Wiper Scare & Kapchai Ban


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wipers-signs-of-wear

(Things to keep an eye for – failing wipers. Image source: http://www.kempenfeltauto.com)

It has been raining cats and dogs lately…

It was raining heavily when I went to work one fine morning – I predicted an increased traffic jam due to the rain and a couple of morons speeding and changing lane without any indicators during the heavy rain. I switched on the wipers and immediately I noticed something not right. It was squeaking and as the wipers goes up and down, it started to bend considerably. Damn, something indeed was not right. And half way as I was nearing my kid’s school, one of the wiper bent and dislocated. I now left with only one working wiper and it also started to bend. I know that wipers was due for a replacement but I did not expect it to be too soon and too obvious. It was still raining but I could not use the wipers – so I slowed down and drive with extra caution. It was too late to drive back home as I was nearer office by then and I managed to reach it without any incidents.

Lunch time, I had only 1 mission – to get the wipers replaced. I headed to a workshop near to office and picked silicon blade wipers. It was not cheap though but at least the wipers were new. The mechanic was fast to replace them but he took the wrong size as when I tried the wipers on, both wipers got entangled and got stuck. He quickly replaced the wiper to a lower size and it looked well (it did not get entangled this time around).

That evening, it started to rain again but this time, I was very confident – I had brand new wipers. I happily switched it on but then noticed, it was not wiping effectively – as if the blades was not touching the windscreen in some places. There was a loud squeaking noise as well. I was pissed off and was cursing the workshop for selling a defective wipers. I intended to reach home first and then head to the nearest hypermarket to buy new wipers (I was ready to go to workshop next day to make noise and get my money back). And as I was driving back in the heavy rain, only using the wipers when I had no other choice, I noticed that some kind of strip hanging from the tip of the wiper. Was the silicon coming apart? I could not see for sure.

I reached home and in the rain, I checked the wipers and soon felt relived – the mechanic who replaced the wipers had forgotten to strip away the protective plastic from the silicon blades and that was what making the squeaking noise and unlevel wiping. Once the plastic strip was removed, I had a very effective and silent wipers. Phew!

Anyway, that ended rather nicely – it has not been a cheap month for me when it came to fixing my car to the best level of driving. I have a phobia whenever I hear some funny noise from the car these days, especially after the accident last year.

(One reason to ban kapchais in this country. Image source: http://meuzangelo.blogspot.com)

Recently there was a very interesting piece of development when it comes to pesky motorcyclists in this country:-

The government is considering banning underbone motorcycles, known locally as the “kap chai”, from entering Kuala Lumpur as part of its effort to reduce carbon emission.

Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Mansor was quoted by The Star as saying that the government may prohibit these motorcycles and other commuters from driving into the capital city once public transportation reaches a more reasonable price.

“During the day, the population (in the city) increases to between five and seven million because workers commute to work,” he said at the launch of the Kibar Bendera Wilayah Persekutuan campaign on Sunday (Jan 15).

“Many cities do not allow ‘kap chai’ to come in. But studies have shown that a lot of people still need them because they are poor and can’t afford [other modes of transport] as their salaries are low.

“Once cheaper public transport is available, we will be looking at the possibility of not allowing ‘kap chai’ motorcycles into the city,” he added

(Source)

And of course, there was immediate opposition to that idea:-

The government’s proposal to ban underbone motorcycles in Kuala Lumpur could burden low-income earners who are already under pressure from rising living costs, employers’ and workers’ groups warned.

Criticising the idea as “ridiculous”, associations like The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) and the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) said the proposal would push traveling costs up for the bottom 40 per cent of income earners, most of whom rely on small capacity bikes to commute to work.

They said fuel costs for the bike, popularly called “kap chais”, are much cheaper than current public transportation fees, which can go up to RM10 a day. In contrast, someone who uses a “kap chai” will only need to pay RM7 for a full tank of fuel, which can give the bike at least five days worth of travelling.

(Source)

And it seems that there was a major impact on the businesses as well:-

Putrajaya’s proposal to bar the kapcai (small motorcycles) from entering Kuala Lumpur will cause a significant decline in the sale of motorcycles in the country.

“The ban will have negative effects on the motorcycle industry, which sees more than 500,000 motorcycles registered each year,” said PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil in a statement today.

Fahmi called the proposal “nonsensical and irresponsible”, coming as it did in a time of economic decline.

(Source)

Before I put down my take on the proposed ban (the idea have been shelved anyway), let me emphasize that I was a biker once and I rode a “kapchai” bike too. I rode second handed Honda Cub (one of the best bike around) and the iconic Yamaha RXZ before I decided to buy a new bike. Main reason for that is because I used to ride pillion on my brother’s bike but he gets so tense up when I ask him to slow down and follow the rules. It was time for me to get my own bike and ride like a big biker. I rode a small bike but I had tear-proof jacket, leather gloves and a good, branded helmet. I opted for a Malaysian made Modenas because firstly it was cheap and secondly the bike shop was just next to the house which makes service easy but due to some problem with the Modenas dealer (he was half bankrupt and my deposit got stuck), I changed my option to a Yamaha Y110SS which was stylish, very dependable (even though it was on 2 stroke) and fast (I preferred Yamaha 125ZR but it was too expensive and was “hot” with bike thieves). And the reason for me using kapchai was because that was one of the cheapest mode of transportation that I could afford without taking the bus (petrol last me almost a week) and riding a kapchai in KL was the best way to avoid the crazy traffic jam in the city. So I do understand the situation from a biker’s point of view.

