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Sakmongkol ak 47

Thursday 30 September 2010

NEM- Najib’s Economic Policies

As far as economic policies to deal with Malays are concerned, thus far, Najib's policies are invisible. We don't see specifics beyond the stylized phrase- market friendly affirmative action.
Tun Razak was a focused man. He was PM. He thought hard about Malay economics. He was connected. In Najib's case, we get a different picture. He hasn't got that connection. I don't know who advises him on economic policies. Maybe it's the NEAC. Or maybe its McKinsey Consulting group. Maybe its Omar Ong and associates who has earned big money to buy himself a bachelor pad worth RM 15 million. Who knows?
The recent carnival-like show, with PowerPoint shots and copious flow of refreshments and energized emceeing ala Jobs or Tom Peters, bear the hallmarks of typical business school presentations. In that sense, Najib has abdicated thought leadership. he wasn't there, preferring the economic plans to be crafted by consultants and presented by the most junior minister.
I would have thought, an economic plan of this magnitude must near the personal imprimatur of the PM himself. It should be the PM himself acting as chief coach the other day. But then maybe it's all part of his strategy- to have the ability to disown aspects of the ETP if they proved to be unpalatable to the public. Belum muktamad.
The new economic model is the alternative approved by Dato Najib to supplant the NEP-like policies. NEP-like policies are policy instruments and not economic theories. We need to recognize these. Tun Razak the architect of the NEP recognized the limitations of unbridled free market economy, with respect to the circumstances by which Malays find themselves in. By circumstances we mean, the overall social, cultural and even political enabling environment that shape the Malay mind and his actions.
These were probably what Tun Razak discovered when he started the NEP. The Malay has the same maximizing postulates but with different emphasis. Let's say, for convenient sake, the Malay values graceful living more. By that we mean, he will not go overboard so as to sacrifice personal comfort for that extra income. If he can earn sufficient to keep body and soul intact, he will not overextend to make the body satisfied at the expense of the soul's discomfort.
Let us further say, even though we don't fault the Malay for having this mindset, we feel its not right and supportive of our desire to build a prosperous country. For that we need a precocious, acquisitive and aggressive spirit. We want to cultivate the willingness to sacrifice personal comfort, adopting a philosophy of wanting to. Wanting more, wanting better, wanting bigger. Always improving on the existing order of things.
How do we re-engineer the conventional Malay mindset? Has the PM applied his mind to address this particular issue? If he doesn't, he is dangerously close to abandoning Tun Razak's legacy?


Political will, the NEM and ETP.


The people who wrote the NEM say, the heart of the model is the political will of the government. In simpler language, it means the government must be ready to not spare the rod.
So far, it has shown a lot of slacks in this department. The PM as the principal driver, has shown himself to be in a state of perpetual diffidence; he can't control the UMNO enforcers, he is easily spooked by Perkasa and is seen to be over eager to please non Malay demands. He believes the success of the NEM and ETP depends on the involvement and support of the non bumis.
The sad part is, that's true. Which group is more economically adaptive and will respond to the 'incentivize' plans of the government? Which group has better stock of knowledge workers? Which group is more competitive? The non bumis.
So what do you do to the to-be-marginalized group? Najib has not addressed this issue sufficiently. It is causing him minus marks. Even UMNO people are questioning his Malay credentials. He is more absorbed into showy PR exercises. He is eager to champion his new philosophy of 1 Malaysia where our ethnic and cultural diversity will be strategically leveraged.
But you have to solve the basic economic issues. You can't write in special positions and such things into economics. You have to devise programs, policies to help them. Policies, and actions help them earn income, not having some provisions written in. so you come up with the nebulous concept of market friendly affirmative action. What is this? If you are already market friendly and driven, you don't need a special category of market friendly affirmative action.
In other words you are saying, you don't have any solid policies to help out the 40% base. But you have policies for the top 20%. For the bottom 40% you have market friendly affirmative action. For the top 20%, you actually have projects for them dropping as it were, like manna from heaven.
In this sense, when the NEAC recommends that the government must have solid political will, it is right. It must have the heart of steel to break the logjam of vested interests. It is also right to point out that the opposition will come mainly from people who are beneficiaries of rent seeking activities.
While it is right in this aspect, it is wrong in identifying those people with the vested interests. Perkasa? Miss by a mile.
The main beneficiaries are ganging up in support of the NEM to ensure that remain beneficiaries and stakeholders to the new plan. bankers, big contractors, direct negotiation bidders, the government's business partners are all there to celebrate the hallelujah-ing the ETP show.
Here is one big contradiction. The NEM and ETP are crafted by technocrats. They say, we must have political will. They also say we must have a process of engagement. Here is the contradiction.
The political will or its lacking are explained by non politicians. Asking 3000 people to come for an exceedingly expensive sandwich party can hardly qualify as a process of engagement and dissemination of the ideas of the NEM. Because it isn't done by politicians or through political channels, it will not have the power backing. The survival of the NEM, the ETP and whatever catchphrases therein, depend on political backing.
The sponsors and promoters of the NEM and ETP have displayed ignorance in not having these two 'projects' communicated by the political machinery..
The majority of the UMNO members, who provide the steel to the heart are not even aware what is the NEM or the ETP. Yet, these will impact on them the most- since they are direct beneficiaries of government big push of strategic policies.
Come on baby, light my fire.
The wheels of the NEM are of course the SRIs- strategic reform initiatives. Phew!
Fire up the private sector so that they will invest in high value added products and services. But of course- the 43-50 billion MRT is a valued added product and service. It is a valuable plan for the sponsors of the plan. The large property development projects involving government land- that is also a high tech value added investment. That would certainly fire the voracious and nefarious appetites of gatekeepers and vested interest groups.
We want to develop quality workforce. Start with raising entry level qualification of those going into government jobs. We must find people who are paid well and won't complain as overworked and underpaid. You get paid commensurate with the qualifications you have.
The NEAC extols the creating of competitive domestic economy. Of course again by employing cutting edge methods such as the Swiss challenge method. Hence MMC-Gamuda for example is invited to propose the building of MRT. Others are invited to counter offer and the first proposer has the first right of refusal. Who are the 'others'?
But here is the clearest indication of lack of political will.


The Council will now seek and incorporate feedback and collaborate with all stakeholders over the next few months to further analyse and detail the policy measures and implementation frameworks.
In other words baby, it is still the age of government knows best. Unfortunately, it's a government that is not sure of its top down policies.


