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Sabah only produces 10% of Malaysian oil production

This piece of news caught our eye today:

Kota Kinabalu: Increasing cash payments – often called oil royalty – for Sabah will have an adverse effect on the national oil and gas industry and possibly render it no longer viable.

Petronas Senior Vice President (Upstream Malaysia) Datuk Mohd Anuar Taib said investors might think twice to come to Malaysia and invest in the oil and gas sector, which is already becoming a highly competitive industry among the oil producing countries.

In a special briefing for the Sabah media, Mohd Anuar together with Vice President of Malaysia Petroleum Management, Adif Zulkifli, said many of the major oil companies from US were also returning to their country.

They said that if the cash payments of five per cent to the Sabah State Government were to be increased it would result in Petronas and its Production Sharing Contractors (PSC) being left with a smaller portion to be divided between them.

The breakdown of the revenue from oil fields is 10 per cent (five per cent each for the State and Federal governments), 70 per cent for cost recovery and only 20 per cent profit.

Out of the 20 per cent, Petronas has to pay 38 per cent to the Federal Government in oil income tax.

“Therefore, Petronas and its PSC would only divide the remaining 52 per cent out of the 20 per cent, normally 50:50,” they said.

Therefore, if the cash payment is increased to 20 per cent like what Sarawak is asking, it means Petronas and its PSC only share 10 per cent of the profit after deduction of income tax.

“This is surely not attractive to investors and they may just shy away from Malaysia,” they said.

Adif said Sabah was actually producing about 180,000 barrels or oil equivalent per day (boe/d) which is only 10 per cent of the total national oil production.

Most of the oil produced was in the peninsula side, he said, adding Sarawak mostly produces gas.

However, Sabah’s production is expected to grow to 16 per cent over the next few years.

According to Adif, out of the 333 oil platforms in Malaysia, 53 were in Sabah.

Sabah currently has 14 oil fields and three gas fields in production while 41 oil and 47 gas fields had been discovered.

Petronas has 27 active PSCs in Sabah involving 12 companies or players. Petronas’ cumulative upstream investments up to 2013 plus commitments amounted to approximately RM179 billion while for downstream the figure was RM6 billion.

Adif said Petronas was not paying oil royalty to Sabah but as stated in the Petroleum Development Agreement, it was paying cash payment.

“This is our top priority and according to the agreement, Petronas must pay the five per cent whenever there is production regardless if there is a profit or not,” he said.

Oil and gas industry have become more costlier, he said, adding that Petronas had to attain expertise from other companies and this was done through the PSC.

The cost of exploration alone starts at RM4 billion, he said.

Nonetheless, he said compared with other oil producing countries, Petronas’ cash payments of five per cent to Sabah were relatively higher.

Source – Daily Express

The opposition in Malaysia have been feeding lies to the people of Sabah and generally to the people of Malaysia regarding the oil royalty. It is now made known that Sabah only produces 10% of the total national oil production.

Therefore, what is the justification of Sabah and Sarawak in saying that people in West Malaysia are living on their oil wealth?

First and foremost, we are fed up with politicians who uses Petronas and petroleum industry as a chess piece in their political agenda. Using oil royalties to entice the people to break the strong harmony that we have as Malaysians.

The opposition had done a massive damage on to the psyche of East Malaysians just because they want to create hatred for the central government and steal more votes for them in the process. Although the Federal government had done so much for East Malaysians, it seems the opposition is teaching the people not to be grateful about the developments and progress achieved.

But the Federal government would still help them..

KOTA KINABALU: A formula is being worked out to address the call to increase oil royalties for Sabah, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.

The Government, he said, together with Petronas, would decide on various methods to improve Sabah’s economy.

“We have been concerned about the issue of oil royalties in Sabah and as an immediate solution, Petronas will increase its corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes in Sabah,” he said.

“We will be announcing several other approaches which can help Sabahans in the oil royalties issue,” he added.

Najib explained that there were many approaches which could be applied to it, but not necessarily increasing the percentage of oil royalties as mooted by the Opposition.

He said Petronas would help more rural students, provide more scholarships and increase its funding in its CSR programmes here, among others.

“This is not about getting contracts. It’s about giving and creating value,” he said at the breaking of fast with Sabah Barisan Nasional members at a hotel here yesterday.

In the first place, does Dato Sri Najib Tun Razak know that Sabah is not entitled to receive 20% oil royalty based on the state oil production? Can someone please let him know, before he wrongly reapportioned our country’s precious funds to people who wrongly thought they deserve more than their fair share of contribution?

Thank you.

Malaysia reciprocates Singapore on toll charges

The latest announcement by the Malaysian Highway Authority that starting from 1st August 2014, all vehicles going to Singapore will be charged RM6.80 at the CIQ toll to Singapore and RM9.70 at the CIQ toll from Singapore received some mixed reaction by the public.

With the advent of Singapore charging foreign vehicles coming in to Singapore at SGD35 (RM90) from SGD20 (RM52) starting from 1st August 2014 as well (an extra of RM38), Malaysia seemed to reciprocate with a lesser amount of quantum albeit, with a blanket charges on all vehicles.

Obviously leading the way in going against this move are the opposition portals, and unsurprisingly, Pakatan Rakyat’s politicians.

It is quite alarming to see the amount of disinformation coming out from these portals (and those politicians). For one, the toll charged is not for the use of the highway (the Eastern Dispersal Link highway) leading up to the toll, but rather only for vehicles using the CIQ.

All other users using the EDL but are not going to Singapore will not be charged at all. The 8km highway itself is free to Johoreans for them traverse across Johor Bahru. And as the name implies, the highway had greatly dispersed traffic and reduced travelling time for Johoreans in their state capital city.

A quick search on information for the toll led us to http://www.edlconnects.com.my with the FAQs at http://www.edlconnects.com.my/faq.html.

Among other things, out of 220,000 daily vehicles that are currently on the EDL highway, only 60,000 are the CIQ users and out of this 60,000 vehicles 80% of them are Singaporean cars. Meaning, 48,000 vehicles are Singaporeans!

Furthermore, and this is quite pertinent since Malaysians who care about other Malaysians who are working in Singapore, what they need to know is that Malaysians who are working in Singapore receive income from Singapore and pay their taxes to Singapore. As they use our highways without tax representation, surely a meagre amount of toll charges (82% less than what Singapore is charging us) will not cause their employers much loss of income.

And those who ride bikes to Singapore, are not charged at all.

Question now is, will the government be smart enough to counter any negative feedback received from the people going in and out from Singapore?

“The Importance of Being Earnest” by Dr. Awang Puteh

Just like the great masterpiece of Oscar Wilde, this article which was published in The New Straits Times today and written by one who calls himself Dr. Awang Bin Puteh revealed how comical double standards, ‘lupa daratan’, vanity, arrogance and hypocrisy thrive in the corporate world and among billionaires. And we thought these people living in the upper echelons of society could at least be humble, reciprocal and more reflective about their social standing and how they came to be.

A recommended read indeed.

The Importance of Being Earnest

CRONY CAPITALISM? It’s time for YTL boss to walk the talk and show ethical leadership by example

APPARENTLY, the negative trait of Melayu mudah lupa is not only confined to the Malays, but also to other ethnic groups in Malaysia. This is evident from the statement by YTL Corporation Bhd managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh when he commented  on crony capitalism a few days ago.

Yeoh’s claims that he is successful because he is not a crony and doesn’t depend on government contracts.

He also went further, which seems tantamount to fanning the flame of racial provocation, by stating that non-Bumiputera small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) “absolutely have no chance” to even fight “for the crumbs” as they are already at the low end of the food chain.

