Wednesday, March 31, 2010

NEM and the Sime Lecture: The best and the brightest

When I read the passage in the NEAC's New Economic Model for Malaysia Part I, "We are not developing talent and what we have is leaving", I was immediately reminded of the attention-grabbing title to David Halberstam's book (1972). The book is about aspects of the Kennedy Administration's foreign policies and how it evolved into the U.S. quagmire in Vietnam. So, forget about the book which has no relevance to the NEM. I just thought the title was appropriate.

The title is also apposite for an emphatic point made by Dr Ram Charan at the Sime Lecture Series last night.

Dr Charan, being a renown Harvard Business School alumnus and, someone who has worked behind the scenes with top executives at some of the world's most successful companies, including GE, Verizon, Novartis, Dupont, Thomson Corporation, Honeywell, KLM and, Bank of America, has limitless pearls of wisdom to impart.

The point he made, that is apposite here, is his observation of the South Korean white goods behemoth, LG. In the typical Harvard case-study method, Dr Charan observed that when LG's leaders decided on a course of global domination and competitiveness, they cast their net in search of the best and the brightest managerial and marketing talent far, far beyond the shores of the Korean Peninsular. It was a global talent hunt.

LG was mindful that to secure such world-class talent it needed to be ready to pay top salaries and remuneration packages. And so, it came to pass that LG was able to ratchet up its white goods business to a global consumer base and, in the process, committed large resources into global brand-building.

The same must surely be applied towards meeting the aspirations and strategic goals expressed in the NEM. For, how can Malaysia evolve into a higher-income economy without shedding the proverbial tempurung of looking inward at indigent local management and technological leaders when there may be better leaders elsewhere? We need to open our minds and, very likely, open our wallets, to attract the best and the brightest to bring the NEM to fruition. In the process, we have to understand that only when we get the best, can we learn from the best. It is, in this sense, a prudent and an astute human capital and knowledge capital investment decision.

I must thank the wonderful people at Sime Darby for having bestowed upon me the privilege of attending Dr Charan's insightful lecture.

On the matter of the NEM, specifically the issue of brain drain and possible brain gain strategies, some serious thought has to be given to the fostering of a more positive approach to the granting of Permanent Residency to foreign talents.

And, even more serious measures must be taken to heed the NEAC's observation that "Malaysia must revert to sustained and systematic programmes to give Malaysian students the high level of English proficiency required to compete in the global market."

Before I sign off, I feel compelled to make this observation.

During the Q&A with Dr Charan, a hand was raised by a man dressed inn a Batik shirt at one of the VIP tables. He was seated next to Simes' Chief Executive, Datuk Seri Zubir. It was Datuk Panglima Andrew Sheng.

Andrew Sheng is a member of the NEAC that has produced the NEM Part I.

His question to Dr Charan was quite telling about the challenges that Malaysia will face in the coming months and years in the context of our collective economic well-being and, the fulfillment of the aspirational strategic goals as set out in the NEM Part I.

He asked Dr Charan to elucidate on how to transform strategic goals into effective implementation.

I believe Andrew Sheng's question will be occupying the consciousness of all non-indolent Malaysians in the coming months and years.

As I said, in reply to a dinner companion who asked about the NEM, "The devil is in the details".

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tolls and sovereign bonds

I wonder if the EPU is taking a holistic view of the matter of privatised highways in Malaysia having completed the first phase of its study.

I imagine that a holistic approach will encompass more than the mere restructuring of toll rates.

The study should also earnestly consider a takeover of all toll concessions by the Malaysian Government. The existing toll concessions are clearly inappropriate since it provides financial benefits to a few corporations and poses an escalating pricing burden on road users. Roads are, in economic terms, public goods. This has, correctly, become a political hot potato simply because it affects road users who happen to be voters.

I was quietly interested to read the media report that the Prime Minister/Minister of Finance 1 has indicated that the Malaysian Government may return to the international bond market by issuing sovereign bonds.

