US has to accept China’s rise: expert said in 7th Xiangshan Security Forum

Major powers threaten other countries by seeking ‘absolute security’

Professor Zheng Yongnian (right) speaks to reporters at the Xiangshan Forum in Beijing on Wednesday. Photo: Chen Ping/GT

The US is sending the wrong diplomatic signals to South Asia, a Singapore-based scholar said at a security forum in ­Beijing on Wednesday. And he called for a balance in major power relations in the region.

Zheng Yongnian, professor and director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, said “the US is adjusting itself toward the rise of China … But I don’t think the US is sending the right signals to South Asian countries.”

He noted, “although it will not go to war with China because of the Philippines [over South China Sea disputes] or any other nation, the signals the US sends out, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership or its ‘Pivot to Asia,’ are viewed negatively in South Asia.”

Zheng made the remarks on the sidelines on the third day of the Seventh Xiangshan Forum. He dismissed the concept of absolute power in the globalization era.

“Major powers should understand that they pose a threat to other countries by seeking absolute security for themselves,” Zheng said.

He emphasized that the expansion of NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union led to conflict in eastern Ukraine, since the organization raised Russian security concerns.

Zheng also noted that as the world’s major power, the US has to accept the natural rise of China. “China’s economic rise means it will also have geopolitical influence regardless of the intentions of its leaders.”

He lashed out at the notion of “alliances,” which is an “offshoot” of the Cold War.

“Alliances mean there is an enemy. And no alliance is equal because there will be a leader and followers,” he said, adding “the US, Japan and the Philippines remain in an alliance. I believe once Japan and the Philippines get a chance, they will seek an equal ­position.”

However, smaller countries have to respect a major power’s interests, otherwise it will cause regional conflict, like when South Korea agreed to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ­system, he said.

The US anti-missile defense system has caused a rift between South Korea and China. Although some South Koreans have been raising health and environmental concerns, President Park Geun-hye defended it as a national defense necessity.

Separately, referring to the position of the US toward China, J. Stapleton Roy, former US ambassador to China, told the Global Times, “We would consider China hostile if it enjoys greater military might.”

“Americans like to think in terms of using our robust military presence in the Asia-Pacific to balance the rise of China, but not to contain it, so that China’s neighbors are not alarmed over its growing military and economic power.”

China doesn’t want to be a dominant power in the region, which is not a military showcase for the US as well, said Su Ge, president of the China Institute of International Studies.

“China is not intent on replacing the US,” he said.

– Global Times – Asia-Pacific, Cross-Borders

US Policy towards China:

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Malaysia’s jobless rate on the rise as economic expansion slows

Unemployment in Malaysia is rising, the latest data released by the Statistics Department show.

The obvious correlation to the rise in the jobless rate, which in Malaysia is counted as those who are unemployed but remain actively looking for a job, is the slower pace of economic growth.

The economy, up until the second quarter ended June 30, has slowed for five quarters in a row with weak exports the main drag on growth.

Although private consumption and investments supported the economy in the second quarter, economists are not very confident that this will drive growth in the coming quarters without supportive government policies and improvement in overseas consumer demand.

This will have implications for jobs and the economy.

There could be reason for short-term cheer with data exceeding expectations, as August trade data released yesterday show but there are indications that downside risks remain.

Positive sentiments as reflected in the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research’s (Mier) business conditions index, which is now above the 100-point threshold, indicating that businesses’ confidence levels are up, can just as easily dissipate.

Consumers do not share the same sentiments as businesses, as the Mier’s consumer sentiments index show.

Although rising steadily since the beginning of the year, the index is still below the 100-point threshold, largely reflecting benign inflation and the fading impact of the goods and services tax implemented last year.

Standard Chartered plc Asean economic research head Edward Lee says private consumption growth momentum will not be sustainable because of the weak labour-market conditions.

Besides the higher unemployment rate, weak wage- and job-growth together with the slowdown in the property market and financial-market volatility to also affect spending sentiment.

Lee, who expects the economy to grow 3.8% this year compared to the official estimates of 4% to 4.5%, adds that the weakening labour market will be a drag on economic growth.

“Private consumption will be key to achieving this target, and we think it may come in weaker than the central bank expects due to weaker labour-market conditions.

“We will therefore monitor consumption metrics closely over the next few months,” he says.

Cautious consumer sentiment largely reflects the state of the job market and high household debt.

Different views: Consumers do not share the same sentiments as businesses, as Mier’s consumer sentiments index shows

Data from Bank Negara and the Nikkei Malaysia manufacturing purchasing managers index (PMI) compiled by IHS Markit Ltd paint a bleaker picture.

