Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year 2013

The year 2013 was an eventful one but the one that remained fresh in our memories was the GE13.

This year was indeed a tough one for two men. The many challenges that came their way exposed their strengths and weaknesses. They are Najib Razak and Anwar Ibrahim.

There was a long wait for GE13 as politicians were going around in full gear and speed since mid 2012. The final call for elections by the Prime Minister himself did not come even after the highlight of his career on 19 March 2013 in Angkasapuri / RTM when he delivered his Government's report card - Najib: Government has kept its promises on transformation

I still remember on that night, there was a point when PM said "Sehubungan dengan itu, tuan-tuan dan puan-puan, sukacita saya mengumumkan (PM paused) ..."

You could hear the excitement and whispers in the auditorium "pilihan raya?"

Well, it wasn't. PM used this stage to announce that -  kerajaan akan menjadikan dan meneruskan Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia sebagai inisiatif tahunan.

You can access his speech here - THE PRESENTATION OF GTP/ETP ANNUAL REPORT 2012. The speech carried the tone that the election is really, really near.

The many cash handouts were good Sir. It carries immediate relief to the people who need the money to buy textbooks (university students), buy uniform or school books (school children) and people who are in the low income households. To the economy, it was a cash injection and since Malaysia's GDP growth is consumption driven, the positive impact could be felt by businesses. Money exchanged hands faster and more frequent though in smaller quantum. That's good.

Two weeks later on Apr 3, true enough, PM announced the dissolution of the Parliament with the consent from Yang di Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah.

Borneo Post described it as - Mother of all elections begins

The results on 5th May 2013 was once again with Barisan Nasional. Barisan Nasional won 133 seats, Pakatan Rakyat won 89 seats. The ruling coalition won 2/3, a common election result during Tun Dr Mahathir's days but became "too close to call" since Pak Lah was Prime Minister in his 2nd term.

Whether or not it was a mother of all elections, I am not sure. Support from rural areas especially Sabah and Sarawak remained strong. Barisan Nasional has never sidelined them with the annual agricultural assistance and cost of living packages.

The same "positive reception" cannot be applied in urban areas. It was a social media and Government performance/policy battle. We failed to perform in improving both perception and actual incidences of crime and corruption. And our Communications plan - both Government and Barisan Nasional - were just ... well, sickening. (if there was one).

Look at the coalition's method. Barisan Nasional was active on Twitter, Facebook. That's ok. We have no complaints. Many supporters played their part on blogs too.

Well at least UMNO and MIC. I don't know where were the MCA folks. One day Sabah and Sarawak politicans will pay dearly if they don't play a more active role in social media. Seems to me Abdul Rahman Dahlan and Bung Mokhtar from Sabah are the only active ones.

But it gets annoying and drives people mad when we receive
  • automated calls (once you pick up, the recorded message will play)
  • calls from individuals (I believe they are from BN, and having a chat with us on who will we vote for etc)
  • sms-es from BN
I don't think this is the best way to reach out to people. PM should review this outreach programme in PWTC / BN.

Here's one that I just received:

Thanks, Happy New Year but try something else please.

To one man, regardless of any analysis on GE13, it was the mother of all frauds. He is Anwar Ibrahim. Ini bukan saya kata ya.

Check out the article on The Telegraph (UK) - Malaysian vote was 'mother of all frauds' says Ibrahim Anwar and on BBC News - Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim urges protest over poll defeat

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has urged supporters to stage a protest after Malaysia's ruling coalition won polls he said were marred by fraud....He added that there were "specific incidents" of voter fraud involving foreign nationals.

Actually, it all began on election day. Rumours of foreign nationals voting in GE13 started to go viral mid day. Here's one.

Hey, what b*llshit is this. I believe there are many people in Malaysia who can't sing Negaraku and speak Bahasa Malaysia. What sort of criteria are these to determine "genuine" voters? 

Here are two more

Then there was Chua Lai Fatt's issue with none other than the special one, DAP MP of Serdang, Dr Ong Kian Ming. Allow me to quote The Star -  "Dr Ong Kian Ming had used first-time voter Chua as an example when he questioned the Election Commission on allegations that the Government had issued MyKads to foreigners on May 4, the eve of the general election."

After GE13, Dr Ong apologized for wrongly accusing him. Chua was really a Malaysian and there's a reason why his name is Chinese but he doesn't look like Chinese. 

I think all the above are a form of racial profiling to me. Let this be a lesson to all that Malaysia is not about Malays, Chinese, Indians or "dan lain-lain". And have some respect for others who look, dress and eat differently than you.

If you go over to Sabah and Sarawak, you will realize that Malaysia is not about Malays, Chinese and Indians or "the others". Everyone looks, dresses and speaks the same language there. They even eat and drink together and you can't tell who is from what race. True story. And I hope the next joker who wants to mess around in Sabah (and Sarawak) on religion and racial politics reads this first:

Took this picture when I was in Ranau, Sabah.

Anyway, back to the Prime Minister wannabe, he was a sore and bitter man after GE13 on 5th May 2013. It was the only election and the only chance for him to be Prime Minister. In GE14, he will be too old and ... there's Azmin Ali who has been very patient in the sidelines. He can't be Anwar's coffee and doughnuts boy for too long right?

In the end, a few weeks after the elections, this confused man was all smiles at the swearing-in ceremony in Parliament.

Pic from Malaysia Chronicle

Pic from The Star

Err... okay. So much for the protests and rallies.

After the elections, PM clearly was not interested in political games with the Opposition anymore. He went straight into action, he has a country to manage. There were quite a number of things sitting on his table to be cleared and most of these are unpopular policies. All credits to him, he went full steam ahead to implement what he couldn't do before elections such as the Goods and Services Tax. Not because he can't but the amount of resources that BN or the Government need to put in to explain to voters are just too much.

You see, BN and the Government are not exactly good communicators or strategists minus a few bloggers like Rockybru, BigDog, AnotherBrickInWall, and a few leaders like Subramaniam, Mukhriz, Hishammuddin, Khairy, even Idris Jala the non politician. The rest need to attend a few tutorials.