It is obvious that the present thinking of the Malaysian financial planners is to raise sovereign bonds for generic fiscal funding. That will immediately be equated with the funding of the fiscal deficit. There is no doubt that there will be many detractors for this policy imperative.

I wish to reiterate a matter that I have blogged about several times, that is, the takeover of toll roads by the Malaysian Government which is to be funded by the issuance of sovereign bonds.

The raising of funds via the issuance of sovereign bonds to facilitate the Malaysian Government's takeover of the toll roads makes eminent financial and political sense.

The raising of funds via the issuance of sovereign bonds to facilitate the Malaysian Government's funding of its massive fiscal deficit is, on the other hand, a political hot potato.

Friday, March 26, 2010

TM's IPTV and Astro's privatisation

I'm still marvelling at and, soaking up the joys of TM's 20 mbps HSBB service. Okay, it's not going to be cheap. But, given the other broadband offerings, TM's UniFi (that's what they're branding the HSBB as) is a breath of fresh air. And, if more of us get on the bandwagon, we can gang up on TM to reduce the rates at some point. I live in hope. But, on a serious note, I'm also wondering why certain wimax players are applauding TM. Might it be that the wimax people and TM have done a cartel-like pricing deal?

Having ingested the wonders of 20 mbps, I'm beginning to get excited about the 22 IPTV channels that TM is planning to roll out. These channels will be given an 8 mbps speed. I understand that a HDMI connection is needed to link it to the TV.

Local Broadcast Channel:International Broadcast Channel:
    • Bernama TV
    • Hikmah
    • NTV7
    • RTM 1
    • RTM 2
    • TV3
    • TV9
    • 8TV
        • Australian Network
        • BBC Knowledge
        • BBC Lifestyle
        • CBeebies
        • Channel News Asia
        • Channel V Taiwan
        • Disney
        • DWTV
        • DWTV Asia +
        • Euronews
        • Fashion TV
        • STAR Chinese Channel
        • STAR Chinese Movies
        • Travel Channel
        • LUXE TV HD
          pix from here

          The thing that gives me a buzz is the fact that TM's IPTV service will be in direct competition to the satellite-based Astro (even if the ever-polite people at TM gently demur). The possibility of watching TV without any regard to inclement weather patterns (at Technology Park, Seri Kembangan, where Astro resides) is something to savour.

          I'm seriously wondering if Astro's planned privatisation has anything to do with TM's rollout of the IPTV that is housed within the UniFi packages.

          TM's IPTV is a potential disruptive factor that may well give Astro a run for its money.

          I love competition. Competition loves consumers. I am a consumer.

          Tuesday, March 23, 2010

          Ku Li: Economic stagnation in a broken political system

          No time to editorialise. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah continues to remind all Malaysians about our economic challenges. He is his usual lucid and categorical self. His prose is always a pleasure to read. It is compelling. Sourced from Malaysiakini:

          The following is the speech given by the former finance minister at the launch of the second edition of 'No Cowardly Past' by James Puthucheary.

          James Puthucheary lived what is by any measure an extraordinary and eventful life. He was, among other things, a scholar, anti-colonial activist, poet, political economist and lawyer.


          The thread running through these roles was his struggle for progressive politics in a multiracial society. His actions were informed by an acute sense of history and by a commitment to a more equitable and just Malaysia.

          James was concerned about economic development in a way that was Malaysian in the best sense. His thinking was motivated by a concerned for socio-economic equity and for the banishment of communalism and ethnic chauvinism from our politics.

          The launch of the second edition of this collection of James Puthucheary's writings, 'No Cowardly Past', invites us to think and speak about our country with intellectual honesty and courage.

          Let me put down some propositions, as plainly as I can, about where I think we stand.

          1. Our political system has broken down in a way that cannot be salvaged by piecemeal reform.

          2. Our public institutions are compromised by politics (most disturbingly by racial politics) and by money. This is to say they have become biased, inefficient and corrupt.

