Penang Chief Minister may have too much on his plate, be fair when sharing power


 

CM may have too much on his plate

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Gerakan has questioned the efficiency of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng as the chairman of numerous state-linked agencies and departments.

Its publicity bureau chief Ooi Zhi Yi said that besides being the chief minister, the Bagan MP and Air Putih assemblyman chairs 11 agencies and departments.

“He was recently also appointed chairman of the Penang Stadium Corporation And Open Spaces at the state assembly sitting,” he said.

Ooi asked what had happened to the DAP’s decentralisation of administration and power-sharing policy which it claimed to advocate?

“Is Lim able to handle various responsibilities in different agencies and departments simultaneously?

“Why can’t the state government identify any state executive councillor or assemblyman to hold some of the posts?” he further asked at a press conference at the Gerakan headquarters yesterday

The 11 state agencies and departments which Lim heads are the Penang Development Corporation (PDC), PBA Holdings Bhd (PBAHB) and its unit Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang (PBAPP), Penang Global Tourism (PGT), Penang Hill Corporation (PHC), Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB), George Town World Heritage Inc (GTWHI), the Penang State Museum, investPenang and two subsidiaries under PDC namely the BPO Premier Sdn Bhd and Premier Horizon Ventures Snd Bhd.

When contacted yesterday, Wong Hon Wai, who is Lim’s political secretary, said it is a customary process for a state leader to hold important positions in all the government statutory bodies.

“It is similar to how the Prime Minister and Mentri Besar chair important government bodies,” he explained. – Tbe Star

‘Be fair when sharing power’‘

GEORGE TOWN: The MCA wants the Penang government to create a check-and-balance to counter the Chief Minister’s influence in 19-state linked agencies, statutory bodies and government subsidiaries which he helms.

Penang MCA organising secretary Dr Tan Chuan Hong said the mechanism must include NGOs such as the Penang Forum, Consumers Association of Penang and Penang Heritage Trust.

He said the NGOs should have the right to oppose and express their views whenever needed.

He said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had in a written reply to Sungai Dua assemblyman Muhamad Yusoff Mohd Noor at the recent state legislative assembly sitting revealed that he was the chairman of 19 bodies.

“This is not only shocking but also contradicts the CAT principles of Competency, Accountability and Transparency which the DAP-led state claims to practise.

“Where is a person’s credibility if he holds all positions which are closely associated with his position as chief minister. And what about the power-sharing principle advocated by the state government?” Tan asked.

He said since Lim ‘monopolised’ most of the chairman positions, state exco members such as Chow Kon Yeow, Danny Law and Jagdeep Singh seemed to be given merely supplementary roles to play.

Among the bodies helmed by Lim are the Penang Development Corp (PDC), Penang Global Tourism, PICEB Sdn Bhd, PGC Strategies Sdn Bhd, Penang Water Supply Corp Bhd (PBAPP), PBA Holdings Bhd, Penang Hill Corp, Invest Penang and the state museum board.

He gets an annual RM10,000 allowance as PDC chairman, RM3,000 monthly allowance as PBAPP chairman and RM500 monthly allowance as PBA Holdings Bhd chairman.

Lim also gets allowances which range from RM250 to RM500 per meeting that he attends in some of the statutory bodies and subsidiaries that he helms. – The Star

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Arrest decline in productivity and competitiveness in Malaysia


COINCIDENTLY, two major reports were released on June 1 on the decline of our national productivity and competitiveness. The first was our own Productivity Report 2016/2017, which was launched by Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad (pic) and the second one was the World Competitiveness Yearbook WCY issued by the Institute for Management Development.

This coincidence in decline is understandable since both productivity and competitiveness are closely inter-related. Lower productivity leads to lower international competitiveness.

Productivity

Our labour productivity fell short of our 11th Plan target of 3.7% growth by 0.2% to 3.5% last year. This is a small decline and has been rightly explained with confidence by the Minister of Trade in positive terms when he said that Malaysia was “on track”.

I think he will agree that we must be concerned enough to ask what are the causes and whether this is just a mere slip or could it be the beginning of a trend.

We have to take this fall as a wake up call, in case this decline happens again next year and later on. We have to review many recurrent and uncomfortable issues like brain drain and unemployed graduates – who could number over 200,000 – also reflect the low productivity of many graduates who are newly employed. The lower productivity can be attributed to our low use of automation, high employment of unskilled foreign and cheap labour and the new challenges of the digital economy.

The Minister’s proposal for the Government and private sector to “join forces to embark on initiatives” to improve productivity in nine sectors “of lower productivity”, is most welcome. The private sector has to make profit unlike the Government. Hence it has a greater sense of urgency in wanting to improve not only labour productivity but productivity from all factors of production, including good governance and integrity and quality services to the public. Thus it will be very interesting for the public to be made fully aware of the productivity improvements that should materialise not only in the private sector, but for the Government as well. For instance government departments can learn from the private sector how to provide better or excellent services in the fields of health and education and counter services at police stations, Customs, Immigration, etc .

Productivity in both the private sector and the government machinery should improve to raise our total national productivity. Only then will our nation be able to compete much more efficiently and effectively in the global economy.