PM's bold steps in
  • reducing subsidies for petrol and diesel (increased by 20 cents)
  • increasing electricity tariff 
  • increasing the feed in tariff on electricity bills from 1% to 1.6% to support the Renewable Energy programme
  • introducing the Goods and Services tax
were all well received by ratings agencies and analysts.

Except the public, of course. Many don't seem to understand why is there a electricity tariff hike for instance. Why don't you spend a few minutes to read this - Electricity Tariff Hike : How much do you know and how will it affects you? by Tai Zee Kin.

Before you switch excuses or spin any stories, the Government is actually doing just fine under Najib. We are not great but not bad either. We are on a steady climb towards a developed nation.

On 16 Dec, the Prime Minister addressed a crowd of about 1,000 people in Putrajaya International Convention Centre. This was the ETP Turns 3 event. In his speech, PM said:
  1. Malaysia’s real GDP grew from RM676.7 billion in 2010 to RM751.5 billion in 2012. This represents a significant increase of 11 percent.

  2. As of quarter three this year, GDP recorded a five percent increase year-on-year, outstripping forecasts. It is projected to hit 4.5 to five percent by year-end.

  3. The country is at full employment, with declining unemployment rates from 3.7 percent in 2009 to three percent in 2012. During my tenure, employment has increased by 1.8 million, as population growth held steady at 1.7 percent.

  4. We have tripled the annual growth rate of private investment since the start of the economic transformation in 2010. The baseline average of five percent a year from 2008 to 2010 has been lifted three-fold to 16 percent for the period 2010 to 2012.

  5. This year, private investment is forecast to grow at 16.2 percent, hitting RM135.8 billion.

  6. Private investment accounted for 65 percent of total investment in the first nine months of this year.

  7. Increase in government revenue of 14 percent for the period of 2010 to 2012, growing from RM160 billion to RM207 billion. We project to hit RM220 billion in revenue this year.

  8. We continue to slash back our fiscal deficit as a percentage of GDP. From 6.6 percent in 2009, we will reach four percent this year, and further reduce the deficit to three percent in 2015.

  9. Private consumption held steady since 2010, growing from six percent to 7.7 percent in 2012. In the first nine months alone this year, we grew at 7.7 percent. 

  10. Investors showed confidence in the Malaysian stock market, as can be seen by the FTSE-KLCI’s upward trend, hitting 66 historical highs in the last three years. On 10 December 2013, the market scaled another record high at 1,843.85 points. 

But we have to agree that regardless of the positive outlook of our economy under Najibnomics, subsidies are just to much to bear for the Government. Not just from the growing demand of the current users but there are new sets of consumer taste and preferences, population growth, and commodities costs to think about.

Our price ceiling policy for subsidies is never a good one. It should have been an absolute / specific subsidy rate eg a subsidy of RM0.60 per litre on RON95. Fluctuations in global prices, be it savings or additional costs, will be passed on to the consumer. But it will still be 60 cents cheaper than the market rate. This will allow the market to behave efficiently and learn how to adjust to shocks.

That's academic now.

If you think it is easy for the Prime Minister to sign off the GST and subsidy rationalization plans knowing very well that he's going to be unpopular, think again. Do you really think he enjoys seeing people suffer from his decisions? He's from Pekan, not Bangsar. But there are things that need to be done and he has the balls to do it. I think there are more things that the Prime Minister can do to complement the subsidy rationalization.

The Opposition is right, review the toll concessions. We have no objections if you want us to repay the cost of constructing the toll (finance, operations, etc). But once it is done, cap the toll fees to cover maintenance and operations only please.

There are also "sin" goods or if you like, unhealthy subsidies, that we can look at. Take for example, cooking oil. Why are we not removing the subsidies for this first? I think I know why but I can't tell you.

The Government must immediately look at removing monopolies in all sectors. The people can't be paying market prices for fuel, excessive toll rates, expensive cars and expect to smile and say I Love PM.

When we head towards market efficient points with the removal of subsidies, you need to allow people to have options and let us make choices. Let us choose where to allocate our resources - time and money. Let there be competition with prices that reflect true market efficient equilibrium points.

Be it logistics, transportation, or food. The market has to be competitive, free, and efficient.

It goes without saying that the Government must also go on roadshows to explain GST.

Why are you sitting down when people from PAS, PKR and DAP are actively hitting the road, preaching to people from all walks of life especially students that GST is unnecessary? Check Twitter.

There are so many things in Government that are not properly explained or communicated to the people. It is high time that the Prime Minister consider a dedicated Government communications unit, if not the Communications and Multimedia Ministry.

The Cabinet, Chief Secretary and Treasurer General knew very well that the subsidy removals will not go down well. You can't just bite the bullet and expect the people to continue with the theory that "Malaysians will forget by tomorrow". Where was the Communications plan? What happened to every Ministry's Communications Unit? Are they merely event managers and photographers?

People will be reminded everyday, from the moment they turn on the lights at home, they unlock their cars, they fill up their petrol tanks, they drive on toll roads, they eat in hawker stalls.

It is good to read that The Star - Public sector will see 11 cost-cutting measures implemented to compensate for price hikes

..........but it certainly came late.

First of all, I disagree with cutting the perks of the Ministers and senior Government officials. They are not exactly highly paid if you look at their basic salaries. When you tighten the politicians' belt, they will need to look for "funding" somewhere else. And that's definitely a grey area. We don't have political funding transparency in Malaysia - hey not even in Pakatan Rakyat okay?

But frankly, are the cost cutting measures enough? What about the standard practice of serving kuih and teh tarik / Nescafe in meetings? Do you know that there are agencies like PEMANDU who couldn't care less if you had your breakfast? They just provide a room with a table and chairs. If you really want, they will get you a glass of water but that's it. No catering contracts for anyone.

There's also an open secret of working in Government which is paying each other "speakers' and council member fees".