But over the years, seeing the number of deaths on the road and being menace to other road users, I do think that kapchai’s should be banned.

It should be banned not because of the nonsense excuse of controlling the emission (car, truck and bus emissions are even worse) but because of the number of traffic rule offences incurred by these kapchai riders. Too many bikes on the road are of poor condition too. Never passes a day without me seeing a bike without lights at the front and back – endangering themselves and their pillion riders. The worse of the worse are those sending their kids to school in the morning without any helmet or having more than one pillion rider including babies. And breaking the law is the signature of most (I say most) kapchai riders – you name it, they do it – riding without helmet, riding against the traffic, changing lanes without any signals, running traffic lights, illegal racing and doing stunts on public roads (aka as Mat Rempits). Kapchai is also the preferred mode of transportation of snatch thieves as it is easy for them to make a getaway.

And it should not be banned on in the city but rather banned nationwide – in the cities, towns, small towns, residential areas, etc. You may ask what happens to the motorbike manufacturers and distributors? Push for sale for bigger capacity bikes – yes, it will be more expensive but in the end, there will be enough demands to meet up the loss. 250cc bikes which was out of reach during my time is actually cheaper nowadays. You can get a KTM Duke 250 for less than RM20,000 or a Benelli TNT 250 for less than RM15,000. And with bigger bikes, push for proper safety gears to be worn by riders & pillion riders (jacket, gloves, boots, etc). Not cheap I agree but we need to move from a small bike nation to a bigger bike nation mentality eventually.

Interestingly the same notion was made in a letter to The Sun:-

REPORTS of opposition to the proposal to ban small motorcycles from Kuala Lumpur are off-target. On the contrary, such a ban will be welcomed by those who live and work in the city. Let me explain.

First, nobody feels safe when motorcyclists are around except the motorcyclists themselves. Even drivers of four-wheel vehicles are harassed and forced to brake suddenly to avoid hitting them.

Second, traffic rules seemingly do not apply to motorcyclists. They ignore traffic lights, no-entry signs and other rules, perhaps because they can evade the law so easily.

Third, many pedestrians are menaced by motorcyclists who ride on the walkways. I have not seen a motorcyclist booked for this offence.

Fourth, snatch thieves love the motorcycle as it best suits their modus operandi.

Fifth, pollution. Random comments are made that all vehicles pollute and motorcycles are not the worst culprits. That needs to be proven. One needs to look not only at the vehicle size but also their numbers, and the noise.

Surprisingly, I have seen no reports on urban pollution in Malaysia. As a rapidly urbanising society, Malaysians need to know how healthy the air is.

To understand the situation at street level those involved should take public transport for a day. Personal experience would be a far more impactful experience than third-party stories.

There are other reasons that argue against small motorcycles on city streets, including comparative costs. While petrol consumption may be low, there are repair and parking costs, which would make the bus cheaper.

(Source)

Do I need to say more – who knows once we start to ban the small kapchais, the incidents of Mat Rempit and snatch thieves may just go down. Just a wishful thought – who knows, right?

Dashcams: Another Source for Enforcement


Let’s start with some interesting videos



The above videos, whilst may seemed impressive demonstrates how some morons rather endanger other road users so that they can have cheap thrills on the road. Why they can’t book the racing track for a day and burn rubbers to their heart’s content?

While the country may be buzzing with the findings by the PAC on 1MDB, the Citizen Declaration and now the “admission” from the Saudi Foreign Minister (is it?). For me, it is a foregone conclusion. It is rather pointless to talk about accountability, transparency and responsibility at this point of time. After all, it is now argued that putting signature on a formal document does not mean you know what is happening and as such you are not liable. Didn’t I say that the whole affair is a foregone conclusion? Now the focus would be on the upcoming Sarawak Elections and one hopes that the voters would be able to see beyond the sweet promises to do this and that and look at what is best for the nation in the long run.

Anyway if you have not been busy keeping up with the local political circus, you would have heard that the Government is fine tuning the enforcement of traffic laws in the country. Finally something worth the taxpayers money and time. Firstly as many of the “good things” that they have done in the past, they looked what they had in their pockets and decided to merge and RENAME them (effectiveness comes much later):-

The Automated Enforcement System (AES) will be merged with the Kejara demerit system and renamed as AWAS (Awareness Automated Safety System).

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai (pic), who disclosed this, said this was to ensure a more holistic approach to reduce the number of road accidents.

“Whether you pay your fines or not, your marks will still be deducted if you are found to have committed a traffic offence,” he said during an interview on TV3 last night.

(Source)

Hmmm, that sounded fair enough but it only addresses the punishment aspect of the traffic law and not the enforcement. Still, it is a start. If you are caught, you will be slapped with both fine and demerit points but you need to be caught in the first place. No word on increasing the number of AES cameras in this country – just 14 of them and I know for sure that most motorists well behave before they pass the AES camera and become a speed demon once they have passed it. What about drivers who are driving dangerously, abuse the emergency lanes, changing lanes without any indicators and use vehicles are not safe to be on the road (I even saw a police car last night without any rear nights on).

Then there was more news on the traffic law fines (which did not go well with the police’s earlier plans to increase the fine):-

The Ministry of Transport is proposing to reduce the rate of traffic summons from RM300 to RM150 for certain traffic offences, said its Deputy Minister Datuk Ab Aziz Kaprawi.

He said, however the proposal must be approved by the Cabinet and amendments to the Road Transport Act 1987 must be made before implementing it.

