Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saddam Hussein's Lasting Legacy.

For almost three decades Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq with an iron fist.History would not judge him fairly if it did not mention that during his reign there was none of this sectarian conflict that plagued the present day elected Iraqi regime.However, it must be said that his colourful reign did include a long protracted war with Iran and a brief disastrous invasion of Kuwait
Despite the absence of sectarian conflict therewas sporadic resistance to his rule and a few assasination attempts on his and his son's life.It wasi n Dujail, a predominantly Shias area where a failed attempt on his life took place and for which he was tried for he massacre of 148 men, and children.It was specifically for the killing of the 148 Shia men that Saddam went on trial charged for the crimes against humanity.And it was for this trial that he was found guilty and sentenced to hanged.
No matter what failings he had as a ruthless dictator, credit must be given to him for his ability to rule Iraq's diverse racial and religious origins that saw none of the present day sectarian conflict.This success alone put to shame what America with its superior arsenal of weapons could not accomplish what Saddam was able to do in three decades of his rule.If history was to judge Saddam fairly, it would be his ability to rule Iraq without the present day turmoil. That would be his lasting legacy.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Lembah sari scandal

In 2003 the govt. despite objections from cigarette companies proceeded to award the $70-$100million lucrative contract of security-labelling packaging for locally-made cigarettes to an obscure,unknown company called Kod Efisien. For obvious reason the award of this money making concession was couched in secrecy and the actual beneficiary was not made known. However in august this year the concessionpreviously granted to Kod Efisien was transferred to alittle known $2 company called Lembah Sari.The transfer of this money making concession was naturally made without fanfare, transparency and accountabilty.
According to company's record,one of itsshareholder and chairman is Mr.Haris, the youngest sonof Hussein Onn and the brother of the country'sEducation minister, Hishamuddin Hussein.
From the train of events it has become obvious that the initial beneficiary was concealed in 2003 for fear of public protest.However in 2006, when there was no public outcry(because the award was made by the custom Dept in utmost secrecy)the beneficiary has now feel safe to reveal its identity.
Many questions regarding the award of the lucrative concession to a relative of the Minister should be made public.Why did the govt deem fit to award a contract worth $70-$100 million to an individual?If it was awarded to the brother of a serving Minister is that not blatant corruption?Why did the govt not undertake the security labelling and accrue the revenue to the Federal Treasury?Why was there no transparency and accountabilty in the award of the lucrative concession?
In the governance of the country's resources, our leaders has a fiduciary duty to its citizens to ensure a proper and transparent administration of its duties entrusted to them.Any lack of transparency and integrity in their administration would constitute an indictment of their tenure and governance.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

National Schools Need to Change.

When a sick man visits a doctor it is important that he diagnose the patient and makes the right prognosis.Based on his diagnosis, the doctorwill prescribe the right medication for his ailment.If this prognosis is correct the patient will recover fromthe prescibed medication and if his diagnosis is wrong the patient will not recover and the situation could even worsen.This analogy is similar to what our leaders are attempting to solve in the dearth of nonmalays in National schools.
Our leaders, P.M included doesn't have aclue why chinese parents opt to send their children to vernacular schools.In this case they think that by introducing Chinese and Tamil language classes nonmalay parents will send their children to National schools.If that is their prescription for National schools then they are in for a big surprise because it will fail even before they implement it.
In order for National schools to be accepted as schools of choice for all malaysians the whole structure of National schools have to be changed.National schools in its present form will simply not be acceptable by non malays.Briefly some of the structural changes that need to be addressed are as follows:
1.Leave religion at home or in the mosques.Religion of any form should not be part of any curriculum.If teachers need to say their morning prayers do it at home and not in schools.We respect your religious practice so respect ours too.
2.Composition of teachers should change to include more non malays and to allow promotion of them to be headmasters based on merit and not on race.
3. Avoid introducing islamic morals on students and that includes wearing of tudung.
4. School work should be based on meritocracy and not on racial preference.
5.The construction and methodology of school syllabus should be left to academics and not to politicians.
6.Appointment and training of teachers should be based on merit and not race based.
The above are some of the changes that have tobe made if National schools are to be the choice fo rall Malaysians.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Let Us End 50 years of B.N rule.

