Housing woes: death spiral or virtuous cycle?


THE World Economic Forum estimates that the global cost of corruption annually is at least US$2.6 trillion (RM10.9 trillion) or 5% of global gross domestic product (GDP).

According to the World Bank, businesses and individuals pay over US$1 trillion (RM4.2 trillion) in bribes each year.

Corruption adds up to 10% of the total cost of doing business globally and up to 25% of the cost of procurement contracts in developing countries.

I gathered these shocking facts at a conference. There are other alarming statistics that shed light on the damage brought about by corruption and its dreadful impact on the economy.

Corruption leads to further impoverishment of the poor and other issues in many countries. The average income in countries with a high level of corruption is about one-third of those countries with a low level of corruption. In addition, corrupt countries have a literacy rate that is 25% lower.

The Corruption Perception Index 2018 released by Transparency International shows that on the scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean, over two-thirds of 180 countries score below 50, with the average score of 43.

In the index, Denmark ranked first in the world followed by New Zealand second. Finland and Singapore were tied for third with a score of 85. Malaysia was ranked 61st in the world, scoring only 47.

We were ranked the third highest in the Asean region, after Singapore and Brunei. Our country is doing better now with the ongoing investigation of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal and other prominent cases.

In TI’s report, Malaysia is one of the countries on the watch with promising political developments against corruption. However, more solid action is needed in combatting all elusive forms of corruption.

According to Transparency International Malaysia, corruption had cost our country about 4% of its GDP value each year since 2013. Added together, this amounts to a high figure of some RM212.3bil since 2013. For 2017 alone, that figure was a whopping RM46.9bil!

As a comparison, our development expenditure in 2017 was RM48bil. If the value of corruption above was accurate, our development fund was almost “wiped out” because of corruption.

Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Akhbar Satar said: “This is our estimate. It is likely to be higher in reality (on the value of corruption).”

No country can eliminate corruption completely. However, we can learn from good practices shown in some developed countries, such as the Scandinavian countries which all scored high on the Corruption Perception Index.

Corruption leads to poverty as money collected is not used for the welfare of the nation. As a result, the people end up suffering and paying for the leakage in the system.

If a country is corrupt-free, it will reduce the need for non-governmental organisations (NGOs). NGOs advocate for the rights of marginalised groups. The government can take care of those group when it has a surplus in the budget.

A clean government and system will have a positive impact on many aspects including affordable housing, one of the prominent needs of the people.

Whenever there is corruption, there is a compromise in the delivery of goods and services. The same situation applies to affordable housing.

Someone mentioned to me in the past that “the government isn’t interested in affordable housing as there is literally ‘no money’ to be made in it”!

Things have made a dramatic change for the better since May last year. Our new government is working on a platform of clean government and improving transparency. It plans to build one million affordable homes within two terms of its administration. To make this a reality, the government needs to put in real money to make it happen.

Corruption causes a death spiral that leads to various problems. Without it, a virtuous cycle grows that ensures every part runs smoothly and the marginalised in society are looked after.

With a promise of a cleaner government, we hope we will soon see a virtuous cycle that makes the one million affordable homes an achievable target.

By Datuk Alan Tong, who has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email bkp@bukitkiara.com. The views expressed here are solely that of his own.

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‘Money/cash is King’ comes back to bite Pakatan


Politicians using cash to buy power and votes has created a culture in  Malaysia in which people have started valuing money more than truth, hard work and honesty. 

THE enduring potency of the ringgit caused by former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s “Cash is King” regime came in for much ridicule in the last election campaign, much to the chagrin of the perpetrator of this philosophy.

In all his speeches and media interviews in the last two years before 2018’s 14th General Election, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad never failed to hammer home the point that Najib told him this when he asked why he was giving out cash hand-outs in so many forms to the people, and very freely too.

His intended message to the voters was that Najib used this tactic to “buy” votes, as Malaysians will eventually be beholden and grateful to the man who dishes out cash. Whether those receiving it deserved it or not did not matter, everyone wanted the money and many did not care where it came from.

For a long time, money and power worked like a firewall around Najib and his Cabinet, which made him believe cash was indeed king as they blithely went about plundering the nation.

It has been established or is being established at Najib’s on-going corruption trial involving the alleged siphoning of funds from SRC International Sdn Bhd, that money was freely dished out for political support, popularity and reverence, among others.

Mahathir’s campaign was direct and simple, that it was borrowed money and stolen funds from the people that was being given out, and this campaign strategy worked. It thus showed that anti-corruption is an easy sell and proved that most Malaysian voters did care about abstract ethical issues like corruption.

Unbelievably, even many of the beneficiaries of Najib’s largesse had obviously voted against Barisan Nasional while some others became turncoats shamelessly, leaving the flagging party.

But one year after dismantling the Cash is King mantra, it somehow appears to be coming back to bite Dr Mahathir and the Pakatan Harapan leadership. The new mantra among many Malaysians now is that they don’t seem to have enough money all the time.

True, the cost of living never came down substantially after the abolition of the GST (goods and services tax), but we cannot deny that it did lower shopping bills in places like hypermarkets as there was no SST (sales and services tax) levied at such outlets.

