BNM Forex: Congratulations, Lim Kit Siang

The Singapore Times report on the BNM FOREX issue

For two decades DAP’s Supremo, Emperor Lim Kit Siang, fought to bring to justice those responsible for the loss of RM30 billion (RM45.25 billion in today’s terms) through foreign gambling exchange by the Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) back in the early 1990s.  The greed of those responsible saw the BNM increase its trading volume to USD50 million lots (RM74.46 million or RM205.65 million today) compared to the market norm then of USD5 million (RM7.45 million or RM20.56 million today) to USD10 million (RM14.90 million or RM41.12 million today), amounting to billions of Dollars per day!

BNM’s maximum exposure in the foreign exchange markets then reached as high as RM270 billion – three times the country’s GDP and more than five times the country’s foreign reserves at the time!

Imagine what would have happened had we lost all that!  But imagine what RM30 billion then could have done to arrest the massive fall of the Ringgit from RM2.4765 to the USD on 1 April 1997 to RM4.88 to the USD in early January 1998.

But despite pressing for someone to be accountable, Kit Siang is far from happy.  In September of this year he Tweeted this:

Has Lim Kit Siang accepted the loss of the RM30 billion he’s been screaming about?

Now Lim Kit Siang plays innocent saying he has nothing to do with wanting a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the BNM Forex scandal.  Is it because he and Mahathir are good friends now? Or is it because Mahathir’s involvement means that the DAP has lost one of its Malay political mules?

Best friends forever

If I recall correctly, it was Lim Kit Siang who mentioned that Mahathir has to answer for the Forex loss, and that if Pakatan captures Putrajaya, he would re-open the BNM Forex scandal.  He even asked if (former Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak got life imprisonment, then why should Mahathir go scot-free?

Lim Kit Siang’s demands re the BNM Forex Scandal

Has Lim Kit Siang forgotten all the above?  If he has, has he gone senile due to his age? If he has problems retaining his memory, then I don’t think he ought to contest in the next general elections.

Whatever it is, the biggest winner would be Anwar. Not only does he get to see his jailor jailed, but he won’t be lonely anymore.

Let’s hope they get to share the same cell.

Bedmates

Where Should The Allegiance of the Armed Forces Lie

Malaysian Armed Forces Veterans

I received this copied in a Veterans’ WhatsApp group. I omitted some parts of the message as it was just gibberish talk:

_Copied from write up by Mej **** ***** TUDM (Rtd)_

Good afternoon to all. The fight for a free Malaysia must go on!
Let us get one thing clear – the country and the government are separate entities. Governments come and go, the country is eternal.

We owe our allegiance to the country, not to the government. Therefore, saying bad things about a bad government is not being anti-national. Most important of all, voting against a bad government is not being anti-national. A bad government does not deserve loyalty. Disloyalty to the government is not disloyalty to the country; in fact, voting out a bad government is being loyal to the country.

Clean elections
Clean government
Right to dissent
Save our economy


Fine words they are, but for someone with some legal training to write as such shows how much understanding the author has of the Federal Constitution.

Let us address this “call”:

Point 1:

“Good afternoon to all. The fight for a free Malaysia must go on!
Let us get one thing clear – the country and the government are separate entities. Governments come and go, the country is eternal.

We owe our allegiance to the country, not to the government. Therefore, saying bad things about a bad government is not being anti-national. Most important of all, voting against a bad government is not being anti-national. A bad government does not deserve loyalty. Disloyalty to the government is not disloyalty to the country; in fact, voting out a bad government is being loyal to the country.”

The country and the government cannot be separated, neither can a state be separated from its state government.  Yes, governments come and go, but a government is still a government.  Officers and men of the civil service, the Armed Forces, the Police owe their allegiance to the King and Country.  The King rules the Country, as do the Sultans their respective state, through a government that was picked by the people. Be they the Federal Government or the State Government, they administer the country and the states on behalf of the King and Sultans, as well as the Governors.  This is prescribed by Article 39 of the Federal Constitution where the Executive Authority of the Federation is vested in the Yang DiPertuan Agong by him, or by the Cabinet, or by any Minister authorised by the Cabinet.

In the case of the Armed Forces, the King exercises his power through the Minister of Defence.  Which is why the officers and men of the Armed Forces are required to salute the Minister of Defence who represents the King’s executive power over the Armed Forces, and the Prime Minister who is the King’s Chief Executive, representing the King.

Article 41 states that the King is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and therefore those representing the King as prescribed by Article 39 are performing their duties on behalf of the King.

Therefore, it is imperative that the Armed Forces, as well as the civil service and the Police, remain loyal to the government of the day as the government of the day represents the King – be it bad or otherwise. Whether or nor a member of the Armed Forces, or the civil service, or the Police subscribes to the government of the day politically is a secondary matter.  The oath that was taken was to be loyal to the King and Country; therefore loyalty shall be given to the government of the day.

