Planned ‘inclusive education’ endangers our children


I NOTICE the phrase “inclusive education” has become very fashionable these days. From parents to politicians and a fair few of us in the field of early childhood education, everyone seems to be smitten with the idea of achieving equity in education through the supposed magic pill that is mainstreaming “special needs” children.

Let me first state that education is a fundamental human right. The United Nations has codified it as such in its charter, and anyone with an ounce of intellect cannot dispute the starring role of education in raising the quality of life for individuals and society.

Yet I fear that in our missionary zeal to pursue inclusive education, Malaysians specifically and Asians in general risk distorting what constitutes equity and diversity, and grossly underestimate the groundwork and, indeed, sheer grit needed to implement it.

Instead of reducing the discrimination special needs children face at school, such a plan in its present shape and form may in fact backfire and intensify it.

Before I explain why, let us first establish what inclusive education is, since there seems to be much confusion over the definition.

Unesco (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) describes inclusive education systems as those “removing the barriers limiting the participation and achievement of all learners, respect diverse needs, abilities and characteristics and that eliminate all forms of discrimination in the learning environment”.

The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 meanwhile narrows the definition of special needs to students with “visual impairment, hearing impairment, speech difficulties, physical disabilities, multiple disabilities and learning disabilities such as autism, Down’s syndrome, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and dyslexia”.

There are two glaring problems here. First, lumping the above variety of physical and mental challenges under one umbrella is in itself discriminatory, as it equalises the learning ability of all within. 

This is ludicrous.

A child with a physical handicap could be on par with his so-called “normal” peers in keeping up with coursework, something that may be impossible for those with ADHD, autism and especially dyslexia.

How will a blanket policy for special needs children address their highly diverse needs? If the popular notions of inclusive education are made real, will there be multiple streams to the “mainstream”? And if learning methodology, timelines and schedules are stratified for those within the special needs domain, then what is “inclusive” about the system?

Second, I am of the opinion that we have a naïve understanding of inclusivity in the educational context, driven perhaps by our feverish desire to mimic the West. What we perceive as “inclusive” is integrative at best, something writ large in the education blueprint that maps out the closure of special needs facilities and merges their students with general bodies.

Besides bringing everyone under one roof, as the “combined classrooms” envision, there will plainly be separate clusters of students that are physically together yet galaxies apart in terms of academic and support requirements.

Nevertheless, there are positives to inclusive education as an ideal that makes it worth fighting for. I recently read a well-argued piece by Dr York Chow Yat-ngok in the South China Morning Post where he wrote that teething pains aside, combined classrooms will promote empathy and acceptance among all children and additionally raise the self-esteem of those with special needs.

While Dr Yat-ngok and similar-minded experts hold admirable positions on inclusive education, their arguments could go both ways. If we agree that young children absorb information like sponges and are in the process of building personalities, there remains the risk that even one distressing episode with a special needs child, say an autistic one, could internalise in them negative stereotypes about that group for life.

As humans, our concept of “normal” is often far removed from the scientific benchmarks that policymakers use to establish educational guidelines. And young children, especially, judge normality through adequate participation in social rituals as minor as sharing toys during playtime or napping together peacefully.

Also, when comparing Malaysia’s preschool system with developed nations, we must keep two very important things in mind: numbers and attitude.

First, the current teacher-to student ratio in Malaysian preschools is very taxing on educators. Here we have one teacher for 15 to 20 children whereas the ratio is six to eight in the West, excluding support staff like medics and mental health professionals.

And given young children can have wildly diverging personalities, it requires an enormous amount of patience and physical energy simply to teach the “normal” ones.

Therefore, before attempting to consolidate special needs and mainstream preschools, the government must first bridge this gap in terms of teacher numbers and skill-sets or risk pandemonium and even class-action lawsuits by parents if the new school environment endangers their children.

Next, the graver problem of attitude: The majority of Malaysian early childhood educators never wanted to enter the profession. I hear this every day at universities and in the field.

Because of the quota system in public universities, many settled on a major that was not even their second or third choice simply to attend a prestigious institution. And as working professionals, many regrettably do not care.

The greater irony here is how the pecking order of public education programmes cheapens early childhood education. Don’t have the grades to become a doctor, engineer or lawyer? Just go teach preschoolers.

The bottom line is the roadmap to inclusive education in preschools must be put away until both state and civil society awaken to their responsibilities. We cannot keep gambling with our children’s future, nor frustrating the few teachers who actually care about them.