He delighted in lecturing us, delivered with a straight face and an affectation of pious conviction, that Malaysians are not taking advantage of our ethnic diversity, and we must introduce more open competition and encourage greater transparency in business.

Not unexpectedly, his statement evoked negative reaction from the public, and many reacted in disbelief to Yeoh’s hypocrisy given his companies’ close links with the government in the past as well as in the present.

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam summed it up aptly when he said that “people who live in glass houses, should not throw stones”. He further correctly stressed that Yeoh’s talking about getting rid of cronyism doesn’t sound right while his companies bagged lucrative government contracts through direct negotiations rather than open tender exercises.

Why the repetitive mantra by Yeoh despite YTL receiving all the government’s love and special attention all these times? We know that great wealth buys great political influence, but to insult the people’s intelligence with his sermon borders on brazen arrogance.

Maybe these kinds of people live in a bubble, and not surpassingly, those inside the bubble sometimes think that they can pull the wool over our eyes.

Nonetheless, let us address Yeoh’s arguments specifically.

Yeoh is adamant that YTL is successful because he is not a crony and doesn’t depend on government contracts. That is a bold statement.

Without government contracts, YTL would still be a small-time contractor. In fact, it is continuously the beneficiary of government assistance. For instance, in 1990, YTL was awarded an almost RM1 billion contract to build public hospitals.

Unless Yeoh suffers from amnesia, he could not possibly forget his big break in 1992 when the government awarded him the first licence to build, operate and manage power plants.

Without this lucrative concession, his company would probably be stuck as Syarikat Pembinaan YTL Sdn Bhd, a relatively small construction and property development company. This foray into the power sector vaulted YTL into the big league, where its pre-tax profit last year alone amounted to RM2.5 billion, versus RM30 million in 1991 before contributions from power operations began flowing in.

Importantly, most of the projects given to YTL were and still are heavily subsidised by the rakyat. His power agreement with Tenaga Nasional Bhd was so lopsided and utterly unjust that Tan Sri Ani Arope, the then TNB chief executive officer, submitted his resignation after refusing to accept YTL’s terms.

His “take or pay” agreement with TNB obligated it to take up YTL’s power output — priced much higher than what TNB could easily produce — whether the utility needed it or not, for 21 years.

Maybe that’s what Yeoh meant when he stated that YTL became successful via “innovation”, which ripped off billions in taxpayers’ money.

Has he also conveniently forgotten how he was recently awarded a RM10 billion contract by the Education Ministry to provide, among others, laptops to schools, despite YTL not being a computer maker, nor expert in education services? The contract irked member of parliament Zaril Khir Johari, who raised questions on this issue in Parliament. His 1BestariNet programme, which is to install 4G high-speed broadband to all schools, indirectly means that the rakyat are actually funding the commercial expansion of YTL’s YES 4G network. So much for innovation.

Yeoh was also borderline malicious when he said the non-Bumiputera SMEs had been discriminated by the government.

Well, I wonder where he got his statistics from. Analyses done by the Economic Planning Unit show that non-Bumiputera businesses, especially Chinese companies, took 80 sen for every RM1 in government contracts.

Even funding for SMEs benefited non-Bumiputeras the most, as data shows that Bumiputera companies accounted for about 30 per cent of the entire funding for SMEs last year.

To put things in perspective, the value of the contract YTL secured from the Education Ministry alone, for providing only laptops to students, exceeds the entire funding for all Bumiputera SMEs for the entire period of last year!

It is heart-warming to learn that YTL supports national unity. Let us, for a second meditate upon and closely scrutinise these nationalistic statements from Yeoh: “We should leverage on our different ethnic races in the nation and should start working together. We have been working for a long time like we’re in a tunnel. We have not learnt to work together. We have been separated and not looked at each other’s strengths. We do not celebrate our diversity.”

Such enlightened view should indeed be emulated by other companies! However, in the name of transparency, would YTL be willing to make public the ethnic diversity figures in YTL workforce, its board of directors, exco, senior management, mid-management and low-level positions?

YTL should also make public how much was sub-contracted to Bumiputera and Indian companies, compared to Chinese-owned companies.

Similarly, in the name of transparency, would YTL also make public its power agreements, which had enabled YTL to make astronomical returns at the expense of the people? Please allow public scrutiny of the agreements, as suggested by MP Tony Pua from DAP not too long ago.

Yeoh also argued that he is a true patriot, for he has “defended the present government’s concerted efforts to introduce more open competition and encourage greater transparency in business”.

This is commendable, but flies in the face of facts. How does YTL explain its willing participation in direct negotiations with the government on some of the most lucrative contracts? It was only last week that a YTL Corp wholly-owned subsidiary was awarded a power plant project by the Energy Commission via direct tender!

Maybe YTL can make a declaration to the public that it will no longer participate in direct-negotiations and cease altogether from seeking contracts from the government.

There is still time for redemption for a devout man like Yeoh to walk the talk. I am sure he would like to show ethical leadership by example.

Moving forward, we have to help Yeoh from backsliding from his recent epiphany, and to become the born-again corporate leader that he aspires to be.

I would urge the government to be kind to him by avoiding any dealings with YTL group, either in providing contracts, or using its products and services. The government should also exclude YTL from participating in any way whatsoever in the KL-Singapore High Speed Rail project, if the project is yet to be awarded to him. He sorely needs help from the government to wean him away from his old habits.

As for me, I will also do my little part. I will stop patronising YTL hotels, shopping malls and Internet service provider, among others. I am boycotting YTL and I suggest the rest of Malaysia follow suit.

After all, Yeoh proudly claimed that his company gets 85 per cent of revenue from overseas operations.

Oh, by the way, the deafening silence from some of the most vocal critics of crony capitalism in Malaysia is really puzzling.

Imagine if the same statement was made by a Malay tycoon, I am sure the deafening silence will become a raging tropical thunderstorm.

Maybe when a Bumiputera businessman gets a contract, it’s cronyism and unfair privileges. But when people like Yeoh gets it, it is innovation, market forces and meritocracy.

 

Impact of Pakatan Rakyat’s mindset onto the people’s intelligence

On Labour Day last Thursday, a demonstration organised by Pakatan Rakyat to protest the implementation of GST (Goods and Services Tax) were held in Dataran Merdeka.

And as we all know, most people who take part in demonstrations do not actually know what they are protesting. Some even got their information backwards while others don’t even know why they are there in the first place.

Kudos to Pakatan Rakyat leaders who had successfully stupefied some of the rakyat.

As per the video below, we can now see the extend of stupidity Pakatan Rakyat leaders like Rafizi Ramli, Ong Kian Ming, Nizar Jamaluddin etc had done onto the average people on the street.

Enjoy.

Kicking people when they are down – the NUFAM way

MH370 is a tragedy that had happened without anyone could have imagined. The mystery and the repercussion that surround it has called the entire nation to unite in the face of a national disaster. We must stand strong and pray that the family members can receive some closure so that the grieving process can start as soon as possible.

So that the nation can heal, so that the people can look forward for a brighter future ahead.

But some quarters, even before the plane is found; even before investigations have been concluded, had scoffed at the people who are tasked to find the plane. We do not need this kind of insensitive people and their vile derision to weigh us down further. To our surprise, we have our very own Malaysian citizens that are leading the way in ‘kicking people when they are down’.

After Anwar Ibrahim rode CNN’s back in criticising the Search and Rescue efforts by the government in the recent article which can be read here, a similar unsavoury voice is heard today in the form of NUFAM:

Malaysian Airlines CEO’s head must roll, says union

The National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam) has called for the resignation of Malaysia Airlines chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya following the prolonged MH370 disaster.

Nufam, which has long been at loggerheads with Ahmad Jauhari over workers’ issues, said that the latter’s resignation could restore public confidence in the airline.

