Counterfeit medicines and drugs, a public health menance !


Fake medicines may contain toxic substances that include heavy metals (e.g. aresenic) and additives (e.g. steroids). – AFP

The drugs you are taking may be fake

Counterfeit drugs are a booming criminal industry with serious consequences for public health.

Many of us have a strong faith in the power of modern medicine.

We go to the doctor or pharmacist, get the prescribed pills, take them religiously and expect to be cured of whatever ails us.

Oftentimes, this faith is justified, but in an age where fake products abound, have you ever wondered about the authenticity and quality of the drugs that you are ingesting?

According to a 2013 Emerging Markets Health Network report, 3-5% of all medicines being circulated in Malaysia were fakes.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam has also been reported as saying that the ministry had seized some 33,704 unregistered products worth RM43.22mil last year alone.

While this is not high compared to other middle- and low-income countries – for example, the International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group in Indonesia estimates that about one-quarter of medicines on the Indonesian market are fake – it is certainly something to be worried about as it concerns our health.

University of Oxford’s Reader in Tropical Medicine, Prof Dr Paul Newton says that it is difficult to estimate the global size of the problem as there is not enough data.

According to him, there are very few studies, and very few of those are done in a scientifically-rigorous manner, adding that there are certainly hotspots of such problems around the world.

Pfizer Global Security director Mark Robinson shares that the pharmaceutical company sees the highest number of fake drug seizures in Asia, compared to the rest of the world.

But he adds: “That’s because we are targeting (illegal) labs, seizing the drugs before they reach the market.” He observes that in 60 countries around the world, patients went into a legitimate, licensed pharmacy and got counterfeit drugs.

In addition, he notes that the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over half of those who buy drugs online from unverified websites receive counterfeit medicines.

Two types of fake

Fake drugs, also called poor quality drugs, can be divided into two types: counterfeit and substandard.

Prof Newton explains that counterfeit medicines are made by criminals with the intent to deceive patients and healthcare workers for monetary gain.

According to Robinson, these criminals include entrepreneurs, terrorist organisations, drug syndicates and weapons dealers.

 Brick dust, used to hold the fake pill together, as well as boric acid, leaded highway paint to provide the yellow colour, and floor wax to provide shine, were found to be used in the production of counterfeit mefenamic acid by an illegal lab in Colombia. – AFP

They do it, he says, because it is profitable, because they are pretty sure they won’t get caught, and because even if they do get caught, the penalties are very low compared to the amount of money they can make.

The danger of these drugs is that they can vary from not having any active pharmaceutical ingredient to containing toxic materials. (See What’s in your fake drug)

Active pharmaceutical ingredients are the chemical compounds that treat the medical condition.

Unlike counterfeit drugs, substandard drugs are made by the original or licensed manufacturer, but do not conform to the proper standard of quality.

They are “medicines with mistakes”, says Prof Newton.

These medicines occur due to errors in the factories. Sometimes, they can be small errors, and sometimes, they can be large errors, like using the wrong active ingredient, he says.

He opines that this problem is more likely to occur in low-income countries where there is a lack of drug regulation and quality control measures.

However, as with counterfeit drugs, it is difficult to estimate the size of this problem due to the lack of data.

“Not many people are actually looking (for this problem), so we might have an unpleasant surprise,” he says, adding that in terms of public health, substandard medicines are as dangerous as counterfeit drugs.

He adds that some companies are very active in ensuring that their products are good, but, like any human activity, some cut corners and skip the quality control.

Poor regulation

According to the WHO, only one-fifth of its member states have well-developed drug regulation; half have varying levels of regulation and enforcement; and the remaining 30% have either very limited or no drug regulation at all.

In Malaysia, Dr Subramaniam was reported as saying that online drug sales are a particularly hard area to enforce as the Customs Department does not screen packages valued below RM500, due to the very high number of such packages.

“We have asked the Customs Department to screen all packages, and they are trying to do it, but I think it is quite expensive to put such a system in place,” he said after opening the Access to Safe Medicines Training Conference organised by Mediharta Sdn Bhd in January.

Prof Newton was a speaker at the same conference, while Robinson was a speaker at the launch of Pfizer’s anti-counterfeit technology, Patient Authentication for Safety via SMS (PASS), in Malaysia.

According to Robinson, the top three drugs produced by Pfizer that are found to be counterfeited in Malaysia are erectile dysfunction drug, sildenafil; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat pain and inflammation, celecoxib; and hypertension drug, amlodipine.

He adds that it is not only branded drugs that are counterfeited, but also generic drugs that are no longer patented, like the NSAID mefenamic acid.

“People just want to use our good name (to sell fake drugs),” he says.

