Sarawak Report Expose on 1MDB


1mdb-01

(A 42 billion time bomb that had already exploded on everyone’s face but a lot of people in this country are not aware of the blast – no thanks to a sneaky fat guy and a clueless PM. Until today, I am lost why they put billions of taxpayers money in Cayman Island unless it is meant for some shady deal. Infographic source: http://poskod.my/cheat-sheets/10-things-know-1mdb/)

In a country where the police chief can take action based on tweets and Facebook postings, there is only eerie silence by the police, MACC, Bank Negara and the pro-Government politicians on the largest scandal expose by Sarawak Report on the 1MDB

And if you have missed the story, the crux of the expose has been this:-

Together with London’s Sunday Times newspaper, Sarawak Report has completed an in-depth investigation into the trail of the missing billions at the heart of Malaysia’s 1MDB (One Malaysia Development Berhad) financial scandal.

We have obtained access to thousands of documents and emails relating to transactions by 1MDB, including its initial joint venture with the little known oil company PetroSaudi International from 2009.

What the documents establish is that, in spite of copious official denials, the entire joint venture project was conceived, managed and driven through by the Prime Minister’s associate and family friend the party-loving billionaire tycoon, Jho Low.

The documents also prove that the USD$700 million so-called “loan” that was supposedly repaid to PetroSaudi as part of the joint venture agreement, was in fact directed into the Swiss bank account of a company called Good Star, which is controlled by Jho Low.

That money was then partly used to buy out Taib Mahmud’s UBG bank in Sarawak at a very advantageous price for the chief minister and his family, who had been failing to get a deal on the open market.

PetroSaudi had agreed to act as “a front” for Jho Low on such deals, according to the documents, and it was a subsidiary of PetroSaudi International registered in the Seychelles, which bought UBG, using money siphoned from 1MDB.

(Source)

USD700 million of taxpayers went to someone’s personal pockets and 1MDB continues to bleed. And it did not stop there. Then almost on the same day, The Edge had this story on 1MDB:-

From 2009 to 2014, 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) initial US$1 billion was shuffled and swapped around, in an apparent bid to avoid scrutiny by its string of external auditors, The Edge Malaysia reported.

In its March 2-8 issue, the business weekly provides a timeline of how the government-owned strategic investment fund disguised the money trail of its initial US$1 billion for five years, raising the question of whether 1MDB is as profitable as it claims to be, or is merely rich on paper

By August 1, the money in the Caymans had grown to US$2.33 billion, and in November and December, 1MDB announced it had redeemed the entire amount.

However, instead of repatriating the money home, 1MDB president Arul Kanda Kandasamy said the December redemption of US$1.11 billion would be kept offshore as a currency hedge, while the first redemption would be “substantially utilised” for a separate settlement agreement on a different project.

“What can be surmised from the events of the last five years is that 1MDB kept entering into deftly structured transactions timed to avoid vigorous scrutiny by its external auditors about the money,” The Edge said.

(Source)

Whether it was a case of sheer recklessness or blatant corruption and fraud or simply a case of bad business decision, one thing that is clear – the allegations and evidence that has been presented by Sarawak Report cannot be taken lightly. There is overwhelming notion of fraud, corruption and mismanagement of public funds written all over it.

And already search for scapegoats have started:-

It appears that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has begun the process of trying to wash PM Najib’s hands clean of what may turn out to be the biggest political and financial scandal in recent Malaysian history, according to analyst Shahbudin Husin.

Tied to that process may be a search for a scapegoat, he writes in a blog entry that indicates his belief that the 1MDB controversy is close to reaching a climax.

(Source)

Given the kind of damage that has made by Sarawak Report’s expose, it is apparent that Najib and his Government cannot remain silent. The more they remained silent, the more crystallize the allegations will be. And finally, probably given the pressure within his Government and outside, the PM has now directed the Auditor-General to vet the 1MDB’s accounts. He even goes on to say something interesting (and probably a concept that is rather alien in this country) – “If any wrongdoing is proven, the law will be enforced without exception”.

Let’s talk on Auditor-General’s reporting in the past. How effective it has been to 1. curtail and avoid similar incidents of wastage & abuse in future and 2. in booking the culprits of wastage and abuses? Since the PM is asking the AG to check 1MDB’s account, we also want to know if the Government would be serious in taking actions if there are some findings by the AG?

Back in 2014, Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam wrote this:-

Unfortunately these management weaknesses and the consequent wastage of public funds continue to stubbornly persist. This is happening despite the Auditor General’s previous exhortations, to improve our standards of good governance.

In this first installment of the Report for 2013, it appears that 283 spending related issues were raised as for the first 4 months, which is well over the 256 spending issues raised by the AG, for the whole of 2012!

