010 or by Sept 16 2008 "rembau" will be out of Politics .

Anonymous said...

Tony, did you ask him to challenge Anwar?

Anonymous said...

Hi tony, apparantly we share the same birthday. Blessings to you and a properous year ahead.

Anonymous said...

That particular oxford grad you are referring is a "spent man"!!

Anonymous said...

Good evening Tony and Happy Belated Birthday,

It just come into my mind that when playing monopoly board game, players would pray that their dice would let them land on the utilities cell first so that they can purchase it as it is an invaluable asset that generates high income.

It is the same in real life too!

Anonymous said...

YB Tony, the session was a superb one, and i really enjoyed myself aside from being informed =) Never knew politics was this exciting.

Anyways just want to say thanks a lot for gracing us all with your presence, and have a great day.

Oh and happy belated bday

Anonymous said...

Bravo, so far, YB Tony Pua and YB Nik Nazmi have blogged so quickly on this event of signicance affecting future leaders (next generation after you guys)... still waiting for YB Khairy's piece, if he ever will -- understandably he's well occupied with his celebrity status and of course, football... (and definitely the upcoming Permatang Pauh showdown).

We'll be waiting for contenders from Umno, PKR, or independent (Tun M perhaps??) and let's see who would really benefit Penangites instead of just wanting to take advantage and lightly of the rakyats... (both previous and current state government).

[Pak Lah definitely turned his back, and Tan Sri Nor doesn't seem to help much their own origin state]

KoSong Cafe said...

Happy birthday Tony. I have yet to meet you in person though we are friends in Facebook!

I am glad I had given some thought into public transport by suggesting BRT (even if nothing comes of it I have voiced out) as advised by my friend who used to be involved in public transport in KL, until the government decided to revamp it. It seemed like a good idea then – for 2 large companies to take over all the private bus companies but it got into financial trouble soon after. To date it is still unsatisfactory in terms of service as well as requiring injection of public funds.

There is no harm in suggestions if the intention is good and without expectation. For now, I am happy for Penangites since Rapid Penang had increased the number of buses which naturally will improve services with the federal government claiming credit.

The main criteria for success in public transport, in my opinion, are convenience to the public and financial independence of the transport company. What we have seen so far seems to
be ‘experimental’ and I cannot help thinking the measures taken seemed to suit large contracts rather than specific needs which resulted in wastage – the large number of idle buses is a case in point. Where efficiency of a bus company is judged by the percentage use of vehicles, it failed miserably. But who cares when funds are readily available?

In Penang, a long-term solution cannot avoid the clearing of narrow streets of illegal hawkers and other obstructions, which can be highly unpopular, to allow some dedicated bus lanes. Then there is the ‘state vs federal’ politicking. My friend was involved in discussions with the previous state government and I could detect his frustration when commenting on public transport and dealing with political realities! So both of us can laugh over it instead. But seriously, if in any way Penang needs input from a professional, he is a good one.

Anonymous said...

Your modesty is noble but clearly you won the debate. But what is shown here is however, it does not matter you won the debate. What KJ showed is that all he need is excuses but you have to do so much better and still you may not win.

This is what Malaysia is living with - an unfair society and no real plan to become one.

The problem is our process of decision not the issues.

Anonymous said...

Mr Tony Phua,

I Was there at the UKEC conference. In fact I did Question Mr. Khairy but apparently i spoke too fast and ppl not really get it.

I think the decrease in 10% entertainment allowance isn't enough and TAX system isn't the best solution. Please bring the issue to parliament



WY said...

hey Tony,

With regardst o your posting about gifts & souveniers the other day, i suggest to you and your PR colleagues to propose an additional rule to the Parliamentarian Act (or something simliar). Any gift above rm1000 (or rm5000) from any parties MUST be declared.

Similar law in nz:


Anonymous said...

the public transport in Sarawak is far more out-dated compared with West Malaysia, there are no LRTs, KTM nor tight scheduled buses to ALL the single area.

The only transport we use for the far distance in the same city to work is CAR or Motorbike! We have low paid in Sarawak compared to west but we have to spend more for the petrol and foods during petrol hikes and foods price arising session.

Maintenance? I don't think Sarawak's cities and areas are well maintained. for the readers who used to pay a visit and stay long in Sarawak like Sibu, since I was young till now, about 40 years ++ you would see how bad the roads are maintained, and there is a frequent flood due to the geographical issues but government does nothing for that and giving all the empty promises, and public transport?? I used to drive car and due to many prices arising issues, I am now tight my budget drive motorbike, no buses reach to my house area!

Billion of $$ for the people interest? I really have a doubts on it.

Anonymous said...

"Can't have trust fund because the money is spent on schools and roads"??

Why didn't you or Nik call him on that?

• Ask him to show income from oil and expenditure on schools/roads (even after the debate, no problem, we'll wait for the numbers).

• If schools/roads are so important, why send a space tourist. Could have saved RM90 MILLION from the deal.

• Your point on abscence of complementary policies on the petrol hike was spot on. But argh, didn't step on the advantage. Why didn't ask, could have staggered the increases, why a stupid sudden hike that is a sudden disruption? Is it because of false campaign promises not to raise prices?

Muhammad Fahmi said...

If you posted the pictures only without article you can clearly see SCOMI and at the back, direct link to Khairy. But what the heck CIMB GROUP? Does that mean Najib also back Khairy?

Anonymous said...

hey yb
rely hepi to see three great young leaders in one forum. u all r great speakes(talk with all the facts) and very well educated.
keep it up! ;-)

Bentoh said...

Blogger WY Kam 甘永元 said...

hey Tony,

With regardst o your posting about gifts & souveniers the other day, i suggest to you and your PR colleagues to propose an additional rule to the Parliamentarian Act (or something simliar). Any gift above rm1000 (or rm5000) from any parties MUST be declared.

Similar law in nz:



Good idea indeed... :)

But a "private member bill" may take... say 5 years before it is tabled in the house??? xD

Anonymous said...

Dear YB,

Education has been the matter of your interest. It is critical for our country to have employable graduates. I wonder if the going on in lecture halls should be a concern for the education ministry.

Frankly I am speechless

Lee Wee Tak

Anonymous said...

indeed a small but important step towards a more open msia society!

Anonymous said...

YB Tony,

I'm your young supporter from PJ Utara currently working in Singapore. I have been following the news back home ever since our political tsunami.
As an economy advisor to YB LGE himself, could you suggest to CM to make tuesday (26/8/2008) a public holiday for penang state.
BN is dirty for organizing the by-election on a Tuesday (through its proxy, the useless SPR) as a mean to prevent bigger margin of votes for DSAI.
What can DAP do to help Pakatan Rakyat? So far it seems only the Malays and Indians from PKR and PAS are active in the PR campaign.
We need to see more chinese in DAP and PKR to participate in this.
Our Ironman LKS and Street Fighter Tian Chua both have contributed alot, but we still need more to come out to show support. For PR to really succeed, the chinese have to stop playing safe and start coming out in great numbers to support DSAI.

SOP said...

What would be the margin between PKR and BN in the coming Permatang Pauh by-election ?

Test your judgment @

Surind said...

Happy belated birthday Tony, wishing you all the best. Take care.

Unknown said...

happy birthday young man .... dun waste time with alter-ego-4th floor-my-FIL is d PM characters