Thursday, May 28, 2009

PKFZ audit report

If you are eager to get to the source, the PwC audit report can be accessed at PKA special website here.

You will need to provide your name and NRIC number, though.

A few names are mentioned...

Read PKFZ set to cost RM12.5b, only MACC can probe further .

It was reported that:

The (PwC) report highlighted 20 issues concerning the project’s management and governance by the PKA.

Among them were weak project management, cost overruns and conflicts of interests:

* PKA’s failure to alert the Cabinet in a timely manner of its inability to finance the project from its internal funds following an audit report by the Auditor-General in 2004 that noted that PKA did not have sufficient funds to finance the project;

* PKA’s failure to seek the advice of the Attorney-General while not complying with certain Finance Ministry regulations;

* Potential conflicts of interests arising from the involvement of parties who had prior association with either the land used to develop PKFZ or the turnkey developer, Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB);

* Awarding of the PKFZ development contract to KDSB before a project masterplan was finalised;

* PKA’s projections that it would be in a cumulative cash deficit position in 2012 and would not be able to repay the Finance Ministry soft loan instalments on time;

* PKFZ having a low occupancy rate of 14% which is not generating sufficient revenue to cover its operating expenses;

* PKFZ Sdn Bhd incurring losses since its incorporation and having negative shareholder’s funds as at Sept 30 last year; and

* The possible breach of Treasury regulations when the Transport Ministry issued letters of support which could be construed as a guarantee that PKA would meet its obligations on a full and timely basis. Such letters should have been approved by the Finance Ministry.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Negative 6.2% GDP in Q1

The GDP numbers from the first quarter of 2009 are finally out. A snapshot view shows that the Malaysian economy shrank by 6.2%. This is certainly worse than anybody has expected; expert or, otherwise.

Given the sharp downturn...not exactly unexpected if you've troubled yourself to read the label "economy" in this seems certain that this second quarter will also show a contraction. The technical definition of a recession, therefore, looms ominously.

Digging ourselves out of this is going to be more dependent on the state of the U.S. economy than anything else. When you hear people talk about the Chinese economy being more important than the U.S. - take a pause to remember that the U.S. is China's largest market. So, if you cut to the chase, it's really the U.S. economic health that matters.

Other export markets are essentially intermediating for the consumptive prowess of the U.S. Thus, belt-tightening by the U.S. consumer means a meagre export volume for the rest of gthe world.

Malaysia's exports have been contracting for 6 straight months now.

The electrical and electronics (E&E) sector has shrunk by 41% in value.

Domestic consumption is not really relevant.

Domestic investment is more important.

Skills enhancement, education standards, employability and value-adding is far more important than passive consumption patterns.

Is Q1 the most painful quarter that Malaysia is going to see? That is one perspective. Others may not be so optimistic.

The game is afoot, ladies and gentlemen.

PKFZ audit report out tomorrow...finally

The Federal Cabinet has given the approval for the release the PwC audit report on PKFZ tomorrow.

Telling your wife she's not pretty may soon be an offence

I quite agree with this proposed amendment to the Domestic Violence Act 1994. Physical violence is only part of the problem. The psychological scars of verbal abuse is a material issue.

There is nothing humorous about this although, admittedly, I had many sly and curling remarks swimming in my mind. It's better to leave such thoughts in the privacy of the mind...until some scientist idiot invents the dreaded mind-reading device, that is....

By the way, I am obliged to point out that the legislation applies to both husband and wife and others as defined. An abusive wife saying that the husband is not handsome can get into trouble too!

The current definition of "domestic violence" is:

"domestic violence" means the commission of any of the following acts:

(a) wilfully or knowingly placing, or attempting to place, the victim in fear of physical injury;

(b) causing physical injury to the victim by such act which is known or ought to have been known would result in physical injury;

(c) compelling the victim by force or threat to engage in any conduct or act, sexual or otherwise, from which the victim has a right to abstain;

(d) confining or detaining the victim against the victim's will; or

(e) causing mischief or destruction or damage to property with intent to cause or knowing that it is likely to cause distress or annoyance to the victim,

by a person against-

(i) his or her spouse;

(ii) his or her former spouse;

(iii) a child;

(iv) an incapacitated adult; or

(v) any other member of the family: .