“(Nufam) believes it is the right thing to do now as this even has brought tremendous impact on the aviation industry in this country…

“Since the Flight 370 tragedy (happened) under his watch, it is rightful for him to step aside and allow someone else to take over his position,” Nufam said in a statement.

It said that Ahmad Jauhari must also step down following two other incidents involving MAS flights – the incident in Kathmandu, where a flight was hit by flying ducks and in Hong Kong, where a flight en route Seoul had to divert to due to generator failure. (Really NUFAM? Flying ducks and generator failure? If it weren’t for the MH370 story, these two incidences wouldn’t make any headlines. Does the CEO of BMW have to resign because people who drove it went into accidents?)

It added that airline staff has also “lost confidence” in the way Ahmad Jauhari has handled the crisis which entered its 19th day today.

Following the Hong Kong incident, Nufam also released a statement urging MAS to ensure stringent safety checks on its aircraft, citing cabin crew concerns.

The union has been at odds with the management prior to the crisis, with its president and several office bearers sacked or suspended following criticisms against MAS.

In the first place, it is an open secret that NUFAM had tried to wrest control of MAS union from the original employees union of MAS – the MASEU.

MASEU has the biggest membership of flight attendants in MAS, and NUFAM the newcomer is believed to just trying to make itself relevant. This statement by them came as no surprise at all given the fact that their modus operandi in usurping MASEU’s voice in the past has been less than pleasant.

Fact is, NUFAM does not have any credibility to talk on behalf of MAS’ employees. Which made the above statement as a whole, rife with ulterior motives. Just like Anwar Ibrahim’s behaviour, the nation does not need people with hidden agenda to bog us down further with unnecessary politicking. Everyone is coping to the best they can.

We must give support in order to see this through.

Support  and words of encouragement for the those involved in SAR. Prayers and well wishes to the family members.

Thank you.

How Pakatan Rakyat aspire to finance itself

Most people think that Pakatan Rakyat politicians are human beings with excellent moral values and integrity. They portray themselves as the people’s saviour against Barisan Nasional politicians which they accuse as the corrupt devils greedy for riches.

In actual truth, the politicians in Pakatan Rakyat are as greedy and as corrupt as the ones they are accusing. And since they always arrogate themselves as the epitome of goodness, this hypocrisy renders them even worse than their Barisan Nasional nemesis.

Take for instance Rafizi Ramli’s overzealousness in trying to create the perception that the LRT extension project, which had been awarded to George Kent – Lionpac consortium, was dubious and it should have been awarded to Balfour Beatty consortium instead.

And it was later discovered and exposed by this blog that Balfour Beatty’s main partner is Ingress Corporation Bhd whereby the main player in the latter is a close crony of Anwar Ibrahim.  Luckily, the motive of Rafizi Ramli’s incessant accusations were uncovered and since then, he has been quiet about this issue.

Another example is how Tony Pua is belittling 1MDB and backed YTL over the tender of a power project. The blatant  support for a corporation to win a multi billion was so unashamedly done, eyebrows were raised as to why a senior DAP politician would do that. Ironically, DAP which is very much known for its principles on socialism is now seem to be capitalist in nature. Are they shifting their raison d’etre when big money is involved?

Hypocrites rule the roost and Pakatan Rakyat’s lust for money and opulence can be seen openly. Otherwise, why would DAP politicians in Selangor who should be a socialist in nature, demand near 300% hike in their salaries?

The latest incident involve water crisis in Selangor will raise more eyebrows. For a start, this is the chronology of the whole fiasco:

BheD-z-CAAAD6PC.jpg-large

PKR politics as we all know is very much a carbon copy of Umno’s but in one huge difference – they do everything much worse.

On Wednesday, the Federal and Selangor governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will facilitate the implementation of the Langat 2 water treatment plant project and the takeover of water assets in the state.

The MoU breaks a five-year impasse that has stalled the implementation of water projects in the country’s most industrialised state. - Source

However, PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli had claimed the party was in the dark about the MoU, and said the state executive councillors would be asked to explain.

PKR deputy president Azmin Ali said the Mentri Besar would be summoned to brief Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim once he returns from Japan.

“We want to hear Khalid’s side of the story as many are still in the dark about the details. We are concerned over whether there would be an increase in water tariff prices and whether there would still be free water for Selangor,” he said yesterday.

Anwar’s official Facebook page showed that the Permatang Pauh MP is currently in Japan.

It has been reported that several PKR leaders were not informed before the state signed the memorandum on the water restructuring exercise while it is unclear if Khalid has the backing of the top Pakatan Rakyat leaders over the deal. - Source

Zaid Ibrahim had a different take on why top PKR politicians was in the dark about the deal:

Kajang by-election contestant Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said that PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim got “checkmated” by Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim on the water deal.

Zaid said it was too late for Anwar – who is apparently setting his sights on the office of mentri besar – to influence the deal that has just been struck between the Federal and state governments.

“It is too late. It is a checkmate for Anwar,” he told a packed press conference at his residence here yesterday.

However, PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli had claimed the party was in the dark about the MoU, and said the state executive councillors would be asked to explain.

But Zaid believed Anwar knew the MoU would be signed.

“I am sure Anwar knew about the deal …in the event a new mentri besar takes over from Khalid, he cannot do anything to ruin the deal.

“I think what Khalid did was right and I agree with him.

“At least the future of the Selangor people would be more secure with the end of the privatisation of water supplies,” he said. - Source

Zaid Ibrahim’s press conference can be seen as below. There are many sneak peaks on what Anwar Ibrahim intend to do once he will become Menteri Besar of Selangor inside the video.

And today Khalid Ibrahim told the public on why the water deal was made in such clandestine manner. Basically, he did not want the trio of vultures – Anwar Ibrahim, Rafizi Ramli and Azmin Ali to take over the water deal for their own benefit. This triad of political schemers had been working against Khalid Ibrahim since day one of the Kajang plot.

Some PKR top brass wanted to set price of water assets, says Khalid

SHAH ALAM: Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim disclosed that there were party leaders from PKR who were trying to influence the valuation of the water assets in the state.

He said some party leaders had introduced him to a few people who were trying to make their case as to why the pricing of the water assets should be higher.

“I have been an investment banker for so long that I look at the principle of valuation before determining the price (of the assets). I stood by my principle of valuation and set the price at RM9.65bil.

“These people wanted to set the price and wanted the valuation to justify their price,” he said in an interview with The Star yesterday.

Khalid also explained why the mechanics of the deal could not have been revealed to all and sundry in and outside of the party before the agreement with the Federal Government was signed on Wednesday.

He pointed out that the information, if revealed, would have an impact on the price of the stocks related to the water assets.

“I was also concerned about possible abuse of information and insider dealing. These are reasons why PKR leaders were not informed ahead of the signing on the water deal between the Selangor state government and the Federal government,” he said.

Khalid said he did not inform his party leaders due to those reasons to ensure that the implementation of the transaction was right and adhered to proper corporate governance.

Like George Orwell’s Animal Farm – the ones who think could be the saviour, will eventually become worse than the alleged oppressors once they have tasted power.

Is MIC blocking the PM’s transformation agenda?

This blog has always been keen and passionate about public transportation for the longest time.

From the first article – “The Public Transportation Issue” written in November 2008, about 9 articles have been written. All of it can be read here.

What Malaysia needs is a world class public transportation system which can connect people efficiently, more so in the Klang Valley. The acute problem in traffic, compounded by increasing number of cars have made public transportation one of the key NKRA of Najib’s administration.

As such, the effort to upgrade the public transportation (buses, LRT, MRT, monorail etc) is paramount to alleviate the choking problem faced by the people in the capital city. Time lost by the people stuck in traffic jams costs money and opportunity loss.