We can have the best Productivity Blueprint like that which was launched on May 8 but our productivity can continue to slip and even slide, if we do not ensure that the blueprint is fully implemented and its progress diligently monitored and improved along the way. One way to seriously pursue our goal to raise productivity would be to increase the small sum of only RM200mil for a new Automation Fund. Modern machinery and equipment are expensive but the returns in terms of higher productivity can be very significant. So let’s go for higher productivity with greater automation and not approach the challenge on an ad hoc and piecemeal basis. The Treasury would need to support the Productivity Blueprint much more productively!

Competitiveness

Malaysia registered its lowest ranking in five years in the WCY.

This reflects our decline in productivity as competitiveness is the other side of the coin. However, I am surprised that the relationship is so sensitive. Just a drop of 0.2% in productivity can cause a drop in our international competitiveness ranking from 19th place to the 24th!

What this could show is that while we are sluggish in our productivity, other countries are much more aggressive in improving both their productivity and competitiveness.

There is thus no point in taking pride that we scored better in our ranking compared to the industrial countries like Austria (25th) Japan (26th) and Korea (29th). They are highly developed countries which enjoy much higher standards of living and a better quality of life that we do. They have reached the top of Mount Fuji and other mountains, while we are still climbing up from a lower economic base.

The drop in our competitiveness is significant and we have to take this decline very seriously. Malaysia slipped in all four sectors, that is, economic performance, business efficiency, government efficiency and infrastructure. That is why it is essential to investigate in depth into all these major falls in performance and tell the public what is being done to improve our rankings and ratings.

It is appreciated that Malaysia Productivity Corp’s Director General Datuk Mohd Razali Hussain has established Nine Working Cluster Groups to examine these poor indicators and report on improvements that must be made expeditiously.


Conclusion

It is good that we have these reports on productivity and international competitiveness to benchmark our national performance against them. We have to take advantage of these annual indicators and ensure that we keep improving rather than falling in productivity and competitiveness .

Our efforts to improve will be watched closely by our domestic and particularly international investors and international competitors .

We can only hope that these declines are not just coincidental but are also not developing declining trends. This could spell pessimism and falling confidence in our socio-economic management.

Instead we should take these set backs as warning signals and rededicate ourselves to a greater commitment to higher competition, more meritocracy and building a better socio-economic and political environment in Malaysia.

TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM

Chairman Asli’s Centre of Public Policy Studies


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Huge Civil Service Size, Attractive Emoluments and Benefits are costing Malaysia !


Prized job: While long-term security like the pension scheme free healthcare and easy loans have been among the perks of joining the public service, many job seekers now want to become civil servants because it pays well. — Bernama

The attractive emoluments and benefits in the public sector are costing the country, say experts.

THE civil service had never been *Sofea Mohd’s dream job but in the current competi­tive job market, the final year Economics student at a local public university is seriously weighing the option. Especially since she was offered a temporary position at a ministry where she had just completed an internship.

“My seniors advised me to take the offer – one said she had to wait years before she got a job, another said he had to work in a fastfood restaurant and sell pens and children’s books on the street, so I thought I should listen to them and just take it.

“They say my chances of being hired permanently will be higher then,” says the 22-year-old.

The main reason she decided to accept the offer, however, is the pay, she tells, “It’s not as low as people say. I will get a daily wage but I can earn at least RM2,000 a month. The pay for permanent staff is of course better.”

Her friend *Azman Jailani dreams of starting his own business but is also planning to join the public sector after graduation.

“That’s what my parents want me to do. They say there is more security in the civil service. I can start my business later if I want,” says the final year business studies student.

With the academic year coming to a close at most tertiary institution in the country, many graduating students are preparing for the next chapter in their life. And like these two, many are looking at the civil service for a job guarantee.

It was reported recently that the Public Service Commission received 1.56 million applications last year to fill 25,046 job vacancies in the public sector. In 2015, the PSC received 1.63 million applications for 24,606 vacancies.

While the attraction of a government job is well-noted – long-term security; a pension scheme; cheap, if not free, healthcare; easy loans – many job seekers are now drawn to the public sector because of its pay.

Shamsuddin: ‘Duplications impact the private sector. When there are too many agencies, that will bound to cause delays.’

The pay for the public sector, especially for entry-level jobs, is on par with the private sector, says Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan.

“It has to be noted that public sector wages have risen, in some cases outstripping the wages in the private sector. And that is only the basic pay. When you add the different allowances and bonuses, the public sector’s salaries – perhaps except for those at senior management level – could be more attractive than that of the private sector.

“Then there are also many benefits for civil servants such as house loans and healthcare benefits for them and family that continue even after they retire.

“In the private sector, the health insurance coverage ends when you leave a company’s employment or retire,” he says.

But the attractive emolument and benefits in the public sector have come at a price for the country, say economists, one that Malaysia will not be able to afford in the future. In fact, some believe it is already hurting Malaysia’s economy – it has been reported that it will now cost the nation more than 40% of government revenue to maintain the public sector.

Experts have pointed to its sheer size as a reason for the burgeoning bill of the civil service.

