Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The "Najib Move"

While the world was busy preparing statements and meeting the press to slam Russia, it was the Prime Minister of a developing country with a population of 29 mil population

(1) established contact with Alexander Borodai, who is in command of the crash site

(2) secured the bodies and the black boxes

(3) received permission to access the crash site with safety guaranteed for the independent international investigators.

I wonder if the wife of the politician from Penang who used the words “scary and useless” to describe Malaysia (she apologized) has anything else to say now.

There were two comments in Twitter that caught my attention - YB Liew Chin Tong and Datuk Mazri Muhammad.

“@liewchintong: MH17 may be the beginning of a New Cold War. If Russia has to be told off, we have no choice but to do it. Our foreign policy needs clarity.”

“@mazri73: If we are vocal against Russia, will Russia stop support for Malaysian Su-30s, MiG-29s and other weapon systems in our military arsenal”

Their comments made me realized the complexity of our foreign relations policy especially in this tragedy.

Both countries have had diplomatic relations since the 1960s. About half of our air assault potential is Russian made. We have about 30 Sukhoi and MiG fighter jets. Trading between the two countries is valued at approximately US$ 2 billion. In education, we have over 5,000 students there.

This is not a case of being vocal, neutral or being quiet. It is about priorities and the timing must be right especially when there were reports of inaccessibility to the site and with news quoting the Ukrainian Prime Minister later that the rebels did not allow the train with bodies to leave.

The international media and international figures were quick to push the blame of the MH17 on Russia but there were some who threw in conspiracy theories against the Americans such as the Operation Northwoods that was rejected by President John F. Kennedy.

Whether it was the Americans, Ukrainians or Russians, no one is sure until the investigations have been concluded.

We are caught in a geopolitical crisis and Najib has played his cards right without jumping on the bandwagon to blame the rebels, the Russians or the Americans. The reality is that the bodies and crash site are in the region under the command of Alexander Borodai. Najib made the right move when he established contact and reached an agreement with Borodai for the bodies, the black boxes and the investigation to be carried out. No harsh statements or bullets would have worked but only diplomacy.

It is important that the Americans, Ukrainians and Russians know that the Malaysian Government and the families of the victims of geopolitics do not have interest in who controls Donetsk. In this moment of grieve and sadness, the only right thing to do is to allow the families to have their loved ones back for a proper burial first.

The next phase is for investigations to be carried out thoroughly and to deliver justice for those who lost their lives in MH17. The individuals who are directly responsible, the operations chief and the one who pulled the trigger, must be swiftly brought to justice. It is an unforgivable sin.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Let the numbers do the talking, Dr Dzul

I sent the following piece to The Malaysian Insider on 22 May 2014 and 23 May 2014. I think TMI Editorial team will not bother probably because they were comparing Dr Dzul vs "who is this Goh Wei Liang". But I hope TMI did not evolve into a 1Voice, 1Opinion, 1Direction site. Two party system must have three opinions lah - Government, Opposition, and the shy ones.


I refer to Dr Dzul's article "GTP and ETP 2013 Report: Looking beyond numbers". I must commend him for being one of the few MPs from the Opposition bench in Parliament who actually cares about our economy. All these while, I thought it was just YB MP Serdang who cares. I won’t go into the details of my “it’s complicated” relationship with YB MP Serdang.

Let's go straight into the comments by Dr Dzul.

Comment #1 – Dr Dzul: Poor scores of four NKEAs were noted. They have failed their KPIs as noted by RHB Research Institute
While it is true that some of the NKEAs did not hit their targets, should we not commend the Prime Minister and his Cabinet for being transparent on their KPIs and their actual achievement? If you flip through the Annual Report(s), the Government actually reported what they have done in the past 12 months in the following order:

1.  What went well
2.  What went wrong and why
3.  Moving forward (targets and plans for the following year)

When you think of Najib, regardless of whether you like him or not, at least the first thing that comes to mind is his Transformation Programmes. He releases annual reports for you to judge, regardless if he is achieving them or not.

When you think of the Economic Advisor of Selangor (I don’t know what has he advised Khalid Ibrahim on), the Chief Ministers, do you know what are their annual targets and achievements? Can you name any? I am not just talking about the Pakatan Rakyat-led States but also the Barisan Nasional States.

Comment #2 – Dr Dzul: Investments were down by 75% year-on-year to RM8 billion as compared to RM32.1 billion in 2012 and RM179.2 in 2011. Research houses are already alluding to concern of our attractiveness as an investment destination.
Investments are not down. Private investment have been increasing year on year. The growth rate of investments were higher post 2010 as compared to the years before. This, to me, is a sign of confidence in the Malaysian economy and our political stability.

In fact, the approved investments under MIDA and the other investment promotion agencies in 2011-2013 have exceeded the RMK10’s annual target of RM148 bil. This is a clear sign of a healthy pipeline of investments.

If there’s anything to be worried about, it is probably the water issue and the quality of the infrastructure in Selangor such as roads. Please don’t come and tell me that these are Federal Government’s responsibility because clearly not all roads are Federal Government roads. Already the Economic Advisor of Selangor was caught red handed on Twitter when a netizen highlighted to him that a stretch between Kulim to Bukit Mertajam is in a bad condition. Conveniently, YB Permatang Pauh said “Jln persekutuan-dah ruj Kem”. The Works Minister checked and sent a reply that says “Just finished cabinet meeting n just checked that this road is P7, it is a state road”.

Now we know why Penang’s budget is in a surplus position.

Comment #3: Dr Dzul - Are we on a sure trajectory, ceteris paribus, which will propel us into a high-income economy come 2020?
No one can be sure but it looks like we are closing the gap on high income threshold (we are catching up!)