RON 95 petrol, which is currently used by most motorists, is capped at RM2.08 a litre which is about 40 sen lower than the actual price it would have been if the old managed float system based on global crude oil prices was in place

Not very tangible for the average Malaysian, right? Do they even care to understand the intangibles that they are benefiting from as a result of several new policies and taxes? No! Looks like Malaysians are not prepared to ask what they can do for the country, it is always what the country must do for them.

Nearly every person I meet seems to have just one thing to say: nothing has come down. All prices have remained the same while some have only gone up. And that Pakatan has not delivered or is slow in keeping its promises.

And strangely, I have been noticing a pattern where those providing certain home services like courier and telecommunication technicians actually volunteer to say that times were better under the Barisan government as they had more money to spend.

“It is very difficult now, we have less money to spend compared to last time when BN was in power. Pakatan Harapan is not keeping its promises,” a Pos Laju staff told a friend of mine without being asked.

I’m one who views surveys by certain groups and parties, especially the random ones, warily as the respondents do not necessarily reflect the actual feelings on the ground. So I make it a point to talk to strangers about this subject whether in public stations or while in a queue waiting to pay something.

What I notice is that while people may be a tad bit sympathetic when I tell them they have to give Pakatan more time because of certain extenuating circumstances, generally, they are unhappy.

The bottom line of their unhappiness now is all about cash. They are receiving less money from the government, never mind what they were enjoying in the past was stolen or borrowed money.

This group of people don’t seem to be outraged, which we all should naturally be, at past leaders who had virtually abused their power to rob the nation’s coffers, a fact which has emerged or is being exposed in many key institutions.

They claim that the BR1M (Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia) payments are now lower and many recipients have also been removed from the list as they do not qualify under the minimum household income requirement. So what is wrong with that? Why do you want money that does not belong to you or you don’t deserve?

Yes, it’s true that the Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH, as BR1M is now called) has been reduced by RM200 to RM1,000 but Pakatan has made sure that only really needy Malaysians get such welfare aid, as it had been greatly abused in the past.

And to make sure those really in need receive more help, the government is giving out an additional RM100 for each child below 18 years of age whose guardians are BSH recipients, for a maximum of four children. And if the child is disabled, it is for a lifetime, no age limit. So if a BSH recipient has four children below 18, he or she gets a total of RM1,420. This is higher than before.

Malaysia has thrived because of a culture of opportunity that encourages hard work in the private sector. Of course, the social restructuring policy, which was aimed at giving a hand to the have-nots to give them a lift, played a role.

But this should not go on forever, the number must reduce eventually as those benefiting should finally be able to help their families to grow away from this dependency.

The growth of this form of welfare state funded by projected or borrowed income — or worse still, by funds siphoned from government coffers — is turning Malaysia into a land where many expect, and see no stigma attached, to receive regular financial support.

I find this a growing and dangerous trend, when undeserving Malaysians sit back idly and wait for these cash hand-outs as an entitlement instead of a privilege. And what’s more distressing is to see politicians feeding this cancer as a way of continuing to stay in power.

The actual meaning of the phrase “Cash is King”, as most of us know, is a term reflecting the belief that cash money is more valuable than any other form of investment tool for businesses. For individuals, it is meant to be a fund which is easily accessible for urgent expenditures or purchases.

It is not a phrase that politicians or others use to indicate that they can buy power and votes so that they are able to be in absolute control of the nation for as long as they want. Unfortunately, though, many have done this and it has created a culture in Malaysia in which the people have started valuing money more than truth, hard work and honesty.

Cash is not king when it is stolen from others or, worse still, from public funds placed under your trust or control. That is called cashing in. It is surely not king if it is obtained by unfair trade practices or it is beyond a fair deal.

In this context, something that Dr Mahathir said about two years before the last election shortly after he decided to re-enter politics stands out in my mind. He had said: “You see the collapse of moral values in Malaysia is terrible. In the future we are going to be like those countries where bribery is a part of daily life — you can’t do anything without bribery.”

This is what he is trying to dismantle after he came back into politics at the age of 93, so we should give our wholehearted support to him and Pakatan for a better and cleaner Malaysia for all.

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Crime and cost of living are top concerns for Malaysians – Ipsos Global Research

 

 

 

 

 

 


Crime and cost of living are top concerns for Malaysians – Ipsos Global Research


Global market and opinion research spec

PETALING JAYA: Corruption is no longer the top concern for Malay­sians as crime and the cost of living have taken over as more pressing issues, says an independent market research firm.

Ipsos Sdn Bhd, in its What Worries The World survey, found that the top five concerns of Mal­aysians this year were crime and violence (39%), inflation and the cost of living (34%), corruption (32%), poverty and equality (31%) and unemployment and jobs (28%).

The survey noted that corruption, which was ranked as a top concern among those in the central region, non-bumiputras and those with a household income of more than RM5,000, had fallen to third place due to significant measures made by the government to address the issue.

Inflation is the “biggest concern” of urban Malay­sians, particularly youths and those in the low household income bracket.