Therefore, we find it vital that the public transportation especially the LRT and MRT must be the impetus in attracting the people to use public transportation.

But the news we heard today is both disappointing and alarming. It seems the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) is up in arms against the government in providing a better service for the general public.

Prasarana denied entry to Puchong Tamil school

PETALING JAYA: A LRT extension construction company is unhappy that its contractors were prevented from carrying out their work, by a group of MIC members and parents from Castlefield Tamil School.

Prasarana Negara Berhad (Prasarana) said it is extremely disappointed that efforts to build an LRT Line Extension Project (LEP) have been hindered by reckless actions of these individuals.

They also claimed that the individuals, who had formed a blockade in front of the school yesterday, scuffled with auxiliary policemen from the company, resulting in a senior officer being injured.

This is despite Prasarana obtaining an injunction to enter part of the school compound and informing the school authorities of the planned work to be undertaken.

“This is the third time that we have made effort to enter the site. We have stated repeatedly that we will ensure minimum interruption to the children’s studies while construction of the LEP is underway,” said Prasarana’s group director of the project development division, Zulkifli Md Yusoff.

“We are dedicated to ensuring that the well-being of the schoolchildren and their teachers are not compromised during this period. Apart from enhancing the school’s facilities, we would also ensure the safety of the children and public,” he added.

Yesterday, around 60 MIC Youth members and the parents led by former MIC Youth Chief T Mohan prevented Prasarana’s constructors from entering the school. They also urged Prasarana to sign an agreement before starting the extension work.

No need for school to be relocated

It is learnt the school administration had passed a memorandum to Prasarana for a mutual agreement where it wants the company to provide RM20 million to build a new school on six-acre plot given by Selangor state government.

However, Prasarana stressed that it is going to occupy only 0.47 acres of 2.8 acres of the school compound and upon completion of the project, the five LRT piers will only occupy 20 metres of space.

“It is important for the public to understand that LEP can coexist with the school harmoniously and there is no need for the school to be relocated for this project to commence,” said Zulkifly.

“Moreover, the Education ministry has set a requirement that 100% approval from all parents must be obtained for the relocation. But, a group of 80 parents came out to voice their disagreement,” he added.

“Prasarana will build sound-proof barriers, improve the school’s facilities, including installing air-con units in classrooms and improve the landscape by planting trees and foliage as a gesture of goodwill.

“There are many benefits to consider, the key of which is improved transport convenience for the students and surrounding residents to the greater LRT network in Klang Valley,” he said.

The 17.7km LRT extension of the Ampang line under the National Key Result Area (NKRA) would directly benefit residents in Petaling, Bandar Kinrara, Puchong and Putra Heights.

It is learnt that a 180-metre stretch passes the edge of the Castlefield school, running parallel to the Puchong Damansara Higway (LDP) and the construction of the five pillars.

MIC should be held responsible for this transgression as its unruly members are working against the government’s effort to vitalise the LRT service. Furthermore, it seems the school board of Castlefield are getting more and more greedy when all effort was given by the government to ease any hardship which may be borne by the school (giving airconds, building a hall and school facilities etc) and even throwing away RM20 million of taxpayers money just to build another school!

RM20 million of our money to be used just because of a 0.47 acres of space? The school board must be out of their mind!

God forbid if they would also want to control that RM20 million and pick their own contractors themselves!

On top of that, MIC and the school board are knowingly defying a court order. In a civilised country such as Malaysia, defying a court order will have severe repercussions. Will the leadership of MIC take responsibility over the action of their members?

All this stupidity by working against the public’s wellbeing should stop.

Castlefield Tamil School is not the first school to have a train line adjacent to it and nor will it be the last. In Malaysia, they are many schools which have similar scenario and they pose no problems for the students.

As a matter of fact, according to this report, there are several LRT lines which has been built near schools, such as:

  1. Sekolah Methodist Wesley, Sentul, KL
  2. SRJK (T) Appar, Jalan Merpati, KL
  3. SRJK (C) Chong Kwok, Jalan Merpati, KL
  4. SK (L) Jalan Batu, KL

The ball is in MIC’s court. Please get a clearer picture from both sides of the affected party. Do not be swayed by petty politics to the detriment of greater good.

As for the greedy school board, enough is enough.

The snapshot on global economy and the local economy

If anyone of the readers here haven’t read the Confessions of an Economic Hitman book, here is a Youtube video where the author summarily describes the content of the book in about 11 minutes.

Locally, our own economy is floundering.

None of the great economic consultants employed by the Prime Minister are able to find the right formula to revitalise the local economy yet. Today, the blogger Darah Tuah wrote a snapshot on the economic position of this country right now particularly the economic relationship between the bumiputera and the non-bumiputera. The blogger gave recommendations as well.

Maybe PEMANDU and other advisers can learn a little bit of something about it too.

Please have a read HERE.

Thank you.

Compare cost of living around the world

Something not so heavy this time around – comparing costs of living between cities around the world.

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Just go to http://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living and key in the cities and they will tabulate the costs which are adjusted with the exchange rates and compiled with the real costs from each city. As the website stated:

Expatistan is a cost of living calculator that allows you to compare the cost of living between cities around the world. The comparisons allow you to get a better understanding of the cost of living of any city before you move there.

What makes us unique is that we collect the prices that we use to calculate our cost of living index from visitors like you. Naturally, the more data entered, the more accurate the index and the calculations will be.

We have compared the cost of living between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore as below:

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Comparison between neighbouring cities

So if you are trying to migrate or go for a holiday in another city, give this website a try and make your decisions wisely. At least it can give you a rough idea on what sort of budget you might encounter.

Thank you.

Paintings and credit cards of Khazanah Nasional

The Prime Minister’s pride and joy, the invulnerable Khazanah Nasional was under the microscope of Auditor General as well.

Thank you to a commentator by the name Wanita Bukit Tinggi who highlighted the Auditor General’s findings on this company where Dato Sri Najib Tun Razak is also the Chairman

AG’s Report: Contractor failed to deliver RM46m component of shrimp project

PETALING JAYA (Oct 1): The Auditor-General Report 2012 has revealed that the contractor for the Integrated Shrimp Aquaculture Park (iSHARP) in Setiu, Terengganu, has failed to deliver the sea water intake system which cost RM46 million.
 
The contract was awarded to Ranhill Engineers and Constructors Sdn Bhd by Khazanah Nasional Bhd’s subsidiary Blue Archipelago Bhd, which manages iSHARP, to construct its biggest component for the shrimp aquaculture park.
The audit revealed that the project was not completed by Ranhill and the termination notice was issued on Aug 16, 2012. The contract termination notice was issued to Ranhill on Dec 3 last year with immediate effect.
On Nov 15, 2011 Ranhill claimed that work progress was at 97.5% although Blue Archipelago stated that the work progress by Dec 3, 2012 was only at 92.1%. Up till Dec 3, Ranhill has received RM42.21 million in interim payment.
Blue Archipelago’s explanation to the auditor-general was that the contractor lacked equipment, had financial difficulties, the main contractor did not pay the sub-contractors and the scope of work required specialist sub-contractors.
To make matters worse, on Sept 8, 2011, a functional test found that an underwater pipe had burst and Blue Archipelago had to install a temporary structure for sea water intake in order for the shrimp aqua culture farms to operate.
“Since the date of the audit, they are still using the temporary structure. The audit has also uncovered that due to the delay in completing the project, the project site was left without adequate security which has led to cables being stolen at the pump house and is a danger to the public,” the report stated.
Khazanah’s reply to the auditor-general stated that it had utilised its performance bond against Ranhill on Dec 2012 for the sum of RM2.3 million.
Legal action has also been taken against Ranhill for breach of contract and liquidated ascertained damages claim was due to be completed by June 30 this year.
Strangely, Blue Archipelago continued to hire Ranhill as a subcontractor to complete the security fencing surrounding the project site and the nearshore manhole. This section of the project was expected to be completed by Aug 30 this year.
Physical examination at the sea water intake system pump house also revealed that there were several items in the Bill of Quantity worth RM83,966 that were not completed by the contractor.
The consultant claimed that it was a variation order (VO) omission, but further investigation by the auditors revealed that there was no such VO issued to Ranhill.
Khazanah has informed the auditor-general that Blue Archipelago and Ranhill had begun discussing the final accounts which was expected to be completed by June 30, 2013.