This trend is alarming and must be dealt with very seriously!

The Auditor General has to his credit now made 109 new recommendations for improvement in financial management. But the rakyat will ask what will be done with them? Will these recommendations be ignored and will mismanagement and financial wastage continue regardless?

Hence should not the PAC recommend tougher action and even name and shame these recalcitrant Ministries which are responsible for the loss of hard earned public funds?

(Source)

Transparency International Malaysia in 2013 said “It will also make a mockery of the Government, when the Auditor-General’s reports are not being taken seriously after it has identified the shortcomings within the administration” (Source)

And Tony Pua from Pakatan echoes the same:-

“While welcoming the investigation on 1MDB’s financials, Pua said the report should also include, but not be limited to the following:

• Auditing and identifying the redemption trail of the investments in Cayman Islands and the whereabout of its proceeds;

• Auditing and identifying the exact investment holding, true value and whereabouts of RM13.39 billion of “Level 3 Assets” identified in the March 2014 Financial Report;

• Confirming if 1MDB had attempted to borrow RM2 billion from local tycoon Ananda Krishnan to repay its debt and determine 1MDB’s cashflow shortage to meet its RM42 billion debt obligations as well as contract commitments which is likely to require a government bailout;

• Confirming if all historical emails in the 1MDB mail server were “wiped out” in December last year, as claimed by the Sarawak Report.

Pua said the Auditor-General should also conduct a forensic audit of 1MDB with the assistance of professional forensic auditors “to uncover any financial shenanigans in the company particularly in the light of (the) expose by the Sarawak Report and the mind-boggling PetroSaudi transactions from 2009 to 2012” and explained the same had been done in the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal in 2009.

(Source)

And thanks to the good people in Sarawak report, things have started to pick up pace despite it is not a new issue and the troubled 1MDB & the dubious way of handling the matter by people linked with 1MDB has been in the mainstream news for some time now.

And with the expose, the calls for accountability and transparency have not been louder, clearer and more direct to Najib:-

He notes that there have been reports that 1MDB will be wound up. “Oh, my God! For six years we’ve been told that everything was safe and fine. And now, suddenly, there’ll be a winding up?”

But Ariff says he figures it’ll take months before the Auditor-General can complete his task because of the mountains of documents involved. “What’s worse, much computer data have been destroyed.”

He notes that another Umno leader has alleged that there’s a political conspiracy behind the attacks on 1MDB and he discloses that the allegation came even as he was writing his article.

“If it were true that there’s a political agenda, it would be justifiable because the objective would be to expose a government that has made it possible for abuse and corruption to happen, in fact given a licence for them to happen.”

“In all these six years, it’s not public funds that the government has been protecting, but thieves and robbers.”

(Source)

Now there are talks of dismantling 1MDB and dissolve it thereafter. It may depends on the outcome of the AG report. The question is whether we will be calling the fat guy in for questioning and squeeze the truth from him on the shady USD700 million transfer? And since the PM is also the Finance Minister and this owns 1MDB, accountability and thereafter his resignation if wrongdoings are proven? Sarawak Report claims that all historical emails have been wiped out – so what is left to investigate if more evidence have been tampered with?

We do not want another PKFZ fiasco where the biggest losers at the end of the day is the taxpayers.

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More “Goodies” in 2014


Probably my last post for the year, hope to be more “regular” next year…

kain rentang pasang di pagar bengang bn

(To be fair, one’s voting rights cannot be questioned by anyone but there must be a break point somewhere on how much of the abuse and wastage that a Government that has been in power for so long can be allowed to continue. And seeing on how all that sweet talk and endless promises of cost reduction during the election campaign simply disappeared within months from the election, hopefully people had wise up and will take things with a pinch of salt in the next election? Image source: Omak Kau)

Just as expected, here’s another news that will leave the die-hard BN supporters getting down on their knees and say the grace for voting in the Barang Naik politicians into power for another 5 years (damn, I can even see the grateful smile on their face right now as they get ready to dig deeper into their pockets):-

Prices of stationery items are expected to go up by 20% to 30% within the first quarter of next year. Industry players claimed that they were revising the prices, partly due to the increasing costs from the implementation of minimum wages and transport costs.

Other factors include the new electricity tariff rate, higher fuel price and the currency exchange rate between the ringgit and China renminbi, as most of the imported stationery items are from China. The speculated increase in toll rates and rentals are also expected to contribute to the increase.

(Source)

Look closely at the reasons for the price hike of the stationery items – implementation of minimum wages, the new electricity tariff rate, higher fuel price, increase in toll rates (which is yet to be finalized by the Government but already having rippling effect) and rentals. It sounds all too familiar, don’t they? If these are the reasons for the proposed increase (the edible ice suppliers used the same excuse), then what’s stopping everyone else from using the same excuse and raising the price of goods and services?