The Minister who represents the King in matters of defence is also made the Chairman of the Armed Forces Council which is responsible for the command, the discipline and the administration of the Armed Forces, except for matters relating to their operational use.  This is prescribed in Article 137 of the Federal Constitution.

And it is the Parliament that passed an Act to amend and consolidate the law relating to the establishment, government and discipline of the Armed Forces is made which is called the Armed Forces Act, 1972.

It is also the Armed Forces Act, 1972 that gave the powers to the Armed Forces Council to enable Brigadier-General Datuk Fadzlette Othman Merican Idris Merican be promoted to Major-General while she is being seconded to a Federal Government Department.  Section 5C of the Armed Forces Act, 1972 determines that she remains a member of the regular forces but her remuneration shall be paid by that Federal Government Department.

By the same token, even the ordinary people who are citiens of Malaysia must realise that the Federal Government represents the King, the state governments represent the resective state’s Ruler.  These are governments chosen by the people but was appointed by the Rulers to administer the country and states on their behalf.  The only way to change these governments is by a democratic process called ELECTIONS (unless you have not heard of that word before).

Point 2:

“Clean elections”

Since 1955, Pulau Pinang, Perak, Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu, Selangor and Sabah have all seen a change in government.  If the elections were not clean, would it have been possible for the Opposition to have won cash cows such as Pulau Pinang and Selangor?

Point 3:

“Clean government”

I must admit there are bad hats in the government, be it the Federal government or the states government.  This is why we have seen people like Harun Idris, Mokhtar Hashim, Khir Toyo, Lim Guan Eng charged in court for corruption. All but Lim Guan Eng have served jail time.  Guan Eng, who said that he is not afraid to go to prison, has been delaying his corruption trial using technical issues.

Many more state excos have also been arraigned in a court for corruption.  This is not possible without agencies such as the Auditor-General’s Office and the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission which act as checks and balances to ensure that the Federal as well as states governments are run efficiently and cleanly.

Of course there are those who have yet to face the music. For example those responsible for the Maminco scandal in 1985 that saw a loss of RM1.6 billion (about RM2.56 billion in today’s terms); the Perwaja scandal in 1982 that saw a loss of about RM10 billion (RM18.73 billion in today’s terms); the BMF scandal of 1983 that had caused a loss of RM2.5 billion (RM4.5 billion today); the 1986 Deposit-Taking Cooperative Scandal that caused a loss of RM1.5 billion (about RM2.58 billion today); the RM30 billion loss by Bank Negara Malaysis through foreign exchange gambling in 1994 (RM45.25 billion today); the Malaysia Airlines scandal of 1994 with the loss of RM9.4 billion (RM14.18 billion today); the PKFZ scandal of 1999 with a loss of RM12.5 billion (RM13.5 billion in today’s terms).

The above all happened during the tenure of a certain former Prime Minister.  The grand total of losses is RM67.5 billion (or RM101.3 billion in today’s terms).  The amount shown does not include the bailouts reported in various books, Opposition leaders’ blogs and so on.

I do hope that the cry for a clean government will also call for the arraignment for the Prime Minister during whose tenure the financial scandals happened.  Had the RM101.3 billion been put to good use during those 22 years, Sabah and Sarawak would have had SIX toll-free Pan Borneo Highways, or 1,013 80-bedded Government hospitals all over the country!

Instead, it enriched the few and killed one person.

Point 4:

“Right to Dissent”

I have not seen any Opposition-leaning media being taken off print or air, unlike during a certain 22-year period of my life.  Malaysiakini et al are still spinning their version of what they call “balanced news” (read: news the way we want you to see it).  The way these media operate reminds me of a character in Netflix’s limited series called “Godless” called A.T Grigg, a newspaper owner-editor who writes news the way he sees it, not how it truly happens.

The ISA was repealed six years ago by this present administration. Although replaced with SOSMA and POTA, it doesn’t give powers to the authorities to hold anyone without trial as the ISA did. And the ISA was being used a lot against political dissenters especially in the late 1990s during the tenure of a certain former Prime Minister.

This administration also introduced the Peaceful Assembly Act, 2012 that has allowed more freedom to assemble peacefully, unlike during those days of a certain former Prime Minister where at the slightest hint of a political dissent, you get whisked away to the University of Kamunting.

Has the author of the message been arrested yet?  Of course not.  Even when he actually committed sedition against Malaysia by encouraging Sarawak to secede from Malaysia.

How is it that a legal-trained person does not know that his act is seditious escapes me

Now, how is that seditious?  If you look at Section 2 of the Sedition Act, 1948 it tells you the following:

Section 2 defines how an act is seditious. He has committed a seditious act by definition of Section 3(1)(a)

This former Armed Forces officer also committed a crime of sedition under Section 3 (1) (b) of the same Act for encouraging Sarawak to leave Malaysia:

Section 3 (1) (b) of the Sedition Act, 1948

And you thought that the Federal Constitution protects freedom of speech?  Yes, it does.  But as with all other liberties, they are subjected to restrictions.  Article 10(1) guarantees that every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression, but at the beginning of the Article it also says the following:

You cannot just say anything you like although you have the freedom of speech and expression

To dissent is okay. To dissent seditiously, or criminally, or dangerously, or incitingly, is not okay.

