Pakatan Harapan government plunges in popularity


 

 

The Pakatan government has little choice nor time to check the slide on its popularity and goodwill from voters.

WHAT a difference a year makes. In a week, the Pakatan Harapan government will mark its first year in power but in stark contrast to the height of popularity it enjoyed then, support for the coalition has plunged.

A recent poll by the Merdeka Centre showed that the administration’s approval rating sank to 39% in March, a drastic drop from 79% recorded in May 31 last year.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s performance approval rating as Prime Minister declined too – from 71% in August 2018 to 46% last month.

The survey firm polled 1,204 registered voters in March to gauge their opinions on the country’s economy, leadership and current issues.

Pakatan’s descent in popularity was attributed to the state of the economy as felt by consumers, the perceived strength of the government, anxieties over Malay rights and privileges and the treatment of other races in the country.

According to the findings, public satisfaction in Pakatan’s administration of the economy fell from 60% to 40% with voters largely unhappy with the rise in the cost of living.

The majority of respondents also disagreed with policies such as the move to abolish the death penalty while many were also against the scrapping of exams for Primary 1 to 3 and the plan to impose taxes on sugary drinks. Only 34% of voters polled were of the view that the country was headed in the right direction, with Malay respondents weighing in lower at 24%.

The survey showed that the main concern of Malaysians was the economy at 63%, followed by race-related issues and the flip-flop on decisions such as the government’s decision to withdraw from ratifying the International Conven­tion on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd).

On the plus side, worries over corruption declined to 23% from 33% while 67% of respondents agreed that the government should be given more time to fulfil its election promises.

Its support rating may have dropped but to be fair, the Pakatan government has not done too badly since taking over, considering the state of the economy and the massive debts that it inherited from the previous disgraced administration.

Of course, there is much more to do, like addressing the cost of living, fulfilling housing needs and providing sustainable healthcare but the government has already fulfilled nearly a third of its pledges, im­p­roved its overall financial position and has made significant moves to tackle corruption in the civil service.

Ironically, the freer media landscape today is contributing to the perception that the Pakatan government is performing poorly or unable to handle issues raised by the opposition, especially those related to race and religion.

Malaysia has risen 22 places to rank 123 out of 180 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). It now tops countries in South-East Asia – above Indonesia (124), the Philippines (134), Thailand (136), Myanmar (138), Cambodia (143), Singapore (151), Brunei (152), Laos (171) and Vietnam (176).

Unlike in the past, opposition parties now get unfettered coverage in the media and the welcome change has led to the diffusion of a more diverse range of views.

However, the new government has been rather inept in conveying its message on a wide range of issues in the print, online and social media since taking over Putrajaya.

It is also guilty of being sluggish in countering negative reactions or stemming news designed to elicit racial or religious sentiments, as could be seen in the cases of ratification of the Icerd, the Rome Statute and the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman temple riots.

Opposition politicians and their supporters have been quick to exploit this weakness to manipulate opinion in the freer media environment.

A recent example is lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s briefings to the media in the ongoing trial of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak over funds worth RM42mil from SRC International Sdn Bhd. It is clear that he is using the media to advocate the defence’s contention that Najib’s bank account was misused by people who were unauthorised, including Jho Low, as well as some rogue bankers.

In statements designed to strike a chord with those who may find it tedious to follow the proceedings, he claimed that the former PM would most likely turn out as a “victim” in the end.

As for getting away with untrue claims in the media, one such example was a supposedly secret “side agreement” for the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) to enable a trade-off of 4,500 acres of land to China Com­munications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC). It was based on a non-legally binding Memoran­dum of Understanding (MoU) under which the Malaysian Investment Develop­ment Authority (Mida) was supposed to assist local companies to cooperate with CCCC to create special purpose companies for development of the economic accelerator projects worth RM10bil over 10 years.

Instead of clarifying the matter immediately, the media handlers of the Transport Ministry and Mida left it to Dr Mahathir’s special envoy to China, Tun Daim Zainuddin, to respond instead.

Ineffective communication teams in the various ministries and the lack of media coordination among them are the main reasons why Pakatan appears to be losing control of its narratives on performance and service.

What Pakatan needs is expertise and a clear media strategy to re-establish political credibility and trust among the people, especially the now disillusioned voters who had pinned their hopes on a better “New Malaysia”. Instead of just leaving the ministries to handle their own issues, the approach should be on keeping to the same page, through synchronisation of information and making better use of social media to enable agencies to engage directly with citizens.

With Malaysians having higher expectations and lower levels of patience, the Pakatan government has little choice nor time to check the slide on its popularity and improve on its public relations.

Veera PandiyanAlong the Watchtower by M.Veera Pandiyan

Media consultant M. Veera Pandiyan likes this quote by George Bernard Shaw: The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
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New approaches to people oriented human resource management


People-centric logo: The Chinese character for ‘people’, rén, dominates the entrance to its office.

