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.
I blame our history books. In our eagerness to instill the spirit of nationalism, we took an easy way out by saying that we were colonised by the British, when in actual fact the whole of Malaya came under British rule only during the Malayan Union period. Only Melaka, Pulau Pinang, Singapore, and for a while Pangkor and the Dindings were under the direct rule of Britain when they were part of the Strait Settlements. Other than that, the British advisers administered the Malay states through treaties, and the administrators were under the payroll of the respective Sultans or Rajas, not the British.
One of the leading evidence of the sovereignty and independence of the Malay states was a landmark case in England where in 1885 the Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor went to England, and according to the plaintiff of the case, Miss Mighell, took the name Albert Baker and promised to marry her.
It was held by court that the Sultan was entitled to immunity even though up to the time of suit ‘he has perfectly concealed the fact that he is a sovereign, and has acted as a private individual.’ ‘When once there is the authoritative certificate of the Queen (Victoria) through her minister of state as to the status of another sovereign, that in the courts of this country is decisive’.
To an argument that Sultan Abu Bakar had waived this immunity, the court held that the only way that a sovereign could waive immunity was by submitting to jurisdiction in the face of the court as, for example, by appearance to a writ. If the sovereign ignored the issue of the writ, the court was under a duty of its own motion to recognise his immunity from suit.
The roles of the Malay Rulers are somewhat misunderstood. While many often think that the Institution of the Rulers mirror that of the British’s Westminster-style monarchy, it is not. The Rulers ruled this land even when the British were here to administer the land on behalf of The Majesties.
When 31 August 1957 arrived, the powers that the Rulers had invested in the British was duly transferred to a government that was chosen by the people through a process of democracy called Elections. It is untrue that during the British administration of this land, and now, that the Rulers have no other power other than having a say in the matters of the Religion of Islam and the Malay custom.
The Rulers, as keepers of this land, continue to enjoy their position with their income regulated by the respective laws, and receive advice from the Menteris Besar (or in the case of the Yang DiPertuan Agong, the Prime Minister). This is evident in Article 181(1) of the Federal Constitution which states:
“Subject to the provisions of this Constitution,” the “sovereignty, prerogatives, powers and jurisdiction of the Rulers…as hitherto had and enjoyed shall remain unaffected.”
The same was noted by Mark R Gillen of the Faculty of Law, University of Victoria (Gillen 1994:7). In the words of the late Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, former Lord President, it is:
“a mistake to think that the role of a King, like that of a President, is confined to what is laid down by the Constitution, His role far exceeds those constitutional provisions” (Azlan Shah 1986:89)
In other words, the Rulers may be Constitutional Monarchs, but they are not limited to what have been spelt out in the Federal Constitution.
When Syed Saddiq, the runner for Mahathir wrote to the Sultan of Selangor after His Royal Highness expressed great displeasure over Mahathir’s labelling of the Bugis as “pirates who should return to their own land” and pleaded for the Sultan’s support to “fight against corruption and injustice with the people” it shows this great-person-wannabe’s lack of understanding of the position of the Rulers in the Federal Constitution.
The Rulers are apolitical. The Rulers do not take sides, or do not express openly whom they prefer over those they do not. For instance, when the Menteri Besar of Selangor does something that is deemed un-Menteri Besar-like, the most the Sultan would do is to express a reminder for the Menteri Besar to improve his performance so that the lives of the subjects of His Royal Highness are not in any way adversely affected. To encourage certain courses of action is part of the duty of a Sultan, but the Sultan is above politics.
In the words of Sultan Nazrin Muizuddin Shah of Perak in July 2011:
“Rulers must use wisdom to calm situations, but they do not have a ‘magic lamp’ to keep unity, especially when the situation has become chaotic.“
When racial strife hit Malaysia on 13th May 1969, the Sultan of Terengganu as well as other Rulers took steps to protect their non-Malay rakyats (Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian, Faculty of Humanities, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Kobkua 2011:364). This goes to affirm the special press statement made by the Conference of Rulers in October 2008 explaining that the Institution of Rulers is a “protective umbrella ensuring impartiality among the citizens.”
After 2008, we have witnessed how lawmakers from a certain party have been rude towards the Malay Rulers, forgetting their place in the Federa Constitution. The Rukunegara – means nothing to them: there is no Loyalty to the lawmakers themselves are rarely guided by the belief in God as they lie as if God does not exist, they show no loyalty to King and Country except when they need favours or awards which also means they do not subscribe to the supremacy of the Constitution, they don’t believe in the Rule of Law when it does not work according to their overall game plan, and by being rude to the authorities beginning with the Malay Rulers show that they do not practice courtesy and morality.