Prof Newton notes that antibiotics and cardiovascular drugs are also being increasingly counterfeited in South-East Asia.

He adds that it is not only drugs that are counterfeited, but also medical devices like cardiac stents, rapid diagnostic tests and insecticide-treated bed nets – a problem particularly rampant in Africa.

Bad effects

The effects of fake drugs can be felt both on the individual level, as well as on a wider scale. For the patient, taking counterfeit drugs can range from death to developing more serious health complications.

These health complications may be caused by the actual illness being untreated due to a lack of active ingredients in the counterfeit drug, or the drug containing either toxic ingredients or the wrong active ingredients.

The latter will also make it more complicated for doctors to treat the patients, as they might be confused by the incongruent symptoms.

Counterfeit or substandard drugs that contain less active ingredients than required can also cause drug resistance, particularly if they are antibiotics.

Prof Newton adds that consuming fake drugs also ends up incurring more expense on the patients’ part, as they don’t get better and keep on buying more medications.

Patients might also lose faith in the healthcare system, he says. “If you don’t trust the pharmaceutical companies or doctors, you won’t go back and might seek other alternatives.

He notes that fake drugs will also affect genuine pharmaceutical companies, as well as government healthcare systems and non-governmental organisations that inadvertently purchase these drugs.

Both Prof Newton and Robinson hope that governments around the world will take a stronger stance against counterfeit medicines, both in terms of enacting relevant legislation with much stronger penalties for those producing fake drugs, as well as in terms of enforcement.

Patients should also be more careful of what they consume.

For example, signs that a medicine could be fake include an excessively low price, flimsy or unprofessional packaging, and not requiring a doctor’s or pharmacist’s prescription for non-OTC (over the counter) drugs.

An example of the holographic security label for registered Malaysian drugs, which features the hibiscus symbol, serial number and the letters PBKD and DCA. All drug packaging must have this label. – Photo: Health Ministry

An example of the holographic security label for registered Malaysian drugs, which features the hibiscus symbol, serial number and the letters PBKD and DCA. All drug packaging must have this label. – Photo:

An example of the holographic security label for registered Malaysian drugs, which features the hibiscus symbol, serial number and the letters PBKD and DCA. All drug packaging must have this label. – Photo: Health Ministry

In Malaysia, registered drugs also have a holographic security sticker on their packaging.

Related:

 

The counterfeit menace – Health

The Malaysian Education: bleak and bright side, a wake-up call


PISA-banner

The bleak and bright side of Malaysian Education

Malaysia may be getting dismal marks for education but there are dedicated people making a difference to improve scores.

IT’S probably the best definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The famous quote is often wrongly attributed to Albert Einstein but whoever said that, it makes sense, especially in the context of the Malaysian education system.

It’s madness to continue spending billions on education without seeing any improvements in quality.

The Education Ministry has been allocated RM56bil this year, RM1.4bil more than what it received last year.

Our expenditure on basic education is more than double that of other Asean countries and also South Korea and Japan.

Yet Malaysia remains stuck at the bottom third of the global schools league, as confirmed by the results from recent assessments such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s 2012 study, based on test scores in mathematics and science among 15-year-olds in 76 countries, shows that Malaysia is languishing at 52nd, way below top-ranked Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

Our students were out-performed by Vietnam (12), Thailand (47), Kazakhstan and Iran (51). In Asean, Malaysia only ranked higher than Indonesia (69).

In March, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said he was shocked by Malaysia’s poor results in international education assessments and admitted that the standards were not good enough.

He said the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (Preschool to Secondary) and the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) were designed to improve the system, stressing that time was needed to see the changes.

The truth is, we don’t have the luxury of time and patience is wearing thin.

We inherited a solid education system after independence, just as Singapore did. But over the past three decades, successive ministers of education have made a mess of tinkering with the system, mostly for political motives.

Earlier this month, Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar suggested that Malaysia emulate Singapore’s education system with English as the sole medium of instruction.

Urging the people to be open-minded about the proposal, he said Singapore’s single-stream education system had not only helped to foster unity in the republic but also created a prosperous society.

It is still not too late to bring back the era of racial harmony and unity experienced by people of my generation, who are products of English schools during the 60s and 70s.

As the Johor Sultan has pointed out, there would always be a gap between the races in the country if our education system continues to be based on race and language, not to mention the increasing influence of religion.

But in spite of the weaknesses in the system, it is heartening to see committed parent-teacher associations and non-governmental organisations pushing fervently to get situations improved.

Last Saturday, I was at Sunway University where groups of eager teenagers were taking part in a Young Inventor Challenge, organised by the Association of Science, Technology and Innovation (ASTI), an NGO of volunteers who have been mentoring and encouraging students to excel in science.

