Slower than snail speed!

Remember Idi AMin? Younger people out there would not know who this man was. But those of us in the 50s and above would know about this person, the dictator in Uganda in the 70s, who did what a dictator in those days would do.

He fled to Saudi after an uprising , and died there in 2003.

Since those days of Idi Amin, we Malaysians have  always treated Uganda like a rogue state. Sub-Sahara Africa is supposed to be backward, and  we have always thought of Uganda as a disease-and-poverty-striken country, with children thin like skeletons and bellies big like pregnant ladies.

Now, do not look down on these countries anymore. Many of them have a broadband speed much faster than us, Yes , Malaysia — the country with the multimedia super corridor, the country that once boosted that it wanted to become a silicon valley of the East. We still wanted to become that, but we simply do not have the means to become that; just like an impotent old man, willing but not able to.

With broadband speed like snail, how are we going to compete with other countries?

What is the use of having all the modern buildings when we have a broadband speed placing of 104, according to speednet.com (below). The whole list can be viewed here. Uganda is ranked 95, Rwanda (yes Rwanda) 65, Ghana 44.

Even the country which exports maids to Malaysia, the Phillipines, is ranked 93. Your  maid  when she goes back to her home country, can assess info much faster than you. How about that!

Download Speed

1 South Korea 33.91 Mb/s
2 Latvia 24.07 Mb/s
3 Republic of Moldova 21.32 Mb/s
4 Japan 20.43 Mb/s
5 Sweden 19.83 Mb/s
6 Romania 18.69 Mb/s
7 Bulgaria 17.57 Mb/s
8 Netherlands 17.34 Mb/s
9 Andorra 17.06 Mb/s
10 Lithuania 17.04 Mb/s
11 Aland Islands 15.34 Mb/s
12 Portugal 14.71 Mb/s
13 Finland 14.17 Mb/s
14 Iceland 13.61 Mb/s
15 Switzerland 13.52 Mb/s
104 Malaysia 1.94 Mb/s

If you are in AUstralia, a movie can be downloaded in the time you go to ease yourself, take a drink and come back to your computer. here, you need your computer to stay on whole night to download the same .

How to be an innovative and knowledgeable country when we cannot access information as fast as others?

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Chicken and Duck talk!

This is what the Sun says today:

TAN SRI Hasmy Agam, the executive chairman of the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR), has done a great service to Malaysia by exposing the country’s “state secret” – that our government officials especially diplomats are often rendered tongue-tied and speechless when they come face to face with foreigners. They probably break into cold sweat when hailed by their foreign counterparts at an investment or security seminar or even at a cocktail reception or informal dinner. (for the full article , read here)

Malaysians used to play a very important role in international conferences, whether they were at government  or non-government levels. Many Malaysians were chosen to be part of international organisations as Malaysians were known to have  strong command of English.

Not any more. Those who are at the DG levels at their late 50s may still be able to hold their ground when speaking in english, but the lower ranking officers at pengarah level may not be as eloquent anymore. Worse still, the officers at lower levels could hardly string a sentence of english together. That is part of the reasons, I suspect, that many DGs got extension of their services, not because they are outstanding, but rather, there was no one who is dependable to take over their functions.

So the above news should not  come as a big surprise to us. Psychologically, a person who is not confident , like those mentioned in the news, would act in a pompous way to hide their insufficiencies. At the same time, they would try to avoid contact with foreigners because of the lack of confidence. So you get arrogant officers who cannot perform for the government.

Often such officers are sent overseas on trade missions and so on, and I wonder how they could help secure investments if they would cuddle themselves in one corner in international meets and fail to mix around.

In the same news article, it was reported that:

One complaint of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad when he was prime minister was that Malaysia failed to be properly informed because officials sent abroad often avoid attending cocktails, informal dinners or other functions where information, not available officially, can sometimes be obtained.

I would say this is what the proverb ” what goes round comes around’ means. It was his policy that saw the end of good English speaking officers, and because of that, officers sent overseas could not serve him effectively as required. He has only himself to blame.

No wonder the book “Malaysian Maverick” was such a hot sell.

………………………………..

Talking about the book,  I received an email from monk conveying this info about Barry Wain’s lecture:

Public Lecture

Malaysian Maverick:

Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times

Speaker: Barry Wain

Discussants: Professor Edmund Terence Gomez,
Professor Wan Zawawi Ibrahim, Dr Ong Kian Ming

Date: 27 May 2010 (Thursday)

Time: 6.00-7.30pm

Venue: Lecture Theatre 3

Faculty of Economics & Administration

University of Malaya

Enquiries: Please call 603-7967-7800

What is there to invest in anymore?