And are we surprised that we now have common people threatening the police, council enforcement officers, biting court officers, or show gross disrespect for the authority of the Malay Rulers? They learn such absence of manners from their political idols.
If I were to write a letter to His Royal Highness The Sultan of Selangor, it would be to plead to His Royal Highness to pressure the authorities to hasten their investigation into the seditious nature of Mahathir’s remark.
THIS would be my mellow version of the Ops Lalang.
The Internal Security Act, 1960 or the ISA, was probably the most draconian law to ever exist in Malaysia. Prior to having the ISA, preventive detention was done through the Emergency Regulations Ordinance of 1948 aimed at combatting the communist threats.
With the end of the first Malayan Emergency in 1960, the Ordinance of 148 was done away with but was replaced with the ISA. The mood of the period must be understood to see the reason for having such law.
Although the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) had lost the fight, the struggle was continued from across the Thai border by cadres, as well as their supporters (Min Yuen) in Malaya. They penetrated unions, the press, as well as associations, causing occasional racial tensions in the country.
Pre-1970 Malaysia was not all dandy when it came to race relations. The economic power was held by the Chinese since the days of the British administration while the Malays had been relegated to being farmers or lower ranking civil servants.
The Chinese immigrants first came to the Malay states in 1777, and first settled in the state of Perak in 1830 (Patrick Sullivan, 1982: 13). Within 44 years, they numbered 26,000 in Perak alone. In 1921, the number of Chinese immigrants in the Malay states numbered 1,171,740. Ten years later, it was 1,704,452. In 1941, it became 2,377,990 while the Malays were at 2,277,352 (Paul H Kratoska, 1997:318). The Malays remained as a minority until the census of 1970.
During the war, the Malays did not face much hardship as the Chinese did at the hands of the Japanese.
After the war, the CPM/MPAJA and their Chinese supporters took revenge on the Malays. In Batu Pahat, Muslims were forbidden from congregating at mosques or suraus to perform the Terawih prayers (Hairi Abdullah, 1974/5: 8-9).
The same occurred in Perak and some parts of Batu Pahat where Muslims were gunned down and burnt together with the mosque they were in during Friday prayers.
Mosques and suraus were often used as places of meeting for the Chinese community (WO 172/9773, No.30: 478) and were tainted by incidents such as slaughtering of pigs, and mosques’ compound was used to cook pork, where Malays were forced to join the larger Chinese groups. Pages were torn from the Quran to be used by the Chinese using these mosques as toilet paper.
Racial clashes had begun in September 1945 where Malays and Chinese clashed in Kota Bharu, Selama, Taiping, Sitiawan, Raub.
This culminated in the slaughter of Malays early one morning in a hamlet near Kuala Kangsar called Bekor where 57 men and women, and 24 children were killed by about 500 members of the CPM aided by 500 Chinese villagers from Kelian in March 1946 (CO 537/1580: 21 and Majlis, 24 Februari 1947:5).
All in all, 2,000 lives were lost.
Such was the mood and the ISA was introduced to also prevent further racial clashes by preventing instigators from achieving their objective whatever that may be.
Therefore, it was an Act of Parliament that was used to preserve public order and morals. If one is to read the ISA thoroughly, then it would be easier to see that the Act was not just about detention without trial, but also as a weapon for the Royal Malaysian Police to nip any cancerous threat to public order and morals in the bud.
Datuk Seri (now Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad was Prime Minister as well as Home Minister when Ops Lalang was executed on Oct 26 1987 (arrests were made in the early morning of Oct 27).
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was Umno Youth chief and also Education Minister in Dr Mahathir’s Third Cabinet.
Anwar had made several unpopular moves that earned the wrath of the MCA such as the removal of crucifixes from missionary schools, introduction of Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction for Tamil and Chinese studies at the University of Malaya, as well as the introduction of non-Chinese educated senior assistants and supervisors to Chinese vernacular schools.
Deputy MCA president Datuk Seri (now Tan Sri) Lee Kim Sai who was also Selangor MCA chief, on the other hand, had also uttered words implying that the Malays were also immigrants.
A 2,000-strong gathering by the Dong Jiao Zong that was also attended by the DAP, MCA and Gerakan was held and a resolution was made to call a three-day boycott by Chinese schools.
Umno Youth responded with a 10,000-strong gathering at the TPCA Stadium in Kampung Baru. It is said that Dr Mahathir then instructed Datuk Seri (Tan Sri) Sanusi Junid, who was Umno secretary-general then, to organise a rally of 500,000 members in Kuala Lumpur.