“Corruption has dropped significantly by 15%. Now, only 32% feel that corruption is their main concern.“For crime and violence, it is only the positioning but it has remained the same between what it was now and before,” Ipsos managing director Arun Menon (pic) said during a press conference yesterday.

Founded in France, Ipsos is a global research group with offices in 89 countries delivering insights across various specialisations.

Among other studies Ipsos has conducted in Malaysia are the What Worries Malaysia: Post-GE 2018 survey in August 2018.

It had tracked the sentiments of Malaysians bef­ore and after GE14, as well as 100 days following the change of government.

The What Worries The World survey is Ipsos’ international monthly poll of 20,000 adults under the age of 65 in 28 countries, including Malaysia.

A total of 1,500 Malaysians were asked about their perception of what worried the nation the most.

The survey also found that Malaysians believed the country was headed in the wrong direction, with the figures increasing from 25% in June last year to 43% in March this year.

“Between March and last month, the people who are most upset about the country’s direction were the younger generation across different incomes, specifically people of the middle and upper education,” Menon said.

The survey also noted that the perception of the country heading in the wrong direction was gaining mom­entum and that Malaysia was getting closer to the global average.

The poll said the global average of people who thought their country is on the wrong track was at 58%.
What Worries the World – March 2019

New global poll finds four concerns top the world’s worry list: financial/political corruption, poverty/social inequality, unemployment, crime/violence. Meanwhile, in most countries surveyed (22 of 28) the majority think that their nation is on the wrong track.

The Ipsos What Worries the World study finds the majority of people across the participating 28 nations feel their country is on the wrong track (58% on average), with South Africa (77%), France (77%), Spain (76%), Turkey (74%) and Belgium (74%) recording the greatest levels of apprehension. There are, however, wide-ranging disparities in scores across the globe.

“What Worries the World” is a monthly online survey of adults aged under 65 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States.

Right Direction

    • China (94%) inspires the most confidence about its national direction. More than 9 in 10 Chinese citizens say that China is moving in the right direction.
    • Saudi Arabia (84%) is once more in second place followed by India (73%) and Malaysia (57%).
    • India and Sweden are the are nations with the greatest month on month increase in positive sentiment of all 28 countries, with both reporting an 8-point increase in those seeing the nations as heading in the right direction.
  •         Notable rises in citizens considering their country as headed in the right    direction are also seen in China (94%) and Hungary (28%) – both reporting a 6-point increase.


Wrong Track

    • At the other end of the spectrum, South African, French, Spanish, Turkish and Belgian nationals have the greatest apprehension about the direction taken by their country. Just 23% of South African and French citizens consider their nations to be heading in the right direction, followed by 24% in Spain and 26% in both Turkey and Belgium.
  •          Mexico (56%) has seen the biggest fall in optimism— with a reduction of 12% from a positive sentiment spike reported last month (68%).There are also 6-point falls in both Italy and Canada.

The four major worries for global citizens are:

  1. Financial/ Political corruption (34%). South Africa (69%) has the most citizens apprehensive about this issue, followed by on Peru 63% and Hungary on 60%. Canadians (30%) have the greatest month on month increase in this concern, with a rise of 11 percentage points. Germans (9%) are the least worried citizens along with Great Britain (14%) and Sweden (15%).
  2. Poverty/Social Inequality (34%). The greatest levels of anxiety are held in Russia (58%), Hungary (56%) and Serbia (54%). Sweden (19%) and Saudi Arabia (20%) are the least concerned nations in this area followed by the US (21%). In terms of trend, we observe a strong 8-point increase in concern in this area in Hungary.
  3. Unemployment (33%). The highest levels of worry are seen in Italy (69%), South Korea (66%) and Spain (61%). Turkish citizens (+7%) and Argentinians (+6%) are the nations which have recorded the greatest month on month increase in this issue. The US public and Germans (11%) are the least concerned, followed by citizens in Great Britain (14%) Sweden (15%) and Poland (15).
  4. Crime & Violence (31%), The highest levels of worry in this issue are seen in Mexico (64%) – closely followed by Peru (62%) and Chile (59%). China (22%) records the largest increase in anxiety with an increase of 11 percentage points from the previous month. There are other increases in Chile (+9), Malaysia (+9) and Turkey (+7). Concerns around crime are lowest in Russia and Hungary (8%), and Poland (11%). The greatest falls in this issue come from Poland (-10) and Serbia (-9).

Top five global issues

  1. Financial/ Political corruption (34%)
  2. Poverty/Social Inequality (34%)
  3. Unemployment (33%)
  4. Crime & Violence (31%)
  5. Healthcare (24%)

The survey was conducted in 28 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. The 28 countries included are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States of America. 20,019 interviews were conducted between February 22nd, 2019 – March 8th, 2019 among adults aged 18-64 in Canada, Israel and the US, and adults aged 16-64 in all other countries. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

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What Worries the World – March 2019

 

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Clean up the graft and power abuse at Human Resource Training & Development provider HRDF


Scandal-hit: The clean-up at HRDF appears to be far from over.