Didn’t one Barang Naik Minister came out in the open and said that the price hike unlikely to have any bearing on the production cost? If we had believed that, we would have been one of the dumbest people around. Of course, the stationers and booksellers are now being threatened with action under the Competition Act 2010. But if the Minister claims cartel activity and monopoly of market, then what about Astro and TNB huh? Doesn’t the same market monopoly argument applies the same?

And as more goods and services falls into the price hike category, one may need to wonder where it will end. And whether the hike is justified in the first place? Have the people in the Government had done their homework before they press on the “Hike Up” button? Have they even consider things from the business and consumer point of view? Just asking the business to “understand and share the burden” does not really the solution that anyone with brains is looking for.

Onyourtoes: You are telling only half of the story. How can you reduce fuel subsidy when government spending has remained extravagant? How can you reduce sugar subsidy when importation and distribution of sugar is still in the hands of private monopolies?

How can you justify high price of cars when issuance of Approved Permits (APs) is for specific cronies to become billionaires. Which country on earth makes billionaires out of the largesse of public policy? How can you hike the electricity tariff when lopsided Independent Power Producers (IPP) agreements have remained unresolved?

How can you continue to raise tolls when the profit of most concessionaires achieved is far beyond their wildest expectation? How can you impose Goods and Services Tax (GST) when our accounting and retailing are so rudimentary? Read my lips, it will end up with consumers paying but the money not reaching the government.

(Source)

This is in response to the recent hikes by the Government and it just shows that Government had not thought of curtailing expenses and rationalize the reduction of subsidies thoroughly. It has remained a small patch here and a small patch there but at the end, does nothing to stop the leakages. Don’t get us wrong – the consumers will definitely pay more for goods and services provided it is justified and means a substantial improvement of quality in goods & services. Unfortunately in this “tidak apa” country, that not likely to happen – if you pay more for the toll for example, does the insane traffic jam goes away?

But the question remained is whether the Government will be seeing the increase of income at their end. They always ask the people to tighten their belts but are they doing the same themselves? The purported news of 2 BN ministers going to London for their winter shopping certainly did not look good when there are only bad news wherever you look. Who is paying for the trip and the shopping expenses?

So don’t be surprised if, with so many leakages, lack of enforcement, rampant corruption, the Government does not know the meaning of austerity and lopsided agreements, whatever the increase of price is simply going to go “into the wrong pockets” and wrong purpose. And because of this, the Government can rest assured to find itself still short of money to cover its spiraling expenses and in the end, they will be forced to push for another cut in subsidies (with the same excuses) and the vicious cycles starts all over again.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed questioned the wisdom behind the government’s decision to increase the prices of goods and services at a time when people were suffering a financial pinch. In his blog Chedet, the former prime minister of 22 years acknowledged that the government needs more money but questioned if all the increases should come at the same time.

Mahathir said the government should follow in the footsteps of businesses by “costing down” where it could either increase prices or reduce cost when there is competition or when its cost of production reduces its profits. “All its cost can be examined to determine which are truly necessary, which cost can be reduced, which service can be curtailed or modified,” he said.

He said the Government often wasted money because it was not too concerned about the returns on its expenditure, citing the Auditor General’s reports that highlight the excesses every year.

(Source)

It has come to a point where even the retired old man seemed restless now. Never mind the fact that that he should take some of the blame on laying the seeds of wastage and abuse but at least he is restless now for the right reasons (and not on the same and tired racial reasons). Hmm, perhaps he can foresee the downfall of the very system that he had nurtured when he was the PM.

Any way, there are just a few more days to go before we say goodbye to 2013 and welcome a truly Barang Naik year in 2014 (some had dubbed it as the New Year of Suffering). I just hope that even so 2014 will bring a better year for all of us in other ways and exposed to less insanity all around and reinforce the notion that a real change will only change with a change of Government in the next general elections.

Happy holidays and I will see you all next year.

Ice Ice Baby, Dummy!


ice_increase

(Another good news for the die-hard BN supporters to rejoice for the coming new year – RM0.50 increase per bag and RM2.50 per block by the edible ice suppliers and you can bet your bottom ringgit that the restaurant and food stalls will put in their own increase on top of increase for sugar price for your iced drink. Reason for the increase? The notice mentions increase in electricity tariff, increase of diesel price, implementation of the “minimum wage ruling”, increase of salary, increase of raw materials and interestingly, improvement of food safety – now that is very scary!)