 

The growing usage of technology can help human resource achieve better performance

IT IS often said that managing people is a combination of art and science. But the increasing dominance of technology in workplaces opens up a new perspective and opportunities in how organisations most valuable resource – its human capital – is being employed.

One of the most obvious changes that can be observed among employers, says Accendo HR Solutions group chief executive officer Sharma KSK Lachu, is the realisation that maintaining the traditional functions of the human resource (HR) department – such as processing payroll and employees’ rosters – is not the way forward to excel in the digital age.

New approaches emphasising efficiencies and talent development are needed to excel in people management, he adds.

“The process of recruiting, retaining and developing talents within organisations has to be changed to meet the expectation of both employers and employees, which in turn could help translate into outstanding performance standards,” he says.

Sharma notes that rich data insights are the best tool to help organisations deliver more engaging content and meet growing customer expectations for highly relevant and targeted information in the workplace. He calls it the democratisation of data and information to help workplaces function more efficiently. This could also help employees lead a more satisfactory work life as functions and responsibilities can be streamlined with the help of data, enabling them to focus on higher-level work.

Bigger reach: Sharma says the company is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries.

Bigger reach: Sharma says the company is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries.

Today’s workforce is different. There needs to be more incentive for employees to stay on in their jobs.

Citing the example of his own father, who stayed with a single company throughout his entire working life, Sharma says it would be a wonder for organisations today to have employees who would dedicate their entire working life to a single entity without asking much in return.

“He never complains about the lack of a pay raise, promotion or other perks from the management. But today’s working adults, especially the gen-Y and -Z, don’t share such values anymore,” he says.

Accendo relies heavily on technology, data and behavioural sciences in its approach to providing the right HR solutions for its clients to manage their manpower. The consultancy company is currently developing several tools, including artificial intelligence (AI) and HR management systems, for its corporate clients.

However, Accendo, which specialises in services such as talent acquisition, performance management, talent analytic and secession planning, puts the human element on the forefront of how organisations’ HR should function.

Technologies and people form the backbone of Accendo. A walk into its corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire. But a reminder that people comes before technology is apparent in the form of a corporate logo, Rén – the Chinese character for ‘people’ – which dominates the entrance to its office.

Talent development: Accendo’s team consists of people with various skills to support client’s human resource needs.
 Talent development: Accendo’s team consists of people with various skills to support client’s human resource needs.

New HR challenges

There is a need for a sharper and faster decision-making process, and the HR department has to be equipped to handle this. The aim is to help them to understand and grow their employees. This includes helping people who are pursuing career development opportunities at every age and are working longer than ever before.

Individual business leaders as well as business units should be looking at HR to provide support and strategic advice on everything from upskilling, motivating employees and future workforce planning to managing multiple generations of employees under one roof.

Therefore, specific solutions that are tailor-made and offer personalised learning opportunities for employees of all types will become the norm.

“Many organisations today still view manpower as a tool to maximise profit. But our mission is to promote a culture where companies develop the talents of their employees to contribute towards the growth of the company.

“We have turned down projects worth millions of ringgit because of the different viewpoint on how to develop and maximise the potential of employees. For us, our clients have to share our values, which is about organisations allowing their employees to own their career. We developed processes that would enable organisations to understand their people, and help develop their skills,” says Sharma.

Casual space: Accendos corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire.
Casual space: Accendos corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire.

Prior to his return from Sydney, Australia, where he had his start in the HR industry, Sharma was exposed to how technology and data science could help in efficient decision-making processes.

One of his motivations to move back home 10 years ago to start his own business here was partly to prove a point that developing technology-based HR solutions using data science can be done successfully in Malaysia.

Founded in 2009, Accendo is majority-owned by Sharma, while his two other co-founders have minority interests in the company. The company has morphed from being a HR solutions provider to an integrated HR consulting company with their own their technology solutions.

It has since recorded an impressive growth rate and is now considering strategic partnership with either a financial or strategic investor as it seeks to scale up its operations internationally and fund its technology research and development.

Sharma says it is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries, as this region could benefit from data science.

As the profile and success of Accendo increase, the company has been attracting potential investors and is receiving an average of about one investor approach per month. It has held talks with one potential strategic investor but has not reached any agreement as yet, he says.

Accendo, however, will only consider an investor who shares the company’s values, in which human capital is considered as an asset to be developed and not as a commodity to be used in achieving corporate financial goals, Sharma adds.

A help mate: Amid concerns over the rise of technological unemployment, machines can help people work better. – Bloomberg
A help mate: Amid concerns over the rise of technological unemployment, machines can help people work better. – Bloomberg

It has not seriously engaged with any party currently, but will do so if the right strategic or financial investor comes along.