In February, Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani told a local Chinese daily in an interview that it is a growing challenge for the Government to run the public sector due to the rising costs.

“One of the issues that we have to address is the ever-increasing government operating costs and expenses.

“For example, we have about 1.6 million civil servants, which is one of the world’s largest proportion of civil service,” Johari was quoted as saying.

With a population of 31 million, this means Malaysia has a ratio of one civil servant to 19 people, said the news report, which cited corresponding ratios for other countries in comparison: Singapore (1 to 71 people), Indonesia (1:110), China (1:108) and Britain (1:118).

The reported size of the civil service caused a stir, with the Public Service Department director-general Datuk Seri Zainal Rahim Seman refuting criticisms that the civil service is oversized by reiterating Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa’s statement that the size of the civil service is a matter of definition under the Federal Constitution, which includes the police, the armed forces, and healthcare and education personnel.

 

As Zainal Rahim told the press, the actual size of the civil service would only be 682,790 should Malaysia adopt the same calculation used by other countries. This would make the ratio of civil servant to population as 1 to 44, instead of 1:19, he said.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, meanwhile, put  Malaysia’s employment in the public sector as only 10.8% of the total labour force in 2013.

But as Johari highlighted, the fact is, emoluments make up the biggest portion of the Government’s operating expenditure, and that cost has been and will keep expanding.

“In 2003, the pay of public servants totalled RM22bil but it increased to RM74bil by 2016. In 2003, the pension of civil servants was RM5.9bil and in 2016 the amount soared to RM19bil.”

This year, some RM77.4bil have been allocated in the 2017 Budget for public servants’ pay and some RM21bil for the pension and gratuity payments of retirees, which is about 45% of the allocated operating expenditure of the country.

The challenge to cover the spiking cost is intensified by the declining Government reve­nue, the vernacular newspaper reported Johari as saying.

“In particular, revenues from the palm oil and natural gas industries, which generated profits of about RM65bil in 2014, fell sharply to RM30bil in 2016,” he was quoted.

Concurring, economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng says the rising operating expenditure is also a concern due to its impact on the country’s development.

“Over the last decade or so, we are seeing the operating expenditure in the government budget expand to the extent that we are not able to expand the development expenditure,” says Dr Yeah, who is an economics professor at Sunway Business School.

Some RM214.8bil was allocated for operating expenditure in the 2017 Budget while only RM46bil was allocated for development.

“By right, the development expenditure should be half of the budget if we want a dynamic economy as we see in many countries, especially in the developed countries,” he adds.

“But in Malaysia, the development expenditure has shrunk to as low as 20% of the budget. This will have a multiplier effect on our economy.”

He argues we should be spending more on our development, both in increasing the quantum of development expenditure and at the same time focusing the development expenditure on the right sectors – not just hard infrastructure but also soft infrastructure like social and human capital development.

“This is important in improving the quality of our workforce and their skills, in terms of boosting the talent development that can push the frontiers of growth in the country, especially in science and technology and other emerging knowledge and industries.

“The Government needs to attract investments in these new sectors, so that is why development expenditure is one of the key contributions to spark growth in those sectors and accelerate the growth of the economy towards becoming high end, high value.”

He points out, various studies have shown that the country’s civil service is big, with a low productivity rate.

“Regardless of how we calculate the total, we definitely have more people in the public sector than necessary, and studies have shown that labour productivity is quite low for the public sector.”

Rightsizing the civil service is the way to go, he asserts, but it should be treated as part of the continuous effort of improving the efficiency of its delivery service.

“The key is to be able to provide the services required by the people optimally, which is at the smallest number and lowest cost possible without sacrificing the quality of service,” he says, stressing that the underlying note is that “we should be getting bigger banks for our bucks, that is the taxpayers’ money.”

Crucially, Dr Yeah adds, while rightsizing the civil service is important to sustain growth, it is important that we rightsize without disrupting economic growth in terms of the employment situation in the country.

“We have to ensure meaningful employment for all while sustaining a low unemployment rate so that we can maintain the domestic economic growth momentum.”

Any prudent government would seize the opportunity to rightsize and enhance the public sector efficiency, Dr Yeah says.

“It is important to rightsize gradually and incrementally at a pace that does not disrupt the economy.

“Because the risk is that if we are hit by a downturn and the government is forced to undertake the pending cuts then that would be more painful and damaging to the economy. There would be a loss of productive capital when we face that kind of situation,” he says.

Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, immediate past president of the Malaysian Economic Association (MEA) also believes it is time for Malaysia to rightsize the civil service due to the huge sum of civil servants’ salaries and pensions in the government expenditure.

As he had told the “Economic Governance: Public Sector Governance” forum in February, it could be a problem for Malaysia if it runs into a financial crisis and rightsizing is “better sooner than later” if Malaysia wanted to avoid falling into a Greece-like crisis, where the European country had to cut salaries and state pensions for its civil service.

“It is worthwhile to do it now while we can still afford it.

“I think we should do it gradually. It is kinder to do it now with incentives than to suddenly cut their salaries and pensions at a time when they can least afford it,” he was reported as saying.