“It is still a proposal between the ministry and the government for certain offences with a certain time period given, for instance RM150 must be paid within six months, if they fail to do so, the amount would be increased, you delay, you pay more,” he told reporters at Parliament lobby here today.

(Source)

Seriously I don’t get the rationale to go soft on traffic law offenders by giving huge discounts, cooling off period, close of one eyes and reduction of the fine for some traffic laws? Didn’t they break the law in the first place? Didn’t they cause inconvenience to others (imagine the idiots who double parked and blocked the roads? We don’t have huge trucks to plough our way through) or those had posed serious danger to other road users (and themselves)?

One ex-IGP even went on to say this:-

Given the gloomy economic outlook with many Malaysians struggling with higher living costs and the threat of layoffs loom for many job sectors, the IGP’s threat to hit motorists where it hurts most – their wallets, seem like an inspired approach to tackle the perennial problem of traffic accidents and fatalities.

This move, as expected are not well received by the public saying that it is a burden with the current economy situation.

In a phone interview with Malaysian Digest, former IGP Tan Sri Musa Hassan expressed his opinion that the move is untimely.“I think with the current high cost of living the suggestion is not relevant. Imposing higher fines now is like pouring fuel on a fire.” – Former IGP Tan Sri
Musa Hassan

“I think with the current high cost of living the suggestion is not relevant. Imposing higher fines now is like pouring fuel on a fire.

“Because it will cause resentment from the people,” he pointed out.

(Source)

Sorry to say this but the traffic fines are not taxes. It is not GST. It is imposed on people who break the traffic laws. If they feel that it is going to be a burden in this current economy situation then they should abide by the traffic laws, follow the speed limit, they should use the indicators when changing lane, they should drive responsively, blah, blah. No one forces the traffic fines down their throat. The opposition morons used to say the same thing.

The problem in Malaysia have always been enforcement, enforcement and enforcement.

I have wrote on enforcement in the past (no point repeating them again in detail here) and you can read them here:-

Some of the hardcore traffic offenders know that the enforcement is seriously lacking and it takes months or even years before the law comes to collect the unpaid summonses (by then, there will be a huge discount waiting for them). Some politicians will capitalise on the situation and argue that the fines / punishment are burdensome to the people and the whole strict enforcement would be on hold until further studies are made. This is the wrong way to do it.

Strict enforcement is the only way to do it.

Start off with AES cameras – so far it has been very effective and operates 24 x 7, rain or shine and it had done a good job to date (almost 2 million summonses issued). The present 14 AES cameras are simply not enough. Then the enforcement on the ground need to be revamped as well – if you break the law, you have to pay for the consequences.

In addition to AES, there is another source for enforcement – dash cams (either from law abiding road users or from the traffic offenders themselves). Look at the videos in the beginning post again. Don’t you think there is enough video evidence to book some of the thrill seekers who treat the public road as their own personal race track, oblivious of the danger posed to other road users? Start looking into this angle as well as another mean to identify traffic offenders and coming hard, very hard on them.

Don’t give discounts, don’t treat these traffic fines like some mandatory tax that is burdening some poor souls out there – it will not help to reduce number of traffic laws broken but instead will only encourage them. Besides, some of these traffic offenders are driving cars that costs more than what an average Joe earns the whole year.

The Lovable Mat Rempits?


I think internally there is a competition among the politicians in this country to come up with the wildest, dumbest ideas. And the latest one that have hit the headlines is the one that deals with allowing pesky Mat Rempits aka public nuisance to race on public streets.

Road safety experts expressed regret and disbelief over a proposal to legalise ‘Mat Rempit‘ racing. The experts who spoke to theSun, raised grave concerns on whether the government would take responsibility should bodily injury or loss of lives occur during such races.

Their concerns come in the wake of a proposal earlier this week by Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor to allow bikers to race in certain parts of the capital city to curb the tendency of “Mat Rempits” who speed in residential and commercial areas.

Universiti Sains Malaysia deputy vice-chancellor Professor Dr Ahmad Farhan Mohd Sadullah described the proposal as risky and a disservice to road safety.

(Source)

And even it leaves the police in disbelief with the Minister’s ambitions (remember the police declared war on Mat Rempits calling them the cancer of the society?):-

Inspector-General Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar wants to meet Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor over the plan to close certain city roads and allow motorcyclists to race.

“I believe he has his reasons to propose it. I want to meet him to discuss it,” Khalid told reporters at the Bukit Aman police headquarters here.

“I will meet him first to see what his views are,” he said when asked to comment further on the matter.

(Source)

And not leaving the nuisance in the West Malaysia, there were even plans to bring over the nuisance to the East Malaysia:-

The plan to provide motorcycle racing tracks in the city is still on the table, with the possibility of extending the proposal to East Malaysia as well.

Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said that the matter was among the issues discussed at a meeting with other Federal Territories Members of Parliament (MPs) at the ministry today.

“I have discussed the ‘Mat Motor’ issues, and I want to solve the matter at hand,” he said, adding that he is looking for a way to provide space to allow motorcycle racers to do what they are interested in.

He said the move would also help tackle syndicates involved in illegal betting who use “Mat Rempits” for their own financial gains.

(Source)

And the insurance companies were quick to wash their hands off of the proposed plan by the Minister:-

Meanwhile, Persatuan Insurans Am Malaysia (PIAM) said motorcycle insurance policy does not cover activities as racing and it is an exclusion under the policy.

PIAM said any such activity is done at the rider’s own risk and if they injure a third party or damage another person’s property, they will be personally responsible for any damage costs.