The timing of a potential listing will also depend on the company’s capital requirements. Sharma says the company has been preparing for a possible listing by 2020, including making sure its financial reporting standards and company’s organisation structures are in line with that of a public company.

The majority of the company’s tech talents are local, but the company will not shy away from hiring foreign talents if necessary. Accendo currently has around 35 full-time staff members, but this will grow to over 50 by year-end as the company plans to hire more AI and other tech-related personnel, says Sharma.

Accendo is expected to record more than RM20mil of revenue this year. It has recorded an annual growth rate of 40% to 45% since it restructured its business model four years ago.

Its corporate clients include some of the most recognisable brand names in the market such as Astro

image: https://cdn.thestar.com.my/Themes/img/chart.png
, Maybank, KPMG, Nestlé, Bursa Malaysia and other financial institutions and large multinational corporations in Malaysia.

In the longer term, Sharma says Accendo aims to be the platform for all things related to work technologies and solutions, from HR staffing technologies to meeting specific needs and reinventing performance in the workplace for optimum efficacy and maximum success. – by C. H.Goh, The Star
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Malaysia paying the price for flight MH370 !


Flight MH370: Paying The Price Of 6 Decades Of Nepotism, Racism, Rampant Corruption And Incompetence

On January 23, 2008 a very peculiar thing happened. Commercial airspace at one of the world’s busiest airports was shut down for over 50 minutes. On that day, an aircraft without an approved flight plan entered Singapore’s airspace. Immediately, the Republic of Singapore Air Force dispatched a pair of F-16D fighter jets to intercept the aircraft and escorted it to land at Singapore Changi Airport. Upon landing, airport police immediately surrounded the plane.

“At 6.42pm (2142 AEDT), two Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-16 fighters were scrambled to intercept a civilian aircraft, a Cessna 208, which was heading towards Singapore airspace without an approved flight plan,” the ministry’s director of public affairs, Colonel Darius Lim, said in a statement. “The aircraft was escorted to land at Singapore Changi Airport.”

The above incident highlights the standard operating protocol an Air Force, Civil Aviation Authority and Local Police Force needs to follow in the event of an unidentified aircraft entering it’s airspace without an approved flight plan.

However amidst this hoo-ha, there was one small detail worth noting. The plane took off from Koh Samui, Thailand. And running the full length between Thailand and Singapore is the land mass of Peninsular Malaysia.

In essence, this means that the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia and the Royal Malaysian Air Force had allowed an unknown aircraft to invade over 131 thousand square km of sovereign Malaysian territory and despite this occurring over a period of 3 hours, did not lift a finger to respond.

This incident highlighted a huge security flaw in Malaysia’s Air Defence umbrella. One that if it had patched during any of the subsequent 6 years that followed, would have prevented a bigger tragedy that came with greater embarrassment, scrutiny and loss.

6 years later on 8 March 2014, Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing. It never landed at its intended destination. Instead, less than an hour after take-off, the transponder was turned off and 3 sets of military radars tracked the plane flying past Penang and across the breadth of Malaysia from the Gulf of Thailand towards the Indian Ocean.

Unlike the Cessna airplane in the earlier example which was intercepted by the RSAF, 3 sets of people manning Malaysia’s military radars never sounded any alarms. The RMAF never dispatched any fighter jets on standby and the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia never shut down Malaysian airspace when a rogue plane very much larger than a Cessna aircraft flew across it’s airspace.

Suffice to say, had the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia or the RMAF been doing their job properly as exemplified by the example given above, we would not have gone 9 days and counting into a search for a missing and possibly hijacked plane.

Investigators may have recently concluded that the plane had its transponders deliberately turned off and its flight plan deliberately altered but it is the greater observing public who have the biggest conclusion of all; that Malaysian leadership is sorely incompetent when it comes to handling a crisis. In this respect, Malaysia has much to learn from its Southern neighbour. Had the supposed hijackers targeted a plane flying through a more efficient jurisdiction, the outcome would have been very different today.

Malaysia Flip Flop

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China and US, different but similar


The US and China are said to practise very different systems, but only if the details are excluded.

THE world’s two biggest economies exercised the selection of their next leaders just two days apart.

The international media made the usual observation that here were two systems working in ways that could not be more different. That is valid only up to a point, beyond which it only obscures the realities of the US and Chinese systems.

Externally, US democracy is said to offer citizens a choice of government every four years. If an incumbent fails to deliver as promised, voters can vote him out the next time.

China’s one-party system undertakes no regular elections for the public. Every 10 years, the Communist Party meets at a National Congress to identify the country’s next president and prime minister.

The common implication is that while the US system offers freedom of choice, China’s does not. These contrasting stereotypes become fuzzy in practice, however.

The US system sets two presidential terms of four years each as the limit for any individual. If an incumbent opts for re-election, his party is unlikely to entertain any challenger from the party’s ranks.

