Time for real change for Malaysian education as glory stuck in the past and the delusion of Vision 2020


New decade, new Malaysian education: For the sake of our children and our future, Mazlee’s replacement should be a qualified and capable Malaysian – irrespective of race or religion.

Dr Maszlee forced to resign for failing to heed Cabinet orders

We need a new Education Minister with the right qualifications, a scientific mindset and a technocratic iron will to implement the critical changes.

I HAVE been a big critic of and objector to Maszlee Malik as Education Minister from day one.

I took no pleasure in it then nor do I take pleasure in it now. It just is. The wrong person must go and the right person must come in.

Education is far too important for a nation to be entrusted to those not competent in moulding the minds of our most precious resource, our youth. Education is where we develop this resource for either the success or the failure of our nation.

We do not have to look far to see success. A country with no natural resources, with a tenth of our population, can be a developed nation by sheer power of its human resources.

In 1965, Malaysia and Singapore went separate ways in more ways than one. Look at where they are and look where we are now. The lessons to be learned are abundant. Have the humility to know when we are wrong and they have been right all along. There is no need to look East. Look South.

“A nation is great not by its size alone. It is the will, the cohesion, the stamina, the discipline of its people and the quality of its leaders which ensure it an honourable place in history, ” said its architect, Lee Kuan Yew in 1963.

The education ministership is the leader in ensuring that our children and our youths are able to take the nation to the next level. It is just not at the very top have we got it wrong, again and again. We must have the humility to admit when we are wrong and have been wrong for more than 30 years. We must have the decency, discipline and courage to want to change so our future can be assured.

What did Singapore do right in education? When one looks at massive differences in results, one need not look at many things. One need only look at the fundamental deviation at the root.

One: Singaporean education is in English.

Despite more than 76% of its population being ethnic Chinese, the medium of instruction for its public schools is English. Have you ever heard the Singaporean government or its leaders talk about “memartabatkan” (to give dignity to) the Mandarin language? They have no time for such foolish ethnic pride.

They may find ways to conserve Chinese heritage but they have no interest or inclination to play to racial sentiments that would sacrifice the very essence that will ensure their children have the easiest access to the widest and latest conservatory of human knowledge since the late 19th century.

As such, accessibility of critical knowledge for their children and subsequent generations are assured from young and is continuous throughout their lives. It is so easy to do for those who have the best interest at heart and yet so difficult to do for those with foolish pride and Machiavellian political ambitions.

No mandatory Chinese calligraphy is needed to ensure Chinese heritage continues. No shouting of slogans of Ketuanan Cina and its preservation. That is confidence in your own ability to shape destiny. To hell with all that. Learn in English.

Two: Their education is secular. Because that is the essence of education

One of the greatest physicists and teachers of the 20th century, the late Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman, famously said, “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes an education.

Singapore does not impose belief on its citizens. And that starts in education. Question everything and everyone. Anything that cannot be questioned has no place in the classroom of public education. That is called indoctrination.

You want to indoctrinate your children that the sky is filled with butterflies and angels in the morning, go ahead, but not on our time or our dime.

It is abhorrent the amount of taxpayers money and children’s time that have been wasted on indoctrination of belief. Indoctrination stops you from thinking, it is the complete acceptance of belief.

As Einstein said, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think”. Religion is not about thinking, its about accepting.

Religion – any religious indoctrination – has no place in public education. You do not find that in Singapore and you do not find that in any other developed nation. If you want to include religion in public education, do it as part of comparative religion in the social sciences context. Otherwise it is indoctrination. It is useless as education.

Belief, religion and its indoctrination must be the domain of parents, if they so choose, and not government. Otherwise the result is imposition, persecution and finally tyranny of belief upon the citizenry. And no nation will survive such tyranny.

There is a reason great men of history have warned us against such wanton imposition of religious beliefs and indoctrination of the masses. Thomas Jefferson once said, “In every country and every age, the priest had been hostile to liberty.”

We need to heed this warning.

Three: One word – Science.

I have said this again and again. Science is the salvation of a nation, especially today in the 21st century.