I saw the above notice when I read the papers this morning. This however was not a big surprise though – it is only natural for businesses to pass on the escalating operating cost to the end consumers. So do expect your iced Milo, iced limau, iced coffee, iced tea, iced water to cost you an arm and a leg from today onwards. Sooner or later, you may want to reconsider eating out and bring your own food from home (although price of vegetables & meat had gone up as well).

Having said that, here’s one that shows that some Ministers still sticking (rather stubbornly) their head into the ground:-

KUALA LUMPUR: TRANSPORTATION and logistic companies have been warned against raising their charges in view of the toll rate hike. Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Hasan Malek said the ministry could take action against their umbrella body if companies that come under it raised their charges. “The associations can be charged under the Competition Commission Act 2010 if they influence their members to increase their charges.”

Traders were warned not to use the toll rate hike as an excuse to raise prices of goods. Hasan said the ministry would take action against traders who took advantage of the hike, adding his ministry had started checking in Klang Valley traders were increasing their prices.

“It is a difficult time for Malaysians. The traders should not push the burden to the consumers but, instead, share it with them.”

(Source)

Don’t you feel like want to puke when you read this statement ” It is a difficult time for Malaysians. The traders should not push the burden to the consumers but, instead, share it with them”? Which profit driven company in their right mind want to do that?

What is happening with the Government themselves realizing that it is a difficult time for Malaysians and curtailing their over the board expenses? Some of them are still flying all around the world with the same happy sickening face – obviously, times are still good for them (pressed further, they may even ask – what difficult time?).

One thing you can be certain – that you can be rest assured that more “Christmas goodies” is on the way from Najib’s Administration. Remember it well in the next general election.

Whack The Wrongdoers Hard, Please!


Read these first:-

spending__ramirez021810_full

(Here lies the problem – some people have no sense of responsibility whatsoever just because they are spending money that does not belong to them and they know that if they can waste the taxpayers money without any care or prudence, they will not be punished even if it was reported by the Auditor General. Image source: http://tarpon.wordpress.com)

I guess those who had voted for the Barang Naik (BN) politicians in the last general election must be regretting their decision now. You know, somehow, “I told you so” just doesn’t quite say it, ah? Already there are multiple news in the net on how some people in disguise of “consultants” have been taking the Government and the taxpayers for a ride but there have been only silence and inaction on the part of these politicians. The obvious ones are these:-

Hazmi sits at the top of the pyramid of greed and takes a 10% on each program cost

Under him, he has several assistants to identify runners to identify those contractors and suppliers with the right license or kepala (heading) to be main contractors or suppliers or just a mere front. At the assistants, runners, and front contractors and suppliers level, they rake in a cumulative of 20% of the program’s budget. The balance is likely to be for the real contractors and manufacturers doing the work.

To get themselves paid, Hazmi’s assistants take care of the payment but it is not paid direct but only to the front. The money due to the real contractors and suppliers is released by the front companies after deducting for everyone’s cut. It means there are paper trails everywhere. Hazmi designed the budget for programs to be usually few ringgit short of RM5,000 or RM100,000. Above that, the control system is stringent and manipulable.

If this does not make your blood boil, we do not know what else.

(Source)

And this:-

Two DAP lawmakers want the Education Ministry to explain why it spent RM20 million hiring a private consultant to prepare the National Education Blueprint when it could have been done by “capable personnel” within the government.

Describing the RM20 million as a complete waste of taxpayers’ money, Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming and Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari said the management consultant, McKinsey and Co, should not have been hired as the company was a general management consultant and did not specialise in education.

(Source)

And timing could not be better to dig up more crap from current Government’s total lack of transparency, enforcement and punishment of the wrongdoers. It has become a sheer wastage of taxpayers fund on a regular basis. The recent publication of the Auditor-General’s report was nothing new and only adds to the “good name” of the current Government. If the half-past six politicians are still under a delusion that everything is still OK in the Bolehland and they can sleep in peace at night, let me tell you that the AG’s report is very, very damaging. A responsible Government would have come in the open to admit the findings and announce strong measures to curtail them. Politicians who care about this nation will not sleep until they had made enough noise for the wrong doers to be caught and punished and existing laws & procedures tighten to avoid a repetition in the future. Unfortunately, in reality (and predictably), nothing have been said till now and everything being kept as hush, probably hoping the taxpayers and the opposition will soon forget about the findings.

The malpractices highlighted in the Auditor-General’s report keep repeating because of inadequate planning in procurement, poor drafting of specifications and lack of monitoring and evaluation, said Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas).

To address this, Ideas chief executive officer Wan Saiful Wan Jan has suggested that curbing political interference and using open tender systems would help in plugging the inefficiencies in government procurement which has resulted in millions of ringgit being wasted.