Any legal-trained person ought to know this, right? What more a former officer of the Armed Forces!

Point 5:

“Save Our Economy”

In April 2017, the World Bank forecasted that Malaysia’s GDP would be at 4.3 percent.  This was revised in June 2017 to 4.9 percent due to an acceleration in domestic economic activities (people in Malaysia are actually spending more) by 5.7 percent year-on-year.  The GDP growth was revised again in October 2017 to 5.2 percent.

Let me quote several reports here by the World Bank.

World Bank Group lead economist Richard Record said at a media briefing on the update that Malaysia’s robust GDP growth in the first half of 2017 was largely underpinned by strong private-sector expenditure, with additional impetus from an improvement in external demand.

“Private consumption expanded firmly this year, supported by favourable income growth amid stable labour market conditions, and improved consumer confidence. Private investment also sustained rapid growth rates during the period, reflecting mainly continued capital spending in the manufacturing and services sectors,” said Richard Record.

“On the external front, gross exports rebounded strongly from the subdued growth experienced in 2016, supported by double-digit growth in commodity and manufactured exports,” he added.

Economic watchdogs are generally bullish on the Malaysian economy’s performance, buttressed by strong expansion in private consumption and private investment. In the latest update on its World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund has upped its GDP growth projection for Malaysia in 2017 to 4.8 percent from 4.5 percent previously.

Apart from that, the Asian Development Bank has also upgraded its 2017 growth outlook for Malaysia to 4.7% from 4.4%, and indicated that the two-year slowdown in economic growth is likely to have bottomed out last year.

Richard Record also predicted Malaysia’s economy for 2018 and 2019.

“We are forecasting Malaysia’s GDP to grow by 5 percent next year (2018) and 4.8 percent in 2019. Our prediction reflects how we are seeing the country’s macroeconomic fundamentals’ performance and the baseline scenario,” he said.

Online economics portal ‘Focus Economics’ also said the following:

“Economic momentum remained robust in Q3 as confirmed by more complete data. Export growth expanded by a double-digit pace in September, underscoring thriving external demand for Malaysian goods. Household spending was buoyed by a low unemployment rate in September and by higher wages, which were propped up by a thriving manufacturing sector, the key driver of industrial production growth in the quarter. The 2018 budget passed on 27 October is focused on fiscal consolidation and is expected to narrow the fiscal deficit from 3.0 percent in 2017 to 2.8 percent in 2018. Despite the tightening, the budget has consumer-friendly components that will increase disposable income. These include lower income tax rates, especially for middle-income earners; higher public wages; and increased assistance spending.”

By contrast, Brunei’s fiscal deficit had hit 16 percent in 2016.

Of course, with the oil prices continue to stay below the USD70 per barrel level, Malaysia as well as other countries will continue to experience some sluggishness in the economy. However, good fiscal policies have allowed us to grow unlike a neighbour of ours that is often quoted as being a model economy.  That country’s growth have been at 2 percent in 2016, and 2.5 percent this year.

The outlook for the construction sector has taken a sharp turn for the worse, with poll respondents tipping a contraction of 4.2 per cent. The previous survey, released in June, had respondents forecasting 0.2 per cent growth in the sector.

The outlook for the accommodation and food services sector in this model country has also worsened – it is now expected to shrink 1.5 per cent, from previous estimates of a 1 per cent expansion.

Economists polled expect overall economic growth of 2.5 per cent next year for this model country, the same pace as this year.

Perhaps the author of the message we are discussing here should go down South and help revive the economy of that model country.


So, there have you.  I really do not know what the fuss is about.  All I can deduce is that the author of the message is all hot air – you can feel it blowing on your face, but there is no real substance there.  This is the same as BERSIH, and the recycling of petty but stale issues by the Opposition just so that they can remain relevant, and justify for the allowances they receive from the pockets of the rakyat.

You can express your dissatisfaction, but always do so constructively. Especially if you are a member of the Malaysian Armed Forces and Malaysian Armed Forces Veterans.

Why Compare Brunei To Malaysia When It Comes To Retail Fuel Prices?

A comment by a Brunei citizen on Asia Times (http://www.atimes.com)

I received the following WhatsApp message from my father earlier today:

The government has to stop its lies and bullshit. Everybody in the oil industry globally confirms one thing. Malaysia has the “sweetest” crude oil in the world. What this means is this, we produce the highest quality oil in the world. The best of the best. But the rakyat don’t see this. This is exported for other people in the world to use. Then Malaysia reimports low grade and low quality oil at a very cheap price for the rakyat to use. Dirty oil.

The question is this. Isn’t the beautiful sweet high grade quality oil Malaysia produces belong to the rakyat of Malaysia? Why sell it of at a higher price to other countries? The oil belongs to the rakyat of Malaysia. It should be given to the people of Malaysia first. Why import dirty and filthy oil and give the rakyat of Malaysia? Why are Malaysians treated like dogs and be given the bones when other people are given the nice flesh to eat?