Star Online reported:

A husband tells his wife that she is no longer pretty in an attempt to humiliate her can be classified as an emotional violence offence if amendments are made to the Domestic Violence Act (DVA)1994.

The plan is to amend the DVA for the inclusion of a clause on emotional violence against women.

Currently, they are only protected only against physical abuse, Women's Development Department director-general Datuk Dr Noorul Ainur Mohd Nur said.

She said on Wednesday that the aim for proposing the amendment was to safeguard women both physically and emotionally.

Dr Noorul said emotional violence was a form of abuse that would deeply scar a woman and lower their self-esteem, dignity and self-confidence.

“It could be a case where her husband tells his wife she is ugly or humiliates her until she feels emotionally pressured,” she told reporters at the end of a seminar on how to curb violence against women at Wisma Wanita here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Malaysia set to announce recession

Kevin Brown of reported thus:

Malaysia is preparing to announce the onset of its first recession for 11 years amid growing concern about the depth of the slowdown and the likely timing of a recovery.

The end of the country’s long period of expansion was heralded by senior ministers and central bank officials in interviews before this week’s release of figures for gross domestic product for the March quarter.

Najib Razak, prime minister, suggested in March that the economy would flatten out this year, downgrading an earlier forecast of 3.5 per cent growth in GDP to a range of 1 per cent to 1 per cent contraction.

Mr Najib said the government expected a technical recession – usually defined as two successive quarters of year-on-year contraction – followed by a resumption of growth in the second half of the year.

The prime minister said the impact of fiscal stimulus measures worth about 10 per cent of GDP would ensure that the contraction was less severe than in Singapore, which last week announced a revised 10.1 per cent fall in first-quarter GDP.

Mr Najib indicated that the outlook had deteriorated since his last forecast. “The figures don’t look very encouraging because our export figures are badly affected,” he said. “There might be some tweaking, but the tweaking will be more on the negative side.”

Malaysia’s exports fell 20 per cent in the first quarter compared with the same three months of 2008, although the rate of decline appears to be on a moderating trend. Exports fell 15.6 per cent year on year in March compared with 28 per cent in January.

Zeti Akhtar Aziz, central bank governor, said she expected “a significant contraction” in the first half of the year, with negative growth likely over the full year. Growth edged up a mere 0.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Senior officials expressed sharply different views on the likely timetable for a return to strong growth.

Nor Mohamed Yakcop, a former deputy finance minister who heads the government’s economic planning unit, said Malaysia remained confident of becoming a fully developed economy by 2020, which would require average GDP growth of 7.5 per cent for the next 11 years.

Mr Nor Mohamed forecast a quick rebound in western demand, dismissing suggestions that it might remain low for years as consumer savings rates rise in response to the credit crunch and falls in house prices.

“I don’t think [the US savings rate] will go from zero to 10 per cent, I think it will go from zero to 1 to 2 per cent in the next few years,” he said.

“To change a pattern of consumption that has gone on for quite some time within a period of a few years is not going to happen. It is a matter of psychology.”

Mr Nor Mohamed said 2009 “will be a bit difficult but for 2010 onwards, we should be back on the trajectory”, pointing to Malaysia’s plans to expand domestic consumption and increase trade with the rest of Asia as drivers of future growth alongside western demand.

“Our whole objective in this new economic model is to move away from the tepid growth rate of 4.5 per cent [typical of the 1990s] to something that is higher, certainly in the region of 6 to 7 per cent,” he said.

Mrs Zeti said the economy would benefit strongly from rising domestic consumption, which has risen from 40 per cent of GDP to 53 per cent in the past nine years, and from rapidly increasing trade with Asia.

