Monday, December 29, 2008

Of 'invited', 'selective' and 'open' tenders

Pak Lah once said there wont be anymore 'direct nego' for government contracts, and that all available jobs should be tendered out accordingly.

Is this what is being practiced of late?

Reading open tenders in the newspapers only suggest that projects valued at RM30 million and above are not included. Most tenders only call for projects valued at between RM200,000 and RM28 million.

Not many Kelas A tenders were advertised, except for those costing between RM10 million and RM20 million, usually to build schools and additional buildings to existing government's offices nationwide.

In some instances, government projects costing between RM50 million and RM180 million were completed without any tender being called.

What's the actual meaning of 'invited tender', 'selective tender' and 'special tender' in determining who should get these big projects and who usually decides on it, is still blurr.

Even some 'selective' companies doing supply job for a few government agencies were allowed to continue their 2 plus 1 (2 year plus 1 year contract) upon completing their agreement, for another 'term' of 2 plus 1, although their services were not satisfactory.

This has deprived others of equal opportunity to bid for it.

These are normal complaints but it might affect the government's credibility in many aspects. We need to be more transparent in disbursing contracts to local contractors. If only a bunch of businessmen got it, may as well dont call for open tenders at all.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

WHEN YOUR BELOVED PARTY 'kills' YOU...

Kuala Terengganu parliamentary by-election is about 3 more weeks to go. It is a normal fuzz that every general elections or by-election will see some party opportunists trying to gain something out of it.

I had a long chat with an entrepreneur from Bandar Tun Razak yesterday. He owns a medium-sized industry which supplies T-shirt, vest and other souvenir items.

He is also an Umno member. However, the party he loves is KILLING his business. The datas he showed me was shocking.

During the last general elections in March (forget about the previous ones), names like Abdullah Badawi, Najib Razak, Khir Toyo and other big names in Barisan Nasional are on the list of 'pemiutang' (debtors) to his company.

Whether their names were used by party opportunists as licences to place orders, nobody knows. However, I realised that this businessmen has always been made victim.

Why? BN opportunists placed orders for about 300,000 round-collar T-shirts, about 200,000 ordinary T-shirts, almost half a million BN stickers for motorbikes, about 200,000 BN vests, 120,000 towels, 300,000 pens, 380,000 caps and about 800,000 other items for the ruling party.

I dont know about other suppliers but I believe they were dealt with similar blow.

According to this guy, only 15 per cent of the placed orders were collected and paid. The balance has cost him about RM1 million as all items were either laminated or stitched with BN logos and hence cannot be sold to others.

It left him to no choice but to lay off 11 workers in order to sustain operations.

Just about a week ago, a few people from Terengganu Umno State Liaison Committee approached him for some orders. They refused to take the available stocks but demanded new ones at a cheaper rates and fast service.

The purchase order was for about 30,000 round-collar T-shirts, 15,000 collar T-shirts, 5,000 caps, 2,000 umbrellas, 10,000 ballpens, 2,000 vests, 3,000 bath towels and a few other items, all of which are meant for nomination days on January 7, 2009 and polling day ten days later.

They promised him to collect every single order without paying a single sen of deposit. That's the usual promises he got each time BN opportunists who 'cari makan' came to him, telling that the Mentri Besar, the vice-president or any high-ranking officials gave them the instructions.

There were times when everything was delivered, the payment came between 4-6 months later or didnt come at all, expect a phone call such as 'anggaplah ini sumbangan awak kepada parti' (just consider this as your contribution to the party).

So, this is how the ruling party helps nurture entrepreneurs...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Are our economists telling the truth?

ARE our economists giving us the true picture of the national economy? Or are they applying blanket on its darker side?

As an economic journalist then, I used to attend the 'Brown Bag' talks at Bank Negara. At the end of every question-and-answer session, we were advised what and not to write. We did understand the whole situation - and that we must always paint a good picture.

However, when the whole world is reeling from then economic downturn, do we still need such blankets and good picture?

A good picture will augur well in attracting more foreign direct investments (FDIs) but the words that go around about how bad the situation is at Labuan Offshore Financial Centre and other offshore facilities worldwide, should be well perceived and looked into.

The fact that more and more workers are being retrenched is not a good economic sign. We have to admit that Malaysia is NOT SPARED of the global economic crisis. Even the American cant practice the economic tools its prescribed for other countries.