“In the event an Insurer (Insurance Company) is held liable to pay by virtue of the provisions under Section 96 of the Road Transport Act, the insurer can seek indemnity from the motorcycle owner and/or rider,” it said.

(Source)

At the end of the day, everyone is against the idea of allowing Mat Rempits running loose on public roads – all except the Honorable Minister. What the police need to do is this – agree to the Minister’s idea and when the Mat Rempits shows up with their bikes, round them up like rounding up some cattles and charge them on endangering other road users.

In the Year of the Monkey


Frankly speaking, I had Part 2 in mind (had half way drafted the content) but over time, the passion for one subject fades away and another subject grabs of one’s attention.

Read these first:-

 

(One good way to damage the sidewalls but modern tires is designed to absorb such sudden shocks)

Last month – on the month of the CNY – had proved to be a rather very expensive month for me as an owner of a car.

Firstly I accidentally scrapped my left back tire against the kerb and caused a small portion of the tire sidewall to be sliced off. I know for fact that whilst you can abuse the main tread and still drive safely, the same cannot be said for the sidewall. And it was painful because the tire was still new – barely a year since I last changed it. I took it to 2 different tire shops – the first one looked at it and said it was nothing to worry. The mechanic went back into the shop, brought back a bottle of super-glue and simply glued the sliced piece of the sidewall back into the tire. Feeling unconvinced, I went back to the shop where I first changed the tires a year ago. Unfortunately there were too many cars at the tire shop and the mechanics were busy. I managed to convince one of the them to check the tires. He came over and very lazily said it was nothing to worry as well.

But deep down, I was not happy or feeling safe, driving around with a sliced sidewall. As far I can remember, I never had damaged sidewalls before this and this was the first time I encountered this. It was time to do some goggling on the net and find out from the experts out there if I am feeling worried for nothing. Unfortunately for me, it looked like I had a very unique situation and generally most experts do not suggest driving around with a damaged sidewall (mine was not damaged but sliced). A few days had passed and for a moment I had forgotten that I was driving around with a sliced + patched up sidewall but that notion of not feeling safe kept bugging me, more so when I have my kids in the car. And one day, somewhere in a motoring forum, I finally read what I was looking for – someone had commented that no amount of money saved can come close to the safety of the people in the car.

That caused my mind to be made up but I had to wait for few more days as most of the shops were closed for CNY. But once the shops were opened, I headed to the nearest shop and talked to the owner. He too said that the tire were still driveable but the point is, the sidewall strength is compromised. So one need to be very careful when driving. I pondered on his statement – I do drive fast in the morning and I am the one who send my youngest to school in the morning. I could not imagine the carnage if the tire decides to blow out.

I decided to change the tires and considering the old tires were still new, the owner decided to give good discount for my new tires. But lesson well learned and I have now become more careful and patience when I am driving – another sidewall damage is the last thing I want.

It was not the only problem I had with the car and interestingly I only discovered this second problem by chance. My wife wanted me to check her car engine bay and to check the water level. Since I was doing that, I decided to check my car as well. When I opened the engine bay, I noticed that black oil splashed all over the place. I have seen this before – the engine gasket worn out and the engine oil was leaking. I had the same problem once with my old car. That probably explains the loss of power when I am driving to work in the morning.

Good thing was my car’s scheduled service was coming up and despite a last minute call to the service centre, I managed to get an early appointment at about 8.30 am. I don’t want the leak to continue and damage other components. At the service centre, despite making appointment at 8.30 am, I had to wait for other cars (from previous days) to be done first and only at 10.30 am, the car was brought into the service bay. I knew the mechanic from previous visits, so standing next to him whilst he worked on my car was not a problem and he was also explaining on what he was doing. The engine oil was indeed leaking and it was time to replace the sealants and cleanup of the leaked oil.

Another cost to the car so soon after I had changed the tires. It was another costly affair but once again, it was necessary. The service took almost 3 hours to complete (partly because they had to order some of the parts) and as I chatting away with the mechanic, he asked me if I had changed the timing belt. It was time to change based on the mileage but as I checked my car service records, I don’t see any indication of the manufacturer had changed the timing belt but I can guarantee that I have adhered to the service schedule to the dot.

And I was very tempted to allow the mechanic to proceed to change the timing belt. I decided to call the other service centre to check their records and was relieved when they confirmed that the timing belt had been changed and I had nothing else to worry. The car is back to it’s perfect state and it is great to be driving again, feeling safe and confident and with a set of good music in the background, the morning traffic was not so bad and somehow and surprisingly I can find a sense of calmness to allow the morning queue jumpers, road hoggers and other morons on the road to do what they do and don’t get angry so easily (unlike the previous time).

Two incidents involving the car and it burned my pockets very badly but the fact is that no amount of money can replace one’s life and that should be the case all the time.

All About Good Parenting Part 1


Read these first:-

It is a slow start for 2016 when it comes to blogging but on the other side of the spectrum, I am making some positive changes this year when it comes to personal health. All weekends and on alternate week days when I am back from office early, I am spending at least an hour or so playing badminton to keep myself in shape. My badminton partners are the usual suspects – my kids (when means I get to pick the shuttlecock most of the time, be very patience and be gentle with my returns) and my wife (when I can practice my smashes, ha ha). It is just a start but I still sucks on other things like the food I eat and the amount of sleep I get on daily basis but as they say a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step, it is a start for the moment.

pix_top_12902

(Parents who let their kids on the motorbike for daily commute and without any license should be charged under the law for recklessness. It is one thing giving them to learn to ride a bike in a controlled & safe environment but it is another thing to allow them to use it for daily use without proper training & license and worse, riding without any helmets)

Young, Unlicensed Motorcyclists

Couple of weeks ago, I read this on the papers:-

“No mother would want her child to suffer like this. My heart is broken,” said Maimunah Md Razali, the mother of 13-year-old Siti Nuraisyah Sahrin, who lost her legs after being run over by a lorry.