ASTI is led by the unassuming Dr Mohamed Yunus Mohamed Yasin, who is credited with bringing about change in the attitude towards science and maths in Tamil schools across the country.

I wouldn’t have known about the quiet science revolution if not for blogger Syed Akbar Ali’s recent post about what Dr Yunus and his group of dedicated friends have been doing over the past 12 years.

As a result of participating in ASTI’s Science Fair for Young Children, Tamil schools are scoring top grades for science and maths in the UPSR.

Last year, SRJK (Tamil) Taman Tun Aminah, Johor Baru, emerged as the top school for the UPSR with 43 pupils scoring straight 7As while others scored 7Bs.

They are making headlines abroad too. In March, three students of SJK(T) Ramakrishna, Penang, beat 300 contestants from all over the world to win first prize at the 35th Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition.

Durgashini Srijayan, Kumurthashri Ponniah and Sugheson Ganeson won the gold medal under the Excellent Youth Science Creation category of the contest for their invention of an eco-friendly thermo container.

In October last year, SJK (T) Kulim’s R. Prevena, V Susheetha and former student R. Rasyikash won the Double Gold Award at the British Invention Show in London for their energy-saving drinks-dispensing machine.

Building on the successes of the science fairs, ASTI started the Young Inventors Challenge, which is open to all secondary schools, three years ago. From the initial 19, the number of schools has since increased to almost 200, including a team from Singapore.

ASTI also organises Creative and Critical Thinking Camps designed for primary schools up to tertiary level, and the ASTI Innovation Community Award to recognise the contributions of individuals or groups using science and technology for beneficial projects.

It also works with Germany’s Goethe Institute in organising the annual Science Film Fest to produce documentaries and teaching films about science.

And it has been doing all these with an annual budget of RM800,000, raised largely from well-wishers, including its 400 volunteers.

Dr Yunus’ philosophy is simple: “Stop complaining, get involved. As patriots, we can help the country do well too.”

By Veera Pandiyan

> Associate editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes William Butler Yeat’s definition of education: it is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.

Take OECD education report as a wake-up call
The Star Says

ITS does not feel good to know that a new report by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development places us at 52nd among 76 countries in terms of our students’ grasp of basic skills.

Singapore takes the top spot, thus reinforcing the recent call by Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Sultan Iskandar that we emulate the island nation’s single-stream education system, which uses English as the medium of instruction.

He said having schools in only one stream would unite Malay­sians and boost their competitiveness.

These developments tell us that our education system can be a lot better. Then again, we all know that.

The fact that Malaysia has two education blueprints – one focusing on preschool education and primary and secondary schools, and the other on higher education – shows that the Government is already taking steps to transform our education system.

The blueprints’ plans stretch until 2025, which means we should not hope for many overnight improvements.

Meanwhile, it is wise for us to keep enhancing our understan­ding of exactly how our shared prosperity is built on education.

New ideas and insights in this area are valuable because they help us to shape and refine policies and practices relating to the education system. At the very least, they encourage us to see things in a different light.

It is clichéd to say education is the cornerstone of development, but what if somebody comes up with projections of how much economies can benefit if school enrolment and education quality go up?

In fact, the OECD has done just that in a report titled “Universal Basic Skills: What Countries Stand to Gain”. Published on Wednesday, it is the same report that has Malaysia in the bottom third of the class based on our teenagers’ mathematics and science scores in international tests.

Let us not get hung up on these rankings. The report is 116 pages long and has a lot more to offer than bragging rights and naming-and-shaming opportunities.

For instance, it makes abundantly clear that an underperforming education sector costs a country dearly. The OECD warns that poor education policies and practices will result in a loss of economic output amounting to a permanent state of economic recession.

The organisation also points out that high-income status does not automatically eliminate shortco­mings in education.

It is also interesting that the OECD argues that when there is universal achievement of basic skills in a country, its economic growth will be more inclusive.

The report suggests that there is still much to learn about how we can strengthen our education policies. We should be open to fresh thinking and approaches.

At the same time, we must not waver from the commitment and noble intentions reflected in the blueprints.

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05 Dec 2013
Malaysia, US, UK and Australia lag in global education rankings as China and Asian countries rise to the top. Chapter 1. What is PISA? Malaysia students score below global average.

Big homegrown successes in India from Sillicon Valley’s returning ‘fail fast’ engineers


India Startups

Taking failure as a norm would be a major cultural shift in India, where high-achieving children are expected to take steady jobs at recognised job

India learns to ‘fail fast’ with startups

Families that expect children to have respectable jobs may be beginning to accept failure as the tech industry starts to come of age.