I remember feeling the tension in the air, especially when an army personnel, Private Adam Jaafar, ran amok with his M-16 in Kampung Baru, adding more fuel to a potentially explosive situation.
The senior police management met in Fraser’s Hill to plan and then launched Ops Lalang to prevent bloodshed.
Whether or not Dr Mahathir disagreed with the police for Ops Lalang to be launched, it must be remembered that even if the police had wanted to launch the operations unilaterally, Section 8(1) of the ISA specifically mentions that it is the Home Minister who, upon being satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary, may make an order for the person to be detained for a period of not more than two years.
According to Section 73 of the Act, the police were not given the power to detain a person for more than 30 days unless the Inspector-General of Police had reported of the detention and its reason to the Home Minister.
Nowhere does the Act mention that the Home Minister SHALL or MUST act as advised by the police. The police provided the names in a list, with reasons why they should be or were detained, but only the Minister could sign the detention order.
Dr Mahathir may now claim that Ops Lalang was the police’s idea, which may be true. But as mentioned at the beginning of this article that the ISA is an Act of Parliament giving powers to the police to diffuse potentially explosive situations and also to protect and preserve public safety and morals.
The police used the ISA during Ops Lalang as it was intended to be used (there were also detainees from Umno during the sweep), but the Home Minister was the one who played God, and decided whom to be released before the 60 days was up, and whom to hold up to two years.
And that Home Minister is the same unrepentant person now touted to become the next PM by the DAP.
Sehari dua ini kita disajikan dengn berita bahawa lima cawangan pasaraya Giant bakal ditutup dan dikhabarkan bahawa ini petanda ekonomi negara kita sebenarnya meruncing dan bukannya mengembang sepertimana yang diwar-warkan oleh kerajaan. Berita penutupan cawangan-cawangan pasaraya Giant ini juga disebarkan melalui aplikasi WhatsApp.
Pagi ini juga saya melihat status seorang pengguna Facebook yang juga memberi khabar muram mengenai penutupan beberapa buah perniagaan besar di Malaysia.
Rangkaian Pasaraya Giant mengumumkan penutupan lima buah cawangan di seluruh negara. Ia merupakan penutupan lima cawangan lama yang mana premisnya akan tamat tempoh pajakan dari sejumlah 122 cawangan di seluruh negara.
Cawangan-cawangan tersebut adalah di Seri Manjung, SACC Mall Shah Alam, Selayang Lama, Sibu dan Sungai Petani.
Walaupun keseluruhan daerah Manjung mempunyai 233,000 penduduk, Lumut hanya mempunyai kurang dari 33,000 orang penduduk dan sebahagian besarnya adalah merupakan warga Tentera Laut DiRaja Malaysia. Giant perlu bersaing dengan dua buah pasaraya besar yang lain iaitu TESCO dan AEON Mall.
Sibu mempunyai 163,000 penduduk dan selain mempunyai dua cawangan Giant, ia juga mempunyai pusat-pusat membeli-belah seperti Sanyan Mall, Delta Mall, Star Mega Mall dan Medan Mall.
Sebuah Giant Hypermarket yang jauh lebih besar juga wujud berhampiran Giant Selayang Lama iaitu di Batu Caves, sementara cawangan di Selayang Lama terpaksa bersaing dengan pasaraya NSK Selayang yang menawarkan barangan runcit dengan harga yang lebih murah.
SACC Mall di Shah Alam itu sendiri tidak menarik ramai pengunjung. Selain Giant, banyak premis perniagaan di situ telah ditutup dan berpindah terutamanya syarikat-syarikat yang mendaftarkan perniagaan yang telah menarik ramai pengunjung. Di Shah Alam sendiri terdapat empat cawangan Giant yang berhampiran iaitu di Seksyen 9, Seksyen 13, Seksyen 18 dan juga Kota Kemuning.
Sungai Petani, walaupun mempunyai lebih kurang 280,000 orang penduduk, mempunyai dua buah cawangan Giant, iaitu Giant Hypermarket dan Giant Supermarket. Saya yakin yang ditutup ialah Giant Supermarket. Sungai Petani juga memberi saingan lain kepada Giant Supermarket dalam bentuk Pasaraya Econsave, Tesco, SP Plaza, Petani Parade, Central Square dan Amanjaya Mall.
Nampak gayanya penutupan lima cawangan tersebut merupakan langkah penyatuan atau konsolidasi dan bukannya disebabkan keadaan ekonomi yang muram. Pengenalan sistem GST juga tidak memberi kesan yang besar kepada para peniaga kerana rata-rata pusat membeli-belah masih dikunjungi ramai orang.