** Jerrica Fatima Ann is a Malaysian early childhood educator and editor of www.imageofachild.com.

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Taking a stand for inclusive education

IN my heart of hearts, I believe that we are all special. No individual is the same as another, not even twins.

We all have little quirks that make us unique, whether it is an obsession with having everything in order, a habit of reading out loud or the urge to sanitise one’s hands after touching any little thing.

In spite of our quirks, we all want to be accepted for who we are, and we are lucky when our family, friends and colleagues do so.

If society can accept “normal” people and their eccentricities, why can’t it extend the same courtesy to those with special needs? I believe the answer lies in our education.

Society is a reflection of our education system. If we learn from young to perceive those who are different from us in an unfavourable light, it is natural that we pass this same mindset on to the next generation. Sadly, this creates a nation that lacks values like tolerance, understanding, compassion and kindness.

Taking a stand for inclusion and diversity is more than a special needs agenda; it is about fighting for a better world where everyone is accepted for who he or she is. And it has to start with education.

As an educator, I believe that we need to make a constant and conscious effort to push for inclusion and diversity. This is why we should continue to emphasise the importance of the special needs programmes.

It saddens me when schools turn down special needs children because they can’t handle them. To me, special needs children are just like any other kids, except that they need time and help with learning.

There are countless studies that advocate inclusive classrooms for both normal and special needs children. In an inclusive classroom, children with special needs are known to learn faster by observing their normal peers and being motivated to keep up.

Normal children, on the other hand, learn important values like tolerance, kindness and compassion through interacting with them.

What can be better than this? After all, we want our children to grow up ready for the real world.

The question is what kind of world do we want? I, for one, want a better world for our children, and that starts with embracing diversity and practising inclusion.

PUA CHEE LING, Chief executive, Dika College Puchong, Selangor

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Spirit of inclusive education

https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2019/08/01/spirit-of-inclusive-education

Financial education must start at a young age

https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2019/07/29/financial-education-must-start-at-a-young-age/

Learning to be financially literate begins in childhood

https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2019/07/31/learning-to-be-financially-literate-begins-in-childhood

 

Undi18: So what’s next?

https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2019/07/29/undi18-so-whats-next/

 

 

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Let’s talk economy – the sequel of education

The pump-prime our financial situation, we need a massive investment to revamp and rebuild our education

 Let’s talk economy – the sequel of education

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All countries, including Malaysia, losing in US-China trade war


“The US may settle into the malaise it found itself in, during the 1970s, before the present wave of globalization. It may survive but not thrive,’’ said Pong Teng Siew(pic) head of research, Inter-Pacific Securities.

THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) may have identified China as having more to lose in the US-China trade war, but the real loser is the world which has become economically more dependent on China.

The initial impact is seen in emerging economies, where a fresh slowdown in the world economy has been concentrated.

Asian economies, in particular, will feel the pressure from slowing Chinese demand for their exports.

Commodity producing countries will also suffer as prices decline in the wake of sluggish demand from China.

In 2016 and 2017, China’s share of world demand came to 59% of cement, 56% of nickel, 50% each of coal, copper and steel, aluminium (47%), cotton (33%), rice (31%), gold (27%), corn (23%) and oil (14%), said Visual Capitalist that publishes data using visual methods.

While the IMF, in its half-yearly World Economic Outlook, had upgraded its forecast of US growth this year from 2.3% to 2.6%, it had downgraded China from 6.3% to 6.2%.

Growth expectations for emerging and developing economies is now cut, since April, by 0.3 percentage points to 4.1% this year.

China’s economy grew at an annual pace of 6.2% in the second quarter, the weakest in nearly three decades, while exports rose by just 0.1% in the first half.

Throughout the closely linked supply chains, these weak exports which registered the biggest drop to the US, also dampened demand for imports of components used in finished products.

Increasingly vulnerable to any slowdown in China, dubbed the Asian powerhouse, is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) economic bloc, for which China was the biggest trading partner.

Trade between Asean and China hit US$587.87bil last year.

As there are expectations for Chinese growth to slide between 5% to 6%, the rest of Asia which have prioritized trade with China, may have to look elsewhere for growth.

Making matters worse, there will be no more super stimulus programme such as the US$586bil unleased after the 2008 financial crisis, which had a positive impact across the export-oriented region.

“There are, therefore, concerted efforts to try and resolve the US-China trade war,’’ said Nor Zahidi Alias, associate director of research, Malaysian Rating Corp.