However, Mrs Zeti was much more cautious on the prospects for a quick recovery and a return to rapid growth.

“Our assessment is that it will be a long road to recovery,” she said.

“The outlook we see is that even if there is a recovery in the global economy, it is going to be a slow recovery, and it will not be the kind of V-shaped recovery we had previously.”

Mrs Zeti forecast “several years of low-growth” for crisis-affected economies, with direct knock-on effects for Malaysia.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lessons in global sourcing skills from Li & Fung

There is still a lot of business to do out there in spite of the global economic challenges.

I have long admired the Hong Kong manufacturing sourcing giant, Li & Fung, for their ability to intermediate the needs of strong Western brands and, match the needs of the brands with the manufacturing prowess of China.

Li & Fung has suffered from the credit defaults of clients like Mervyns and KB Toys. There are suits from unpaid manufacturers. This is, to be sure, one of the hazards of intermediation.

But, this is a process that requires great skill and, loads of information. Information on the needs of the major brands. Information on the capabilities and quality of the manufacturers. Just look at this description of the leaders of Li & Fung in Businessweek:

Managing Director Fung, 60, is a Princeton graduate who controls the company along with his MIT-educated brother Victor, 63. Fung's strategy: Buy the entire sourcing operations of U.S. customers and restructure them to make them more profitable. Last year, Li & Fung made seven acquisitions that are likely to add $1 billion in revenue in 2009. On May 5 the company announced plans to raise $348 million in new shares, with the money going in part to fund further acquisitions. "They're the Cadillac of the business," says retail consultant Howard Davidowitz. "They offer retailers more value because of their efficiency."

And, notwithstanding the challenging economic times Li & Fung are still being courted by strong brands like Liz Clairborne to take over sourcing operations.

Their aspirations are indicative of the strength of their management leadership. Reports Businessweek:

The company doubled revenue to $11.9 billion between 2004 and 2007 and wants to reach $20 billion in sales next year.

Now that is very encouraging.

Monday, May 18, 2009


One of Malaysia's significant gifts to the world in recent years must be Tash Aw. In the context of the English language literary world and, I mean WORLD, Tash Aw has well and truly put Malaysia on the map, so to speak.

He has produced another book which has, significantly enough, been positively reviewed by Neel Mukerjee of Time magazine. Go buy his book:

Malaysian writer Tash Aw won a 2005 Whitbread Book Award for his debut offering The Harmony Silk Factory, and his follow-up does not disappoint. An unusually braided novel, Map of the Invisible World condenses the prolonged, troubled birth of an independent Indonesia into a complex drama of private relationships.

There are three narratives: of Adam, a child rescued from an Indonesian orphanage by a Dutch painter, Karl; of Adam's brother, Johan, separated from Adam when a rich Malaysian couple adopted him from the same orphanage and took him to Kuala Lumpur; and of Margaret, a Jakarta-based American anthropologist. It is Margaret that the 16-year-old Adam seeks out when Karl is arrested in a drive to forcibly repatriate the Dutch.

Indonesia in 1964 is teetering on the edge of civil war. Sukarno's "guided democracy" is in its death throes, and militant communism is on the rise. Jakarta is no place for an innocent such as Adam, who unknowingly gets roped into petty terrorism. Meanwhile, Johan, drifting aimlessly through a cushioned life of wealth, cars and soft drugs, cannot lay to rest the memories of his lost brother.