 

Questions over HRDF Bangsar South property

PETALING JAYA: The clean-up at scandal-hit Human Resources Deve­lopment Fund (HRDF) appears to be far from over.

In fact, to add to its woes, details have recently emerged about the possible mishandling of a multi-million ringgit property acquisition.

The HRDF management has made police reports claiming there was misconduct or abuse of power in the purchase of part of a building in Bangsar South, Kuala Lumpur, four years ago, because it was done without the knowledge of the board of directors and the investment panel.

HRDF bought six floors of a “landmark skyscraper” for RM154mil, including goods and services tax (GST). It has been alleged that some RM40mil was paid even before the issuance of the tax invoice.

But the bigger issue, according to sources, was that the HRDF’s board of directors had actually approved the purchase of a different piece of property – another building, also in Bangsar South, for RM141mil before GST.

It was learnt that the investment panel was only informed of the switch five months after the first tranche of RM15.4mil had been paid.

The sources confirmed that the HRDF has gone to the police and investigations are underway.

An agency under the Human Resources Ministry, the HRDF manages a fund comprising contributions from employers for the purpose of training and development.

In November last year, minister M. Kulasegaran said staff and management personnel were running HRDF as if it was their own company and that the management had in some instances exceeded authority and approved projects beyond its approval limits.

This latest accusation regarding the Bangsar South purchase reflects the same governance problems.

“The board was also informed that the minister (at that time) approved the change of the property to be acquired,” said a source. “The sale and purchase agreement was signed by the chief executive officer prior to the approval of the investment panel and the board.”

The first RM40mil of the purchase price was paid in eight tranches.

The source said under the Pem­bangunan Sumber Manusia Bhd Act 2001, the minister could only direct the board on matters and was not empowered to approve or consent to entering into agreements.

The remaining RM114mil was paid after the signing of the agreement. The six floors of the Bangsar South building were handed over to the HRDF in March 2017.

Documents sighted by The Star showed that the investment panel voiced its intention to invest in property in a meeting at the end of 2014.

In February 2015, the board of directors approved a proposal to set up a reserve fund and an allocation of RM250mil.

It was stated by the CEO then that the property would be for HRDF’s use.

Another approval came two months later for the RM141mil property.

In May that year, the first payment of RM15.4mil was made, but for the property that cost RM154mil. This was also when the agreement was inked, said the sources.

Five months after receiving the keys in 2017, the investment panel decided to rent out the office floors. The board agreed with this move.

In May last year, the HRDF began paying service charges of RM66,670 per month for its Bangsar South property. Only one floor out the six has been rented out, giving a monthly income of RM115,168.

Surprisingly, the board of directors agreed in March last year to purchase two additional floors in the same building to be used as HRDF’s office.

Kulasegaran had previously said that high-ranking staff of the HRDF misappropriated about RM100mil, around a third of the fund’s RM300mil coffers.

He also said certain management staff members were overpaid with high salaries and bonuses and there was collusion between managerial staff and external parties to award contracts.

When contacted about the Bangsar South acquisition, former HRDF CEO Datuk C.M. Vignaesvaran Jeyandran said the board of directors had given approval before any property was bought.

On the claims that the property purchased was not the one which the board had approved originally, he clarified that it was part of a better building by the same developer and was adjacent to the first building.

“Everything was done according to the appropriate procedures, that’s for sure. There’s no such thing as buying before getting board approval.

“It went through our legal adviser, the investment committee and the audit committee. When we bought the six floors in the other building from the same developer, we also went back to the board and rectified it,” he said.

Asked on the purpose of the acquisition, Vignaesvaran said when he stepped down on June 21 last year, it was still an ongoing discussion at the board level whether the property was to be used as HRDF’s office or for investment purposes.

Bukit Aman Commercial Crimes Investigation Department acting director Deputy Comm Datuk Saiful Azly Kamaruddin said the department received two reports on this matter.

“We have since referred the case to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission as it is under their purview,” he said.

At the time of the Bangsar South property purchase, the HRDF chairman was Datuk Dr Abdul Razak Abdul, who also chaired the investment panel.

Datuk Seri Richard Riot was the then human resources minister.

By royce tan The Star

Panel set up for HRDF clean-up

 

Datuk Noor Farida Mohd Ariffin

The Human Resources Development Fund is to undergo a complete overhaul. A committee has been set up to ensure the fund is rid of weaknesses and misuse of power among senior staff members as well as a promise by its new chairman to personally deal with allegations of graft.

The HRDF will also have the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Com­mission seconding one of its officers to the organisation.

Its chairman Datuk Noor Farida Mohd Ariffin said this was so that the MACC could establish the proper rules and regulations in the HRDF governance’s clean-up.

“HRDF has sought and received the support of the MACC in implementing rules, regulations and procedures to prevent any further misuse or abuse of employers’ money.

“MACC has agreed to second one of its officers to HRDF to beef up the unit and to expedite this process,” she said in a statement to The Star yesterday.

Last month, the HRDF set up an ad hoc Compliance and Governance Unit to implement the recommendations made by the Governance Oversight Committee (GOC) for the HRDF and to assist in investigations by various law enforcement agencies, said Noor Farida.

