Promoting women entrepreneurs; mind your finances


Do we need specific initiatives to help female entrepreneurs? Some say no, because men and women face similar obstacles in business. However, there can be no denying that women face challenges not experienced by their male counterparts.

LAST May, the SME Association of Malaysia organised a talk on women entrepreneurship at its regular SME Club get-together. We were worried that the topic would not be interesting, but to our surprise, the event was well received.

About a hundred people participated in the talk.

When we told the SMEs that we were going to have a talk on women entrepreneurship, some of them asked: Why talk about women entrepreneurship? Does it matter? Why bother?

After all, business is a men’s world. The place for women is at home.

Others said there was no need to differentiate women entrepreneurs from entrepreneurs in general, as many of the barriers faced by female-owned SMEs were similar to those faced by male-owned SMEs.

To this, I would say: Yes and no.

While male and female entrepreneurs may face similar constraints in general, women face specific barriers and challenges not experienced by their counterparts.

While women make up about 50% of Malaysia’s population, less than 20% of the SMEs are owned by women. Even though the number for women entrepreneurs is small, it’s nonetheless encouraging as it shows that women no longer buy the stereotype of business being a male domain.

There are several key reasons for women to get into business. Running your own business provides flexibility in managing career and domestic responsibilities.

Also, it gives some degree of personal freedom to women who are dissatisfied with “fixed” employment. Job flexibility, like work hours, office location, environment, and the people they work with, is appealing to many women.

Other reasons for women to start a business include income security and career satisfaction. Some women become entrepreneurs due to some personal circumstances, like being laid off, divorce, or the retirement of their spouse. They start a business to improve or maintain their social or economic status.

Some women who do not have any previous work skills or experience start a business in order to prove that they can be productive and useful.

The majority of women-owned businesses are smaller outifts than those owned by men, and they are mostly concentrated in the service sector (about 90%). Many of these businesses are likely to be unregistered micro-enterprises operating in the home or on temporary premises, with few employees and limited capital for expansion.

Access to financing is one of the biggest challenges. They are less aware of the options relating to loan and grant opportunities. In addition, women usually lack the collateral required compared to men, stemming in part from restrictions on asset ownership.

Women entrepreneurs are also less likely than their male counterparts to have a history of interaction with formal financial systems, lowering their credit-worthiness and potentially raising interest rates on loans assumed.

They also encounter obstacles in accessing opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills that underpin successful entrepreneurship. This may be due to impediments in access to education, training and job experience. These are usually compounded by the demands of domestic responsibilities.

Time constraints further limit women entrepreneurs’ formal networking, which, in turn reduce access to skill and capacity-development opportunities. Formal networks, such as business associations, provide a wealth of information on business opportunities, access to government officials, grants and support programmes, as well as credit credentials and access to loan packages, to name a few.

Good networks provide good access to information and resources. First-hand information allows entrepreneurs to move one step ahead and grab the opportunities. A good pool of resources would help entrepreneurs to survive in bad times and to expand more effectively.

The Government needs to take a proactive role in promoting women entrepreneurs. We need to put in place gender-responsive policies and capacity-building initiatives to address the structural, institutional and socio-cultural inequalities.

It would perhaps be best to start by enhancing their access to finance, which is essential in building a good business foundation.

By Datuk Michael Kang who is the national president of the SME Association of Malaysia.

Mind your finances

Up to 36 of business failures are caused by inadequate financial management, according to a report by the ACCA. —123rf.com

IN GENERAL, more than 50% of startups fail within five years, and up to 36% of business failures are caused by inadequate financial management, according to a report by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) entitled “Financial management and business success – a guide for entrepreneurs”.

The report says many entrepreneurs are not equipped to make informed and effective decisions about their financial resources.

“Having the right financial capabilities remains vital throughout the life of a business, whether you are just starting out, have an established business or are looking towards a final exit from a firm,” explains Rosana Mirkovic, ACCA’s head of SME policy.

“Businesses are changing and innovating more rapidly than ever, and the financial management needs of organisations must continue to evolve alongside their developments. Recognising the right financial management capabilities is therefore imperative to their success,” she explains.