Namun tidak dinafikan peranan yang dimainkan oleh online shopping ada memberi kesan terhadap para peniaga. Ini adalah kerana ada masanya harga barangan yang dijual secara online adalah jauh lebih murah dari apa yang ditawarkan oleh para peniaga runcit.
Menurut PwC dalam laporan Bancian Runcit Keseluruhan 2016 yang dikeluarkannya baru-baru ini, 3/5 responden dari Malaysia telah mula membeli barangan secara online sejak tiga tahun yang lalu dan angka ini masih mengembang.
Aéropostale, sebuah syarikat yang menjual pakaian golongan belasan tahun telah membuat permohonan untuk dibankrapkan. JC Penney telah menutup 40 cawangannya selain membekukan tuntutan elaun lebih masa dan memotong gaji para pekerja. Sears telah menutup lebih 200 cawangannya. Macy’s telah menutup 136 cawangan yang menyebabkan 4,500 orang pekerja hilang pekerjaan. American Eagle telah menutup 150 cawangannya manakala Sports Authority telah menutup kesemua 450 cawangannya. Office Depot telah menutup 749 cawangan, The Children’s Place telah menutup 271 cawangan, manakala Walgreens telah menutup lebih 1,000 cawangan.
Pasaraya terkemuka Walmart telah menutup 269 cawangannya, manakala pendapatan pengasas Amazon yang juga CEOnya, Jeff Bezos, telah meningkat sebanyak USD6 billion dalam masa beberapa jam sahaja dalam bulan April 2016. Banyak syarikat perniagaan runcit besaran di Amerika Syarikat terpaksa menutup cawangan, membuang para pekerja dan bergabung dengan syarikat-syarikat lain untuk terus hidup disebabkan persaingan yang diberikan oleh Amazon.
Trend yang sama kini dilihat di Malaysia. Pada bulan April 2017, syarikat gerbang pembayaran online Malaysia iPay88 yang menguasai 70 peratus pembayaran online di Malaysia mengumumkan bahawa angka pembelian online di Malaysia meningkat 161 peratus pada tahun 2016 berbanding tahun sebelumnya, iaitu 38.2 juta transaksi pada tahun 2016 berbanding 14.6 juta pada tahun 2015.
Menurut iPay88 lagi, barangan yang lazim dibeli oleh rakyat Malaysia termasuk pakaian, kasut, barangan kemas, barangan elektronik dan peralatan sukan.
Oleh kerana iPay88 hanya mempunyai 70 peratus penguasaan, ini bermakna jumlah transaksi pembelian online di Malaysia adalah jauh lebih tinggi dari apa yang dilaporkan oleh iPay88. Angka ini tidak melibatkan pembelian online secara Cash-On-Delivery.
Transaksi online, termasuk perbankan digital, adalah sebab bank-bank di Malaysia menutup 63 cawangan setakat April 2017. HSBC telah menutup lebih 50 peratus cawangannya di UK iaitu sebanyak 62 cawangan. ING di Netherlands telah menutup beberapa cawangannya menyebabkan 1,000 pekerja bank kehilangan pekerjaan.
Citigroup telah menutup sekitar 9 peratus cawangan-cawangannya di seluruh dunia manakala Bank of America pula menutup 206 cawangannya. Kedua-dua syarikat ini juga beralih kepada perbankan digital.
Pembelian peribadi meningkan kepada 6.6 peratus pada suku pertama tahun 2017 menurut Persatuan Peruncit Malaysia. Rakyat Malaysia kini lebih banyak berbelanja untuk pembelian barangan secara online dan menjamu selera di luar daripada makan di rumah. Indeks Sentimen Pengguna yang dikumpul oleh MIER juga menunjukkan peningkatan iaitu pada kadar 76.6 peratus. Jumlah pembelian kenderaan peribadi bagi tahun 2017 juga adalah 425,711 buah setakat 30 September 2017 berbanding 418,277 buah dalam tempoh yang sama tahun lepas.
Adakah ekonomi Malaysia menghadapi kemarau seperti yang didakwa? Anda putuskan sendiri.
Barely a few hours after Najib Razak’s announcing of the budget for 2018, the DAP came up with the above graphic to inform the people that (as usual) Najib Razak’s budget is a copycat budget.
But is it?
It must be remembered that the budget announced by Najib Razak will be implemented nationwide whereas the “Pakatan budget” mentioned in the graphic above is a pick-and-choose budget that only one has been implemented in just one state administered by Pakatan, and not a nationwide solution.