It used to be when friends asked me what shares to buy, I would recommend a few solid blue-chips, like Perlis Plantations (PPB), Public Bank (PBB)and Sime Darby.

I have also told them to buy and keep these shares long term. In fact, I myself have gained quite a lot from the appreciation of these shares over the years. PPB and PBB are both selling  over double digits per share now. Over the years, they have given out  bonus issues as well as attractive dividends and people  who have bought them even 5 to 10 years back would have made a ton of money and those who have bought in the 80s much more.

Financial people used to say that if you want to know about Malaysian economy and its future prospect, just look at the conglomerate Sime Darby Bhd. It has wide ranging businesses, from retails, trading, plantations, industries, constructions, cars, real estates, healthcare, energy  and so on. Those who have bought Sime Darby’s shares before would have made quite a bit too.

Many of the management in Sime rose through the ranks over the years  and they  have inherited the  culture of being careful, conservative and  prudent, since many of the companies in Sime’s  stable like Dunlop Malaysia, Tractors , Guthrie, Golden Hope (formerly Harrison and Crosfield) and so on were formerly run by the British .

The British, despite the colonial power that it was , did many good things to Malaysia. Unfortunately,  many of these we have squandered in the name of nationalism. Of course, there were some not-too-good things left behind too; one of the most glaring being the racial divide that was a direct result of the British system of divide and rule. Despite that, we cannot deny that there were many good things that were left for us.

Among the good things left behind were  good roads and communication , fair and independent judicial system, good  healthcare , and a relatively good education system. Besides the  road system that still remains good, all the other systems have turned from good to mediocre, and from mediocre to bad.

One of the legacies left behind by the departing British was the civil service, which was fair, efficient and most importantly, it operated according to the rules and laws of the land. I would not want to use that to compare with the present civil service, since this is outside the topic I am discussing today, and I leave it to you to assess for yourself.

Another legacy was of course good business practices in many former British companies which had been  taken over by Malaysians since our independence.

For those who have worked in these companies and rose to managerial positions, they have inherited a sense of openness, fairness and most importantly accountability.

But over the years, as the political and economic landscape changes in Malaysia, we can see a slow but definite change in business practice too.

It is no longer how good a person run his  business that determines the success or failure of that company. It is who that person is and whom that person knows that determine the success of his businesses.

Those who have connections and  pull the right strings get all the lucrative projects, and not only that, slowly and surely a culture of cronyism and kickback started. To get business means that you must know the right people, but you must also be prepared to offer ‘commissions’ for these ‘right’ people to get the business you want.

Once the culture of cronyism sets in, the whole philosophy of how to do business in Malaysia changes. It  is no longer about who has the best to offer the country, but rather who has the best to offer the decision makers, both in public or private sectors.

We all know that once a culture has taken roots, it is a mammoth task to change that culture. In this case, the roots are so deep that even a tsunami may not uproot the whole culture of cronyism and ways of doing business.

Not too longer ago, in 2007, we had the Transmile debacle, in which accounting frauds covered up a multi-million loss and turned that loss into multi-million paper gain — to the tune of a whopping overstatement of hundreds of millions. The share price of that company dropped steeply after this was made known  and hundreds of minor shareholders, which could have been you and me, suffered losses because of the fraud.

Sime is no Transmile. It was a profitable company. It used to be very well run and most fund managers and many private investors would invest in it as a form of ‘fixed deposits’;  as a hedge against violent share price movement, since as a blue-chip, even during a bear market, its price would hold relatively well as compared to many other companies.

So the news of cost overrun and loss to the tune of a billion in this company- mind you, BILLION- is a shocking news. How could that have happened?

Dr Mahathir has written in his blog that the company knew about the losses 3 years ago, but why wasn’t the public told of these? As a public company, it has an obligation to reveal all these not only to its shareholders, but the public as well, since everyone of us could be a potential investor in that company.

What went wrong? Was it due to genuine mistakes, the bad business decisions? Was there any misappropriations? Was there any frauds?

These are the questions that need to be answer, and answer quickly,  since as a company that prides  itself as the cream of Malaysian economy,  a loss of confidence in that company by investors, whether local or foreign,  would have far reaching consequences.