Its nothing wrong to speak the truth about the economy. If we are doing not so bad, just say so. If we are much affected, say it out. The people are more wise these days to distinguish the elements of subjudice in our newspaper reports about the economy.

It is good that the pump price of fuel has gone down in tandem with the current crude oil price (USD43 per barrel). However, the people are still fighting for survival. The price of consumer goods which shot up over the hike in oil price mid this year, has yet to come down.

Inflation and recession are already felt. We cannot deny this facts. The middle and low-income groups are feeling the pinch. Although the government has and will introduce new economic package to stabilise its adverse impacts, the result is still not felt.

US financial package of USD17 billion to salvage its three carmaker companies did not have any impact on the markets worldwide, not even on the Wall Street. Injecting monies to ailing companies will only cause the economy to dismantle its fundamentals.

We may have pride on strong exports growth but we also look into the reciprocal value with each trading partner. Not all will surrender their trade deficit easily now when their economy, too, are badly affected.

Countries like Japan, China and even Vietnam are subscribing to day-to-day monitoring of their economy although they are quite 'okay' in the sense that their federal reserves can sustain at least 12-month defered imports, a duration that the IMF forecast as enough for the world economy to recover again.

Malaysia is of no exception, we should say. With the price of commodites like rubber and palm oil continue to dive, the majority of our people are finding it more difficult to save at least a ringgit everyday. In some cases, not enough to make ends meet.

We belong to the world economic pattern that formulates global trade, price and supply. We cannot find a big escape but to manage our macro-economic imbalances accordingly and try to tailor it to domestic needs.

Yes, of course our economists are doing a hell of a job to keep the economy at bay but at the same time, they should be more open to talk.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hudud and Qisas ala Pakatan Rakyat?

Now... wait! Husam said PAS will still implement the Hudud and Qisas law if Pakatan Rakyat wins the next general elections, the only issue that tore apart PAS-DAP-PKR pact in 2004.

Very intriguing, isnt it? Even at the Dewan Rakyat, PAS has never brought up the issue, neither had any of its Member of Parliament dared to speak about it.

In many cases, the PAS MPs were tight-lips each time DAP touched the issues about Islam and the Malays.

However, as to what extent will Hudud and Qisas law will be implemented (should they manage to form the next government), nobody knows but it already caused a stir to the PR.

DAP sec-gen and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said in Georgetown the plan by PAS will not be tolerated by DAP unless it applies only to the Muslims in the country.

What does Hadi Awang or Ustaz Nik Aziz got to say about this? Just wait...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ahmad Said blasts TV3

Datuk Ahmad Said yesterday slammed TV3 for subjecting him to negative reports ever since he became Mentri Besar of Terengganu.

Saying that TV3 had harboured bad intention against him by giving him inaccurate reports, Ahmad claimed that certain individuals in the state were using the private television station to tarnish his image.

“Yesterday (Wednesday), TV3 broadcast a report stating that I would close down state government subsidiary Golden Pharos. This saddens me. TV3 is subjecting me to such treatment because it may have an agenda,” he said during a question and answer session at the State Assembly.

In its 'Buletin Utama' news Wednesday, TV3 broadcast a statement attributed to Ahmad which said that three Terengganu state government subsidiaries, Golden Pharos Berhad, Permint Sutera Semai Sdn Bhd and Syarikat Percetakan Yayasan Islam Terengganu Sdn Bhd, would be closed down.

Ahmad, who is the state assemblyman for Kijal, recalled that during the tussle over his appointment as menteri besar, TV3 had broadcast reports that he was under investigation by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA).

“Initially, it broadcast reports that the Regency Advisory Council had issued a statement on the appointment of Ahmad Said as the Terengganu menteri besar. Then, in its final news slot, it reported that the Kijal assemblyman was under probe by the ACA.

“Two days after the Umno Supreme Council confirmed me as the Terengganu menteri besar, TV3 broadcast more reports about me. I gave a warning that if it continued to tarnish my image I would sue.

“I do not want to take any action now. But if they force my hand, I will expose them one by one, regardless of who it may be. I emphasise here that I will act against those who resort to irregularities in Terengganu,” he said.

Note: Many are of the opinion that TV3 is managed to the pleasure of some quarters in the government. What do you think, fellas?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

SAY NO TO IJN TAKEOVER!


PLEASE SAY NO TO SIME DARBY'S TAKEOVER OF THE INSTITUT JANTUNG NEGARA (IJN)!