While the September Nikkei Malaysia manufacturing PMI, which was released at the end of last month saw an improvement from August, it is still below the 50-point threshold, indicating that the manufacturing sector is still contracting.

But what is interesting is the press statement following the release of the August data, in which IHS Markit economist Amy Brownbill says the Malaysian manufacturing sector saw a sharper deterioration in operating conditions underpinned by quicker declines in output, new orders and employment with the rate of job shedding the fastest in over three years.

The August PMI report noted that firms cut back on payroll numbers as part of efforts to make cost savings.

Bank Negara report

A Bank Negara report also showed that labour market conditions have become challenging, with the recent high unemployment rates coinciding with lower job vacancies available per active job seekers.

AllianceDBS Research chief economist Manokaran Mottain said in a report released last week that while the manufacturing sector was shedding jobs, selected services subsectors has added headcount and could be cushioning job losses in the manufacturing sector.

More than half of the workforce are employed in the services sector with the manufacturing sector employing about 16%.

Further evidence of the deteriorating conditions in the job market comes from the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF).

Manokaran says the monthly contribution value growth rate from the EPF’s members have moderated, signalling weak wage growth in recent years.

This also mirrors the slowdown in the economy over the past few quarters as businesses will not give higher increments or pay out bonuses.

Manokaran says based on trend-growth estimates, seasonally and inflation adjusted monthly EPF contribution growth has tapered to 2.7% in February on a year-on-year basis before the voluntary employees contribution rate reduction effective in March, down from around 10% growth in 2011.

He noted that while average household income grew 9.6% per annum between 2012 and 2014 in inflation adjusted terms based on the Statistics Department’s household income survey, this was largely propped up by government cash transfers (Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia payments) to the bottom 40% of earners.

“On average, given that 65% of household income is from paid employment, signs of wages growth moderation could weigh on household income growth going forward,” Manokaran says.

He adds that the state of labour market and income growth are among the key underlying factors in assessing the state of economic growth outlook.

Earlier this week, the World Bank slashed its growth forecast for Malaysia from 2016 to 2018 on the weak exports and commodity-price outlook. Its chief economist for the East Asia and Pacific Region, Sudhir Shetty, says despite the region’s favourable prospects, growth is vulnerable to a sharp global financial tightening, a further slowdown in world growth or a faster-than-anticipated slowdown in China.

By Fintan Ng The Star/ANN


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Internet addiction on the rise among Malaysian youths, Asians one of the most addicted to the Internet

Enough evidence to show links to anxiety, decreased job productivity, says expert.

CYBERJAYA: A 14-year-old boy loved gaming so much that he did not leave his home for half a year until his parents hauled him to therapy for Internet addiction.

This sounds like a story that happens in Japan, China or South Korea, where teenagers have died from binging on their computers. But this case happened right here in Kuala Lumpur.

At the International Society of Internet Addiction (Isia) Conference here, researchers said they were most worried that Malaysian youth were increasingly using the Internet in excess, with local studies revealing that 37% of Malaysian parents felt their children’s online life was interfering with their home and school obligations while 18% said their children were sacrificing basic social activities.

The research, led by child psychologist and Isia spokesperson Dr Norharlina Bahar, found that males under the age of 24, from the Klang Valley, Ipoh or Penang, were the most susceptible to Internet addiction in Malaysia.

“Most spend time on online games and browsing social media and there is enough evidence to show links to anxiety, depression, physical health problems, school disconnection, unemployment, decreased job productivity and social isolation,” she said.

Studies have also found frequent use of the Internet could translate to low self-esteem, depression, boredom and attention-deficit hyperactive disorder.

“There is no denying that Internet eases our life but when it affects your mental health capacity and interferes with your day-to-day work, then you need help,” she added.

In the case of the young boy, Dr Norharlina said he became irritable and angry when he was cut off from the digital world by his parents as part of the treatment.

“This is becoming a bigger problem now,” she said.

The challenge for the academic community is translating their data into tangible policies, as definitions of Internet addiction are still being worked out, she added.

That is something the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is seeking to address, by adapting research on Internet addiction into guidelines that can be used by school counsellors or pa­rents to identify addiction in adolescents, said MCMC advocacy and outreach senior director Eneng Faridah Iskandar.

“We want to know when is usage going to be a problem. When should I start regulating my child’s use of the Internet? We want to develop self-help tips that parents can use,” she said.