This came about after Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran formed the five-member GOC in June 2018 to review and investigate allegations that RM100mil had been misappropriated under the previous HRDF’s administration.

Key findings and recommendations by the GOC were finalised and published publicly on the HRDF website, said Noor Farida, who was appointed as its chairman on Jan 1 by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Top on the list of GOC recommendations was to stop the segregation of 30% of employers’ human resources development levy towards the Consolidated (Pool) Fund, which was set aside for special projects.

“This was made effective from Nov 1, 2018. No funds have since been allocated or spent on special projects,” she said.

Noor Farida noted that the move was not received well by certain quarters, including training providers, training institutions and trainers, who claimed that their incomes were affected.

The human capital development agency faced heavy public scrutiny following reports of alleged wrongdoings that had taken place under the previous administration.

In November last year, Kulasegaran revealed that high-ranking staff members of HRDF misappropriated about RM100mil out of the RM300mil that was in the fund.

He also highlighted several wrongdoings such as abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and arriving at decisions without reporting to the board of directors.

The Star, in an exclusive report on Jan 9, also highlighted the purchase of a RM154mil property in Bangsar South, also conducted without the approval of the directors and investment panel.

The new HRDF management lodged two police reports. The police have since referred the cases to the MACC.

Meanwhile, it was reported by an online portal that police would be questioning former HRDF chief executive officer Datuk C.M. Vignaesvaran Jeyandran over the “missing” RM100mil.

“On behalf of the HRDF board of directors, I want to reiterate that the board is fully supportive of the actions being taken against the wrongdoers by the HRDF,” said Noor Farida.

She said she would look into these allegations personally and urged those with any complaints or allegations to email her directly at anoorfarida@hrdf.com.my by Jan 31 so that she could initiate an independent investigation.

“If any further information is forthcoming from time to time, it will certainly be investigated,” she added.

The findings would also be published over the HRDF website, said Noor Farida.

By clarissa chung and fatimah zainal The Star
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Report: HRDF possibly mishandled multi-million buy by swapping …

 

 

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‘Equanimity’ billion dollar yacht is coming home


Yacht EQUANIMITY

Equanimity arrives at Port Klang

The Equanimity is expected to arrive at Port Klang soon after spending a day in Batam, Indonesia, yesterday.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad thanked Indonesia for the good news, though he said if fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho could prove that he had purchased the billion-ringgit yacht with his own money, he could get it back.

“If they have proof that they purchased the yacht using their own money and not stolen money, they have the right to get the yacht back,” Dr Mahathir said in a video posted on Facebook.

He said the close relationship between both countries was the reason this problem could be solved.

“We believe the yacht belongs to Malaysia because it is believed to have been bought with Malaysian money stolen by certain parties.

“If there is anyone who claims the yacht is theirs, they can show proof that they own it. We want to know how they managed to amass such a huge amount of money that they were able to purchase such an expensive yacht,” he said.

He added that investigations by the US Department of Justice reveal­ed that the yacht was purchased using funds stolen from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

A source said the vessel received port clearance from the Batam Marine Department at 2.30pm yesterday, indicating that its next port of call was Port Klang.

The source said at least four Malaysian policemen would accompany the ship and its crew here.

The yacht arrived in Batam island yesterday morning. By 6pm, it had entered Malaysian waters.

It was supposed to head for the Batu Ampar port, but was diverted and anchored near the Pulau Nong lighthouse at the entrance to Tering Bay at around 9.30am yesterday.

The yacht had sailed from the Tan­jung Benoa port in Bali last Thurs­day.

The Equanimity was seized in Bali in February at the request of US authorities as part of a multibillion-­dollar corruption investigation launched by the Department of Justice over 1MDB.

However, a Jakarta court ruling in April declared that the yacht was wrongfully impounded and it was released to its owners after they obtained a court motion to declare that the seizure was illegal.

But the vessel was not allowed to leave the Tanjung Benoa port.

Last month, Indonesian police seized the yacht again following a formal request for legal assistance from the United States.

Reuters reported that the decision by the Indonesian government to hand over the yacht to Malaysia was reached following a personal request made by Dr Mahathir, who visited Indonesia in June.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said his ministry intended to reco­ver as much money as it could from the Equanimity.

Speaking to reporters at Par­liament lobby yesterday, he said the immediate plan was for the Attor­ney General to ensure that all the paperwork was in order and proper controls were imposed.

“If possible, we need to make sure that there is a proper inventory of the assets inside, and we hope that the public can also view it.

“This may not be the entire ship, just a portion of it, because there are also a lot of valuable items inside and there must be some sort of control.

“At the end of the day, we want to get back as much money as we can from all these ill-gotten gains.

“These stolen assets should be sold at the highest price so the money can be returned to the people,” Lim said.

Asked if Malaysia would get to keep the yacht, Lim said he would leave it to Attorney General Tommy Thomas to explain, though he said the fact that the yacht was being sent here “speaks for itself”.