Mirkovic adds that understanding financial information is vital for offsetting the risk of business failures as it reveals the early warning signs of impending problems.

The report by ACCA addresses the financial literacy skills gap, potentially serving as a guide to those starting their own businesses and are new to financial management.

Business planning plays a critical role at every stage of the business, says the report.

“Preparing a business plan pushes you to identify and assess the opportunities and threats facing your business. It helps ensure that you have an in-depth understanding of your market, the competition and the broader business environment,” it elaborates.

Effective planning takes into account long-term goals, objectives, strategy, tactics and financial review.

ACCA also advises startups to seek good financial advice and involve their accountants or individuals with financial expertise at the planning stage to take full advantage of their expertise in areas such as business planning, raising business finance, tax planning and setting up financial management systems.

Significant financial expertise may be needed to understand and evaluate the different financial options entrepreneurs may have. This includes knowing the company’s financial strength, financing cost, financial flexibility, business control, financial risk, personal finances and business strategy.

“Good financial control offers far more than just keeping track of purchases and sales. Rather than approach financial control as a chore to be left to the bookkeeper, your aim should be to see how the right capabilities can improve your business,” the report advises.

ACCA notes that business owners should gradually develop the capabilities of their in-house financial team.

“Choosing the right solution for your particular business takes careful planning. Your overall investment in financial capabilities — whether you are paying for additional employees, higher salaries for more skilled employees, training costs, use of external providers or upgraded systems — must be affordable and offer value for money,” it adds.

But financial management is at its most powerful when used to drive improvements in business.

Moreover, for many entrepreneurs, it could also lead to a successful business exit. Preparation for a successful exit typically begins far in advance of its final date.

Effective exit planning needs to start early and take into account a whole range of issues like timing, succession, management systems and tax efficiency.

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The affliction that feeds on children


PEDOPHILIA is not a new sex crime. What is new is the attention that it is getting in the public arena in Malaysia especially after the case of Huckle (pic). In fact pedophilia has developed into the hot topic in Criminology.

A pedophile is an individual who prefers to have sex with children. They have an abnormal and an unnatural desire and attraction for sexual relations only with children.

Sexual abuse of the children can begin without people recognizing it because it can be a small act in everyday life.

Pedophiles come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. They are normally male, from any race, educated or uneducated, young or old, rich or poor, employed or unemployed. They can be religious or non-religious, a father, family member or trusted coworker or professional.

Just as Huckle used” wealth and status as Westerner” to exploit children, pedophiles hide behind the cloak of normality, morality and respectability within the community. Research revealed that nine out of ten are close to their mothers.

One of the most popular criminological theories is the notion that criminal behavior is learned in association with those who have criminal attitudes and values.

The majority of criminologists believe that the behavior of a pedophile is caused by environmental factors (nurture), involving upbringing and life experience of the individual. Furthermore, perpetrators confess that they themselves were child victims of sexual abuse.

However, recent studies revealed that individuals suffering from pedophilia are also fostered by genetic or biological traits which eventually lead to criminal behavior.

Colleen Berryessa, a Criminologist, stated that a 2014 Korean report on monozygotic twins with pedophilia, concluded that genetic influences appeared to be more important to the causes and development of pedophilia than environmental factors, including childhood abuse.

But there seems to be little or no agreement about what conclusively makes an individual cause pedophilia.

Experts also believe that there is no permanent treatment to cure pedophiles but some claim therapy treatment can work but is a challenge. Since pedophiles are sociopaths whose behavior is antisocial, lack sense of empathy and moral responsibility for their victims, the disorder is chronic and lifelong.

Studies show that pedophiles are repeat offenders after imprisonment or treatment.

The criminogenic asymmetries factor such as relaxed atmosphere, weaknesses in laws and enforcement produce criminal opportunity, motive for foreign pedophiles like Huckle himself to took advantage of the weak internal controls in a country to find victims. The penalty in their home country is normally more severe.

To fight this crime we need legislative changes, more effective laws, intelligence gathering and sharing, technology such as facial recognition and enhance investigation capabilities by training specialists.

Huckle operates a website called The Love Zone (TLZ) on the Dark Web, a hidden network used to maintain anonymity. His site consisted of photos of the children he abused and shared with other members.

