Thursday, July 31, 2008

Anwar goes for Permatang Pauh

The Kulim seat, which is still pending court ruling on the electoral problems, seems to be taking too long for Anwar's liking. The breaking news from Malaysiakini at and many of the major blogs, is that Wan Azizah is giving way to Anwar in Permatang Pauh.

The questionable slant given by The Malaysian Insider in its report carrying the caption, Anwar sticks to safe seat as arrest looms betrays its leaning towards certain sections of UMNO-BN and their cronies that sponsors the online paper. It also explains why The Malaysian Insider has scooped recent breaking news. But, that is not important for now.
Like many, I am saddened that Wan Azizah, the first woman Opposition Leader is giving way to Anwar. She has truly been the Malaysian version of Corazon Aquino during the entire time that Anwar was incarcerated.
Her departure as MP will pave the way for a scintillating by-election that Lim Kit Siang has dubbed with his usual melodrama, a Battle Royale.
My observation is that in creating a by-election during this period when the powers that be are sharpening their knives to arrest and charge him, Anwar is well and, truly, upping the ante against UMNO-BN.
If he is arrested and charged in the next few days, the whole world will see in even greater black-and-white contrast, that Anwar is being persecuted by UMNO-BN. This will be the perception, regardless of how much spin-control is deployed.
But I suspect that the arrest and charge will proceed, regardless.
The game is, well and, truly, afoot.
But whatever the outcome; of the Permatang Pauh by-election; or, of the arrest and charge of Anwar; these are only 2 battles being fought in what appears to be a long-drawn war of attrition. It won't look like World War II. It will more likely resemble the trench warfare of World War I. And, for neutrals and partisans alike, it will be an exhausting experience that we have to undergo against the backdrop of a stalling and sputtering Malaysian economy.

Malakoff, IPP and Privatisation: Learning from Fannie and Freddie

As we know, in a fit of anxiety over rising oil and food prices, the Malaysian government recently decided to partially remove oil subsidies to great public opprobrium. As part of the fitful reaction, the government also decided to impose windfall taxes for the oil palm plantation companies and the independent power producers (IPP).

In relation to the IPPs, the opprobrious reaction came from the stakeholders of the IPPs, particularly the bank and investment intermediaries who deal with bonds issued by the IPPs. Of these, the greatest outcry came from Malakoff and its stakeholders. See Malakoff bondholders in a bind.

The bind that Malakoff's stakeholders may find themselves in is due to the fact that the windfall tax will eat into Malakoff's cashflow and profit margins which, in turn, will affect Malakoff's ability to meet obligations to bondholders. Why is Malakoff worse off than other IPPs? The answer may be that Malakoff's numerous corporate exercises and restructuring has generated greater debt obligations when compared to other IPPs. This is one of the downside risks of privatisation; where privatised businesses can get into financial problems.

This leads to the basic issue that I want to raise about the nature of privatisation of utilities, roads and public transportation in Malaysia.

Privatisation was fashionable in the past 2 decades
Despite his Look East and Buy British Last policy in the early 1980s, Dr M was enthralled with Margaret Thatcher's privatisation policies. Starting from the privatisation of Sports Toto in 1985, the Malaysian government quickly became a major adherent of privatisation. Construction of highways were privatised. Utilities such as electricity and telecommunications were privatised. Public transportation was privatised. Waste disposal was privatised.

Privatisation means public goods are carried out by privateers
In essence, privatisation means the transfer of the government's basic obligations to the tax paying public for certain goods and services to private enterprises.

Originally, these public goods such as roads, electricity, telecommunications and water were obligations of the government and government agencies. The conventional wisdom that evolved in the 1980s was that privateers were able to deliver these public goods more efficiently and, more cost-effectively.

Has the Malaysian experience validated this conventional wisdom? I suspect that the answer would be in the negative and, I'll tell you why I suspect so.

Higher costs of living with privatisation
The privatisation of public goods has resulted in higher costs of living for Malaysians. In all privatisation concession agreements there are built-in pricing mechanisms which escalate over time.

The major road concessionaire, PLUS, has such in-built incremental pricing (subject to Cabinet approval, which is a dubious safeguard). The early IPPs have such mechanism in the Power Purchase Agreements (PPA).

By its very nature, public goods have inelastic demand meaning that the consumers of public goods have no choice but to continue the usage of privatised roads, electricity, water and so on. So, any increase in price will be passed on the the public users resulting in higher costs of living.

Where are the benefits to the public from privatisation?
There is a pervading sense that these public goods are mandatory obligations of the government anyway. The government is obliged to provide these public goods. And, by privatising these public goods a middleman has been created to derive a profit from the delivery of public goods.

These middlemen have a singular goal of making profits. These profits go into private pockets. In contrast, a government that delivers these public goods, even if profit was made, goes back into the Consolidated Revenue of the government.

The indebtedness of IPPs as an example of the downside of privatisation
In opposing the windfall tax, the IPPs have argued that an entire superstructure of bonds have been created. The windfall tax will affect the ability of the IPPs to meet payment obligations to bondholders, especially so in the case of Malakoff.

While many of us understand that the construction of electricity power generation plants require debt-financing, loans and capital-raising, we should also wonder why the government does not want to undertake this role? Or, at the very least allow Tenaga Nasional to undertake this role.

This same wonderment applies to all public goods that have been privatised.

Two decades of privatisation experience has shown that there is little public accountability in privatisation activities. There is a club system where tycoons that own privatised businesses are accountable to Cabinet ministers in an opaque structure that even Parliament cannot peer into!

The basic proposition: If any privatised entity experiences financial failure, where will the bailout come from?
This is the basic test of whether privatisation should be phased out: Who will bail out these privatised entities if they experience financial failure?

If the experience of Malaysian Airlines under Tajuddin Ramli is anything to go by, the answer is obviously, the Government of Malaysia.

This leads me to share with you one of the current thoughts about the US experience with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Alice M. Rivlin of the Brookings Institution posed the question about whether Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, as key players in the US housing market, both of which are adversely affected by the imploding US housing market - whether these entities that have a pervading impact on the socio-economic life of the US, should be placed under public hands, that is, government control? Here's an extract of what Rivlin wrote:

Recent history suggests that we want the mortgage giants to be private when they are making breathtaking profits for their investors and executives. But when the going gets tough, we need Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to keep the credit flowing to homeowners even if it means putting taxpayer resources on the line. Willem Buiter at the London School of Economics has called this ambivalence “the most deceitful socialism I know.” And he may have a point.

