Categories
Earthly Strip Economics

[2913] The Earthly Strip: Mak Cik Kiah’s recession

And The Earthly Strip makes a return.

Categories
Politics & government

[2788] It isn’t about Mahathir or Muhyiddin. It’s about government corruption

It is true. The 1MDB corruption scandal brings together strange bedfellows against the Najib government.

Mahathir Mohamad, Muhyiddin Yassin, Gani Patail and the likes are not exactly role models for liberals. These men have their own faults and sins. Their comments and their actions in other matters can be criticized easily. After 22 years in power while actively weakening Malaysian institutions, there are enough material to talk about Mahathir. Just the other day, a friend of mine jokingly said Muhyiddin was the enemy of the internet for all his nonsensical opinion about the Malaysian education system.

Yet, they have become, to their own followers at least, the leading voices against 1MDB. The Anti-Corruption Commission, much reviled by the federal opposition in particular for the mishandling of Teoh Beng Hock case, are now gathering sympathy for investigating the government and being intimidated by the police and suspicious men of conflicted interests.

As these new allies of sort band together, we hear and read the cynical remarks pointing out that suddenly these men, women and institutions are heroes and angels. Their past sins are forgotten and forgiven.

That is nonsense and utterly beside the point.

We are not in the business of appealing to authority. We are interested in answering questions and uncovering the truth, regardless who asked the questions. We are interested in removing the conflict of interest currently preventing a proper earnest investigation from being carried out.

Whether it is Mahathir or Muhyiddin or whoever your favorite man to hate, their questions are the same as asked by others. If they share the same concerns as many others, good for them.

What must be stressed is that those similarities of concerns say nothing of the legitimacy of the demand for truth and justice.

This is why when Najib Razak and his men began attacking Mahathir trying to wean credibility off the former Prime Minister, that did little to stop the advancing criticism against 1MDB, Najib and the government. It did nothing because this is never about Mahathir or Muhyiddin or Gani Patail or anybody else who are attacking 1MDB and the government.

We who want justice could not care less for the credibility of Mahathir, Muhyiddin and others.

What we care is the issue of corruption — both pecuniary and institutional wise — involving the 1MDB and the highest office in the land. Others are sideshows.

Categories
Politics & government

[2320] Not so private initiative now

The Najib administration and its supporters defended the proposal by Perbadanan Permodalan Nasional Berhad to build a 100-storey skyscraper earlier by stating it was a private company’s initiative.[1] And so, the government should not be blamed for the proposal. I seriously doubt PNB was a private company but perhaps, it is a matter of definition.

This week, the Deputy Prime Minister said something that convinced me that it is not a matter of definition. As in politics, it is a matter of convenience and dishonesty.

What did the DPM say?

He was commenting on an issue completely different from the tower. It was about wages of GLCs in the plantation sector.

He believed plantation workers at government-linked companies should received higher wage since commodity prices are at good levels. Bernama reported that he said that the Cabinet agreed to review the wages for these workers.[2] The government will meet these GLCs to discuss the issue.

This raised a flag in my mind. Which plantation companies are government-linked?

At least one name comes to mind: Sime Darby. Sime Darby is linked to PNB, the same entity that some people, including the DPM, argued that PNB is a private entity.

Then again, it could be Felda that is both a GLC and not involved in the tower, hence I could be wrong. In the report, no name was mentioned. So, I decided to give the issue the benefit of the doubt.

That was, until I saw a television news report in which the DPM actually mentioned companies linked to PNB. So much for PNB-and-its-private-initiative-100-storey-skyscraper line.

The Najib administration and its supporters defended the proposal by Perbadanan Nasional Berhad to build a 100-storey skyscraper earlier by stating it was a private company’s initiative. And so, the government should not be blamed for the proposal. I seriously doubt PNB was a private company but perhaps, it is a matter of definition.

This week, the Deputy Prime Minister said something that convinced me that it is not a matter of definition. As in politics, it is a matter of convenience and dishonesty.

What did the DPM say?

He was making a statement on a completely different issue. Nevertheless, it reveals the kind of honesty that the argument used to defend the tower lacks.