The conference was attended by 200 researchers and psychologists from 10 countries to present their findings on Internet wellness and discuss policies to address the effects of the digital world on users’ health.

Asians one of the most addicted to the Internet

CYBERJAYA: The Middle East, North America and Asia have the highest number of people addicted to the Internet, said Hong Kong University (HKU) Psychology. Department Associate Dean Prof. Dr Cecelia Cheng.

Dr. Cheng, who presented the findings of a HKU study on Thursday said that findings suggest that the more a country experiences traffic jams, air pollution and low life satisfaction, the more likely its citizens will be addicted to the Internet.

She added that out of 31 countries surveyed, European and South American nations had the smallest number of people addicted to the Internet.

“Basically if the life satisfaction of a country is low, the people in that country are more likely to be addicted to the Internet, particularly gaming,” she said.

Speaking at the International Society of Internet Addiction (ISIA) conference here, Dr Cheng added that there was a link between countries that have high levels of air pollution and Internet addiction.

“The study suggests that the problem of Internet addiction could be linked with the external environment that drives people indoors. Low life satisfaction also suggests that people look to the Internet for escapism when they are dissatisfied with the outside world,” she said.

Dr Cheng pointed out that less people are addicted to the Internet in Europe because pollution and crime rates are generally lower.

“In Europe, and people there can afford to engage in more outdoor activities than those in the Middle East and Asia,” she said.

She added that improving the quality of environmental conditions might encourage residents to engage more in outdoor activities rather than relying solely on browsing the Internet at home for stress relief.

Malaysia was not surveyed in the HKU study, but local authorities suggested that Internet addiction was a rising trend here too.

According to the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), 50.4% of children already have a smartphone by the age of 12 and Malaysians have a 100.4% penetration rate for Internet connectivity and a 143% penetration rate for cellular use.

An ISIA study led by Dr Norharlina Bahar also found that the prevalence of problematic Internet users in Malaysia could be as high as 49.2%, with people spending at least five-hours in front of screens daily.

In last year’s World Happiness Index which measures a country’s general wellbeing, Malaysia ranked 61 out of 161 countries, behind Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

By Nicholas Cheng The Star/ANN

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Giving a choice of education to our students in Malaysian school systems


We can have many different school systems, as long as they all teach ways to acquire relevant skills and knowledge.


“Educational reforms must be driven by those who want to ensure that our future generations are able to be relevant in a global environment, earn good incomes and contribute to the nation’s prosperity.”

THE Johor Sultan’s recent proposal for there to be a single school system for the country became the latest talking point amongst teachers last week. The Sultan’s proposal, among other things, entails the use of English as a medium of instruction.

In the public space, the discussion went off tangent straight away. Some were quick to defend the present system because they said we need to preserve the vernacular schools, which in turn are meant to ensure the preservation of Chinese and Indian culture and their respective mother tongues.

These supporters seemed to suggest that without vernacular schools, the people of these respective ethnic groups would lose their cultures and languages altogether.

There are some primary-level vernacular schools in rural parts of India that are intended for the continued use of their mother tongue. However, students have the flexibility of transferring to English-medium schools at the secondary level. This flexibility enables Indian education to be largely singular in its system, with a wide use of English as medium of instruction.

Unfortunately, our view of vernacular schools is tied to a political idea: that politicians of a particular ethnic group are required to defend these vernacular schools – regardless of their actual usefulness and value to their communities – as an indicator of their care and concern for the welfare of their communities. Education becomes a political tool.

Middle-class parents want the present system to be retained because the approach taken by successive Ministers of Education has essentially been to privatise education. Hundreds of licences for private schools have been issued, and even international schools are now open to locals with the means to afford them for their children.

So this wealthy group does not mind the present system because for them at least, education is now isolated from the mainstream ; and they are thus able to have what some of them believe to be a superior method of teaching children, and imparting the right kind of education.

Others who want a single system insist on vernacular schools being abolished, and in their place “a Malay (national) centric system” where schools can impart lessons on loyalty and patriotism with more vigour. They argue that we still need to instil patriotism, unity and racial harmony in our pupils and students.

They believe that a sufficient amount of indoctrination is necessary to turn our young into “true Malaysians”, while religious classes and adequate prayer halls will shape Malay children into good Muslims (since we now seek to be Syariah-compliant in everything we do).

We can safely say that under the present political setup, no government will dare abolish vernacular schools. So if national schools become more “Malay” and more Islamic, we can expect more vernacular schools to mushroom all over the country, keeping pace with private schools (local and international ) as they seek to attract ever-larger numbers of students whose parents have “no confidence” in the national school system.