Tuesday 28 September 2010

Neither a command economy nor a government that knows best

The world bank has come up with a report saying that Malaysia is an extreme example of tepid investment. How do we reconcile this report with the glowing assessments of the NEAC's NEM? By the usual Malaysian way- rubbishing the report saying what do others know about us? Just like what the people are now rubbishing Richard's Branson's opinion on the Anwar Ibrahim Trial. By the way, I have written along the same lines just a few articles ago.
The linchpin of the ETP will be private sector investments. The NEM said it. The World Bank is saying the same also. The NEM forgot to mention, the old way of doing business was also and has always been private sector driven- privatize the profits and share the burden with the public.
Which private sector is the NEM talking about? The executive summary of the NEM says, income increases have improved vastly for the top 20%. The bottom 40% of society has suffered badly. Maybe the private sector makes the bulk of the top 20%.
This will further strengthen the arguments that economic and business models in Malaysia are actually from the top 20, by the top 20 and all about the top 20.
So we ask again, when the NEM talks about the private sector, what does it mean really or what does it mean in reality in Malaysia? public perception has it to mean those big players already cornering the businesses in Malaysia. it's a club of Rome fraternity engaged in friendly competition with each other, competing for favors from the top decision maker in this country. Members of that fraternity paints a picture of doom and gloom out there and they offer the out there a solution.
The NEM decried a lot of things. About the lack of innovation and R&D. why doesn't the government publish data on the performance of the top 20% in this respect. What proportion does Berjaya spend its revenue on R&D? what proportion do our top companies spend on RND?
The report also noted that 8% of our workforce has attained only SPM level qualifications. Specifics please. What level SPM? The passable? With 2-3 credits? That means, the majority are mono-linguists. and are insufficiently skilled.  They are unable to compete in the open market and by extension, limits Malaysia's competitiveness in the open economy. The bulk of this 80%- where do they end up? Probably they end up as clerical service providers in government departments or as some low level paid employees in the private sector.
Let me ask again- how do we improve our government delivery service if the majority of its workers are only SPM holders led by heads of department, who themselves have just so so qualifications? The government simply cant. Those SPM holders entering the job market in addition can only offer less better SPM credentials.
Where are the bold reform measures that will unlock value the NEAC speaks about? It spoke about an average growth rate of 6.5% over the next 10 years in order to get us to a GDP per capital level of YSD 17k. It acknowledges we have a strong manufacturing sector dominated by electronics and electrical industries. Yet it is still espousing expanding on this industry which it has already admitted to having a large import content. We are just sub-contractors then; we haven't grown our own timber.
The basic solution to inclusiveness is social mobility without which, social frictions and antagonism will take over. The inclusiveness that we are actually talking about is creating accessibility. The social mobility that we must talk about is the mobility of the bottom 40% getting into the foyer of the club of Rome fraternity. When we continue to have sharp class divisions, animosity will build up and eventually boil over.
At the root of social mobility and inclusiveness talked but by the NEAC must be a reward system- a system that rewards the more intelligent, the more talented and the more hardworking with better incomes and rewards. Otherwise, the slogan of bold reform measure remain what they are- just empty slogans justifying the high fee in preparing the various labs across the country.
Which leads us to the important market friendly affirmative actions offered by the NEM. What are these? These are actions designed to enhance the capacity of the bottom 40%. These are actions designed to meet needs as opposed to meeting of quotas or some legislative defined status.
What does the term market friendly affirmative actions mean operationally? In order to know and understand the term, we have to know what it DOES NOT mean first. Unfriendly affirmative actions are the product of an eco-system. Big sounding word no? the main features of the unfriendly ecosystem?- vested interests, market distortions and rent seeking activities. All these combined to undermine productivity and entrepreneurship.
So where are the bold audacious moves to remove these? We dare not move beyond the NEPish demands reflecting the lack of political will which the NEAC underscores as sine qua non for the success of the NEM and ETP. We have not moved beyond the encirclement of vested interests which submitted many of the EPPs and the BOs in the ETP.
What do you put in place in the ecosystem? One central command type with other central command types? Privatize the economic planning? Privatize the role of government? The government steps aside and let the private sector ( not free market) takes over? Then you replace one type of command centre with another. This is what the NEAC says:-


The NEAC advocates a new, bold approach to obtain the right eco-system where efficient markets can operate to produce equitable outcomes. The vicious cycles of vested interests have to be broken to remove distortions and rent-seeking activities, all of which undermine productivity and entrepreneurship so vital in creating a vibrant economy.


As to the enabling environment, the NEAC proclaims:-
The private sector will be the main driver of growth in a market environment that rewards innovation and creativity while the government will generally be the provider of public goods and the custodian of public interests through an effective regulatory framework. Well-governed and leaner government institutions will be held accountable to performance-based outcomes in line with the GTP. They will be staffed with highly qualified, flexible, dynamic individuals with multi-tasking capabilities. Private firms, non-government entities and the civil society will aspire to internationally accepted governance.
The key word here is effective regulatory framework. I have already talked about the inconsistency of rejecting collectivism by pushing individualist values, but in the end, coming out with collectivist solutions.


Monday 27 September 2010

Government support system and the ETP

The executive summary of the NEM says, vision 2020 is not possible without economic, social and governmental transformation. I am not trying to run down the 10 people who sat as members in creating the thick document, but this fact is already a known parameter. Its belaboring the obvious.
We have known for example, the secret of good government is good people. By good people we mean, qualified, dedicated and determined civil service. Consisting of people who understand the mission of this country is to provide solutions to the public.
I hope Najib's plan's for Malaysia, impregnated with a myriad of acronyms, will bear fruition. This country must never be deluded into believing, that we can progress based on some catchy phrases. Why don't we just shut up and just do it? The whole reason for being in power and we putting others in power is so that they can manage our economy well. Don't care how we want to measure it- we just want better opportunities, better material wellbeing, housing, jobs and business opportunities. We can get diarrhea with a diet of so many phrases.
Let's ask some awkward questions. What is the proportion of the ETP that is focused on solving economic problems of the poor? We seemed to be talking more about large infra jobs which are spoken for by the big players; we have these businesses probably underwritten by CIMB, we have BOs that are also probably reserved for some people. What about linking economically depressed region such as in Kelantan and Terengganu to the mainstream? Invigorate business activities there and promote small businesses. How much is allocated to small and medium sized businesses?
We are not aware of this emphasis because the whole plan is from, by and for the elite.
I have written, if the government is serious about income distribution, impose a moratorium on the big players- Berjayas YTLs, SP Setias, and all others. We are simply tired of reading about the same people being given big deals- MRCB, Gamuda, MMC and all these. You mean after all these salad day years, they are still not able to compete in the open market? Yet at the same time, we are asking the public, the outsiders to compete on their own?
The ETP show is about mesmerizing people that something is afoot but as often the case, everything has been decided.
Let's start with the GTP- Government Transformation Program. In the previous administration, this was the bane of governance. Delivery system which is fouled up by little napoleons. Those pesky, overbearing and pretending to be clever civil servants.
How do we transform the civil service? By dishing out palliatives, afraid of saying things as they are?
The immediate solution in my mind, is to open up the civil service for talented people. I suspect, that many in the civil service got to where they are today, because the civil service was the only avenue for career opened to them. They wouldn't make it in the non civil service for the simple reason they are not qualified enough.
We can't do anything about this anymore. We can't fire them. But we can determine the future profiling. Make the entry qualifications to enter government service higher. I mean higher across the board. To ensure the services by the government are delivered by qualified people. Let's stop being sentimental about this. Government service shouldn't be treated as dumping ground for academic rejects and mediocre material. Lets demand a certain high standard and ensure we bring in talent that supports that demand for high standards.
Will this step run afoul with article 153 of the constitution? That article does indeed stipulate that certain positions are to be filled by Bumiputeras. It didn't say however that they must be filled by ANY Bumiputera. Why not better qualified Bumiputeras? We cannot believe that after so many years and after donkey years of churning out degree holders, there aren't a critical mass of better qualified Bumiputeras? Let them hold top positions. But insist the other positions be filled up by good talent.
You simply can't improve the delivery of services using mediocre talent.
What has the government done to improve efficiency and competence of government servants? There isn't really competition there if the service is dominated by one race. There isn't sufficient quality if the entry level qualifications are so so. Yet each year, to placate civil servants the PM will appear on TV to say, we honor our civil servants because they have done a good job , blah blah. Which is not entirely true. The service is slow, the quality of officers is questionable.
Those people talking about the GTP have not talked openly about the issue of talent in the civil service and in government. If we don't open up our civil service, it will atrophy. It is a simple observation of experience. If we don't open up and cultivate competition to get into government service, we get what ails our service now- little Napoleonism. The imposition of pettiness by mediocre talent that fouls up delivery service.