Read the full article here.

Likewise, in the Malaysian context, the question is, Do we want privatised public goods to be public or private?

Solicitor-General set to lead sodomy prosecution

The Malaysian Insider scores yet another scoop with the news that Datuk Idris Harun, the current Solicitor-General, will lead the prosecution on Saiful's complaint against Anwar Ibrahim.

It is reported that the investigation papers were sent by the police to the Solicitor-General late yesterday. Investigators say that they have sufficient evidence to make a prima facie case against the former deputy prime minister but the final call rests with Idrus.

For the full report, read here.

And, so it came to pass, that the great and mighty of the day met the Promethean threat to the flame of power in their lofty perch by summoning the palace guards and priests to invoke the powers vested upon them by a somnolent, docile and indolent people, to strike a mighty blow upon the Promethean threat.

They did not fear the absence of legitimacy for, as a prior episode of the past decade showed, legitimacy and belief is mixed among the somnolent people. This admixture of views was fertile ground for the great and mighty of the day to set forth the continuation and perpetuation of their five decade old claim to the lofty perch.

For a people prone to mythical and mystical beliefs, such is their fate and misfortune... unless the people awaken from their slumber and rise with Prometheus to jointly wrest the flame of power from the great and mighty of the day.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Anwar to be charged for sodomy as police wrap up probe?

Malaysian Insider reports that:

The police have completed their investigations into sodomy allegations against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and are going to charge the opposition icon soon for sodomising his accuser Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

Sources told The Malaysian Insider that investigators are "crossing the t's and dotting the i's" and will be relying on Anwar's DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) samples from 1998 when he faced similar charges which cost him the chance to be prime minister.

"Nobody wants a repeat of 1998 when the prosecution had to amend the charges. Anwar has alleged that he had an alibi for the 24 hours on the day the offence took place. So the authorities have to check everything out," said an official who is familiar with the investigations."We understand that there is an attempt to quash credibility of the case even before the matter goes to court. The police cannot say too much because then they will be accused of trial by media and ministers cannot say much because they will be accused to interference.

"This case is built on strong scientific evidence," the official added.

Read the full Malaysian Insider exclusive here.

This news comes in the wake of the leaked medical report on Saiful. It certainly will raise many troubling questions about the manner in which the investigations on Saiful's complaint has been handled. It also renews the perception that there is a strong political angle to this whole saga. Very troubling questions that will pervade negatively through to the investment community and Bursa Malaysia sentiments. It looks as though Malaysia may be re-entering another dark chapter.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Infrastructure: Time to Compete to Win

I have borrowed the title caption from an article by a member of the US think tank, the Brookings Institution. It serves to underline the strategic vision of the federal government under Dr M which appears to be markedly absent in recent years. Here's an excerpt of Lael Brainard's article that urges the US to improve its transportation and logistics infrastructure:
When (U.S.) athletes land in Beijing, they’ll find that the new terminal at Beijing Airport is larger than all of Heathrow Airport, the world’s third busiest. China’s investment in rail infrastructure – almost $200 billion from 2006 to 2010 – is the beginning of the largest expansion of railway capacity undertaken anywhere since the 19th century. And in just the last 15 years, China has built a highway network that rivals what it took America 40 years to build.

These investments reflect an unprecedented shift in the balance of global economic power that is fundamentally altering the contours of how we compete in a global economy. For two generations, the world economy was defined by only seven countries -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States -- which produced two-thirds of world output.

But the last five years have seen the beginning of a dramatic change as major emerging economies, from China to Brazil and India, grow rapidly, aided by governments that make investments for the long-run, like in infrastructure. From 2002 to 2007, the G-7 share of world output fell from 65% to 57% and, according to Brookings scholar Homi Kharas, will likely decline to 37% of world output by 2030. Meanwhile, the major emerging economies’ share of global output jumped from 7% to 11% and is set to hit 32% by 2030, almost catching-up to the G-7.

To remain globally competitive, the U.S. needs to invest for the long-term in infrastructure, among other efforts, as we did under President Roosevelt with rural electrification and under President Eisenhower with the creation of the Interstate Highway System.

One of the focus of my blog is to try and contribute to strategic issues and goals that will make Malaysia more competitive. It's not easy to do so without any research grants. It's a labour of love, love for the country and fellow Malaysians. It's also an effort drawn from the indignance that I feel when political developments in Malaysia is seen in a bad light at the international level. It also stems from the fear that the future generations of Malaysians will be more lazy and stupid due to an education system that pulls good students down to a level and average that is below international standards (prompting almost all BN leaders to send their own children to private schools, including the children of the Minister of Education himself).
Forgive me the digression above. I sometimes suffer from what I call intellectual incontinence caused by indignance!!!
Back to the issue of infrastructure. Dr M wanted a double-rail tracking project. He wanted a crooked bridge. And, several more mega projects. Most, if not all, were shelved by the current Administration.
In the aftermath of GE2008, the Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) and Penang monorail project was shelved. The Penang 2nd Bridge was almost shelved.
These events tell me only one thing; the federal government is overly political in matters of economic development; the politicians in federal power today are short-term tacticians (rather inept ones, if I may say so). These characteristics are dogging the current Administration. But, worst of all, these characteristics come at a high price in the context of Malaysia's flip-flop approach to economic management and economic development.

The trial that broke the judiciary's back

Tommy Thomas has given us a timely reminder in his piece The trial that broke the judiciary's back at Malaysiakini He is referring, of course, to Anwar's trial in 1998 which still dogs the credibility of Malaysia's law enforcement and prosecution agencies.
The key principle of an independent Judiciary is still in question. De facto Minister in charge of legal affairs, Zaid Ibrahim is having a torrid time with his Cabinet colleagues who prefer to cling to the old ways. This is where Tommy Thomas voices the concern of all Malaysians. Just how sincere is the federal government in wanting to institute judicial reforms or, any reforms for that matter?
In the context of law enforcement and prosecution, the ACA is still investigating Anwar's complaint against the IGP and the A-G. For so long as the ACA is investigating them, both the IGP and A-G has no business getting involved in Saiful's complaint against Anwar. Bearing in mind the aphorism that justice must not only be done but, seen to be done, both the Police and A-G's Chambers must be more transparent in the handling of the investigations surrounding both Anwar's ACA complaint and Saiful's police report.
In any case, all stakeholders must pay heed to Tommy's caution. How these issues are handled or, seen to be handled will reflect on the confidence of Malaysians and, foreign investors, in the integrity of the Judiciary, prosecution and law enforcement in Malaysia.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Microfinance: Govt not doing enough!