          3. Our economy has stagnated. Our growth is based on the export of natural resources. Productivity remains low. We now lag our regional competitors in the quality of our people, when we were once leaders in the developing world.

          4. Points 1 to 3, regardless of official denials and mainstream media spin, is common knowledge. As a result, confidence is at an all-time low. We are suffering debilitating levels of brain and capital drain.

          Today I wanted to share some suggestions on how we might move the economy forward, but our economic stagnation is clearly not something we can tackle or even discuss in isolation from the problem of a broken political system and a compromised set of public institutions.

          This country is enormously blessed with talent and natural resources. We are shielded from natural calamities and enjoy warm weather all year round. We are blessed to be located at the crossroads of India and China and the Indonesian archipelago. We are blessed to have cultural kinship with China, India, the Middle East and Indonesia.

          We attained independence with an enviable institutional framework. We were a federation with a constitution that is the supreme law of the land, a parliamentary democracy, an independent judiciary, a common law system and an independent civil service. We had political parties with a strong base of support that produced talented political leadership.

          We have no excuse for our present state of economic and social stagnation. It is because we have allowed that last set of features, our institutional and political framework, to be eroded, that all our advantages are not better realised.

          So it makes little sense to talk glibly about selecting growth drivers, fine-tuning our industrial or trade policy, and so on, without acknowledging that our economy is in bad shape because our political system is in bad shape.

          A case in point is the so-called New Economic Model. The government promised the world it would be announced by the end of last year. It was put off to the end of this month. Now we are told we will be getting just the first part of it, and that we will be getting merely a proposal for the New Economic Model from the NEAC (National Economic Advisory Council).

          Clearly, politics has intruded. The NEM has been opposed by groups that are concerned that the NEM might replace the NEP. The New Economic Model might not turn out to be so new after all.

          NEP never meant to be permanent

          The irony in all this is that there is nothing to replace. The NEP is the opposite of 'new'. It is defunct and is no longer an official government policy because it was replaced by the New Development Policy (another old 'new' policy) in 1991. The NEP was brought back in its afterlife as a slogan by the leadership of Umno Youth in 2004. It was and remains the most low-cost way to portray oneself as a Malay champion.

          Thus, at a time when we are genuinely in need of bold new economic measures, we are hamstrung by the ghost of dead policies with the word 'new' in them. What happens when good policy outlives its time and survives as a slogan?

          The NEP was a 20-year programme. It has become, in the imaginations of some, the centre of a permanently racialised socio-economic framework.

          Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman and Abdul Razak, in the age of the fixed telephone (you even needed to go through an operator), thought 20 years would be enough. Its champions in the 'age of instant messaging' talk about 100 or 450 years of Malay dependency.

          It had a national agenda to eradicate poverty and address structural inequalities between the races for the sake of equity and unity. The Malays were unfairly concentrated in low-income sectors such as agriculture. The aim was to remove colonial era silos of economic roles in our economy. It has been trivialised into a concern with obtaining equity and contracts by racial quotas.

          The NEP was to diversify the Malay economy beyond certain stereotyped occupations. It is now about feeding a class of party-linked people whose main economic function is to obtain and re-sell government contracts and concessions.

          The NEP saw poverty as a national, Malaysian problem that engaged the interest and idealism of all Malaysians. People like James Puthucheary were at the forefront of articulating this concern. Its present-day proponents portray poverty as a communal problem.

          The NEP was a unity policy. Nowhere in its terms was any race specified. It has been reinvented as an inalienable platform of a Malay Agenda that at one and the same time asserts Malay supremacy and perpetuates the myth of Malay dependency.

          It was meant to unite our citizens by making economic arrangements fairer, and de-racialising our economy. In its implementation, it became a project to enrich a selection of Malay capitalists.