But Asean is already a recipient of trade investment diversions from China, and it is likely that Asian countries will ramp up efforts, including improvement in infrastructure and the ease of doing business, to attract foreign direct investments from the United States and China.

In the short term, China, being a large trading nation, may have more to lose but it is already transitioning away from being dependent on trade.

Consumption had contributed to more than 60% growth in China during 11 out of 16 quarters from January 2015 to December 2018, said CNBC, quoting a July report by McKinsey.

Indicating its increased self-reliance, China had exported only 9% of its output in 2017, compared with 17% in 2007, the study found.

The three groups with most exposure to China are the Asian economies within the global supply chain (South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam); the resource rich countries that export to China (Australia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ghana and South Africa); and emerging markets with investments from China (Egypt and Pakistan).

The trade war has complicated China’s efforts to find a balance between sustaining decent growth and tackling problems of high corporate debt and massive shadow banking risks.

As a result, these ‘highly dependent’ countries will probably have to suffer more.

In the end, nobody gains especially those that want to ‘hide’ behind tariff walls, de-globalise and move away from the current global interdependence and integration.

The effects of de-globalisation can be serious.

Think of a 1970s type of scenario, said to be the worst decade for the US economy which, since the Great Depression, had experienced the worst downturn from November 1973 to March 1975.

“The US may settle into the malaise it found itself in, during the 1970s, before the present wave of globalization. It may survive but not thrive,’’ said Pong Teng Siew head of research, Inter-Pacific Securities.

The current wave of globalization is said to feature modern technology and global democratic processes, with increased movement of capital and adoption of free trade.

Consumers will be the ultimate loser; they have to face a decade or more of higher prices (on US and retaliatory tariffs) with little or no compensating increases in employment and income.

The huge job cuts happening around the world, with talk nearer home of layoffs and headcount freezes in the Singapore semiconductor industry, should give us an indication of some potentially alarming consumer downtrends.

By Columnist Yap Leng Kuen, who reckons nobody should be under the illusion that he is the winner. The views expressed here are solely that of the writer.

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The cradle of Chinese leadership



Westerners do not understand how vital a competent government is in China.

中国政府有时就像家长,既要赚钱养家又做好榜样

Set in stone: Staff members walking near a statue at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in Beijing as the party opened its leading school for cadres to a rare visit by foreign journalists. — AP

It is back to school for thousand of cadres of the national party to brush up on the country’s progress.

EVERY year, thousands of party cadres from the Communist Party of China (CPC) returned to school to learn about the latest direction of the country as it progresses.

At the Party School of CPC Central Committee (CCPS) – the key cradle of China’s leaders – the trainees are taught Marxism classics, moral and conduct while receiving anti-corruption education.

They are also exposed to the latest in technology and various skills to lead the rural villagers out of poverty as the nation is striving towards its “Chinese Dream” of building a well-off society for all.

Located opposite the Summer Palace in Beijing, the school also conducts training and guidance to improve the governing ability of cadres while motivating them to serve as firm followers and loyal practitioners of Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

Just last year, 137 training sessions were organised for nearly 11,000 cadres all over the country.

The school opened its door to a group of foreign journalists recently.

We were led to a class which was in progress and the trainer, who requested to remain anonymous, was giving a lecture on various tra­n­s­formation and innovation prog­rammes to improve the environment and livelihood of rural villagers.

During the short visit, we listened in on the trainer telling cadres about the use of flush toilets.

For many of us, we have taken for granted the availability of flush toilets in our homes or offices.

But for those dwelling in the mountainous areas far from water sources in China, this sanitary ware is a luxury.

The locals from a village in Shangdong have invented their own “dry toilet” in which they covered up waste with organic materials.

“The toilet does not stink at all and it is environmentally friendly.

“A little effort makes big changes in improving the environment and the people’s lives,” the trainer told the cadres, believed to be grassroots leaders from the rural areas.

The trainer also told the class the story of a village in Tonglu of Zhejiang province where the locals turned their rural agricultural home into a famous tourist spot.

He said the locals successfully transformed an abandoned pig pen into a popular cafe.

“There is a very expensive type of coffee known as mao shi kafei (Indonesia’s kopi luwak) in the world.

“If rich people can sit at a stinking pig pen while tasting a cup of expensive coffee, isn’t this another way of enjoyment?” asked the trainer.

He was motivating the class cadres to be creative and to transform abandoned poultry farms into money-making businesses as well as preserve old buildings that have witnessed special events.

The trainer also showed the class modern farming techniques known as the Integrated Rice-Duck Farming by raising ducks in the paddy field.