The web is accessible only with specialized software or conducting deep web analysis. To make it more complicated; cybercriminals are often using encryption to protect their malicious data and communications.

There should also be increased focus on proper enforcement and skill level in conducting cybercrime investigations in order to reduce the use of the Dark Web in committing child sexual activities.

Crime prevention should be the priority for police but that should not be their sole responsibility. To prevent crime is the obligation of everyone in society and parents, schools and families have responsibility to ensure children are safe.

They must also instill in children a strong appreciation of right and wrong.

Parents, being the most important people in their children’s lives, must make sure children are not exposed to situations where irresponsible people can take advantage of them.

They must pay attention and respond when any adult seems overly focused on befriending a child, make a spot check on child nurseries and babysitters and do not allow a child to go alone on vacation or spend the night with someone other than those proven to be trustworthy and reliable.

Certainly do not assume that a person is reliable because of position, status, title or working in a place where children commonly gather.

At this point, our country still does not have a central registry for child abusers and pedophiles. The data is very important as it would contain the particulars of sex offenders, allowing law enforcement agencies to keep track and monitor the child sexual activities in our community. We need to protect our children.

By DATUK AKHBAR SATAR

Institute of Crime & Criminology, HELP University

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http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/focus/2016/06/10/protect-our-children-from-sex-offenders-malaysia-cannot-be-perceived-as-a-paradise-for-child-abusers/


The dynamics of elder abuse is different from child or domestic abuse. There needs to be specific laws that protect the elderly and safeguard their interests.

Change needs to happen to protect seniors from being abused

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Everybody wins when the world invests in girls and women!


A good economy starts with healthy girls

Among the many provocative ideas that emerged from last week’s “Women Deliver” conference in Copenhagen, perhaps the most memorable was the concept that today’s most significant development is not taking the form of superhighways, skyscrapers and other massive structures, but rather the health and well-being of girls and women. And yet, it was stressed, much more development is needed in this regard.

The slogan for the gathering in Denmark – the biggest global conference on women’s health and rights in a decade – was “When the world invests in girls and women, everybody wins!”

In a video address opening the meeting, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared, “It is time to put women and girls at the heart of development.”

That’s part and parcel of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals approved by world leaders last year, aimed at ending extreme poverty and shrinking inequality.

In the modern age, women’s rights have been mooted, debated and battled over for more than a century and shared centre stage during the democratic revolution of the 1960s and early ’70s, but only now is the movement’s rhetoric – so often unintentionally exclusive to women – being replaced with a message that embraces all of society.

As Princess Mary of Denmark pointed out at the conference, the “women’s agenda” is in fact a united and unifying agenda of benefit to humanity as a whole.

And this, added World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim, is why governments should not balk at investing money in the wellbeing of girls and women.

They are forever seeking World Bank loans to build infrastructure, he noted, and yet women “are their most precious infrastructure”.

There are good arguments backing up this claim. As an example, it is frequently overlooked that countries with more women in the workforce enjoy or are closer to achieving sustainable development. A study by McKinsey Global concluded that having as many women as men in the workforce would |add US$28 trillion to the world’s |gross domestic product every year.

Men nevertheless remain dominant in the workforce, the result of patriarchal tradition that erects barriers to full economic participation for millions of women around the planet. In underdeveloped regions the disparity routinely leads to tragic consequences, such as preventable deaths.

The mortality rate among women giving birth in Africa is one in six, compared to one in 9,000 in Europe. One African woman dies every two minutes due to preventable complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

Every year around the world 15 millions girls become child brides and as such are denied education and job opportunities. Thus they too cannot contribute to the economy.

The solution, said Jim and other global leaders speaking in Copenhagen, lies in investing in women and girls, a strategy that is crucial to meeting those Sustainable Development Goals that will benefit the entire human race. “It starts with a healthy girl,” he said, making the message as plain as could be.

Healthy girls are better equipped for education and work. Healthy young women have healthy pregnancies and are better able to be good mothers.