Another issue is subsidy. There is no such thing of subsidy. The Government of Malaysia has been lying to Malaysians the past 20 years about subsidy. You see, what you produce, you cannot subsidise. If the government does not sell our high grade oil overseas and give it to Malaysians to use, what is there to subsidise?

This story has been going around a long time to fool the people of Malaysia, especially, the kampung people that petrol need to be subsidised. We don’t need to subsidise any petrol or fuel because Malaysia produces ample oil not only for its rakyat but also for export. So, if you produce your own oil, what is there to subsidise?

If you grow vegetables in your garden to eat, you cannot go around telling people that your vegetables are subsidised. You are growing it. You are producing it. You don’t have to buy it at all from an external source. The same with oil. We produce it. We should be using it first. This is how the Sultan of Brunei thinks. That is why he gives his rakyat very cheap fuel. Then the balance, he exports it at global prices. For him, rakyat comes first. he gives the rakyat clean and cheap oil because he cares.

Our government, terbalik. Rakyat comes last. And our oil resources are far more than Brunei. Few years ago, in the global media, Petronas struck the largest oil reserve and land in the world. Global media confirmed it was the largest oil reserve in the entire world. Then the next day, our government covered it up as mere speculation. So, in actual fact, Malaysia’s petrol company Petronas has unlimited reserves of oil for the next 50 yrs. Can we Malaysians please have the priority to get this fuel first for the rakyat cheaply?


My reply is somewhat simple:

Brunei has a population of 434,000 and produces 110,000 barrels of oil per day. Malaysia has 32 million population and produces only 659,000 barrels of oil per day. Of course Brunei can afford to produce, refine and supply to her own citizens while Malaysia becomes a net importer of processed oil.

Furthermore, Malaysia produces the Tapis crude which is sweet and light with a API gravity of 45.5 degrees and sulphur content of only 0.1 percent, making it expensive on the market.

Petronas sells the Tapis crude to get more money and purchases cheaper crude oils for consumption in Malaysia.

Between 14 August 2017 and 20 November 2017 the average value of retail petrol per liter was RM2.20 with a minimum of RM2.12 and a maximum of RM2.38. For comparison, the average price of petrol in the world for the same period was RM5.80 per liter.

As at 20 November 2017, Malaysia’s retail petrol price is 20th cheapest at USD 0.58 per liter. Among the Asian countries only Myanmar is cheaper than ours – by one US cent. Indonesia is 4 spots higher at USD 0.65.

The Brunei government does not publicise its retail petrol price and is therefore not listed. It subsidises its fuel very heavily. However, in 2008 it increased prices for foreigners to B$1.18 per liter (RM2.832 in November 2008).

If Brunei is the model for Malaysians, let it be known that last year its fiscal deficit hit 16 percent of its GDP as a result of the decline in oil prices. Its 2017 budget was slashed by USD100 million to B$5.3 billion. In 2016 it was B$5.6 billion. It was B$7.3 billion in 2014 when the slump in oil prices began.

The government has frozen new staff hires for the bureaucracy. Certain civil servants benefits such as housing, electricity and petroleum subsidies have been cut.

The grass is always greener elsewhere, until you look hard.

The Government Should Offload Its Burdens

Will we see the re-introduction of fuel subsidies?

I find it puzzling that the government has shut its doors on Maju Holdings’s intention of buying the PLUS concessions (Govt Shuts Door On Maju’s Bid for PLUS – Malaysian Digest, 26 November 2017) when I don’t think they have actually met with Maju Holdings to discuss the proposed deal.

Although the Second Finance Minister said in September that the Finance Ministry would first and foremost get some clarification from Maju Holdings on how they plan to execute the no-toll-hike deal before deciding whether or not to allow the deal to happen, I can bet my bottom dollar that at the time of writing this post, they have not met.

The Second Finance Minister wants to obtain clarification from Maju Holdings before deciding

I have written on this matter before and I have laid down my reasons and Tan Sri Abu Sahid’s explanation that he made to the press during his interview sessions, but I am writing this again because I am alarmed at how the government has made a decision without even doing its due diligence on the matter.

The government’s decision to do away with four tolls beginning 1 January 2018 may be good news for those in the Klang Valley and those who go shopping at Bukit Kayu Hitam or drive into Thailand, but we also know that it costs 20 sen to 30 sen to use a public toilet.  So, nothing is for free.  While the people in the areas mentioned above enjoy their toll-free highway, the rest are made to pay in the form of an extension to the conclusion of the concession of other highways operated by PLUS beyond 2038.