          James Puthucheary had warned, back in 1959, that this was bound to fail. “The presence of Chinese capitalists has not noticeably helped solve the poverty of Chinese households... Those who think that the economic position of the Malays can be improved by creating a few Malay capitalists, thus making a few Malays well-to-do, will have to think again. “

          The NEP's aim to restructure society and to ensure a more equitable distribution of economic growth was justified on principles of social justice, not claims of racial privilege. This is an important point. The NEP was acceptable to all Malaysians because its justification was universal rather than racial, ethical rather than opportunistic. It appealed to Malaysians' sense of social justice and not to any notion of racial supremacy.

          We were a policy with a 20-year horizon, in pursuit of a set of measurable outcomes. We were not devising a doctrine for a permanent socio-economic arrangement. We did not make the damaging assumption of the permanently dependent Malay.

          Today we are in a foundational crisis both of our politics and of our economy. Politically and economically, we have come to the end of the road for an old way of managing things. It is said you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all the time. Well, these days the time you have in which to fool people is measured in minutes, not years.

          The world is greatly changed. The next move we must make is not a step but a leap that changes the very ground we play on.

          The NEP is over. I ask the government to have the courage to face up to this. The people already know. The real issue is not whether the NEP is to be continued or not, but whether we have the imagination and courage to come up with something which better addresses the real challenges of growth, equity and unity of our time.

          At its working best, the NEP secured national unity and provided a stable foundation for economic growth. Taken out of its policy context (a context that James helped frame) and turned into a political programme for the extension of special privilege, it has been distorted into something that its formulators, people such as the late Tun Razak and Tun Ismail, would have absolutely abhorred: it is now the primary justification and cover for corruption, crony capitalism and money politics, and it is corruption, cronyism and money politics that rob us and destroy our future.

          No one who really cares about our country can approve of the role the NEP now plays in distorting the way we think about the economy, of our people, of our future, and retarded our ability to formulate forward-looking economic strategy.

          The need for a wholistic approach to development based on the restoration and building of confidence.

          We need a wholistic approach to development that takes account of the full potential of our society and of our people as individuals. We need an approach to development that begins with the nurturing and empowerment of the human spirit. Both personally and as a society, this means we look for the restoration of confidence in ourselves, who we are, what we are capable of, and the future before us.

          Caught in the middle-income trap

          I return to the question of the middle-income trap that I alluded to some time ago. I am glad that notion has since been taken up by the government.

          The middle-income trap is a condition determined by the quality of our people and of the institutions that bind them. It is not something overcome simply by growing more oil palm or extracting more oil and gas. Our economic challenge is to improve the quality of our people and institutions.

          Making the break from the middle-income trap is in the first place a social, cultural, educational and institutional challenge. Let me just list what needs to be done. Before we can pursue meaningful economic strategy we need to get our house in order. We need to:

          1. Undertake bold reforms to restore the independence of the police, the anti-corruption commission and the judiciary. Confidence in the rule of law is a basic condition of economic growth.

          2. Reform the civil service

          3. Wage all-out war on corruption

          4. Thoroughly revamp our education system

          5. Repeal the Printing Presses Act, the Universities and Colleges Act, the ISA and the OSA. These repressive laws only serve to create a climate of timidity and fear which is the opposite of the flourishing of talent and ideas that we say we want.

          6. Replace the NEP with an equity and unity policy (a kind of 'New Deal') to bring everyone, regardless of race, gender, or what state they live in and who they voted for, into the economic mainstream.

          These reforms are the necessary foundation for any particular economic strategies. Many of these reforms will take time. Educational reform is the work of many years. But that is no excuse not to start, confidence will return immediately if that start is bold. As for particular economic strategies, there are many we can pursue:

          • We need to tap our advantage in having a high savings rate. Thanks to a lot of forced savings, our savings rate is about 38 percent. We need more productive uses for the massive funds held in EPF (Employees Provident Fund), LTH (Lembaga Tabung Haji), LTAT (Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera Malaysia) and PNB (Permodalan Nasional Berhad) than investment in an already over-capitalised stock market.