If Khazanah Nasional cannot even complete a shrimping project, do we honestly think they can make money in other ventures? Remember the Air Asia – MAS share swap? That apparently was the pinnacle of their intelligence.

The point is, although Khazanah Nasional was given the thumbs up by Auditor General for achieving profits every year, they gain most of their income from dividends of their shareholding in 86 companies. This business model does not need much brain power. How to increase our profit this year? Just sell Proton!

But we believe getting profits every year will be the main lullaby for the Khazanah Nasional to lull the easily impressed Prime Minister into his slumber.

But what the Prime Minister doesn’t know that there are a pile of stench under his nose which had escaped his attention but unfortunately didn’t escape the people’s notice.

Too bad because he was supposed to be the Chairman and ultimately responsible for the propriety Khazanah Nasional’s management staff.

RM1.26mil in charge card use by Khazanah staff

Certain individuals in the government’s financial arm, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, are still allowed to use its corporate charge card despite Khazanah failing to declare its expenses from the earlier months.

As a result, unrecognised expenses on charge cards issued to Khazanah Nasional accumulated to RM1.26 million last year alone, the highest amount in four years.

This comprises unpaid balance in excess of one month at RM487,317; a sum of RM291,400 for two months and RM485,187 over a period of two to six months.

In 2009, the amount of unpaid dues was RM610,902; while in 2010 it dropped to RM270,330 and it hiked to RM726,462 in 2011.

The audit report states that based on a financial communication note dated June 1, 2006, American Express charge cards were issued to directors and the chief executive of Khazanah Nasional. As of Dec 4, 2012, there were 106 such charge cards issued by Khazanah, with no limit on the usage.

The report also says that the charge card users have been reminded to prepare an analysis of their monthly expenditures, verify the expenditures with the receipts attached and to get approval from their heads of department.

“If the expenditures are not approved, the payment will be obtained from the card holders by cutting their salaries. Failure to provide an analysis and verification for three times would result in such privileges being revoked,” the report says.

The auditor-general also found there were some Khazanah staff who failed to send or declare their monthly expenses, resulting in the unpaid RM1.26 million in card charges.

According to explanations from the Khazanah officer responsible, the balance has been settled by Khazanah despite the staff not declaring their expenses.

Khazanah further explained that it had conducted an internal audit on the expenditure claims between 2011 and 2013, and the failure by those responsible to send in their lists of expenses was also discussed.

The staff may use the corporate credit card even though they failed to declare the expenses for the month before. There is minimum risk in this, since Khazanah can cut the salary of the individual concerned to recover the expenditure.

Khazanah added that it would take action to stop the use of the corporate charge card of staff who keep failing to declare his or her expenses.

However, the auditor-general said failure to file the monthly expenses declaration was improper.

Artworks not properly kept.

The report also found that Khazanah had purchased 93 artworks worth RM6.4 million.

Of the amount, 55 works of art costing RM3.05 million that were purchased since 2005, have not been properly displayed or kept in a proper manner and there are concerns that these could be damaged.

Khazanah in its reply in May and June this year said it was planning to place the artworks at a proper room on the 32nd floor of its office block and also in its new offices overseas.

It also plans to change the location of the existing paintings and for all the artworks to be placed after renovations to the interior decoration of its office, which was approved this year.

The renovations should be completed by the end of the year.

The auditor-general also said all the Khazanah assets needed to be fully utilised to justify their purchase.

On a positive note, the auditor-general commended Khazanah for making profit for the fourth consecutive year.

The bosses in Khazanah Nasional thinks the people’s money that we pay every month as income tax are something which they just can burn in a blink of an eye. RM64 million for 93 paintings?!

That is averaging about RM69K per painting! On whose God given right was it that they can just buy expensive paintings and waste it by not keeping it properly?

If that doesn’t make your blood boil, then the fact that 106 credit cards with unlimited ceiling are issued with impunity must take the cake.

This is a disgrace. Apparently, dishonourable men with no qualms in burning money can be held in high esteem by our Prime Minister.

So what are they going to do with the credit cards and the paintings? Business as usual? Issue more bonuses to the credit card users, painting buyer and the Board of Directors of Blue Archipelago Bhd?

That was precisely what they did. After all, they achieved profitability every year.

Thank you.

The US should learn the lessons from Malaysia

Following up with the previous article regarding the government’s ill-conceived idea of repealing ISA and Emergency Ordinance Act, below is an article regarding a similar issue happening in California at this very moment (my comment after the article)

Supreme Court orders California to release 10,000 inmates, despite governor’s protest

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday paved the way for the early release of nearly 10,000 California inmates by year’s end despite warnings by Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials that a public safety crisis looms if they’re forced to open the prison gates.

A majority of justices refused an emergency request by the governor to halt a lower court’s directive for the early release of the prisoners to ease severe overcrowding at California’s 33 adult prisons.

The decision was met with concern by law enforcement officials in the state.

Covina Police Chief Kim Raney, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, said the justices ignored efforts already underway to reduce prison populations and “chose instead to allow for the release of more felons into already overburdened communities.”

Brown’s office referred a request for comment to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, where Secretary Jeff Beard vowed that the state would press on with a still-pending appeal in hope of preventing the releases.

A panel of three federal judges had previously ordered the state to cut its prison population by nearly 8 percent to roughly 110,000 inmates by Dec. 31 to avoid conditions amounting to cruel and unusual punishment. That panel, responding to decades of lawsuits filed by inmates, repeatedly ordered early releases after finding inmates were needlessly dying and suffering because of inadequate medical and mental health care caused by overcrowding.

Court-appointed experts found that the prison system had a suicide rate that worsened last year to 24 per 100,000 inmates, far exceeding the national average of 16 suicides per 100,000 inmates in state prisons.

Brown had appealed the latest decision of the panel and, separately, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to cancel the early release order while considering his arguments that the state is making significant progress in improving conditions. The high court refused Friday to stop the release but did not rule on the appeal itself. Corrections Secretary Beard said the state would press on with that, so the “merits of the case can be considered without delay.”

Lawyers representing Brown had argued to the high court that releasing 10,000 more inmates would mean letting violent criminals out on the streets and overwhelm the abilities of law enforcement and social services to monitor them.

“No data suggests that a sudden release of inmates with these characteristics can be done safely,” the state said in its filing. “No state has ever done it.” (Malaysia has)

The panel of federal judges has consistently rejected that argument. The judges, prisoners’ lawyers and others say other states have marginally reduced inmate sentences without sparking an increase in crime.

The governor said the state has already transferred thousands of low-level and nonviolent offenders to county jails, but that local officials in turn have been forced into releasing some inmates early to ease their own overcrowding issues.

The Supreme Court’s ruling rejected Brown’s plea over the objections of Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who all said they would have granted the state’s request.

Scalia, in a dissent joined by Thomas, wrote that the previous order by the three-judge panel was a “terrible injunction” that threatens public safety. Scalia said the state’s evidence shows it has made meaningful progress and that such reductions in the inmate population are no longer necessary.