The triumph of human civilisation is the triumph of science. The ascendancy of humankind, each empire, each nation and people has been through their grasp of the “science” of their time and its application in their minds and lives.

Our education must be science-centric. No ifs or buts. There must be more basic science taught, learned, experimented with and exposed to our children from the day they start school until they leave it. In depth and breadth and in the number of hours spent on it. We must have truly competent and passionate teachers to carry out this duty.

Even as a lawyer, I have learned that the human mind and senses are limited. Nothing fools humans more than their minds and their own senses.

In just the last decade, more convictions of innocents due to so-called eye-witness testimonies, even multiple ones, have been overturned as a result of DNA evidence to the contrary. Why? Science has proven that human senses and minds can be easily fooled, especially by emotion and herd mentality. But science is objective, evidentiary knowledge.

We need to build a science-centric society and that starts with our primary and secondary education. From the beginning, Lee realised the importance of establishing Singapore as a leader in the field of science and technology in Asia. He did not care what your ethnicity or religion was, that was the priority. And look at the society he built. Modern in outlook and progressive in thought, to the point he could no longer really control the people.

Maybe that is what our leaders are afraid of. A questioning, educated, critical thinking masses.

We must halt this downward slide of epic proportions in Malaysian education.

A new education minister with the right qualifications, a scientific or science-centric mindset and a technocratic iron will to implement critical changes must be appointed. Nothing less can be acceptable to Malaysians. This must be our demand.

I believe the next appointment will be a critical test whether this Pakatan government is worthy of our consideration in the next elections or an alternative must be considered and pursued vigorously by the right-minded citizenry.

We need the new education minister to implement what is needed. Go back to the basics and have the will, courage and ingenuity to make tough changes against what I expect to be conservative political opposition, both racial and religious.

If the person is more interested in putting colleagues in religious brotherhoods ahead of qualified intellectual professionals in positions of authority in education, then we are all doomed.

If the person is more interested in telling and allowing teachers to carry on dakwah (Islamic preaching) instead of closing down separate canteens in schools, then our quagmire will continue.

Black shoes and hotel swimming pools. That is the legacy we have been left with.

We need to see the closing down of worthless tax-payer funded universities that carry the word science but are based on beliefs and scriptures. They make a mockery of our nation and society. They promote the dumbing down of our population and produce graduates that will have nothing to contribute but further destruction of the Malaysian civilisation. We need a shake down of epic proportions for Malaysian education to return it to its past glory and make future progress.

As such, unlike a certain racist and bigoted MP from PAS, who insists on a Malay Muslim candidate only for the post, we need a minister who is qualified, irrespective of race or religion. We just need a Malaysian who is capable, for the sake of our children and our future.

We need an education minister who understands what is essential education. It is not rocket science.

But like all things in Malaysian politics, I have stopped believing in the capabilities or integrity of most of our politicians and political leadership. How I hope that I am proven wrong.

I close with this quote from Carl Sagan, one of the foremost teachers of science: “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”

That could very well describe our Malaysian education system and administration.

But 2020 has arrived, so it’s time for real change to happen.

Activist lawyer Siti Kasim is the founder of the Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity Foundation (Maju). The views expressed here are solely her own.

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Comment: Tough times for Chinese education


A glimpse of glory 

 We once had a vision of a future, but now that it’s here, we still seem stuck in the past.

Cutting edge: Schools in China have begun to emphasise the teaching of coding, robotics and AI in the great push to produce the best engineers and digital experts. — AFP

WE are already into 2020 and it’s the dawn of a new decade. But if we buy into the endless narrative of race and religion, it’s as if we haven’t moved.

Six decades after Malaysia’s independence, and we are still trapped in this blinding obsession with ethnicity, which has done nothing but consume so much of our time and energy.

When rationale flies out the window, and reasoning fails, some politicians and self-declared communal champions resort to bigotry ways.

And of course, the most unscrupulous sometimes tell our citizens they should leave the country if they are unhappy, although incredulously, some of these characters conveniently overlook how their forefathers came to Malaya nearly the same time as the rest.