            One suggestion is to make strategic investments internationally in broad growth sectors such as minerals. Another is that we should use these funds to enable every Malaysian to own their own home. This would stimulate the construction sector with its large multiplier of activities and bring about a stakeholder society. A fine example of how this is done is Singapore's use of savings in CPF to fund property purchases.
          • The government could make sure that the the land office and local government, developers and house-buyers are coordinated through a one-stop agency under the Ministry of Housing and and Local Government. This would get everyone active, right down to the level of local authorities. The keys to unleashing this activity are financing and a radical streamlining of local government approvals.
          • We have been living off a drip of oil and cheap foreign labour. Dependence on these easy sources of revenue has dulled our competitiveness and prevented the growth of high-income jobs. We need a moratorium on the hiring of low-skilled foreign labour that is paired with a very aggressive effort to increase the productivity and wages of Malaysian labour. Higher wages would mean we could retain more of our skilled labour and other talent.
          • Five years ago, I called for a project to make Malaysia an oil and gas services and trading hub for East Asia. Oil and gas activities will bring jobs to some of our poorest states. We should not discriminate against those states on the basis of their political affiliations. No one is better placed by natural advantage to develop this hub. Meanwhile Singapore, with not a drop of oil, has moved ahead on this front.
          • We should ready ourselves to tap the wealth of the emerging middle-class of China, India and Indonesia in providing services such as tourism, medical care and education. That readiness can come in the form of streamlined procedures, language preparation, and targeted infrastructure development.

          These are just some ideas for some of the many things we could do to ensure our prosperity. Others may have better ideas.

          We are in a foundational crisis of our political system. People can no longer see what lies ahead of us, and all around us they see signs of decaying institutions. Wealth and talent will continue to leave the country in droves.

          To reverse that exodus, we need to restore confidence in the country. We do not get confidence back with piecemeal economic measures but with bold reforms to restore transparency, accountability and legitimacy to our institutions. Confidence will return if people see decisive leadership motivated by a sincere for the welfare of the country.

          The opposite occurs if they see decisions motivated by short-term politics. Never mind FDI (foreign direct investment), if Malaysians started investing in Malaysia, and stopped leaving, or started coming back, we would see a surge in growth.

          In the same measure we also need to break the stranglehold of communal politics and racial policy if we want to be a place where an economy driven by ideas and skills can flourish. This must be done, and it must be done now. We have a small window of time left before we fall into a spiral of political, social and economic decline from which we will not emerge for decades.

          This is the leap we need to make, but to make that leap we need a government capable of promoting radical reform. That is not going to happen without political change. We should not underestimate the ability of our citizens to transcend lies, distortions and myths and get behind the best interest of the country. In this they are far ahead of our present leadership, and our leadership should listen to them.

          Friday, March 19, 2010

          MCA at the cusp of a Pyrrhic victory

          Some time ago I pointed to the increasing irrelevance of the MCA within the Malaysian landscape. In the last General Elections the negative voter sentiment towards MCA candidates was palpable. In case anyone has forgotten, the party was then led by Ong Ka Ting.

          One would have thought that after such a disastrous electoral outing, the party would have conducted post-mortems and regrouped and instituted meaningful reforms to reconnect with the voters who had spurned the party's candidates.

          That hasn't happened.

          Instead, we have witnessed and, are witnessing a convulsive implosion of the party.

          The leadership problems that the MCA is facing in recent months exemplify the disease of insularity that can only be spawned by the party's institutional structure that is designed to perpetuate centralisation of power at the expense of genuine democratic spirit.

          We are now witnessing the nauseating jostling and wheeling and dealing that is going on in the run-up to the party's March 22 nominations.

          It is an ugly spectacle that does no favours for the BN coalition.

          Whoever gains power in the MCA, the irrelevance of the party to the wider electorate remains.

