Friday, April 29, 2016

No water and electricity in Sarawak?

A few days ago, I read Malaysiakini's headlines "DAP: PM promises 4G internet but no water, electricity after 53 years".

In that article, Mr Leon Jimat Donald who is DAP's candidate for Simanggang slammed the Prime Minister for dangling 4G internet if BN wins but failed to provide electricity and water to some in the state.

He said the BN government should be focusing on rural long houses which are lacking basic services.

I actually flipped open the Auditor General Report 2014 Series 2 page 55 and 56.

The Auditor General Report said that as at 31 October 2014, the 24 hours electricity coverage in rural area had benefited 536,278 applicants or 92.8% of them.

The Auditor General was referring to the Rural Electrification Scheme that was introduced to improve the system and quality of electricity supply from 12 hours to 24 hours.

It is thus extremely incorrect for any party, especially Malaysiakini, to use the phrase "no water or electricity after 53 years". The remaining 7.2% of applicants actually have electricity, although limited.

All of us, including politicians, journalists and even the man on the street, We must stop painting a false picture as though Malaysians live in the jungle like Tarzans or Mowgli from the Jungle Book.

The World Bank actually lists Malaysia as one of the 89 countries in the world where 100 percent of the population has access to electricity.

Rural basic infrastructure is a key focus under Najib's Government Transformation Programme. Since the GTP was introduced, Sarawak has received the largest share of the Budget. Billions, every year.

Just on rural electrification under the RES scheme, Government has spent RM2.15 billion in the span of 6 years between 2009-2014.

But we must not forget a very important point. The Government is not dragging its feet on those who are currently receiving 12 hours electricity only and want 24 hours. The Rural Electrification projects in Sarawak are not easy. There are geographical challenges and management of resources to consider.

Not an excuse, yes the Government must and is working on it, but we must not neglect development in other areas of focus.

That is a recipe for disaster, DAP. Look at other countries.

In the ASEAN region, take Philippines as an example, only 87.5% of its citizens have access to electricity. But the country spent about RM6 billion last year on infrastructure for better mobile internet.

Elsewhere in India, where poverty is widespread and some say it is home to a third of the world's extreme poor, only 78.7% of its population have access to electricity. I don't even want to talk about clean water there.

But while the Indian Government is actively working on improving access to basic necessities, the telcos there are building infrastructure and analysts expect 4G smartphone users to grow from a mere 5 million last year to 180 million in 3 years.

So, why belittle or question Najib and BN's offer to develop other areas of focus?

Why can't Sarawakians enjoy 4G internet, while Government also spends billions in upgrading the quality of access to electricity and water?

Third world mentality politicians in DAP.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Why gag and bind TMI?

I do not agree with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission's decision to block access to The Malaysian Insider (TMI).

According to Salleh Said Keruak, the decision to block came after TMI published an article which quoted anonymous sources from the MACC's Operations Review Panel.

It is common for media portals to quote unnamed sources. There are cases where the source requests to speak on condition of anonymity.

News portals like Bloomberg, CNN, and BBC have all quoted unnamed sources in their reports.

In cases where articles which quoted anonymous source have broken laws - eg if it was seditious, misrepresented facts etc - a clarification and response should be issued by the affected party.

Most of the time, if not all the time, media portals will carry that clarification and in some extreme cases, the media portals will apologize for the 'error' and for damaging the reputation of the affected party.

I must say that TMI have been fair to readers like me who often send in articles for publication on TMI's site, some of them were clarifying and explaining issues when the Government came under attack by netizens. I appreciate the space and opportunity given by TMI and I made full use of my relationship with TMI, why can't the Government?

The Government and MACC could have chosen a more democratic path. Issue statements to clarify the points in the article, not block access to the news portal.

Also, the Government and MACC have an alternative option which is to take legal action against The Malaysian Insider if they have broken any law. We have sufficient laws in our country to sure that all parties are protected.

Blocking access to The Malaysian Insider is an act against freedom of the press and information.

It is also quite pointless since netizens can easily access the site through proxy sites, or read the articles either on mirror sites or Facebook.

We must seek to engage media portals and journalists, not gag and bind them. We must learn how to work together in this ecosystem, not engage in war with high handed tactics like this.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Zahid Hamidi and his Bangladeshis

I am extremely disappointed with the way our Government handles its communications. We have a million people in civil service and every single Ministry has a corporate communications unit.

No one stepped up to help explain about this 1.5 million Bangladeshis issue and left the Deputy Prime Minister alone in this mess.

All sorts of allegations and questions are being thrown at the Government recently:

(a) BN wants to bring in 1.5 mil Bangladeshis for GE14
(b) Why 1.5 million? Where did this number come from?
(b) Government doesn’t care about providing jobs for locals

Let us spend some time to discuss them.