If investors cannot even trust a blue chip company like Sime, what is there to invest in anymore?

This article is also posted in my column in  MalaysianInsider

The writing is already on the wall

A foreign journalist called up and chatted with me about the Sibu by election and its impact. He also asked about whether UMNo would move more to the right and be more extreme in view of the fact that they have lost the Chinese votes, and UMNO leaders may strategise  that they have to be more extreme to win back even more  Malay voters to compensate for the loss of Chinese votes.

I said it would be foolish if they do that since to be more extreme , they would  alienate the CHinese more, and by extension, even Indian voters may be put off.

I said that the prevailing perception is that certain leaders in UMNO have outsourced their extremism to Perkasa, and the more Perkasa and the Old Horse behind make inflammatory racist remarks, the more BN would lose Chinese votes.

I also told him that even if UMNO decides to go more extreme , they have reached the limits of the Malays votes that they can get.

Looking at past elections, even at best of time, UMNO gets only about 60% or slightly more than 60% of Malay votes. Recent racist tones made by certain UMNO leaders have swung back Malay votes from 50 plus percent to slight over more than 60%, as seen in Ulu Selangor by election, and in my opinion, that is about the most they can get, even if they make more extreme remarks

I said that now the only way forward for UMNo is to really reform, to do away with racist tones and treat everyone fair and equal, to tackle the problem of bad governance, to return independence to judiciary, to enforce laws  on all law-breaking citizens irrespective of their background ( and not be seen as practising double standardS), and be more liberal in religious tolerance, i think they can swing back some Non Malays votes.

But is UMNO willing to take such ‘bitter’ steps? As for Gerakan,and MCA, there are no other ways except to push UMNO for taking such changes, and if changes fail to come, they have to leave immediately and not cling to the coat tail hoping for crumbs to fall into their hands.

Otherwise, the writing is on the wall that there is likely to be a change of government come the next election.

On another point, there is no point trying to ‘bribe’ the by election voters by showering development projects on their heads. As citizens of this country and as tax payers, the voters have every right to development and to think that their votes can be swayed by using this tactic is archaic and naive.

This last minute attempt at vote buying is futile to the more educated urban voters, and this tactic in fact alienates even more the people staying in towns and suburban areas.

There is really no other way!

PR has reversed the trend of the last 2 by elections and won in the Sibu By election.

this is a very important by election because

1. the Sarawak state election is only months away

2. The last tsunami of 308 did not hit East Malaysia, and the sentiments of the Sarawak people after 308 can only be gauged through by election. Never in the history of Malaysia has the votes in East Malaysia  been so pivotal than now, since if more people in in East Malaysia vote in the next election the way the West Malaysians voted in the last GE, BN’s hold on Federal power will be shaky..

The result showed that there was a swing of 3000 over votes , resulting BN losing by 398 ( in the last election, BN won by more than 3000 votes).

Early indications showed that BN got the majority of the indigenous people’s votes while PR most of the CHinese votes.

This reinforces the results of HUlu Selagnor, and it is now clear that BN has lost most of the CHinese support.

Perkasa again attacked the CHinese saying that they are disloyal to BN.

I think that was very wrong to say. It is exactly the types of views as expounded by Perkasa and certain UMno leaders that have alienated most of the CHinese voters, while many others were disappointed with the poor governance and corruptions that is so pervasive in the country.

If BN is serious to gain back the CHinese votes, it has to do really hard soul-searching and not harping on racial and religious issues.

In the next election, the trend is clear. Most Chinese votes will go to the opposition, while UMNO will be trying to win more Malay votes and Indian votes. ANd to win more Malay votes, especially in the rural constituencies, we can expect more Perkasa-like rhetorics and this is dangerous , for this type of rhetoric is threatening to tear the country apart.

What it should do is to try to win back the hearts of the Chinese people by taking harsh actions against these sorts of extremist views which is seditious actually, correct the unequal playing fields, and make meritocracy the main driving force for the nation, and strictly  tackle all law breakers (irrespective of whether he is a top officials or top leaders) , including corruptions  and seditions, according to the provisions in the laws, and stop practicing double standard in treating the people.

There is really no other way.

A tale of 2 nations

This is sent to me by not less than 3 persons via emails the past few days. The author has done a great job in listing the reasons for Greece’s predicaments.

Read through it and does it sound very familiar?

Are we going to go the Greek way?