          I'm not really interested in the petty intrigues and constant re-alignment of factions. That is a matter better left to genuine political analysts. Rather, I'm more focused on the bigger picture of whether the MCA will have any credibility left in eyes of the wider electorate after the internecine infighting tapers off.

          So, I make this unhappy observation that whomever and whichever "team" wins the battle for leadership will be achieving a Pyrrhic victory, that is to say, a victory with such devastating cost to the victor, it carries the implication that another such will ultimately cause defeat.

          This is the sad indictment on the current slate of MCA leaders. And, it points to a devastatingly bleak future for a party which has had such a distinguished past.

          And, speaking of the past, the current slate of amnesiac leadership contenders will do well to read Francis Loh's concise essay on the history of MCA fratricide.

          For, in the words of George Santayana:

          "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
          ~ George Santayana (1905) Reason in Common Sense, volume 1 of The Life of Reason-

          Thursday, March 18, 2010

          Sime Darby and child protection

          This morning, I was at the Sime Darby function for their corporate Child Protection Policy launch. The occasion was graced by Her Majesty Raja Permaisuri Agung and Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor with the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, Dato' Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil in tow.

          Sime's policy was conceived with the input of the NGO, P.S. The Children. With this corporate policy, which is an inward-driven corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme, Sime is setting a positive benchmark.

          I was at the table with the mainstream media journalists and photojournalists. It dawned on me that, as an inverterate blogger, I was regarded as a member of the new media. That realisation gave me a small and cheap thrill, I must admit. There I was rubbing shoulders, in a manner of speaking, with career journalists. "Not bad", I thought to myself, "Not bad at all". The journos from The Star were a good bunch to spin some yarns with.

          At the risk of incurring the ire of Shahrizat (what do I care?), I must say that Rosmah gave a better thought out and, more categorically precise speech. Her delivery was far better than Shahrizat's. That's what struck me. But, it wasn't just me. Others at the event that I chatted with thought so too. What gives, Shahrizat? Mere platitudes but no substance? New speechwriters with better research skills are needed, I think.

          Rosmah revisited a matter that the politicians have given lip-service to for years, without any substantive forward progress. I'll let NST explain what I mean:

          Employers should consider setting up child care centres at workplaces to help reduce stress at work, especially among working mothers, said the Prime Minister's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.

          She said such centres would not only relieve the mothers to know that their children were well cared for but it would also enable them to be fully committed towards their job. "As for the child, being in a child care centre at the mother's work place will certainly give them a sense of security and comfort, perhaps allowing them to better respond to lessons or learning experiences while they are there," she said. According to her, providing child care facilities to working mothers could help reduce the number of child abuse cases in the country.

          Rosmah also spoke about the salutary effect that such child care centres would have on work-life balance issues. The salutary effect that child care centres at workplaces will have on dual-income families who are removed from their extended family network will be tremendous.

          Employers need to be sensitised to this. Commercial building owners need to designate premises for child care centres. But, as we know commercial building space, especially in larger cities such as KL, are prohibitively expensive to rent. There lies the problem.

          The solution? The Government needs better fiscal incentives. Triple tax deductions (there I go again!) to employers who fund this very basic cost of maintaining and subsidising child care centres.

          Anyway, enough pontificating.

          I am still wondering why Rosmah gave a better speech than Shahrizat...

          Wednesday, March 17, 2010

          Muhyiddin's colour blind quote

          pix from here

          "When Datuk Lee Chong Wei won the All England, no one asked him whether he was a Chinese or a Malay... he is a national champion and we are all proud of him. We want this spirit to be imbibed in the hearts of our children."
          -Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin-
          Quote from here.

          I wish to embellish what Tan Sri Muhyiddin said by adding that no one would ask Datuk Misbun Sidek whether he was a Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Dayak or any suku kaum as the coach.