Further to my earlier, rather prolix blog entry on microfinance (read Time to step up microfinance programmes), the M'sian banking system is beginning to mobilise on microfinance products. In the Star Online report entitled Banks upbeat on micro-financing, the focus of banks appears to be on micro-enterprises which are defined as business entities with less than 5 full-time employees and annual sales of less than RM250,000.
Among established financial institutions, the market leader in microfinancing is Agro Bank (formerly Bank Pertanian). It's range of microfinance products are targeted mainly at agro-based activities; check the list here.
Commercial banks are NOT able to provide values-based microfinance
While we should be heartened that the banks share the view that during this period of economic challenge, microfinance is an area to focus on, one cannot help feeling that the established banks like Public Bank and AmBank do not really have the heart nor stomach for microfinance. Their goals are so materially different from Grameen Bank's values in relation to microfinance.
So, we can expect very stringent criteria for microfinance applicants at these commercial banks. While we cannot criticise the risk management criteria of these commercial banks, we have to ask the federal government how genuine microfinance applicants who fail the stringent criteria of the commercial banks can receive any microfinancing. Besides, commercial banks are only targetting small and medium enterprises (SME) only, not the micro-enterprises which are really one-person kari pap and kueh sellers who also need some funds to meet rising costs of production.
Better delivery system needed for microfinance
In other words, if the federal govt takes the view that the effective distribution channel for microfinance is through commercial banks, then the federal govt is approaching the principles of microfinance from a very dubious and cynical starting point. And, left to commercial banks, the RM1.2 billion allocated for SME financing, which is wrongly defined as microfinance, will not reach the truly needy micro-enterprises in Malaysia.
What the govt should do
Instead of wasting time with politics and schmoozing with commercial bankers, the 2nd Minister of Finance, Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs need to get together to organise a better delivery system for microfinance to reach micro-enterprises, mainly in the rural areas and smaller towns.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sabah and Sarawak MPs to join up in two weeks, claims Anwar

Despite the torrid time that Anwar has been facing vis-a-vis the police and, his overnight detention in the KL Police HQ; despite the awful disclosure made by Sivarasa Rasiah about the outrageous CCTV tape made by the police as reported in MALAYSIAKINI and Malaysian Insider; Anwar continued his hustings to continue to drum up support from the Malaysian public.
Last night, in the town of Banting, Selangor, Anwar Ibrahim declared that he would announce in a week or two his plan to run for Parliament. By that time, he said, he would also have some Barisan Nasional MPs from Sabah and Sarawak to join him — to make good his prediction to form the federal government by Malaysia Day on 16th September 2008. Read here.
Anwar was quoted as telling the multiracial crowd that, "Umno leaders are saying they are trying to protect the Malays because now they are at their weakest. But let me tell you this that it is too late for them. I am Malay but a responsible and cultured one. I will never stop from helping the Malays to progress".

"I am a Muslim therefore I am responsible to uphold justice for all Malaysians," he said to shouts of "reformasi".

On the latest sodomy allegation against him, Anwar said, "They can put me in jail, stripped me but they cannot stop my programme to benefit the people. I do not wish to be the Prime Minister to enrich myself. I will be damned if I do that".
He also said, "I will fight, as I know there is no evidence, this is just a wild accusation, and I have enough witnesses. I have fought with dragons and these people are just lizards, and the people will reject this latest allegation".

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ex-World Bank, IMF bosses: M'sia should drop Anwar charges

The calls made by the ex-IMF presidents for the federal govt to review the buggery charges against Anwar as reported in MALAYSIAKINI and Malaysia-Today and the call made by US Secretary of State, Condy Rice, as reported in MALAYSIAKINI and Malaysia-Today, for transparency in the Anwar investigations can be seen in many different ways.
Govt mouthpiece, Rais, has to run helter-skelter to try and shut these foreigners up. Anwar supporters are cheered by the refrain, "the WHOLE WORLD is watching" and the pressure that it places on the govt.
For the ordinary M'sians, particularly those who are outside of M'sia, they have to put up with the embarassing reminder that in the matter of dealings by the politicians in power with dissenting politicians, M'sia is a very civilised country. But, the problem is, the level of civility displayed by the M'sian govt against political dissent can only be favourably measured against Mugabe's Zimbabwe.
If the actions of the M'sian govt against political dissent is measured against most other countries, the measure of civility drops precipitously. That is Rais' dilemma and the dilemma of the entire M'sian govt.
But the politicians in govt ranks must also be sensitive to the dilemma faced by M'sians overseas who have to either bravely defend a system of governance and justice that is so obviously misused or, just capitulate and respond with embarassed agreement at questions about how awful M'sia's governance and judicial processes are. All these will translate into negative votes against the ruling party.

IPPs exempted from paying windfall profit levy with new agreement

News reports clarify the government's position that where Independent power producers (IPPs) which successfully renegotiate their Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) will be exempted from paying the windfall profit levy. The exemption starts from the date the terms of the new agreement comes into force.

Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop said in a statement that the new move was to encourage progress in the negotiations.

A committee comprising the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, Finance Ministry and the Energy, Water and Communications Ministry would be set up to oversee and arbitrate the negotiations between the IPPs and Tenaga Nasional Berhad
. Read the full report here.

So, it WAS a trade-off between the windfall tax and renegotiating the PPAs! It WAS a cojones-squeezing exercise! Ouch! See my earlier entries on the IPP saga Windfall tax seen hitting fund raising , IPP association urges govt to reconsider windfall levy and MALAYSIAKINI: MPs query 'extreme profits' for IPPs .

Well, so long as the resulting effect is the lowering of cost to consumers and greater transparency, I'm all for it, regardless of the approach.

Two financing facilities to help SMEs weather hard times

The Star Online reports that Bank Negara will set up two financing facilities of up to RM1.2bil to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) cope with the impact of higher costs due to rising prices.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced yesterday that the RM700mil SME Assistance Facility and the SME Modernisation Facility with an allocation of RM500mil would commence on Aug 1. He said special measures were being introduced to assist SMEs weather hard times.