Mohd Sheriff, who is also the former Finance Ministry secretary-general and Economic Planning Unit director-general, points out that there are ways of rightsizing in a humane and caring manner including providing free courses on skills development that will make people employable in the right sector like ICT, English, basic accounting, corporate law and others.

He says with the right skills, many would even leave the service on their own accord to improve their lives.

Dr Yeah agrees.

“While their pay is comparable to the private sector, many of the second layer and support jobs in the civil service have low long-term prospect,” he says.

“If their skills are improved, they and their families could get better prospects for the future. And if they are forced to look at other opportunities in the private sector or in entrepreneurship, in the end they could be better off,” he says, pointing to some of the initiatives already taken to rightsize the civil service and improve its productivity and efficiency, especially under Pemandu.

Dr Lee Hwok Aun, senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, says the Government should explore different ways to raise more revenue, such as by introducing a capital gains tax.

As a former lecturer at a Malaysian public university, Dr Lee says he can appreciate the enormous difficulty of rightsizing the civil service.

“The projected increasing burden of civil service salaries and proven continuous increase of operational expenditures in overall federal government spending, at the expense of investment, are major causes for concern. And the size of the civil service matters, but the long-term issues are even more complex,” he says.

For the civil service to be effective, nimble and efficient, it will need to attract and retain talent in certain sectors – which means paying higher salaries, especially for key positions such as teachers, he says.

As he sees it, the main problem is over-bureaucratisation.

“There are various unnecessary administrative posts, which add cost and tend to perpetuate procedures and heavy paperwork. I can attest to this from my experience working in a public university. An overhaul of administrative strategy and operations is probably necessary in many departments, before making any staff reductions. If not, when staff retire or relocate, the same amount of tedious work becomes distributed among fewer people, causing service and morale to decline,” he says, adding there will also be resistance from civil servants who stand to lose their pension if they leave.

“We should be understanding and merciful about this situation. Forms of compensation, or the option to convert from public sector pension to an EPF lump sum, could be explored.”

MEF’s Shamsuddin concurs, pointing out that there are also a lot of duplications of service and work at the federal level and state level and so on.

“A good example is tourism where there is a tourism agency at the federal level while the state has its own tourism Exco and office.

Duplications impact the private sector as it is a problem to deal with different government agencies to get something done. When there are too many agencies, that will bound to cause delays,” says Shamsuddin.

Dr Yeah says it is imperative for the Government to enhance the efficiency of the delivery service and effectiveness of the public sector across the board, such as putting them to work in priority areas and where they will have the highest impact.

“Crucially, when we focus on improving productivity through redeployment, retraining and re-skilling, quite naturally, we will be rightsizing.”

It can even be a win-win situation for the public servants as a smaller number of employees that commensurate with a higher productivity will mean an increase in profit, so the civil servants can receive higher wages, he notes.

Still, Dr Yeah feels the public sector’s emolument bill should be capped.

“We need to ensure that the public sector wages do not exceed the workers’ productivity or rate of inflation, as that itself will lead to a productivity decline.

“We should cascade it so that the wages in private sector could rise in tandem with thepublic sector,” he says, adding that at the same time the size of the civil service needs to be reduced. “If we don’t rightsize and instead create more civil service jobs, it will be a downward spiral.”

The Government also needs to enhance Malaysia’s investment climate and attract more foreign investments, he adds, “The strategy of the country should be to push for private sector growth, especially in new and emerging areas which would boost demand for highly skilled labour.”

Ultimately, says Dr Yeah, the public service sector should not be the job reserve or employer of the last resort in the country.

To achieve this, we need to stop the disproportionate interest in the public sector which is not healthy for the economy, he says.

“We should be steering the workforce towards the private sector or they should become entrepreneurs so that they can raise their income opportunities and create jobs.”

The tightening of the job market can lead to higher investment, higher productivity and higher wages, Dr Yeah notes, “This is the virtuous cycle we need to kickstart to sustain an economic growth for the country at a higher level.”

*not real name

Next: Some of the initiatives already taken by the Government to rightsize the civil service and improve its productivity and efficiency.

Source: The Star/ANN by Hariati Azizan

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Mereka Rasuah Kita Bayar! 3J drive: Jangan Kautim, Jangan Hulur, Jangan Settle!



//players.brightcove.net/4405352761001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5425641160001

Working together: Dzulkifli (third from left) and Wong (centre) sharing a light moment with The Star team after launching the 3J Campaign at Menara Star.

Star teams up with MACC for 3J drive

It is an arduous task but the battle against corruption involves all Malaysians.

For that reason, Star Media Group has partnered with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for the nationwide “Jangan Hulur, Jangan Kawtim, Jangan Settle” (Don’t Give and Don’t Settle) 3J Campaign.

“The battle is neither quick nor easy. But with public support, this fight will end with us winning and our integrity intact,” said Star Media Group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai.

The Star, he said, would be focusing on the youth as they were the “most crucial group”.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign at Menara Star yesterday, Wong cited an MACC study conducted last year among students which found that 16% of students in institutions of higher learning were willing to offer bribes.

The number was worrying as it had gone up from the 10.7% rate in 2015, he said.