A reliable source with the property conglomerate just called me, saying the National Heart Institute will be managed as a private, high-class hospital. In other words, the hospital will be just like Pantai Hospital, Gleneagles, Damansara Specialist Centre, etc, whose owners reap hefty annual revenue over sick-and-dying patients.

I dont think the founding father of IJN, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will be pleased with such an idea as its main purpose then was to provide affordable heart treatment to the rakyat.

After reading Rockybru and the Star on this subject, I took a drive to the IJN with a friend who used to seek treatment there, only to see that almost 85 per cent of its patients were from the middle and low-income groups.

The government's idea was not a good one. To let go of its 99 per cent stake in IJN was okay but to turn the institute into another goldmine for Sime Darby was beyond comprehension.

This will deprive the poors of their rights for better and cheap treatment!

Whose idea was it, anyway? Why must we take away the only thing that the rakyat has been clinging on to all these while? Sime Darby may find other avenues to fatten up its directors tummies but not in a manner where the poors will be suppressed.

The government should review its decision immediately as the motive of the takeover was unclear. Datuk Seri Najib should seek advise from those who understand the whole issue rather than wanting to please a certain quarters of the business community.

There are many other ways to become popular, sir but not to the extent of sacrifising the legitimate rights of the rakyat.

It will be unbelievable to assume that Sime Darby will run the IJN like a general hospital. For what purpose? If that's so, just build a general hospital in Shah Alam as it is the only city without one at the moment. Then, they can charge patients at minimal rate...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

'Selamat Datang' and farewell, Your Excellencies!

I would like to wish 'Selamat Datang' to three new foreign envoys to Malaysia, who presented their credentials to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, at Istana Negara today.

They were Angolan Ambassador Antonio Da Costa Fernandes, Brazilian Ambassador Sergio De Souza Fontes Arruda and Ghana's High Commissioner, Stephen Osei Tutu Kyerematen.

I have known Costa, 66, who used to serve as Angola's ambassador to India and Thailand. Souza Fontes Arruda, 65, was ambassador in Kingston and Nassau while Kyerematen, 57, was a French language teacher.

Similarly, I would also like to bid farewell to three envoys who had completed their terms here.

They were Argentinian ambassador Alfredo Raul Morelli, Namibian High Commissioner Neville Melvin Gertze and Lebanese ambassador Khalid Mustafa Al Kilani, whom I met in Sidon in 1986.


To Morelli, please accept my sincere gratitude for that wonderful 10-day trip to your country in 2006.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Don't be so clingy la, Datuk Seri!

What else can MIC president Samy Velly do to make his presence still felt, to ensure that his role in Barisan Nasional is very much needed and that his attention towards the Indian community should remain well-appreciated.

So, he keeps on making statements about the need for the government to give more priorities to the Indians, help them to prosper and protect their rights.

Who is taking away their rights, anyway? In fact, the government is doing what's best for the Indian community to be more Malaysians rather than being Indians of Malaysia.

Dont be so clingy la, Datuk Seri. We know that you are no more in the Cabinet but you dont have to be rhetoric about things.

We are Malaysians and we very well acknowledge each others' rights and responsibility. You have your team in the Cabinet. They are doing just fine... like you before.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Much cheaper petrol & diesel?

Are we looking at another downward revision of the retail oil prices? Maybe, said Domestic Trades and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahril Samad.

However, there MUST be revisions although the government has yet to set the floor prices at the pumps.

US financial firms Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, whose forecast of world crude oil price could hit as high as USD200 per barrel by February next year, were expecting it to go down to between USD35-USD40 per barrel next year.

This means retail price of petrol and diesel in Malaysia, too will have to revised downwards to between RM1.50-RM1.65 and RM1.40-RM1.50 per liter respectively.

Let's wait and see...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Five PMs in less than two years...

Najib will take over the premiership from Pak Lah in March next year. If he is okay, he will be fine. What if he's not okay? What will happen if people take to the streets, demanding for him to step down and calling for fresh general elections?

His deputy, most probably Muhyiddin, will take over. The government will have to flush a lot of money for fresh elections.

If Muhyiddin is okay, he will survive. But what if he's not okay? Again, the people will take to the streets and even to the airports runways, too. Muhyiddin will have to step down and whoever his successor is, will face the same turmoil.