“The measures also include loan restructuring, provision of advisory services on effective cost management and incentives to invest in energy-saving and energy-efficient initiatives, “ he said when launching the SME Annual Report 2007 at Bank Negara yesterday. Read the full report at Star Online.
I hope due consideration will also be given to the plight of very, very small people who are doing very, very small businesses; literally, the kueh, pisang goreng and kari pap operators. They fall within the microfinance category that I had a rather prolix entry on yesterday. Read here.

Public transport campaign group formed in KL

This is an interesting development. For more, please go to
Such a group will have a better voice and contribute ideas for the improvement of the public transportation system in the Klang Valley and other parts of Malaysia.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Time to step up microfinance programmes

I think the powers that be really need to step up and look more aggressively at microcredit or microfinance (the term is interchangeable) schemes in Malaysia. The M'sian economy is obviously not immune from the global economic challenges of rising oil and food prices and, worse still, being weighed down by the M'sian economy's inefficiencies and lack of productivity like the proverbial albatross hanging on the neck.

At the fringes of the economy are the poorer classes who need funding for their small business enterprises. Rather than to fritter away the revenues from Petronas in the form of subsidies, the federal government should seriously put in place a fund designated for microfinance.
Microfinance is not new to M'sia
Microfinance is not new to Malaysia. It has been operated by credit unions, co-operative banks and specialised credit windows of banks. Microfinance services of financial credit range for about RM10,000 and mostly to finance small businesses, agricultural loans and loans for poverty reduction.

Presently, the rural credit institutions comprising of Bank Pertanian Malaysia (BPM), Farmers Organisation Authority (LPP), Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), and agro-based Co-operative Societies provide micro credit for the agriculture sectors.

There are a number of non-government organisations (NGOs) that engaged in microfinance. These include Yayasan Usaha Maju operating in Sabah, Koperasi Kredit Rakyat in Selangor and the best and significantly known microfinance institution (MFI) is Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM).
The last significant govt announcement on microfinance
The federal government announced an economic package in May 21, 2003 to generate economic activities by mobilising domestic sources of growth while reducing the M'sia's dependence on the external sector, Bank Pertanian Malaysia (BPM) was given the allocation of RM500 million and Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN), the allocation of RM300 million to carry out their respective microfinance programmes. The loan programmes were aimed at giving loans to individuals and small enterprises who do not qualify for existing bank products due to the lack of good collateral/guarantors. The loans were to be given based on the cashflow from projects presented by applicants.

Thrust of microfinance programmes
Microfinance refers to giving small loans to poorer segments of the population at subsidised interest rates. A broader version of microfinance has evolved with revolutionary approach to development finance with the provision of financial services such as credit, savings, insurance, money transfer to poor and low income households and their micro-enterprises. The role model is, of course, the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh.
Microfinance around the world has demonstrated that poor people with little education are reliable borrowers. They will invest wisely and are willing to save if given the chance. Experience has shown that women are the best borrowers and are better at repaying their loans.

Microfinance was initially offered by different kind of institutions, informal and traditional systems, local and international NGOs funded by donors, cooperatives and credit unions, local government institutions, specialised financial institutions and ultimately by regulated, formal commercial financial institutions.
The aim of microfinance should be to create out of the poor households, highly motivated individuals who are committed to earn an honest living and eventually move out of the poverty level.
Recommended lending strategy
The strategy to be adopted is to give out to borrowers interest-free loans to undertake income- generating projects. The loans are to be repaid on a weekly basis. Once fully paid, bigger loans are being offered. This process goes on as the need arises. The first loan is proposed to be restricted to RM1,000 up to a maximum of RM4,000 for follow-up loans. Successful borrowers may apply for a much bigger loans of RM5,000 or even up to RM10,000 at the discretion of the management.

Following the model of the Grameen Bank, poor borrowers are required to form groups of five who in turn guarantee each others’ loans. These households will undergo a one week compulsory training of one hour per day to understand their rights and obligations in order to ensure good repayment.

Loan programmes to consider
I do not claim to be expert in this area of microfinance. But, it seems to me, to be logical to consider the following programmes:-
Loan Scheme 1
Loans to poor households with average monthly income of not more than RM800. Initial loans are up for a maximum of RM1,000 increasing to RM2,000, RM3,000, RM4,000 and RM4,900. The loan repayment period is between 50 weeks to 100 weeks.

Loan Scheme 2
Loans between RM5,000 to RM9,900 to borrowers who have made good repayment from the previous two loans and having a monthly income exceeding RM800. The repayment period of the loan is between 50 to 150 weeks.

Loan Scheme 3
Loans up to RM10,000 to borrowers with good track record with perfect repayment for at least 2 times Loan Scheme 1 or Loan Scheme 2 and having a monthly income exceeding RM1,000. The loan could be repaid up to a maximum period of 150 weeks.

Single Mother Loan Scheme
Loans to single mothers living in town areas. The aims of the scheme should be to increase the living standard of single mothers and motivate them to undertake stable economic activities to support the family. Eligibility for the loans should depend on the household earnings and varies within states. Given the different costs of living in different parts of the country, some consideration may have to be given geography. For example, the test could be that household earnings for those living in Kuala Lumpur and Johore should not exceed RM1,200; Selangor, Malacca and Negeri Sembilan RM800 per month; Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah RM425 per month; and Perak RM600 per month.

In addition, we can consider Special Education Loan Schemes up to RM1,000 with maximum loan period up to 50 weeks, and Special Housing Loan Schemes up to RM5,000 with maximum repayment period up to 100 weeks should be available to borrowers with good repayment record.

Modality for an effective microfinance programme
Means tests should be used to identify the eligibility of loan applicants. Priority of loans will be given to the poorest among the poor.