          By the way, Syabas Lee Chong Wei, Syabas Misbun Sidek, Syabas Malaysia!

          Tuesday, March 16, 2010

          New Economic Model? Let's go Dutch

          While our policymakers are mulling the New Economic Model, which is supposed to be services-based, I hope they've had a good review of what's going on in the Netherlands.

          How has a country with just 16 million inhabitants become the 15th-largest economy in the world? Answer: through a combination of resourcefulness, hard work, and acute foresight for what might make the nation rich. Since the 14th century, the Netherlands has played a major role in shaping the world economy. Now the country that brought us such major innovations as the stock exchange and the insurance industry has identified another big opportunity: the services sector.

          Read more about the Netherland's drive to build a service economy here.

          Further, the key features of the 50 most innovative companies of 2009 are not necessarily technological innovations per se. The list of key features include:
          • Customer experience
          • Process
          • Business model
          • Product
          To be sure, to get a services-based New Economic Model going there needs to be a serious mindshift. For Malaysian businesses and corporations to buy into the proposition, the New Economic Model needs more than oratory, gesticulations and exhortation.

          As blogger hishamh has pointed out in his recent post on innovation and, as I have blogged about some time back, there is a need for an enlightened array of meaningful tax incentives to get the New Economic Model going.

          I still maintain that a triple tax deduction is the way to go to get corporations to invest in R&D.

          And, given the broad meaning given to the scoring and ranking of the top 50 most innovative companies above, a more ambulatory definition of R&D is needed within such a tax framework. Work done to develop training modules and the resources applied to train staff to improve customer exerience or, to refine business processes must form part of the definition of R&D costs. It shouldn't just be about technological innovation.

          That's how the Dutch are approaching it. Since the innovated the modern stock exchange and modern insurance, maybe Malaysia should pay some attention to how the Dutch are going about to create a services-based economy.

          I have TM's HSBB!!!

          This afternoon TM installed the HSBB (high-speed broadband) for me. Omar and his colleague had to pull an optical fibre line from the nearest telephone pole to where I am.
          Logo TM - Telekom Malaysiapix fromhere

          TM said it may take 6 to 8 hours. Omar and his colleague took under 4 hours.

          When it finally got installed, the Internet took a quantum leap...literally. At 20 mbps, Youtube became completely smooth with hardly any buffering. It used to be soooo slow. I had to go and fix a cup of coffee, cook instant noodles, sweep the floor, stare out of the window and flush the toilet several times before a 4-minute video could be viewed without the painful buffering. I may have exaggerated. But as of this afternoon, I could re-watch JFK's Inaugural Address instantly. What a treat!

          My kudos and thanks to TM.

          I hope TM's roll-out will be smooth. The "last mile" connection is the tricky bit since a dedicated optical fibre line has to be physically pulled and connected. This may slow down the number of installations per day. But, it will be worth the wait.

          pix from here

          Forget about wimax with its "fair usage". Forget about wanting to "potong". TM's HSBB is the only way to surf!

          Now, I beg to be excused, I have to get back to Part 2 of JFK's Inaugural Address...

          Sunday, March 7, 2010

          The Myths and Mechanics of Innovation

          To add some depth to the superficial nonsense that is reported about the aspiration of the Malaysian government to transform the hapless Malaysian economy by emphasising innovation, I wish to direct anyone who has any interest in the matter to patiently read the views given by Larry Keeley, an innovation strategist, in an interview with David Nagel here.

          By the way, the Journal from which the interview is sourced is an excellent read. It's tagline, Transforming education through technology should give us an idea about its aspirations.

          Saturday, March 6, 2010


          In the very near future, Malaysian schoolchildren will be spared the heavy school bag dilemma.

          pix from here

          All thanks should be directed to Steve Jobs and Apple Inc for having created the incredibly wonderful and must-have iPad.

          pix from here

          The iPad textbook will hearken back to the crude little blackboards schoolchildren used in the old days.

          pix from here

          Don't think it'll ever happen?