To educate the next generation on values like integrity, The Star will be going all out to highlight the message of the campaign.

Other than spreading the word via Twitter and Facebook, Wong said it would be combining its media platforms such as The Star newspaper, The Star Online and StarTV as well as its Bahasa Malaysia news portal mStar and radio Suria FM.

Suria FM, which is part of the Star Media Radio Group, will broadcast the campaign message to the public via its road show team – the Suria FM Wheelers.

The month-long 3J Campaign came under the umbrella of the nationwide Gerakan Revolusi Anti-Rasuah or Gerah campaign, which was launched at the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya yesterday.

MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad said the battle against corruption and abuse of power would fail without a concerted effort.

“This is why I believe the fight should be our journey, our cause and our war together,” he said.

Dzulkifli voiced his hope for Malaysians to come together under the 3J Campaign and play an active role in battling the “cancer of corruption”.

He said the words “hulur, kawtim and settle” are synonymous with corruption and the MACC used these terms so that the people were aware of the aim of the campaign.

“We hope this will pave the way for the people to say no to corruption and to create a society that has the courage to stand up and fight not only against corruption but the corruptors too,” he said.

Dzulkifli said he made a bold promise to Malaysians earlier this year when he vowed that the MACC would make one arrest every week, but this had been delivered so far, he added.

He also commended the media for its role as “an important watchdog over corruption” and its effort in exposing such cases.

MACC – two campaigns and a swoop 

 

Ready for war: MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad (centre) and his officers pledging at their headquarters in Putrajaya to wipe out corruption.

PETALING JAYA: Two anti-corruption awareness campaigns were launched nationwide and, to show how serious the fight against corruption is, a swoop on corrupt Immigration officers was carried out too.

An aide of a chief minister, who is a Datuk, was also arrested and is expected to be charged today.

Sources said two senior immigration officers based in Complex ICQ Padang Besar, Perlis, were detained at about 11am yesterday under Ops Lavish.

The suspects, aged 35 and 37, were summoned to the Kedah Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commis­sion (MACC) office on suspicion of accepting bribes in relation to the approval of expatriate passes to hire skilled and professional workers. Also arrested was a 48-year-old contractor.

The contractor is believed to have abetted in the dealings since 2015 and acted as a middleman to transfer a huge sum of money into several bank accounts.

The amount involved was said to be over a million ringgit.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki confirmed the arrests.

The anti-graft officers also seized four luxury cars, a high-powered bike, a fixed deposit account with RM1mil, 13 luxury bags and 13 watches worth RM130,000.

All three suspects will be investigated under Section 17(a) of the MACC Act 2009, which carries a jail term of up to 20 years and five times the amount of bribes involved.

It is learnt the 37-year-old suspect, while taking charge of the expatriate services division in the Putrajaya Immigration Depart­ment, carried out the dubious dealings.

He was the division head from Feb 2015 to Dec 2015 and tasked with supervising, approving and cross checking all applicants information in the data system.

Star Media Group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai and Dzulkifli go on a ride in the MACC FM mobile after launching the 3J Campaign at Menara Star in Petaling Jaya. — AZMAN GHANI/The Star

Within the short period there, he was said to have approved 339 applications involving 18,626 applicants.

“Some applicant companies were said to be non-existent.

“Initial investigations showed the suspect took a minimum of RM1,500 per applicant from agents as an inducement to approve their applications,” said a source.

Checks also showed that the suspect’s wife had played a role in the dealings by using her registered companies to issue cheques and to transfer money.

The latest move signalled a clean up of the Immigration Department by the anti-graft body.

Thumbs up: MACC enforcement officers meeting members of the public at various public places to spread the 3J anti-corruption campaign message of ‘Jangan hulur, jangan kawtim, jangan settle’ (Don’t give and don’t settle.

In March, at least 10 immigration officers who took up to RM5,000 each to allow illegals to enter Sarawak were nabbed. Six of them were women.

Early this year, four Selangor immigration officers were rounded-up to assist in investigations into dubious applications for international passports, causing losses of over RM1mil.

In Malacca, the former special officer to Malacca Historical City Council’s mayor implicated in a corruption case was arrested at 7.30pm yesterday at the Malacca MACC office.

The 56-year-old suspect faces 11 charges under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Finan­cing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act and another four under the Penal Code.

On Nov 28, the officer was arrested to help with a probe over alleged corruption and money laundering.

The MACC also seized more than RM100mil from the officer, comprising cash, assets and several vehicles.

Source: The Star/ANN

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Belt-road changes world order


Illuminated boards highlighting Xi’s signature One Belt- One Road foreign policy plan in Beijing. Leaders of 28 countries are set to attend the summit in the Chinese capital next month to discuss the infrastructure investment programme to stitch together the Eurasian continent. — AP‘Win-win development will lie at the core of the forum. The Belt and Road has become the most important public good China has provided to the world. It was first proposed by China, but now it is for all countries to enjoy.’ – Wang Yi.  ‘Belt and Road has the power and prestige of President Xi Jinping behind it. It is the centre of his vision for China, and of his ambition to transform China’s place in the world during his time as its leader … And already it is starting to change the geoeconomic and the geopolical landscape.’ – Huge White

 

China’s ambitious economic plan is set to draw up a new global paradigm with countries seeking to engage the Middle Kingdom.