After ping pong tables, motivational posters and casual dress codes, India’s tech startups are following Silicon Valley’s lead and embracing the “fail fast” culture credited with fuelling creativity and success in the United States.

Taking failure as a norm is a major cultural shift in India, where high-achieving children are typically expected to take steady jobs at recognised firms. A failed venture hurts family status and even marriage prospects.

But that nascent acceptance, fuelled by returning engineers and billions of dollars in venture fund investment, is for many observers a sign that India’s US$150bil tech industry is coming of age, moving from a back-office powerhouse to a creative force.

“There is obviously increased acceptance,” said Raghunandan G, co-founder of TaxiForSure, which was sold to rival Ola this year. He is now investing in other early stage ventures.

“My co-founder Aprameya (Radhakrishna) used to have lines of prospective brides to meet … the moment we started our own company, all those prospective alliances disappeared. No one wanted their daughters to marry a startup guy.”

Srikanth Chunduri returned to India after studying at Duke University in the US, and is now working on his second venture. “I think what’s encouraging is that acceptance of failure is increasing despite the very deep-rooted Asian culture where failure is a big no,” he said.

IT’S OK TO FAIL

The shift has come about, executives say, as engineers began returning from Silicon Valley to cash in on India’s own boom, as hundreds of millions of Indians go online.

“Investors too want to find the next Flipkart, and most of them come from Silicon Valley backgrounds, so they bring that culture,” said Stewart Noakes, co-founder of TechHub, a global community and workspace for tech entrepreneurs. “That’s changing the Indian norms. It’s becoming ok to fail and try again.”

Big names like Flipkart can also mean the prospect of a lucrative exit for investors, covering a multitude of failures. To be sure, the pace of change is slow in altering a culture that has produced top software engineers for decades, but – as yet – no Google, Apple or Twitter.

Cheap engineering talent keeps startups afloat far longer than in Silicon Valley, where companies last less than two years on average. And the freedom to fail remains restricted to a small portion of India’s corporate fabric, booming tech cities like Bengaluru or Gurgaon outside New Delhi.

There is also still no revolving door with big corporates, whom one senior Bengaluru headhunter described as beating down salaries of executives who dared to risk – but then came back.

ROLE MODELS

India Startups_Flipkart

India learns to ‘fail fast’ as tech startup culture takes root

But big homegrown successes like e-tailers Flipkart and Snapdeal or mobile advertising firm InMobi, as well as the multi-billion dollar firms set up by former executives from the likes of Amazon.com, Microsoft and Google, have created role models, encouraging graduates to take risks.

“With success stories, people accept it as a legitimate exercise,” said Ryan Valles, former CEO of coupon site DealsandYou and a former executive at Accel Partners, now working on a new project.

Meanwhile, billions in investor funding have fed the sector. External cash – as opposed to more traditional bank loans tied to individuals, or family savings – makes a difference. Failing there can involve walking away Silicon Valley-style, not years of court proceedings in a country with no formal bankruptcy law.

There has also been, to date, no major collapse.

“What’s happening is healthy: people recognising that some things will fail, that it’s largely a failure-based industry, in the same way that movies, music or pharmaceuticals are,” said Shikhar Ghosh, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School.

An estimated 70-90% of start-ups fail.

But the biggest test may be the first bust after the boom.

“That will be the test: whether people come back into the market and how they treat the people who lost their money,” said Ghosh. – Reuters

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Malaysia’s property market seen next high in 2018


Property market next high
SK Brothers Realty Sdn Bhd general manager Chan Ai Cheng (filepic) believes the market would bounce back as soon as the Government decides to “boost the sector,” namely, measures promoting the industry. “We hope the market will return within the next two years,” she said.


‘Next market high’ for property seen in 2018

PETALING JAYA: A combination of pent-up demand, improved buyer sentiment and overall business environment is expected to spur the local property market to its “next market high” in 2018.

PPC International Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Siva Shanker said conditions have been improving albeit slowly, with the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) not really having much of an impact as originally expected.

“GST came and went and everyone is still carrying on. But the general perception is that business is slow. When things are slow, the first thing that suffers will be property, because it is a big-ticket item.”

Siva said property transactions, not prices, have been spiralling since 2012.

“But we believe things (transactions) are improving already and we expect 2018 to be the next market high,” he said.

SK Brothers Realty Sdn Bhd general manager Chan Ai Cheng believes the market would bounce back as soon as the Government decides to “boost the sector,” namely, measures promoting the industry.

“We hope the market will return within the next two years,” she said.

Chan admitted that property transactions this year have been a little slower compared with the same period in 2014.

“From our marketing activities and road shows so far, it (transactions) has reduced compared with last year. There’s a bit of hesitation.

She added that the central bank’s tighter lending rules has had an impact on transactions.