“With modern technology, we are able to calculate the suitable number of ducks for a paddy field of a particular size and the timing of releasing the birds,” he added.

With over 100 trainees but only a handful of female cadres, the class also learned about homestay and handicraft-making programmes.

In a tea session with the media, vice-head of academic affairs of the school, Wang Gang said currently, there are some 1,600 cadres undergoing training at the campus.

Asked why men outnumbered women trainees by a large margin, Wang Gang said they have another programme catering for female cadres.

He, however, did not elaborate.

The CCPS – also known as China National Academy of Governance – was set up in 1933, 12 years after the founding of the CPC.

Over the decades, it has groomed a large number of governing elites and talent for the party and the country.

State leaders such as the late Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi and Hu Jintao have served as its president.

The CCPS campus houses a museum, a sports centre with various facilities including swimming pool, squash court, ping pong tables and a gym for the trainees, who are required to stay in the campus throughout their training period.

Apart from providing training to the cadres, the CCPS also serves as a high-end think-tank for the party and a national research institution for philosophy and social science.

It has also taken part in exchange programmes and activities with political parties from 159 nations, 21 international and multilateral organisations.

Last year, the school received 1,248 visitors.

CPC, with over 90 million members, is the biggest political party in the world.

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Hong Kong in decline


Losing ground: China’s spectacular rise has affected Hong Kong’s thriving financial services industry, along with development of port services. – Reuters

https://youtu.be/elH1PrASTAU

 

TWO generations ago cheap goods from Hong Kong were labelled simply “Made in Hong Kong,” but their poor quality soon made that embarrassing.

For marketing reasons they were then labelled “Made in the British Empire” or “Empire Made.” Britain, home of the First Industrial Revolution, was better regarded than any Far Eastern outpost.

However, manufacturing could never suffice for Hong Kong’s economy because of limited land and rising property prices.

Enter the space-efficient financial services industry, along with development of port services. Then a generation ago Hong Kong began to face its biggest challenge: China’s spectacular rise.

But if Hong Kong would be part of China again, wouldn’t it also enjoy the mainland’s rising fortunes?

Hong Kongers always had a problem with the first part ever since Britain’s takeover in 1841.

From the late-1970s the West was all for China’s “opening up” policies. Hong Kongers looked across the water to see Shenzhen’s phenomenal rise from old market town to bustling modern metropolis.

Shenzhen had twice Hong Kong’s population and a much faster rate of development. As just one cog in China’s production behemoth, Shenzhen soon buried Hong Kong’s prospect as a manufacturing centre.

In global references Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou is the world’s biggest productive mega region, demographically twice the size of the next biggest in Nagoya-Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe.

But Hong Kongers still regarded themselves as a breed apart from the mainland – a “Made in the British Empire” attitude dies hard.

Surely Hong Kong still had superlative status as a leading port and financial services centre?

Not quite, especially when Shanghai would soon outclass it on both counts.

Hong Kong slipped to fifth place among the world’s busiest container ports. Among the world’s Top 10, six are now on China’s mainland.

The Shanghai Municipality’s population is 3.5 times Hong Kong’s, with an area 5.7 times as large, meaning a more relaxed population density of just 62% of Hong Kong’s.

Shanghai’s 2018 nominal GDP was US$494bil (RM2.04 trillion), which was 136.1% of Hong Kong’s. Even Shenzhen is catching up with Hong Kong, falling short by just 3.3%.

Business is Hong Kong’s business, but the mainland is doing better in both performance and prospects.

The Hong Kong stock market is not necessarily stable. Since the 1960s it has experienced a dozen market crashes.

Shanghai’s Stock Exchange market capitalisation of US$5.01 trillion is larger than Hong Kong’s by 26.5%. Hong Kong’s exceeded Shenzhen’s by only 12.8%.

Hong Kong as business enclave has been eclipsed and outdone by the mainland. At the same time its future increasingly depends on the mainland.

Since 1997, Hong Kong dropped from representing 20% to just 3% of China’s GDP.

For China today Hong Kong is just another Chinese city, meaning it is dispensable. Shenzhen and the rest of the mainland do not need a nettlesome Hong Kong for China’s continued rise.

Hong Kong protesters have committed at least a dozen strategic errors.