Sunday 26 September 2010

Najib and the ETP

We are not going to take away any credit from those people doing the ETP show. A lot of thinking and skunk work have gone into preparing such an elaborate showcase of , what is really , a business plan for Malaysia. it's a thick document- reflecting, says the chief presenter, the government's political will.
But I can also argue that the ETP is also a product by the do-gooders and a product also of special interest groups. The do gooders are of course our politicians and leaders who think, the public should be taken care of by meticulous planners ensconced somewhere in Putrajaya. The special interest groups are of course the well connected business groups who are pushing for their projects to be adopted as either EPPs or BOs.
The conspiracy of these two groups, as I said in an earlier essay constitutes to me, disguised collectivism hiding behind the overt declaration, that we are pushing for free market system. Not a few people are easily taken in by the argument, that this ETP is a celebration of free market economics. It is private sector driven of course when the private sector involved consists of mainly the same old market players. It does not offer an opening up of the economic game.
I will still maintain my argument, that the ETP is a signal for the further strengthening of the idea that the government knows best. I have no quarrel if the government that knows best is a good government consisting of equally good people.
I have a simple test of this view. Last year, the government unveiled the biggest deficit budget as a fraction of the GDP in our history. Surely that is a sign of an enlarged government, not a ' work in progress' towards smaller government. The ETP is still going to be 40% financed by the government, directly through government agencies, indirectly through GLCs. The private sector will also be provided with cheap financing to jumpstart the economy. All in all, government participation is still going to be a dominant one. Therefore, in actuality, many of those who profess the most individualistic objectives support collectivist/command centre means without recognizing the contradiction.
The ETP is premised on unleashing the energies of individual economic actors or it should have been so. There are already two forces that will work against the achievement of the targets of the ETP. One, as we have said, the ETP can only be achieved within the context of a liberal order in which government activity is limited primarily to establishing the framework within which individuals can pursue their own business objectives. That is not going to happen under the ETP regime- the bulk of the businesses are going to be cornered by a few people. We haven't yet established a culture and tradition of operating with libertarian and democratic values.
The second force that will gnaw into the success of the ETP will be the government itself. Our civil service's excellent quality is only a politically correct assessment. In reality it is far from efficient and corruption is pervasive. The government is simply inefficient. The government has proven inept at managing enterprises, organizing and applying of resources to economic pursuits. It is often mired in bureaucratic confusion and inefficiency.
So to me we haven't addressed two underlying issues. One, the establishment of a regime cultivating the right values that open up market and invite participative capitalism. Two, we haven't re-structure the government and administrative machinery to support the ETP.
Here is our main contention. Our economy is not plan driven. This is my point. Our economy grows as a result of the many responses by business units. It's easy to mislead the public by giving a picture of an economic model, in which the inputs are fed by selected business units. Then, the business plan which is presented, is actually an amalgam of individual business plans by those who have been called in to submit. It's impossible for the government to capture the myriads of business decisions and responses. We don't plan our economy on huge input-output tables ala Mahalanobis where we perform the various mathematical operations.
The business of government like that said by the prominent banker, is to step aside and let the business community do its job. But it is even truer if he had said, that the business community shouldn't be confined to a selected few.
How do we know, the private sector and other players cannot come out with a better deal for the public? How do we know for certain for example, the 43 billion MRT project proposed an sponsored by Gamuda-MMC, couldn't be had at a far cheaper cost? We don't know because, to the government, private sector means, certain pre qualified private companies. The business of government, is to create the right framework within which we operate at the maximum. We invest in the apparatuses of governance- rule of law, administrative competencies, education, technology and business opportunities.


Saturday 25 September 2010

The minimum wage level issue.


No one has yet studied the consequences of the push for a minimum wage. What would this requirement impact on employers? On the private sector for example? Economically, employers would react this way. If I have to pay a certain minimum level of wages per month, then I will want to make my money worth. I will want to employ those competent workers that justify my paying a certain level of salary or wage.

Now, what would be a direct effect of that? A direct effect would be to discriminate against those who don't have the required level of competencies that warrant my paying. It means, we exclude from the labor market those who don't satisfy our requirements?

Suppose we look into the unemployment profile? Which category of people remain largely unemployed? They are those with less educational levels, posses insufficient skills and have a generally lower competency levels. if we look further, this group of people is likely to be composed of Malays and probably Indians too.

So, if we insist on minimum wage levels, what is the magnitude of those excluded from the labor market. And the majority excluded will be Malays and Indians.

Suppose we go ahead to implement a minimum wage level comprising of say a basic salary plus COLA of a certain amount. This would definitely be a help on existing employees, who will benefit directly.

But it will also discriminate against those who are about to enter the labour market. Even the university graduates. If the minimum wage level is accepted, it will also push the level of wages of those on top of the salary chain.

Again, as an employer I would justify the paying of a certain level of wage by hiring the more competent. I will want a multi linguist- a person who can speak Malay and English well would certainly be value added to me.

So while the minimum wage argument is good for people already in industry, those who are about to enter the labor market will be discriminated against. These will those with less education, lesser skills and lower competencies. Women and working age children will be most affected.

Malays will be most affected too.



The most popular film stars now should be Shia Labeouf and Megan Fox. They are stars in the box office film Transformers. They should be, because the whole nation is now transfixed over the idea of transforming into a high income country. Transform is the key word these days.
We want to become autobots. The thousands of pasar malam traders will be selling their wares directly off the 15 ton, 10 ton, 5 ton lorries parked in giant fields I suppose. After selling, no littering please, they can go back to their homes, park their travelling mini markets in some community parking areas, built, managed and operated of course by some business facilitators. We are gripped by the idea of becoming autobots.
To spice things a bit, let's use GNI- gross national income instead of our usual GDP. GDP is only for UMNOniks who swallow the concept hook , line and sinker at the UMNO General Assemblies. They probably don't know the difference anyway. GNI is GDP plus income earned by nationals abroad. That's why we want to build malls in China and Vietnam. Good morning Vietnaaam!.
Maybe the idea of building malls come from the Lion Group which has been successful in malls in China. William Cheng saved his business by setting up Parkson in China. Not forgetting the government lent him money to save his business. Many other chinamen have done the same. Malaysia should do the same. Never mind if the profits cannot be repatriated. The profits and value of the investments will count as GNI and will help raise te income to USD 15k.
I am just warming up on this issue. I will write first from a philosophical view point first. Please don't read if this is hard reading. I am not responsible for failed hearts and feeble minds. I will come to the details later when I get more information. I am now receiving material on the ETP open day. Some people say, detractors are writing as mere arm chair critics. So, ignore them. They are of no consequence. They are jealous of Jala. So on and so forth.
Some people have mistakenly treated our criticisms ( I am not the only one writing on this topic) as Jala Bashing. No this is isn't Jala Bashing. My articles have frequently appeared on Malaysian Insider- I am not aware if they are giving me a lot of promotion. I don't even know if the articles I wrote will appear in TMI. I read one commentator said, who am I to write anything about Jala when he has succeeded in Shell and became chairman of SMDS and all that- that's Shell Middle Distillates I think, based in Bintulu. The project was about to come off the ground as I was leaving Shell. Of course that particular commentator has not heard of me- he was flying in a low tech helicopter and his HAIR is low level. For his information, I got into Shell through SIPC and if he is from Shell he will know where it is. And let me be blunter since he has brought up the subject- if in the late 70s a Bumi only gets into USM then, we ALL know his entry level qualifications!. So don't pull academic ranks here.
The point is this. Many of my generations have gone through so many fanfare-ish spectacles about grandiose plans and have gone through the history of so many GLCs. The only outcome that has occurred with such regularity, is FAILURE. Just to tell readers, when I was a state assemblyman from the government of the day, I wasn't shy asking the state government to close down the premier SEDC because it has incurred losses after losses and can't compete in the market.
That being the case, no one can blame any of us, if we approach the subject of ETP, EPPs and all that acronymed entities with a little bit of cynicism and sarcasm. Show us one success story and there are 10 horror stories to tell.
Transforming the PASAR TANIS.
We refined fellows are revolted at the sight of rubbish strewn about after pasar malam traders do their business. Let's do a business model for them. Why not ask them to buy special purpose lorries complete with shelving, air-conditioned space, maybe an in-house Flat TV Screen. We will built for them it's easy to influence the government right now. then we build special purpose Karavan premises. Lorries can only go there. They will pay some minimal fees structured according to the size of their caravans. Then, we won't see dirty places anymore. This will create spill-over ecological multiplier effects.
So, after looking at the Karavan business model- I am telling my lorry owner friends here- lu orang jangan jual lori lama ok. Sebab nanti lu orang boleh modify became travelling supermarket. Lu tengok itu stadium Darul Makmur- nanti saya kasi proposal sama itu Pahang MB, kasi bukak itu stadium, sebab saya mahu bikin Pasar Tani gergasi. Nanti itu semua lori, 30 ton, 20 ton atau 10 semua dengan itu shelving serupa itu Giant punya shelves, serupa itu Tesco, serupa itu Carrefour , serupa itu One Utama, kita bikin cantik ada tangga, orang boleh naik atas itu lori. Kasi semua peniaga pasar tani dapat wang lebih. Kita mahu kick out itu tesco, itu Pakson, itu apa apa lah. Kita mahu seribu jebat si anak tani, take matters into their own hands and sell direct. Tidak perlu kita bincang peranan orang tengah lagi. Ungki Aziz punya ekonomik tiori sudah lapuk.
Of course there will be proposals by people to design and build special carawans for our petanis. The vendor would have been named already. Perhaps it is one of those government losing concerns which, if not for government projects would have gone under a long time ago. These will be sold on preferential terms I hope, financed by CIMB or any other Islamic finance outfits. HSBC and Public Bank are all more Islamic than other banks in dishing our Islamic financial services.
People mocked me when I say these are all business plans from the elite, by the elite and for the elite. Idris Jala says people staying in PD can stay there , enjoy their same lifestyle and ride the bullet train to KL to work. The lines will be built by an already identified vendor and supplier. The coaches will be supplied by Mumtaz Jaafar. The spill over effects( maybe this is the multiplier effects he was talking about) will be reaped by those big guns who have large land banks to the south of Kuala Lumpur. People in Negeri Sembilan like DR Gan Kong Seng who was was given a few thousand acres by Isa Samad, the big GLCs such as Slime Sime Darby,to maybe people like Tony Fernandez.
My own theory is, the fanfare show is actually an amalgamation of the various plans submitted by private companies each furthering their own business plans. Hence Gamuda probably sent in the proposal on the RM 43 billion MRT, SP Setia because they are setia to the Agung and the people of Malaysia after that, will build a liveable KL with houses costing 5 million apiece and exclude all the riffraff and all that.
How do we know, there aren't cheaper alternatives? There aren't simply because only selected vendors and contractors were invited to submit plans. The other unknown entities are disqualified because they have no track records or their proposals do not meet the guidelines of PMCs. We know it was a PMC that disqualified China Railways from building the double tracking line from Gemas to JB.