Key success factors in microfinance programmes
The requirements of microfinance programmes include the creation of suitable loan conditions featuring no collateral, no guarantor and no legal action. It has been found that mobile crews should be created to ensure that microfinance facilities reaches the poor in the localities since poverty-stricken people are very immobile. In addition, simple procedures should be adopted.
The formation of groups of borrowers by potential members, typically 5 members in a group with equal socio-economic status, creates the right peer pressure and peer support. This is a key factor in the low default rate for the Grameen Bank. Generally, these groups must accept collective responsibility for the loan servicing.
Will the federal govt consider stepping-up microfinance programmes in light of current economic conditions?
Let's face it, poverty is evident in M'sia whether the economic is booming or contracting. But, now, more so than ever, is the time for a more aggressive approach to creating microfinance programmes.
Microfinance is certainly a better approach to assisting poorer M'sians who live in the fringes of society. It is far, far better than a passive scheme of subsidising consumer goods. As Grameen Bank states in its website, There has also been a shift from agricultural wage labour (considered to be socially inferior) to self-employment in petty trading. Such a shift in occupational patterns has an indirect positive effect on the employment and wages of other agricultural waged labourers. What started as an innovative local initiative, "a small bubble of hope", has thus grown to the point where it has made an impact on poverty alleviation at the national level.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

CPI for June surges to 7.7%

UPDATE 6.30 a.m. July 25: Reading the report High inflation rate pressures BNM to raise rates so soon after that release of information on the CPI numbers for June, 2008 tells me 2 things. First, Bank Negara and the government machinery had intended all along to increase interest rates. They are careful to manage mindsets by releasing alarming CPI numbers first and, then, announce interest rate increases. Second, the federal govt has learned from the fuel price increase debacle to be careful in managing mindsets and conceal their true intent by deflecting attention; in this case, the strategy is tell the rakyat some very bad news on inflation, then slip in the increase in interest rates.
All that is par-for-the-course, all govts do that. The question that I hope real economists can help to answer (I'm only an armchair one!) is, how the federal govt can manage consumer price inflation using interest rate hikes. Can anyone help enlighten us?
Read the Star Online on CPI for June surges to 7.7%. This, more realistic, indicator comes after the government admitted that the Malaysian CPI does not accurately reflect the correct mix of consumer goods; see Malaysia reviews consumer price index amid criticism it doesn't accurately measure inflation.
As certain PAS factions continue their talks with UMNO about Malay unity, Malaysians, especially those families earning RM3,000-00 a month, or less, are UNITED in facing the precipice of desperate financial straits.
So, which is more important? Most Malaysians know the answer, but some Malaysian politicians think the other issue is more important.

Sarawak to build 12 dams to meet future power needs

I'll be the first person to declare that I'm all for progress and economic development. But, at the same time, I'll be the first person to declare that progress cannot come at too high a price.
Malaysiakini has reported that Sarawak's plan to build 12 hydroelectric dams, including one that is near the Mulu Caves may threaten the World Heritage status of the Mulu National Park, environmentalists have warned. See
SCORE and the strategy for Sarawak's economic development
The Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy carries the acronym SCORE. The SCORE programme is targeted at harnessing the hydroelectric generation potential of the great rivers of Sarawak and, to use the vast amount of electrical power for the heavy industries that consume gigawatts of electricity. That explains the master plan for constructing 12 dams.
Certainly, the direct investment of the likes of China’s Luneng Group, Smelter Asia Sdn Bhd, Alcoa Inc, Mitsubishi Corp, BHP Billiton Ltd and Australia’s Rio Tinto in addition to Press Metal Bhd will create jobs for Sarawakians. The billions of Ringgit in foreign direct investment will be staggering.
Some spots of bother to be considered by the Sarawak state government and the Environment Ministry
There are, however, some spots of bother that need some ventilation. One has been highlighted by the venerable M'sian environmental warrior, Gurmit Singh whose views have been quoted in the Star Online report entitled, Sarawak to build 12 dams to meet future power needs.
I wish to add to Gurmit Singh's point about potential environment hazards by referring to the travails of BHP Billiton Ltd (one of the "interested parties" named in the Star Online report) in respect of their OK Tedi Copper Mine in Papua New Guinea. 13,000 villagers have filed a class-action suit for USD4 billion against BHP as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald in January 2007; PNG villagers sue BHP, Ok Tedi miners. Their complaint was for the destruction of their traditional lands along 38km of their river and, their suffering from tonnes and tonnes of arsenic, copper, zinc and other heavy metals dumped into this once pristine habitat where they had lived since time immemorial. This is a familiar complaint. Sadly, it is a very real complaint.
The aluminium smelting industry
The industrial process to convert bauxite to aluminium requires an incredible amount of electrical energy. This makes the SCORE proposition especially inviting to the aluminium smelters throughout the world. In particular, another "interested party" named in the Star Online report, Alcoa Inc is ranked 9th in the Political Economy Research Institute's (PERI) Toxic 100 of 2002.
The company is reported to have released 9.88 million pounds of toxic air in 2002. In April 2003, Alcoa Inc in the US, agreed to spend an estimated $330 million to install a new coal-fired power plant with state-of-the-art pollution controls to eliminate the vast majority of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions from the power plant at Alcoa's aluminum production facility in Rockdale, Texas.
The out-of-court settlement was the ninth case the US Bush Administration pursued to bring the coal-fired power plant industry into full compliance with the US Clean Air Act.
Alcoa was found to have unlawfully operated the Rockdale facility since it overhauled the Rockdale power plant without installing necessary pollution controls and without first obtaining proper permits required by "New Source Review" program of the Clean Air Act.
In February 1999, Alcoa cleaned soils and sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and lead at the York Oil federal Superfund site in Moira, New York in accordance with the dictates of the US Environmental Protection Agency. Read more HERE.
Another spot of bother: NCR Land and the displacement of native communities
The construction of hydroelectric dams in Sarawak always result in a head-on collision with native communities. I have written about the displacement of Sarawak native communities due to logging and oil palm plantations on numerous occasions under the label of NCR ad nauseum. But, the issue is very real. I firmly predict that the issue of NCR land may well be the tipping point for the toppling of the Sarawak BN government.
Rent-seeking possibilities galore
I don't really have to spell out the rent-seeking possibilities arising from these projects, do I?
Is this form of progress worth paying the price for?
This is the question that I want to pose for anyone who cares to read this blog; Is this form of progress worth paying the price for?

FOB: Delivery term in international trade

Exporters of bulk cargo such as palm oil, oil and gas in resource-rich countries like Malaysia will typically receive purchase orders with a Free On Board (FOB) delivery term. These bulk goods are loaded onto large ships known as bulk carriers or tankers. Bulk carriers and tanker fleets flying the M'sian flag include those owned by the MISC, Tanjung Offshore, Global Carriers and Bumi Armada.

The M'sian legal framework on delivery terms for carriage of goods by sea is rather archaic. There may be valid governmental policy reasons for this laggard posture, namely, the liability risk protection of vessels flying the M'sian flag. The time may have arrived for M'sian policy makers to start examining and balancing the need to protect M'sian-registered vessels against the goal of making M'sian maritime companies more competitive in the international arena.