  1. One, they assume Hong Kong is essential to the mainland’s future when only the reverse is true. There is no equivalence between Hong Kong and the mainland in any way that works for Hong Kong.
  2. Two, protest appeals to mainlanders for support mistakenly attempt to rekindle the spirit of Tienanmen Square protests a generation ago. Those protesters are now part of the system in a prosperous new China, actively engaged in business or government. Their original 1989 complaint of corruption in high places is keenly addressed by Beijing.
  3. Three, attempts to solicit mainlanders’ support are badly confused with prejudice against them. Within days of trying to spread the protest message to mainlanders in July, protesters attacked mainland traders, shoppers and tourists.
  4. Four, protesters violently attacked police personnel, alienating many Hong Kongers including most protesters. It signalled a slide towards civil disorder.
  5. Five, vandalising the Legislative Council building established illegal conduct and further alienated everyone else.
  6. Six, more violence was targeted at the liaison office when sympathisers had thought protesters would never do that. It confirmed the criminality discrediting the protests as a whole.
  7. Seven, besides disrupting traffic and commerce, harassing passengers at the airport and train stations. It did nothing to promote their cause to the general public but quite the opposite.
  8. Eight, protests did not subside even after Hong Kong’s Executive backed down on the extradition Bill. It revealed the unreasonable nature of the protests.
  9. Nine, no protester had demanded democracy for Hong Kong in 156 years of British colonial rule. If they had, they may have a legitimate basis for demanding democracy today.
  10. Ten, it was foolish to unfurl the Union Jack and call for reverting to British rule. Seeking the denial of democracy by a foreign hand exposes the hypocrisy of the protests.
  11. Eleven, it was foolhardy to unfurl “Old Glory,” calling for US intervention during a US-China trade war. With trade a major basis of Hong Kong’s survival, it was politically suicidal.
  12. Twelve, protesters fail to understand that no other country can or would do what is necessary to boost Hong Kong’s fortunes. Only the mainland can do that if it wants to.

Young protesters still to find employment amid poor conditions and rising costs may think they have legitimate grievances.

Yet all the solutions – more investment, better job prospects, even improved governance – can come meaningfully only via the mainland.

Beijing can deploy troops to Hong Kong, but to what end?

Hong Kong’s worst punishment is getting exactly what the protesters want – isolation. That will leave it further behind as the mainland prospers, surging ahead.

Hong Kong can stew in its own juices until tender. Beijing may let the anger fester and rot until then.

Hong Kong’s strength as money-making hub is also its weakness. Its stock market can crash again, which can also send a message to Taiwan.

Hong Kong tycoons are already looking for more places abroad to stash their fortunes. Without decisive mainland investment, the economic enclave can die a natural death.

What’s left of Hong Kong’s Establishment will then surely discipline rowdy mobs. The triads have already shown leadership here, symbolising the decline.

By Bunn Nagara, a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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Anti-corruption crusade in full force in Corporate Malaysia


 

Enough time: Ruslan says there should be adequate time for corporates to implement the guidelines by June 1, 2020.

Will the much-anticipated enforcement of Section 17A of the MACC in less than a year result in a corruption-free business scene?

THE Pakatan Harapan government envisions a corruption-free Malaysia in five years’ time, but the journey towards the ambitious objective will be a bumpy one – especially for Corporate Malaysia.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Global Economic Crime Survey 2018, about 35% of the Malaysian companies surveyed have suffered as a result of bribery and corruption in their daily operations. This marks a sharp increase from just 19% in 2014.

Speaking with StarBizWeek, Transparency International Malaysia (TIM) president Muhammad Mohan cautions that “corruption is rampant and has worsened in the Malaysian business sector over the last few years”.

Despite the worrying trend in Corporate Malaysia, preventive anti-corruption measures among local companies remain limited.

As at end-May 2019, only 59% of listed companies in the country had an internal anti-corruption policy, according to the Securities Commission (SC).

The good news is, the Pakatan administration has been ramping up its anti-corruption initiatives over the last one year.

About a month after the 14th general election (GE14), the government established the Governance, Integrity and AntiCorruption Centre (GIACC) to monitor and coordinate all activities related to combating graft, integrity and governance.

In January 2019, the National AntiCorruption Plan 2019-2023, which was developed by GIACC, was launched by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The five-year plan has outlined six priority areas and 115 initiatives to achieve zero-tolerance to corruption and bolster good
governance.

On July 18, the SC presented its anti-corruption action plan to the Cabinet Special Committee on Anti-Corruption chaired by Dr Mahathir, with recommendations to prevent corruption, misconduct and fraud.

Section 17A comes into force 

In addition to these efforts, beginning June 1, 2020, Corporate Malaysia will take its next step towards a corruption-free business environment via the enforcement of Section 17A of the MACC Act.

