Thursday, October 2, 2014

Working with CIA, FBI

WASHINGTON: Malaysia enters into an agreement of cooperation with US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other security agencies in combating extremism, human trafficking and illegal cross boundaries.

In his meeting with US Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson in Washington, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi discussed how the US and Malaysia could jointly work out a formula to stamp out human trafficking.


Malaysia, which hosts about 6 million foreigners, including about 4 million illegal immigrants, will send a group of immigration officers to a training program under US Customs and Border Security Agency.

Taking center stage was the war against the Islamic State militants (IS). Since Malaysia has been accused of providing trainings to militant groups - amid proof that some Malaysians had joined IS - it will augur well in controlling and applying a brake on them.

The mechanism of monitoring was also discussed at length during Zahid's 3-hour meeting with CIA director John Brennan in Washington, before they met again at a CIA-hosted dinner at the Potomac River.

It is important for Malaysia and the US to focus on era­dicating radical and extremist ideology among youths. Combating this menace together will not come easy but a continuous cooperation on both sides (that has been forged since 1975) will be further strengthened.


Zahid, who met FBI deputy director Mark Giuliano, said the US government still lacked the proper mechanism to reha­bilitate extremist groups.
“We face a daunting task in combating extremism, especially when such ideas are spread widely through social media,” he said, adding that the IS threat in Iraq and Syria was also discussed.
During his visit, Dr Ahmad Zahid was also briefed on Customs and border protection facilities at the National Targeting Centre for Passengers and Cargo in Washington.
At a separate event celebrating Malaysia’s 57th National Day and Armed Forces Day at the Malaysian Embassy, Dr Ahmad Zahid praised the strong diplomatic relations between both countries that had been forged since 1957.
“This cooperation will be extended to preventing trans-border crime through a memorandum of understanding, which was signed in 2012 in Putrajaya,” he said.
His meeting also touched the effort to expedite the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) to the United States, which was brought up during a meeting with Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Edward R. Royce during their meeting on Tuesday.
"I have received a briefing on the programme and told him (Royce) of our desire for the programme to be expedited.
"We also touched on bilateral relations between the two countries, in terms of a two-way trade and Malaysia's border security," he said following the meeting.
Dr Ahmad Zahid said he was still confident that Malaysia would be able to join the VWP in the next 18 months.
"The programme would enable Malaysians to enter US without applying for visas and will allow them to stay in the US for a maximum of 90 days for tourism or business purposes," he said.
I think national security is most paramount. The reading thus far remands us - the government and rakyat - to work together in securing a stable and peaceful environment free of domestic and external threats.

When Zahid comes come, I hope everything he had learned in the US will be translated into action. Knowledge is to be applied...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Please EXPLAIN!

No clearer explanation was given by the government on the new hike in the prices of petrol and diesel, five days before Hari Raya Aidiladha.

The announcement by the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry only bragged about the amount of subsidy the government still has to bear in order to offer 'cheaper' prices to consumers.

It came without any logical economic and market-survey analysis. Too short a statement, reflective of how the mind of those working in formulating the prices are. Moreover, we are expecting a more refreshing Budget 2015 announcement by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak about a month from now.
The prices of petrol and diesel in Malaysia will go up on Thursday (Oct 2), as part of the government’s plan to reduce the current fuel subsidy by 20 sen (US$0.06).
The Star Online said on Wednesday that from midnight, RON95 petrol will cost RM2.30 (US$0.67) per litre, while diesel will cost RM2.20 (US$0.70) per litre.
The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry added that it will implement the subsidy reduction in stages, saying it will continue providing incentives to the lower-income group to alleviate their financial burden.
According to The Sun Daily, the Malaysian government needs to spend about RM21 billion (US$6.42 billion) in fuel subsidies despite the reduction. 
The Star Online said the current market price for RON95 is RM2.58 (US$0.79) per litre, while diesel is RM2.52 (US$0.77) per litre.
The who world is observing a decline in crude oil prices.