Furthermore, there are significant risk issues involving the relative liabilities of the shipping carriers, the insurer, the exporters and the overseas importer. Many companies tend to leave these matters in the hands of the lower management, supervisory and clerical staff when quarterly revews are probably necessary. These are tactical management issues to be considered.

This issue is a large one and, I am narrowing the discourse into a series of blog entries. This entry focuses on the FOB delivery term.

FOB: Delivery term
FOB is a standardized goods delivery term commonly used in international trade. The International Chamber of Commerce has standardized the definition of FOB through Incoterms.

The salient features of FOB sales under Incoterms 2000 are that, firstly, the seller merely delivers the goods to the ship. Secondly, the buyer is obliged to nominate the ship, if buyer fails to do so can nominate substitute ship within a reasonable time. And, thirdly, the risk for loss of or damage to goods passes from seller to buyer when goods cross ship’s rail (The Pyrene) or when loaded on board ship which deems delivery of goods by seller to carrier to be good delivery to buyer. Generally, neither party is obliged to arrange insurance.

Read more at the Logistics and Trade blog here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MCA's lone ranger: Pacts ain't my style

In the aftermath of a poor showing at the March 8 General Elections, BN component parties have been remarkably low-key in their review of the debacle. Even in the context of UMNO, the movements of the second-tier leaders and their aspirations are clouded by the larger stage dominated by the perceived challenges faced by the party president and deputy president.
If there have been any serious reviews made within the other major BN parties like the MCA, Gerakan and MIC, such reviews have been kept under a tight wrap. It would seem that, in the face of adversity, the BN components have chosen to hold the thinned "dark blue line" of BN under a veneer of civility and genteel conduct.
Will this change as the party elections for each BN component draws nearer?

MCA party elections
In an interview with Malaysiakini's Stanley Koh entitled, MCA's lone ranger: Pacts ain't my style, the perceived front-runner, Ong Tee Keat, has maintained his non-factionalised posture. The current perception is that Ong Tee Keat may be more acceptable to the erstwhile factions of Ong Ka Ting and Chan Kong Choy when compared with the unannounced candidacies of Dr Chua Soi Lek and Chua Jui Meng. We should not forget the likelihood of Ong Ka Chuan joining the fray with his considerable behind-the-scenes prowess.

MIC: No leadership change
In the case of the MIC, there is a paradoxical situation where the long-serving president, Samy Vellu, has now declared himself to be the agent of change. This raises the logical and relevant question of; what if Samy Vellu is the main cause of MIC's current problems?
Gerakan: Decent but subordinate
Gerakan's pedigree is impeccable. This is the party that used to house the Socialist leaders and their intellectual ideals. But having been an appendage of the BN for nearly 4 decades, Gerakan has calcified into a party that is subservient to UMNO. Against the charisma of Lim Guan Eng and the Pakatan state government in Penang, none of the Gerakan leaders are able to muster a coherent response so far.
The end of BN component parties
Obituaries are premature. The astute observers would point out the franchise strength of the divisional and branch networks of these BN components. Parties like the MCA have very respectable memberships exceeding 1 million. Their war-chests are considerable.
Perhaps, in all 3 parties canvassed above, the driving need is for the rise of a leader or a grouping of leaders that are able to acquire the spine to deal with UMNO at a level of mutual respect (as opposed to grovelling subervience); and, leaders who can sketch out and, later, flesh out a clear direction for the party to regain lost "market share" among voters.
But, the biggest challenge is for these BN components, who are part of a coalition with overt communal designs, to rise above communalistic politics to embrace multiracialism.
Is M'sia at the cusp of a true multiracial political framework?
The concern about whether M'sia is nearer to multiracial politics arises from the ongoing "talks" between a faction of PAS with UMNO on Malay unity. See and, particularly, Karim Raslan's take on it at the Star Online opinion piece, Nasharudin Mat Isa and Malay unity.
In this milieu, it will take the correct leaders to the MCA, MIC and Gerakan to engender multiracialism, unless their interests lie elsewhere... In the context of the MCA, is Ong Tee Keat the correct leader for the times?
UPDATE 7.30 p.m. The indications appear to be an Ong Tee Keat-Liow Tiong Lai ticket which would tend to confirm that outgoing President, Ong Ka Ting, favours Tee Keat for the MCA presidency. Read Malaysian Insider's report. It looks as though the Lone Ranger, having possibly found Tonto need not ride alone! To paraphrase Lord Palmerston; Politicians have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. Only permanent interests.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ong Tee Keat gunning for MCA No. 1

Ong Tee Keat's declaration of his candidacy for the MCA Presidency should be regarded as a heartening development even for neutral observers. Read the report in The Star Online entitled Ong to go for top post and

The square-jawed MCA leader has steered a relatively independent course in his political career in a party that is filled with cliques. For this, he has been branded a recalcitrant by many quarters in MCA. But, by so doing, he has provided a third option to many MCA members in the past.

Widely regarded as a gifted writer in Mandarin, Ong, was an award-winning columnist for Chinese daily Sin Chew Jit Poh. His articles ran from 1979 to 1986.
Other front-runners
Malaysiakini reports that the other front-runners are likely to include party secretary-general and Housing and Local Government Minister Ong Ka Chuan and Youth Chief and Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai.

It is also reported that despite resigning from his vice presidency due to a sex scandal, Dr. Chua Soi Lek has been paving his way back to the leadership platform and is said to be keen to contest for a top post.

There is also speculation that another former vice-president Chua Jui Meng is expected to join the fray after being nominated for the Sungai Abong Tengah branch chairperson's post by his supporters during a nomination process at the MCA Bakri division office in June.

Nomination day on July 22
MCA is the second largest component party in Barisan Nasional and it has a total of 191 divisions with keen campaigning expected in Johore, Penang, Selangor, Perak and Kuala Lumpur come nomination day on July 22.