Friday 24 September 2010

The rise of Najibnomics-1

Let me qualify what I want to write first. In person, Dato Seri Najib is an exceedingly decent fellow. I will readily admit that as a person, he is someone whom we can turn to for help. He has all the refined mannerisms, testimony of course of a good upbringing. I don't think people can dispute these. But I am not going to make an article about love fest. We can go on and on singing praises if we choose to.
That aside, I shall be failing in my duty as a citizen, if I don't offer criticisms on matters related to him in his capacity as leader of this country. His leadership, his economic ideas, his politics. I want to tell readers it's not easy to balance personal feelings and the demands of intellectual integrity. I was a division committee member of the Pekan UMNO division, his information chief during the wilderness years( 2004-2008), a state assemblyman from his area( 2004-2008).
Therefore I have chosen to write, as the late Professor Paul Samuelson said, from the heart, sans malice.
Nothing excites anyone currently than the ETP. Economic Transformation Plan. So I shall write on this.
I shall refrain from going into details of the ETP- Economic Transformation Program. Some people say it's a smorgasbord. I have used that term before and so this time I used a local flavor- the term rojak. 
There is actually a better term to describe our present euphoria over the business plans. Its Najibnomics.
What does the Najibnomics ETP contain? It has 131 entry point projects( ouch) and 60 business opportunities that will be casted into our country's economic mainstream. The objective is to propel our economy to a high income economy.
The blogger Outsyed The box has carried out a detailed dissection of the ETP. There appears to be a sense of dejection in his narration. Just like him, Malaysians in general are mere spectators. Because the entity in the driver's seat, aptly named Pemandu said that seven of the EPPs worth US$37 billion have named serious investors while 12 EPPs worth US$10 billion are at the MoU stage.
What that means, my friends, all are spoken for. So what the ETP essentially is a business plan by the elite for the elite. It's an economic plan from the elite, by the elite, for the elite. These are the core elements of Najibnomics. The same business elite are still getting the bigger slices.
Why has it turned into this? Because, basically, the age of government knows best, far from being diminished is fortified further. When we start from the premise that we know best, we micromanage everything, all the time believing we are furthering the cause of economic freedom and the celebration of the voluntary cooperation of economic actors.
I am going to argue, that is the blatant volte face from our earlier declaration that the age of the government knows best is over. That was pure rhetoric and a heap of BS. This ETP in its present form is just the embodiment of enlarged government and collectivist tendencies. Except now, the deceit is more subtle.
The promotion of collectivism is combined with the declaration and profession of individualist values. Hence very early on, on this basis, the 6th PM was able to solemnly declare, the age of government knows best is over. Many of us climaxed on hearing that because we thought it was a revolutionary idea that is going to herald the rise of freedom in the widest sense of the word. In economics, it suggested liberalisation and downsizing of government.
The ETP is the personification of the every notion of the age of government knows best. In actuality, the people don't know, are not aware and left as gawking spectators exclaiming the ooohs and aahhs. Not sure whether those sounds are sounds of sexual bemoaning.
The ETP as the public face of Najibnomics unveiled recently , was just that- allowing the people to see what has been done. It's all done, even if the PM were to later say, these are all at the lab stage- nothing finalised yet. We have paid large sums of money to get these business plans out, making it ridiculous to term them as being preliminary plans.
Indeed, the notion of big government which the PM appeared initially to be against, is on the rise, not decline. But the language is more artful.
We hear little of central planning. Instead we hear more of concern about the urban crisis solvable it is said by expanded government programs. Hence the Klang giver or whatever river, will become the river of life. The millions of people will be provided housing under the direction and inducement of the government.
We hear more people turning green- suddenly championing the causes of climate and ecology. The environmental catastrophe it is said, produced by rapacious businessmen who must be forced to discharged or persuaded to carry out CSR. The only compliant rapacious business people it seems are already identified and known and they were on parade during the open day.
What is missing so far? The initial idea of ushering in an age of less and smaller government can only happen within an individualistic society. This can be achieved only in a liberal order in which the government activity is limited primarily to establishing the framework within which individuals are free to pursue their own objectives.
So when Nazir Tun Razak and others said its time for government to take a back seat, it means just that. But I fear, his and other's voices are whispers from the fringes. The central politburo boys are taking over.