WHEN the ambitious Belt and Road initiative – with projects reportedly worth US$1 trillion – was first announced by President Xi Jinping in the autumn of 2013, many were sceptical of this Chinese move aimed at building up economic connectivity of 65 nations (China plus 64) along its ancient silk road and maritime routes.

For China, this New Silk Road would also serve to redirect the country’s domestic overcapacity and capital for regional infrastructure development to improve trade and ties with Asean, Central Asian and European countries.

Unprecedented in terms of China’s financial commitment, many Western critics have viewed this strategy as a grandiose foreign policy to expand Beijing’s influence to poor nations hungry for economic and infrastructure development.

The initiative was mooted at a time when the United States and the West excluded China from regional trading blocs. Hence, Beijing’s new development vision has been read as a strategy for asserting its leadership role in Asia and beyond.

But after nearly four years of promoting the concept and implementing projects, this initiative – dubbed as a modern-day Marshall Plan – is gaining traction.

It is seen by some Western academics as posing a threat to the US-centric world trade order and economic model.

Without a doubt, China is heading towards achieving its regional economic and diplomatic objectives. And the internationalisation of the renminbi is being boosted.

“We expect the One Belt-One Road (OBOR) to support long-term growth of development in the economies involved, particularly in some of the least developed parts of the world… We also expect it to help boost China’s global influence,” says a report dated April 27 by Oxford Economics.

While the idea of enhancing connectivity has drawn interest, the worry on China’s potential hegemonic ambitions has prevailed among regional rivals India and Japan, as well as the United States.

Despite this, nations that correctly read China’s economic strategy and Xi’s resolve were quick to announce their support for this China-led inclusiveness. And Malaysia had become one of the earliest participants and is now a gainer.

The Belt and Road initiative is largely assessed as having progressed well despite some setbacks.

Many countries are at ease to engage with China, particularly after Xi declared the “Three Nos”: no interference in the internal affairs of other nations; no intention to increase the so-called “sphere of influence”; and no motive to strive for hegemony.

Recipient nations are enjoying higher economic, trade and business activities, as well as a tourism boom helped by the influx of tourists from China – the world’s second largest economy and biggest consumer market.

The impact of the Chinese strategy is particularly conspicuous in the least developed nations in Africa and West Asia, as well as Asean nations such as Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and Malaysia.

“Many belt-road countries have for many years been neglected by the West and Western investors, so even though there are concerns, some countries see China as offering once-in-a-lifetime chance to get out of poverty and under-development,” observes Dr Ngeow Chow Bing, deputy director of Institute of China Studies, Universiti Malaya.

China says it has invested more than US$50bil (RM220bil) on belt-road projects over the past three years, and signed project contracts worth US$926bil (RM4.16 trillion) covering mainly railway networks, highways and ports.

But China and its construction companies have also benefited from these endeavours. Its economy has been stimulated by exports from industries with overcapacity such as steel, cement and aluminium. Its GDP growth of 6.9% in the first quarter of 2017 was higher than expected.

Significantly, China’s state-owned construction conglomerates have successfully ventured out into belt-road nations. With these giants leading the build-transfer-operate schemes, smaller private enterprises have followed suit.

With China’s infrastructure projects and industrial investments extended to over 60 nations, the belt-road strategy is challenging the US-led world order and a new economic paradigm is definitely emerging, according to analysts.

Teoh: ‘OBOR will reshape the world’s economic dynamics
  “OBOR will significantly reshape the world’s economic dynamics. It will sharply increase accessibility and trades, across over 65% of the world’s population and 25% of global trade and services,” says Teoh Kok Lin, founder and chief investment officer of Singular Asset Management, a Kuala Lumpur-based regional asset investment company.

“Emerging economies, in particular, will benefit most from the increased global trades and services as well as improved infrastructure. OBOR will expand trade globalisation at a time when the world is worried about the Trump administration push towards the Buy America policy,” adds Teoh.

Closer economic relations with Beijing has helped reduce regional tension and friction, as seen in the case of the South China Sea where the Philippines under its current president saw economic cooperation with China as more practical.

Despite concerns over China’s rapid reclamation of reefs in South China Sea, in which Manila and several Asean nations have contesting territorial claims with China, the Asean Summit is unlikely to kick up a storm.

According to Reuters, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday “it is pointless” discussing Beijing’s contentious activities in the South China Sea at this summit, and “no one dared to pressure China anyway.”

Referring to the Belt and Road initiative as “a brilliant plan”, CLSA in its report remarks: “Xi Jinping’s ambitious strategic initiative – an adaptation of the historical Silk Road – marks the beginning of a new geopolitical era.”


May 14-15 summit and forum

The major achievements of the belt and road initiative are expected to be further highlighted at the coming two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which will be opened by President Xi on May 14 in Beijing.

This summit could be the most important diplomatic event this year to discuss what is expected to be the largest global economic programme.

“Amid challenges and the perceived fear of China’s influence of regional geopolitical landscape, China’s OBOR initiative has achieved commendable progress since 2013,” says Datuk Ter Leong Yap, president of the Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia.