We can have as many systems in our schools as we like, as long as the “one” overriding component in any system that matters is the idea that schools are for teaching students to acquire deep knowledge and skills relevant to the present world.

Schools of the 21st century do not exist primarily to build national unity, to foster narrow nationalism, or to protect any mother tongue. They are not designed to make you “a better person” or religious and sin-free, for that matter.

Today’s education is primarily about having the right skills to get jobs, as the effect of globalisation and new artificial intelligence will be taking a lot of our work away, and may ultimately make us all redundant if we are not prepared. In that context, education must be about giving our children relevant, useful and productive skills.

If the characteristics of the national school were to be modelled on those found in Switzerland, Finland or Singapore, for example, (with some modifications, of course), that would be acceptable because their focus is on producing students with skills that are useful in this present environment.

The diversity of available subjects, with options given to parents to decide on issues such as language, can accommodate different aspirations without compromising on quality or the schools’ central mission.

I recently met a Finnish teacher in Helsinki who was proud to tell me that almost all Finnish students speak three European languages, although there is no compulsion to do so in their school system.

According to this teacher, they have to be multilingual because then their job opportunities become much wider. Necessity always produces better education systems and methods.

Mother tongues can be kept alive through their regular use in a modern education system, without having vernacular schools. Let’s face it: having a poor and mediocre Tamil school system with low enrolment will not do much to help preserve the language and culture of the Tamil community. The only people who benefit are Tamil politicians.

Today’s education produces well-rounded children who will get jobs. It’s when they have no jobs that we worry, no matter how well they can speak their mother tongue.

Educational reforms must be driven by those who want to ensure that our future generations are able to be relevant in a global environment, earn good incomes and contribute to the nation’s prosperity.

By Zaid Ibrahim All kinds of everything

Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim ( is now a legal consultant. The views expressed here are entirely his own.


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When will the property market pick up?

Affordable living: The history of Stuyvesant Town, Manhattan New York dates back to 1943. In October 2015, Blackstone Group LP led a deal to buy New York’s Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, a transaction that would put Manhattan’s biggest apartment complex in the hands of the world’s largest private equity firm and maintain some affordable housing at the property.


Experts predict between 2018 and 2019

AT a recent property seminar organised by Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute, several developers and property consultants had a debate predicting when the property market will pick up.

Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) patron Datuk Jeffrey Ng Tiong Lip reckoned the residential sector should recover next year or in 2018.

Ng was the moderator for the session on The Future Outlook and Challenges of the Housing and Property Sector.

Property consultants Savills Malaysia managing director Allan Soo, who specialises in the retail malls, expects a 2019 recovery.

Office market specialist Jones Lang Wootton executive director Malathi Thevendre declined to make any predictions. “It all depends …,” she says.

Ng says the current slow housing market is actually good over the long term, although it is painful in the short term. It all depends on how we manage “the noise”, he says.

There are lots of noises at present, both on the national and international level.

“If next year is election year, the recovery – if there is one – will be after that because between now and then, there are so many uncertainties.

“There is a lack of clarity at the moment,” says Ng.

His reading of the property crystal ball of a 2017/2018 turnaround is by far the most positive and contrasts with Kenanga Investment Bank Bhd equity research head Sarah Lim Fern Chieh.

Lim expects house prices to be flattish or slightly weak depending on locations “over the next four to five years, if there are no major policy changes”.

Her rationale for a longer down-cycle is simple. If your destination is Genting Highlands, but you are driving in the opposite direction, you will need a longer time to arrive there when you finally realise you are driving in the wrong direction.

Although it is widely accepted that the property cycle is between eight to 10 years, within this cycle are “mini two-year cycles. There were two-year up-cycle in 1999-2000 after the Asian Financial Crisis, and another in 2003-2004 and 2007/2007.

But after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, Malaysia had an extended five-year up-cycle between 2010 and 2014 with prices peaking in 2013, and this was largely due to quantitative easing (QE).

She is, therefore, expecting a longer consolidation period of between four and five years, starting from 2015, before the next up-cycle, barring any policy changes and the global economic climate.

She is also expecting the property market to experience structural changes due to affordability and liquidity factors, among others.

More realistic pricing

Notwithstanding the fuzzy horizon, there are nevertheless a few certainties which may well put the sector on a better footing.

First, home ownership has become a national issue.

Second, the government, at both federal and state levels being landowners, are stepping up on affordable housing.