This is it:

Subject: Why and how Greece collasped

I have just watched a documentary regarding Greece’s financial and am appalled ! These are the why’s and how’s that this historic and beautiful country came to grieve.

Bureaucracy: Greece’s bureaucracy is famous in the whole of Europe ! To open a cafe or pub there are 25 processes to go through !! This is a country of rules and regulations.

Bloated civil service: There are 1.05 milliion civil servants (excluding police and armed forces) . The population of Greece is only 10 million !! More than 10% are govt servants !! Salary increases every year and benefit for civil servants in Greece is one of the best in Europe !! More and more money is needed to upkeep this bloated civil servants . The retirement age is 62 yrs old.

Corruption: Greece is the most corrupted nation in the Eurozone. Citizens pay “under table ” money to:

# admit into a public hospital

# pass a driving licence

# to enter public service

# renovate your business premises or your home

# avoid income tax

Every govt project is awarded to political cronies and at hugely inflated prices ! Transparency International compared the prices of the construction costs of stadiums built for the Athens Olympics recently with similar structures in China –500% more expensive than the Chinese , compared to Los Angeles and Sydney — 50 % more expensive !!! All these with tax payers money ! and borrowings !!!

Tax evasion: Officially 80% of its citizens are supposed to pay tax but only 37% are doing so. Big businessmen and corporations have refined tax evasion to a fine art ( or have the tax men taken some coffee money ? )

No transparency in governance: The politicians and bureaucrats falsified economic data and painted a rosy and manageable picture while the economy was rotting away .

Unabated borrowings: Meanwhile, the politicians and bureaucrats continue to issue govt bonds to keep afloat, series after series. They were trying to cover up the financial mess they have created creating one big hole to cover up the previous !!

Lacking political will power to reform: To keep hold on to political power, politicians are prepared to lie, commit economic and political fraud. If reforms were taken some five years ago , the country need not go bankrupt and its citizens need not suffer so much. Political expediency and greed to political power over-rides everything and hence Greece is now a bankrupt country. Luckily, it is part of the European Union and its currency is EUROs, otherwise Greeks will have to eat grass to survive !!

Laid back attitude: Tourism is THE ONLY industry in Greece and over the years the Greeks have had an easy time. Many flocked to see the historical sites. enjoy summer vacation on the islands. But they forgot that not many tourists will return after visiting the sites –there are so many other tourists attractions in the world, maybe more exotic and perhaps cheaper !! So once tourism vanes and couple with higher costs of living –the Greeks could not and refused to adapt and transform –still partying and having a nice time — maybe the Greek Gods will bless them !!! Greece have no natural resources, no electronics industry , no R & D –no anything !! They were so laid back –cannot see what is coming and crashing down on them. Even now, the civil servants refused to take a pay cut — the world owes them a living !!

Poignant Conclusion:

The producer of the documentary had hired a taxi driver to go around while doing this documentary. The taxi driver had studied economics for 4 years in US and this was his parting words:

“My biggest mistake was returning 15 years ago, I should have stayed back in US. My nationalist instinct made me returned. The politicians screwed me. I loved my country but my country did not love me !!!!

Try the whole system too!

A police corporal was charged for homicide of the 14 year old boy in Shah Alam.

If indeed he has fired the gun that killed the boy, he needs to answer to it, since this is how accountability works.

However, if he has done what was taught (or not taught) to him during his training as a policeman, especially as to when to discharge his gun, then he should not be made to shouldered the responsibility alone.

The whole system and the whole training program should be on trial too.

If there is a standard procedure for firing a gun, and then this was not taught to the ‘mata-mata’, then someone must be held responsible for the negligence.

Someone must be held responsible for the inadequate training of the force.

On the other hand, if the training was adequate, and yet this policeman still fires his gun, then the one who is in charge of discipline must be held responsible.

When taken into consideration the case in Negeri Sembilan when a Mat rempit was shot, perhaps a culture of arrogance has formed within the force. And this is dangerous.

An enforcement agency , or for that matter any armed units,which is arrogant will not have discipline, and when an enforcement unit does not have discipline, it will be disastrous.

So I think we should not put too much of the blame  on the corporal.  He has to face the music, that is correct. However, the whole system perhaps should be reviewed.

What is glaringly evident is that we need to have better monitoring and acoountability in the system. And nothing can be better than to have a commission (IPCMC) to monitor the police force, and by doing so, it may be the only way to bring back the glory as well as the respectability to the force.

(This post is also posted as a letter in Malaysiakini).

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