He cited examples in the 2012 AG report which had resulted in wasteful spending, such as the 20 wall clocks which were bought by for RM3,810 each when it cost RM100 each and the three A4 size scanners bought for RM14,760 each which was supposed to cost RM200 each.

He said Ideas was now conducting a study on transparency in how government agencies and department carry out their procurement. “These problems are repeated because there are inadequate procurement planning, poor drafting of specifications, insufficient use of competitive tenders and lack of monitoring and evaluation.

(Source)

Shouldn’t inadequate planning in procurement, poor drafting of specifications and lack of monitoring and evaluation which have been highlighted many times before in the past AG reports been resolved by now? Don’t each Government departments have some kind of operation guide and standard operating procedures? Don’t they have their internal audit processes to follow and meet? Don’t tell me that we are going to pay millions to some foreign consultants to propose the same thing? And if nothing been done in the past, then what difference it makes now? As long we don’t see the wrong doers and those mismanaged millions of taxpayers’ money punished and held accountable, we going to have the same problems reported year in, year out.

To add further, Malaysia have now been named as the most corrupt country in the world – I am sure some thick skinned politicians would have been very happy with this kind of achievements (they probably have dismissed it as an opposition tactics instead of seriously looking into the possible truth). However it was not a big surprise though – it was just a matter of time before we got that title. The sooner the Government wakes up from its slumber sleep, it is better for the rest of us.

Despite Malaysia’s high-profile anti-corruption crusade, half of the corporate executives surveyed by a global corruption watchdog believe that competitors have obtained business in the country through bribery.

Transparency International said Malaysia scored worst in the 2012 Bribe Payers Survey. It asked nearly 3,000 executives from 30 countries whether they had lost a contract in the past year because competitors paid a bribe, and in Malaysia, 50% of them said ‘yes’. Second on the dubious honor roll was Mexico, which was at 48%.

(Source)

And this is where race based NGOs such as Perkasa show their sheer ignorance and dumbness. They jump like their balls been run over by a steamroller when common Malaysians question the need to prolong race based policies and “giveaways” in the name of “empowering” the community economy, knowing very well that such policies have been manipulated to enrich a few and their cronies in past and continues to this day. But the same NGOs had said nothing or jumped in protest when millions is wasted by lack of enforcement and corruption – doesn’t the same community set to lose a lot more if such leakage is not stopped and the wrong-doers are not booked to stop the repeated wastage? Or are they simply going to ignore this just because those who cause such leakages and do nothing to curtail the leakages are from the same community? It looks like that is the case many times over. No wonder whatever they say and do does not carry any sense of creditability and is a total waste of space.

And when the AG report bring the crap into the open, instead of accepting the hard cold fact and whack the wrong doers hard & ensuring that this will be the last time such incident happens, sadly, some politicians (never mind if they are dumb enough to be caught on video supporting criminal gangs and admission of breach of rule of law) now tries to even justify the wrong doing:-

On Friday, when asked by the press about the firearms mysteriously missing from the police armory, as discovered by the Auditor-Genera, Zahid was quick to pitch himself as the champion and defender of the ‘maligned’ police force.

Insisting that the weapons ‘lost’ by the police were due to human error and not foul play, Zahid rather high-handedly forbade any more discussion on the matter. He even picked on and publicly berated a reporter to emphasize his point.

“I think this is ridiculous behavior from a minister. It is blatantly self-serving. As the Home Minister, the police have to answer to Zahid in many matters but who is he to forgive their wrongdoings. Firstly, this was reported by the Auditor-General, not fabricated by the Opposition. Secondly, have the police carried out an internal probe, why are the findings not released,” Opposition MP for Batu Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.

(Source)

And it seems like the whole of the Government seems powerless (no thanks to their own shortcomings) to bring about the drastic measures needed to stop the rot for once and for all:-

The Auditor-General’s report for 2012 is alarming. And this is so not only because it exposed huge wastage committed by government departments last year, but also because nothing seems to have changed all these many years.

Year after year, the A-G tells us of cases of improper payment; of purchases made at astronomical prices; of unreasonable project delays; of poor asset management; of non-adherence to procedures, etc, etc. But year after year, nothing is done to address the shortcomings.

It seems as if our civil service just continues to plod on, continues to waste, continues to be inefficient, continues to make corrupt transactions. And the overriding controller – i.e. the Government – just lets it be.

The Government knows from the A-G’s reports that corruption is rife in the civil service, but it probably realises it doesn’t have the moral standing to haul in the culprits. After all, the civil servants are following the example of the country’s leadership. And since the Government has also not shown itself to be accountable for a lot of things, how can we stop the rot?