Every time a government official is invited to speak at a conference - most probably organized by another government agency - he or she gets paid to speak, depending on the seniority of the official. Why wasn't this slashed? End this practice.

Every time a new council is setup, that means money. Government officials do get extra income by setting up councils (they get paid to attend meetings) or getting themselves a Directorship in several government agencies or GLCs. All these need to be reviewed by the Public Service Dept Director General (KPPA). Maybe it is okay to get paid for advisory services to GLCs as Board member but there should only be one salary from the Government. Government officials must not setup councils in Ministries, invite each other to be a member and pay each other. End this practice.

I can go on and on but at times I wonder .... why should I bother....

What a year this has been. I am looking forward to 2014. It will be a challenging one with escalating costs of living and crazy politicians still running around, I'm sure.

As always, let's hope for a better, happy and peaceful New Year!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Better things to do on a Saturday

I really don't like people to spoil my Saturdays. This is because I support this team up north of UK called Newcastle. They always give me headaches. Their performance in the English Premier League is like the Banjaran Titiwangsa - ups and downs since Sir Bobby Robson days. Tonight we are playing Crystal Palace.

On Thursday, Syed Akbar Ali posted an article - KJ Tells Idris To Give Con-sultan RM6.0M To Confirm Toll Hike??

There were two replies - one from me with this post - Outside the door or under the table? - and there was another one via email from the Principal Private Secretary of Idris Jala, Izhar Moslim. Izhar's email was taken well by BigDogDotCom and he posted the email in full here - Misfire

This evening, yes a Saturday today, Syed Akbar Ali posted another article - Pemandu : Khairy Jamaluddin Is Bullsh*tting

There's a paragraph that made me laughed out loud.

Before I go further I think I may have achieved two things :
i. On the plus side I think I have just saved the taxpayer RM6.0 Million (You are most welcome. Sama-sama).  Pemandu says they will not be hiring any 'con-sultans' brains to hold their hands over the toll hike.  

I think this is a classic example of "I'm trying to save face here".

There was absolutely no mention of RM6 mil by anyone to be given to Idris Jala to hire consultants. Not KJ, not Nazri, not Subramaniam, not Ali Hamsa, not Nancy Shukri, not Hishammuddin, not even Zahid Hamidi. This number wasn't mentioned in any Cabinet meetings, didn't appear in any papers, didn't appear even in anyone's minds. There weren't any plans to hire any consultants to begin with!

And there's a paragraph

I say kawan, first of all this is already the end of this year lah. Christmas is four days away and in 10 days it will be the new year 2014. So what 'end of this year' is Pemandu talking about?  You mean you are going to conduct your workshop with MoF and KBS (?) between your X'mas party and your New Year's Eve Party? Jangan bullsh*t ok.

I am going to break some rules here. Here's the email (or probably bullshit to some).

I heard PEMANDU staff had this "are you kidding me" look when they heard there's a workshop/lab in the next week or two before 31 Dec 2013:

Now let's go to the fun part that Syed Akbar Ali said.

Pemandu has been paying the con-sultans up to RM6.0 Million per 'lab'. I would like Pemandu to refute this figure.  This is what I am driving at.

I texted the Principal Private Secretary. Asked him how many labs did PEMANDU do, whether it is
  • on PEMANDU core work and deliverables
  • on areas where we were the busybody kid (kami bukan Ah Long, cuma nak tolong)
  • on projects/strategic roadmap that other Ministries/agencies asked us to help instead of spending on consultants
  • Orders from Cabinet

I hope his wife is not angry of me. Don't mean to disturb you on your weekend bro but your name is going around on Twitter and Blogs.

Interestingly, PEMANDU has done almost 80 labs. Ok lah, let's assume 70 labs.

Before we do some calculations, if you remember, in my article - PEMANDU, The Animal back in September 2013, I wrote that I did a quick check on PEMANDU Operating Budget.

Budget allocations to all Ministries and Federal agencies are listed in the MOF Annual Financial Reports. Here’s the link: http://www.treasury.gov.my/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=88&Itemid=208&lang=my

If you search PEMANDU, you will see the following
  • In 2010, code 290700 was RM18.71mil, code 300900 was RM40.6 mil. Total: RM59.31 mil
  • In 2011, code 310000 was RM20.672mil, code 320800 was RM0.897 mil, code 330000 RM18.4302 mil. Total: RM40 mil
  • In 2012, code 330000 was RM40 mil. Total: RM40 mil

If I am not mistaken, 2013 is at RM40mil too. Too lazy to check.

In total in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 (4 years), PEMANDU has received RM179.31 mil for operating expenditure/budget. Note that:

  1. PEMANDU staff grew from just the Minister alone to 100-120 staff over the years

  2. PEMANDU’s portfolio grew from 6 National Key Results Areas in 2009, added 12 National Key Economic Areas in 2010, added 6 Strategic Reform Initiatives in 2011 (in total, 25 portfolios)

  3. PEMANDU’s expense items include:
  • Salary and wages for the what .... 100 – 120 staff?
  • Travel allowances
  • Flights
  • Cars and maintenances
  • Office rental
  • Telecommunications, utilitieslabs and roadmaps development with various Ministries, Federal agencies and corridors

Now, according to the "Outsyed The Box" informer who is perhaps frequently eavesdropping outside the door of the Cabinet meeting room or probably under the table in between the legs of Najib, Subramaniam, Nazri, Ali Hamsa and the rest of the gang, PEMANDU pays consultants up to RM 6 mil per lab. According to Syed Akbar Ali and his informers la.

Okay, so RM6 mil paid to consultants per lab.

Let's take the "Outsyed The Box" idea/assumption here of RM6 mil for consultancy fees per lab. We get RM6 mil per lab x 70 labs = RM420 million. (PEMANDU OE in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 was approximately RM179.31 mil. Idris Jala, did you take the balance RM240.69 mil from the Monopoly game boxes in Toys R Us to cover the deficit?)