In recent years, the special panel of federal judges accused Brown of attempting to delay and circumvent their orders. They previously threatened to cite the governor for contempt if he did not comply.

The judges waived all state laws in June as they ordered Brown to expand good-time credits leading to early release. They also directed the governor to take other steps, including sending more inmates to firefighting camps, paroling elderly felons, leasing cells at county jails and slowing the return of thousands of inmates now housed in private prisons in other states.

If those steps fail, the judges ordered the state to release by year’s end enough inmates from a list of lower-risk offenders until it reaches the maximum allowed population.

In its latest filing with the Supreme Court, the state argued that no governor has the unilateral authority to take the steps ordered by the three-judge panel. That would require approval by the Legislature or judicial pre-emption of California’s core police powers, the administration argued.

Brown has said the state is spending $2 billion on new or expanded facilities for inmate medical and mental health treatment. That includes seven new centers for mental health treatment and the opening last June of an $839 million prison hospital in Stockton that will treat 1,722 inmates requiring long-term care. The state also has boosted hiring and salaries for all types of medical and mental health professionals.

The state has already reduced the population by 46,000 inmates since 2006.

More than half of the decrease that has occurred so far is due to a two-year-old state law – known as realignment – that is sentencing offenders convicted of crimes considered nonviolent, non-serious and non-sexual to county jails instead of state prisons.

The USA shouldn’t go far to learn about the repercussions of releasing criminals into the streets. They can see the terrible effects Malaysia is currently going through after the 2,600 criminals detained under the Emergency Ordinance Act were released at the end of 2011.

For the months since April 2013 to 3rd August 2013 alone, there were  33 shooting incidents happening across the country already. Imagine if 10,000 inmates running loose in the west coast of USA.

There is a gross lack of empathy from the supreme court judges overseeing the case above. There is a phrase, ‘the law is an ass’; it means, an application of the law that is contrary to common sense.

Here, the judges were more worried about the rights of the criminals in the prisons in California. Their well being, their basic rights as human beings eventhough most of them had committed grievous and heinous crime imaginable. These fools, who were unelected by the people and all of whom are living in secured manors with bodyguards etc couldn’t care less about the  consequences of their actions or directives. On the other hand, Governor Jerry Brown, who were elected into office by the people to safeguard the people’s interests and safety is more than correct in saying that “releasing 10,000 more inmates would mean letting violent criminals out on the streets and overwhelm the abilities of law enforcement and social services to monitor them”.

Even his police chief do not agree with the decisions made by the judges. The solution was simple – build more prisons and improve on the living conditions and reduce the abuses in prisons. Perhaps only then the lawsuits from inmates can be minimised.

The naiveté of these law practitioners are beyond comprehension. Do they really believe that should one of those 10,000 criminals went on and killing an innocent victim months after he was released, it wouldn’t be their fault? Is the life of one innocent human being less valuable than the cost to build more prisons?

Read what the Suaram had to say when they urged the government back in 2011 to repeal the Emergency Ordinance Act:

Repeal Emergency Ordinance: Report

KUALA LUMPUR: The Emergency (Public Order and Crime Prevention) Ordinance (EO) should be repealed and the country should just rely on criminal laws to prosecute criminals, the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

“The EO was enacted in 1969 as a temporary measure to respond to the May 13 riots. But for nearly four decades, the government has used the law to detain criminal suspects without trial for lengthy periods as a shortcut when there is insufficient evidence,” said HRW Asia division researcher Sahr Muhammed Ally today.

She was speaking to reporters after launching a 35-page report “Convicted Before Trial: Indefinite Detention Under Malaysia’s Emergency Ordinance”, a result of a one-year research project she conducted.

The report documents how the Malaysian government has detained criminal suspects indefinitely without charge or trial, and subjected them to ill-treatment while in detention at the Simpang Renggam Behavioural Rehabilitation Centre.

It also highlights how detainees are re-arrested upon court-ordered release.

Sahr pointed out that the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police had also recommended for the EO to be abolished because it had outlived its purpose and violates civil liberties.

The Royal Commission had also said the EO was a “lazy way” for the police to lock up suspects without conducting proper investigation.

“However, nothing has been done about it (since then),” she said.

Sahr also called for an investigation into Simpang Renggam’s inhumane and degrading conditions where cells are overcrowded and unhygienic, and food inedible.

Suaram secretariat member S. Arutchelvan said the EO has been abused more than the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA).

He said while there were more than 100 detainees under the ISA as of last year and more than 100 under the DDA as of end of 2004, there were 712 EO detainees as of last year (2005).

Arutchelvan said there were EO detainees who were juveniles, and detainees who have been held for almost eight years.

The EO allows for detention without trial that can be renewed indefinitely every two years, after the first 60 days of detention.

Arutchelvan said the EO can be used against anyone.

“Many who are detained are left wondering why they were detained in the first place,” he said.

He noted that other groups have also called for the EO to be repealed, including Suhakam, the Bar Council and the Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights.

Also present at the launch was former EO detainee Mohd Samsudin Mohd Ibrahim, who was remanded for a total of 143 days in several lockups in Kedah, Penang and Perak before being re-arrested and detained under the EO for 60 days.

He was later ordered to be in restricted residence for two years in Jerantut for robbery.

“I lost my business and I was cut off from my family,” Mohd Samsudin said.

Sahr and Suaram will be submitting the HRW report to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz on Monday (Aug 28, 2006) at Parliament.

Was that biased report from Suaram used by the government in deciding how the EO to be repealed? We can easily imagine how that report got its way into the hands of PM Najib’s many consultants and idiotic advisors and then after a couple of hours of discussing among themselves over coffee, they decided to advise the PM that the EO and ISA should indeed be repealed. That would certainly bring more votes for Barisan Nasional in General Elections 2013!

No nationwide research was done BY the government, no in-depth review was consulted from the police, no study were made to analyse the after effects. The only thing they did was – how to write a magnificent speech on the eve of Malaysia Day 2011 to wow the rakyat.

The rakyat was indeed shocked at that time. The opposition were smiling. And fast forward to present time, the rakyat is still shocked by the shortsightedness and by all the blundering mistakes made by this administration. Meanwhile the opposition is laughing so hard, they should not even say anything. The government of Barisan Nasional is tying its own noose without anyone’e help.

‘When the enemy is making a mistake, do not interrupt them’, we would imagine that is what Anwar Ibrahim is currently thinking.

To the clueless consultants and advisors in Prime Minister’s Department, Sri Perdana as well as in Pemandu, the Bar Council and lawyers are not the ones responsible for the safety and security of the rakyat. They are not the stakeholders. If we must tell you who are the real stakeholders for this, then this article is too intelligent for you to comprehend.

Recently, taking a swipe at the EO, they was a lawyer who said (can’t remember which one, or perhaps maybe a junior minister who said it) – ‘the laws in this country is already adequate to capture a criminal. There is no need for a preventive law.’

That person must be high on drugs or maybe just plain imbecilic when he said it. It is not about capturing or punishing a criminal that we are worried about. It is about preventing and reducing crime.

There is no point capturing and putting a criminal in jail AFTER he had committed a crime or worse, he killed someone. Will 20 years jail term bring back the life of someone he has killed?

What if during a robbery, his family member was murdered by that criminal. Will his words – ‘the laws in this country is already adequate to capture a criminal. There is no need for a preventive law,’ bring back his loved ones from the dead?

Prevention of Crime Act won’t solve anything too. First, it caters for crime suspects only in Peninsular Malaysia, and it only provides 28 days remand (not detention) for investigations and conducting an enquiry. After that, if there are no concrete evidence accepted by the magistrate, the criminal will be released to plot and conceive his crime another day. And sometimes, it’s not just the law that acts like an ass, the magistrate and the below par prosecutors can be asses too.