“She is so brave. But as a mother, it is hard for me to be strong. It breaks my heart to see my daughter going through so much,” said the 48-year-old at the hospital where her daughter is being warded. On Monday, Siti Nuraisyah was on her way home from SMK Bagan Terap in Sabak Bernam on a motorcycle with her stepsister Shamim Amira Roslan, 14, when the incident happened at about 3.30pm.

A Perodua Kancil was believed to have overtaken them and brushed against their Honda EX5. Siti Nuraisyah was thrown onto the middle of the road when a lorry coming from the opposite direction ran over her legs. Shamim suffered a sprained ankle from the impact.

A composed Siti Nuraisyah, who underwent surgery earlier, said: “My wounds hurt,” adding that she wanted to walk again and was hopeful of recovering soon. Her left leg was amputated above the ankle while her right leg was amputated below the knee.

(Source)

At first I thought “Damn, it is a tragedy” and I seriously felt for the young girl who have to contend with such tragedy at a very young age. Imagine having your both legs amputated when you have so much things to see and do and at such a tender age? As a parent myself, I can understand the situation and I do get so emotional when it comes to young children – I hate to see bad things happening to them due to some idiots making the wrong decisions. And there is no exception with this one as well.

Then I was angry with the Kancil driver for being so reckless and caused the accident in the first place. To be fair, I don’t have all the details on this incident. The driver may have been innocent. But on average, some of these small sized car drivers think that they are driving high powered Formula 1 cars on the road and I have seen one or two zig-zagging between the heavy traffic when I drove back home. So, I was not surprised when I read that there has been another tragedy involving Kancil.

I then realised I missed an important fact in the news – the girls on the bike was aged 13 and 14 years old. It does not mention anyone else riding the ride. Then what the fuck a 13 & 14 years old kids were doing on a bike when in Malaysia, the minimum age to ride a bike is 16 years old? Are they trained to ride a bike in the first place? Now a tragedy had happened, there is no point of not doing this and that.

If you ask me, even at 16 years old, I have seen and encountered far too many young kids on bike who:-

  1. thinks that they are riding on their grandfather’s road and therefore all other traffic should make way for them (which is why they often ride on the wrong side of the road)
  2. their head is made from the hardest material on earth, thus nothing will happen if they fall down and thus there is no need for a helmet

I said this many times before – safety of the children must come above all other things and this includes inconvenience. Unfortunately even at my own residential area, I can still see young kids riding around the residential areas without wearing any helmet and obviously without any licence. It is another tragedy waiting to happen and due to parents who care less on the safety of their kids and other road users.

Pearson_English_Language_Learners_Infographic

(Mastering the national language is a must for every citizen but there is a limit to how much of the national language can be used to master certain skills and knowledge on a global level. Infographic source: http://www.english.com)

Reality of Mathematics & Science

In case you had missed, there was a good letter from PAGE over at theSun couple days ago:-

In this case, that medium is the language of STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) which is English. Therefore let us ponder a little on the role of the English language in this matter and pose a few questions.

What was the language used to present their research findings? If it was English, then it has to be English at a level that has to be well understood by the panel for that evaluated his application and research. In order to do that, applicants for such awards have to be proficient in the scientific language required.

What was the language of the main sources of reference – were they written in English? If they were, then the person sourcing for this reference will require a good command of the language in order to get the most accurate information from these sources.

(Source)

The point is you cannot simply dissect English away from the core subjects of Science and Mathematics. Even if you have Science & Mathematics books translated in Bahasa, without understanding English and it’s usage in these two subjects, you will not going to learn anything more. It is as simple as that. Science especially is on a constant move – new discoveries are made on daily basis and most of them are often documented in English. If you don’t understand English, you will not know about them and you will be left behind.

Early this year, I attended a briefing in my son’s school and at one point, the Headmaster got up and brought up the subject of Science and Mathematics and how the students had performed last year and the school’s expectations for this year. It was obvious that most students do best in Bahasa Malaysia subject (that is because most of them speak Bahasa on daily basis and at home), then followed by Religion and then very poorly in English and trailing far behind was Mathematics & Science. More than half of the students had failed these two key subjects and I can see the clear correlation between English, Science and Mathematics – all three was on a declining trend.

And it is not only due to the language that we use, we are also not following the standard trends. Take for example – the movement of the moon. We already have a Bahasa word for that – “peredaran bulan” or “fasa-fasa bulan” but instead of that, the good people at the Ministry decides to bring in an Arabic word instead – Takwim Qamari. Why the further confusion to students? No one at NASA will even going to be bothered with this Arabic word in the day to day space mission (fusing the subject of Science and the modern Arab is like trying to mix water and oil. They are hardly the trend-setters in the subject of Science). We should stop such nonsense and get back to reality.

The good thing is my son excelled in both subjects, partially because we enforce the urgency & importance of the two subjects which was not so difficult due to his ambition to a scientist one day and another thing was, we ensure that knowledge of Science and Mathematics does not come from school text books alone – real life experiments and plenty of magazines & books in English (as such as “All About Space” and BBC’s “Knowledge”) was another effort we had put in (and it paid off). We speak English to him all the time and whenever possible use the right terms (having a smartphone by side becomes very handy). And considering that he is very responsible for his actions, we have also had decided to allow a greater internet quota to be allocated for him to do his research and make the necessary cross references (in the past, he is barred from using the internet without close supervision and we often do the research on his behalf).