For the first time in more than fifty years,when the next General Election comes, I am going to abandon the edit that it is better to vote for the devil that I know rather than the devil that I dontKnow.This time round there will be no hesitation.I will like the proverbial saying throw caution to the wind.There will be no turning back.There will be no second thought.
For the last fifty years I have faithfully chosen the safe path. I voted for the race based party that belonged to the Barisan National.I even encouraged and persuaded my relatives to vote along the same racial line to ensure a strong stable govt that will protect the interest of all races.But events of late has proven me wrong.
This govt that I and many others who placed their faith in, is a corrupt,short-sighted,manipulative,racist and incompetent one. After fifty years they have not shown their abiltiy to govern with wisdom.Instead they squandered our nation's coffers,encouraged and perpetuate a corrupt civil service and continue to formulate economic and fiscal policies that will take our country down the road to destruction.
Enough is enough.Our country couldnt be worse off than what it is now.The time has come to vote for a change.After fifty years the present govt is complacent.We need to inject fresh blood with new vision to bring us further into this millenium or suffer and be left behind in this globalised world.The choice to determine our direction and future is in our hands.Let us choose wisely and vote for any one/party that stand against B.N .Even if we cannot win let us deny them the two third majority that they enjoy for the last fifty years.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Works Minister Should Come Clean

Works Minister, Samy Vellu defends the steep rise in toll rates on grounds that Malaysia has the' cheapest tolls in the world'.What the Minister fail to add is that other countries dont pay road tax and the import duties and excise duties dont reach100% to 200% depending on the models.
An average popular car like Toyota Vois costU.S$10,000 in America.In Malaysia it cost almost$90,000.Almost twice the value as in America.Naturally motorist in America dont mind paying a higher toll rate since cars are cheaper.But in Malaysia we are hit with a triple whammy.we pay road tax, road toll and pay hefty import and excise duties on cars.
When the American govt build their highways the contract is openly tendered and the whole process is transparent. All contracts, the terms and conditons of the highway agreement are opened for public scrutiny.When a contract of $1 billion is given out for the contract we can safely assume that it is a justifiable cost.On completion of the highway, the operator assume the risk of a normal business venture.There is no such thing as a govt guarantee that the highway toll collected will be profitable.Any loss would have to be borne by the operator and there is no such thing as compensation if the expected profit do not materialise.
Can we say the same practice for our highway construction?Here in Malaysia, Highway contracts are given out without tender.Cost of a $1billion highway project is given away for $3 billion to companies dubiously connected to the ruling politica lparty.Terms and agreement of the Highway contract are so secretive that they come under the purview of the OSA(official Secret Act).Naturally when inflated values are given to the cost of Highways the tendency is that toll rates are calculated based on inflated rates.What should have been a $1 collection becomes $2 because of the inflated cost of the Highway.The most ridiculous part of the whole Highway agreement is that the govt provides the operator with an iron clad guarantee to allow them to increase toll every few years.If toll increase is not given the govt give an undertaking to compensate the operator to the extent of the amount loss in revenue.According to the workMinister an amount of $2.5 billion was given as compensation to the concessionaire.This alone shouldcreate further suspicions whether the whole structureof the Highway agreement was done in a fair and equitable manner.
The Works Minister should desist from comparing our toll rate with other countries especially when allother factors are not similar and equal.First and foremost let us have a look at the Highway concessionaire agreement to see if everything is above board.Then let the public judge whether the toll increase is justifiable.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Who are the beneficiaries of the Plantation Mergers?

What is the rationale for merging three independently profitable enterprise which has strong growth, consistent profits and hence good dividends for its shareholders?If the simple reason is to be big then it is a poor reason. Big corporation need not translate into efficient enterprise. In fact it can be just the contrary.
When three different corporations with three different goals merged the results can be conflicting.Among the three perhaps only Golden Hope and Gurthrie corp.can deem to be similar.But Sime Darby is a different kettle of fish. It is a conglomerate with diversified interest in plantation,distributor of heavy machinery, distributor of cars, assembler of motor cycles and cars and a host of different businesses that varies from one extreme to another.Under such circumstance it would be foolishto assume that any synergistic effect can be derived from such a union.
Then what is the true reason for the proposed merger?.First let us examine the players behind the merger.CIMB which heads the merger is led by NazirAbdul Razak.Permodalan National Bhd which owns majority shares in the three entities is led by our DPM Najib Abdul Razak who sits as one of the trustee on the board of PNB.The fact that one party is the initiator of the proposed merger and the other is a party related to the proposer should create enough suspicion.
In the end game one should just look at theprincipal beneficiary of the merger.What is the obvious motive for taking a path that is going to be messy and full of obstacles.If anything the first beneficary would be CIMB which would perhaps collect acool $150 to $200 million in consultancy fees.And asusual the principal losers would be the shareholders who would see their investment being diluted.
Finally,the million dollar question is who will be the actual mysterious beneficiary of the merger?This will become evident when he merger is completed.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Time to amend Article 121(1A)