Worse, our civil servants seem to have acquired a tidak apa mindset because the money that is being wasted, that it being improperly used, that is going into the pockets of some of them, is not theirs. When I was in school, we used to characterise such an attitude with the jeering taunt: “You think this is your grandfather’s money ah?” It’s still applicable here and now.

(Source)

I say this again and I have said it many times before – if the Government feel that they need to increase the taxes and reduces the subsidies just to ensure that they have enough to keep the country going, that is fine and fair. But what is the point of the people need to pay more of everything if the blatant waste and mismanagement by the Government itself on the other hand remains high and continues to bleed the nation of its resources. After all, if unnecessary expenses are not curtailed (spending RM3,810 for a RM100 clock for example), the Government will have no choice but to reduce the various subsidies, borrow more money and keep taxes high. At the end of the day, the rot must stop. The “tidak apa” attitude must stop. The blatant wastage of taxpayers’ money must stop. The super unbelievable leniency on the wrong doers must stop. The day of hiring thirsty vampires to guard our blood banks must stop.

Those who commit wastage and corrupt must be charged with criminal breach of trust, bank accounts frozen, their property seized and they are made to spent a good number of their years behind bars. Investigations on the paper trails must be made so that all those involved one way or another are caught and punished. Those politicians who allow (by action, omission or sheer stupidness) this to continue to happen must face the same consequences. Punish the wrong-doers at both ends without any fear or mercy. Malaysia does not need these traitors running the show – we are becoming champions of the world for wrong reasons. The AG have done a very good job highlighting the shortcomings in managing taxpayers funds. The only thing that is needed now is a change of attitude and political will power to take out the cane and start whacking the wrong doers hard so that the rest will be more careful when dealing with taxpayers money. If this failed, then it is evident that the Government itself have failed the trust of the people and is corrupt to the core and thus, must be removed in the next general election.

Can this be done now and without the “ifs and buts”?

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.

Smoke Gets In My Eyes, Again!


Read these first

indonesia_tmo_2013170

(The hotspots in Indonesia is a yearly affair and it some how had become “tolerable” when by right it should not be the case. The above when Singapore faced the worst from the slash & burn activities in Indonesia. Image source: http://marufish.com)

At the beginning of last week, this was reported on the state of haze in Malaysia:-

Malaysian authorities declared a state of emergency Sunday in a southern district where a smoky haze blamed on Indonesian forest fires has triggered one of the country’s worst pollution levels in years.

The worst of the smog has shifted from Singapore to southernmost Malaysia, where noxious fumes have drifted across the sea this past week from Indonesia’s Sumatra island. The Malaysian government’s index for air pollution reached a measurement of 746 early Sunday in the southern district of Muar. It was far above the threshold of 300 for hazardous air quality.

Authorities were issuing instructions for Muar’s residents to remain indoors and for schools to close, Environment Minister G. Palanivel said in a statement on his Facebook page. The district has about 250,000 people, several of whom posted photographs on Twitter showing bridges and buildings enveloped in smog that slashed visibility to barely hundreds of meters (feet).

(Source)

And since then, some schools in the Klang Valley were closed for a couple of days (my son certainly was not complaining though) with all of us breathing in and out some of the very unhealthy air todate – some spiked more than 400 on the API reading. But thanks to (man made? or perhaps God taking pity on some of us) heavy rain last week and recent days, API readings have gone down to less dangerous levels and things seemed to have come down to a more normal levels (although last Sunday the haze was back). But hopefully despite the clear skies, we will not be forgetting the culprits who caused some of the worse air pollution over some states in Malaysia last week or keeping our silence on preventing similar occurrence in the coming years.

For start, the Indonesian Government have (once again) blamed (and listed) the “Malaysian” firms involved in the opening burning in Sumatra and on paper, the Malaysian Government have asked for proof and urged prosecution against the wrongdoers but it is a big question on whether the Indonesians would be willing to do that. We are talking big players here and a very aggressive prosecution on something that could be tough to prove (as to who started the fire) could back-fire big time – big players may pull out and huge investments may drop. Think about it – if they could prosecute the culprits, they would have done so a long time ago and that would have been the end of the yearly man-made deadly haze, right?

Interestingly whilst this is still being debated between the Governments, the Malaysian firms having plantation interests in Indonesia have come out emphasizing on their zero burn policy and flatly denied that they were the culprits behind the massive haze over Malaysia & Singapore – they are putting the blame on the locals who determined to do it the easy way. That sounds reasonable but is it?

The standard response has been to blame local communities and smallholders in Sumatra for the clear-cutting and slash-and-burn tactics. It is easy to blame the small guys/local farmers/local communities, etc when they are unable to respond in the media.