By Eddie Chua and Rashvinjeet S.Bedi The Star

Dr M’s ‘regime’ not interested in due process, Jho Low’s lawyers claim after yacht seized

The Malaysian government’s seizure of the yacht Equanimity is illegal and proof that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration has no interest in a fair and just process, tycoon Taek Jho Low’s lawyers said today.

The lawyers representing the fugitive businessman reiterated that the confiscation of the luxury vessel — which they said is owned by Equanimity (Cayman) Ltd — broke an Indonesian law and court decision, besides breaching recent United States court orders.

“The yacht’s owner, Equanimity Cayman Limited, had already filed a claim on this asset, which Mahathir ignores. Further proceedings have been issued today in response to this illegal act,” the tycoon’s lawyers said in a statement.

They accused Dr Mahathir of bringing the yacht illegally from Indonesia “into a rigged Malaysian system manipulated by a man who only cares about his absolute political rule”.

“Since his election, Mahathir has tried reinventing his public image following the appalling abuses of the rule of law he previously presided over, including the Anwar case and the 1988 judicial crisis.

“The reality is that he has simply continued on as he did during his previous regime and has shown that his only objectives are political: from freezing bank accounts of rival political parties, to public trial-by-media, where guilt is proclaimed before any evidence is presented,” the lawyers added.

Low’s lawyers have pointed out that the United States’ Department of Justice (DoJ) has argued that it must have possession of Equanimity to ensure that the asset retains its value pending a court hearing that can determine the final ownership and the rights of all parties involved.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said today he will auction off Equanimity to recover as much money as possible from the luxury boat worth US$250 million (RM1.02 billion).

He said selling off the yacht belonging to the fugitive financier, who is allegedly a central figure in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal, would be the best option as the cost to maintain its docking would be high. – Malay mail

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Govt Linked Companies (GLCs) – Monsters in the house?


Politicians should not be appointed to run government-linkedv companies (GLCs) to keep graft in check, said Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Advisory Board Chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim.He  said politicians holding GLC positions might face conflicts of interest, ading to abuse of power and responsibility.

ABOUT a month before Malaysia’s  parliamentary election in May,
then-opposition leader Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad raised concerns over the
role that government-linked companies (GLCs) were playing in the
economy, being “huge and rich” enough to be considered “monsters”.

Data support his description – GLCs account for about half of the  Benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index, and they  constitute seven out of the top-10 listed firms in 2018. They are present in almost every sector, sometimes in a towering way. Globally, Malaysia ranks fifth-highest in terms of GLC influence on the economy.

Calls to do something about GLCs have   increased since the election following the  release of more damning information, although most of it relates to the GLCs’ investment arm: government-linked investment companies (GLICs).

Some experts have proposed the formation of an independent body with
operational oversight for GLICs, after institutional autonomy is established and internal managerial reforms are introduced. Unlike most GLCs, GLICs are not publicly listed and face little scrutiny. The same applies to the various funds at the constituent state level, which need to be looked at too.

For GLCs, the answer is less straightforward. PM Tun Mahathir claims that GLCs have lost track of their original function. Before the Malaysian government decides on what to do, it needs to examine the role GLCs should play – as opposed to the role they currently play – and to examine their impact on the economy.

In Malaysia, GLCs were uniquely tasked to assist in the government’s affirmative action program to improve the absolute and relative position of bumiputras. The intention was to help create a new class of bumiputra entrepreneurs – first through the GLCs themselves, and then through a process of divestment.

Given the amounts of money involved and the cost of the distortions introduced, the benefits to bumiputra were unjustifiably small and unequally distributed. The approach of using GLCs as instruments of affirmative action failed because it led to a rise in state dependence, widespread complacency and even corruption, as Tun Mahathir himself recognised in his memoirs, A Doctor in the House, and again more
recently. There is also empirical evidence that GLCs have been crowding out private investment, a concern raised in the New Economic Model as early as 2011.

Additionally, the new government has correctly highlighted the need to include certain off-balance-sheet items and contingent liabilities, such as government guarantees and public-private partnership lease payments, in any complete assessment of debt outstanding. The use of offshoot companies and special purpose vehicles (SPVs) in the deliberate reconfiguration of certain obligations mean that traditional debt calculations underestimate Malaysia’s actual debt.

All these factors combine to place new impetus on reconsidering the extent of government involvement in business. Divestment will not solve  Malaysia’s debt problem, but it can help if there are good reasons to pursue it. So how should the government proceed?

It is important to recognise at the outset, that there is a legitimate role for government in business – providing public goods, addressing market failures or promoting social advancement. And like in most other countries, there are good and bad GLCs in Malaysia. If a GLC is not crowding out private enterprise, operates efficiently and performs a social function effectively, then there is no reason to consider  divestment. But a GLC that crowds out private investment in a sector with no public or social function, or one that is inefficiently run, should be a candidate for divestment. In this regard, one has to carefully study why GLCs should be present in retail, construction or property development, for instance.