That is not all.  The government would have to fork out RM110 million a year as compensation to PLUS, not inclusive of the compensation the government would have to pay every time they disallow a toll rate hike.  Multiply that figure alone by 20 years, it would come up to RM2.2 billion.  Now that is not a small sum of money.  RM2.2 billion could get you 22 80-bed hospitals that could benefit especially the rural areas of Sabah and Sarawak, or in a term that I am more familiar with, four squadrons of the KAI FA-50 supersonic advanced trainers and light combat aircraft. That is almost 50 badly-needed aircraft altogether.

Not only does the government have to think about finding money to compensate PLUS every year for the loss of income from the four tolls, the government also has to think about compensating PLUS and other concessionaires every time they are allowed to increase their rates.

With the global oil price rebounding, the government has also announced that it would think of a measure to not allow retail petrol (RON95). That sounds like more money flying away in the form of a subsidy – something the government has fought hard to do away with.

The proposed deal by Maju Holdings sounds sweet to me now.  Question is, what is the Finance Ministry and/or Khazanah afraid of?

Is it because Abu Sahid is perceived as Mahathir’s crony?  Then again, which owner of a Malaysian conglomerate isn’t a crony of Mahathir’s?  Out of the 10 richest persons in Malaysia in 2016 perhaps only a couple are not Mahathir’s cronies.

Is it because the Finance Ministry and/or Khazanah thinks that Abu Sahid does not know what he is talking about because he only operates a 26-kilometre highway therefore what does he know about a 800-kilometre one?  The question is what highway did UEM even operate before it was given PLUS? How different is Maju Holdings to MTD Prime and Anih Berhad that are now running the 358-kilometre East Coast Highway after running only the 60-kilometre KL-Karak highway?

Or are people on different levels making PLUS their cash cow? I’m just throwing my thoughts here because I cannot see what are they so afraid of if someone can help them lower their financial burdens.

The Finance Ministry keeps saying that it does not want to have to bail out Maju Holdings should the deal go wrong in the future, I ask myself, and perhaps the Finance Ministry and Khazanah too, should they not pray for the Maju Holdings to fail?  Abu Sahid wants to give the UEM and EPF RM4 billion in cash for free as a return on investments made in PLUS. That is a 20 percent Internal Rate of Return (IRR).

On top of that Abu Sahid through Maju Holdings, with the backing of his financiers, seeks to forfeit the government’s compensation of about RM900 million owed to the toll road operator, which arose as a result of toll hikes not being implemented.  Imagine what the government could do by chanelling this money to sectors that badly need such funds.

In other words, the government should pray for Abu Sahid to fail after giving him PLUS – the government takes back the highway which is already toll-free then as there would not be any concessionaire, while Maju Holdings would have to face its financiers.  The highway and all its infrastructures already belong to the government no matter what, and the government can still impose tolls albeit minimal to help maintain the PLUS highways.  So, what has the government got to lose?

Loss of income by EPF that affects its contributors?  I find that hard to swallow.  EPF has so much money that it would seek to re-invest in PLUS even after the deal takes place.  EPF needs to make money for its contributors. Or it could just seek to invest in another company.  EPF has so much money that it is investing in both money-making and money-losing companies as it is now.

Therefore, as a rakyat, I reiterate my concerns taking into account the amount of money needed to compensate PLUS for abolishing the four tolls, the amount of money needed to compensate PLUS and other concessionaires to not increase toll prices, and the imminent need to subsidise RON95 – has the government seen the assumptions made by Maju Holdings? Has the government called Maju Holdings or its financial adviser Evercore for a meeting like it said it would, before even deciding to shut the door on Maju Holdings? Has the government done a due diligence on the proposal by Maju Holdings?

The government should seriously rethink its stance in this issue.  There is just too much money that needs to be involved if the government continues to keep PLUS.  This is money that could be used to pay the other concessionaires to not hike up their rates as PLUS under Maju Holdings would not be increasing theirs until the concession agreement runs out.  Or the savings could go to building more schools, hospitals or buy more fighters for the Air Force.

The government has an opportunity to offload its financial burdens.  But why is it so afraid to take that step?

Forest City: Sustaining The Future

Forest City was under a considerable amount of pressure when it first started due to the knee-jerk reactions of some environmentalists and half-baked as well as over-ripe politicians seeking quick publicity to remain relevant.  While the environmental concerns have been addressed and continues to be addressed as the project progresses, it is notable that the political concerns seem to originate only from the Malay politicians.  It seems that the Chinese politicians realise the potential this development brings.

Almost, if not all the issues have been addressed in a recent posting of mine on the matter, but it seems that these politicians are hell bent on flogging an already decomposing horse.

In the meantime, Forest City continues to develop and progress, in very notable ways.

A UN Global Model

On the 31st October 2017, Forest City won the Global Model of Green Building Industrial Park for the second consecutive year.  The award was part of the Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements Award (SCAHSA) ceremony held in New York.

Forest City wins the Global Model of Green Building Industrial Park award for its industrial park which has boosted the construction industry

 

The SCAHSA award established by the Global Forum on Human Settlement (GFHS), a non-profit organisation with Special Consultative Status within the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is a trend setter for urban construction everywhere that respects sustainable development.