But that school briefing did highlight a general notion that there is a high decline of these two key subjects – no thanks to the Government’s flip-flop on the education policy for past few years and using Bahasa instead of English as the lingua franca of Science and Mathematics. The school is very concerned of this decay and have decided to take pro-active actions from the start. For start, they have organised the briefing for the parents so that the reality of things would be out in the open and they run through some of the trends in the past and what they have planned to address the issue in this year (weekend special classes, plenty of past year exam workshops, parents taking up active role at home, etc). It is a good thing that the school gets the parents deeply involved so that we get to know the facts, the latest changes in policy and exam rules and what part the school & parents need to play to ensure the students get their knowledge and pass the exams.

And I personally have taken up the challenge this year to spend more time with my children’s studies and indirectly “go back to school” learning some of the subjects that I dislike the most when I was in secondary school many moons ago – Additional Mathematics. Whilst I can cope with other “Science” subjects, Additional Mathematics somehow was something that was hard to crack and where I often go blank whenever I open the book for studies. It is my personal opinion that without the parents understanding the subjects, they are of no use to their children when it comes to assisting them on school works and preparing for the exams. Some of the structures may have changed but the fundamentals remains the same. And “going back to school” is not a bad thing for the parents – it improves knowledge which in turns improves the help that the parents can give their kids and it is also another avenue of leading by example.

And on a funnier note, going back to school also means that me and my wife have to go back to the basics – the very basic of speaking A, B, C and that is for the youngest one who have started to speak and write these basic items.

To be continued…

NAP 2014: Talk of Cheap Cars Again


Read these first:-

the-impact-of-the-electric-car_5033a828f37ca

(The hard cold facts of EEVs – have we considered the pros and cons of using EEVs? After all, the buzz word of NAP 2014 is EEV which is not a bad thing if you ask me and holds many benefits, both for the industry, consumer and the environment. But the thing is, will we put the right effort on implementing what we have planned and deliver cheaper car in the end? Image source: http://visual.ly)

If you can recall before the elections, reducing price of the car was something that both side of the fence promised to entice the voters. Err, sorry that was not case really – what actually happened was this, it was something that Pakatan had initiated (it was a good proposal too) and when people had warmed to the idea, BN found themselves pushed to a corner and promised the same thing (some how, strangely earlier they were against cheaper cars). They said they were wiser and promised price reduction for many other things – toll being one of it. But in the end, all those items that should have cost cheaper, ended up costing more (although the toll increase seems to be on hold at the moment but it may not be for long). They were indeed wiser and the voters who voted for them were made to look like fools.

Then recently in 2014, we got this:-

The National Automotive Policy (NAP) announced today that it is committed to a gradual reduction of prices ranging between 20% and 30% over the next five years. However, Inter¬national Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, who announced it, stopped short of giving details on how the reduction would come about.

“We are constantly reviewing our fiscal position. Our deficit level is now 4%. In the event our revenue improves, we may review the excise duty. “We will reduce excise duty gradually over a period of time,” he told reporters after announcing NAP 2014 here today.

NAP 2014’s key objective is to make Malaysia a regional automotive hub for energy-efficient vehicles (EEVs), to be achieved by issuing manufacturing licences (ML) to all car companies without any engine capacity restrictions. This will be followed with customised incentives for each investor coming into the country, which will eventually contribute towards a lowering of EEV car prices in the country.

On Approved Permits (APs), Mustapa said the government will conduct an in-depth study on the issue to assess the impact of the termination on bumiputera participation in the automotive industry. “We are not backtracking. We will be doing a thorough study which will start after Chinese New Year,” he said, adding that NAP 2009 had specified the termination of open APs by Dec 31, 2015 and Franchise APs by Dec 31, 2020.

(Source)

Now where did we saw that very similar looking promise to reduce the price of cars? So what does this really means to all of us?

One, it looks like price of cars will NOT be coming down anytime soon (soon means in the coming months instead of the coming years) BUT they have promise to bring it down in the next 5 years, interestingly just before the next general elections. Don’t you feel a sense of déjà vu? So, you guys want to trust them again with the so-called promise of gradual reduction in the next 5 years? What stopping them from postponing this plan to reduce the price after the elections?

One thing that NAP 2014 seemed to have missed in making vehicles more affordable is the structure of car financing in this country (if it is there and I have missed it, please let me know). The current method of installment computation using flat rest (upfront interest) should be abolished. They should instead apply the same monthly rest method used for housing loans (month end interest computation). If a car cost RM100,000 (let’s assume 100% financing) with an interest rate of 5% and the financing period of 5 years, the monthly installment from the 2 methods would be as follows:-

Upfront interest method – ((RM100,000 x 5% x 5) + RM100,000)/60 = RM2,084
Month end interest computation – using the PMT formula = RM1,887

There is a difference of almost RM200 per month. Yes, the banks earns less every month but this also means the consumer is paying less. In total (for that 5 years), the financing cost is lower by almost RM12,000 and that is a lot of money, if you ask me. Money can be offset against higher petrol, toll and maintenance cost. There is no need for a very long financing period too if the monthly installment is lower. Some of us are forced to take 7 – 9 years of hire purchase just to own a decent safe car. And for those may opt to pay higher installment, the settlement of the loan would be faster. Further by using upfront interest method, the consumer loses more if he settles earlier towards the end of the loan cycle. Those who is familiar with the Rule 78 will understand this and in 2001, a Bill was even introduced in US that would eliminate the use of the Rule of 78s formula in credit transactions, for obvious reason:-

But your payout amount won’t be what you deserve. The reason? Using the “Rule of 78s” method, your lender applies more of your previous payments toward interest and less of your previous payments toward principal.