“Year-to-date bookings have been about the same as last year, but conversions into sales are not the same.”

An AmResearch report last week reaffirmed an “overweight” outlook for the local property sector.

“While we expect residential prices to continue moving sideways in 2015, a return of pent-up demand towards end-2015 – barring external shocks – is possible as the market is still awash with liquidity.

“Besides that, property cooling measures and post GST impact appears to have already been priced-in, given the steep 52% discount that property stocks within our coverage currently trade at vis-à-vis their respective net asset value.”

In terms of property sub-segments, Siva feels that high-end condominiums are oversupplied within the Klang Valley.

“With that, owners will have problems selling. The landed (residential), industrial and commercial sectors, I believe, will be alright.”

He said the office subsector was also oversupplied – but added that it wasn’t a worrying situation.

“In the short-to-medium term, the oversupply will be absorbed. This is normal. Not every building will be fully taken up – it usually takes a while to get tenants anyway.”

In terms of pricing, Siva said secondary property prices were between 20% and 40% cheaper than new launches.

“It’s the secondary market that’s doing better now. But the focus should be on affordable homes, namely those below the RM500,000-range.

“Landed property within this price range is grossly undersupplied,” he said.

Source: By EUGENE MAHALINGAM The Star/Asia News Network

Related:

House prices will rise 25.7% by 2018 Savills predicts

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New kid on the block: Singapore’s ‘shoebox king’ Oxley spices up Kuala Lumpur a record RM3,300 per sq ft

Deterrent action for housing developers mooted


DEVELOPERS who carry out earthworks without approvals or permits from the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) could face the possibility of having their applications for future development projects frozen for five to 10 years.

Bukit Setiawangsa concrete embankment has collapsed due to soil erosion

Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow (DAP – Padang Kota) suggested that stringent action be taken against such errant developers.

“The state government or the city council will freeze all future development applications of such developers between five and 10 years, if they are found to be carrying out illegal earthworks.

“Such action needs to be taken against these ‘environmental violators or sinners’ to curb illegal hill clearing,” Chow said during his winding-up speech at the state assembly yesterday.

He said if such measures were imposed, developers would be more concerned and serious about getting valid approval for earthworks.

Chow added that MBPP was also seriously looking into the hill clearing issue at Bukit Relau.

“MBPP has met General Accomplishment Sdn Bhd (GASB), which is responsible for the mitigation works on the hill, 13 times since April 26 last year.

“The city council has issued order notices to the company for more mitigation works .

“GASB has carried out hydro-seeding and close-turfing works to minimise the soil erosion on the hill.

“The company has also been ordered by MBPP to supervise the close-turfing, trench and sediment pond at the hill, so that the soil erosion can be controlled,” he added.

Besides that, Chow said a stop- work order had been issued to the developer who had been carrying out illegal earthworks near the Teluk Bahang Dam on Jan 12.

Related:

Erosion worsens on Bukit Relau despite slope repairs

This was confirmed during a site inspection by the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) on Nov 2 after the scars on its slopes had appeared to worsen despite the landowner having been convicted by the courts.

The Penang government has however denied that the controversial clearing activity has continued, saying that new damage to the hill are due to landslips and erosion.

A gully at the damaged site on Bukit Relau.Chow Kon Yeow, the state executive councillor for local government, today refuted allegations that the earthworks activity has expanded.

He explained that the apparent increase in the hill’s scarring is due to landslips that happened following mitigation works on the slopes.

“The earlier mitigation has not been effective,” he said. “The grass did not grow well. And the rainy season in September and October caused erosion and landslips.”

He added that MPPP engineers together with MPPP secretary Ang Aing Thye and representatives of landowner General Accomplishment Sdn Bhd (GASB) were present at the site visit on Nov 2 to inspect the conditions.

GASB has since been asked to engage a landscape consultant to improve the situation.

“The landowner must then submit an earthworks plan to the MPPP to approve the mitigation works,” he said.

Chow said this during a visit to the site of the Briksa community park in Farlim where the MPPP is expected to complete landscaping and building of recreational facilities by next month at a cost of RM649,930.

Deep gullies seen at site

Meanwhile, MPPP councillor Dr Lim Mah Hui expressed alarm at photographs of deep gullies taken by a group of hikers and nature lovers at the site last week.

“From the pictures they took, one can see that the erosion is bad,” he said. “It is so clear that they are not just landslips. There are gullies that are about six and seven feet deep.”

“I have raised this matter before in MPPP but nothing is being done. I am a lone voice in the wilderness,” he said. “The media should do its part to highlight this matter.”

Lim lamented that six months have passed since the general election and nothing significant has happened on the site even though Batu Uban assemblyman Dr T Jayabalan and Seri Delima assemblyman RSN Rayer have brought this matter up with the state.