Forest City, China’s Wuyi County and Indonesia’s Surabaya City were among the winning entries submitted from 23 countries and regions worldwide. Forest City won the SCAHSA Global Human Settlements Award on Planning and Design at the 11th Global Forum on Human Settlements (GFHS – XI).

Dr. Arab Hoballah (right), former Chief of the Sustainable Lifestyles, Cities and Industry Branch at United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) presents the Global Model of Green Building Industrial Park award to Forest City

Forest City, by taking full advantage of its technical resources, is creating a 1.7-square-kilometer construction-focused industrial park, to promote the development of a green building industry and improve building precision and quality, said Dr. Wang Jiying, vice general manager for overseas business at Country Garden.

Forest City will include several support facilities and a powerful water transportation system, all of which are expected to be operational in 2019, with the aim of creating a truly industrialised manufacturing base for the construction industry over the next three to five years.

Creating Potential Future Workforce

A month and a half ago when I was at Forest City, I was brought to visit one of five schools adopted by Forest City where children are given free Mandarin lessons for three months.  This is one of the ways by Forest City to ensure that the local community, especially those in the Tanjung Kupang area, have roles to play in the development.

The result is excellent:

The student above is from the first batch of students who started their Mandarin language course in August 2017 and has graduated.  Forest City is not stopping there.  Forest City’s master developer, Country Garden Pacificview Sdn Bhd (CGPV), aims to give back to the community by offering three-month basic Mandarin language courses to some 100 school children there.

CGPV plans to continue to offer the Mandarin courses in the future as part of its corporate social responsibility effort for the community here.

The second intake will be conducted from January until March next year,” Country Garden Pacificview Sdn Bhd corporate communications head Aeron Munajat told reporters when met at SK Tanjong Adang here today where she handed over certificates to the participants.

Aeron said that apart from learning Mandarin as a third language, the three-month language course will also help the students develop self-confidence which will further enhance their competitiveness in the job market in the future.

She said the course involved students and teachers from five schools, namely SK Morni Pok, SK Tanjong Adang, SK Tiram Duku, SK Tanjung Kupang and SK Pendas Laut.

The classes are conducted every Friday and Saturday from 10am to 12 noon, at the community centre in Kampung Pok,” she added.

Forest City Does Not Pawn Johor Land

The continued but futile attacks on Forest City by Malaysia’s Mugabe and his followers have again earned the ire of His Majesty The Sultan of Johor.

Has Johor ever pawned its land? What is the meaning of pawning? With Forest City, the state of Johor has increased in size. It is not about seizing land to be pawned. In Johor, there are international lots and Malay reserve land.  Anyone can buy at the international zone, be it the Mat Salleh from England or people from India, Japan, China. All of them can purchase it.  They can buy (property), but it does not mean they purchase the land to bring it back to their respective home country,” chided the Sultan.

In Johor, we have an international zone, which means that foreigners could buy. It has international status. In Forest City, we do not sell the land, we sell the strata (titles) and these strata (titles) are for permanent ownership in Johor,” he remarked.

The Sultan added that 40 percent of the investors in Forest City are Malaysians and that even the government has shares in the project, and that the project gave a lot of revenue for the state government, including quit rent and assessment, which the state of Johor benefits.

How much revenue will the Johor government get? When Forest City is completed, the assessment, quit rent will go to who? Who will get the jobs? There are transportation (initiatives), businesses and job opportunities. Don’t be narrow minded about this,” said the Sultan.

A throwback at the Sultan of Johor’s displease of Mahathir’s lies about the Forest City project

The Sultan also said that the most visible benefit of the Forest City project was the boost it has given to the value of real estate in its surrounding areas, particularly in Pontian district, which is now developing at a rapid pace.

He gave an example of how in the past, the people of Pontian were only picking buah duku (lanzones), but now people in Pontian own Mercedes Benz cars.

It means that Pontian has become a district that will see rapid development,” the Sultan stressed. “In the past, an acre (0.4 hectares) of land used to cost RM100,000, but now, it is valued up to RM3 million.”

It is no doubt that Forest City will boost the Iskandar region’s marketability.  With consumer prices 100 percent higher than in Malaysia, rent prices 500 percent higher than in Malaysia, many companies in Singapore were driven to relocate to Iskandar, while Johor Bahru’s shopping malls, food outlets and amusement parks have become a favourite for Singaporeans.  Bangkok’s recent wish for Malaysia to extend its High Speed Rail into Thailand will soon make the Iskandar Econmic Region attractive to the millionaires and billionaires of Indochina. And the green, affordable buildings of Forest City will definitely be a hit.

While they all win, the real winners will be the people of Johor and Malaysia.

Defence: RMAF’s Walks Slowly But With Big Strides

RMAF Airbus A400M (M54-04) on finals at the Labuan airbase during exercise PARADISE 2017

The A400M: How Has It Fared?