Some people with high position may look smart, but deep inside, they are nothing more than a shady nincompoop, disguising themselves with impeccable English and surrounded by equally idiotic yes-men.

Whatever it may be, prevention is always better when lives are at stake. If there are abuses in the preventive law, you correct them and reinforce it with better check and balance within that law. We do not abandon it just because Suaram said so. Whose interests is this Prime Minister is serving?

In the effort to outdo and hijack the label ‘reformer’ from Anwar Ibrahim, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak wanted to be a Reformer too. What he had successfully done was unbuckling the rakyat’s safety mechanism just to please a few segments of a larger population.

No wonder the street criminals have much to thank him for.

Since we the people know that the cabinet is running around like a headless chicken, what the PM should do is this – just follow what Seinfeld had advised his friend George Constanza; “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”

If your advisor and consultants are telling you one thing, just do the complete opposite. That should do the trick. You then will be fine.

Albert Einstein said something to the effect – ‘A problem cannot be solved with the same kind of brains that was used when the problem was first created’. We are paraphrasing of course. But the point we are making is the same…

Since the consultants and advisors gave the wrong advice to create this problem, it’s time to dump all them and get better ones.

Thank you.

Stiglitz : The US is committed to a lack of transparency

Just read what the Nobel laureate, Professor Joseph Stiglitz has to say about the TPPA:

Though nothing has come of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Round of global trade negotiations since they were launched almost a dozen years ago, another round of talks is in the works. But this time the negotiations will not be held on a global, multilateral basis; rather, two huge regional agreements – one transpacific, and the other transatlantic – are to be negotiated. Are the coming talks likely to be more successful?

The Doha Round was torpedoed by the United States’ refusal to eliminate agricultural subsidies – a sine qua non for any true development round, given that 70% of those in the developing world depend on agriculture directly or indirectly. The US position was truly breathtaking, given that the WTO had already judged that America’s cotton subsidies – paid to fewer than 25,000 rich farmers – were illegal. America’s response was to bribe Brazil, which had brought the complaint, not to pursue the matter further, leaving in the lurch millions of poor cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and India, who suffer from depressed prices because of America’s largesse to its wealthy farmers.

Given this recent history, it now seems clear that the negotiations to create a free-trade area between the US and Europe, and another between the US and much of the Pacific (except for China), are not about establishing a true free-trade system. Instead, the goal is a managed trade regime – managed, that is, to serve the special interests that have long dominated trade policy in the West.

There are a few basic principles that those entering the discussions will, one hopes, take to heart. First, any trade agreement has to be symmetrical. If, as part of the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (TPP), the US demands that Japan eliminate its rice subsidies, the US should, in turn, offer to eliminate its production (and water) subsidies, not just on rice (which is relatively unimportant in the US) but on other agricultural commodities as well.

Second, no trade agreement should put commercial interests ahead of broader national interests, especially when non-trade-related issues like financial regulation and intellectual property are at stake. America’s trade agreement with Chile, for example, impedes Chile’s use of capital controls – even though the International Monetary Fund now recognizes that capital controls can be an important instrument of macro-prudential policy.

Other trade agreements have insisted on financial liberalization and deregulation as well, even though the 2008 crisis should have taught us that the absence of good regulation can jeopardize economic prosperity. America’s pharmaceutical industry, which wields considerable clout with the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), has succeeded in foisting on other countries an unbalanced intellectual-property regime, which, designed to fight generic drugs, puts profit ahead of saving lives. Even the US Supreme Court has now said that the US Patent Office went too far in granting patents on genes.

Finally, there must be a commitment to transparency. But those engaging in these trade negotiations should be forewarned: the US is committed to a lack of transparency. The USTR’s office has been reluctant to reveal its negotiating position even to members of the US Congress; on the basis of what has been leaked, one can understand why. The USTR’s office is backtracking on principles – for example, access to generic medicines – that Congress had inserted into earlier trade agreements, like that with Peru.

In the case of the TPP, there is a further concern. Asia has developed an efficient supply chain, with goods flowing easily from one country to another in the process of producing finished goods. But the TPP could interfere with that if China remains outside of it.

With formal tariffs already so low, negotiators will focus largely on non-tariff barriers – such as regulatory barriers. But the USTR’s office, representing corporate interests, will almost surely push for the lowest common standard, leveling downward rather than upward. For example, many countries have tax and regulatory provisions that discourage large automobiles – not because they are trying to discriminate against US goods, but because they worry about pollution and energy efficiency.

The more general point, alluded to earlier, is that trade agreements typically put commercial interests ahead of other values – the right to a healthy life and protection of the environment, to name just two. France, for example, wants a “cultural exception” in trade agreements that would allow it to continue to support its films – from which the whole world benefits. This and other broader values should be non-negotiable.

Indeed, the irony is that the social benefits of such subsidies are enormous, while the costs are negligible. Does anyone really believe that a French art film represents a serious threat to a Hollywood summer blockbuster? Yet Hollywood’s greed knows no limit, and America’s trade negotiators take no prisoners. And that’s precisely why such items should be taken off the table before negotiations begin. Otherwise, arms will be twisted, and there is a real risk that an agreement will sacrifice basic values to commercial interests.

If negotiators created a genuine free-trade regime that put the public interest first, with the views of ordinary citizens given at least as much weight as those of corporate lobbyists, I might be optimistic that what would emerge would strengthen the economy and improve social well-being. The reality, however, is that we have a managed trade regime that puts corporate interests first, and a process of negotiations that is undemocratic and non-transparent.

The likelihood that what emerges from the coming talks will serve ordinary Americans’ interests is low; the outlook for ordinary citizens in other countries is even bleaker.

Malaysia Airlines cuts down its Q1 2013 loss

Now this is a piece of news that might slightly appease former YB Wee Choo Keong. This ardent scrutineer of Malaysia Airlines have been slightly pacified by the fact that the misadvised share-swap between Air Asia and MAS (in substance, it was actually a takeover of MAS by Tony Fernandes and his cronies) had been reversed exactly a year ago.

Today, MAS announced its Quarter One 2013 financial results:

Malaysia Airlines Halves Operating Loss in Q1 2013 with 17% Traffic, 14% Revenue Improvement & Positive Cash Balance

Wednesday, 29 May 2013, Kuala Lumpur – National carrier Malaysia Airlines registered a significant improvement in its operations by reducing operating loss by 46% to RM165 million for the first three months ended 31 March 2013 compared with RM307 million in the same quarter in 2012.

The improved performance was delivered in the face of poor economic conditions in which the airline delivered 17% increase in passenger traffic, 14% increase in revenue, and a higher seat load factor of 76.6%. This performance demonstrates that the continued focus to improve revenue and passenger loads is working. For the first quarter of 2013, the Group increased available seat capacity by 11% and increased flight frequencies by 9%.

Malaysia Airlines registered a RM147 million positive cash balance from its operating activities in the first three months of 2013, compared to a negative cash position of RM202 million in the previous corresponding period. This is the third consecutive quarter of positive cash contribution from operating activities.

“Our operating statistics are strong and recording encouraging traction to build up our passenger numbers and growth. These have enabled our Group to generate positive cash balance, and essentially stop the bleeding. However we still have a lot of work to do to align costs to revenue, to increase productivity and efficiency, and improve yields”, said Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, Malaysia Airlines Group Chief Executive Officer.

“The conclusion of the Rights Issue is a milestone for Malaysia Airlines. With the cash injection and capital restructuring, our balance sheet is now on a very strong footing. This gives us wider options to implement a growth strategy for this challenging business environment”, added Ahmad Jauhari.