The new provision, which was inserted into the anti-bribery act before the GE14, establishes the principle of corporate liability among businesses. Under Section 17A, companies and their directors could be deemed personally liable if an associated person such as an employee or subcontractor is caught involved in corruption for the benefit of the commercial organisations.

Section 17A covers companies, partnerships and limited liability partnerships operating in Malaysia.

The companies and directors could defend themselves against prosecution if they have implemented “adequate procedures” such as internal guidelines or staff training within the commercial organisations.

However, senior lawyer and former Malaysian Bar president Datuk Lim Chee Wee says the existence of adequate procedures does not preclude a commercial organisation or the directors from being charged or prosecuted.

“That is to say, a company may still be charged or prosecuted for corruption offence under section 17A (1), but the fact that the company has in place adequate anti-corruption procedures may absolve it from any finding of criminal liability by the court,” he says.

“However, Section 17A does not put an undue amount of responsibilities on the management. While the definition of associated person under section 17A (6) appears to be general and extensive, there is a safeguard in section 17A (7) which provides for the need for a holistic assessment of the relationship between the company and the associated person to be conducted before any liability of the associated person can
be imputed on the company,” he says.

With the anti-bribery provision, companies can no longer hide behind third parties such as consultants or subsidiaries. In the past, holding companies and the board of directors could absolve themselves of any blame if there were corrupt practices at the subsidiary levels.

“Now, the directors and companies are accountable for everything. Even consultants who act for companies come under the MACC Act and the employee hiring processes must be accounted for,” says a CEO of a listed
firm.

He adds that the focus should be more on the wide implications of Section 17A, rather than the cost of compliance.

“It is not whether the corporate liability provision is difficult or adds to costs of  Malaysian companies.

It is a question of whether the companies and directors are aware of the wide implications with the act coming into force next year.

“The MACC act together with the beneficial ownership laws gives MACC the
bite to act on corporations, directors and owners. If they want to get you, they can,” he says.If found guilty of an act of corruption under the soon-to-be-enforcedSection 17A, the penalties imposed on a commercial organisation would besevere.A company could be fined not less than 10 times the value of the gratification or RM1mil, whichever is higher, or be subject to imprisonment not exceeding 20 years, or to both.In short, it will not be “business as usual” for Corporate Malaysia come 2020.

Delay in compliance 

While there are only 10 more months before Section 17A is enforced, many businesses in the country have yet to introduce adequate procedures to prevent corruption in their organisations, in line with the “Guidelines on Adequate Procedures”.

On Dec 10, 2018, Dr Mahathir launched the “Guidelines on Adequate Procedures”, which serve as reference points for any anti-corruption policies and controls an organisation may choose to implement towards the goal of having adequate procedures as required under Section 17A.

SC says that even among the listed companies that have an anti-corruption policy, “the majority of these policies contain gaps when compared to the Guidelines on Adequate Procedures”.

TI-M’s Muhammad Mohan hinted that not all government-linked companies (GLCs) will be ready by June 2020 for Section 17A.

“GLCs especially the larger ones are making preparations to handle the corruption risks involved. The problem is many GLCs and non-GLCs have wasted so much time by not implementing or preparing their organisations for this.

“Many businesses are expecting U-turns or extensions to be given,” he says.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Datuk Soh Thian Lai says the organisation supports the introduction of Section 17A and has undertaken several sessions to educate its members on the implementation of “adequate procedures” as well as the ISO 37001 Anti Bribery Management System.

As the deadline for the enforcement of Section 17A nears, Soh points out that concerns

remain on the readiness and capacity of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in ensuring that adequate internal measures have been put in place to potential acts of corruption. specially still lack the know-how lementing such measures. There e greater capacity building in place to assist SMEs,” he says.

However, among major corporations in uch as those related to Nasional and the Employees Fund, the guidelines are being owed, says a CEO of a listed company.

The compliance department has grown bigger, he says.  In an email interview with
StarBizWeek, SC says that it will take steps to mandate companies to establish and
implement anti-corruption measures.

“While there may be additional costs in putting these anti-corruption in place, it is important for comealise that these measures will m to avail themselves of the statutory ddefence provided for under Section 17A (4) of the MACC
Act,” says the commission.

Vulnerable businesses 

Past experiences indicate that compaed with procurement, governracts and the  construction sector ulnerable to corruption and kickbacks.

While government and key industry ve introduced several anti-coreasures such as open tender corrupt practices continue to be prevalent in such sectors.