If Malaysia is caught in the middle income trap now, with our inability to reach a higher level of income, that’s down to not having changed in how we’ve functioned economically for the past 40-odd years.

The middle-income trap concept refers to the transition of low income to a middle income economy.

We have failed to achieve the Vision 2020 objective of becoming a developed nation, and the architect of that plan, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has blamed his successors for the failure.

Now, the Pakatan Harapan government – also led by Dr Mahathir – has unveiled the Shared Prosperity Plan for 2035. It remains to be seen if we will reach that goal, either.

But at the rate we are moving, it’s hard to ignore how the voice of hope has somehow hushed.

In fact, Vision 2020 set off bigger expectations and optimism, but now there seems to be a lack of purpose and leadership.

If Malaysia is facing a middle income trap, then we are also snagged in a political status snare because we are heading nowhere as a nation, as we recklessly hand racial and religious hardliners the wheel of the nation.

Unelected religious activists seem to be speaking more boldly than many elected representatives, who seem content to let these fringe personalities hog the headlines.

In the digital age, the decibel level has been cranked in social media, and comments posted by their fans to support these hawks have become more seditious and disturbing.

It’s hard to break free from that gnawing sense that they are allowed to continue because the government fears putting a leash on them.

Our Pakatan Harapan leaders, especially those from Bersatu, seem to lack the will to take on a centrist role, and worse, have attempted to compete with those playing the race and religion cards.

While these political shenanigans may gain domestic mileage, it doesn’t help Malaysia one bit because many see it as part of the inability to get our act together.

They see the vibrance and innovations of Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, and want a slice of that pie. But anyone who has been to the cities of these three Asean countries will understand why they are selling their stories much better to investors.

Let’s be blunt – they are telling investors to forget Malaysia as they highlight our continuing basket case political mentality and actions, with its cyclical scripts in tow.

Who can take us seriously if we believe a group of retired communists in wheelchairs can threaten national security over a reunion, which looked more like their farewell dinner?

Even the communists in China and Vietnam – countries which have good diplomatic ties with Malaysia – have embraced capitalism unlike those in other established free markets. The only thing communist is their political structure, that’s all.

And we still hear some small-minded chauvinists calling for the closure of vernacular schools, claiming they are the root to disunity.

The cause of our fragmentation isn’t these schools (which have produced many great talents), but the resident bigots and extremists.

Framed against this backdrop, it has become even more pertinent for those in significant positions of influence to speak up against these tyrants.

In November, Singapore launched its National AI Strategy, with three objectives to ensure it becomes a global hub for developing, test-bedding, deploying and scaling AI solutions, as well as learning how to govern and manage the impact of AI.

Schools in China have begun to emphasise the teaching of coding, robotics and AI in the great push to produce the best engineers and digital experts.

But our school system continues to be weighed down by politics, religion and language.

For just awhile, can we ask ourselves why we have been so preoccupied and emotional over so many superfluous issues that do nothing to propel Malaysia to become a developed nation?

It’s a small world after all, and in 2020, the world has become increasingly inclusive and is culturally more open and dynamic. But if we continue the way we are, we will remain in the lower tiers of national progress.

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Vision without execution is delusion

Few countries peer far into the future, but in 1991, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir  Mohamad(filepic) declared Vision or Wawasan 2020. … Looking back, was it possible to achieve this breathtaking vision? In my humble opinion, definitely. How much of it has Malaysia achieved? The answer depends on who you talk to.
 

The ideal eyesight is 20-20 vision when we can see everything clearly and know exactly where to go.

Given that 2018 and 2019 have been years of great populist upheaval, geopolitical tensions, massive climate change and technology transformations, it is not surprising that our first year of the third decade of the 21st century is masked by the fog of uncertainty.

Few countries peer far into the future, but in 1991, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad declared Vision or Wawasan 2020, “the ultimate objective that we should aim for is a Malaysia that is, by the year 2020, a fully developed country in our own mould, according to the standards that we ourselves set”.