Abolish All Tolls
The Barisan Nasional (BN) -led government announced that from 1 January 2018, tolls at four locations, actually, will be abolished. They are the Batu Tiga toll on the Federal Highway, the Sungai Rasau toll near Klang that is also on the Federal Highway, the EDL highway toll in Johor Bahru as well as the Bukit Kayu Hitam toll in Kedah.
Pakatan Harapan proposed to abolish all toll collections. But it has not explained how they plan to compensate in the region of billions to the toll concessionaires for all the money that they have put into the highways they operate and loss of future earnings.
Furthermore, Pakatan promised since before GE12 to abolish toll collection at the Sungai Nyior toll plaza in Pulau Pinang but has not done so to-date.
Pakatan’s de facto a third of a leader, Anwar Ibrahim, had in fact made a promise not too long ago to not allow toll charges to be increased on highways they have shares in, namely, the LDP, KESAS and SPRINT. So far they have done nothing. If they cannot even control the highways that they have substantial shares in how can we hope for them to abolish all tolls?
Pakatan’s alternative budget is also unreliable when it comes to the abolishment of toll on highways. Azmin Ali as the Menteri Besar of Selangor admitted that it was not going to be easy for them to reduce tolls let alone abolish them on highways where the state government has shares in.
But instead of reducing or abolishing tolls, Azmin Ali introduced three new tolled highways namely the Sungai Besi-Ulu Klang Elevated Expressway (SUKE), the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE), and the Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Expressway (DASH). This is a total of 89 kilometres of new tolled highways offered by the Pakatan government versus the 2,083 kilometres toll-free Pan Borneo Highway offered by the Barisan Nasional government.
So, who is Pakatan trying to kid when it says it wants to abolish tolls on highways? What funds do they plan to use to acquire the concessions from concessionaires? The government is able to abolish tolls at four locations because three of them are under PLUS which is 100 percent government-owned through UEM and EPF, and one under MRCB which has Bank Rakyat and Tabung Haji, both are government entities, as shareholders.
Another puzzling behaviour of the Pakatan is that while it claims that it will abolish tolls in total, or in Selangor or Sungai Nyior only, or just reduce the rates, it has been proven that they are just a bag filled with hot air. It has been almost a decade since their coming into power in Pulau Pinang and Selangor yet they have nothing to show. So when the BN government abolishes tolls at four locations, the reaction from them should be one of sheer happiness. Yet they seem to be otherwise. Why?
One example is Azmin’s communications director Yin Shao Loong who is unaware that the concession period for the Batu Tiga toll was extended to 2038 and not 2018.
Had the Batu Tiga toll concession period been extended, the rate users would be paying according to the original agreement signed during Mahathir’s period is RM2.40 instead of the RM1.10 users are enjoying now.
Prior to the introduction of the 6-percent Goods & Services Tax (GST), business owners were charged the 16-percent Sales & Services Tax (SST). The Sales Tax was a federal consumption tax imposed on a wide variety of goods, and governed by the Sales Tax Act 1972. The Service Tax, also a federal consumption tax, was levied on customers who consumed certain taxable services, and was governed by the Service Tax Act 1975.
The SST was a single stage of consumption tax where businesses cannot recover the tax paid on their purchases. This tax will be treated as a cost to business. However, it was not a transparent form of taxation as many business owners fail to declare their taxes through transfer pricing. The GST introduces transparency, curbs the inefficiencies, tax-payment and misappropriation issues of the SST.
This incurred the wrath of big business owners as they can no longer hide actual sales figures to avoid being taxed.
As opposed to the SST where every single item is taxed 16 percent, household items such as but not limited to sugar, flour, cooking oil, vegetables, fish, meat, poultry and services such as healthcare, education, public transport, housing and agriculture land are exempted from the GST. If there is a spike in the prices of these items, it is the business owners that are to be blamed for marking up prices, and consumers can report them to the KPDNKK.
It is the efficient way to collect tax from businesses that has helped the government to find an alternative form of income when price of oil have gone down tremendously.
Pakatan wants to either revert back to the SST system but has not mentioned how it plans to make up for the loss of income since oil prices cannot be depended upon, or zero-rate everything as per its alternative budget if it decides to keep the GST system, with the option to increase the rates later.
Again, Pakatan is not being transparent to the masses.
120-Day Maternity Leave versus 90-Day Maternity Leave
There are two aspects to look at when talking about maternity leaves. First, on the employers’ side – a worker that is unable to perform her duty taxes the company as she receives full pay during her absence, and other workers have to double up to do her work. Second, going by the concept of ‘iddah of a divorced woman – the waiting period is three menstrual cycles or three months. I did not use the example of a widow’s waiting period because that includes a period to sufficiently overcome a huge part of grief.