Let's try a conservative "Outsyed The Box" calculation. Say RM3 mil per lab? That will be RM3 mil per lab x 70 labs = RM210 mil. (PEMANDU OE in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 was approximately RM179.31 mil. Idris Jala, did you take the balance RM30.69 mil from the Monopoly game boxes in Toys R Us to cover the deficit?)

I'm sure the RM6mil did not include the following from the lab:
  • karipap
  • teh tarik
  • milo ais
  • whiteboard marker
  • A4 paper
  • printer ink
  • and others
Idris Jala, please, don't owe the karipap lady any more money. Use some of the Monopoly game money. Saidina pun ok la. Here.

My fellow friends, one notable figure in PEMANDU, which I heard Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin used to describe her as "the Iron Lady" in Government is this lady Datuk Aziyah Bahauddin. She was one of those copied in the email "leak" above.

She has served under 4 (or maybe 5) Prime Ministers including Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Tun Abdullah Badawi, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak when she was in Treasury. She's actually the Tax Lady of Malaysia. For someone like this who has dedicated her life to ensuring Malaysia's finances remain healthy, do you really think she will happily agree to spend money given to PEMANDU like there's no tomorrow?

Datuk, congratulations by the way. I believe it is a badge of honor for yourself and everyone there in PEMANDU to be called consultants instead of civil servants. I am not sure if everyone is happy to be called "consultancy shopaholics" though.

What's next, I wonder.

I have better things to do on a Saturday. We all do. Time to watch the match.

*The above blog post is the personal opinion of GWL. Probably endorsed by Musang King and D24. Yes, thorny affair indeed.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Outside the door or under the table?

Here's what I don't understand. Each time there's a new article about PEMANDU, the ETP, the GTP or whatever peas by my brothers and seniors in the blogosphere, it is always when I have landed somewhere. Always.

I was in Kuching this time. I had a very, very good meeting this morning with important people in Sarawak despite the open secret that a very, very powerful man there doesn't like me (and my boss). True story guys, true story.

And after that good meeting, I had this on AK 5213 at 535pm.

When I touched down in LCCT at about 8pm, I saw this - KJ tells Idris to give con-sultan RM6.0M to confirm toll hike??

Extract from SAA's Blog:  

"Yup thats what our hare brained Ministers are suggesting. I have been informed that each of these "labs" that will be run by the con-sultans will cost us the taxpayer at least RM6.0 Million. And at the end of it all do you think the tolls will not go up?"

Laaaaaa. Ini macam cerita lawak Samy Vellu dah. When asked "Tapi Datuk, sini tak ade sungai, buat apa bina jambatan?", Samy said "kalau takde itu sungai, kita bikin itu sungai". (just a joke la Samy, jangan marah)

Come on bro. Your informer told you it is RM6 mil? Not RM60 mil? Are you sure?

Yes, it is true that in the Cabinet meeting on 18 Dec 2013, PEMANDU has been instructed to come up with an overview and plan on the various subsidy rationalisation exercises that are being carried out by various Ministries and agencies in Government. But there's no RM6 million.

Is this workshop good? Yes I think so. At the moment, does anyone in Government know about subsidy rationalization plan? No. What's next on the list, anyone knows? No. What is the total impact, anyone? No one.

Why aren't there questions like:
  • Why are the various Ministries slashing subsidies like there's no tomorrow?
  • Was there an actual centralized plan on subsidy rationalization?
  • Why are these decision so decentralized when there's a Fiscal Policy Committee chaired by the Prime Minister himself?
  • Where are the guys from Treasury? 
  • Where are the guys from EPU?
  • Where is the communication plan?
  • How will the CPI and household expenditure look like with these?
  • What will happen to consumption driven GDP growth?
  • What will happen to a sudden dip in public expenditure? 
  • Remember the basic C+I+G+X?

I am as unhappy as all of you. I pay about RM12 toll everyday (dua belas ringgit ... setiap hari ya) and I pay RM100 per week for petrol on my mom's 10 year old Proton Waja (yes I don't own any cars myself).

Whatever said and done, it is time to move on and get things right. Because our Communications plan suck, the uncoordinated and zero sense of 'people first' subsidy rationalization programme is crazy. Please, ini subsidy rationalization programme bukan yang asal dan dijamin bukan kerja PEMANDU ya. Omar Ong pun takde. Saya boleh jamin. Kalau saya silap, seumur hidup saya tak terbang AirAsia. Saya kayuh perahu.

I heard there's a deadline for this task. It is to be completed by Jan 2014. Well, imagine if you get this instruction "Hey boys and girls, wherever you are or whatever you plan to do next week, go home tonight and have a good dream about it but come back tomorrow.You have work to do, and you have less than 14 days including weekends to get this shit done".

What holiday? Christmas? New Year? HAHAHAHA, very funny. Now get to work.

I can only imagine what is the first thing that comes to the minds of PEMANDU staff and key decision makers in the various Ministries including Treasury. Probably the same feeling like Spurs fans lately:

If you are interested to know, the consultant's name is Idris Jala. Yang lahir kat Bario, Sarawak tu.

I don't think the Treasurer General will be taking an "Outsyed The Box" approach and pay this consultant RM 6 million for this lab. If he does, please call me. I will join you in Putrajaya for a Duduk Bantah in front of Treasury.

But seriously bro, your informer was ... well..... probably outside the door. Or under the table?

Bro, itu mesyuarat Jemaah Menteri.Yang bancuh kopi atau teh tarik pun:
  1. tak boleh duduk tengok PM senyum
  2. tak boleh tengok muka serius DPM 
  3. tak boleh masuk tengok Nazri Aziz pakai kot putih/krim (yes, I have seen him in this)
  4. tak boleh tengok Subramaniam geleng kepala

If your informer was a Minister, then please name him/her. Because clearly he/she is dreaming in the Cabinet meeting and in the next election, let's give the fella a grand farewell. Maybe you and I can sponsor his/her retirement holiday to Somalia.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ong Tee Keat for MCA President

A couple of months ago, in the 13th General Election that was held on 5 May 2013, the Malaysian Chinese Association was served the "termination letter". The final warning was given in GE 12 but no one bothered I guess....never mind.