Comment #4 - Dr Dzul: More specifically here, neither has the quality of life for the bottom 40% of the rakyat or citizenry improved, worse still, declined. Nor that the size of the middle class has become broader based and improving.

I am not going to talk about quality of life but standard of living measured by income. It is extremely important for us, regardless if you are Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat or still shy to take sides, to actually put bread and butter on the tables of those who are less fortunate.

Say what you like, but the Government did not sideline the bottom 40%. And when we talk about the bottom 40%, please don’t think of this as folks in Selangor, Penang or Johor only. Remember our brothers and sisters in Sabah and Sarawak.

Under the 10th Malaysia Plan, the mean income of the bottom 40% of households in 2009 was RM1,440 per month. This increased to RM1,847 in 2012. That’s a compounded annual growth rate of 8.7%.

  • 188,781 people were moved out from Poverty between 2009 and 2013. In 2013 alone, it was 79,731 people.
  • 18,249 1Azam participants' increased their income by RM300 in 2013. 
  • The Government has spent RM7.72 billion in technical and vocational education and training.
  • The Government in 2010 has approved RM1 bil for oil palm smallholders replanting and new planting for implementation in 2011-2014
  • The Government introduced the minimum wage in 2013. An estimated 3.2 million people in Malaysia will directly benefit from Minimum Wage and I was told that the compliance rate is at approximately 97%.

In the overall labour market context, according to a briefing by a Cabinet Minister to analysts and media:
  1. Income less than RM2,000 per month: 57% in 2009, it is 47% now.
  2. Income between RM2,000 – RM4,000 per month: 28% in 2009, it is 32% now.
  3. Income between RM4,000 – RM7,000 per month: 11% in 2009, it is 13% now.
The Government did not and will not stop here. The focus will always be to assist those that are less fortunate and the needy.

Of course, I must say that we must applaud some of the non-Government's efforts such as NRC 11's #KitchenForHomeless and DAP's Impian Sarawak projects. After seeing the pictures of YB MP Serdang carrying bags of fertilizer and delivering them to long houses in interior Sarawak, I think he deserves a pat on the back. This clearly shows that this is not just the responsibility of the Government, but us all.

This is our country and we must work together in this transformation journey.

I am always searching for thoughts or words when it comes to writing the conclusion. So, I will just re-use what Dr Dzul said and send it back to Dr. “As the saying goes, if you want to have what you never had, you have got to do what you have never done”.


The above is the personal opinion of Goh Wei Liang.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

YB Nga Kor Ming on toll roads

It is really none of my business on whether or not toll rates go up. Of course I would like to see it go down because the RM 12 per day that I pay takes up a large chunk of my salary.

But what I can't accept is people who try to be heroes or make a lot of noise without facts.

On Feb 7, YB Nga Kor Ming said "Demi kroni, BN gadaikan hak rakyat. Krn kontrak kangkung, dlm 3 thn Krjn bayar RM976 juta pampasan kpd konsensi TOL."

This MP who has been a politician probably since before I was born, clearly knows nuts about toll.

The compensation, I believe, is calculated by (New toll rate - current toll rate) x (Traffic volume in that year). The definition of "New toll rate" here is the figure in the concession agreement while current toll rate is what we pay. The difference ... is the required compensation to ensure that today, tomorrow and forever you pay what you have been paying yesterday.

Did you know that toll rates in Malaysia for most, if not all of the concessions, are based on a step up rate? This means that there is a schedule of toll increment every X years. In this case, the expected revenue stream, in simple terms without time value of money, is simply just = (Price x Traffic Volume x Concession Period).

Seriously, you expect Tan Sri Irwan Serigar the Treasurer General to just wake up one fine morning and say "hey! Let's increase toll rates" ???

To enable the project to be bankable (ie you can borrow money to finance the roads development), I believe the Government agreed on a step up rate every X years. For example, an increase of 5% every 3 years under PLUS and Government also agreed on the concession period. This is public knowledge, found on The Star's Archive HERE and on NST's Archive HERE so Special Branch shouldn't worry or bother investigating me.

What is not guaranteed by the Government is the traffic volume (well, maybe just 1 ... long long time ago).

If no one uses LEKAS for example OR if many cars use LDP's non tollable roads OR if we bypass Damansara Link toll plaza through the inner road, then that's okay. Government will still tell the operators "That's your problem, mate. But you must maintain that highway according to specific standards."

This is a fair deal to the Government.

Did you know that there are 1 million users on LDP's non toll areas (it is an open system) but only 440,000 vehicles pass through their four toll plazas only?

Yes, of course, you can't be bothered with these details. All you care about is HIGH TOLL RATES and we are benefiting cronies.

Is this true?

Let's look at Australia. According to Wikipedia HERE, EastLink Toll Road in Melbourne which is managed by ConnectEast, has a concession that's valid for 39 years. This means that Australians must pay until 2047 if I am not mistaken (they started operations in year 2008). PLUS' concession ends in 2038.

What about toll rates?

Did you know that EastLink's toll rates are adjusted EVERY YEAR based on inflation numbers? Read it HERE. TIAP TIAP TAHUN TOL NAIK!

Please tell me. Which UMNO crony owns the toll roads in Melbourne?

Let me show you some math. According to news report, PLUS toll rate in 2009 was at 13.60 sen per km. If we used Australia's annual CPI adjusted model, PLUS should have charged us 14.358 sen per km in 2012 and 14.596 sen per km in 2013.

But guess what? Today, you still pay 13.60 cents per km.

Of course, this is just one example and simple math. I might have missed out some things.

But if our Malaysian MPs like YB Nga Kor Ming cannot even do some brief research and analysis like this but instead spend time slamming the Government with no baseline data and facts, it is really bad.

Good for nothing ... memalukan saja, YB.

*The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not represent the views of any other individuals or organizations.