About six acres cleared

When contacted, Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping, one of the four directors of GASB, said the mitigation work done following the stop-work order by MPPP was only to cover the exposed soil with white and blue plastics but that was not adequate.

“Due to the sun, rain and wind, the plastic covering came off and withered. We stopped covering the soil in September to submit the rectification plan,” he said

“I know the erosion is bad because the covers came off. But every time it rains, about six to seven workers are there daily to check on the condition and make sure the lower parts of the area are not badly affected,” he stressed.

He added that the cleared land spans about six acres but the remedial works would involve 30 per cent of the land.

“This will ensure erosion and soil run-off do not occur in future. We will listen to the consultant’s advice on whether to plant grass or trees and spend as much money as needed to repair the damage caused by the clearing,” he added.

The controversy over the clearing, which can be seen from many parts of Penang, blew up in April.

On July 11, GASB was sentenced to a fine of RM30,000, in default of three years jail, by the Penang Sessions Court.

The maximum sentence for the offence is jail term not exceeding five years or a fine of not more than RM50,000, or both.

The deputy public prosecutor has since filed an appeal so that a heavier sentence can be meted out.

by Himanshu Bhatt and Sangeetha Amarthalingam The Nation Malaysian Insider

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Singapore is Asia’s best place to be mum, peoples back to being courteous & gracious


Singapore_mum best place

 A class for mothers carrying babies here. Singapore was ranked ahead of the next-best Asian countries South Korea and Japan in the latest Mothers’ Index. This rates countries based on five indicators relating to maternal health, children’s well-being, education, income levels and the political status of women. — ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Singapore is the best country in Asia to be a mother.

The Republic came out tops in the region in an annual index released by international aid agency Save the Children and was also ranked 14th worldwide, well ahead of the next-best Asian countries South Korea and Japan in 30th and 32nd spots.

Singapore moved up from 15th spot worldwide last year but short of its 2002 best of 13th.

Norway topped the international chart, beating last year’s winner Finland, while the United States was 33rd.

The 16th annual Mothers’ Index, released on Monday, rates 179 countries based on five indicators relating to maternal health, children’s well-being, education, income levels and the political status of women.

Singaporean women have a one in 13,900 risk of dying in childbirth while the infant mortality rate here is 2.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Gross national income per capita is US$54,040 (S$72,000). For these three measures, Singapore was placed among the top 10 countries globally.

But its ranking was pulled down by weaker performance in the educational and political arenas.

Children are expected to complete about 15.4 years of formal schooling here and a quarter of seats in the government are held by women.

In comparison, Norway recorded a national income of US$102,610. Political participation of its women is close to 40 per cent and children are expected to finish 17.5 years of school.

The US’ poor showing is partly due to its high risk for maternal death – one in 1,800, the worst level in any developed country.

Ms Sylvia Choo, director of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Women’s Development Secretariat, said Singapore has done well because of its strong investment in education and in ensuring that medical care remains accessible.

Since 2000, Singapore has cut its risk of maternal death by over 75 per cent, from one in 3,500 to one in 13,900.

Other experts say the findings, while commendable, should not be a reason for complacency.

They pointed out that the index tracks only parameters such as wealth, education and healthcare and does not take into account other pertinent issues specific to developed economies.

“It does not address the parent-friendliness of workplace policies, culture and practice,” said Ms Jolene Tan from the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware). “Some countries ranked lower on the index such as the United Kingdom and Ireland have much more generous parental leave than Singapore.

“It also doesn’t consider security of employment. A mother who returns from maternity leave to find her position terminated has little recourse in Singapore, but she can invoke legal protection such as unfair dismissal claims in jurisdictions such as Canada, the UK and Ireland – all ranked less highly in this report.”

Save the Children’s chief executive Carolyn Miles said the data confirmed that a country’s economic wealth is not the sole factor leading to maternal happiness, but also that policies must be put in place to support mothers.

In the case of Norway, “they do have wealth, but they also invest that wealth in things like mothers and children as a very high priority”, said Ms Miles.

Ms Yeo Miu Ean, president of Women Empowered for Work and Mothering, said the fertility rate here remains low because some women want to avoid the dilemma of having to choose between work and children.

“They do not want to give their children the time or energy that is left over from work,” she said.

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser agreed.

“Compared with the Nordic countries, we still need to catch up on gender inequality in terms of shared childcare responsibilities and work-life balance.”

By Janice Tai The Straits Times/Asia News Network, jantai@sph.com.sg

Singaporeans back to being courteous, survey shows

AFTER two years in which it seemed Singapore was becoming a less gracious country, one social barometer suggests it is back on its best behaviour.