While Malaysia hikes up prices, some countries, including India took a drastic step to reduce it. Read here:
The price of petrol was cut by 65 paise per litre on Tuesday, while that of diesel was kept unchanged. The revised rates will be effective from midnight.
"RSP of petrol in Delhi shall decrease by Rs. 0.65/litre (including VAT), with corresponding decrease in other states," Indian Oil Corp, the country's largest fuel retailer, said in a statement.
Diesel price revision was kept on hold till Prime Minister's return from the US, Press Trust of India reported. Mr Modi is on his first US visit since coming to power in May this year. This would be the first reduction in diesel prices in over five years.
The oil is in the midst of one of its steepest selloffs since the financial crisis, with prices falling 16 percent since mid-June.

This has the Saudis contemplating even deeper cuts in oil production to keep prices from declining any further. The world’s biggest crude exporter told OPEC recently that in August it reduced output by more than 400,000 barrels a day.
It’s not yet clear how well that’s working. The Saudi cuts were offset in part by more oil from Iran, Iraq, and Nigeria—not to mention the continued record increase in U.S. oil production thanks to the shale boom. While prices are expected to rise slightly for international blends of crude over the next six months, domestic prices in the U.S. are forecast to be cheaper by next spring. That’s not necessarily great news for oil producers, but it could be good news for consumers and the global economy.
There are two schools of thought to explain the recent crash in oil prices: too little demand and too much supply. The question is which one is having the bigger influence. While the results are the same (lower oil prices), the reason for them is equally if not more important to the global economy. Demand certainly could be stronger. A stagnant economy in Europe, slower growth in China, and flat gasoline consumption in the U.S. are all tamping down prices. According to the International Energy Agency, the growth in the world’s demand for oil will be the slowest this year since 2011.
US oil prices also posted their largest drop in almost two years and the global Brent contract fell into a bear market on Tuesday after OPEC oil supplies reportedly exceeded demand.

Oil prices were also under pressure as traders squared up books with the last trading day of the month and the quarter, and on the expiration of contracts for refined fuels.
Analysts and traders said investment managers appeared to be capitulating after a rout in crude markets that has seen benchmark US prices fall 13% and the global Brent contract lose 16% in the quarter that ended Tuesday. The steep decline has come as domestic and global supplies have ballooned, with output from the US, Libya and Iraq surging to the point where the market no longer responds to usual bullish drivers such as disturbances in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
The decline in oil prices outpaced even the sharp decline in commodity markets, with the Bloomberg Commodity Index falling 12% in the same time period.
Now, where is the justification for our price hike?

Such a move will always lead to the rise in consumer items. Traders, retailers and wholesalers alike will ride on it as a lame excuse to increase the price of such items. Even 'mamak roti canai' will be moved to increase the price of 'teh tarik' and 'roti canai' by 10 sen or 20 sen.

And what about our public transport and other services?

By the way, PM is still away. Was he informed about it?
NEW DELHI: State oil firms have slashed petrol prices by 65 paise per litre from Wednesday because of falling international oil prices, which may also brighten ruling BJP's prospects in Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections.

This is the fourth consecutive reduction in petrol prices in last two months leading to a total Rs 5.74 per litre drop in its rate in Delhi. "Petrol prices have been reduced by about 54 paise per litre on all India basis, but the pump prices of petrol will diff ..

The Sultan says it well...

I concur with what the Sultan of Perak said today - that poverty and widening income gaps could contribute to the rise of corruption.

I've seen it happened, and it's still happening. And it will continue when family and social obligation demand more money for everything.

Of course the government is doing all it can to address the problems but some policies are carried out over-zealously. No need to name them, its already the talk of town. Some even suggested the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia or BR1M failed to play its role, which in some cases involved graft!
More Malaysians will be exposed to a culture of petty corruption if the questions of widening income gaps and uneven distribution of wealth are not addressed, said Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah.
Citing data from the New Economic Model report, which showed that 80% of Malaysian households earned less than RM5,000 a month, while 78.6% of Employees Provident Fund subscribers earned less than RM3,000 a month, the Ruler said that many people were forced to take on second jobs to cope with the current situation.
“What are the options for civil servants and professionals if their salaries are not enough to pay for their daily expenses?
“This is the reality in the country. The number of those in this category will only increase if effective formulas focusing on housing, food, health and transportation are not introduced.
“The country cannot be in denial of the reality on the challenges that it is facing.
“It is a big challenge to the country. It is not a temporary sore throat that can be cured with a Strepsil.
“It is a serious social disease, needing intensive treatment from society’s doctors and surgeons, and a formula for a cure from social pharmacies which can dispense comprehensive and holistic social policies,” he said at the 47th Anniversary of the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) celebration here, Wednesday.
The Ruler said corruption offences were committed by two types of people, ones who are desperate due to the hardships in life and those who are consumed by greed.
“Offenders in this category tend to be slick and sophisticated, adept at washing their hands of any wrongdoing, difficult to convict and connected to the powerful,” he said.
As such, the Sultan said that combating corruption required stern and non-selective action.
I visited many parts of the country recently, including Sabah and Sarawak. The gap is widening, and in fact the rural folks have yet to luxuriate from all the major development policies already in place. They didn't feel it coming.