While Aw's prose remains as luminous as in his debut novel — evoking a wonderfully textured world of streets and shantytowns — there is greater emotional heft in this new work. The tender relationship of the brothers before they are separated, and their sundering, is told in a timed-release fashion, reaching an unbearably moving climax. If there is a sag in the middle of the novel brought about by a too expository account of Indonesian politics, it is more than redeemed by the way Aw debunks every expectation one has of the postcolonial novel: questions of identity and belonging, of native and foreigner, of affiliations of birth and adoption. This is a book full of immense intelligence and empathy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Arrest of 5 lawyers

Malaysiakini has reported on the strong condemnation of the actions of the Royal Malaysian Police in arresting Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, Syuhaini Safwan, Puspawati Rosman, Ravinder Singh and Murnie Hidayah Anuar by the Malaysian Bar at its Extraordinary General Meeting held at 3 p.m. this afternoon at the Dewan Sivik, Petaling Jaya.

bar council lawyers protest at jalan duta court detained 5 lawyer at brickfields police station 080509 03.
These 5 lawyers were arrested while they were attempting to provide legal assistance to certain Malaysians who were arrested earlier for having participated in a candle-light vigil outside the Brickfields Police Station in Kuala Lumpur.

The right to legal representation is one of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

Their arrest, their 24-hour detention and the humiliation they received while in Police custody was the result of over-zealous action.

The 5 lawyers were not part of the candle-light vigil.

They went to the Brickfields Police Station because they received calls for help by the Malaysians who were arrested.

They were there to provide legal representation. That's all.

The principle of the Rule of Law requires that any person arrested by any lawful authority have a constititional right to legal representation.

Grabbing the 5 lawyers or, any lawyer for that matter, who are merely attempting to provide legal advice to persons arrested is just plain wrong, wrong, wrong.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dissing Solution in Perak

Like every other Malaysian, I am deeply distracted and troubled by the Perak constitutional crisis. It has, to my mind, unnecessarily damaged two very important constitutional institutions in our beloved country.


First, the nonsense of party-hopping and the response to the party-hopping caper drew the Royal House of Perak into the frame. It is patently unfair and, completely immoral, to bring the "dignified element", as constitutional scholars call the monarchy, into a sullied and soiled political game of brinksmanship.

Unfair and unnecessary pressure was put to bear on the Perak Royal House to play the role of constitutional arbiter when such a role was clearly never contemplated by the drafters of the Perak State Constitution. To any neutral observer, the Tuanku Sultan was in a quandary. It was a case of damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't.

All the political players involved in the fiasco are fully responsible for causing the distress to the Perak Royal House. Each of the political actors should be seen for what they are; crass opportunists who don't give a damn what happens to the constitutional processes, the well-being of the institution of the monarchy, the well-being of the rakyat of Perak, the well-being of the rakyat of Malaysia, the impact on the economy of the state and the nation.

On this yardstick, does ANY one of the political actors involved in the fracas have any basis to remain as elected representatives? If there is a way, the rakyat should bungkus the lot of them and send them to Galapagos ... no, wait.... we shouldn't spoil the delicate ecology there ... send them to the Gobi Desert where they can screw each other to their heart's content.

Leave the rest of us alone to live our serene and peaceful lives. Bloody politicians and their politics.


Second, resorting to the courts is a natural option. Every citizen and every institution has the right to seek a legal resolution to their dispute.

But, those of us who understand the legal process, anywhere, not just in Malaysia, would have clearly understood that the outcome of the legal proceedings was going to put unfair and unnecessary pressure on the Judiciary.

The reason is simple and, obvious. The litigants are bloody politicians. They are all tainted fruits, the lot of them. You know that by-hook-or-by-crook they were each going to apply their gamesmanship and brinksmanship on the Judiciary.

Whatever the outcome at whichever tier of the Judiciary, someONE will be aggrieved and outraged.

What chance did the Judiciary have? None.

The worst of it all is that, under pressure, the poor judges are prone to make mistakes. It has already happened, in my opinion.


The Judiciary is now perceived as being in sixes-and-sevens again. The ghosts of crises past - from 1988 (the sacking of the Lord President and Supreme Court judges) - from 2007 (the correct, correct, correct episode) has come back to haunt us again. That may be unfair. It probably is unfair. But, that's what it is - an unfair perception - but, a perception, no less.

You can fell a 100-year old raintree in an hour. But it will take another 100 years to grow it back.