          Well, think again, because the people at Wharton Business School have identified a clear shift in thinking by the quick-thinking publishing houses in the U.S. Read the piece here.

          The future for schoolchildren will get better and better...thank goodness!

          And, there will be less need for tree-hugging...

          pix from here

          Improbable impossibles

          This is the popular version of a quotation attributed to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

          When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. It is stupidity rather than courage to refuse to recognize danger when it is close upon you.

          This is what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actually wrote in The Adventure of Bruce-Partington Plans (p.925 of the edition I read):

          We must fall back upon the old axiom that when all other contingencies fail, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

          Is precision important? Or, would one be accused of being annoyingly pedantic?

          I suppose it depends on the company one keeps.

          The English, Germans and the Japanese are peoples that value precision. Their legal and engineering history proves it.

          The rest of the world, Malaysia included, tends to feel that "near enough is good enough".

          Wednesday, March 3, 2010

          Leapfrogging innovation

          By now there is a consensus that Malaysia is in a middle-income trap. Too expensive for foreign investors seeking Third World sweatshops. Not skilled enough to create world-beating goods and services. No Blue Oceans. Just the threat of wallowing in a hole that we have created for ourselves.

          As with many concerned Malaysians, I have shouted myself silly about the matter of declining standards of our primary, secondary and, most certainly tertiary education standards. For too long, we have mollycoddled mediocrity. There are glimmers that our nation's policymakers are stirring from their long slumber. Even Rip van Winkle eventually woke up. The main problem with this late stirring is that the climb back to better education standards takes a long, long time. Perhaps a generation.

          Even if the chaps and ladies at the Education Ministry has an epiphanic fit about how low our education standards have become; even if they suddenly decide, in unison, to get off their backsides and work industriously to start training Malaysian teachers, educators and lecturers to attain higher teaching skills; even if the fiscal allocation of resources is augmented in favour of Education - the climb will be steep and arduous and, worse of all, it will take TIME.

          Time is not on Malaysia's side in the international competitive stakes.

          But, proceed we must.

          The foregoing being a long preamble, I want to lead on to the matter of innovation. This is a matter that I have also blogged extensively about although, I must confess that whatever I have blogged about can hardly be more than me standing on a river bank after a torrential monsoon thunderstorm to describe the water to a drowning man in the river. It hardly ripples the surface, so to speak. And, it certainly won't save an economic life, let alone economic lives.

          Never mind.

          In the matter of innovation, I wish to invite your kind attention to possible leapfrog strategies. I realise that the choice of phrase is a bit tongue-in-cheek against the backdrop of Malaysia's political landscape in recent days. But, Hey!, you can't blame a nondescript blogger for wanting to catch the attention of a less-than-a-minute Net surfer, can you?

          Okay, back to the business of leapfrogging...strategies, that is.

          The proposition that I am pushing is that Malaysian manufacturing entrepreneurs need to be made aware of what is available out there in the world.

          Instead of waiting for indigent Malaysian genius to invent things, there are resources in the World Wide Web that provide connections to new inventions, new innovations and new products that have not been commercialised as yet. There are geniuses, product innovators and solution-providers around the world that have conceived of products, services and solutions that may be ready to go to market.

          One such online resource is provided by the good people at They have been kind and generous enough to have added me to their email listing. So, for some months now I have enjoyed being alerted to new products, innovations and services that are added to their considerable resource-base.

          In particular, there is an intriguing webpage entitled, 7,482 Technologies or Patents for Sale or License. In that webpage is an alphabetical listing of various categories of inventions, products and services that are available for the intrepid Malaysian manufacturing entrepreneur to consider.

          Have a look, just as I do all the time. You never know. There are opportunities in there waiting for the Malaysian entreprenuer who is prepared. I'm taking a close look at some of the stuff in there. You never know, you might beat me to market!

          This is a better form of leapfrogging, don't you think?