“China has made significant headway by kick-starting infrastructure and connectivity projects to facilitate trade and investment, promote financial cooperation as well as deepening cross border flow,” he adds.

Since 2013, China’s businessmen have built 56 economic and trade cooperation zones in belt-road countries, generating nearly US$1.1bil (RM4.7bil) in tax revenue and creating 180,000 jobs, according to Xinhua.

Large-scale infrastructure projects – along with funding – have led to a boom of economic activity in countries like Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, and Poland.

And in Asean, rail and ports projects are either being constructed or planned. These include the China-Laos Railway, Jakarta–Bandung High Speed Rail, Malaysia’s East Coast Rail Link and a high-speed rail project in Thailand.

And Eurasia, the vast landmass from China to Europe, is being interconnected into a massive market via high-speed China-Europe, trans-Eurasian direct trains.

These modern freight rail systems, which have replaced the silk-laden camels of the Han Dynasty, could transport goods at lower costs and more efficiently from China to European cities (and vise versa), compared to shipping.

In sum, China’s overland belt-road projects have achieved the objective of building a trans-national network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, and promoting economic development in participating countries.

And it looks like the current objective and scope will be widened to embrace nations outside the belt-road routes.

“China is upbeat about the initiative in boosting mutual development and is willing to channel more energy into it,” declared Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on April 21, when he briefed the media on the coming summit and forum.

“Win-win development will lie at the core of the forum. The Belt and Road has become the most important public good China has provided to the world. It was first proposed by China, but now it is for all countries to enjoy,” Wang said.

A total of 28 heads of state and government – including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak – have confirmed they will be attending the May 15 summit.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde will also be present.

Over 80 leaders from international organisations, 100 ministerial-level officials, as well as 1,200 delegates from various countries will be there, too.

President Xi will deliver a keynote speech, as well as host a roundtable meeting to brainstorm on policy and strategic development and interconnected development in the world.

There will be another high-level meeting to discuss infrastructure, trade and economic cooperation, energy resources, financial cooperation, eco-environment, and people-to-people exchanges.

According to Wang, China expects to sign agreements with around 20 countries and 20 organisations at the event to turn the grand blueprint into a workable road map, and to push for the delivery of joint projects under earlier MOUs.

He clarified that China has no intention of drawing geographical boundaries to areas covered by the initiative.

“As long as the spirit of the Belt and Road is recognised… everyone can enjoy its opportunities,” he said.

Japan sprang a surprise last week when Toshihiro Nikai, the secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said he would attend the New Silk Road summit.

“Given the international situation starting with North Korea, mutual understanding between Japan and China is vital,” he was quoted by Jiji News Agency as saying.

What lies ahead in 2017?

Over the past two years, China had generated huge momentum for its New Silk Road initiative by signing many MOUs on infrastructure projects with belt-road countries.

Chinese firms, mainly state-owned or controlled, had reportedly signed investment deals worth US$171bil (RM742bil). Among these was the US$46bil (RM200bil) China-Pakistan economic corridor.

The government of Xi is expected to start making good on these projects this year and help facilitate their financing and implementation.

Nearer home, the financing and construction of Malaysia’s RM55bil East Coast Rail Link is expected to start this year. The rail project is set to spur economic activities in the east coast states of the peninsula.

Wake Shepard, a China watcher and writer, expects increased economic participation from Europe.

“Beyond the further development of key trans-Eurasian logistics hubs on the Poland/Belarus border and a port in Greece, look for more high-end European products going overland by rail to China,” he wrote on Forbes.com.

Many Europe-based logistics giants have been promoting Europe-China rail transport in 2016, and in 2017 they should see results from these efforts, he added.

“European freight forwarders, manufacturers and policy makers are now waking up to the fact that these newly enhanced trade corridors are providing ample opportunity to get more of their high-value products to the booming markets of China and the rest of Asia,” says Shepard.

For China, the forum may be a good platform for it to listen to views on why some ventures did not progress well, such as its port-city investment in Sri Lanka.

Complaints that Chinese firms have posed unhealthy competition and threaten to wipe out small businesses of belt-road countries could also be on the table for deliberation.

The Middle Kingdom may also have to assess whether it is worthwhile to take risks in countries clouded by security issues, political instability and racial conflicts.

Belt road implications

The importance China has attached to the Belt and Road summit and forum goes to show how vital this international economic inclusive programme is to China and Xi.

It is imperative for Xi, who took over the presidency in late 2012, to show his ability to transform China into a global, influential leader.

After three decades of rapid growth, China needs to seek new investment and trade opportunities beyond its borders and the belt-road initiative mooted by Xi is addressing this predicament.

The infrastructure projects China build in belt-road countries will help absorb a significant portion of the country’s overcapacity, and counter its economic slowdown.

As western China has often been troubled by tension between the financially-weak Uighur Muslims and China’s Han majority in Xinjiang Province, economic development in this old silk road region may pacify the Uighurs and reduce ethnic conflicts.

But Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, sees China as having much bigger ambitions.