Do not even talk about other community's trust, respect or views on MCA. It was clear that the Chinese community didn't like the Government and MCA at all in the past 8 years..

When you walk into a mini market owned by a Malaysian Chinese, they reminded the people "wu ling wu, huan zhen fu" (505, change the Government).

When you sit in a coffee shop and enjoy your plate of chicken rice, again people were talking about "wu ling wu, huan zhen fu" (505, change the Government).

The Chinese community was unhappy about the state of our education, crime and corruption. Seriously, who likes it when we pay 10%, 15% or 25% income tax and the next year you read in the audit report that someone over paid for wall clocks or scanners?

Thankfully this year, the Chief Secretary and the Auditor General launched this:

It is a dashboard tracker of all the "black holes" in the Audit Report, status of the report, action against it, Ministry responsible. This is a positive direction, I believe. You can check it out here - Dashboard

But that's not enough to win the Chinese community back to MCA.

Let me share a little bit about the aging party. I was invited to an MCA dinner once in ... 2010. If my memory serves me right,  I remember noting that out of the 30 tables there that night, there were only 2 tables of youths. The rest were senior citizens well above 50. I am not being disrespectful but you get what I mean. The two tables of youths weren't exactly role models either. They didn't look like they went to university. Only one man did, I know for sure, and that was the former MCA Ipoh Timur candidate - Dr Liew Mun Hon.

I felt out of place as my Mandarin was poor but the Youth Chief was kind enough to help me settle down with the food and checked on me from time to time.

During the Tee Keat - Soi Lek battle in 2010, I was also in Wisma MCA. I was very interested in MCA politics and I do support Tee Keat. The personal assistant invited me and a few others to Wisma MCA on election day. I saw busloads of MCA Central Delegates, members and family that will determine the future of the party. Well, to be honest, while I was there, I didn't get the feeling that I was walking around with professional, young, energetic wage earners. If you know what I mean.

At the end of the day, the Central Delegates voted for Soi Lek to be President and told Tee Keat to leave.

Then, in the 13 GE, Tee Keat was dropped from the candidates list in Pandan. Some genius must have produced a very good report to convince Barisan Nasional War Room and MCA that Ong Tee Keat is not a winnable candidate against Rafizi Ramli in Pandan but a relatively unknown guy called Garry Lim is.

Very good, the Party progressed well. *Clap* *Clap*

Today, we don't have anyone to look up to in MCA. I dare say MCA is talent-less. We don't even have a 'next generation' of leaders in MCA. Unless MCA HQ would like to prove me wrong? Don't bother. Never mind. They don't even know what their members are doing or working as now. 

More needs to be done. Post GE, the following were my Tweets on MCA to friends.

Simple things like the membership list needs to be critically evaluated.
  1. Do we have 1 million members?
  2. How many members are active, inactive, contactable, incommunicado?
  3. How many members are professionals, labourers, businessmen or karaoke guys?
  4. How many new members are we getting every year? 
  5. What is the education background of the members, the age profile, their profession?
  6. What is the rate of MCA members dropping out (old age, migration etc) vs intake?
I know, you know. The numbers are bad but here we are today with many leaders talking about posts and MCA assets. We see this in The Star news almost every month.

A decade or two ago, quite clearly, DAP knew they were like ants to the elephant foot of MCA. They stood strong and maintained a strong network. They focused more on graduates who will eventually become professionals and merely breadwinners, not businessmen like MCA. That worked.

In fact, whilst doing so, the Party created idols at every age group along the way and groomed them. Today we have stars like Liew Chin Tong who came out top in the recent DAP election - surpassed even the Lim Dynasty, Karpal Dynasty. 

Just like airlines that aim to reduce the age of their fleet, MCA needs to do the same. Otherwise, how do you keep up with times? Look at our social media channels.

I want to know who manages the Twitter handle @MCAHQ. I don't think anyone in MCA is handling this. My guess is only 5% of MCA members are on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

This is most probably outsourced to a private media company or amateur. Otherwise, how do you explain the laziness of the handler? He or she released the same tweet using 3 different accounts - @BN4Malaysia, @AhJibGor4Life and @MCAHQ.

Be professional and unique please.

We are now 7 days away from the 2013 MCA party election. The same old 2,000-plus delegates will once again decide the future of the Party.

At 1000am in ZON All Suites Residences today 14 Dec 2013, Ong Tee Keat unveiled his 2013 MCA President Campaign Manifesto.

In his bid to comeback as MCA President, Ong Tee Keat has outlined 3 Principles and 8 Initiatives in his manifesto. You can check them out later when it is uploaded in his website HERE .

One of the interesting remarks that caught the attention of many was this:

MCA is not a racist party. MCA is just structurally communal based. 

This is true. The party has reached out to all communities and has never been race based in their assistance to the people. Ampang people (Indians, Malays, Chinese, you name it) were present to show their support to Ong Tee Keat.

There was also a question from a reporter for Ong Tee Keat's views on MCA politics and running mate. There were talks that Chua and Liow's camp are talking about "unity" while Gan Ping Sieu is teaming up with Donald Lim. Tee Keat explained that MCA Presidential election is not like the American system. He is not interested in running mates. In MCA's context, it means only one thing - horse trading. Tee Keat is a principled man and quite clearly, he is not interested in such backdoor votes trading deals.

This is true. MCA's system is too feudalistic. If the party had kept Tee Keat as President in 2010, we will certainly put DAP and PKR to shame with 1 member 1 vote and direct elections.

21 December - MCA Decides. #otk4mcapresident. The destiny of MCA lies in the hands of 2,386 Central Delegates.

If there is one man in MCA that Malaysians especially the Chinese community will support, it is Ong Tee Keat.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Selangor's RM1.00 Economic Advisor

In Nov 2009, when Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim announced that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been appointed as Selangor's Economic Advisor, there were mixed reactions. But since it was for RM1, no one bothered except Tun Dr Mahathir. 