The DPM believed plantation workers at government-linked companies should received higher wage since commodity prices are at good levels. Bernama reported that he said that the Cabinet agreed to review the wages for these workers. The government will meet these GLCs to discuss the issue.

This raised a flag in my mind. Which plantation companies are government-linked?

At least one name comes to mind: Sime Darby. Sime Darby is linked to PNB, the same entity that some people, including the DPM, who argued that PNB is a private entity.

Then again, it could be Felda, and I could be wrong. In the report, no name was mentioned. As such, I decided to maintain give the issue the benefit of the doubt.

That was, until I saw a television news report in which the DPM actually mentioned companies linked to PNB. So much for PNB-and-its-private-initiative-100-storey-skyscraper line.

To me, these people think that PNB is a private company in some circumstances, and a GLC in another, based on convenience. I call that downright dishonest.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

[1] — KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 1 — Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today said public opposition towards the proposed 100-storey Warisan Merdeka was due to a lack of clear explanations for the RM5 billion project, which he stressed was a private venture despite belief it was a government effort.

When asked about the concerted protest against the project on social media outlets, personified by the ”1M Malaysians Reject 100-storey Mega Tower” Facebook page, the deputy prime minister reiterated that the undertaking would not be government funded.

He also highlighted that the project will be solely borne by PNB Merdeka Ventures, which is a wholly-owned unit set up by Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) to undertake the RM5 billion skyscraper project on land it bought from Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Berhad in 2000. [Warisan Merdeka misunderstood, DPM says. Melissa Chi. The Malaysian Insider. November 1 2010]

[2] — PUSA (Sarawak): The federal government will hold discussions with the plantation-based government-linked companies (GLCs) to review the wages of their workers, especially since the prices of palm oil were ”good”, said the Deputy Prime Minister.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said on Friday, Feb 18 the review of the wages was agreed to at the Cabinet meeting last week and it would be expedited. [Muhyiddin: Federal govt to meet plantation-based GLCs over workers wages. Bernama via The Edge. February 18 2010]

Categories
Education

[1988] Of address the PSD scholarship awarding process by using grade point average

In response to the scholarship controversy, the Deputy Prime Minister — or more appropriately the Education Minister — Muhyiddin Yassin shared that there are plans to limit the number of subjects students can take “to enable a fairer selection for the Public Service Department (PSD) scholarship.”[1]

This solution should be rejected because it is a blunt approach to address a specific but nonetheless big problem. The approach should not be taken unless there is something holistic behind it. That means, if it aims to address the education system. The education system however is a different set of issues altogether and this entry is not meant to address that.

If we are to restrict our discussion to the awarding of scholarship as with the apparent intention of the Minister, what should be addressed is the awarding process, not the education system. It is utterly ridiculous to shape whole the education system to fit the awarding method in order to address the problem.

The issue here is not the education system. This is not to say that the current education is not problematic but again, the issue needing solution is the awarding system. But even if the education system was excellent, the proposal would be all the more revolting. Imagine a hypothetically perfect education system being molded to fit an imperfect scholarship awarding process.

At the same time, to restrict the maximum number of subjects in order to address the awarding method is missing the whole point.

Worse, it seeks equality of mediocrity in the name of fairness when fairness can be achieved by addressing the awarding process instead. People that are able to take up a lot of subjects should not be prevented to do so. They should not be prevented from exploring their options just because some other students are unable to do so. If that reason sounds familiar, it should be: it is the idea that has been derided as equality of poverty; it comes eerily close to one pillar of communism, if it is not communism itself.

Whether it is good to take a lot of subjects at one time is another matter which this entry does not seek to address. I have my own opinion on the matter but I will not share it here in fear of digressing too much from the issue at hand.

I have a better proposal to how to make the award of scholarship by addressing the issue straight on rather than widen the problem. I propose for the PSD to internally utilize grade point average (GPA) method in awarding the scholarship. By internal, I mean it is used to filter all applicants even when the GPA approach is not used in the education system. And how the GPA is calculated should be made public.