The Singapore Kindness Move­ment (SKM), which has been releasing the annual Graciousness Index since 2008, revealed yesterday that the country scored 61 out of 100 this year, matching the highs it hit in 2010 and 2012.

It is a big jump from last year’s score of 55 and the record low of 53 in 2013.

The index measures “behaviour consistent with social standards and expectations based on the time, place and people around” and polled 1,850 people, including foreigners, between last December and February.

SKM general secretary Dr William Wan said: “If we as a nation continue this positive trend, kindness and graciousness can become part of our norms and national identity.”

He added that more stories of kindness were being reported on social media, while mainstream media had been highlighting disaster relief efforts.

Scores for people’s experience and perception of graciousness told different stories in the index.

They were asked if they had received, done or witnessed “a random act of kindness” in the six months before they were polled.

Scores in this component fell but were offset by improvements in the perception ratings, with respondents rating themselves and others higher when it came to being considerate, courteous and showing appreciation.

About 44% polled felt Singapore had become more gracious, up from 28% last year.

Asked who was responsible for making Singapore a gracious place to live in, more than seven in 10 respondents pointed to the Government, while six in 10 said themselves.

Dr Wan said the Education Ministry had an important role in fostering character development.

“I’d like to see 80% or 90% of people saying ‘kindness can start with me’,” he said. “We must take ownership.”

The SKM also studied attitudes towards neighbourliness and parenting.

Over 40% wanted more neighbourliness in their communities but among this group, fear and awkwardness were cited as stumbling blocks.

Nearly six in 10 respondents, including non-parents, felt parents did not lead by example when it came to being gracious.

Senior marketing manager Joyce Teng, 53, agreed that it was important for parents to be good role models.

Her daughter Emily founded Blessings in a Bag, which sends donated clothes and school supplies to the needy in Asia.

Teng said: “Instilling the qualities of kindness and giving is our responsibility as parents. I’m proud to see that Emily is now leading by example.” — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

How can Singapore improve its graciousness? Chief of Singapore Kindness Movement has some tips

By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 6 May 2015

Singapore scored 61 out of 100 in the latest Graciousness Index released on Tuesday. The Straits Times asked Dr William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement what areas Singaporeans can improve in.

Public debate –
It appears to me that we have not learned to engage each other in real constructive debate. In choosing our sides of an argument, we neglect to listen and seem unable to consider viewpoints that run contrary to our own, and the next inevitability follows: name-calling, abusive statements, or worse. And to say the least, that is most ungracious! This behaviour is also not unique to the online space, but can also spill over into everyday life.

Road users –

Other than giving up seats on public transport which has improved every year, every other behaviour related to transport or road usage falls below 6. Our partners like the Land Transport Authority and the public transport organisations have now taken the lead in continuing to encourage more improvement in public transport behaviour, and we have
gladly taken a supportive back seat.

 

Our plans going forward include seeking out partnerships with bodies or associations dealing with private road users such as motorists, cyclists, pedestrians.

Cleanliness/environment –

We should treat our shared public spaces (our nation!) in the same way we treat our own homes. It’s not just about litter, it can even be as basic as the unhygienic scraps we tend to leave behind at hawker centre tables. We wouldn’t do that in our own homes, would we? Even if we had a domestic helper, we would ensure that the mess is cleaned up
immediately.

And when asked what is one area that could help Singapore make a big improvement in its graciousness index score?

Neighbourliness –
While our findings are quite positive about the current state, we also see the desire for more neighbourliness, but some uncertainty, fear or awkwardness on how to get started. If we live in comfortable and positive neighbourhood environments, it will be just so much more pleasant for us. And we will take that positivity and pleasantness to other people in other shared public spaces.

The Graciousness Index has continued to move up, from 53 in 2013 to 55 in 2014, and to 61 in 2015. This year’s rise is led by a growing sense of positive perceptions about kindness and graciousness in Singapore, with respondents rating both themselves and others higher when it comes to being considerate, courteous and showing appreciation. Read more: http://kindness.sg/blog/2015/05/05/graciousness-index-shows-further-improvement/

Milestone for tech firm: Toray Group starts production of battery film at new division in Penang


Toray Battery film Penang openingRed letter day: (From left) Hagiwara, Lim and Toray Battery Separator Film Co Ltd president O. Inoue checking out Penfibre products used in electronic tools during the opening of the division.

'TORAY'Innovation by ChemistryPenfibre Sdn Bhd has launched its Battery Separator Film (BSF) division in Bayan Lepas, Penang. The company is a member of  Toray Group in Malaysia and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Toray Industries, Inc

Penfibre Sdn Bhd managing director K. Kurokawa said the company obtained its International Procurement Centre licence last year to process and market BSF in Penang.