Third, prices are expected to be more realistic going forward.

Rehda president Datuk Seri FD Iskandar Mohamed Mansor is seeking government cooperation to reduce or waive development charges and other charges, collectively known as compliance costs, in order to bring down prices as this is “too challenging” for private developers to go it alone, considering today’s high land prices.

“If the Government wants developers to build more affordable housing, give us cheaper premiums or don’t charge at all.

“We will then see more stability in prices, or even a reduction, if development charges and all sorts of other charges imposed on developers come down,” said FD Iskandar at a Rehda first half-year review recently.

He says property development and land matters have been the biggest revenue earner for every state. Both federal and state governments own large tracts of land. Although FD Iskandar had made this call before, he was very passionate and firm this time around. Other developers, previously silent, are also quite vocal about the various land and development charges they have to fork out.

This is probably the first time developers are coming together to make a collective public call to seek a waiver or reduction of development and other aspects of compliance cost. The effectiveness of that call depends on the Government’s will to act.

While developers can clamour for such waivers, what is facing the market today is weak sales and this in turn is forcing developers to tweak pricing and strategy a bit, hence the drop in the number of launches as they try push unsold stock.

Andaman group managing director Datuk Seri Vincent Tiew says developers will be offering “more realistic pricing” from now onwards with location being a paramount factor.

There will be more affordable housing and this can be seen from the various affordable housing projects being planned by both the federal and state government although the end-products are slow in coming.

This, says Tiew, can be seen in the various agencies under the federal and state governments, among them being PR1MA Corp mandated to build 500,000 units of affordable housing units by 2018, as outlined in Budget 2013.

A total of 240,000 houses were due by end-2015, with an annual mandate for 80,000 between 2013 and 2015. The number of completed units was 883 at the end of 2015, says Tiew. By the end of this year, 10,000 units are scheduled to be completed. The number of units approved to date are 232,807 against 1.24 million PR1MA registrants as of February 2016. All eyes will be on the affordable segment in the coming Budget 2017.

Healthy demand

The demand for housing has always been there. The issue is affordability, says Kenanga’s Sarah Lim.

“Of late, developers are beginning to price units at RM500,000 and below,” she says.

The current change in direction is attributed to societal and government pressure. Unsold stock and government pressure forced developers to relook their pricing strategy.If developers keep building RM1mil homes, when the threshold is RM500,000 and less, they will be left holding unsold stock. In order to move stocks, creative marketing/financing strategies are employed to move these stocks.

Lim says if developers were unable to meet at least 40% of their sales target by mid-year, they would be unable to meet this year’s targets.

More than two-thirds missed their sales targets last year.

“Prior to this, what was booked was considered sold. Now, this is no longer true,” Lim says.

Lim says there are two issues here, the pressure on the sector as the rate of aborted sales crept up and the people’s demand for realistic prices.

“What we are seeing today is the government’s influence. It is actually steering the market in the right direction,” she says.

Renting the way forward

The other certainty is observed in the rental market, which is expected to continue to be soft next year.

There will be “low occupancy rate” for projects completed last year (2015) and this year, with rental yield at less than 3% a year, says Andaman group’s Tiew.

It is cheaper to rent than to buy. There is so much supply going around and the purchasing power of the ringgit is shrinking.

Selangor State Development Corp (PKNS) senior manager (corporate planning and transformation) Norita Mohd Sidek advocates renting.

She says if there is a 50% loan rejection rate for affordable housing, and considering the limited supply by private developers, renting may be the only option.

She suggests building affordable housing cities the likes of Stuyvesant Town’s Peter Copper Village, Manhattan New York and counters the argument that there is no money to be made from affordable housing.

In October 2015, Blackstone led a deal that put Manhattan’s biggest apartment complex in the hands of the world’s largest private equity firm and maintain some affordable housing at the property.

Blackstone and Canada’s real estate company Ivanhoe Cambridge Inc acquired the 80-acre enclave for about US$5.3bil. Rent is kept below market rates for some 5,000 units. Public transport and other amenities must be part of the development for it to succeed. “Government grants and resources are needed to identify the right location to built more council homes,” she says in her paper.

In today’s low yield environment, pension funds around the world are looking at other ways to generate dividends besides equities and fixed income securities. They are buying into infrastructures and large township developments where there are economies of scale for maintenance.

Malaysia’s national housing dilemma cannot be solved by profit-oriented private developers alone. The golden property years between 2010 and 2014 have been intoxicating, having resulted in expectations of 20% to 30% rise in sales year-on-year, like the manufacturing sector. But the property sector is quite unlike manufacturing. The reflection point was seen in 2014 after the government introduced certain cooling measures and anti-speculation sales gimmick.