Imagine all this happens within the span of 24 months or 2 years. Can we afford such a political scenario? How do we attend to having 5 prime ministers in less than 2 years?

This is what exactly happening in Thailand. Come December 15, they will go to the poll again to elect their fifth prime minister in 24 months.

Their legislators are all geared-up to vote for a new premier after the king approved a royal decree for an extraordinary session of Thailand's parliament. The opposition says it has enough support to take power.

British-born Abhisit Vejjajiva, who heads the opposition Democrat Party, has said that most of the minor partners in the former ruling coalition have now joined his side.

But Thailand's former ruling party, the People Power Party (PPP), which a court has ordered to be disbanded this month, also claimed it can muster enough seats to win on Monday.

The prime ministerial vote will elect a replacement to Somchai Wongsawat, the PPP leader who was barred from politics in the same ruling that ordered the disbanding of his party.

The vote follow months of protests by demonstrators from the royalist People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which accused the PPP of being a corrupt front for Thaksin Shinawatra, the exiled former prime minister who was toppled in a coup in 2006.

The protests disbanded after a court ruled against the PPP in a vote fraud case. Supporters of the government called the verdict a 'disguised coup'.

The decree by King Bhumibol Adulyadej said the parliamentary session had been approved 'because the house speaker said the prime ministership is vacant and one third of the lawmakers have asked for the extra house session'.

Under current constitution, which was introduced by the military government that followed ousted Thaksin, the new prime minister must be elected within 30 days.

Exciting, isnt it? But again, can we afford it? Think about it...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

1 billion people are starving, my friends!

In the midst of our attention towards the Bukit Antarabangsa tragedy, politics and other local issues, we should once in a while take a glance at the globe.

Imagine this – almost 1 billion people are living in hunger condition due to high food prices and domestic conflicts. According to a United Nations report from Rome, the number increased by 40 million this year to 963 million.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that said fewer and fewer people can afford decent meals, especially in Asia and Africa, despite a fall in food prices, gave a hollow ring to pledges to cut world poverty.

"High food prices have had a devastating effect on the most vulnerable and insecure part of the world's population," Kostas Stamoulis, head of FAO's agricultural and development economics division, told a news conference.

He said unreplenished food stocks, price volatility and the global financial crisis continue to hurt food security, while food prices on domestic markets remain at record high levels. The cost of food staples began rocketing in 2006 because of a spike in commodity prices, and reached a peak in June 2008.

While the global economic downturn has pushed prices of food items down since then, the FAO's food price index was still 28 per cent higher in October than two years earlier.

But even before the food price surge and this year's financial turmoil, the number of hungry people kept rising steadily, despite a U.N. Millennium Development Goal to halve the proportion of the world's undernourished people by 2015.

Some 923 million people were suffering from hunger in 2007, up from 848 million in 2003-05 and 842 million in 1990-1992.

FAO preliminary estimates are that 14 per cent of the world's population was undernourished this year, up from 12.9 per cent in 2003-05 and only slightly lower than 15.8 per cent in 1990-92.

Malaysians! What have you got to say...You people eat a lot, right?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Journalism nowadays... NO SUBSTANCE!

I remember journalism during the 80s and early 90s. So much fun, so much excitement and lots of energy. When I mention energy, the stories, the write-ups and the impacts were.

Journalism then was not only a profession but an arena to carry the people's voice across. The reporters did not depend much on assignment but created their own instead. They produced good analysis and comments to the satisfaction of readers.

However, it is sad to note that journalism nowadays is bound to mere reporting - no hard analysis. What appeared in the print media today are straight-forward reports, almost 85 per cent of which are politically-oriented and tailored to some leaders.

We dont have anymore good crime and court reporters who try to unearth the truth behind the scene, like what ex-Bernama reporter Ahmad Puad Onah (now with Grand Brillance) did until the early morning when Botak Chin was about to be hanged at Pudu Jail.

We dont have anymore the calibre of A Kadir Jasin, Hardev Kaur, Ahmad Talib and Ahirudin Atan who went deep into certain issues and produced materials of international standard for the newspapers.

Where are the likes of Nuraina Samad, Ibrahim Yahya, Jaafar Hussein, Abu Bakar Ismail, Nashruladdin (now with Malaysiakini) and Sufi Yusof who always made a non-issue topics into most interesting articles?

Reading newspapers and watching television nowadays are to confirm what we have heard on the streets, except for few.