Thus the party’s candidate is predetermined, beyond the control of even party members. For the other party, some jostling among prospective candidates precedes the eventual candidate, over which ordinary party members may have no choice.

For both parties, money and party machinery (monetised infrastructure) are prerequisites. Any candidate, whether from one of the two main parties or any other, can have no hope of seriously running for the presidency without the vast financial backing required.

That is why in the US and many other Western democratic systems, the choice voters have is only one out of two parties. Third, fourth, fifth and other parties have no real chance, regardless of the value of their policies or the virtues of their candidates.

The supposedly free mainstream news media is also an accessory to this limitation. They give alternative parties scant print space or air time, on the premise that they have little clout, which ensures that they continue to have little clout.

The result is that when either the Republi­can or the Democratic Party wins the presidency, they differ little in the flesh. With hardly any alternative ideas penetrating this political establishment, Republicans and Democrats tend to become more conservative.

As far-right neo-conservatives entered the fray in the 2000 election, both parties moved further to the right. Critics describe the two main parties as merely two wings of the same party, or as being two right wings of the Republican Party.

The US presidency is also the choice of the system rather than of the people. The eventual winner is “elected” by the electoral vote of the Electoral College, rather than the popular vote of ordinary voters.

There are currently only 538 members of the Electoral College who decide on the next president and vice-president out of a choice of two teams. The candidacy that can secure 270 votes wins the White House.

In China, 2,270 delegates of the Communist Party meet at the National Congress every five years to elect the party’s highest decision-making body, the Central Committee (CC). Some 350 members of the CC then decide on the party’s General Secretary and members of the Politburo, Standing Committee and Central Military Commission.

The CC is said to experience high turnovers at election time. In each of the past half-dozen national congresses, more than 60% of committee members have been replaced.

There has also been no shortage of candidates, particularly for this year’s 18th National Congress. It was the first time that nominees for the 2,270 party delegates had been assessed, with candidates continuing to outnumber the available slots.

At this latest National Congress, both a new CC and a new Central Commission for Discipline Inspection were elected. The Communist Party’s Constitution is also being amended, with the main themes being intra-party democracy and fighting corruption.

The governing party’s Standing Committee has also sought the views of other political parties in China on the draft report for the 18th National Congress. President Hu Jintao, as party General Secretary, pledged to strengthen cooperation with the other parties.

Beijing has thus become a magnet for journalists during the week more than for previous National Congresses. More than 1,000 international journalists gained accreditation, with another 400 from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

If more of Beijing’s proceedings were in English, they would enjoy wider global coverage. That day may soon come as China’s prospect grows.

In 1997, China granted the Carter Center in the US the role of observing village-level elections around the country. The next level of governance, the provincial level, has also experimented with elections for the general public, with only the national level still to do so.

Since 2002, the Carter Center has also played a significant part in voter education in China, on issues like improved governance and political reform. In both rural and urban areas, the Carter Center works with China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs and with NGOs
.
Meanwhile during the week’s 18th National Congress in Beijing, a multitude of issues surfaced for the government to consider. Among these are challenges from growing income disparities, corruption, inadequate market access for local businesses, environmental degradation and moral decay from public indifference to private suffering.

As elsewhere, the responsibility of government is to ensure fulfilment of public welfare without neglecting private business needs. Whereas in the US critics of the government accuse Washington of adopting socialist policies, critics of Beijing accuse the government of abandoning them.

The world’s two largest economies are often compared to see how different they are, while neglecting how much they are similar and how exactly they actually differ. Economically they have become so interdependent within a single global system as to become mutually complementary.

By implication, they are also not as different politically as is so often presumed. While classical ideologists may persist, the reality is that the political business of government has largely become managing national economies competently in a single globalised world.

Kenichi Ohmae is wrong; countries are in no danger of being replaced by corporations in the present or the foreseeable future, no matter how much some corporate budgets dwarf some national incomes. Rather, countries will remain unitary entities, albeit essentially as political economies increasingly governed by national economic needs and supranational economic parameters.

A symptom of this is how economic ideo­logies have replaced political ideologies between the world’s leading major powers. The Washington Consensus of supposedly antagonistic public and private sectors is under serious challenge by the Beijing Consensus of a harmonious complementary relationship between state and industry.

The latter model in Asia originated in Japan, and was soon adopted by the Newly Industrialising Economies (NIEs) of Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore. Now China is the main player of this game, with its size of play earning it the “Beijing Consensus” as the name of the game.

But some of it had already been seen before in Europe, particularly Germany. It had also been evident in the US itself, in a different time and under a different name.

All of which serves to confirm the unitary nature of the global economy, with time, circumstance and level of development being the real differentials.

BEHIND THE HEADLINES By BUNN NAGARA
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