Just asking our politicians, especially the leaders - are they aware that many of our kampung folks are still having 'beras hancur' for lunch and dinner?

Even the cheapest car on the road is still no affordable by the lowest income bracket. Are we really marching towards the fully-develop nation status by the year 2020 with a high-income target for each and every household?

1MDB under scrutiny

Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) must begin an immediate inquiry into the troubled sovereign fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), an anti-corruption watch group said.

The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) said today the PAC should call "all actors involved" for the inquiry into the fund's massive debts, dubious land deals and secrecy over its transactions as 1MDB was a burden to the country's national debt.


It said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is chairman of 1MDB's advisory board, should provide an answer to the fund's troubled developments.
"1MDB can no longer afford the luxury of silence and must come clean on its actual state of financial affairs and management in general. 1MDB cannot operate in secrecy, and cannot pretend that it does not owe the Malaysian public, investors and business community any explanation or clarification," C4 executive director Cynthia Gabriel said in a statement.
The anti-graft group said the chairman of 1MDB's board of governors, Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin, should present a status report of the fund's latest state of affairs to Parliament at its next session this month.
C4 noted that Lodin had also been involved in the purchase of Scorpene submarines as a director of the company, Perimekar, until 2010, and that the company was being investigated by the French authorities for allegedly accepting kickbacks in the submarine deal.
C4 said 1MDB should disclose updated information on the amount of funds placed overseas that have been repatriated back to Malaysia for reinvestments, to pay up debts as well as for reserves and upcoming projects.
The sovereign fund should also disclose the expected yearly rate of return on placements domestically and overseas, finance costs per annum, and the amount of 1MDB's loans and bonds that enjoy government guarantees.

"Malaysians have every right to demand accountability, transparency and integrity in the management and operations of 1MDB and the use of its funds… how could things go so wrong after just five years?"

1MDB was set up in 2009 as the government's strategic investment arm with a grant of RM5 billion but has since acquired debts of RM38 billion as of March 2013 amid allegations of mismanagement.
C4 said there were at least four areas to which 1MDB must provide answers.

One was its delay in getting listing approval for its energy unit comprising of power plants and desalination plants in more than six countries to settle a loan of RM5.5 billion that is due in November this year.

The listing was aimed at raising more than US$3 billion (RM9.6 billion) to settle the loan which has been extended twice.

'Kajang Move' leads to 'Kajang flashflood'

MCA yesterday blamed PKR and its engineered ‘Kajang move’ for the flashflood in Kajang (I am still trying to find logic in this).

MCA Selangor state liaison committee secretary Ng Chok Sin had also accused the party of neglecting the welfare of the people in its bid to secure the state’s Menteri Besar position for its president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.


“I strongly believe that one of the reasons for the flash flood yesterday was because of PKR being overly occupied with their protracted Kajang Move which had resulted in a power struggle,” Ng said in a press statement.
“PKR’s chase and greed for the Menteri Besar post for Dr Wan Azizah had caused the many issues affecting the people’s welfare to be completely neglected,” he said urging Dr Wan Azizah to attend to the needs of the people of her constituency.
The MCA central committee member said the flashflood yesterday in Kajang is another of Pakatan Rakyat’s unfilled election promises.
“What has newly-elected Kajang state assemblyman achieved in the 6 months ever since she won the artificially-created Kajang by-election?,” he asked.
“I strongly urge her to reveal her future plans for flood mitigation, and also to reveal what she has accomplished so far. Or was everything she promised in her election manifesto merely lip-service so that she can win the voters’ support?,” he questioned.
Ng had called on the new Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali to review the party’s election promised and work towards fulfilling them.
“Dr Wan Azizah may have been the state assemblyman for 6 months, but the state government was helmed by PR for over 6 years,” he said.
The 'Kajang Move' was meant to instal Anwar Ibrahim as Selangor mentri besar but due to a court verdict on him, wife Wan Azizah was picked to contest, and she won.