In fact, between 2013 and 2018, nearly 43% of the total complaints received by MACC were on the procurement sector.

Experts say that the trend is expected to change as businesses in Malaysia fully comply with Section 17A, following its enforcement. The adoption of anti-bribery ISO 37001 standards will also bolster Corporate Malaysia zero-tolerance approach towards corruption.

Facilities management service provider GFM Services Bhd, which is actively involved in government contracts, welcomes the enforcement of
Section 17A.

Group managing director Ruslan Nordin believes the corporate liability provision not only upholds a business’ integrity, but also protects shareholders’ value and preserves profitability of the company.

“We view that there is adequate time for corporates in Malaysia to implement the guidelines by June 1 next year,” he says.

Senior lawyer Lim says that Section 17A imposes a duty on all businesses, its directors and officers to be honest in their internal and external dealings.

“This is to be welcomed, corruption increases the cost of transaction, and with this new provision, it should reduce the cost of business,” he says. UHY Malaysia managing director Steven Chong Hou Nian believes that compliance with Section 17A offers businesses an opportunity to exhibit positive values in their corporate culture.

“I opine that the qualitative gains from Section 17A compliance outweigh the additional costs,” he says.

He was also asked whether Section 17A will be successful in reducing corruption within procurement and tendering for government contracts.

To this, he said that the government has pledged to re-design the entire public procurement system while introduce relevant technologies to facilitate a clean, efficient and transparent procurement regime.

“The effectiveness of what Section 17A seeks to achieve, would naturally be premised upon the ecosystem that the MACC Act would operate within.
“The eventual success of the initiative is anyone’s guess, yet I applaud the nation for boldly taking this step forward. This is indeed a success in its own right,” says Chong.

 

Trade War Spurs Recession Risk in Singapore


The Tanjong Pagar container terminal in Singapore.
  • Shock contraction in quarterly GDP raises risk of job losses
  • Officials already grappling with aging, productivity threats

Singapore’s economic data have gone from bad to worse this month. Exports slumped to their second-worst rate since the global financial crisis, the purchasing managers index slipped into contraction for the first time since 2016, and the economy shrank the most in almost seven years in the second quarter.

Exports, manufacturing PMIs sink to multi-year lows

 

After spending much of early 2019 enjoying relative resilience, a recession 
is now looming. That’s a warning shot for regional and global economies, since Singapore’s heavy reliance on trade makes it somewhat of a bellwether for the rest of Asia.

The severity of the slump may be down to trade tensions and a global slowdown, but Singapore has been grappling with longstanding economic threats that have been slowly eroding the city state’s growth potential: rapid aging, labor market shrinkage, and sluggish productivity among them. Those risks will become more acute for policy makers now.

“Any undue turbulence or prolonged stresses from the trade war are only
going to compound the challenges of all the other issues — productivity, demographics, anything else,” said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics & strategy at Mizuho Bank Ltd. in Singapore. “External demand concerns will be at the top of the list for now, because if you don’t get that one right it’s that much more difficult to solve everything else.”

Singapore remains one of the most export-reliant economies in the world, with trade equivalent to 326% of gross domestic product, according to World Bank data. That puts the city state at the center of the storm stirred up by its top two trading partners sparring
over tariffs.

The shock GDP figures earlier this month prompted some analysts to downgrade
their Singapore forecasts for the year to below 1%. The government is set to revisit its own 1.5%-2.5% range next month, but for now, it’s remaining calm, seeing no recession for the full year.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say…

“Barring a swift rapprochement in U.S.-China trade relations, our forecast for a 0.2% year-on-year contraction in Singapore in 2019 remains on course.

The government has ample firepower to cushion the blow, but it may not be enough to avoid a recession.”

-Tamara Henderson, Asean economist

The slump is largely contained so far to manufacturing, which makes up about a fifth
of the economy, but could soon spread to other sectors such as retail and financial services. That increases the risk of job losses at a time when businesses like International Business Machines Corp. are already laying off workers and banks such as Nomura Holdings Inc. cut staff.

The number of retrenched  workers in Singapore rose to the highest in more than a year in the first quarter, though the unemployment rate has remained fairly steady at 2.2% amid a recovery in construction.

“The labor market looks to be on two tracks at the moment — there’s a weak market in the manufacturing sector but a steady one in the services sector,” said Shaun Roache, chief Asia-Pacific economist at S&P Global Ratings in Singapore. “High-frequency indicators including industrial production and trade suggest that the environment will remain challenging in manufacturing for the year.”