Thursday 23 September 2010

ETP, EPPs- rojaking our way to a high income economy

In effect, Jala is announcing a huge stimulus package containing a slew of entry point projects and whatever he wishes to term them bringing with them vast amounts of funds acquired on preferential terms I suppose. We are going to be drowned in our own saliva soon. It's all in the name of ETP. Economic Transformation.
Let us just say its disguised stimulus package. The EPF money is there. Baitul Mal is there, Tabung Haji and what not. Husni Hanazlah said it, we want to facilitate the private sector? How? Kasi pinjam dengan kadar faedah yang murah lah. Apa lagi.
Will they create jobs? Will they stimulate education and competencies? Will they lead to transforming wealth distribution? Will they build capacity? Will the EPP stimulate higher education needs and therefore fulfil our requirements for better educated, higher skilled workforce. It seems to me, its very logical premise to transform our economy into a higher income economy if we among other things(1) acquire, import technologies from rich countries (2) have a more educated and trained workforce and (3) cultivate ourselves to be competitive.
Will they create equal opportunities? I can see the sharks are already circling there- the Gamudas. The YTLs. Syed Mokhtars, the SP Setias, Berjayas etc. These are the prime movers of the ETP. Punters are looking out for the stocks of these companies. Out of the thousands in attendance, these are the chosen few who can deliver the ETP.
Spill over effects or slow trickle down? The sources of growth according to Jala's presentation are:-
  • The ETP projects will provide RM1.258 trillion or 74% of the country's gross national income (GNI) of RM 1.7 trillion by 2020.
  • The remaining 26% is expected to come from non-ETP project sectors.
The RM 1.7 trillion GNI growth contributions in 2020 will come from the following sources:-
31% from the 133 Entry Point Projects (EPPs), RM527 billion.
10% from EPPs multiplier effects, RM 170 billion.
33% from the 60 Business Opportunities (BOs), RM561 billion.
26% of incremental growth from other non-ETP projects, RM442 billion.

All these will generate 100% impacts? Are they over and above an economy that has reached full employment? They will just bounce off and a full blown investment will generate a 1 to 1 return? No leakages? ? No portion of those investments are sucked into depression portions of the existing economy?
It seems quite some time ago, I think I touched on the subject of the multiplier effects of spending. In the aftermath of Obama administration's huge stimulus spending, there was intense debate for example, on the effects of such spending on the US economy. The idea was the Keynesian solution. Spending will create the multiplier effects on the economy.
According to simple Keynesian models, the rationale for increased government spending during a recession is straightforward. We are in recession aren't we? We must accept this. People are already talking about double dip recession. Here our planners( fatally conceited of course) are talking outlandish economics. A future of plenty, overflowing with milk and honey.
But let me clear this issue that has bugged me. The most irksome thing that I have had to handle is this accusation that whatever is spoken against Idris Jala constitutes Jala Bashing. I think whoever thinks and sees it that way, must have elevated Jala to a cult figure or to a stature ill deserved by Jala. Hello friend, he was just an ordinary Sarawak Bumiputera who got into Shell under the bumi ticket long time ago. I am trying to contain my frustration here. Jala is not at all important in this discussion. I treat him or anyone else equally harsh. If it had been anyone else doing the Pemandu glitz show, I will say the same things. Readers forget that I was also from Shell and there, this cultist deference is non existence. So, OK, you have made it big but not necessarily on substance. So we tear Jala as just any other ordinary bloke who has come across a good fortune. Good for him.
But if he falters, we are not going to pull back our punches are we? If he dishes out preposterous and outlandish economics, we are not going to keep quiet are we? Jala or no Jala, we will criticise where necessary. So stop hiding behind this Idris Jala bashing. How clever can he be that shields him from criticism?
Back to spending. Jala is actually prescribing vast spending right? RM 1.7 trillion into our economy. We are not even mindful of inflationary effects. Under the impression that we are already operating at full employment, because whatever is invested yields a 1 to 1 return, we will incur inflation. If we haven't, then a large portion of the total investments will fill up those sectors that have suffered from the recent technical recession rendering a less than 1 to 1 returns on investments.
Now, according to the Keynesian-ish rationale, if governments employ underutilized labour and capital when they spend more, that provides an immediate boost to employment and output. Ok so far?
A further stimulus comes from the spending by the owners of the unemployed labour and capital who benefit from the government spending. Their spending helps multiply the effects of the government spending still further, and so does spending by the recipients of this second round of spending. At each round, the recipient of any spending, will spend in turn. The total impact is the sum of all these separate boosts, and its ratio to the initial level of government spending is called the spending multiplier. What is the size of the multiplier in which Jala premises his proposal? Which economics textbook? Which economic school of thought?
I find it a rarity to discover a multiplier of 10% as storied by Jala. In the US, after Obama approved of stimulus spending, a study by Dr. Christina Romer, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, said the spending multiplier during the recession was high. Soon after, her findings were disputed.
Jala's optimism may have ignored several considerations. First, there here is often a long delay between presentations of a spending packages, enactment of a law providing for the spending, and the actual spending. In the US for example, it was several years after Obama took office, they are still saddled with the balance of the expenditure package. In the meantime, the economy first hit bottom, followed a modest recovery in unemployment. The long lag between open day, enactment, and actual spending is an old criticism of fiscal stimulus even by very committed Keynesians.
Are the spending plans and expenditures directed at problem areas or are they going to be applied as though on a neutral economic environment? The whole spending program appears to treat as though our economy has not suffered at all. Suppose the entry point projects mentioned by Jala are absorbed into their respective but badly affected sectors, the new EPPs will not create a 100% impact. Some of the impacts are absorbed by the depressed portion of that particular economic sector. Example. Suppose that construction section/infrastructure sector has declined 20% during the recent technical recession. This will mean, 20% of the new EPPs will be absorbed by the 20% vacuum leaving a net impact of 80%. This will suggest that much of Jala's optimism is overstretched. That means even at the starting point, you have a carry-over of deficit.
Hence when Idris Jala recently said, 10% of the growth of what will be generated by multiplier effects, as an economist I find this difficult to validate. . Now, I and many people want to know, what kind of industry can generate a 10% multiplier effect. So far , the only industry that can generate such a multiplier effect is the racketeering industry ala Ponzi scheme. If that is the case, I think, the government should employ the likes of Pak Man Telo to be the head of Pemandu.


Wednesday 22 September 2010

The Government’s worse enemies- public apathy and cynicism.


The worse enemy faced by the government of the day? Public apathy and cynicism.

The ultimate decision makers influencing the outcome of any elections are the majority. They are at once unidentifiable yet recognizable as an entity powerful enough to affect the life of a government.

Simply identified as just the majority. A boon and yet also a curse. A boon if they can be kept submissive, a curse when their consciousness and awareness are no longer controllable. They are natural cynics. I shall explain how.

They don't see the big picture. Not because they are not as smart as the banquet room crowd, but because they refused to be browbeaten and pushed over by the opinions of their more sophisticated brethren. They refuse to accept one that is foisted upon them. Their world view is shaped according to a black and white paradigm. Simple and operational. Yes or no.

Hence for example in the ongoing case involving Anwar Ibrahim, they think it's all some conspiracy hatched by power seekers. People are already fed up, hearing the same old story about being butt rammed. Has the government nothing else to do? And people are talking with increasing loudness. Is this the way the government of the day handles Anwar Ibrahim? It has nothing in its rotten arsenal to overcome Anwar Ibrahim but prey on his foible?

In my personal opinion, this is a battle that the government may win but will lose a war for. People generally believe that Anwar has this habit since his college days. He is a faggot, a gay, but so what? Many of his classmates and schoolmates at MCKK say he isn't. so we don't actually know.

But just for argument sake- assume that he is. All the people who have been associated with him were all the softie types- strengthening suspicions that maybe Anwar does have a liking for the effeminate boys. His latest accuser, whom he called the coffee boy is no different.

But here is what the men in the street are talking. Yes Anwar has got this habit but it becomes a wrong censored by our laws and society only when it became public- i.e. the victim who was a willing participant in the first instance, decided to squeal. If Saiful the beautiful coffee boy had not squeaked as the rat he is, then the sin remains between Anwar and Saiful. Society is none the worse off. The people are saying that if but for this habit, they see Anwar as a good leader.

Further, here is how the mind of the man in street thinks. There must be some shadowy power behind Saiful encouraging him to the seductive partner. The powers that be, are fully aware of Anwar's sexual preferences. So they planted a jambu boy in Anwar's camp telling him if ever Anwar were to make advances of the sexual kind, he is to play along. For that he will be paid handsomely. Saiful of course is known as jambu in any case such that, to place him in sexual harm's way wasn't really that despicable.