Economic analysis are hard to come these days. During my tenure at Business Times, names like Fauziah Ismail, Kartini Kadir and Mustapa Kamil (Mus is still with NST) are the good ones. Ho Kay Tat, too got a class of his own.

Journalism after 2000 did not augur well to the business of the media institution itself. Most journalists are there to 'makan gaji'. Quality of reporting has taken a big dip ever since some 37 senior journalists (many of whom are Malays) left their respective media companies in 2000 or 2001.

During the 80s and 90s, we even sent out our reporters for a two or three month stint at foreign media in Japan, Korea, Indonesia, England and other countries on a reciprocal program.

We dont have that anymore. If not for foreign assignments to cover the Prime Minister or other senior leaders, our reporters would be geographically-blind.

No wonder the circulation of mainstream newspapers are taking a big dive of late. Why? The editors or the bosses are too busy with politics while their staffs are made to provide pillars to their interest.

Forget about good stories which concern the rakyat. Politic is numero uno!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The "Code of TONGUE"...

Datuk Seri Najib said any differences within the Barisan Nasional must not be discussed openly or publicised.

Why not? The party members need to know. They, too, may have the right idea to cool down any heated sentiments among all 12 BN component parties. Letting it just to the top leaders to find amicable solutions would be time-consuming and unsatisfactory.

However, it is becoming a trend nowadays for leaders to speak up on anything sensitive without having to consider its impact later on. More and more leaders, be it from Umno, MCA, MIC, Gerakan or any party, including the Oppositions, are finding it easy to lash out at anything about religion, race, ethnic etc.

So much so, the whole political platform is turning into an arena for everybody to say whatever they wish. Forget about sensitivities as the leaders themselves are not advocating to what should be termed as 'the Code of Tounge'.

The rakyat is turning such a scenario into opportunity to launch personal, religious and racial attacks among them. What is there to worry? The police is always there to act should anything gets out of control. That is the general perception now.

Malaysians had all these while stayed numb over many boiling issues. They didnt dare to speak their downrights because of the 'leadership by example'. When the top guns didnt say anything, the rest will keep quiet too.

Unfortunately, things have changed. As to whether we should call it liberal or not, some politicians have set the precedent by launching verbal abuse at each other. Yes, it amused the people who often look up at the parliamentarians as a bunch of clowns for their misbehaviour at the Dewan Rakyat.

Maybe Najib got a point there. He didnt want the ruling party to be damaged by unscrupulous leaders who usually will admit that whatever they said did not reflect the true stand of his party, and that it was merely personal.

But the way they called up or looked out for the Press didnt reflect any 'personal account'. They will speak 'on behalf' of the party, that such an opinion already drew great response from the grassroots.

This are the people who will spoil our image and put Malaysia in an embroil. As the government normally didnt take any action but rather leave it to the president of each component party to settle it, such politicians tend to get more sharp with their words.

The worst scenario is for him to be 'forced' to make a public apology. Even that, few will still defend his words to the fury of those 'politically attacked'. Eventually, it will become a common trait in Malaysian politics. Finally, it will develop into time-bombs.

Are politicians hold any immunity against tough action, i.e the ISA? What's the purpose of ISA then if we fail to comply to its provisions? The ISA may not be that relevant anymore but those who were despatched there are mostly the results of politics, right?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Aren't you proud of Westport?

CONGRATULATIONS to Westport for its amazing performance in notching two world records. We should be proud of such achievements.

According to Bernama, Westports' operations team recently set the new records for productivity despite heavy rain and wet conditions.The first record was the speed of 665 moves per hour in the first hour of operations. Westports was able to do this by using nine cranes and the latest technology of lifting two containers simultaneously with twin lift cranes, the port operator said in a statement Saturday.

The previous record for this was 456 moves set in June 2006.

Westport's second record entailed vessel productivity by moving 4,427 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) within 10 hours.

The operations were on a new CMA CGM vessel called Orfeo, which can carry a total of 9,700 TEUs and which operates the FAL4 service, the latest in the FAL network linking Asia and Europe.

Seventeen Quay Crane Operators comprising 12 Bumiputeras and five Indians were the "centre-forwards" of the record high scoring team and they are amongst the best Quay Crane Operators in the world.

Westports said it currently stands among the top five ports in the world to have achieved such a remarkable rate of productivity.

Who say we dont have world class port operators?