The faces of grief like the Rayappan's family will continue to be repeated in the future for other converts who revert to their religion if our politicalmasters do not attempt to resolve this conflict through the constitution.
When the 1988 Constitution Amendment Bill was enacted in Parliament in March 1988,the govt did not envisage that the enactment of Article 121(1A) would create injustice and bring grief to families like Moorthy and Rayappan.It should be apparent by now that for this lacuna in the constitution to be satisfactorily resolved there need to be an amendment to article 121(1A) of the constitution. Non-muslims who convert and later decide to revert to their original faith cannot expect the govt to step in every time such a crisis of religious identity appears.
For quick and satisfactory resolution of similar incidents, the constitution must provide clear and unambigious guidelines.If the relevant Articles of the constitution is vague and ambigious then there must be an effort to amend the relevant part of the constitution in order to provide a clear path for an equitable resolution. The affected and grieving family should not be forced to endure the uncertainty and tussle of the dead man's body while the religious authorities try to seek brownie points with their Syariah courts.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

MAS should not deceive Public with its Financial statement.

I find it highly irresponsible for MAS todeceive the general public with its purported reportof its financial statement that it has made a profitof $204 million for this year.A closer scrutiny of its fine print indicated that $194 million was attributed to the sale of its office building.In normal accounting parlance this is a one off capital gain which is not derived from its operational income.
Further an almost 30% increase in fares recently would have surely contributed to its profits and this increase in profits cannot be attributable to better management but purely due to price increase in ticketing price. So far there is hardly any difference in the management of MAS other than the voluntary retrenchment of its staff.However, one significant change affecting senior citizen was the deprivation ofsenior citizen to fly on a stand-bye basis.Instead they have to book their ticket 8 days in advance before being allowed to fly.This is actually a poor management strategy. On a given day, with the exception of peak traffic, the plane is half or three quarter full.So to fill up the seats by giving senior citizens on a stand-bye basis would logically contribute to additional revenue.If we were to estimate that on a given day for all of MAS domestic flights there are 1000 empty seats on all it flights and if it were to sell it at $100 to senior citizens for each seat, the total for each day of additional revenue would amount to $100,000.This is no small amount when you multiply it for 30 days.By taking away this privelege from senior citizens it is indirectly taking out a significant part of its revenue.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Our spendthrift Leaders.

How do we tell our leaders that money from public funds are not meant to be spent extravagantly.For P.M to lavish $600 million on UMNO division leaders to spend on small rural projects through class F contractors is not only extravagant but smack of corruption.What is the rationale of allocating $3 million of public funds to political leaders to ensure rural projects are carried out?Ifsuch projects have to be carried out why cant they be carried out by govt agencies such as JKR.And if tender need to be carried out why cant it be done in a transparent manner to avoid suspicion of corruption.
Our leaders seem to have lost their moral compass when it comes to spending our public funds.They seem to harbour the view that our nation's coffers is like a bottomless pit where foolish spending will not replete our nation's resources.While countries like Singapore is investing its hard earned currency in good yields investment (through its investment arm, Temasek) we are even plundering our oil wealth ( through oil company Petronas) by unscrupulous bailouts of private enterprise.
Whenever we start to accumulate some wealth,our leaders immediately deem fit to spend it on some dubious projects.Have our leaders spare a thought what will happen when the oil dries up and foreign investments runs out?Our oil reserves will run out in19 years time and foreign investment is already down to a trickle.Have our leaders prepare our country for the future when we cannot depend anymore on oil and foreign FDI's?If not they are in for a surprise when the good times are over.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Concessionaire Toll Agreement with the Govt is one sided.

The recent reminder by Works Minister SamyVellu that road toll will have to be increased soon doesnt make sense.Does the govt toll agreement with the Toll concesinaires provide an iron clad guarantee that they will constantly make consistently good profit over the duration of the toll agreement?
Why is there so much secrecy in the toll agreemnt?To avoid unfair insinuation and aspersion on the govt officials and Minister given the task of making the agreemnt with the Toll concessionaires,would it not be proper and transparent that those agreements be made public so that we can see if everything is above board.
The public perception is that the agreement is one sided and quite rightly so.Why must the govt give a guarantee that compensation will be paid to the concessionaire if toll is not allowed to increase after a period of years?Going by logic, the number of vehicles would increase every year and by that deduction toll would also correspondingly increase.If that be the case then why the necessity for an increase in toll or the need to compensate the concessionaire? The increase in the number of vehicles would have adequately compensated the concessionaire without any increase in the toll.
I doubt the public would accept any toll increase in the absence of any proper disclosure of the reasons for such an increase.