While those cyclical headwinds buffer the outlook, policy makers are also grappling with structural impediments to growth.

SINGAPORE AGING
An employee clears tables at a food center in Singapore.

Faced with a rapidly aging population, the government has been on an aggressive campaign to re-skill its labor force and prepare workers for a postponed retirement.
The median age is set to rise to 46.8 years in 2030 from 39.7 in 2015, faster than the other top economies in Southeast Asia as well as the world as a whole, according to United Nations projections.

Tied to its rapid aging is Singapore’s productivity conundrum.

As the labor pool shrinks and gets older, the city state’s answer to the productivity challenge has been to automate and digitize. With an ambition to become a “Smart Nation,”  the government has poured money and energy into digitization projects
of all kinds, from helping seniors fine-tune smartphone skills at digital clinics to attracting financial technology giants to set up shop and test their ideas.

Silver-Medal Race

It’s that technological advancement, along with its world-beating infrastructure and efficiency, that continues to make Singapore attractive to businesses like Dyson Ltd., the U.K. manufacturer that picked the city state for its location to build its first electric cars. It’s also a reason why officials are confident Singapore can meet its foreign investment targets for this year.

“They’re saying the right thing, doing the right thing,” said Edward Lee, chief economist for South and Southeast Asia at Standard Chartered Plc in Singapore, who has penciled in 1% growth for 2019. “Retraining, ongoing structural reforms on the labor side — those are the right things.”

By

— With assistance by Cynthia Li

China orders US to remove ‘black hands’ from Hong Kong


Escalating violence in Hong Kong over the weekend opened new fronts in its crisis over an extradition Bill that could see people sent to China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

FM Spokeswoman Refutes FBI Chief’s Fallacy

Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, who was once the intelligence chief of the U.S., bluntly stated in a public speech in April that ‘we lie, cheat and steal, and this is the glory of experiment of America.’

 

China said on Tuesday (July 24) that US officials were behind the violent chaos in Hong Kong and warned against interference, following a series of protests in the city, including bloody clashes on the weekend.

“We can see that US officials are even behind such incidents,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying at a regular press briefing on Tuesday.

She was referring to violence related to weeks of protests spearheaded by pro-democracy activists against a Bill that would allow people to be extradited from the city to stand trial in courts in mainland China.

“So can the officials tell the world what role did they play and what are their aims?” Hua asked.

On Sunday, groups of men in white T-shirts, who opposition politicians suspect were linked to Hong Kong criminal gangs, assaulted some pro-democracy protesters, after some protesters had vandalised Beijing’s main office in the city.

Hua, asked about criticism of violence by the United States and Hong Kong’s former colonial ruler, Britain, said China would not tolerate any interference.

“The US should know one thing, that Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong, and we do not allow any foreign interference,” she said. “We advise the US to withdraw their black hands.”

On Monday, a British junior foreign minister said Britain “will be keeping a close eye” on Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s investigation into the vicious assault on pro-democracy protesters.

“I welcome Carrie Lam’s statement today saying she has asked the Commissioner of Police to investigate this incident fully and pursue any lawbreakers,” Andrew Murrison told the House of Commons.

Britain, which signed a treaty handing over control of the territory to China in 1997, “remains fully committed to upholding Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, rights and freedoms”, he added.

Earlier this month, the US State Department urged all sides in Hong Kong to avoid violence after protesters ransacked the territory’s Parliament on the anniversary of its handover to China.

Following that episode, US President Donald Trump said that the protesters who stormed Hong Kong’s Parliament wanted democracy for the semi-autonomous territory.

“Well, they are looking for democracy, and I think most people want democracy. Unfortunately, some governments don’t want democracy,” Mr Trump told reporters at the White House on July 1.

But on Monday, he praised Beijing’s handling of the protests, saying he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping has acted responsibly.

“I know that that’s a very important situation for President Xi,” Trump said, adding that “China could stop them if they wanted”.

“I think that President Xi of China has acted responsibly, very responsibly,” Trump told reporters. “I hope that President Xi will do the right thing.”.

Hong Kong, a global financial hub, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in the mainland, including freedom to protest and an independent judiciary. .

But many in Hong Kong resent what they see as Beijing’s creeping control and its refusal to let its residents directly elect their leader. .

China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has warned that the violent protests over the proposed legislation allowing extraditions to mainland China were an “undisguised challenge”to the formula under which it is ruled. – (Straits Times, REUTERS, AFP)

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