I am at a loss to explain the simple logic of the men in the street. I am not going to be judgmental on the general perceptions of the people. If they think along these lines, I am not sure the government of the day can win the natural cynics of the majority.

What can we learn from practice? To my mind it is this. People are generally unmoved by bizarre actions taken by the government. If they are not going to be moved to accept a bizarre storyline involving Anwar Ibrahim, they will be equally unmoved by the bizarre and grandiose economic schemes of the government.

Put simply, they don't care unless actions by the government bring immediate perceptible changes in their daily lives, they are unlikely to be influenced by government initiatives. Indeed they see what the government is doing, is to find 1001 excuses to justify using tax payers money.

So Idris Jala can impress whoever are gullible; Najib can even build a MRT directly to his official residence, buy a nuclear submarine, built a nuclear plant, whatever- people just don't give a damn anymore. What can the government do to win people over? So to paraphrase the Sarawakian, no hope for the future, no power for the present.


The Idris Jala Show


I am tired of this overused excuse by anyone telling everyone that Idris Jala is not a politician. So? That caveat is supposed to confer on Idris Jala some sort of extraordinary quality that sets him apart from the thieving politicians? Or worse, to provide Idris Jala an immunity for his next faux pas?
My blood pressure goes up a few notches when I can already see some sycophantic writers and bloggers sing like drunk canaries waxing lyrical over the latest government initiatives in perking up the economy. Something like Johan Jaafar, who is now somewhere up in Media Prima, years ago who looked at Anwar's speeches and rendering of the Budget as something revolutionary. So too, people will see the current PM, in terms of dishing out projects greater and grander than previous PMs, will be regarded as most revolutionary.
Some people do indeed get wet dreams watching PowerPoint presentations. But then, maybe I shouldn't be too harsh over the many guests at the Idrs Jala show. I guess many of them are government civil servants and I pity them, if Idris Jala and his other co presenters spoke in English. I hope no one asks for a glass of cock, I mean coke.
But these are the people( civil servants and wage earners) who, in the scheme of Jala's things, are the vanguard to turbo drive our economy to trillion level GNI and thus make us have a per capita income of USD 15,000. Hurrah!.
What do we see as the driving catalysts for our economic transformation? A huge casino in Sabah. Maybe that's because there so many rich people in Sabah. Then, mostly real estate projects- new KL city, Sungai Besi land, MRT etc. these will be cash cows for the private sector. The oil and gas industry, biotechnology etc.
Maybe I have been an outsider in the economics profession for so long so as not to appreciate that investments in real estate are the driving force of the economy. Maybe I am old school still believing that the driver for economic growth will be our productive capacity, our competitiveness, our competencies and hard work.
But Idris Jala and his co drivers have succeeded in enthralling the PM and his economics-challenged leaders with grandiose plans involving billion Ringgit MRT, beautifying the KL city, cleaning up the river, constructing a bullet train linking Guan Eng's Country, through Putrajaya to Kuan Yew's Singapore. It's all the property bubble baby which sooner or later will burst.
Of course the businessmen in attendance are already salivating when its stated that private sector will provide the impetus. Heck, I too can do all the highways and MRT's if I am given soft loan from the EPF. See the road in front of Mid Valley? It's all EPF's money.
Just you wait, apply some pressure and I am sure, the PM says, all these are still at laboratory stage affirming the moniker of the PM that is fast gaining popularity- Najib TPM, Najib Tak Pernah MUktamad.
Don't care if you are or are not a politician. That does not excuse anyone from suffocating us with stupidity and banalities.
I thought sometime ago, this was the same fellow who warned Malaysians if they don't buck up, this country will go bankrupt. How will it go bankrupt? If we carry on spending like nobody's business such as spending indiscriminately on welfare and subsidies and so forth. In short it means any spending on unproductive enterprise or spending on welfare beneficiaries is leading this country to bankruptcy.
Now, if we go along this line of argument, accepting it as general rule that the biggest recipient of benefits in our country are the Malays, then the policies that could bring down this country, are the NEPish policies. Might as well if Jala had said, that our country will be bankrupt if we follow Malay centric affirmative policies. We must spend wisely only on productive and competitive agents.
Why can't Najib go to the people to say, look we can't operate on current policies. If we do, we will become this and this. We want to implement new economics. This is what people must do and Malays must do. We keep a look out for the poor and the infirmed and less endowed. The way out is for Malays to become more competent, more productive. We will help out these economic agents. Malays have nothing to fear. We are still the majority in this country. we have our constitution and we have our historical validation. Give something back to the Malays who feel far too much  has been taken from them.
The problem as I have said in many articles, Najib hasn't communicated well to the masses. He has only spoken to the banquet RSVP  room crowd  full of smoked salmon socialites.
Can the slew of high profile projects, be the answer in raising our competitiveness and productivity? Spending on unproductive enterprise yield no return and represent leakages to the economy . But equally so is reckless spending, spending not based on fundamentals.
Everyone is euphoric over the announcement of the same minister now. we are now suffocated with all sorts of grandiose ideas that- wait a second, not call for prudent and disciplined spending, but spending without a care in the world. Where is the money coming from?
We are inundated with all sort of ideas coming out from labs. How does it all fit together? As it stands, there is now the Government Transformation Programme (GTP), the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP), the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), the National Key Result Areas (NKRAs), the National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs),  the New Economic Model (NEM), and the Strategic Reform Initiatives (SRIs), leading to concerns that the various initiatives risk becoming a confusing rojak of acronyms.
Are we addressing the quality and needs based educational requirements? Is our education system ready to supply the 3.3 million competent and knowledgeable workers to fill the jobs that have been PROJECTED to be created by the EPPs and BOs?
Maybe Perkasa should look into this. The core element of the NEM and the ETP is to make the private sector the main driving force of the economy. Funds of USD444 billion will be required for the EPPs and BOs, 92 per cent of which is targeted to come from the private sector including GLCs. Do the GLCs have the money and will the Private sector be enticed to spend?
They will I think if cheap funds are available. Right now the cheapest and easiest source of soft loans is the EPF. That's our money. So, we tell Jala, just as spending on the things he mentioned can bankrupt this country, reckless application of OUR money can also do the job even more devastatingly.


Tuesday 21 September 2010

The Tonto Test

The UMNO president and PM advised leaders to remain humble and be non discriminatory in their treatment of the people. I am beginning to see the lighter side of things, in increasingly many of the PM's statements.
Take the above advice for example. Leaders are men of higher purpose, goodwill and humble hearts. I like these lines.
Why? Because if these leaders are ( I assumed he is speaking of UMNO and BN leaders foremost in his mind),  men of high principles, goodwill and humble hearts,  they will voluntarily step aside so that men of higher principles, more good will and humbler hearts will take over. When the time comes.
I hope if BN loses the general elections, they will honour the judgement of the people and accept the choice by the rakyat to allow, men of humbler countenance, men of higher purpose and men with humbler hearts to take over.

I hope the UMNO leaders especially the PM will be consistent in dishing out homilies and home-spun wisdoms concocted during  euphoric moments such as amidst the joyful serenades of Hari Raya. .
Otherwise, I am inclined to think, the PM and UMNO president who lately has a penchant of using lab-language is using the 3 monkeys test. Remember , he has urged Malaysians to use a test in ethnic relationships.
What is the 3 monkeys test? You know them as see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.
So, you see no evil if it's done by UMNO and BN leaders, you hear no evil unless it's done by non UMNO and BN people and speak no evil, unless you want to on non UMNO and BN people.
So in the spirit of offering a test for almost all situation, I want to offer a test called the Tonto Test. People of my generation will remember the stories of the Lone Ranger and his faithful sidekick, Tonto.
We know a common thread links many leaders of the present government. It is this- share troubles with the people, but convert benefits for your private purpose. When you face problems, you go back to the people. When you see benefits, take them for yourselves.
We are now facing a similar situation. The Lone Ranger( read the government) is now facing a lot of problems. Like the Lone Ranger, he suddenly finds himself encircled by hostile Indians- a thousand Sioux to the front, 3 thousand Iroquois to the rear, thousands of Apaches led by  Ibrahim Ali Geronimo on either side. The lone Ranger turned to Tonto and said, " it looks bad for us , old pal.
This is when , we the rakyat will employ the Tonto Test. If that question is ever asked of  us the next time, we will reply. " what do you mean, "us" Kemo Sabe?