Yet, an overlay map of Sumatra shows that there is a close correlation between the hotspots (where the burning is taking place) and the concession areas for oil palm plantations and timber.

So, the large companies then engage some of these local communities to clear the land for them – sort of like outsourcing the land-clearing. And then these local communities do it in the easiest or cheapest way possible. Moreover, the local people often do not have the expertise for replanting, which the large companies possess. But because it is the local communities doing the clearing, the large companies are able to wash their hands and pass the buck to the local communities.

(Source)

And it gets worse if these allegations are true:-

The whole world knows, and has for years, that the haze is not just the product of ‘burning-off’ by a ragtag bunch of small farmers, but wholesale illegal clearance of what’s left of Sumatra’s peat forests by the managements of massive palm-oil plantations.

And that many of these environmental vandals are so-called government-linked corporations which the respective ruling regimes involved are coy about naming because they and their cronies are the principal beneficiaries.

(Source)

In the end, it goes back to the issue of enforcement and the deploying the best method for clearing the land for plantation.

The issue is serious (at least for me) when you have small kids and old people at home and they start to have breathing difficulties and there is nothing much we could do about it. Mind you, 2 people died from all the haze in Malaysia, courtesy of the idiots in Indonesia taking short cuts to clear the land. One of their Ministers even had the cheek to say that the Singaporeans are acting childish on this (some politicians will remain a moron to the core no matter which country they are from). Perhaps some of you may not have small kids and old people to take care of but then what about your own health concerns in the long run? How long you think you can survive wearing mask when you go out? Don’t you get frustrated, angry and sick at the same? What about the negative impact to the country’s economy especially in the tourism sector – how many tourists you think will be willing to take a long stroll outside if the haze is thick and sickening?  In the end, will the slash & burn buggers compensate for these losses – both the economic and personal losses?

00-ria-novosti-infographics-be-200chs-amphibious-firefighting-aircraft-2010

(If there is fire and it cannot be done with simple tools, it is time to look at a more powerful one. One such tool would be the fire-fighting aircraft like the one made by Russia above – it is more effective once coupled with the traditional fire-fighting techniques on the ground. Image source: http://02varvara.wordpress.com)

The “problem” with the problem is that everyone knows what need to be done. The mysterious part would be on the Governments with all its might, expertise and will-power seems to be powerless when this happens on a yearly basis and one need to ask why the might of the law and almost unlimited resources of the Government have not been used to the fullest scale? Sucking up to the slash & burn offenders does has its limits. Instead of being reactive to the problem, why not be proactive instead? After all, trans boundary air pollution is not something one can hide under the blue carpet.

Enforcement aspect aside (it is all talk and no action here for donkey odd years), let’s start with a beef-up the fire services with a specialize team on the forest & peat fires with superior technology (like early warning systems), tools (such fire-fighting planes) and man-power all paid in advance on a yearly basis from a centralised fund (all donated graciously from all plantation owners)? Why not use the satellite imaginary system to pin-point the start of the peat and use the information to coordinate fire-fighting and enforcement on a more aggressive manner? It can be done if this need to be done.

But before that, the Indonesia Government should start with ratifying the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution is an environmental agreement established in 2002 between all ASEAN nations to reduce haze pollution in Southeast Asia. There should not be any more excuses from the Indonesians, now that the source of the haze is clearly is self made and is in their own back yard.

Time to breathe in and breathe out before the next round of haze is back

Is Malaysia Really Flushing with Money?


Read these first:-

budget-trends-2010-2013

(It does not matter whether it is from Barisan or from Pakatan – it is unfortunate that we still have budget deficits by the billions. Why it is so? Is it because we are biting more than we can chew? We been spending more than what is in our pockets? The real challenge for a good Government would be to balance the income with the expenses and reduce the deficits to a zero. Image source: Malaysian Insider)

If you have read the news last week or so (in between the on-going police investigations on the death of young William and the recent Thaipusam), you probably would have read this:-

The Government has approved a RM50mil allocation to the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry for the Hati Rakyat (People’s Heart) programme beginning next month. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the funds were to assist single mothers, those with special needs and senior citizens.

Najib said that the funds could be used to provide training for senior citizens or buying adult diapers or wheel chairs. The programme would be combined with the 1Azam programme that enables the poor to do small business, he said, adding that he hoped the funds would reach the expected target groups.

(Source)

And this:-

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin today ticked off the opposition’s defacto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for alleging that the country was on the verge of bankruptcy.

“We are in fact flushed with funds. Last year for example the Inland Revenue Board managed to collect RM125 billion as income for the country. This has never been done before. “We are thus in a very strong financial position. We also manage our finances very well. None of our civil servants have yet been denied their salary,” he said when addressing over 5,000 people at a meet-the-people session held at the Civic Centre, here, today.

