Money, culture and the chase for Olympic gold


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Although some countries offer financial incentives to its athletes, a genuine sporting culture may be the best guarantee of success at the Games.

SHOCK and awe just about sums up the stunning achievement of young Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling at the Rio Olympics.

His victory is classic David beating Goliath; he was the underdog from a tiny country that had never won an Olympic gold.

What made it all the sweeter and remarkable is that Schooling beat the mightiest, most decorated Olympian in history – American Michael Phelps who has won 23 gold medals – and set an impressive new record of 50.39 secs for the 100m butterfly event.

When news of Singapore’s first gold medal broke, it quickly overtook other stories emanating from Rio and became the talk of the world.

It eclipsed its Asean neighbours’ own Olympic gold successes: Vietnam’s shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh in the 10m air pistol competition and Thailand’s weightlifters Sopita Tanasan and Sukanya Srisurat in their individual weight classes and certainly overshadowed Malaysian diving duo Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong’s silver in the women’s synchronised 10m platform diving.

All are no small feats but there is a total of 28 sports in the Games, not counting those with multiple disciplines, and the most popular ones for a global audience are gymnastics, track and field and swimming, according to topendsports.com.

Among Asian nations competing in the Games, China and Japan are traditionally strong contenders in gymnastics and swimming although the Chinese gymnasts seem to be doing poorly this time around.

For most other Asian competitors, the sports they excel in tend to be the ones with less mass appeal like archery, shooting, judo, badminton and for some strange reason, women’s weightlifting.

Apart from the Thais, Taiwanese, Filipina and Indonesian female weightlifters have also won medals for their countries.

China remains the sporting powerhouse of Asia, sending its largest delegation of 416 athletes to Rio this year, but they have failed to defend their gold medals in sports they used to dominate like badminton and diving.

As for the glamorous track and field events, there doesn’t seem to be any Asian athlete who can challenge the likes of Usain Bolt.

Meanwhile, the other Asian powerhouse, India, with the second largest population in the world, has never done well at the Olympics, which has been the subject of intense debate among Indian and foreign sports pundits.

India also sent its biggest ever contingent of 118 sportsmen and women, and has so far won only a bronze medal in wrestling.

Winning an Olympic gold medal is the Holy Grail of sports.

The pomp that surrounds the Games gives the gold medallists unparalleled honour and prestige. And the nations they represent go into collective convulsions of ecstasy and nationalistic joy, which make their governments equally happy.

That’s why many nations pour millions into sports programmes to nurture and train promising talents and offer great financial rewards to successful Olympians.

Schooling will get S$1mil (RM3mil) from the Singapore government for his gold medal. Vietnam’s Hoang reportedly will receive US$100,000 (RM400,000), a figure, according to AFP, that is nearly 50 times greater than the country’s average national income, of around US$2,100 (RM8,400).

Malaysia, which is seeing its best ever performance in Rio, thanks to its badminton players and divers, rewards its successful athletes handsomely under its National Sports Council incentive scheme.

An Olympic gold medal winner will receive RM1mil and a monthly pension of RM5,000; a silver medallist, RM600,000 and a RM3,000 pension while a bronze winner gets RM100,000 and a RM2,000 pension.

Taiwan, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand have similar monetary reward schemes. North Korea uses a carrot and stick scheme: huge rewards for medal winners and hard labour for the failed ones.

Several western countries have the same financial bait, including the United States, France, Russia and Germany, but at a lower rate.

Does it work?

The Technology Policy Institute looked for a correlation and was mindful of variables like country size and income, “since those are surely the biggest predictor of how many medals a country will win: more populous countries are more likely to have that rare human who is physically built and mentally able to become an Olympic athlete, while richer countries are more likely to be able to invest in training those people.”

The researchers found no correlation between monetary payments and medals and said it was not surprising in some countries. In the United States, for example, a US$25,000 (RM100,000) cash award would be dwarfed by million-dollar endorsements the athlete could get.

The researchers also set out to see if the results were different for countries with lower opportunities for endorsements. Their conclusion: “overall the evidence suggests that these payments don’t increase the medal count” either.

Rather, countries that do well are those with a longstanding sporting culture that values and nurtures their athletes long before they qualify for the Olympics.

That is evident in Western societies where sportsmen, even at the college level, are feted and idolised. In Asia, however, the emphasis is more on book-learning and earning prestigious degrees.

The BBC quotes Indian Olympic Association head Narayana Ramachandran as saying India’s sorry performance is more than just a shortage of cash or organisation.

“Sport has always taken a back seat vis-á-vis education. Most Indian families would prefer their children became dentists or accountants than Olympians,” he says.

But that attitude is surely changing as more Asian sportsmen and women go professional and are able to make a good living.

In Malaysia, its most popular sportsman, badminton star Datuk Lee Chong Wei, is highly successful with a number of endorsements under his belt.

For now, it is still the Western countries that dominate the Olympic medal tally table. But it’s only a matter of time before more Asian nations, once no-hopers at the Games, rise up the charts.