“China wants to consolidate its position at the centre of the global supply and manufacturing networks which will be the key to the global economy over the coming decades,” he wrote in a recent comment.

The initiative will also help China to realise its ambition to become a middle-income country and reinforce its parallel ambition to take the lead over the coming decades in developing key technologies and setting global standards – including for high-speed rail and data networks, he added.

He opined the Belt and Road Initiative could not be dismissed as a mere dream.

“It has the power and prestige of President Xi Jinping behind it. It is at the centre of his vision for China, and of his ambition to transform China’s place in the world during his time as its leader. And already it is starting to change the geo-economic and geopolitical landscape.”

“If America and its allies are determined to resist China’s challenge to the old US-led liberal global order, they have to counter Beijing’s powerful vision. And to do that they need an equally powerful and ambitious global economic vision.”

Source: by Ho Wah Foon The Star/ANN

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Datuk Adam Rosly amassed so much wealth under scrutiny by corruption agency


Anti-graft investigators looking into the case of Ampang PKR Youth chief Datuk Adam Rosly’s “unusual” wealth are trying to determine how the 29-year-old amassed a substantial amount of cash and property at his age.

Officers who went to Adam’s house, dubbed by many as “Disneyland castle” in Ampang, seized five cars – a Mini Cooper, a BMW 5 Series, a Mercedes C200, an Audi A6 and a Toyota Vellfire.

Eight accounts under Adam and his wife’s name, with money amounting to RM212,461.41, were frozen.

Adam, who was detained after his statement was recorded at the MACC headquarters on Thurs

day, has been remanded for five days to allow the commission to investigate him.

He arrived at the court complex at 9.30am yesterday, clad in the MACC orange lock-up attire and smiled to the waiting cameramen.

Lawyers Nik Zarith Nik Moustapha and Asyraf Othman, as well as his mother, wife, baby daughter and a group of friends were waiting for him in the courtroom.

Magistrate Nik Isfahanie Tasnim Wan Ab Rahman granted prosecutors’ request for him to be remanded until April 18.

The MACC is investigating the case under the Anti-Money Laun­dering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act.

Adam’s wealth came to the public’s attention after his political opponents questioned how he was able to afford his castle-style bungalow which they claimed cost RM7mil.

The special officer to Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin, however, said he bought the house for RM1mil at an auction.

He also claimed that his money came from business ventures and family inheritance.

A source said the big question was whether Adam was actually involved in “proper” business ventures that brought him that much profit.

“Does he really have a business, did he really inherit a substantial amount of money or did he obtain it from ‘brokering’ or some kind of borrowings. We are sure there are ways for MACC to get to the bottom of this,” said the source.

MACC deputy chief commissioner Datuk Azam Baki said officers were still investigating the case.

“They are still finding more evidence and going through documents.

“Let them probe and we will see what comes out of it,” he added.

Source: The Star/ANN

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Developer has to compensate buyers for delays of projects, Court says


 

 
Take them to task: According to the liquidated damages clause, condo buyers can claim 10 per annum of the purchase price for the delay

KUALA LUMPUR: The Housing Controller has no power to grant an extension of time to developers who delay the completion of housing projects, the High Court has ruled in a landmark judgment.

This means a housing developer has to pay compensation to the affected buyers for delays in the delivery of vacant possession.

High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) judge Justice Hanipah Farikullah also held that the regulation which empowers the Controller to modify terms of the contract of sale was ultra vires the Housing Development, Control and Licensing Act.

The judge said this in allowing an application for judicial review by 71 buyers of the Sri Istana condominiums in Old Klang Road against the Housing Controller and Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister.

Their lead counsel Datuk Wong Kok Leong told The Star the judge held that the minister’s decision to grant the developer an extension of time to complete the project via a letter dated Nov 17, 2015 was invalid.

In the letter, the minister had granted the developer a 12-month extension to complete the project.

“This means that the Housing Controller has no power to grant an extension of time to housing developers for any delay in completing their projects,” Wong said.

“Now, the developer has to pay the liquidated damages (a pre-determined sum) for late delivery of vacant possession of those condominium units.”

Wong called the decision a landmark judgment as many project developers seek extensions to complete their projects in Malaysia.

“This is a victory for all house buyers. With this ruling, the housing developer can’t just go to the Housing Controller for an extension of time to complete the project in order to avoid paying the liquidated damages to house buyers.

“This is because if an extension of time is allowed, house buyers lose their rights to claim damages for late delivery of vacant possession,” he added.

Wong explained that according to the liquidated damages clause, the condo buyers can claim 10% per annum of the purchase price for the delay.

In their application for judicial review, the condo buyers stated that they wanted to quash the decision allowing BHL Construction Sdn Bhd an extension of time for the delivery of vacant possession from 36 months to 48 months.

They also asked the court for a declaration that Regulation 11(3) was ultra vires of the Housing Development Act (Control and Licensing) Act.

Wong said the judge has ordered the parties to address the issue of costs on the next date for case management.

When contacted, SFC Mohamad Rizal said the judge also allowed a similar application involving another group of condominium buyers involving the same developer and project.

Source: By  m. mageswari, royce tan, thean lee cheng, eugene mahalingam, The Star

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