This is what we should all be concerned about. Our breed of low-life politicians have such low regard for constitutional institutions. They skirt around and cut corners on legal and procedural due processes.

Then, they wonder why the level of confidence is so low within the nation and, from outside investors.

That is the quality of the low-life that we seem to consistently vote for.


Back to Perak. The sensible thing to do is to re-boot the whole thing.

As Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has called for, the proper thing to do is to dissolve the DUN and, go back to the rakyat.

Win or, lose, at least each of the tainted politicians can look at each Malaysian in the eye and say with utmost sincerity, "I PUT OUR TUANKU SULTAN, OUR CONSTITUTION AND, OUR STATE BEFORE MY OWN SELF-INTEREST".

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

PKFZ report update

It's rather interesting that Port Klang Authority chairman, Datuk Lee Hwa Beng, who was hospitalised for treatment for gall bladder stones last Friday needed to be temporarily discharged today in order to attend a PKA meeting tomorrow. It's just interesting.

That meeting will encompass a decision by PKA whether or, not, to furnish an indemnity to PwC for the contents of the PKFZ report.

The Malaysian Insider reported that PwC wants to be indemnified before it gives its permission for the confidential investigative report on PKFZ, which it had prepared for PKA, to be released to the public.

Given the gravity of the situation, one can understand the professionals wanting to be covered against liability.

But, get the report out as soon as possible, please.

UPDATE 14th May 2009: Now the PKA doesn't want to issue an indemnity to PwC and needs a legal opinion. Read more here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kempen Satu Sekolah Untuk Semua

I've read several times what the normally pugnacious Demi Negara and his friends are initiating by way of having a single and common Malaysian school system.

They have even come up with an attractive logo:

While I may not completely agree with the Melayu-centric thrust of the Memorandum, I don't believe that it should cloud the basic principle contained in the document. It is that genuine unity among Malaysians can best be achieved if young Malaysians are schooled under one roof.

My wife and I were part of the Sekolah Kebangsaan system. My children are part of the Sekolah Kebangsaan system.

I believe the idea has merit and, I support it.

I must express some reservation that the initiators of this good idea must be careful to ensure that the initiative is not hijacked by any form of racism whether direct or indirect.

The so-called vernacular schools are thriving because there is a perception that these schools are providing better quality education than the Sekolah Kebangsaan. Personally, I don't believe that to be true. But, most Chinese Malaysians believe in it.

That, I believe, is the root cause of the problem. I believe that the quality of the delivery of education services within the Sekolah Kebangsaan system needs to improve significantly.

I also believe that Malaysian schools must be overtly secular. Prayers should be a private and personal matter. But, when religiosity creeps into perfunctory and ceremonial matters within Malaysian schools, it can inadvertently drive a wedge and build walls when the reverse should be encouraged.

So, in principle, I'm for the Kempen Satu Sekolah Untuk Semua.

Stress-testing Perak

Many of us may have observed, purely from the viewpoint of human behaviour and psychology, that brinksmanship and gamesmanship comes from stress or pressure.

What we take to be machismo or hubristic behaviour may actually be due to stress.

For example, it has long been known in financial markets that people are so reluctant to lose money that they will take big risks to avoid it.

If you give the average person a 90% chance of winning a little money or a 10% chance of winning a lot, he will most likely take the option that offers him at least a little bit of cash.

But offer him a 90% chance of losing a little money or a 10% chance of losing a lot, and he will opt for the latter.

A recent study by Anthony Porcelli and Mauricio Delgado, psychologists at Rutgers University in New Jersey finds that stress exacerbates this.

The psychologists found that exposure to stress led participants to choose riskier decisions when trying to decide between taking a minor loss or a major one. The reverse proved true with gains.

One potential explanation for the effect might be that the human brain has two ways of looking at the world, an analytical one and an intuitive one. The analytical one is more easily disrupted by outside stimuli, such as stress. The intuitive one cuts to the bottom line when times are tough.