It’s already started. The Rio Games will go down in history as a watershed for Asean, with two member states – Singapore and Vietnam – winning their first gold medals. May it be so for Malaysia, too.

By June H.L Wong Chief Operating Officer (Content Development) The Star, Malaysia.

The writer was the former group chief editor of The Star Media Group Malaysia. This is the eighth article in a series of columns on global affairs written by top editors from members of the Asia News Network and published in newspapers across the region.

Heartbreak again for Chong Wei, Chen Long takes gold

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RIO DE JANEIRO: Lee Chong Wei, the king of Malaysian badminton, will leave the Rio de Janeiro Olympics without the crown – and so will Malaysia without the coveted gold.

The 33-year-old lost his third Olympic final after going down 18-21, 18-21 to Chen Long at the Riocentro Pavilion 4 on Saturday.

It was indeed a painful end for Malaysia as it was the third false dawn. Earlier, Malaysia had also lost in the men’s doubles and mixed doubles finals.

Malaysia thus will return home with a total of four silvers and one bronze.

The other three silvers came from Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (mixed doubles), Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong (men’s doubles) and divers Pandelela Rinong-Cheong Jun Hoong (women’s 10m platform synchro). Cyclist Azizulhasni Awang contributed the sole bronze through the men’s keirin.

Both Chong Wei, playing in probably his last Olympics, and Chen Long went onto the court to loud cheers from their countries’ supporters.

Chong Wei, who lost to Lin Dan at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London finals, looked tentative in the beginning to allow Chen Long to open up a 4-0 lead. But he recovered his composure to lead 5-4.

After that, they traded point until it was 7-7 before Chong Wei pulled away for an 11-7 and then 14-10 lead.

But Chen Long refused to go away and managed to level at 14-14.

Twice Chong Wei surged in front but Chen Long capitalised on the Malaysian’s mistakes at the net to lead 20-17. Although world No. 1 Chong Wei managed to save one match point, his failure to return a smash gave Chen Long a 21-18 win in 35 minutes.

Oozing confidence, Chen Long was always in front in the second game – leading 4-1 and 5-2.

But Chong Wei fought back to go 8-5 up. Chen Long then went on a smashing spree, winning six points for an 11-8 advantage.

The 27-year-old world No. 2 never looked back after that as he always had at least a three-point lead.

Everything looked lost for Chong Wei as Chen Long reached 20-16. The Malaysian saved two match points but then sent the shuttle out to lose 18-21 in 38 minutes.

For Chen Long, it was his first Olympic gold to add to his two All-England and World Championships crowns.

Chong Wei can only look in envy as he’s still without a world or Olympic crown. He also lost in three World Championships finals.

Chen Long’s gold was only China’s second at these Games after Fu Haifeng-Zhang Nan triumphed in the men’s doubles.

Earlier, two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan fell from grace in probably his last Olympic outing after losing 21-15, 10-21, 17-21 to Dane Viktor Axelson in the 70-minute bronze medal playoff.

Medals By Countries – Rio 2016

London 2012 Olympics – Medal Table

Rio 2016 Asia Regional Aug 21 Medal by Countries

 

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The tyranny of Pokemon Go, more addictive than other games


It’s repetitive. The ‘game play’ is puerile. But it does cast a spell on players.

Malaysia, a plague has just arrived in your land and, if the rest of the world is any indication, it will infect every corner of your society. I’m talking of course about the infectious tyranny that is Pokemon Go. Really.

This is a game with very little in actual game play. You throw Pokeballs at Pokemon that spawn seemingly all over your neighbourhood, on your friends, and even in your own home. You capture them to fight other Pokemon, then you wash, rinse, repeat.

The battle aspect comes down to swiping right and tapping your screen a bunch of times. It’s not exactly the most nuanced or skilled or even fun game play in the world but yet, Pokemon Go has taken over the world.

I didn’t quite understand it until it arrived in Hong Kong, but suddenly on the street people were face down in their phones even more so than usual. And whenever I snuck a look there was a little critter bouncing around on their screens that they were trying to capture by tossing Pokeballs at it.

Silly. Ridiculous. So of course, yours truly had to try it.

And of course, yours truly got addicted just like everyone else.

Really, the game should be called Pokecrack or something a little more indicative of its addictive nature. Walking the dog at night, I seek out the local gyms – Pokemon Go locations where you can train or battle other Pokemon, but only at certain locations in the city – see, that’s why it’s got the “Go” in its name, this isn’t a game you can play from home – and at all these locations, even at midnight, I find people milling around in their pyjamas outside, with their faces stuck to their phones. Me included.

I went to a bar to meet a friend the other day and of course we started hunting Pokemon while there, which quite a few others were already doing. On the way out to the pay the bill the barkeep invited us back on Saturday because they would be “buying lures all day to attract more Pokemon”. Yes, Pokemon is now a way to attract people to your business.

Pikachu, I choose you.

But why is this game so addictive? I just said the game play was infantile. So simple that it boggles the mind. And it is. But everything in Pokemon Go centres on the rewards of new and exotic Pokemon and levelling up.

Basically it’s a game that hinges on the Random Reward Schedule.