Going forward, the emphasis on housing priced RM500,000 and below means developers have to sell more units to make the same sales value as previous years.

“They have to sacrifice some of their margins. Higher profit margins can be had from the mid- to high-end segments,” says Lim. They will have to work harder to help buyers secure loans.

This search for some form of cohesion in the national housing arena has taken a bit of time. Hopefully, the coming Budget 2017 will pave the way for more positive action.

By Thean Lee Cheng The Star/Asia News Network
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Getting back up after a fall


Don’t keep saying ‘no’ and ‘don’t’ to the kids because all it does is squelch their curiosity, determination and thirst for exploration. The truth is, even when you fall, you can learn from the experience. Growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone.

AS YOU likely would have heard by now, while training in the British Virgin Islands recently, I was bicycling down a hill, hit a bump in the road and was flung off my bike into the air. In the microseconds that I spent anticipating the feeling of concrete against my face, my life actually flashed before my eyes.

I genuinely thought: I’m going to die.

My bike disappeared off the cliff, and I landed hard. I was wearing a helmet, but I suffered a fractured cheek, torn ligaments and a few cuts and bruises.

While the timing couldn’t have been worse, my recovery is going well.

By the time you read this (injuries permitting), I will have been long into my journey on the Virgin Strive Challenge, the most physically demanding test I’ve ever tackled. I’m joining my children, Holly and Sam, and a group of inspiring people on this challenge.

We’re traveling entirely under our own power on a month-long trip through Italy, from the base of the Matterhorn in the Alps to the summit of Sicily’s Mount Etna.

We will be facing all sorts of physical obstacles along the way: a vast landscape across which we will hike and cycle, deep waters that we’ll have to swim across to reach Sicily, an active volcano we’ll run on. It will take great perseverance, solidarity and mental clarity to get through this adventure.

But it’s likely that the toughest obstacles will be those inside our own heads.

In business and in life, most people consider others to be their toughest opponents, whether it’s winning a tennis match or winning more market share. However, the real adversary is actually far closer to home. In my 66 years, I’ve learned that there is no tougher foe than yourself.

Think about it: As an entrepreneur, you’re the one who has to put in the hard yards.

You’re the one who has to deal with all those late nights and early mornings. You’re the one who has to figure out how to push past barriers you didn’t realise existed.

But if you’re determined enough and have the right mindset, you can reach heights you thought were impossible to reach.

That’s what the Virgin Strive Challenge is all about: pushing yourself to do something you didn’t think was possible, and in the process setting a great example for others, particularly young people.

Too often, children are told: “You can’t do this,” or “Don’t even try.” Adults say these things to keep their kids safe, to protect them from the pain of failure.

But in my opinion, this is a big mistake. The more children are told they can’t do something, the more they lose their curiosity, determination and thirst for exploration — qualities that are essential for entrepreneurs.

That’s why Virgin has partnered with Big Change this year, a youth charity in the UK that looks for different ways to encourage young people to thrive and develop a growth mindset.

It is all about believing that you can grow through both failure and success. When you fail, it’s tempting to slip into a negative mindset, to start thinking that you’re hopeless. But that just makes it easier to give up.

If you remain positive about your abilities, chalk up losses as valuable experiences and get back on your feet, it will be easier to forgive yourself and move on.

After all, while you may be your own toughest adversary, you can also be your biggest supporter. It’s important that we all know this, children in particular.

My wife, Joan, and I have always encouraged our children to chase their dreams, push themselves hard and live their lives without regret. I’m so proud of the adults they’ve become and the work they’re doing now through Big Change. It’s an incredible privilege for me to be able to join them in their latest undertaking.

I just hope my body holds up after the accident!Together, we’re going to have the adventure of our lives as we try and raise over £1.5mil to support positive change for young people. It doesn’t get much better than that!

And we hope to send a clear message: Growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone, and the truly extraordinary happens when you do it with the support of others.

Make sure you head over to the Virgin Strive Challenge website,, for more information, and check back for updates on our journey. — Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate

By Richard Branson

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High-rise living in below par, need professionalism in managing the property

Only 74 out of 7,325 high-rise residential properties in Peninsular Malaysia earned the top five-star ranking in an evaluation of their property management standards. And more than half are below par, earning only one and two stars.

IT is one thing to be a developed state by 2020. But it is another thing entirely to have a developed state of mind – and Malaysians have a long way to go to achieve that.