Let us compare with other Muslims countries:
Bangladesh – 112 days: 8 weeks (56 days) before delivery and 8 weeks (56 days) after delivery.
Indonesia – 3 months (90 days)
Pakistan – 90 days (45 before delivery and 45 after)
Oman – 100 days (50 days before and 50 days after)
Qatar – 50 days
Saudi Arabia – 70 days
Syria – 50 days
UAE – 45 days
Yemen – 60 days
Pakatan wants to implement 120 days maternity leave, but evidence shows that after introducing a 90-day maternity leave for Selangor’s civil servants, only 30 employees have actually utilised the 90-day leave in full.
I guess 90 days about stretches the limit, especially for employers providing 100 percent pay during maternity leave.
TAWAS versus ADAM50
Tabung Warisan Selangor (TAWAS) is a RM100 one-off gift for every child born in Selangor with the hope of accumulating RM1,500 when they are eligible to withdraw the money when they turn 18. Amanah Dana Anak Malaysia 2050 (ADAM50) is a 200-unit gift in the form of a trust fund for 2.8 million Malaysian babies born from 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2022. The 200 units will be credited automatically in the unit trust funds managed by Amanah Saham Nasional Bhd after the registration process is completed by their parents or guardian.
TAWAS was launched in 2008 as part of fulfilling Pakatan Rakyat Selangor’s manifesto promise. Between 2008 and 2011, RM588,391 was spent on advertising and promotion for TAWAS but less than 20 percent of newborns (60,972 out of 313,706) in Selangor were registered by the end of 2011.
The Selangor state government had no choice but to extend the registration deadline to allow for more participants but as at 22 July 2014, only 159,953 registration was collected. The total number of live childbirths in Selangor was 421,652 by the end of 2012. By end of August 2017, TAWAS only managed to get 280,568 registrations.
TAWAS started off with funds amounting to RM13.5 million but the state government has had to spend RM22.87 million annually on TAWAS despite getting only 19.4 percent registration. Why is there a need to spend so much on so few participants?
The Auditor-General reported that TAWAS, which was formed under the Menteri Besar Selangor (Pemerbadanan) through Yayasan Warisan Anak Selangor (YAWAS) failed to submit documents of issuance of Fixed Deposit Certificates (SST) between YAWAS and AmBank to the auditors.
There is no standard operating procedures (SOP) to fix a deadline for the issuance of SST to the participants from the date the registration was made or was approved. Audit checks found that there is no record of actual of issuance and receipt of actual SST to and from participants.
“The TAWAS system only provides information on SST that had been prepared by AmBank, furthermore even YAWAS does not have detailed records on the interests received for each of the SST issued,” the report added.
ADAM50 is managed by Perbadanan Nasional Berhad (PNB) which has been managing funds such as Amanah Saham Nasional, Amanah Saham Bumiputra and Amanah Saham Malaysia. The 200 incentive units and all dividends received on this initial amount of ADAM50 can only be redeemed when the child reaches 18 years of age.
Pakatan cannot even handle a far smaller fund efficiently and it wants to compare itself to a single corporation that handles funds in excess of RM265 billion. Where has all the millions of Ringgits pumped into TAWAS gone to despite not getting the number of participants it had envisaged in 2008?
The Return of Petrol Subsidies
I won’t even go there. Everyone knows the removal of subsidies is so that it could be chanelled to the target groups instead of providing everyone, even foreigners, with subsidised petrol.
The Pakatan budget plans to subsidise only cars and motorcycles below 1,000cc. Only the Perodua Kancil and Perodua Viva would fit into the given category. How would the petrol pump know what cars are below 1,000cc and which ones are 1,000cc and above?
Other Pakatan Budget Jokes
While the BN government strives to lower taxes Pakatan’s alternative budget plans to introduce, on top of the 16 percent SST, an Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax and increase Personal Income Tax to make up for the loss of income through the abolishment of the GST. Yet the pantywaist Pakatan have the cheek to cry foul and claim that the BN’s budget is oppressive.
So I will leave it up to you to decide whom to choose come GE14.
It may seem like a coincidence that during the recent Festival of Light I was driving on the Maju Expressway at night to attend an open house. What struck me is that the expressway is lit up all along the stretch and wondered if Tan Sri Abu Sahid would light up all the PLUS highways if he gets to purchase PLUS.
Over the past couple of months I have been reading about the proposed purchase of PLUS by Maju Holdings from Khazanah and EPF. Several people have written on it while I waited a bit to read up on the interviews given by Tan Sri Abu Sahid himself.