The GPA system is not new and is widely used in universities all around the world. To those unfamiliar with the system, it basically assigns point to a particular grade and averages all subjects taken by utilizing weight. In universities, that weight is the number of hours required per week to read a particular subject. In the case of PSD, the weight can be how important a particular subject is perceived as. A subject like economics can be weighted highly while a fluffy subject like English for science and technology or can be weighted very lowly.[2]

Observe that this address the awarding process rather than trying to mold the education system to fit the awarding process.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

[1] — PUTRAJAYA: There are plans to limit the number of subjects students take in the SPM examination to enable a fairer selection for the Public Service Department (PSD) scholarship, said Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Currently residential school students are only allowed to take nine or 10 subjects while those from rural areas had to take lesser due to lack of facilities.

As there is no restriction on the number of subjects students at normal schools could take, some have taken up to 19 subjects, he said.

When students from residential or rural schools with 9As are given PSD scholarship, students from normal schools who scored more As became displeased, he said, adding that it would be unfair not to select those from residential and rural schools as they could not take more subjects even if they wanted to. [DPM: Govt plans for easier PSD scholarship selection. Dharmender Singh. The Star. May 21 2009]

[2] — For a detailed example of a GPA system which I am familiar with, see an explanation of how a school of my alma mater — the University of Michigan — does it.

Categories
Politics & government

[1936] Of a superficial retelling of the last day of 2008 UMNO General Assembly

Just got back from the UMNO General Assembly and among top leadership of UMNO, Khairy Jamaluddin will probably have the hardest time to lead, simply because the division within the wing he is leading.

Each time his name was mentioned, a big boo followed. On the contrary, when Mukhriz Mahathir joined the hall to take his seat in the wing, he received a raving applause. Odd indeed because the sentiment in the hall did not reflect the election result.

When Khairy Jamaluddin spoke behind the rostrum, he took a humble tone, probably realizing his unpopularity in the hall.

Ali Rustam was popular. Add the adverb very if I am guilty of underemphasizing the support he enjoyed today. The hall definitely considered the judgment against the politician from Malacca by UMNO diciplinary board as injustice. From my outsider perspective, clearly, there is perverse incentive in UMNO at the moment; a convicted corrupt politician can be a star, the darling of the hall. If there is a lesson from there, it is that do not act unjustly because the victim of unjust act, even if he is less than innocent, can become the prince of heart.

Zahid Hamidi was the first to realize that and to utilize the popularity of Ali Rustam at the Putra World Trade Center, mostly because his turn to speak was right after Ali Rustam’s. He mentioned Ali Rustam a couple of times and each time he did so, the crowd went wild without fail.

Mahathir Mohamad was welcomed whole-heartedly by UMNO members. Muhyiddin Yassin was speaking when he entered the hall and the new Deputy President of UMNO had to take a pause as the crowd gave the former Prime Minister a standing ovation. Muhyiddin Yassin, rather than finishing his interrupted sentence, decided to give Mahathir Mohamad the spotlight by citing his name, almost to the point of too much.

Not as much as Shahrizat Abdul Jalil though. With a divided UMNO, she went on to mention everybody’s name, from Rafidah, to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to Najib Razak to more names than I care to remember. She appeared as a person earnestly trying to hedge her bet across the board.

And this time unlike two days earlier, I stayed to the end because while some points are very disagreeable (being a secularist, a passive republican and a liberal in an UMNO pow-wow, what a surprise, eh? The too many mentions of religion and ethnonationalism were dizzying), the quality of the speeches were noticeably better than the previous ones.

Finally, Najib Razak. I do have other reservation, especially about the divergence between his rhetoric and the the rhetoric of so-called UMNO grassroot present in the hall, and between his rhetoric and events I am witnessing in as a citizen of Malaysia. Nevertheless, he appeared as a person that have the ability to lead. I was in the hall and I have to admit he managed to bring out the fighting spirit in UMNO members there. It was as if, an unconfident UMNO finally found the rock they require. He called for unity and showed courage to implicitly inform Mahathir Mohamad and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that he is a man of his own.

In my humble opinion, Pakatan Rakyat will have to on their toes because they — if the momentum I saw in the hall continues — have just found their match. In the last general election, UMNO entered the ring wounded. This time, some recuparation had taken place.