“Located at our sister company’s premises Penfabric in the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone, the RM15mil BSF project was smoothly completed last year despite extensive renovation work.

“Commercial production started early this year,” he said in his speech during the opening of the BSF division at the Equatorial Hotel recently.

He added that the division was capable of producing a high value-added BSF trademark under the name of Setela for supply to regional buyers for use in lithium batteries.

Toray Industries Inc senior vice president S. Hagiwara said Toray was a leading global supplier of polyester film, commanding a combined global market share of about 20%.

Toray produces and sells many types of films under the trademark ‘Lumirror’. They are used in a wide range of applications.

“To date, we have established sound manufacturing and delivery systems at six major bases worldwide in Japan, the United States, France, Korea, China and Malaysia,” said Hagiwara.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said Toray was now one of the single largest investors in Penang and Malaysia.

“Thank you to Toray for providing thousands of job opportunities for Malaysians over the last four decades,” he said.

He said Penang’s approved manufacturing investments increased to RM8.2bil last year, which is a 109% increase from RM3.9bil in 2013.

“This made Penang the state with the highest investment after Johor and Sarawak,” he said.

He added that total investments in Penang increased to RM48.2bil from 2008 to 2014.

Lim also commended Toray Group (Malaysia) for their contributions via several corporate social responsibility programmes.

These included providing the RM6mil electronic scoreboard at Batu Kawan Stadium in 1999 and setting up the Malaysia Toray Science Foundation in 1993 and the Toray USM Knowledge Transfer Centre with a donation of RM4mil.

Toray also contributed RM300,000 towards the Tech-Dome Penang project recently.- The Starmetro

THE OPENING OF PENFIBRE BATTERY SEPARATOR FILM (BSF) DIVISION

SPEECH BY YAB TUAN LIM GUAN ENG THE RIGHT HONORABLE CHIEF MINISTER OF PENANG
AT THE LUNCHEON HELD IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE OPENING OF PENFIBRE BATTERY SEPARATOR FILM (BSF) DIVISION
ON 23RD APRIL 2015 AT HOTEL EQUATORIAL, PENANG

Good afternoon.

It is indeed a great pleasure for me to attend this luncheon, held in conjunction with the official opening of the Battery Separator Film Division at Penfibre this morning.

On behalf of the government and people of Penang, I would like to extend our heartiest congratulations to Toray for another milestone in your business expansion, particularly in the State of Penang.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

From a humble beginning where Toray Industries Inc., Japan first invested in Penang in 1973, we are proud to see that TORAY Group (Malaysia) has grown and expanded tremendously over the last 40 over years. With approximately RM4.5 billion investment to date and annual sales revenue of over RM4.1 billion from Penfibre, Penfabric, Toray Plastics (Malaysia) and Toray BASF PBT Resin, Toray is now one of the single largest investors in Penang and Malaysia. Thank you to Toray for providing thousands of job opportunities to our Malaysians over the last 4 decades.

Penang’s approved manufacturing investments increased to RM 8.2 billion in year 2014 compared to RM 3.9 billion in year 2013, a significant 109% increased. This made Penang the top 3 State with the highest investment, after Johor and Sarawak. Total investments in Penang has increased 93.6% to RM48.2 billion for the seven years period of 2008 to 2014, compared to the previous seven years period of 2001 to 2007 which was only RM24.9 billion. The jobs created has also increased 20.1% to 109,592 compared to 91,252 for the same period.

Going forward, it is important for Penang to stress on establishing Penang as a centre of science and technology through the Tech-Dome Penang project. Supported by our strong commitment to the Penang Government’s CAT policy, which stresses on “Competency”, “Accountability” and “Transparency”, it is our fervent hope that the bond and cooperation between all stakeholders will bring about a better tomorrow for every one of us.

I am happy to note that TORAY Group (Malaysia) has never failed in coming forward to support our nation building, through the various community projects under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), namely:

• the RM2.5 Million Seberang Jaya Swimming Pool Complex in 1982,

• the RM6.0 Million Electronic Scoreboard at Batu Kawan Stadium in 1999,

• the establishment of the Malaysia Toray Science Foundation (MTSF) in 1993 to promote science and technology in Malaysia,

• the setting up of the “TORAY-USM KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER CENTRE” with a donation of RM4.0 Million to Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), and

• the recent cash contribution of RM300 thousand towards the Tech-Dome Penang project.

In conclusion, I would like to once again congratulate Toray for having successfully established this new BSF Division in Penang. I am confident that Toray Group will enjoy even greater success in your future endeavors.

Thank you.

Chief Minister of Penang – Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang

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