While other toll concessionaires strive to increase toll rates to keep up with ever-increasing OPEX, one of Tan Sri Abu Sahid’s selling points is to NOT increase toll rates until the concession agreement that was signed during Mahathir’s administration expires in 2038, and while many think Tan Sri Abu Sahid is mad, I see method in his madness.
The first question raised by many including myself was where is Maju Holdings going to raise the kind of money needed to buy PLUS from Khazanah and EPF? Tan Sri Abu Sahid revealed that he is getting financial backing from Evercore, an independent investment banking advisory firm and a boutique investment bank.
Evercore is involved in many toll road projects around the world, and has crunched the numbers to support Abu Sahid’s claim that he could run the PLUS highways at a profit without having to increase the toll rates until the expiry of the concession.
So far, all the “experts” that have spoken against Abu Sahid’s claim have not shown any credible evidence to support their opposition to Abu Sahid’s proposal. They counter Abu Sahid’s proposal by saying that it is not viable and may increase risks to users, without any figures to back them up.
But Abu Sahid has already shown that currently PLUS is paying about RM58 per square metre for resurfacing works, compared to just RM18 per square metre done by MEX. And those figures are based on both operators using the same contractors for the works. How is it that PLUS is paying RM40 more per square metre compared to MEX using the same contractors? Neither EPF nor UEM have offered any explanation to say otherwise, let alone sue Abu Sahid if the latter had gotten his facts wrong.
“The best thing for them (UEM and EPF) to do is to sell PLUS. I pay them RM4 billion in hard cash, and you have taken back whatever you invested, so it’s already free, their IRR (internal rate of return) is 20 percent. If they say it’s not enough, how much do they want? Show me how much they make on their investments,” said Abu Sahid to reporters in a recent press conference.
Abu Sahid also 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.
Citing the ever-increasing cost of maintenance, especially for bitumen and cement, Dr Mohamad Shazli is skeptical of Abu Sahid’s offer. Again, Dr Mohamad Shazli was just shooting from his hip without any figures or projections to back his claim, as with the other experts sought to “help explain” matters.
What these experts forget is that Abu Sahid could obtain these materials in bulk, thus reducing costs, through Ipmuda Berhad where he holds 31.23 percent equity interest.
And if he can do resurfacing for the 26-kilometer MEX at RM18 per square metre, it should be far cheaper, if not the same, for 974 kilometers of highways owned by PLUS through its various operating companies, because of economies of scale.
In fact, as the owner of MEX, Maju Holdings had had the expressway lit up as an extra safety measure for drivers and users, all 26 kilometers, and plans to do the same for all 974 kilometers of expressway under PLUS. No longer are drivers required to strain their eyes in the dark, or feel scared if they suffer a breakdown at night. If this is not safer than what the PLUS highways are now, I don’t know what is. Try driving from Kulai to the Second Link at night and you will know what I am talking about.
If you look at the photo above of London and the M25 motorway as taken from the International Space Station, imagine how 974 kilometers of expressways lit up at night would look like from space. That would certainly look awesome!
We Have Just Sold Our Country To The Chinese, Now We Want To Surrender Our Highways To The Americans?
The other question that is in the people’s mind is: if Abu Sahid defaults on his payment to Evercore, does this mean that Evercore owns the highway? Highway concessionaires only hold concessions. The highways belong to the government. What Abu Sahid is seeking is to buy PLUS the highway concessionaire from Khazanah-owned UEM and EPF.
When Abu Sahid proposed to sell of MEX (a deal which eventually fell through), Mahathir was angry and said, “You sell what is yours. You don’t sell what belongs to others. It could be as bad as selling APs.” Only what is owned by MEX were allowed to be sold. The cars, the computers, the chairs, tables, tea cups. Not the highway.
The term “highway” by law includes all traffic lanes, acceleration lanes, deceleration lanes, shoulders, median strips, bridges, overpasses, underpasses, interchanges, approaches, entrance and exit ramps, toll plazas, service areas, maintenance areas, highway furniture, signs and other structures and fixtures and any other areas adjacent thereto. These are under the control and management of the Highway Authority of Malaysia (Lembaga Lebuhraya Malaysia or LLM).
It is because of that if Abu Sahid actually defaults on payments to Evercore, the PLUS highways will not be closed to traffic.
So what does Abu Sahid want from PLUS if it does not make him much money? Access to his parcels of land so he could develop them, and provide access to land to the left and right of these highways for them to be developed.
Like it or not, mad or otherwise, Abu Sahid is a patriot at heart. Just like the cheap and controlled price of food sold at his Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS), Abu Sahid does not want the people to be further burdened once UEM has to service its RM30 billion principal payment that is due soon.
Government-owned Hicom Holdings was the original major owner of Perwaja Steel with a 51% stake, which it divested in 1988.