Monday 20 September 2010

Nazri Aziz is what Nazri Aziz does


Nazri Aziz, the man who I called UMNO's Wyatt Earp, is an enigma. How do we handle him? Supporters of Dr. Mahathir would like to hang him by his testicles, if they can. He once called Ibrahim Ali his friend or BN's friend. But he will not hesitate to mix it up with Ibrahim Ali if the situation demands it.
I don't agree with the vitriol and caustic retorts he gave Dr Mahathir as I think they are not civil. And I will not hesitate to slam him for that.
But lately, he has redeemed himself over so many things. What he has said over the last few months, seem to have earned him grudging admiration. To me, it proves one thing- which is very important; all UMNO and BN leaders need to do, is to show some leadership to lessen the opposition's credibility. By speaking politically correct things. He is undercutting much of the Oppositionspeake.
Nazri has been a consistent Rottweilerish critic of Tun Mahathir. He has spoken against the seemingly 'racist' headmistress even though, I believe he hasn't got all the facts. He has shown gumption when other UMNO and BN leaders were timorous souls.
He has spoken against the capital punishment of the death sentence saying that is inherently wrong for another person to take another's life. Whether he is correct or not, that is another matter. He seems to embrace as morally wrong for the state to take another's life. It would be interesting to see how he sees another person- not a state entity, takes another's life.
Most important, he has been an unwavering supporter of the 1 Malaysia concept. Perhaps among the many UMNO leaders, he is the only one who understands what 1 Malaysia is.
For that, the UMNO president calls him brother. Others call him chief. Maybe Najib needs more people like him in the cabinet after all. if Najib is wimpish, he needs others to provide him with the sinew to his bones.


Sunday 19 September 2010

PERKASA should DISTANCE itself from UMNO.

Yes. Not the other way round. UMNO needs Perkasa more that Perkasa needs UMNO. Right?
I support Ibrahim Ali if he wants to change Perkasa into a political party. That will allow the rakyat decide whether they want what Perkasa represents or otherwise. It will also be a test case of whether UMNO is still there.
Overall Perkasa represents political extremism although their leaders might want to deny this. Overall UMNO represents a confused organization- wanting to sound like Perkasa but trapped within and constrained by the 'discreet' personality of the UMNO President. And UMNO leaders may want to deny this.
You think UMNO leaders want to adopt politically extremist view when their leadership derived direct economic and business benefits from non Malay patrons?
I have said it and will repeat- that is an endearing character flaw of the UMNO president. Talk in the most general terms, and you can adapt to whatever changing political circumstances. People say this is the epitome of politeness , a trait which a country bumpkin like 1, do not have and will never have.
I think if Perkasa is true to its Malayness identity and insist on it at all cost, it should tell its members and other leaders to DISTANCE itself from UMNO. Use the same term- distance and its opened to 1001 permutations if Perkasa is more Malay than UMNO, why should it want to cavort with UMNO?
Leave it alone. The UMNO leadership is not Malay enough. Najib and Hsiham , products of liberal western cultural immersion, are not Malay enough. So why isn't Perkasa calling a spade a spade? Tell it, Najib tak cukup Melayu? But if you think Najib is doing the right thing, then disband and support UMNO. Otherwise leave UMNO alone.
I have written many times, Perkasa grows more significant each day because UMNO has forfeited its role and function. The entire leadership has failed to tell the rakyat a more compelling story. It is therefore a valid call by Perkasa asking the PM to explain his 1 Malaysia concept to allay the fears of all. failure to explain so, or even a failure to speak of the same theme by different UMNO leaders, will expose that duplicitous character of the UMNO leadership. It speaks of moderation, but in reality it retains it Perkasa-like traits.
I have written also, that most of these ideas are not finalized yet. They are in Najib's understanding, just prototype ideas. We have to do more tests. That is why, the language that he uses currently, is the language of the lab technician.
Consider the tests that he wants us to perform.
The test required the individual to ask himself, "How does my stand on ethnic-based issues impact each community? Will it improve harmony or cause hatred towards my own race? Can it lead to an improved relationship between the races and improve national unity on a whole, or will it do otherwise?"
This is a special message to Malays especially. It is to ask, really, if I now adopt Perkasa's ethnic centric stance, will that improve ethnic relations?
Obviously the answer is no and if that is the answer, why is Perkasa people mentally challenged to interpret, the PM doesn't want to snub us?
The ignoble elegant silence of the UMNO leadership in telling the real story is because, it is in the leadership's interest to keep the status quo. It wants its supporters to believe that it is fighting for their interests when in reality, all of them are fighting to keep their positions and thereby, the privileges that come along with it.
I wish Perkasa should make it clear to ask its members to distance itself from UMNO. I am surprised that Perkasa people still don't get it right- that what the UMNO leadership wants, is to ensure Malays retain their 'uncle-tom' traits. Tertunduk tunduk dan mintak sedekah.
These are strictly so un-Perkasa like. Perkasa is manly, UMNO has turned effeminate.
The UMNO Malay character, created by lab technicians in the many labs which Najib has set up, is sketched with great power of tolerance, discreet and deeply courteous. I and I hope many of us out there are curious to know whether the UMNO leadership is a believer in the duty of political celibacy and self restraint for the Malays, while non Malays are allowed a lot of room. That supports the test that Najib ask Malays to carry out.
Hence for Najib's Malay, , under all possible outrage and peril, Malays must exercise restraint. Najib's Malay is submissive, tolerant, accommodating, extremely polite. Isn't this in direct opposite to what Perkasa stands for? Perkasa isn't going to say lets overcome social evils with good because that  is madness, Perkasa will not accept peacefully submitting to economic chains and stripes because it is base servility.
How is this to be explained or reconciled? If this is what UMNO fights for, why should Perkasa not distance itself from UMNO? Right now, UMNO's own principles are as blurred as its President's vision.
The test which every Perkasa member must take just to balance the test that Najib asks to be done is to ask whether there is one law of submissiveness for the Malay man, and another of defiance and conflict for the non Malay man?
When it is the non Malays who imagined they are trampled and victimised, the UMNO lad government accords them room to air out and vindicate their rights? But when it is the Malays who are thus treated, the UMNO leader asks them to perform the acid tests first and require them to be patient, harmless, long-suffering, and forgiving.
I want to ask, are there two Malaysias?


Saturday 18 September 2010

Distancing in Najibspeake, means go jump off the cliff.


What the UMNO president means.

We don't know what he means. He speaks in riddles. He says in confidence, lets snuff out PERKASA. He encourages the formation of rival NGOs. But none came forward. He asks his people to gun down Perkasa, but gives them no guns. Nobody causes fatalities with water pistols.

He says again. Let us distance ourselves from Perkasa. But what does he mean. we don't know. All we know he is not consistent. But perhaps that is the style of politicians. Always non committal , always inserting escape hatches. Distancing in Najibspeake means- FO Perkasa.

The fact of the matter, the message to his MKT members must have been clear enough to motivate KJ, Nazri Aziz, Khalid Nordin to say bad things against Perkasa.

But you know people, they want to pull punches when it comes to the UMNO president even though, he meant Perkasa to be rid off in the 1st place. Let us be clear- as long UMNO remains committed to Malay Leadership, there is no place for Perkasa.