In assessing performance, one needs to separate results that arise from true efficiency, versus preferential treatment that generates artificial rent for the GLC. The latter is a drain on public resources and a tax on consumers. Divestment in this case, will likely provide more than a one-off financial injection to government coffers – it will provide
ongoing benefits through fiscal savings or better allocation of public resources.

The divestment process should be carefully managed to ensure that public assets are disposed at fair market value, and does not concentrate market power or wealth in the hands of a few. This has allegedly happened with privatisation efforts in the past.

The new government has committed itself to addressing corruption and improving the management of public resources. As part of this process, one must re-examine just how much government is involved in business. This is one of the many tasks that the Council of Eminent Persons is undertaking in the first 100 days of the new government.

To be done correctly, would require a careful study of GLCs and their impacts. This could then rejuvenate the private sector while enabling  good GLCs to thrive, and fortify Malaysia’s fiscal position in the process. This is what Malaysians should expect – and indeed demand – of the “New Malaysia”.

Jayant Menon is Lead Economist in the Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department at the Asian Development Bank. This is an abridged version of an item that first appeared on the East Asia Forum.

Jayant Menon The Sundaily

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BTN up in the Air, the writing is on the wall for BTN


Video:

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/05/29/the-writing-is-on-btns-wall-controversial-agency-has-a-good-chance-of-being-shut-down/

In the 44 years since it began, the National Civics Bureau has evolved into a racial and propaganda machine of sorts. The Biro Tatanegara may
be in its last days as the Government plans to review its relevance in multiracial Malaysia.

 The writing is on the wall for BTN

PETALING JAYA: The days of the National Civics Bureau or Biro Tatanegara (BTN) seem numbered with the Government to look into whether it should keep or abolish the controversial agency.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said BTN and several other government bodies had been turned into political tools by the previous Barisan Nasional government.

“All this will be studied, we may maintain or abolish it. We found that there are many agencies which have been set up not (to benefit) the government but Barisan; but they use government money to pay salaries,” Dr Mahathir told a media conference after chairing the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia supreme council meeting.

Dr Mahathir, who is Pribumi chairman, was responding to a question on the fate of BTN following the Government’s move to abolish several other taxpayer-supported bodies, namely the National Council of Professors and the Special Affairs Department (Jasa).
Set up in 1974 to promote patriotism, BTN has come under fire over the years after numerous complaints about it promoting racial hatred.

The Pakatan Harapan Government in its election manifesto has pledged to dissolve the agency which it said had become a political agent for Umno.

PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar said the abuse of BTN by the previous government was possible grounds to shut it down.

“How many propaganda and brainwashing agencies do we require? BTN has not done much to inculcate a sense of patriotism or belonging,” she said.

The bureau’s director-general Datuk Ibrahim Saad could not be reached for comment.

BTN, which is under the Prime Minister’s Department, conducts courses for civil servants, government scholarship holders and selected students from colleges and universities.

According to DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, the budgets for BTN multiplied 10-fold in the 1990s (RM200mil) compared to the 1980s (RM20mil), and continued to increase.

From 2010 to 2015, the allocation for BTN totalled some RM365mil.

Veteran journalist Datuk A. Kadir Jasin said it would not be surprising for the bureau to be shuttered.

“If BTN performed a political task and if the Government has already decided to close down other (similar) agencies such as Jasa, then I would imagine that it’s not hard to predict that BTN would or should suffer a similar fate,” said Kadir.

The Pakatan election manifesto stated that Umno and Barisan had abused government programmes to spread narrow ethno-religious politics to influence youths.

“The Pakatan Harapan Government will dissolve the bureau, which over the years had become a cheap political agent for Umno,” it said.

PKR Youth leader Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, who has called for a shutdown of BTN, recounted his own experience with it.

He was a student when he attended one of the BTN camps back in 2003.

“I found the whole affair racial and political in nature. (There were) racial, religious bigotry and hatred against PKR, PAS, and DAP mainly.

“BTN was formed for political purposes. It is outdated. Schools, hospitals and universities need money, so let’s prioritise,” he said.

MCA publicity spokesman Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker said a thorough review of BTN should be conducted before a decision is made.

“There are institutions we can save instead of just being shut down. We need to ensure they are independent and free to pursue positive progressive ideas,” he said.

Ti said a number of institutions started out well but was hijacked along the way by the political masters.

“A lot of this happened during Dr Mahathir’s time, so it is good for him to remedy these issues,” he said.

Umno information chief Tan Sri Annuar Musa said the Government could do what it wished with the bureau.

“My view is very simple; they have the mandate, they are free to do it,” said Annuar.

Parti Rakyat Sarawak president Tan Sri James Masing said the functions of BTN needed to be reviewed in order to reflect Malaysian society.

“The multiracial nature of our society must be strengthened and reflected in every nook and corner of our nation. No one race can claim ownership of this nation,” he said.