"Of course, you pay him RM1, you'll get RM1 worth."

When I saw this news article - Massive salary hikes for Selangor MB, assemblymen, I told myself it can't be just RM29,250 for the Menteri Besar. What about other fixed allowances on top of the basic salary? If the MB and his Excos sit on State GLC boards and councils, how much are they paid? What is the going rate in Selangor when politicians or officers attend State GLC board or council meetings?

I wanted to spend my weekend digging up files on Selangor MB's total salary and wanted to write a blog post on it. But someone from FMT did it earlier today. Ever since the sweetheart from Serdang embarrassed himself for his lack of research skills and knowledge in Government affairs and yours truly here had to show him the path to the rose garden, it is good to see that there are people out there who won't take statements at face value.

Read this: Khalid’s pay: What RM29,250? It’s RM50k!

Put aside his salaries, but take a look at this paragraph:

...Khalid will receive RM5,000 for every corporation or board meeting he attends as the chairman. Meetings are conducted thrice a year for each corporation. Khalid is chairman of the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS), Selangor State Investment council (SSIC), Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Berhad (KDEB), Selangor Agricultural Development Corporation (PKPS) and Selangor Housing and Property Board (LPHS).

Well, he gets paid for attending board meetings. Surely that's on top of his Chairman-ship salary and allowances. Beribu-ribu tahniah. I mean .... Ringgit, sorry.

I thought that was the story of the day. Until I read this: Selangor paid Economic Adviser RM150,000 a year

Woi, hari itu kata RM1? What sort of Freedom of Information is this? I am also unhappy with Selangor BN. Are you guys sleeping on your job as Opposition in Selangor?

I assume this RM150,000 a year is just his fixed/basic salary. What about fixed allowances, meeting allowances, travel allowances? What was the total expenditure by the Selangor Government on this "economist"?

Yes, I agree that if you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys. So, let's check the Economic Advisor's performance.

I know many people can do better analysis than me but let this kid here give it a try. All the data below are from the Dept of Statistics Malaysia - here

First stop, the GDP performance for the period 2010-2012.

Since Anwar was appointed as Selangor's Economic Advisor in Nov 2009,
  1. Selangor's GDP increased by 13.16% from RM156 bil in 2010 to RM176 bil in 2012.
  2. Selangor's compounded annual growth rate was at 6.38% for the period 2010-2012.
  3. Johor, Labuan, Kuala Lumpur, Kedah and Perak outperformed Selangor.
  4. Penang is in the bottom half of the league.

Now, take a look at the GDP per capita performance in Selangor vs other States.

Since Anwar was appointed as Selangor's Economic Advisor in Nov 2009,
  1. Selangor's GDP per capita increased by 14.87% from RM31,457 in 2010 to RM36,135 in 2012. 
  2. Selangor's GDP per capita CAGR was at 7.18% for the period 2010-2012.
  3. Johor, Labuan, Kuala Lumpur, Perak, Malacca, Sarawak and Kedah performed better than Selangor
  4. Penang is rock bottom ... but never mind. The rocket will send everyone to the Moon.
(Note: If my math is wrong, it is an Excel error ya, bukan salah saya)

CM Lim, your think tank needs to .... well, think.

Important to note that other States don't have special Economic Advisors. If anyone needs it, it is our friend Lim Guan Eng.

Ladies and gentlemen, the most shocking part are not all of the above. It is actually the silence from my sweetheart in Serdang. Check @imokman 's tweets. If my eyes are still okay, there are a number of tweets on lizards but I couldnt find anything on Selangor salaries. Everyone knows his obsession with other people's salaries during his love-hate relationship with me here and here.

I wonder if he is busy shopping for my Christmas present. Hope it is not a lizard.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kevin Rudd retires from politics

While Twitterjaya was busy with the KJ - KPop and KJ - Siti Nurhaliza today, a tweet on my timeline caught my attention.

Kevin Rudd was Australia's 26th Prime Minister, first held Dec 07 - June 2010 when he defeated the Coalition led by then Prime Minister John Howard.

I was in Malaysia back in Dec 07 for my summer break but watched the campaign and elections closely. It was a brilliant election campaign - the Kevin 07 campaign.

It is either him or Kevin Rudd had good strategists. Labor Party picked a strong team with icons / popular figures like Maxine McKew who went on to unseat John Howard in Bennelong.

Kevin himself was also a sporting character. He was dancing with Kerri Anne Kennerley in the early part of 2007 (Dancing with KAK and Kevin , Sydney Morning Herald).

(Photo by Sydney Morning Herald, from the page Dancing with KAK and Kevin)

He even handled The Chasers very well when the comedians from ABC invited all of Kevin Rudd's Facebook friends to his house for a sleepover and even wanted to write on his "wall". Literally.

A sporting, friendly and professional politician indeed.

When I returned to Canberra in 2008 for my final year, I was there to watch perhaps one of the most historic moments in Australian history. The then Prime Minister of Australia, on behalf of the Government and people of Australia, apologized to Australia's Indigenous people on 13 Feb 2008. Let me share part of the speech or motion that was unanimously passed by Parliament

...The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future...

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry...

For those who are interested to read the whole text, click here. For those who wants to watch the video, click HERE.

Kevin Rudd was a key and instrumental figure in strengthening Australia's diplomatic and trade relations with China especially during the global financial crisis. Language was not a barrier as his proficiency in Chinese is 100 times better than me. Kevin Rudd holds a Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies majoring in Chinese language and history from the Australian National University, Canberra.

His comeback as Prime Minister in 2013 to replace Julia Gillard was not enough to stop the slide of the Labor Party. If you have time, please watch the video of his speech after the election in which Labor Party lost to the Coalition led by Tony Abbott. I was glued to the screen throughout the whole 30 minutes - Part 1 and Part 2

I must show you here what he said when he conceded defeat to Tony Abbott in Sept 2013:  
"Tonight is the time to unite as the great Australian nation, because whatever our politics may be we are all first and foremost Australian".