When the Royal Malaysian Air Force purchased the Airbus Defence and Space A400M Atlas, many thought it was to replace the Lockheed C-130H-30 that had entered service in 1976.  15 C-130Hs were delivered to the RMAF with 14 still flying.

However, the RMAF announced further upgrades to its C-130H fleet to keep them operational.  The A400M’s role, although similar to that of the C-130H, enhances the RMAF’s airlift capability.  Not only can the A400M carry 17 tonnes more payload compared to the C-130H, it can fly 200 knots faster and land on rough or soft landing strips like the C-130H.

Its glass cockpit/side-stick  coupled with three-axis fly-by-wire (FBW) with flight envelope protection configuration makes the A400M user-friendly and is based on the A380 but modified to suit military operations requirements.  The flight envelope protection allows the A400M to perform bank angles up to 120 degrees!

The cockpit of the RMAF A400M (M54-04) is large and is very comfortable

Not only could the A400M support the Malaysian Armed Forces’s tactical and strategic capabilities, it could also be utilised for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations in the region.  To date, the RMAF’s A400Ms have performed two HADR roles: delivering 17 tonnes of aid to embattled Marawi in July 2017 and 12 tonnes of aid to the Rohingya refugees in south Bangladesh in September 2017.

RMAF A400M (M54-04) is being loaded with HADR cargo bound for Marawi

The remarkable thing especially about the Marawi mission was the A400M’s ability to fly to Cagayan del Oro and back without refuelling (an approximately 5,400 kilometers return trip); this, together with its speed cuts down total turnaround time.

The A400M is equipped with the defensive aid sub-system and an in-flight refueling capability.  The inflight-refueling package allows the A400M to refuel helicopters at 105 knots indicated airspeed (KIAS) and fighters at up to 300 knots, hence safer for the refuelling of both helicopters and fighters.  Flight tests have also revealed that at Alpha Max (with the Alpha Floor protection disabled, the A400M reached 98 KIAS before  the FBW low-speed protection function eased the nose down. There was no wing roll-off or loss of control. Recovery was almost immediate when the nose was lowered and thrust added, underscoring the fact that the A400M is indeed a very safe and capable aircraft.

Maritime Patrol Aircraft – Budgeted For

The Beechcraft Super King Air 200T MPA has been in service with RMAF for 23 years

For almost two decades the role of maritime patrol was assigned to several C-130Hs that were converted to C-130MPs.  Four Beechcraft Super King Air B200T aircraft were inducted into the RMAF maritime patrol fleet to complement the C-130MPs.  However, the high operational costs versus mission requirements of the C-130MPs saw the latter taking over the role completely.

Even before the loss of an airframe, there were already talks of replacing the B200Ts.  Leonardo brought its ATR-72MP aircraft to LIMA ’17.  Apart from the hardpoints and MPA modules on board, the ATR-72MP is just a normal commercially-available aircraft, powerplants and all.  Leonardo’s concept is to provide a platform using what is available in large numbers in the market to keep the costs down.

The Leonardo ATR-72MP, seen here at LIMA 17, also comes with an electronic surveillance and C4I platform. The airframe is that of the ATR-72-600 (photo courtesy of Janes Defence)

Airbus Defence and Space flew a CN295 almost around the world to promote it as a multirole platform.  The CN295, albeit a SAR version that was on its way to its new home in Brazil, made a stop in Malaysia and was presented to operators such as the RMAF, the MMEA, as well as the Royal Malaysian Police Air Wing.

Stretched three metres longer than the CN235 that the RMAF is currently operating, everything about the CN295 is very similar to the CN235, which makes crew conversion fairly easy to make.  It comes with a more powerful plant that features better efficiency, longer loiter capability at station and comes with six external hardpoints for ASW weapons.

When the announcement of the budget for the procurement of four MPAs in 2018 was made, the immediate follow-through was that four of the RMAF’s remaining seven CN235s will be fitted with the MP systems from the B200Ts, a sure sign that either additional CN235s will be acquired for the MPA role, or the CN295s would be acquired instead.

The commonality between the C295 and the CN235 also potentially leads to  even lower operating costs, given the versatile cabin configuration that allows fast switching of mission types, high manouvrability, better low-level flying capabilities given the high-wing configuration and a wide rear ramp, the C295 makes the best option for maritime patrol and surveillance as well as anti-submarine warfare missions in Malaysia.

The C295 is powered by twin PW127G turboprop engines driving Hamilton Sundstrand Type 568F-5 six bladed propellers which provide outstanding hot and high performance, low fuel consumption, and an endurance exceeding 11 hours.  Flying at a maximum speed of 480 km/h which is slower than the  B200T’s 540 km/h, but has a range of 5,600 kilometers compared to the  B200T’s 3,100 kilometer range.

The RMAF’s need for a reliable platform that would be able to perform largely anti-shipping missions and has a reasonable but economical loiter endurance with some strike capability if required makes the CN295 a better choice of MPA. It also makes strategic and economical sense for Malaysia as it allows operators to narrow down its aircraft types and suppliers, making logistical and technical support easier.