The simplicity of the notion doesn’t disguise the scale of the challenge beyond birth. Access to healthcare, including the full range of sexual- and reproductive-health services, must be financed and delivered. In 2014 around the world 22,000 women died while having unsafe abortions, and 80 per cent of those pregnancies resulted from lack of contraception. This too was preventable.

If women, and particularly teenage girls, can avoid unwanted pregnancy, the positive impact on their lives and thus on society is profound. Gone is a major obstacle to proper education, better economic opportunities and healthier lives. The same applies to child marriage.

Policymakers have to stop overlooking such proven arguments. Investment in the welfare of girls and women must continue to grow, especially in the areas of education and adolescent health. The return on the investment will extend beyond economic prosperity, to the happiness of society in general.

Source: The Nation/Asia News Network

Investments to pour into Malaysia, Boston Scientific plant in Penang to be ready by 2017


 

BATU KAWAN: Malaysia is targeting to attract RM40bil worth of investments from the manufacturing and services sectors this year.

Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) chief executive officer Datuk Azman Mahmud said that of the RM40bil, about RM800mil would be for the medical device segment.

“For the first quarter of the year, we have approved RM651mil investments for the medical sector, compared to RM194.7mil achieved in the same period of 2015.

“The approved medical device investments would create 1,610 job opportunities,” he said.

Azman said this after the ground-breaking ceremony of Boston Scientific new plant at the Batu Kawan Industrial Estate.

The RM40bil investments would come mainly from the United States and Europe, according to Azman.

“We are now negotiating for these investments,” he added.

Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry (Miti) Datuk Lee Chee Leong represented Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed at the event to officiate the groundbreaking ceremony.

Lee also read out Mustapa’s speech.

In the speech, Mustapa said in 2015, the exports of medical devices increased by 15% to RM15.5bil from 2014.

“According to the National Export Council (NEC), revenues from the export of medical devices are projected to grow to RM26bil by 2020.

“In this regard, industry players in Malaysia will be able to enhance their exports by capitalising on the liberalisation of markets such as Asean, facilitating access to the region’s 620 million strong market,” Mustapa said. Also present at the event was Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

Boston Scientific’s new medical device manufacturing plant, which will involve investments running more than hundreds of millions of ringgit, is scheduled to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2017.

By David Tan The Star/ANN


Boston Scientific plant in Penang to be ready by 2017 

GEORGE TOWN: Boston Scientific’s new medical device manufacturing plant in Batu Kawan Industrial Park, which will involve investments running more than hundreds of millions of ringgit, will be operational in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Boston Scientific vice-president (operations) Dave Mitchell told StarBiz the group would move production equipment into the facility in the second quarter of 2017.

“The plant will be operational in the fourth quarter of 2017, and we expect to ship our first “Made-in-Malaysia” product before the end of 2017,” Mitchell said in an e-mail.

The construction of the facility will begin in the first half of 2016 and scheduled for completion in the second half of 2017.

Mitchell said the site and facility were designed to accommodate at least 10 years of growth, including new products, additional volume and added capabilities, which might include research and development (R&D) or distribution.

“We anticipate having more than 400 employees at the Penang site within four years of operation, with room to grow significantly beyond that.

“Initially we will focus on building manufacturing capability and capacity in the Penang facility.

“We have the space and ability for additional capabilities at the site, including both R&D and distribution,” he said.

On the outlook of the global medical device market, Mitchell said that according to research firm Euromonitor, in 2016 the medical device industry was expected to record strong growth of almost 6% to reach US$315bil.

“Unlike the traditional markets such as Western Europe and the US, the Asia-Pacific medical device market is projected to to grow and gain a wider market in 2016,” he said.

Boston Scientific was founded in 1979 and is the worldwide developer, manufacturer and marketer of medical devices.

Its products and technologies are used to diagnose or treat a wide range of medical conditions, including heart, digestive, pulmonary, vascular, urological, pelvic health, and chronic pain conditions.

The group has 23,000 employess in 40 countries.

By David Tan The Star/ANN

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Supersized and overweight civil servants


The public waiting their turn for services at a government department. – Filepic

When those two words describe a nation’s public sector, it means it’s truly a burden on taxpayers.