Since less is applied toward principal, the amount you owe will be higher than expected. The earlier you try to pay off one of these loans the more you’ll have to pay. The higher the interest rate, the more that payoff amount is going to hurt.

“If it had overcharged the lender and undercharged the consumer, it would have disappeared decades ago,” says Jean Ann Fox, director of consumer protection for Consumer Federation of America. “It’s a dirty little secret.”

(Source)

In Malaysia, we are still stuck to the upfront interest computation and the use of Rule 78 and so far, the Government have not introduced any restrictions on this. At the end, the consumer do pay more to own a car. Add this with the overpriced car (no thanks to AP and excise duties), the cost of owning a car is very expensive indeed in Malaysia. This somehow is missing from NAP 2014 although this has a direct implications on the industry.

Two, there is no clear decision on abolishing the APs although the Minister did mention “something” will happen on Open APs in December 2015 (that’s about 2 years from now). So let’s see if something do happens next year or as usual, it gets swept under the carpet. After all, if the Minister comes back and say “We need to do this study. We have to take the views of automotive industry stakeholders including bumiputera participants and the impact of the AP termination”, you probably want to hold back your celebrations. We all know who the stakeholders are and there is only a handful of them (we even had AP Queen once) but somehow this takes precedent over the many Malaysians who owns a car (with a ratio of 200 cars for every one thousand people, Malaysia ranks among countries with high car ownership ratio in the region. We have more than 22 million vehicles)

Back in 2005, Paul Tan wrote about this and nothing much have changed since then:-

Let’s use Honda cars for example. In Malaysia, Hondas are marketed and distributed by Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd, a joint venture company between Honda Motor Co., Ltd. of Japan, DRB HICOM Berhad and Oriental Holdings Berhad. I do not see Honda Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. in the AP recipients list.

But I do see an AP king trio of Syed Azman, Mohd Haniff and Azzuddin holding the most APs. And one of their companies is Weststar Motorsport, which is said to be the franchise AP holder for Honda cars in Malaysia. Weststar Motorsport received 7603 APs in 2005 so far. It’s only half a year now. With a market rate of RM30,000 per AP, that’s a nice amount of roughly RM228 million ringgit worth of APs. However, I do not see Weststar Motorsport having any distributor chain of Honda cars anywhere.

Perhaps a distribution chain is not needed. Maybe all they need is a small office to process AP purchase orders. Could it be Honda Malaysia has to buy APs from Weststar Motorsport in order to import their own vehicles into Malaysia? In Honda’s case, Weststar Motorsport brings the cars in and hands over the car and responsibilities of how the car is going to reach the consumer’s hands to Honda Malaysia. And I reckon they only import as much as what’s requested.

(Source)

Speaking of APs, NAP 2014 also states that the government is open to possibilities to reduce excise duties gradually BUT ha ha, when the fiscal situation permits. And you know by the way the Government spends like they are high on drugs, the fiscal situation is not going to improve anytime soon. So forget about all these talk of reducing the excise duties gradually.

Three, EEV (energy-efficient vehicles) seems to be the “in” thing for the latest NAP. Considering that the price of petrol have been going up in the last few years, this is indeed good news. It is also good news for the environment too. But are we prepared for it in terms of infrastructure and cheaper EEV? Forget about getting a cheaper Prius – even after you have take into consideration the high cost of the battery, it still cost almost RM140,000 right now (in US, it cost only RM80,000 so we must paying an extra RM60,000 for taxes and AP). It may be cheaper in the future but that is not certain. And if we also include electric cars, do we have plans to set up the infrastructures needed to compliment a greater use of EEVs?

Electric cars often have less maximum range on one charge than cars powered by fossil fuels, and they can take considerable time to recharge. This is a reason that many automakers marketed EVs as “daily drivers” suitable for city trips and other short hauls.

Nevertheless, people can be concerned that they would run out of energy from their battery before reaching their destination, a worry known as range anxiety. As of December 2013, Estonia is the first and only country that had deployed an EV charging network with nationwide coverage, with fast chargers available along highways at a minimum distance of between 40 to 60 km (25 to 37 mi), and a higher density in urban areas

(Source)

Four, there is something called “voluntary annual vehicle check” which seems to be more of a mystery. How effective is this voluntary annual vehicle check when there is also scheduled car service in place for all cars? For example if I am taking my car to the authorized car service center every 5,000 km for a change of oil and car inspection, will I volunteer for another vehicle check in another center who may or may not be familiar with the workings of the car?

And what happens if during the voluntary annual vehicle check, the car is found to be unsafe for one reason or another? Will be the owner be advised to go back to their authorized service centers to get it rectified or their car is impounded right there? Don’t the authorized service centers suppose to do this in the first place? One just hopes that this will not be part of the earlier proposed end-of-life vehicle policy wrapped in new clothes. It may be voluntary checking now but once the inspection issues ironed out, what’s stopping them from making it mandatory (where consumer ends up paying more for the same thing) and thereafter impose the 12 years end-of-life vehicle policy?