I hope the Perkasa people realize this. There is no need to 'protrude your cheeks when your nose isn't sharp"- hidung tak mancung, pipi di sorong sorong. Ibrahim Ali should tell his people, Perkasa is independent of UMNO's approval. It exists in spite of UMNO. Why do you want to be part of UMNO.?

UMNO has so many things that are diametrically opposed to your ideals. You fight for NEPish Malay rights as of right issue where UMNO wants to have economic advancement through meritocracy and application of oneself. You stand for Malay first ideology, where UMNO wants to offer compromises. You are directly opposites so you don't need UMNO. Unless of course, behind that temper tantrums and show of force, you actually want to get back into UMNO. You can but you to have to subscribe to UMNO thinking.

Let us not kid ourselves, however Najib says it, UMNO doesn't want to have anything to do with Perkasa. Whatever Perkasa aspires for, UMNO can do better provided they apply themselves to it. I have written several articles on this. That fact has been pointed out by blogger A Voice.

I will answer only one part of the questions he asked. As to the ideology of Perkasa, its none of my business to say how Perkasa should conduct its business. My interest is how should UMNO behave and what it must do. That was my central theme in my articles. I have said it clearly, the principal cause of the confusion on the relation between UMNO and Perkasa is the vacillating stance of the UMNO president.

What Perkasa supporters have done is to unashamedly embrace Najib's ambivalence to support its own cause. It's a shame because Najib is President of UMNO not Perkasa.

Just yesterday, he confounded everyone by seemingly saying, again, UMNO is not antagonizing Perkasa but…. In other words fellers, he is saying, UMNO wants nothing to do with Perkasa. So why does Perkasa people feel, they must at one with the PM?

But that is the style with which the UMNO president speaks. That is his 'endearing' character flaw which sucks. He has been at the political game since a youngster. He knows the game inside out. Whatever stance he takes and however often he cages them, he is always playing politics. Hence speaking in riddles is part f his persona.

I will offer you the reasons why the UMNO president behaves as he does. When he was a young boy staying at Sri Taman, his favorite book was Alice in Wonderland. Its probable he has taken to heart, the teachings of the Hatter.

The Hatter opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he said was, "Why is a raven like a writing-desk?"
"Come, we shall have some fun now!" thought Alice. "I'm glad they've begun asking riddles. — I believe I can guess that," she added aloud.
"Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?" said the March Hare.
"Exactly so," said Alice.
"Then you should say what you mean," the March Hare went on.
"I do," Alice hastily replied; "at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know."
"Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hatter. "You might just as well say that 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as 'I eat what I see'!"
"You might just as well say," added the March Hare, "that 'I like what I get' is the same thing as 'I get what I like'!"
"You might just as well say," added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, "that 'I breathe when I sleep' is the same thing as 'I sleep when I breathe'!"
(Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 7)

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all."
(Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)


The issue of the New Media-restated


I have been meaning to write on this subject a long time. I have been a keen observer and at the same time, also a participant in the clash between old and new media. The new media, brought about by the onslaught of the digital revolution, has proven to be a powerful tool, in shaping people's opinion. The efficacy of the new media however depends heavily on whether we appreciate and understand the new media and more important, in the end, know what is required.
So when I read the PM has inducted new faces into his communications team and refurbished the appearance of his online portal, the time is right for a comment. We need to evaluate whether that initiative was undertaken on the basis of appreciating, understanding and knowing what is needed to capitalize on the new media. Otherwise, that initiative will just be another effort to show something is being done if nothing else. Not to mention, the additional budget and a further fattening of self-importance.
But at least the PM realizes that the new media sells news and people better than the old media. By old media, I mean conventional papers. Conventional media cold not sell a candidate as well as the new media.
But do get things done right in the first place. Can we further the cause of the new media and leverage on it, if people with old school skills are inducted into it? More likely, the new media will be colored with old lenses. You move one step forward, but then you stepped back two paces.
So when the PM inducts Dato Khalid and another person from Reuters, we are not sure whether he has got the right material. Sometimes I envy retired journalists- they get to have a second lease even though, they prove in the end to be, just paper tigers. The assumption being, old school expertise is transferable in a new environment without undergoing reconstitution. ( maybe I will use this angle when analyzing why NST's circulation has dropped below 90,000- next article) I just hope Najib's Communications outfit has got it right this time.
So when old school practitioners get into the world of new media, what is the objective? Old habits die hard. Is the objective aimed at revising the new media so that it becomes mainstream again? Then, we have got it turned on its head- we think taming the new media and thereafter neatly packaging and doing slick presentation of program and personalities will sell a candidate. In other words, the infusion of veterans with old habits bring with it the danger of retrogression. You actually set things back.
Which ultimately means, undue reliance is placed on the form rather than substance. So we tell people through the mass media, believing that people will vote according to what the old mass media tells them to.
If the infusion of old school media practitioners lead to the tabloidization of the new media, that Najib's initiative will fall flat on its back. That is precisely what ails the old media. it functions reasonably well when the flow of interaction is one way and more importantly, the mentality of the audience is simple. Hence, important and weighty issues are trivialized and represented by gross oversimplification.
The media tells the public, in sensationalized and highly condensed form about some substantive issues; the public accepts having no choices to verify or disprove what the media tells them. in that regime, the old media reigns supreme. It rules and shapes public opinion.
If that is the premise on which Najib's new media initiative was undertaken, then it signifies a failure to appreciate and understand the power of the new media. The new media changes how the game is played. It has empowered us all to be story tellers. The information monopoly of big media institutions, such as newspapers and TV networks, has been broken. We are all publishers now.
But it is also true that thus far, the big winners in this revolution seem to be governments and big corporations that now have much more potent ways to control information, as well as fringe political groups that can now spread their 'lunacy' to a vast new audience.
So what, we cynically ask? So for Najib's communications outfit to be effective, it must acquire potent ways to control information. How can it accomplish that? By engaging in mature discourse with the public and not wielding the clubs of censorship on others. Worse, by tabloidization of key and important issues.
The key word here is engaging in mature discourses. Can the infusion of new blood into the communications outfit accomplish these?
Otherwise, the reading public will prefer the new media because the communications outfit or even the ministry of information cannot control information.
Consider this. The implosion of the traditional media in the midst of the digital media revolution has caused news organizations to do two things: drastically reduce the size of newsroom staff and demand that the remaining reporters adapt to the web-and-cable-TV-driven news cycle.
Could it be that the induction of new faces and a reconstituted online portal managing the PM's presence in the new media, represents an attempt to adapt to the world of new media? And the induction of old hands of the media is relied upon to streamline the new media practitioners of the PM's communication outfit?
Why is that a problem? Perhaps because, the problem is with the product. You see, the PM's online portal operated by all those reporters frantically tweeting and facebooking and churning out twice as many stories, may actually NOT pay off in terms of engaging the public in mature discourse. Trading quality and depth for speed and story counts means news organizations are giving away the power to effect the public agenda. Politicians, bureaucrats and corporate leaders will find they can easily ignore a neutered communications outfit.
So in order to make the PM's communication outfit take advantage of the power of the new media, even old hands in the science of the media must jettison old habits and adopt new skills.
It has to be mindful of the fact that independent bloggers have popped up here and there to fill the gap of credibility. Without the new skills, even with the backing of institutional entities behind them, these eager watchdogs in the PM's communications outfit, will lack teeth. Who will listen to them? Because to the reading public and adherents of the new media, all those Chihuahuas yipping about far more engaging things are making far more useful noises.
As the digital media revolution progresses, new formats may well arise in which powerful journalism can thrive. But that outcome is not guaranteed. It seems equally possible that journalism will be trivialized and marginalized while the dominant voices will be those of bilious and defiant bloggers.
Let's see what stuff is the PM's communication outfit made of.








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