POOR civil servants! If you watched Disney’s animated film Zootopia, you would have caught the hilarious scene where the heroes, a rabbit and a fox, rushed to the Department of Motor Vehicles to check out a licence plate, only to get very, very slow service from the sloths manning the counter.

It would appear this stereotyping of civil servants’ work ethic is universal, which is why the parody tickled audiences everywhere.

Now Malaysians have another reason to make fun of their civil servants: they’re too fat. At least the ones in Putrajaya are, according to the 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) which showed it has the highest rate of overweight and obese citizens.

It’s an established fact that Putrajaya is populated overwhelmingly by government employees, which means those living and serving in the very heart of the nation’s administrative capital are rather unhealthy.

That’s a bummer because, design-wise, Putrajaya got it right. It was a winner in the 75,001­ to 150,000-population category for the Whole City Award under the International Awards for Liveable Communities 2012.

In the paper submitted for the awards, Putrajaya boasted of having “lush greeneries surrounding buildings, infrastructure, (12) parks and gardens.” What’s more, the same paper took into account the need to keep Putra­jaya folks fit and healthy.

It noted that 28% of the residents had a normal BMI (Body Mass Index), 36.3% were overweight, 27.4% obese and 8.3% were even underweight. That was in 2011.

Just four years later, 37% of Putrajayans are said to be overweight and their obesity rate is 43%, according to the NHMS findings.

These are alarming jumps and more so when there were efforts like the Healthy Parks, Healthy People programme to get the residents to exercise to stave off lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes. Among the activities was the Putrajaya Inter-Park Ride monthly cycling event.

So what gives? Why are Putrajayans and Malaysians on the whole so fat? We hold the title of Fatties of South-East Asia; some reports say the whole of Asia.

Some people may, in a perverse way, hail having an overly well-fed population as a sign of a nation’s prosperity. After all, the fattest people in the world are the Americans.

A How’s Life? 2015 Report by the Organisation for Economic Coopera­tion and Development ranked the United States as the nation with the most obese population. It also had the fattest children and the unhealthiest teenagers by a wide margin.

The findings are said to be a blow to the Obama administration and First Lady Michelle Obama because they have been championing this cause for years, including reducing sugar and salt from school lunches.

So if both the US and Malaysian Governments couldn’t stem the fat tide in their respective countries, who can? I would say it’s still the government and we the people.

What we have is a terribly bloated public sector. The Star, quoting Prime Minister’s Office statistics, pointed out that at 1.4 million employees, it’s the largest civil service in South-East Asia.

Supersized and overweight. That’s a double whammy and the kind of Malaysian Book of Records we don’t need. So for a start, how about really downsizing the civil service? After all, why do we need so many civil servants to serve a population that’s way smaller than those in neighbouring countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand?

Next, I support calls to make it mandatory for civil servants to lose the fat and stay healthy. This is especially so for those who have yet to develop serious illnesses like diabetes. If need be, withhold promotions and salary increases if they don’t meet this KPI.

The reason why I am pushing for this is because civil servants get free medical services in government hospitals and clinics, even after retirement.

That’s a longstanding benefit which I don’t object to, since my retired police officer father is a beneficiary. But with a large, unhealthy government workforce, you can imagine the humongous medical bill we taxpayers are burdened with.

If nothing is done, it will become a bigger burden because, as doctors have warned, 20 years from now, those overweight and obese citizens will be suffering from all sorts of illnesses from stroke, heart disease and kidney failure to diabetes.

All that “will increase the health budget to an unsustainable level,” Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Ashok Zachariah Philip told The Star.

Thanks to my role as the primary caregiver to my elderly parents who suffer from various illnesses, I know how scarily expensive medical care can be for those without access to free treatments.

As a private sector employee, I am grateful to be working for a company that gives me good medical coverage. But I have also bought my own health insurance to prepare for the day when I retire and lose my safety net. In the meantime, I work at staying healthy and medication-free.

As I said, I do not begrudge the medical benefit for government servants. What I do begrudge are those who take it for granted, instead of taking responsibility for their own well-being.

If the Government can work on getting its workforce in shape, non-public sector citizens too can do their part by eating less and more healthily and getting off our butts.