Sarawak United People’s Party Youth chief Michael Tiang said any agency that promoted racism and intolerance should be reviewed or even abolished. “Racism and intolerance are never part of the Malaysian spirit,” he said.
Souces : The Star by razak ahmad, sharon ling, hemananthani sivanandam, rashvinjeet s. bedi, hanis zainal, n. trisha

BTN course was a nightmare, says participant

PETALING JAYA: She penned down her experiences attending a team-building course with Biro Tatanegara (BTN) in her diary. And it was not pleasant.
Sahana, as she wanted to be known, recounted how one of the lecturers had picked on her physical appearance.
During one session, the lecturer even poked fun at some of the participants as a way of engaging the class.
“He would say things like ‘ah yang pendek tu, bangun (you, the short one, stand up).”
“I as seated next to an Indian girl when he pointed at my direction. When
I turned to the girl next to me, he said ‘ awak lah, yang hitam, besar tu’ (you, the dark and big sized one) to indicate that he was directing the question to me,” said Sahana, who is now a communication executive.
Sahana, 36, was a first year college student then. Her college had informed the
students that they had to attend a series of lectures and team building
exercises at a camp in Johor.
“We were looking forward to it because we were there with our peers and it was a
long trip away from home. For some of us, it was our first excursion out
of state so we were excited,” she said.
However, the excitement did not last long. The lecturer’s comments embarrassed
Sahana, who cried in class but others including the lecturer just
laughed at her.
“I already had this complex about being a plus size, so naturally, when remarks like that were made, it really hurt me.
“It was a big hit to my self-confidence,” she said, adding that she felt that being dark skinned and large was a big sin.
Sahana wondered why physical appearance and skin colour were highlighted at
the camp that was actually meant to teach participants values and instil
patriotism.
Sahana also found insensitivity when it came to food being served as beef was given to them.
“Not that I am complaining but it made me wonder back then; how a Hindu,
Buddhist or vegetarian would survive when beef was the main dish
served?” she asked.
A parent wrote to The Star to complain that her son was “hounded” for being Indian.
“Throughout the five-day course, he and other Indian participants were constantly
hounded about the actions of the Hindraf movement.
“His friends and him are not supporters nor sympathisers of the group. Yet,
they felt disappointed at the way the instructors kept harping on the
issue at every turn and opportunity,” the mother wrote.
Another parent echoed the sentiment, saying that participants were repeatedly
reminded of the “social contact” in the formation of the country.
“Throughout the five days of the course, participants are repeatedly told not to
question Malay rights and so on,” said the parent, adding that even
Malay friends of the family were upset by the programme’s content.
There, however, were praises for the programme.
“I must say that there were many great people there, especially the
facilitator in my group. I have heard many unpleasant things about it
and I don’t understand why.
“During my stint, I learnt many things from my facilitator, not only of a better
understanding of Malaysia but also the spirit of a Malaysian.
“We, the non-Malays, really appreciated him as our facilitator. We never
felt aggrieved or hurt. Through him, we learnt unity, not disunity,”
wrote a participant.
Another participant wrote of learning more about Malaysia at the programme.
“I learnt more of our own country while having a great time throughout the
activities and group-learning sessions filled with good values,” the
participant said.
How many propaganda and brainwashing agencies do we require… BTN has not done much to inculcate a sense of patriotism or belonging. – Nurul Izzah, PKR vice-president

If the BTN performed a political task and if the Government has already decided to close down other (similar) agencies such as Jasa (Special  Affairs Department), then I would imagine that it’s not hard to predict that BTN would or should suffer a similar fate. – Datuk A. Kadir
Jasin, veteran journalist

I found the whole affair racial and political in nature. (There were)
racial, religious bigotry and hatred against PKR, PAS, and DAP mainly. –
Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, PKR Youth leader
There are institutions we can save instead of just being shut down. We need to ensure that they are independent and free to pursue positive progressive ideas. – Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker, MCA publicity spokesman

‘Move to shut down BTN unreasonable’

PETALING JAYA: While the National Civics Bureau or Biro Tatanegara (BTN)
has drawn flak over the years, there was an effort to improve the body.Umno member Datuk Lokman Noor Adam, who was involved in BTN, said complaints against the bureau had prompted the Government to set up a panel about three years ago to seek improvements.Lokman, who was on the panel, said new modules were then drawn up for BTN.He hit out at the current Government, which he claimed was out to shut
down all agencies perceived to have strengthened the position of Barisan
Nasional.“I am sure that their next target will include Jakim (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia), Mara, Tekun (Entrepreneur Development Centre), Mara Junior Science Colleges, Universiti Teknologi Mara and others,” said Lokman.

Former Kepong MP Dr Tan Seng Giaw, who was also on the panel to rebrand
BTN, said the bureau needed to represent the country’s plural society.“This is 2018 and yet there are Malays, Chinese and Indians whosay racial things. So I told the panel – let’s try to reduce this.“Let’s emphasise tatanegara, which means the discipline of a nation. Let’s make this whole thing non-racial.”He said he was not sure whether his suggestions were subsequentlytaken up, adding that other panellists also gave some good ideas.Dr Tan said BTN should only be closed if efforts to change it failed.

“If we are to shut down everything we don’t like, then why not close ministries and everything else?

“If it is impossible to revive the BTN, then it is reasonable to shut it down. But this is not a question that it cannot be revived but of getting the policy right,” said Dr Tan.

 

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