Ong Tee Keat and the future of MCA
Ong Tee Keat should be regarded as the MCA leader who can heal the party's many rifts. He should also be regarded as the correct leader for the current national ethos, in the aftermath of GE2008 when MCA suffered crushing defeats in the many seats it contested both at State and Federal levels.
As an overtly communal party, the MCA is well and, truly, at the crossroads. If the party sticks doggedly to a communal platform, it will eventually find itself marginalised. The MCA needs to reinvent itself at a very fundamental level in order to be relevant in the nation-building discourse.
This blog has previously criticised the stand taken by certain MCA leaders such as Yap Pian Hon for saying that the MCA cannot be multiracial until and, unless, UMNO turns multiracial. Read MCA cannot turn multiracial until UMNO does???
But, unlike the other more guarded (and, therefore, pro-status quo) MCA leaders Ong Tee Keat has courageously stated on record that MCA Needs To Be Multiracial Or Face Risk Of Eventual Extinction. This is what stands Ong Tee Keat heads-and-shoulders above the other MCA leaders. This strategic view of the future of MCA is very crucial for the following reasons.
The need for a multiracial platform for MCA
As Malaysian voters become better educated and better informed the BN's traditional communal discourse on economic development and education is losing its appeal. This may be one key inference that MCA should draw from GE2008.
If the MCA adopts a wait-and-see approach to morphing into a more multiracial party, it confirms to all that the MCA is very much a subservient junior partner to UMNO within the BN coalition. All Malaysians cannot have failed to notice the peon-like expression on Ong Ka Ting's face on national television whenever Pak Lah or Najib is in the foreground. OKT perpetually looks lost and awaiting instructions from his UMNO bosses. This perception must change.
It can only change if the MCA steers a more independent, yet harmonious course within the BN superstructure with a multiracial platform. This does not mean that MCA will necessarily abandon the causes it has espoused. For example, in any dialogue on the welfare of vernacular schools, just add the Tamil schools into the mix; in any dialogue on poverty eradication, MCA should add the plight of Malay fishermen or Indian estate workers into the dialogue.
The multiracial discourse is something that Ong Tee Keat can lead the MCA into with vibrancy, imagination and courage. More importantly, it will engender positive change in the party and keep the party strong and virile within the BN.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Penang's public transportation: A radical solution

I like radical solutions. They push the envelope of conventional thinking. I want to propose a radical funding solution for the Penangites for Trams Campaign. I very much believe that this Campaign makes absolute sense in the context of Penang Island which is compact, densely populated and, a magnet for tourists. The general merits of the Campaign are very well set out in the URL link above. It is unnecessary for me to go into it.

Instead, I want to address only a few key issues that, in my humble view, will advance the cause of the Campaign. I hope the Campaign members will take this up and, I will be happy to embellish and develop the propositions, if called upon.

1. Set up a Penang Tram Foundation
The Campaign needs to go beyond the ranting and platitudes and step up the process. This can be done by incorporating a company limited by guarantee. I'm suggesting the name Penang Tram Foundation.

The basic charter of the Foundation is simply to promote and establish a public tram system for Penang.

2. Sidestepping the thicket of legalities
The Foundation, being a private entity (as opposed to the Penang State Government) has a just cause in the public interest to propose the establishment of a comprehensive tram system for Penang. The Foundation can meet the constitutional issues on infrastructure development being under the federal government by sending a formal proposal in the public interest.

3. Funding methodology: Public lottery
This is where I get radical. The Foundation should establish a public lottery to partially fund and finance the initial studies and surveys on the tram routes, the construction issues and tram technology to be deployed. The Penang Tram Lottery (a working name) will also be used to fund and finance the construction of the tram route, pay for any land acquisition required to create the route, the acquisition of the trams and, the subsequent tram operations.

4. Rationale for public lottery as a public finance device
The Campaign is clearly promoting the tram idea because it ameliorates the public transportation woes of Penang. It is a public-interest proposition since public transportation is a Public Good. And, if the federal government is reticent about solving the obvious public transportation woes of Penang, then the Foundation is a good vehicle to formalise the Campaign.

A public lottery is a form of public finance. It's economic merits are manifold if the goal is to create a public good. For a more technical economic analysis of the merits of lotteries as a means of financing public goods, please read John Morgan (of Princeton University) in an article entitled Financing Public Goods by Means of Lotteries.
As I said, I like radical solutions. I very much believe that the issue of public transportation in Penang is a very serious matter that is already affecting the economic competitiveness of the state. The poor public transportation infrastructure is also having a deleterious effect on Penang's tourism.

See also a related blog entry made earlier that provides a wider context to the public finance via public lottery proposition contained above at The Malaysian problem with privatisation of public goods.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

LATEST UPDATE: Anwar's Press Statement

Please see the English version that was inserted by Anon 6:45 p.m. in my previous entry. The URL link to the BM version is at Kenyataan Media Pasca Penahanan


Yes, I'm being naughty with the title-caption. I did realise that, taken in the context of current affairs hitherto, decoupling will be taken to be a pejorative word that describes certain political leaders extricating themselves from the non-gender-specific nether region of their erstwhile partners. But that is not the thrust of this blog entry (stop it! stop the puns!).
What I want to highlight this time around is the hallucenogenic effect that financial analysts and financial writers can have on investor sentiments. In this case, the example is the myth that Asian economies were in a position to elect whether, or not, to decouple from the ailing and moribund US economy even way back in December, 2007.
Will the following categories of persons please read the link that immediately follows the list; amnesiacs, selective amnesiacs, voluntary amnesiacs (i.e. those who choose to forget because the memory was too painful) and those who claim plain ignorance, read this first.
Being Rip van Winkle?
When some of us first read about the angle of Asian economies having reached an apotheosis of economic growth, maturity and mutual consumption, we must have immediately wondered if we had become the proverbial Rip van Winkle, having completely missed this phenomenon of decoupling, in the context of Asian economic development.
The hypothesis of decoupling is the proposition that European and Asian economies, especially emerging ones, have broadened and deepened to the point that they no longer depend on the US for growth, leaving them insulated from a severe slowdown there, even a fully fledged recession. Faith in the concept generated strong outperformance for stocks outside the US.
In January 2008 as fears of recession mounted in the US stocks declined heavily. But, Lo! And, behold! Contrary to what the decouplers would have expected, the losses were greater outside the US, with the worst experienced in emerging markets and developed economies like Germany and Japan. Exports make up especially large portions of economic activity in those places, but that was not supposed to matter anymore in a decoupled world because domestic activity was thought to be so robust. Read this in Wikipedia.
And so, the myth of decoupling was very quickly busted. Read Why the US Economy Still Matters for the run-down on the bursting of the myth.
The moral
We should be leery of the spin made by analysts that make a living from investment houses and brokerages or, at the very least, place a huge caveat and weigh what the reports say very carefully. Often, these reports are used to justify a "Hold" position while graduated selling of stock and investment positions are taking place. At other times, these reports generate a classic herd behaviour on the part of the investment community.
The myth of decoupling was perpetuated for many months. I believe many investors who would have taken shorter positions i.e. slowly sold down their investment holdings in regional bourses actually held on or, worse, increased their holdings. So, to the retail investors out there, the world of stock brokerages and investment funds may be awesome with their lingos and numbers-spewing prowess, but at day's end you have to use your innate cow sense because behind the full glass walls, leather upholstery and double-Bloomberg screens, there is a bunch of 20-year old finance graduates (called researchers) who are only crystalball-gazing and reading tea leaves. But, Boy! are they good at stirring and spinning their financial yarns!