Admittedly, it’s hard now to go out for a run or even a stroll because of the current heat wave and haze. But we can try taking the stairs instead of the lift, drink more water than teh tarik and yes, eat less of our beloved nasi lemak.

Proud as we are that Time magazine ranked it as the ninth healthiest breakfast in the world, we know better. A dish that tastes that good cannot be healthy!

I leave this thought with you: The OEDC report, which measures the personal and economic health of nations, found that the United States indeed topped the chart in personal wealth and even the number of rooms in American homes.

So yes, they have the wealth but where’s the health?

By June H.L. Wong

So Aunty, So What?

Aunty likes this quote by humourist Jarod Kintz: Obesity isn’t as cool as it used to be, back in the earlier centuries. Before it was a reflection on your gross income. Now it’s just gross. Feedback to aunty@thestar.com.my

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Putrajaya the obese-city! Address obesity urgently


Two men cycling in front of the Palace of justice in Putrajaya

Malaysia has the highest percentage of overweight people in South-East Asia and the bulk of them are in Putrajaya. A survey has found that two out of five Malaysian civil servants are obese. The news is not good for the country’s health.

KUALA LUMPUR: It has been long known that Malaysia is the fattest country in South-East Asia. Now, it has been proven that the administrative capital of Putrajaya has the highest rate of overweight and obese people in the country.

Findings from the 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) placed Putrajaya as the city with the highest percentage of overweight, obese and abdominally obese people in the country.

The study also suggests that the administrative capital’s population has a 37% chance of being overweight, while the obesity rate stood at 43%.

Even more startling, the NHMS said government and semi-government employees took the cake as those struggling most with obesity, with a 40.3% rate.

This could mean two out of every five of Malaysia’s civil servants may be obese.

Malaysia’s civil service has 1.4 million employees, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, and is the largest civil service in South-East Asia.

Other obesity demographics pointed out in the survey were Indians (43.5%), married adults (33.8%) and those who only studied up to secondary school (32.1%).

The findings put the Government in a rather red-faced situation, as it works on reversing the climbing number of obese and overweight Malaysians.

“As the number of people with obesity increases, the nation now is facing an upward surge of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases,” the survey concluded, describing the Malaysian obesity epidemic as alarming.

Although a review of public health policy was not necessary now, it opined, the Government was asked to provide more supportive environments for Malaysians to lead healthier lifestyles.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Ashok Zachariah Phillip agreed, saying that the life of a typical government servant did not afford them much time or money to stay healthy.

“If you look at the strata, it’s usually the lower grade workers who are overweight because it takes money to keep fit. Government workers go to work at 7am, come back at 7pm and have no time between work and family to even think of exercising,” he said.

It doesn’t help either that basic essentials like white rice, sugar and oil are staple Malaysian diets and are unhealthy, he said.

“For us doctors, this could be a real headache 20 years down the road. We are going to have a growing population with stroke and heart disease, and kidney failures that will increase the health budget at an unsustainable level,” he added.

The Government needs to look into setting up more gyms in agencies and dish out incentives for employees to fight the bulge.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the figures were worrying.

“I don’t think the people are in the best state of health,” he said.

He said general sedentary work has a correlation to obesity, a trend which government agencies, namely the police, were trying to counter.

“The police recognised this recently and have taken some effort to make sure they have lean policemen. They will try to take action to meet this target,” Dr Subramaniam said yesterday.

Malacca and Perlis are the states with second and third highest obesity rates. Sabah and the Federal Territory of Labuan were the slimmest states.

By Micholas Cheng The Star

Address obesity urgently

 

AMID the current heat wave, not only are we blue over the greens (The Star, April 4) with highland vegetables wilting and Ipoh’s famous pomelos shrinking in size, schoolchildren are also getting more obese with the sound advice from the authorities to stay indoors.

Presumably, many children will go in droves to air-conditioned malls and fast food restaurants for meals, which naturally will add to the problem of obesity.

Doctors say obesity is defined as the condition of being very overweight and having a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher. The BMI is a measure of the weight relative to the height.

Evidently, obesity is manifested in the abdominal fat around the waist of children and adults as well.