A year later, Nippon Steel of Japan gave up its 30% stake to the Malaysian government, paving the way for a major restructuring of the company.
The government pumped some RM2 billion into the company, and new facilities were built in Kemaman, Terengganu, and Gurun, Kedah.
Despite this and several more capital infusions by the Government, Perwaja still suffered losses.
Later in 1995, the Government put Perwaja up for sale and after a delay due to the Asian Financial Crisis, Tan Sri Abu Sahid Mohamed’s Maju Holdings emerged as Perwaja’s ultimate holding company in 2003, in a deal valued at RM1.305 billion.
Abu Sahid, like Tajuddin Ramli and Halim Saad, are victims of Mahathir’s manipulation. He had agreed to help rescue Perwaja because the then Prime Minister asked him to do a “national service.”
And despite the massive losses Abu Sahid never sold his shares in Perwaja.
“I promised the government I would not sell and I didn’t. I burnt RM700 million to keep my word,” he said to The Edgemarkets recently.
Who Is Happy And Who Is Not?
The happiest people if Abu Sahid gets to buy PLUS are the people – the users of the PLUS highways. For the next 20 years, Malaysians plying the PLUS highways would not have to worry about the increase in toll rates. This definitly augurs well for the government, especially in the savings it could make. The deal also saves EPF contributors from suffering once the massive principal payment needs to be made.
The ones who do not seem to be happy are UEM (Khazanah) and the EPF, for reasons only known to them. The best part is, without passing Abu Sahid’s proposal to the investments committee where it could be studied and recommendations made, both UEM and EPF have made it clear that they are not interested to sell PLUS to Abu Sahid.
How can they make such a call when the investment committee from both government institutions have not studied the proposal?
Is there more to the RM58 per square metre that meets the eye? Again, only UEM (Khazanah) and the EPF can answer this, and if only they feel like answering.
For the people, this is a possible plus point for the government. In the meantime, the voters wait.
Compared to MCOBA, ANSARA is not politically-inclined at all save for some chapters. But even those Pakatan-leaning chapters did not nominate Mukhriz for any position.
When I advised the committee members of an Air Force veterans association to seek help from Mukhriz the Menteri Besar over an issue they were facing in Kedah, they shook their head saying they would rather seek help from the EXCOs or individual ADUNs as Mukhriz was not a performer.
Of course, Mukhriz has been making his rounds in his parliamentary constituency but even people there tell me that he hardly visited them when he was the MB. They dismissed it as a superficial attempt to show that he is still relevant.
He even visited Langkawi, where his own father is the self-appointed Ketua Pribumi, to tell people of his vision to develop Langkawi even further, including turning the padi patch behind the Ayer Hangat Cultural Village into a commercial area.
The problem is, the islanders are aware that for 22 years, Mukhriz’s father only brought development to the southern part of the island, enriching cronies and outsiders, giving them land, leaving people in the northern half to fend for themselves.
Just like Pulau Pinang, there is hardly a beach that locals could go to to enjoy.
Other than bitching about what BN does, they are also good at doing bad things like creating fear among the kampung folks by dishing out lies.
An example is the putting up of a land office map of several kampungs in Seri Medan with a crudely-drawn rectangle showing “the new alignment of the High Speed Rail” that will affect the respective kampungs. Not even people in the Johor Land and Housing committee have heard of such re-alignment of the HSR.
Although Pribumi has a foot in Kampung Parit Seri Menanti where a former UMNO man angered by not being given contracts had set up a Pribumi branch, the party has made a base out of Kampung Sri Bengkal’s favourite Soto Kambing joint in nearby Parit Yob which is operated by a housewife and her amputee husband.
But seeing the number of likes and comments on the Instagram page belonging to a high-ranking Pribumi official shows that the 1.5 million signatures of a petition presented by Pribumi AMANDA’s Syed Sajat is nothing but a fabrication.
Of late, even Pakatan-organised talks cannot muster the same crowds as they used to. A sign that people are weary of the amount of bitching the Pakatan has been doing instead of spending time and taxpayers’ money in the form of their allowances to do good for the rakyat.
There may have been some crowd when Mahathir was in Kuching recently but you can hardly take that as a show for support. Even my BN-supporting relatives were there “to see what the fuss is all about” and to see what stallowners have to offer.
See how the latest Pakatan talk fared.
Even the President of Pribumi who claimed he was expelled from UMNO for fighting against the alleged excessiveness of Najib Razak, could muster a handful at his talks.
This is the sorry state of support that the Pakatan could muster. It tells a lot. Maybe they should save the trouble first before saving Malaysia.