Muhyiddin said no Malaysian had died of starvation but rather obesity is the norm because of too much good food available, so much so that it has turned into a major problem among students in schools nationwide. He said at the national level, poverty rate was only three per cent while in Sarawak it stands at only four to five per cent.

Muhyiddin said the BN government would continue with the agenda of helping the people and ensuring the country becomes prosperous, united and stable with the support of the people, regardless of race or religion. “The general election is the best opportunity for the people to say they want it to continue and to achieve more.

“The choice is in your hands. Please once again give your full mandate to BN under the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak,” he said.

(Source)

If you can read in between the lines, that is a BN politician talking to you with your own money in his hands and saying that he will give you this money if you vote them lot into power again. But given the fact that this has been going on for some long donkey years and no one in the authority sees this as an implicit way to buy votes, it is alright– throwing money to buy votes to help the poor people is expected to happen on a more regular basis as we move nearer to the general elections.

But the thing is ask yourself, whether it worth for the Government with not-so-deep pockets to spend millions of ringgit on short term plans rather than on a long term one. Take for examples of the BR1M 1.0 and 2.0 and other “dumbest of the dumb” ideas like throwing money to youth to buy smartphones:-

For the hard-core poor, RM500 is indeed a large sum that will go a long way to reduce their financial burden. It may even feed them and their family for a month. To the large majority of other recipients the sum, as a one off payment, is just an additional bonus and does not significantly help them out financially.

In fact many use it to spend it on items that they really don’t need. The amount that runs into tens or even hundreds of millions is hard earned taxpayer’s money which could be used more beneficially for the people than be given out freely to “enjoy” themselves for a few days.

What the people really need is not a one-off payment during election time but a better planned scheme to help them in the long term to cope with the difficult times ahead. They need to be given the opportunities to acquire the skills and knowledge to improve themselves.

They need more job opportunities and better wages, easier accessibility to quality and cheaper health care, better and more affordable tertiary education and more affordable housing especially in urban areas. They need a better, cheaper, more convenient and safer transportation system. Most of all they need a system that recognises them as legitimate citizens whose constitutional rights are safeguarded regardless of race or creed.

The present practice of giving out money on and off, as carried out now, is an election gimmick that capitalises on the people’s inherent “greed for free money”, which is becoming a prevalent culture today. It should be strongly discouraged as it is a form of corruption, which should not be tolerated by the people.

(Source)

And there is a big question of whether the Government is indeed flushing with money and can afford to make these one-off payments now and then without bleeding the limited funds available for other more important sector of the economy?

But there is a difference. A big one. Selangor and Penang, both Pakatan-led states that provide financial aid for senior citizens, children and the disabled, have far surpassed their predecessors’ financial performance. Selangor increased its cash reserves to RM1.9 billion in 2011, its highest in 28 years while Penang successfully reduced its state debt by 95% from RM600 million to RM35 million in the same year.

This is not the case for the federal government, which has run a fiscal deficit since 1997. Although it has fallen slightly from its 22-year high of 7% in 2009 to 4.5% in 2012, our fiscal records aren’t very stellar. Our debt to GDP ratio is at 53%, just below the statutory limit of 55%.

Both BR1M packages will cost the government an estimated RM2.6 billion and RM3 billion respectively. Najib stated that because the economy continues to expand, this results in increased tax collection and therefore the reason for which BR1M can be dished out.

In reality, a huge RM13.8 billion supplementary budget was tabled in June 2012, forming almost 5% of the original budget. Out of this, RM7.5 billion was for cash aid and oil and gas subsidies.

(Source)

And especially when the source of income is limited to taxpayer’s money and of course the golden money from stated owned Petronas:-

The primary problem is one of numbers. In a global policy environment rightly wary of ballooning budget deficits, the fact that the Malaysian government has been in DEFICIT EVERY YEAR since the introduction of the NEP in 1971 (except for a period from 1993 to 1998) is troubling. This is particularly the case since Kuala Lumpur spends much less on social services than do Western governments.

The economic numbers look even more troubling when one considers that around 40 percent of the government’s revenue comes from the state-owned oil and gas giant Petronas.

(Source)

So until the general election passes over and BN regains a sizeable of the votes that they lost in the last general election, do expect more generous gifts from the politicians. But beware of the Pakatan fellows as well who promises a subsidy laden Government if they are chosen. Be mindful to vote for those who work on a long term plan for the people instead of one-off payments to satisfy the masses for quick gains for the next elections.

Happy Chinese New Year and Happy Holidays to all!