In his farewell speech to the Parliament of Australia today, the MP of Griffith Kevin Rudd said:

"Madam Speaker, for the future my passion remains with indigenous reconciliation and in the year ahead I plan to establish a National Apology Foundation to keep alive the spirit and the substance of the apology I delivered in this place six years ago."

I will miss reading articles about him and will definitely miss watching his speeches on TV and Youtube. His dedication to the people of Australia and his leadership in Government represent those of a true leader and statesman.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Special One

It is Thursday night now and that means we are 24 hours away from the weekend that we always look forward to. So, let me keep the cannons in the warehouse and bring out the balloons. Just for laughs and just today.

At around 10.30am this morning, I was sipping Dutch Lady Full Cream milk. Really, that's what I do almost every morning. A packet of milk a day, keeps Dr Ong away. But clearly, that's not working and I must get a new medical doctor.

The drama came when my phone buzzed. I received a new tweet mention. It was from "The Special One".

The Special One held a press conference and issued a press statement just to respond to my blog article that was picked up by Malaysiakini - YB Ong Kian Ming nakal. I was so touched YB.

Let me give you an analogy why. To me, it was like Spain having a press conference just to beat the drums to counter Timor Leste coach's words that in the upcoming friendly, Timor Leste will beat Spain 3-0. Of course, you are Spain - Member of Parliament, I'm Timor Leste - orang biasa.

A Member of Parliament held a press conference and issued press statement on my blog post that is not even endorsed or supported by the Maintenance Executive or Cleanliness Specialist in Prime Minister's Department.

Maybe I am the Special One to you YB. If you are not doing anything on Feb 14 next year, please call me. Chocolates are ok with me, no kisses please. Save that for someone else.

You won't call for a Press Conference to talk about this, right? But come to think of it, the probability is not zero. Some interesting words from a CNN anchorwoman recently that I heard on TV during the US Government shutdown: we are on day 9 of shutdown, hoping for a miracle and as we know with politicians, there will always be miracles.

Back to the press release. Here's the first paragraph:

In a comment piece in Malaysiakini yesterday[1], Mr Goh Wei Liang, a senior analyst at PEMANDU’s communications team under the Economic Transformation Program (ETP) tried to justify the high pay that the directors at PEMANDU were receiving.

The first paragraph itself was ...

A Malaysian Member of Parliament has just given me a new job scope and job title! According to the MP, I am now with the PEMANDU Communications Team and I am a Senior Analyst. I must call PEMANDU tomorrow morning and see what's my job scope in the Communications Team. Some of my contacts texted and called to check on why did I leave whatever I was doing to join Communications. But okay lah, at least this chap below congratulated me and said talk to you soon:

Anyway, the Special One has been going on and on about salaries. First, he said contract staff in Government agencies earn more than the Chief Secretary or their peers with the same rank in civil service. Then, when it was explained that it was similar or comparable with the difference being length of employment, the story shifted to "hey, be open and transparent about how much your staff are being paid!".

Speechless. My story and exposé on allowances and tickets skipped his eyes. Agensi Inovasi Malaysia skipped his eyes. Another case of gajah depan mata tak nampak, tapi bising pasal pasu bunga dekat kaki gajah.

For those of you who have been trying to figure out PEMANDU staff salaries and have been losing sleep at night, let me end your 'misery'. Here's something that I found on Google using the key words "recruitment pemandu analyst".


You do the math on others.

Before I sign out, let me tell you this. Most of the folks I know in PEMANDU were Managing Partners, Regional Directors, Senior Vice Presidents of MNCs, GLCs, consulting firm, etc.

None of them in PEMANDU chose to leave comfortable, long term jobs like PwC, Ernst & Young, KPMG, Petronas, Proton, DIGI, RHB, Telekom, MAS, Shell, Procter & Gamble, Sime Darby etc to work in Government with 2-year contracts and get bashed by politicians EVERYDAY. Betul abang, siapa suka kena tumbuk tak tentu pasal tiap tiap hari?

I am sure those in Government agree with me that they are better off playing marbles in Serdang. Or getting a job in REFSA.

Ok Doc. See you on 14 Feb.

NOTE: This blog post is the personal opinion of GWL and does not represent the views of anyone in the Government of Malaysia, including the maintenance guy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

YB Ong Kian Ming 'nakal'

I refer to the Press Statement by MP Serdang YB Dr Ong Kian Ming yesterday - The Prime Minister should walk the talk by cutting expenditure in the Prime Minister’s Department and by not creating new, expensive agencies


All these CEOs are paid monthly salaries which are higher than the monthly salary of the highest paid civil servant which is the Chief Secretary (Ketua Setiausaha Negara) which has a maximum monthly salary of RM23,577.

For example, a Director at PEMANDU, which is equivalent to a JUSA A/B civil servant has a maximum salary of RM49,000 a month, an Associate Director at PEMANDU, which is equivalent to a JUSA C civil servant has a maximum salary of RM31,600 a month and a Senior Manager which is equivalent to a Grade 54 civil servant has a maximum salary of RM21,000 a month.

The exception here is Senator Idris Jala who is the CEO of PEMANDU but is paid the same salary as a Minister given that he is a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

This created a big hoo-haa on Twitter Jaya. I didn't know as I was busy in office until I saw my brother Rockybru's tweet to me

I wanted to reply "I don't know bro, itu doktor cakap apa, kita dengarlah dulu. Dia ada PhD."

There was also this cheeky headline - Contract staff, Pemandu directors paid more than Chief Secretary, says MP of spending spike

Amboi, yang gaji paling tinggi ialah CEO Agensi Inovasi Malaysia tapi kutuk PEMANDU saja. Gajah depan mata tak nampak, tapi bising pasal pasu bunga dekat kaki gajah.