Take, for instance, condominium- and apartment-living.

Some of these properties may come with top notch facilities but when it comes to managing their upkeep, there is much to be desired.

Or so says the latest findings on the quality of managing stratified properties from a survey by the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry.

Every year, the ministry conducts its Strata Scheme Management Quality Evaluation, or “Star Rating”, which ranks the standards of joint management bodies (JMBs) or management corporations (MCs) of apartments and condominiums.

These bodies are ranked based on how they do in seven areas (see graphic below for details); five stars is the highest rank.

But, as it turns out, more than half – or 69% – of condominiums and apartments nationwide ranked “below par”, scoring only one and two stars in 2015. In 2014, a slightly smaller percentage, 65%, were ranked below par.

Only 1% – or 74 – out of 7,325 strata development schemes surveyed earned five stars in the 2015 ratings, made available to Sunday Star.

If such a trend continues, future residents will inherit poor standards of living amidst modern facilities.

Currently, almost six million Malaysians out of 20 million city folk are living in stratified buildings like apartments and condominiums.

“But this number is expected to rise in future as the country progresses and becomes more urbanised,” says Mohammad Ridzwan Abidin, Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry urban service division under-secretary.

He says one of the major problems that condo dwellers continue to face is the refusal of other residents to pay maintenance fees. Other problems are building defects and matters involving enforcement.

“For now, about 70% of residents are at a level where they are merely aware of what needs to be done in managing their property. They are not yet at a level to appreciate the benefits of cooperating with each other and creating a better living culture,” he says.

Mohamad Ridzwan says there is a need to change the mindset of people to foster more civic-minded communities in high-rise buildings.

“Future generations will likely live in stratified buildings, so people should try to set a proper precedent for them,” he says.

He points out that there are also more people moving out of landed properties and into high-rise buildings.

“This group of people will have to learn to adapt to the culture of living in stratified buildings as it is different from living in houses.

“They will need to be more inclusive of and cooperative with their neighbours,” he says, adding that they would also have to learn to be more considerate when it comes to using shared facilities.

Stressing that it all boils down to the mindset of residents, Mohamad Ridzwan highlights the case of Rumah Pangsa Orkid, a low-cost flats property in Ulu Tiram, Johor, which made it into the Malaysia Book Of Records in 2014 for obtaining the ISO 9001:2008 standard for exemplary management.

“Until today, they remain the only low cost flat development to have achieved this,” he says, adding that there are yet to be any high-end condominiums accorded the same standard.

Mohamad Ridzwan says the ministry will continue to actively educate dwellers on proper management of their properties.

“We will embark on more education programmes to promote better practices through advertisements in the mass media,” he says.

On the Strata Management Tribunals to hear disputes, Mohamad Ridzwan says four such tribunals have been successfully set up to cover different zones in Peninsular Malaysia.

“Since their formation the tribunals have heard about 200 cases per month,” he says.

In March, Sunday Star reported that residents who do not pay maintenance fees and other charges were set to face the music, with the Government forming a team to strengthen the enforcement of the Strata Management Act.

The Act also enables residents to take their disputes to a Strata Management Tribunal to settle matters.

Building Managers Association of Malaysia committee member Richard Chan agrees that the “biggest and most critical” problem is the collection of fees, saying that it is rare that JMBs or MCs are able to collect payment from 80% of residents.

“It is more common for the collection rate to be at 40% or 50%,” he says.

Chan laments that petty excuses are often given by residents to defend their refusal to pay up.

“Some refuse because they don’t use the facilities.

“When people ask why they don’t want to pay, they simply say they don’t swim or play tennis,” he shares.

Chan adds that many unit owners live elsewhere or are based overseas and so are reluctant to pay.

“Some are not satisfied with services like garbage collection and defy orders to settle the fees,” he says.

He urges future condo owners to refrain from buying properties that come with all sorts of facilities if they are unwilling to pay up.

“Sometimes, it isn’t about whether they can afford the fees or service charges. It is about their attitude and mentality.

“Some don’t pay simply because their neighbours are not paying and are getting away with it,” Chan says, adding that such attitudes have resulted in some apartments owing up to RM200,000 in water and electricity bills.

The lack of money in the sinking fund also hinders JMBs and MCs from paying for major works like repairing lifts.

“It becomes a vicious cycle. Because people are not satisfied with the upkeep of the place, they do not pay the fees.

“But when they do not pay, there isn’t enough funds for upkeep,” he says.