PKR then instigated DAP and PAS to oust Khalid Ibrahim to pave a way for Azizah as mentri besar. However, it shattered Pakatan Rakyat's dream, especially Anwar's when the Sultan himself chose Azmin Ali to replace Khalid.

Whatever it is, Azmin is still Anwar's right hand man, the one he groomed since the early days in Barisan Nasional cabinet.

Anwar has already started 'issuing orders' for Azmin to reveal who Khalid had enriched during his tenure as Selangor's boss since 2008, and also to review whatever agreement made by Selangor and Putrajaya, notably the water concession.

Its so clear, right?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wanted!

You see them, round them up and call the police...but do not whack them!


Stronger growth

Our economy maintains strong growth amid criticism and sketchy forecast by some local and foreign analysts that Malaysia would share the fate of some European nations for 'over-speeding development plans'.

The economy posted strong growth in the first half of 2014, buoyed by private sector consumption and investment.

Higher prices for petroleum and other hydrocarbons have also aided export sand government revenue, but this trend also underscores the susceptibility of external and fiscal balances to commodity prices.

At the same time, contingent risks to the government have continued to build, in part represented by the persistent rise in government-guaranteed debt.

The government kicked off its fiscal reform program in 2013, prompting a revision of the outlook on the A3 sovereign rating to positive from stable last November.

Despite the drag on growth from fiscal consolidation, the Malaysian economy performed strongly in the first half of 2014 with real GDP growth averaging 6.3 per cent year-on-year over this period, higher than all other major countries in the Asia-Pacific other than China.

At least Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's development program is moving on the right track, except for the 'almost nil impact' being felt by those in the rural areas. This needs a revision, especially during the next Budget presentation in October.

However, while we take pride in having achieved strong economic growth numbers in the last few quarters, the general sentiment among its people is still one of cynicism and indifference.


This is reflected in the stories making the rounds in recent weeks about how households in the country remain constrained by poor salary increments amid the rising cost of living. In general, the main grouse of the man on the street is that they are not feeling any better off than they were in the past few years or so even as the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) continues to expand healthily.

So, why is there a disconnect between the country’s strong GDP growth numbers and the reality on the ground?

World Bank senior economist for Malaysia Dr Frederico Gil Sander provides some perspective, noting that Malaysia’s “exceptional” GDP growth in the last two quarters had been driven mainly by strong export recovery, Sander points out that the spill-over effects had not been as strongly felt by many because of the limited linkages of the country’s export-oriented industries with the domestic sectors.

“Our research has found that Malaysia’s export-oriented sectors have fairly limited linkages with the domestic economy,” he says, pointing to the findings by World Bank’s latest Economic Monitor report on Malaysia published in June.

According to the report themed “Boosting Trade Competitiveness”, the contribution from domestic intermediaries to the value-added of Malaysia’s electrical and electronics exports is only 7%. This compared with that of South Korea, for instance, at 31%.


The World Bank’s report also indicates that multinationals in Malaysia source less than 40% of their inputs from domestic firms compared with 46% in Vietnam and 82% in China.

Undoubtedly, Malaysia has been one of the top-performing economies in Asean in recent years on the back of the country’s robust GDP growth numbers.

Growth has been particularly strong in the first half of 2014, with the country’s GDP expanding at higher-than-expected rates of 6.2% year-on-year and 6.4% in the first and second quarters of the year, driven by strong export growth and sustained domestic demand.

Sander points out that the improvement of advanced economies, in particular the United States and European Union, has finally trickled down to Malaysian exports.

However, he says, Malaysia will unlikely see spectacular growth rates in the quarters ahead. Sander argues: “There are some adjustments needed in the domestic side to rebuild the buffers against future crises."

“That means the monetary policy may need to become less accommodative and the fiscal policy may need to adjust for the Government to continue to reduce its fiscal deficit so that it can have the right fiscal position to face the next crisis when it comes,” he explains.

The normalisation process towards a less accommodative monetary policy, which involves higher interest rates, and a tighter fiscal policy, which involves the Government reducing subsidies, is expected to dampen domestic demand growth.

Still, Sander believes there is “really a good economic story to be told about Malaysia”.