(a) 1.5 mil Bangladeshis for GE14?

GE14 is about 24 months away. We are talking about 1.5 million Bangladeshis here.

There are about 6 flights between Dhaka and Kuala Lumpur, serviced either by an Airbus A320 or a Boeing 737 with 180 seats in each plane. 

Assuming that the Government reserves all the seats in the 6 flights and tell the rest of the commercial passengers to take the sampan instead, that's 1,080 Bangladeshis a day and it takes 4 years for the entire 1.5 million to reach our shores.

And please, 1.5 million Bangladeshis to rig the electoral roll of which seats in Peninsular Malaysia? We are talking about bringing in extremely visible and noticeable humans, nearly twice the population of Subang Jaya and Petaling Jaya combined, not hamsters.


(b) Why 1.5 million? Where did this number come from?

I am disappointed that none of the industry associations stood up to defend the Government. Every year, you knock on the doors of Ministers and Ministry officials to complain about shortage of workers and you want the Government to open the flood gates to bring in foreign workers.

Now that the Government is being criticized for helping you, you chose to stay silent?

The Government has no agenda or interest at all for bringing in foreign workers. I can assure you this.

The entire 1.5 million is based on industry demands over a certain period. Not the whole lot of 1.5 million Bangladeshis are coming in tomorrow morning on a Boeing plane.

And the 1.5 million workers are most certainly not just to top up the existing pool of foreign workers that we have here already. Most of them, I believe, are to replace those who have to return to their home country annually, either by choice or because of regulations.

Take the oil palm industry for example. It is an extremely labor intensive sector. Did you know that there are over 400,000 workers in the upstream sector where 24% are locals and 76% are foreign workers?

In 2013 alone, the oil palm sector applied for permits to bring in 65,000 foreign workers via the Home Ministry. A majority of them were brought in to replace the outgoing pool of foreign workers at that time.

And every year, the plantation companies submit labour requirements statistics to the Government and we are always short of 30,000 workers. Yes, till today.

This is just the oil palm upstream industry. I've not even touched other sectors such as the domestic services, construction, manufacturing, food eateries, cleaning services etc.

Imagine the number of foreign workers that are leaving our country every year which require replacement. Yes, hold that thought and understand that these are the number of foreign workers that industry associations want the Government to help bring in.


(c) Government doesn’t care about providing jobs for locals?

Never in my 5 years of working in Government, have I ever missed a single year of complaints from industry captains in sectors that I cover - from upstream plantations to downstream manufacturing.

The truth is, Government has always been making it difficult for our local industries to hire foreign workers.

The Government adopts a three-pronged strategy for this.

First, through incentives to automate. MIDA provides a 200% capital allowance on automation expenditure to high labour-intensive industries.

Second, by making it expensive to bring in a foreign worker or maid with those levies, visa payments, security bonds, provision of housing and insurance etc.

Third, through fixed ratios of 1 local worker to 3 foreign workers or 1 foreign worker to a specified area

For oil palm plantations, it used to be about 1 foreign worker to 8 or 10 hectares. I am not so sure what it is now. You can't just simply bring in any number of workers that you want.

For manufacturing, I know that the Government regulation was 1 local worker to 3 foreign workers. One cannot simply just hire foreign workers without providing jobs for locals also.

In fact, before the employer is allowed to bring in a foreign worker, the employer must first made the job offer available to locals first via the Job Clearing System or Jobs Malaysia.

Every employer knows this. It is stated clearly on the Home Ministry's website:

Sebelum membuat permohonan pengambilan pekerja asing, majikan perlu mendapatkan perakuan daripada Jabatan Tenaga Kerja Semenanjung Malaysia (JTKSM) yang mengesahkan bahawa majikan telah menggunakan perkhidmatan Job Clearing System (JCS) / Jobs Malaysia untuk mendapatkan pekerja tempatan.

So, if any of you yourself or you want your kids to clean tables and plates, pick up oil palm fruits, tap the rubber tree, clean the washroom, work at the production lines and others, please my dear, don't waste your time attacking Zahid or the Government on Twitter and Facebook. Just go to any Jobs Malaysia or Jabatan Tenaga Kerja's office and apply for it.

As for me, I prefer to see my fellow Malaysians move up a notch with greater ambition in the labor market. I want to see my fellow Malaysians as administrative and legal clerks, as teachers, as lawyers, engineers and accountants, as executives and managers.

And I hope the industry associations start to find their voice again on this foreign workers issue. Or if Tan Sri Apandi gives the green light, do you want the Government to divulge the specific requests for foreign workers by each and every one of you?