Malaysia Airlines’ recent Rights Issue exercise to raise RM3.1 billion from shareholders received an over-subscription of 41% valid acceptance and excess applications for the 13.36 billion new shares on offer. The Rights Issue is part of efforts to ‘reset, reboot and rebuild’ Malaysia Airlines which includes redefining business strategies, rebuilding its balance sheet strength to regain and build up its market position.

Traditionally the first half of the year sees weaker performance for airlines. Coupled with increased pressure on yields from intensifying competition and higher costs, Malaysia Airlines group registered a Net Loss after Tax was RM279 million for the first quarter of 2013 compared to a loss of RM172 million previously. This was mainly attributed to an unrealized forex loss of RM21 million in Q1 2013 compared to a forex gain of RM200 million in the previous year. Higher financing costs for its fleet renewal programme also contributed to the overall net loss.

“The continued high jet fuel prices, added capacity in the market and increased competition, put pressure on our yields. The business environment is tough, but Malaysia Airlines is now able to respond faster to changes in the market”, added Ahmad Jauhari.

Malaysia Airlines group revenue for Q1 2013 rose 14% to RM3.55 billion from RM3.11 billion previously. Expenditure for Q1 2013 was RM3.71 billion, 8% higher than the previous corresponding period, mainly attributed to high jet fuel costs, handling and landing costs, flight-related and leasing expenses. Depreciation also rose with the arrival of 6 A380s, 7 A330s and 8 B738s into its fleet over the last 12 months.

Jet fuel prices remained high at an average USD135 per barrel in the first quarter of 2013 compared to USD130 per barrel in the corresponding period last year. The Group’s fuel bill was 37% of total expenditure.

The Group carried 3.6 million passengers in Q1 2013, an improvement of 16% quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q). For the airline itself, passenger revenue was up 11% to RM2.47 billion, however yield decreased 5% to 24.2 sen per RPK.

Externally, the aviation environment saw strong growth in the first quarter of 2013 with both the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) reporting improvements in monthly passenger traffic in tandem with better business conditions.

The Asia Pacific region is expected to be the future growth centre of aviation demand, and Malaysia Airlines is well-positioned to tap this future growth. In addition to strengthening its footprint in Asia Pacific with increased frequencies to more business and leisure regional destinations, Malaysia Airlines now offers a wider international network with its membership of oneworld which it joined on 1 February 2013.

Whilst it is still early days to quantify the benefits, the carrier saw interline revenue jump 40% in the period February to March. “We expect interline revenue to increase further as more guests get to know about Malaysia Airlines through oneworld. Joining the alliance is a good platform to widen our reach and brand”, added Ahmad Jauhari.

In other operational matters, On Time Performance (OTP) was maintained at 85.1% for the first quarter of 2013.

Its fleet renewal programme is on-going. By end March 2013, all 6 A380s ordered had been delivered. By flying twice daily Kuala Lumpur-London, and once daily Kuala Lumpur-Paris and Kuala Lumpur-Hong Kong, Malaysia Airlines is optimizing aircraft utilization to average 17 hours daily. This is the said to be the highest, if not one of the highest in the world, A380 aircraft utilization.

It is quite a relief to see our national carrier is showing signs of improvement. Although they are not out of the woods yet, the exponential increase in revenue sees greater hope in cutting down their net loss after tax for the whole 2013. In 2012, they suffered RM433 million in losses while back in 2011, the loss was even higher at RM2.52 billion.

But what is troubling is the non-operating expenditure MAS is incurring such as depreciation, forex losses and financing costs. Stating the obvious, if these items are not managed and streamlined properly, it will eat up the revenue gained in each and every quarter. The only silver lining is the positive cash balance. And even that was helped by the rights issue.

However, this is much better than all the ‘turnaround exercises’ done by previous managements of MAS to window dress its financial statements. Asset unbundling, asset flipping, forex gains, fuel hedge initiative and all other short cuts conjured by the consultants etc.

What MAS needs is a more organic growth. And hopefully its top management can perform their duties that we all can be proud of.

By the way, kudos to MAS for bringing back a stranded mother and her sick child from Vietnam last week. Now that is a humane effort that will be remembered for a long time.

In other news, Felda Global Ventures Holdings Berhad posted a remarkable revenue in Q1 2013.

KUALA LUMPUR: Felda Global Ventures Holdings Berhad (FGV), the world’s third largest oil palm plantation operator, posted a 55.9 per cent increase in revenue to RM2.68 billion for its first quarter ended March 31, 2013.

But its profit before zakat and taxation for the quarter declined by 22.2 per cent to RM218.51 million, from RM280.81 million in the corresponding quarter last year.

Net profit dropped by 25.2 per cent to RM167.06 million from RM223.21 million in the same period previously, FGV said in a statement Wednesday.

The company said the decline in profit primarily reflected the effects of lower average crude palm oil (CPO) price realised by the group of RM2,264 per tonne compared with RM3,205 per tonne in 2012.

Malaysian CPO prices have been trading at around RM2,315 per tonne since December 2012 compared with last year’s average of RM3,190 per tonne, which was aggravated by reduced palm products purchases as well as high inventory holdings in the edible oil consuming countries such as India and China, it added.

FGV Group President Datuk Sabri Ahmad said that in line with other plantation companies, FGV’s plantation division had also been adversely impacted.

“However, as an integrated organisation, FGV has the flexibility to utilise cheaper feedstock in the refineries to offset the effect of reduced pricing and at the same time compete with other edible oil producers,” he said.

He added that the palm oil industry was expecting a price correction by the middle of the year, especially during the upcoming fasting month as demand rises.

Sabri said the decline in profit was also attributed to other factors, including higher fair value changes in the land lease agreement liability of RM54.60 million and provision for impairment which amounted to RM13.66 million related to a joint controlled entity.

Sabri said that the government’s decision to launch the B10 biodiesel programme in its effort to stabilise the CPO price was also timely.

“Taking on this opportunity, FGV had entered into an agreement to acquire a biodiesel refinery located in Kuantan, Pahang and expects the plant to be fully operational by mid-2013,” he added.

“With our resilient integrated business model and new businesses developed in the recent years as well as strong asset base, we are reasonably confident that we will overcome the difficult environment, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, we are optimistic of the prospects for the rest of the year,” added Sabri.

There’s nothing much that can be said about FGVH since that industry is at the mercy of global prices. Even Genting Plantations is suffering a dip of their quarterly profits.

PETALING JAYA: Genting Plantations Bhd’s net profit for the first quarter 2013 (1Q13) fell 44% to RM44mil from RM78.7mil a year ago, due to lower palm product selling prices and a RM31mil contribution for charity purposes.

However, its revenue for the quarter has increased 26% to RM343mil from RM272.6mil a year ago, notably due to stronger sales in its property segment. Earnings per share were lower at 5.8 sen versus 10.38 sen a year ago.

“In 1Q13, the group achieved average crude palm oil and palm kernel selling prices of RM2,293mt and RM1,165mt, down 28% and 40% respectively from the corresponding period of 2012,” it said.

Genting said its softer palm product selling prices outweighed the impact of higher crop yields during the quarter, adding that its fresh fruit bunches output had increased 32% year-on-year (yoy) mainly from its Sabah estates, which had recovered from favourable weather and additional planted areas are moving into higher yielding brackets.

On the other note, the firm noted its property division earnings had quadrupled, posting an increase of profit to RM25mil from RM5.9mil a year ago backed by strong demand for properties in Genting Indahpura.

Genting said it would continue to leverage its presence in Johor, particularly in the burgeoning Iskandar Malaysia region.

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