The Random Reward Schedule is a tenet of behavioural psychology. It’s a form of reinforcement. Reinforcement, of course, “strengthens an organism’s future behaviour whenever that behaviour is preceded by a specific antecedent stimulus”. That’s a mouthful.

Basically, what it’s saying is that you will continue to do a thing if you get positive feedback.

This all goes back to the research of B.F. Skinner, who noted that the variable reward schedule or the random reward schedule resulted in the most compulsive and addictive behaviour in mice. Basically, mice were trained to press a lever that would dispense treats.

The mice that were rewarded with a treat every time were less inclined to keep pressing the lever, than the mice that were rewarded with a large treat at random intervals. The idea being that when a mouse thinks there could be a nice reward just around the corner, it will keep performing the same action.

The same goes for humans.

In Pokemon Go you’re constantly checking for Pokemon appearing in your vicinity. Most times they are common ones like Pidgeys or Caterpies, but every once in a while, you find something exciting like a Vaporean or an Electabuzz. And yes, I know how nerdy this sounds right now. Those rare and exotic Pokemon are just like large treats to a mouse.

The random reward schedule is linked to the Hook Model which is a technique employed by social media and mobile game designers and, of course the designers of Pokemon Go. Its mission – the name gives it away – is to hook you.

It goes beyond simple reinforcement of behaviour; it’s all about creating habits so that we’ll continue doing something the designers want us to do. In this case, it’s to continue searching for Pokemon and hopefully spend a few of our hard-earned dollars for gear that will help us do just that.

Pokemon Go also employs another aspect of the model, and that is our need to hunt. In the evolutionary sense, we are hunters, hunting for food in the wild. Pokemon Go employs a tracking system to find those rare and exotic Pokemon so that we are literally hunting down little virtual critters. All. Day. Long.

But we’re not hunting for sustenance, now we’re just hunting for the sake of hunting. Our genetic urges are misfiring all over Pokemon Go.

And knowing that I’m being manipulated on the most fundamental level by this game, I’m still checking my phone periodically to see if any rare Pokemon have showed up. And it’s not even fun.

So what to do, now that Pokemon Go has come for … to us? It really depends. It does make you walk more, and it can make your daily commutes a little more enjoyable (depending on your definition of enjoyable) – but if you don’t like having your face stuck in your phone, then you’re better off treating Pokemon Go like drugs, and not even trying it.

By Jason Godfrey –

Catch Jason Godfrey on The LINK on Life Inspired HD (Astro Ch 728).

More addictive than other games

CATCHING virtual critters on Pokémon GO has a tendency to be more addictive than other online games.

Experts say the risk of being addicted to the highly-popular game is increased because it is a feast for the senses.

This is especially since it is an augmented reality game, which requires players to have a live direct or indirect view of their physical surroundings.

“The risk of addiction is increased as there are multiple sensory bombardments that sustain playing Pokémon GO.

“Such sensory bombardments are continuous, leading to pleasure and satisfaction highs once players level up in the game and are motivated to continue,” explains Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist and psychologist Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat.

She says this can be dangerous as it makes individuals dependent on the game for pleasure or happiness and some people may confuse the two.

“It could also lead to despair when the game is concluded, when they experience problems, or when a level objective could not be met.

“These are similar responses that an addict experiences. Normal functioning is disrupted, the least being in terms of sleeping and eating patterns,” Dr Geshina says.

Other aspects that could be affected are family interaction, work-life balance, carrying out responsibilities and daily tasks.

Dr Geshina finds that there are pros and cons to playing the game.

“On one hand, players will get more physical exercise, apply problem-solving skills, and have some social interaction when they meet other players in real life,” she says.

But on the other hand, too much focus on their phones may narrow their perception, leading to selective attention on the immediate environment to fulfil the needs of the game rather than a genuine appreciation of the outdoors.

“Social interaction may be limited to brusque questions of where the characters are, rather than polite or pleasant queries to initiate meaningful conversation,” says Dr Geshina.

She also notes that there is also a possibility that players, especially children, will be unable to separate between reality and the game as it blurs the lines and makes players a living game avatar.

Malaysian Mental Health Association deputy president and consultant psychiatrist Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj Chandrasekaran says people are generally eager to embrace new technology and will surely warm up to augmented reality games like Pokémon GO.

Describing the game as “taking it one step further”, he says one positive point of the game is that it can motivate people to get out more and connect with others with common interests.

“This is particularly relevant to people with introverted personalities and those suffering from depression.”

Dr Andrew, however, points out that the game can be a double-edged sword and could also work negatively in making people more engrossed in their phones.

“Ultimately, technology must be embraced for the right purpose – be it for recreational, therapeutic or competitive purposes.

“Technology can also be harmful, destroy interpersonal relationship, affect social cohesion, blur the lines between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour and cause confusion between reality and the virtual world.

“Knowing how to embrace technology in a balanced manner is the answer,” he says.

Sources:  The Star/Asia News Network

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

Related:

Cops to identify other victims

NGO: Hard to catch predators

Preying on the faithful – Watching The World

Protect our children from sex offenders 

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.

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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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