The Airbus C-295 of the Força Aérea Brasiliera arrived at the Subang airbase on Friday 7 July 2017

UAV, MRCA and LIFT

Although the procurement of the badly needed MRCA to replace the MiG-29Ns have not been announced, the RMAF is making up for the void by ensuring high serviceability rate of its frontliners.  Observers would note that the serviceability percentage has increased tremendously despite the cut in the defence budget.

Perhaps the RMAF should think of an interim fighter or Lead-In Fighter Trainer  (LIFT) that gives the bang for bucks.  The Korea Aerospace Industries’s TA-50 LIFT comes into mind.  Each unit of the more advanced FA-50 costs half or three times less than a top-of-the-line fighter would but it carries enough sting to hurt the enemy.

RoKAF Black Eagle’s KAI T-50B zooms above Langkawi during LIMA 17

Losing only but not much in terms of range to the BAe Systems Mk 108/208 that the RMAF currently deploys in Labuan to cover both the eastern South China and Sulu seas, the TA-50’s ability to reach supersonic speeds (Mach 1.5 compared to the Hawk’s Mach 0.84) and excellent thrust-to-weight ratio (0.96 to the Hawk’s 0.65) means that the TA-50 would make a better aircraft placed on Alert 5 to intercept straying foreign aircraft. Its superb ability to deliver air-to-ground as well as anti-shipping ordnances makes it a suitable platform to support anti-incursion/counter-insurgency operations in the ESSCOM area.

The RMAF is also interested to develop its Unmanned Aerial Vehicle capability in both tactical and strategic aspects.  RMAF Chief General Tan Sri Dato Seri Affandi bin Buang TUDM said that the RMAF is conducting a detailed study to identify the UAV capable of meeting the current needs of the country apart from being equipped with technologies which could be shared with various parties in the country.

The Chief of RMAF (second from left) speaking to reporters during Exercise PARADISE 4/2017 at the Kota Belud Air Range

Besides security surveillance, UAV can also be used for other purposes such as weather information and others,” he said. “If the RMAF is able to acquire sophisticated UAVs we would be able to enhance our operations in the Peninsular, Sabah, Sarawak and also in support of the MPAs patrolling the South China Sea as well as the Sulu Sea.

Hopefully the RMAF would acquire UAVs with extended on-station endurance with some hardpoints for strike capability.

Epilogue

Although the RMAF is still in want of frontline airframes, it is seen to improve its serviceability percentage, a task that seemed daunting in times of global econmic uncertainty, but certainly achievable.  The plan to purchase capable Maritime Patrol Aircraft as per the 2018 Budget, and planned addition of sophisticated UAVs, will certainly enhance its control over the airspace.

It is hoped that the government could look into equipping the RMAF with interim strike capability, especially in the South China and Sulu seas, by adding a squadron or two of the KAI TA-50, if not a squadron each of the TA-50 and its frontline version, the FA-50, hopefully by 2020, before preparing its budget for the procurement of actual frontline MRCAs that are badly needed, not only as replacements of the recently-retired MiG-29N, but also as a contingency to replace the F/A-18D which is already in its 20th year of service with the RMAF.

The RMAF may seem to walk slowly, but it is definitely walking with big strides.

Let’s Complain About Retail Fuel Prices

Four days ago, just before the retail fuel price hike of six to seven Sen, the average price of retail petrol per litre was USD1.09 (RM4.59).

I won’t touch on the complexities of how we calculate how much we should be selling petrol week after week, but as a rule of thumb, countries that are richer (UK, France, Germany etc) have higher fuel prices. Countries that are less rich, or countries that produce and export oil, have lower fuel prices. The only exception is the US which is economically advanced but has low fuel prices.

How a country taxes or subsidises fuel contributes to the differences in fuel prices around the world. Since all countries have access to the same fuel prices of the international markets, it is taxes and/or subsidies contribute to the difference in retail fuel prices.

This is how Malaysia fares. If you don’t see the names of other countries then it means that fuel prices are actually much higher than Malaysia’s.

I saw ill-informed people saying that fuel prices and the cost of living in neighbouring Thailand are much lower than in Malaysia. There were also those who said that Malaysia should follow the global prices.

My question to them is: if fuel prices in Thailand are much lower, why do we find people smuggling fuel from Malaysia to Thailand and not the other way round?

And as for the cost of living, this is the cost of living indices for Malaysia versus Thailand:

Taking the last three months (from 7 August 2017 until 13 November 2017), the average price of fuel in Malaysia was around RM2.18 per litre with the lowest being RM2.07 per litre on 7 August 2017 and highest at RM2.31 per litre on 13 November 2017.

The average price of fuel per litre on the international markets for the duration was at RM5.84. So, would those asking Malaysia to follow the international markets prices want to pay this sum per litre?

I hope that these gullible Malaysians would pause to breathe and check the “facts” that are being shared in chat groups and social media before hitting that “SHARE/FORWARD” button.

But that is like hoping to see anencephalic babies become Einsteins.