That said, we will have to ask about the levels of stress that the principal actors in the Perak constitutional crisis must be undergoing.

That level of sustained stress cannot be good for any of the principal actors.

The true leaders on both sides of the divide need to institute a "cooling-off" period to avert too much emotional outpouring that threatens to drown out reason.

For every tit there has been a tat. So, no one's the wiser.

One thing is for sure. Whoever that genius was that wanted a tactic of party-hopping must surely realise now that it opened a stupid Pandora's Box of constitutional nonsense that only re-confirms that it is possible for power-hungry and greedy politicians to crave for short-term glory with absolutely callous disregard of the ultimate victims of their actions - the constitution and, the rakyat.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mending Wall

Here's a pertinent verse from Robert Frost's poem, Mending Wall that is relevant for Malaysians in recent times:

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.


One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.

Read the entire poem here.

There's a useful analysis of the poem here.

Pix from here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

MCA leaders need to look beyond their myopia

Oon Yeoh and R B Bhattacharjee's joint piece in The Edge Daily is timely and insightful.

The last thing the MCA needs is party infighting at the apex level. Yet, this is the likely scenario.

This is symptomatic of the peculiar take that Malaysian politicians have on democratic principles. The President and the Deputy President of the MCA were popularly elected.

Doesn't that mean that a majority of the party members believe that they would have made a strong team?

Apparently neither the President nor the Deputy President believes that the party members got it right. Thus, they each believ
e that they are smarter and, wiser, than the majority of the party members who voted each of them in.

The worst part of it all is that even if an extraordinary general meeting was convened and that meeting sacks the both of them, nobody would believe that any successor team will be any different.

It's not all for one and, one for all but, rather, a case of every man for himself.

This does not augur well for the party. And, I am putting it mildly.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

PKFZ prelude

The Sun Daily appears to have done a scoop on the impending release of the PwC report on PKFZ. You can read the report by the team of R. Nadeswaran and Terrence Fernandez here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Maths and science language issue still pending

The Minister of Education still needs some time to examine the issue of the choice of language of instruction for teaching Maths and Science in our schools.

That's fair enough. It isn't an issue that can be resolved willy-nilly given the depths of emotions expressed by many quarters.

What we need is some sense and sensibility.

Perhaps the issue is the improvement of the command of English as a strong second language.

That said, the two technical subjects contain many, many nomenclatures that can easily get lost in translation.

That works both ways, meaning that when English technical terms are translated into Bahasa Malaysia or any language, a form of judgement is exercised by the translator.

That choice of translation must work effectively when the student checks any English reference books.

If the reverse translation does not work, then the poor student is in trouble.

This is the pivotal point that the Minister of Education and his minions must bear in mind because this will have a direct impact on the young Malaysian's ability to compete, innovate or think-out-of-the-box.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Raymond Tan to join Gerakan?

The Edge Daily carried an interesting newsflash that according to the Sabah-based newspaper Daily Express, the multi-racial but predominantly Chinese Gerakan is expected to get two state seats in Sabah.

Quoting unnamed sources, the newspaper said that partyless deputy chief minister Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiat and Elopura assemblyman Au Kam Wah is expected to announce their joining of Gerakan during a Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders' dinner with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Kota Kinabalu tonight.

The paper said that Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, who is a minister in the prime minister’s department, is expected to be present.

The prime minister and BN president is on a two-day visit to Sabah, starting today.

Tan, who is also Infrastructure Development Minister and Tanjung Papat assemblyman, may be appointed State Gerakan vice chairman if all goes well, said the Daily Express.

Several quarters, including the MCA and LDP, had called on Tan to quit his posts as Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Infrastructure Development after he resigned from Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) after it pulled out of BN on Sept 17 last year.

I guess this move makes sense.

MCA and LDP had put negative pressure on Raymond Tan. Gerakan is unsullied as far as that goes. So Gerakan untung!