Also, developers must do their part by informing all potential property buyers of the exact amount of all service charges, says Chan.

“Developers will try to promote their projects for more sales but they should also inform buyers of the fees they are expected to pay.

“Owners should also consider that, after a year, the fees may go up as warranty periods for equipment expire,” he says.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj says many complaints against MCs have been made to the federation.

“High-end condominiums are generally better managed. We received a lot of complaints from people in medium cost apartments,” he says.

He says that consumers and the building management should both be more responsible.

“Consumers need to settle payments that they have agreed to. But they should also be receiving good service in return, like efficient rubbish collection,” he says.

Selvaraj highlights that the only way forward is for management bodies and residents to have a good working relationship.

“People should understand that managing their building is a collective responsibility.

“More dialogues should be held on how to improve the community to ensure good quality of life wherever we live,” he adds.

by Yuen Meikeng The Star/Asia News Network

More professionalism needed in managing high-rises

WITH more high-rises mushrooming, a Building Managers Board is urgently needed, according to Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok, deputy president of the Building Managers Association of Malaysia (BMAM).

BMAM is an umbrella body comprising stakeholder organisations representing management corporations (MCs), joint management bodies (JMBs), chambers of commerce, developers, engineers, architects, shopping and high-rise complex managers, and managing agents.

Appealing to the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry to set up the board urgently, Teo says such a body is long overdue.

“Millions of stratified properties are coming up. Building management is becoming a very big industry. We have to start regulating. All building managers must be registered and regulated,” he says.

To date, some 600 building managers have voluntarily registered with the association, he shares, estimating that there are probably tens of thousands more.

Meanwhile, the BMAM is focused on educating its members and interested parties on good management via collaborations with institutions of higher learning.

Describing building management as a multitasking, multi­discipline function that attracts people from various backgrounds and with a variety of skills, Teo says that basic criteria for the role is needed. A Building Managers Board, once set up, will have guidelines and regulations to bring professionalism to the role.

Persons deregistered by the board cannot be hired as property managers, he suggests. This, he feels, will make hiring building managers cheaper while ensuring that they are monitored.

“So long as they fulfil the board’s requirements, anyone can be a building manager. The board will monitor and weed out the errant ones. JMBs and MCs can hire cheaper, smaller companies, even individuals, to manage their buildings if they don’t have the budget.”

Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry urban service division undersecretary Mohammad Ridzwan Abidin acknowledges the proposal to set up a Building Managers Board.

“However, no decision can be made by the ministry yet as this matter is still being discussed,” he says.

He says the ministry issued a directive to Commissioners of Buildings nationwide last month to register all managing agents to protect residents from unscrupulous parties.

The BMAM would also like to see the country’s 150-plus Commissioners of Buildings (COB) given proper funding and staff. The role of the commissioner is mostly undertaken by local council heads or mayors, which isn’t right because they already have so much on their plate, he says.

The Commissioner of Buildings must be a dedicated, full-time position supported by an adequately funded department. Now, it’s mainly a one-man show, he observes.

“The Act is a good tool,” he says, referring to the Strata Management Act 2013, “But it’s for the COB to implement it efficiently. An effective COB can nip many things in the bud – the COB can call a unit owner, find out the grouses and give directives. If the COB can offer easy resolution, a lot of problems will be solved.”

Apart from supporting the position of COB, JMBs and MCs must familiarise themselves with the Strata Management Act, says Richard Chan, a committee member of the Building Managers Association of Malaysia and a past president of the Malaysian Association for Shopping and High-Rise Complex Management.

“For instance, many aren’t aware that money collected should go to JMBs and MCs – not the companies or individuals hired to manage the property. What if these companies don’t pay the service contractors?”

On Tuesday, a full-day strata management seminar will be held at Wisma Rehda in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, to explain the Act, he says, urging stakeholders to attend the event.

Teo feels that the Act is too harsh on JMB volunteers. Calling it a thankless job, he says it’s difficult getting residents to even attend AGMs, what more serve on the JMB.

“Despite not being paid, JMB members risk personal liability actions. It’s too onerous. It’s overkill because there are already laws like the Penal Code which imposes fines and jail terms.”

And he feels that the Act places too many obstacles in front of willing volunteers.

“The JMB chairman and members can only serve for two and three years respectively. Such restrictions will make things worse because as it is, no one wants the job. Our solution is to extend the chairman’s term to three years; but if at the AGM there’s no one else who wants the post, he or she should be allowed to stay on. And members should be permitted to stay on for as long as they want.” –  The Star

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