To be fair, NAP 2014 has just been announced – it may be tweaked in the coming months but one would hope that the execution of the key features of the NAP 2014 is effectively done. No point talking about reducing the price of the car or give higher incentives for EEVs if at the end of the day, we don’t actually see overall reduction of the price for better equipped in terms of performance and safety cars and other related factors like car financing is not taken into consideration.

As I have said, don’t you feel a sense of déjà vu?

Another Petrol Price Hike…


2011-04-20-chronicle-cartoon

(What we see whenever the Government increase the price and ask the taxpayers to change their lifestyle – a burden that we are  willing to share provided the Government does the same. Image source: http://patriotpost.us)

I have been quite busy with work this week and the recent news from tanah air did not sound that good too. From the massive water disruption in the Klang Valley on Merdeka Day (have they burned those who polluted the river and the council officers who closed one eye on the factory activities at the stake?) to the petrol hike from the BN Government and to my son have a bad cough for the last few days.

I read with interest on the various reactions on the Facebook and that included one that got angry when the petrol station “ran out” of petrol. And that reminded me of the 2 posts that I wrote sometime ago on the petrol hike:-

In short, subsidies of any nature have to go and so do any give away of public money to causes that do not generate real economy such as BRIM, smartphone rebates, etc. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Instead of giving people the cash which does not really elevate them from the line poverty in the long run, it is better to create more opportunities with employment opportunities, cheaper housing schema and increase the minimum wages to an extent where people can manage the ever increasing expensive.

It is also important to have more accountability and prudence in managing the money saved from these subsidies. Najib is saying that the Government will save RM1.1 billion this year and about RM3.3 billion annually. All fine and good with the money saved but seriously, it does nothing to improve our confidence of the Government in managing the money saved.

The Prime Minister can only convince the public of his sincerity and necessity of raising RON 95 petrol prices by 20 cents to save annual subsidy costs of RM 3.3 billion by also implementing open competitive tenders and fighting corruption which would save RM 51 billion annually.

Without accompanying measures that demonstrates the Federal government’s commitment against corruption, the public would easily see through such fake sincerity and counterfeit necessity to cut costs.

Why should the people, especially lower-income groups, bear the pain of paying RM3.3 billion annually in increased petrol prices if no action is taken against those political bandits who steal the nation of RM 51 billion annually?

(Source)

It’s obvious that in general sense, there is a feeling that the Government is not doing enough to curtail corruption and mismanagement of public fund. Why not stop the bigger leakage of public funds misuse instead of the easy way out by cutting down on the fuel subsidies?

There is already trouble brewing on the millions being paid to Najib’s consultants – some claimed to be inexperienced and continue to be overpaid. What about the millions that was pledged before the last general elections? Still remember the rather blatant  “I help you, you help me” election bribe? Najib could have been mistaken for the Santa Claus and Christmas did come early for some people. It was something I knew will come back to bite us after the election when Najib have to make good of his pre-election promises but does not have the dough to do so.

Seasoned analyst of Malaysian politics Bridget Welsh today said that BN chairman Najib Razak had so far spent a whopping RM58 billion or RM4,363 per voter to shore up support at the coming polls.

Welsh an associate professor of political science at the Singapore Management University, said the figure was reached after studying over 4,000 news reports since 2009 – the year Najib replaced Abdullah Badawi as prime minister – as well as the three budgets including supplemental budgets under Najib between 2010-2013.

“I conservatively estimate that his administration has spent a total of RM57.7 billion from after he took over as PM to just before the dissolution of parliament on election-related incentives,” said Welsh, writing in Malaysiakini.

She said some RM46.7 billion was spent on development targeted pledges and RM11.0 billion on ‘1Malaysia’ programmes.

“The two main components of this largess are politically targeted distributions and 1Malaysia spending. These measures are inherently political as not only are they framed as political tools, they are being openly been touted as a reason to support the BN at the voting booth,” she said.

(Source)

After all, the basis of spending is pretty simply – the income must be enough to cover the expenses. If the current income does not cover the expenses, either increase the income (one way would be by borrowing from someone else which is a bad thing) or reduce the expenses (still remember Najib’s famed advice to the common man – change your lifestyle?). So whilst reducing the petrol subsidies is one good way to reduce the expenses, replacing it with another wasteful one is not. And speaking about reducing wasteful expenses, how about this idea for a change?

All Cabinet members including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should now pay for their own fuel since the government claimed underserving parties were enjoying the benefits of a blanket subsidy that it reduced today, said PKR’s Rafizi Ramli.

The PKR strategy director also questioned why Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak chose not to do away with hefty subsidies given to private companies such as independent power producers, which is estimated to be around RM13 billion, and instead “took the easy way out” by slashing public fuel subsidies.

“The fuel price hike burdens most of the average people and it is used as an excuse by Datuk Seri Najib Razak to hide his own weaknesses in managing the country’s economy,” Rafizi told reporters, and pointed to the country’s recent credit rating downgrade by global agency Fitch Ratings and the ringgit’s lowered value against the US dollar.

(Source)

That is a very sound advice indeed. Will the Government change its lifestyle too? We may not save the billions by doing that but it will show the sincerity and the commitment of the Government in ensuring that whatever money that the Government manages to collect is spent with greater prudence, accountability and transparency. We do not need overpaid consultants (Ministers and GLC management included), expensive overseas trips for politicians and their wives (kids and their servants tagging along), overrated mega projects that does not bring good returns and only benefits a small group of people and other nonsense like BRIM, etc.

If this is done and if coupled with a long term plan to increase the buying power of the consumers (and not just giving away taxpayers money), another petrol hike would not be treated with such hostility.