But we should not get unduly worried with the adults because they are mature and knowledgeable enough to take responsibility for their health.

However, the innocent children’s health is undeniably our responsibility. Like it or not, we are accountable and answerable for the obesity problem in their adult life.

Today we can see the startling increase in the number of obese children across the country. Yet many parents unfortunately are seemingly too busy to check their children’s diet, let alone their daily exercise like the recommended walk of up to 10,000 steps a day.

Perhaps schools should voluntarily take up the task of creating awareness about the high risks and health hazards of obesity.

One practical way is to do routine short workouts: get students to burn calories by doing some exercises in the school assembly or in class every day – even some stretching exercises will suffice.

Certainly, this will increase their metabolic rate, thus strengthening their mental ability to learn; reducing levels of stress and depression; and suppressing the appetite.

When the heat wave is over, I would say it is the ethical and moral responsibility of the school authorities to bring back the Physical Standard Tests for all students like the good old days and mobilise all the staff to run selected athletic events such as the 100m, 200m, long jump, high jump and shot putt. Set certain standards for the events.

It would be much better if the Education Ministry’s Sports Department sets the national standards for all these events, which was done in the 60s till the 80s by using the co-curriculum 001 and 002 cards.

Next, it is also incumbent upon the Education Ministry to make it mandatory for school canteens to display the calorie counts for all the food so that the children will learn how to make healthy food choices and to calculate the total calorie intake they require for a day (about 1,600 and 2,500 calories per day depending on their age, gender and activity level).Eventually, they will “graduate” to become smart healthy consumers.

Let’s take these critical measures seriously to save our children from potential health risks like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and also some cancers.

This will invariably reduce the national health bill as well.

It was reported in “Putrajaya tops obese list” (see above) that we already have the highest percentage of overweight people in South-East Asia, and two out of five civil servants are obese.

Hence, invariably, the Government has to increase the health budget to cater for our increasingly ailing population if the obesity problem is not urgently addressed.

THOMAS KOK Ipoh

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Penang City Council barking up wrong tree ?


Save the trees: Mohamed Idris hugging a tree as other CAP members and protesters stage a peaceful demonstration in Jalan Masjid Negeri.

GEORGE TOWN: A Penang Island City councillor has joined hands with the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) and other non-governmental organisations in protesting the council’s decision to transplant 18 trees for its road widening project along Jalan Masjid Negeri here.

Councillor Dr Lim Mah Hui said the island’s road widening projects to ease traffic jams were a futile effort as they were not for the long term.

“We have enough evidence to show that road widening is not a permanent solution for heavy traffic.

“Instead, it will only increase the number of vehicles on the road,” he said when met during a peaceful demonstration by CAP in Jalan Masjid Negeri yesterday.

Dr Mah said besides transplanting trees, the council and state government should think of other ways such as carpooling to ease traffic.

“The public has to deal with heavy traffic during peak hours and public holidays.”

Earlier, CAP members held a demonstration to show their objection to the 1.8km road widening project along Jalan Masjid Negeri.

Its president S.M. Mohamed Idris hugged a tree to show his disapproval.

“People and trees are being relocated and environment is being destroyed in the name of development.

“I am extremely upset that consideration is given to vehicles at the expense of trees,” he told the reporters.

Mohamed Idris said this was unacceptable and he described the decision as pure madness.

“The fast pace development in the state is destroying Penang’s natural charm.

“With the greenery being replaced by concrete, Penang will soon become an unliveable place,” he said.

He added that the people should come together to oppose this action as there was a dire need to preserve the island’s tree-lined roads.

It was reported on Feb 6 that 18 trees would be affected along the Jalan Scotland-bound stretch, starting from Lorong Batu Lanchang-Jalan Masjid Negeri junction to the Jalan Air Itam-Jalan Masjid Negeri junction in its 1.8km road widening project along Jalan Masjid Negeri.

There are 33 trees lining the left side of the road where the current two-lane roadway will be increased to three lanes to cope with the heavy traffic flow, but the council managed to reduce the amount of trees affected to 18.

The project is scheduled for completion in May next year.

–  Logeiswary Thevadassa and Reena Hod The Star/Asia News Network
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