Little birds sent me an extract from Hansard (layman's term: this is the Parliament's parrot in text form)

Gaji pengarah-pengarah PEMANDU adalah di dalam kurungan JUSA C dan JUSA B dengan tambahan ‘premium’ di dalam linkungan 20 ke 30 peratus di atasnya, oleh kerana struktur PEMANDU yang bersifat jangka pendek. Pengarah-pengarah di PEMANDU tidak diperuntukkan sebarang elaun. Justeru itu, Pengarah-pengarah di PEMANDU diupah secara kontrak jangka pendek selama 2 atau 3 tahun sahaja yang membawa kepada risiko jaminan pekerjaan yang tinggi

When I saw that, I told myself - ini MP Serdang / PEMANDU mungkin tipu kita.

I definitely don't have a PhD but I do have Google. So that's what I did. I found out that JUSA A's salary is at RM17,331.46 per month. But is that all they get? Please, haven't you heard that there are many fixed allowances that civil service enjoy?

For JUSA A, which is 4th ranked position in Government and normally held by the Secretary General of Ministries (layman's term: Ministry CEO), they enjoy the following allowances monthly:
  • Imbuhan Tetap Keraian: RM4,000 (Source: JPA)
  • Imbuhan Tetap Perumahan: RM2,000 (Source: JPA)
  • Imbuhan Tetap JUSA: RM2,500 (Source: UTM Website item # 3)
  • Bayaran Insentif Khas Pengurusan Tertinggi: RM1,250 (Source: JPA)
  • Bayaran untuk Pembantu Rumah: RM500 (Source: JPA)
  • Bayaran Bantuan Menyelenggara Rumah: RM2000 setahun / RM166.67 sebulan (Source: JPA)

Here's the juicy part. On top of all the above fixed salary and non taxable allowances, usually senior civil servants sit in Councils and GLCs as board member. Senior civil servants here include Chief Secretary, Treasurer General and all others that are TURUS 1, II, III as well as JUSA A, B, and C.

Every board member will be paid either:
  1. fixed monthly allowance OR
  2. annual allowance + meeting attendance fees
The above "extra income" depends on the rating, rank and budget of the Lembaga / Majlis / GLC. The smallest fees that I know paid to board member of JUSA C rank are at RM7,000 annually PLUS RM500 as allowance for attending board meetings. That was before 2010. I don't have the latest numbers.

Well, now you know why civil service likes to setup Council here Council there.

Simply because if you setup Committees like what PEMANDU does, you don't get paid. There was once a Minister who asked a fellow Minister if the Chairman (which is him lah) and the members of the PEMANDU - Ministry X Steering Committee meetings will be paid allowances. The Minister of course got told off by PEMANDU through the microphone "no, this is something that you must do, your job and responsibility!"

Do I need to point out how much one gets if he/she sits in a public listed GLC? I know who and roughly how much. Maybe not, some other time.

I don't have a sexy body but at least let me give you a strip tease in another form.

Did you know that if a Government officer is invited to give a speech/talk in a forum organized by a GLC or Government department, the Government officer gets paid? I was invited to a talk by GLC X and I was surprised to be given a souvenir bag. In the bag, there was a pen and notepad. I told myself, okay waste of money but whatever. Then there was this in an envelope:

Cheque - RM1,000. I pulled the organizer aside and asked "what's this for?". He said "for presenting the paper on management transformation". I told the organizer to take it back as I don't see the point. Call it national service or whatever. The CEO of the company saw what I did from far and went to the organizer to ask what was happening.

Yes, guys, it is a norm to take the cheque but when someone returns it, it was as though a gorilla is running around in Jalan Ampang - shocker.

Back to the main story. Let's add up all the above JUSA A salary and the allowances. We get the following:

A wise man who lives on top of Mount Kinabalu told me some JUSA A earns RM40,000 a month. So, perhaps the allowances for meetings and board member fees went up.

Of course, not forgetting those who are JUSA A and above, they do enjoy this:

  • return flight ticket from KL to London - First Class for officer and spouse, economy class for kids OR
  • the senior officer may opt for cash - RM32,000 for the officer plus RM32,000 for the spouse plus RM6,000 per kid for a maximum of 3 kids

Don't believe me? Click HERE.

Let's compare this with PEMANDU and let's assume that a PEMANDU Director earns RM40,000 per month. I said assume. Pay attention.

Yes, that's all. You don't need a new pair of spectacles. PEMANDU Directors do not get maid allowances, do not get paid holidays or first class tickets. 

Net of taxes,

  1. a PEMANDU Director with a 2 year contract gets a take home salary of RM30,572.92 per month (if it is true at RM40,000 but I am sure it is much lower) versus 
  2. a JUSA A officer currently takes home RM29,631.53 per month (at least) with job security and lifetime pension

Bet you didn't know that, Dr Ong? Next time, use google and not jump around when you get a lollipop. Don't be naughty.

While we are on this, I wonder if REFSA's Chief-At-Large Mr Teh Chi Chang is paid like a JUSA A. He was Director for Utilities and Media, Asia-Pacific Equity Research at Citibank Investment Research. Someone with that CV surely won't leave to join a independent, not-for-profit institute for free right? None of my business I know but if the cherries are juicy and they are truly 'independent', my CV is not that bad too sir. Definitely no fake degrees.

Let us all not forget that Tun Dr Mahathir once said and I quote "Of course, you pay him RM1, you'll get RM1 worth". He said this in response to Anwar Ibrahim's appointment as Selangor Economic Advisor with a salary of RM1.

Chief Secretary needs to double up his efforts to revamp the civil service with:
  1. a revision of the remuneration packages - productivity and results driven
  2. downsize the civil service by maintaining efficient and productive staff only
  3. improve transparency and accountability
Point 3 is very important. We surely do not want to see the civil service with the same life story as some politician who was formerly a DPM for 5 years, became jobless for 9-10 years and came back to buy a multi million ringgit bungalow. Amazing isn't it?