Updates from news sites

Given the high traffic at certain sites that may frustrate those of us who want the latest developments, I am attaching some links on latest developments for the edification of visitors to this blog. The reports are all from Malaysian Insider.

Anwar freed on bail

Raja Petra arrested

Anwar back at home

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Post Apocalypse

10.30 a.m. Thursday July 17 : Just heard that Anwar just posted his bail. That means he can leave the custody of the Police and rejoin his worried family.
While we are all waiting breathlessly for any breaking news on Anwar's travails at the KL Police HQ, I am taking some downtime to share this insightful piece by Lev Grossman who makes some insightful observations about the way in which angry or hate comments are made by visitors to blogs or websites that permit comments.
This blog has generally escaped too many hate comments probably because the contents are generally dull and un-sensational, dealing with more complicated and arcane economic policy matters. Here's an extract of Grossman's piece:-
The horribleness of commenters isn't really a mystery: Internet anonymity is disinhibiting, and people are basically mean anyway. Nor is it a mystery why the people who run websites put up with commenters: the economic model for Internet content is based on advertising, which means it's based on traffic volume, and comments mean traffic. They're part of the things that make online publishing work. enables comments on its blogs, including mine.) It's just hard to tell whether they're ruining the Web faster than they can save it.

Commenters tend to respond with surprise--they're shocked, shocked!--when people call them on being not nice. In their social universe, this kind of rhetorical slap-fighting is just how you do business, and anybody who feels otherwise is thin-skinned and humorless. As lame and self-serving as this excuse is, we can learn something from taking it at face value. Maybe commenters are just on one side of a cultural disconnect between two incompatible ideas of what the social conventions of the Internet should be. One is based on the standards of real-world, off-line politeness. The other is a kind of communal game in which whoever is cleverest and pushes the most buttons wins.

This disconnect is probably just temporary. In another decade or two, one side or the other will have won out, and then we'll all be on the same page, and we won't have this kind of misunderstanding anymore.
I invite you to read the entire article entitled, Post Apocalypse.

Petronas: The RM202 billion question

Diving straight into the matter, take a look at People need to know where Petronas’ contribution to Govt has gone in The Star Online today. Jagdev Singh Sidhu's op-ed piece highlights a few things that bears reproducing here.
Petronas’ contribution to the Government’s revenue from FY04 to FY07 was RM140bil. Including the latest financial year's payment of RM62.8bil, the total would be RM202 billion. That was slightly more than half of the total RM403bil it had paid the Government since its inception in 1974.
And, the report says further, that, Based on the latest payment of RM62.8bil , Petronas said its contribution to the Government’s revenue was 44%. If the taxes of all the other oil and gas companies were added, then the oil and gas sector would account for slightly more than half of total government revenue.
The RM202 billion question posed by the report is, They (the analysts) also wonder: How wisely has the windfall over the past few years been actually spent?
Sometimes, a question posed at the wrong time will fall on deaf ears. In the current national ethos, the question of the manner in which the Petronas largesse has been utilised between 2004 to 2008 is a very compelling one indeed.
But, unlike the usual pithy (dare I hope?), opinionated and ascerbic analysis, I wish to draw your kind attention to the tireless effort of this tenacious man by giving a Google URL on the many times during which he has raised the issue of the manner in which Petronas' largesse has been used/abused by the BN federal govt. I must declare that I'm not a fan of his, nor do I think his level of analysis has been up to mark at times (maybe due to political necessity) but, I admire this man's chops, his gumption, his industriousness but, not his shrill stridency or his speaking style. But to give credit where credit is due, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Lim Kit Siang.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Anwar the clear winner in debate with Ahmad Shabery

Anwar is the clear winner in the debate. Ahmad Shabery's posture was to be the "protector" of Petronas. But Anwar made it clear he wasn't attacking Petronas and, in fact, lauded its achievements. That left Ahmad Shabery with making personal and barbed remarks about Anwar's rebellious history.
OK, I'm biased. I'm biased because Anwar raised many of the issues raised in this blog, particularly the IPPs.
But on a more objective note, tonight's debate reminds me of the Kennedy-Nixon televised debates in the sense that Anwar is outside the mainstream presently. In the M'sian context, if you're out of the mainstream you're out (not counting the blogosphere, of course).
The televised debate brought a poised, cool, intelligent, articulate and persuasive Anwar into the living rooms of all M'sians. Here was the "monster", the "Devil incarnate". But, guess what? He had no horns. He was not spewing smoke and flames.
Instead he was cool as a cucumber. He had a boyish grin. He looked charismatic. Hell! He WAS charismatic.
Given that he has the sodomy charges against him, given that he has an appointment with the police tomorrow, Anwar's poise made him the winner tonight. It's my opinion anyway.

Can Penang get any of the RM8.3 billion?

I really don't care that I sound completely pedestrian about what I'm going to say. When I read that Petronas posts record profit, declares RM6b dividend to govt and, Govt to get RM2.3b from profit levy on palm oil I can't help posing the question, "How is the RM8.3 billion going to be utilised?"
This is the era of transparency and accountability. Can MOF2, Nor Yakcop please explain the straighthrough usage and application of this RM8.3 billion?
ALL M'sians know that the RM8.3 billion isn't all going to fuel subsidies. ALL M'sians know that the RM8.3 billion isn't going to Penang for the projects mentioned in my blog entry, Guan Eng wants RM4.7 billion cash.
Meanwhile, at the Parliament, Guan Eng is trying to file his motion ON BEHALF OF PENANGITES, to secure the precious RM4.7 billion back for Penang. See the report at The Edge Daily, Guan Eng to file motion on reinstatement of projects.
Where is the fairness on the part of the BN federal government?