To set a five-year plan is common place; to lay out a vision 30 years to the future was breathtaking in audacity. Dr Mahathir himself laid out nine challenges to achieve by 2020: first, establishing a united Malaysian nation made up of one bangsa (race); second, creating a psychologically liberated, secure and developed Malaysian society; third, fostering and developing a mature democratic society; fourth, establishing a fully moral and ethical society; fifth, establishing a matured liberal and tolerant society; sixth, establishing a scientific and progressive society; seventh, establishing a fully caring society; eighth, ensuring an economically just society, in which there is a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation; and ninth, establishing a prosperous society with an economy that is fully competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient.

Looking back, was it possible to achieve this breathtaking vision? In my humble opinion, definitely. How much of it has Malaysia achieved? The answer depends on who you talk to. On the issue of advanced country status, Malaysia is one class below in the upper middle income bracket with a gross national income (GNI) range of US$3,996 to US$12,375 per year. High-income economies are defined by the World Bank as those with a GNI per capita of US$12,376 or more. The IMF estimates Malaysia’s 2019 GNI per capita at US$11,140, pretty near the top end of the upper middle-income range, so it is certainly within striking distance. Indeed, if the exchange rate goes back to roughly RM3.80 to US$1, Malaysia would attain high income status. On the issue of national competitiveness, Malaysia ranks 27th out of 141 nations surveyed by the WEF Global Competitiveness Index (2019). This is no mean achievement, as her financial markets are ranked 15th.

But with Malaysia’s Gini Coefficient about the same as the United States (41st), social equality is nothing to be proud of, but at least advanced countries have not also achieved fairness in income and wealth that they vaunt.

Malaysia is a country blessed with large natural resources relative to the population, located in the high growth zone of East Asia and an important contributor to the global supply chain. She faces the same difficulties and challenges of most emerging markets in how to position oneself in a global situation that is fraught with new and somewhat daunting problems of geopolitical tension, climate change and massive technology transformation.

As the example of high income, sophisticated Hong Kong economy has shown, no one can take economic freedoms and competitiveness for granted, because politics can change the game almost overnight. What most governments struggle with is how to prepare the population, both the working class and the young, to adapt to the emerging technologies through education and re-skilling.

So it is not surprising in this age of digital divide that the most contentious area of politics is often in education.

Actually, there is not so much a digital divide as a knowledge divide – we are divided by our ignorances of each other and our inability to appreciate that what is about to kill or marginalise us is global climate change, conflicts and disruptive technology.

But what separates us from working together is ideology, religion and ultimately identity, turbo-charged by fake news that says the other side is always the bad guy.

In other words, polarisation can be reduced from working together to deal with external threats, but internally recognizing that there are common, shared interests and objectives.

Personally, climate change is the existential threat, whilst there is little that small countries can do about Great Power politics.

But technology is what each country can adopt to deal with climate change and keeping up with competition. Small countries like Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland carry much more clout than their size because of their willingness to invest in technology. The real threat of artificial intelligence and Big Data is that only the few that have scale and willingness to invest in knowledge will be the big winners.

This explains why the US and China have the leading tech platforms, because they not only have scale, speed and scope, but also the focus to work on the AI breakthroughs.

But recognising the threats and opportunities is only half of the Vision thing.

Vision without execution is delusion.

Getting the execution right is then all about politics and the bureaucracy.

Boris Johnson’s election victory on Brexit showed that he had the correct vision that the British were tired of European bureaucracy that stifled their freedom of action.

But whether he can change the British business model means that he has to radically transform a British civil service that has followed EU laws and mindset. This is exactly what Carrie Lam has to do with the Hong Kong civil service that is operating behind the times.

MIT economist Cesar Hidalgo quotes the essence of the modern problem by citing top football coach Josef Guardiola as saying that “the main challenge of coaching a team is not figuring out a game plan but getting that game plan into the heads of the players.”

Any plan or vision must be internalised by the players, because only they can execute the plan in the game that is ever changing and uncertain. In short, no vision in 2020 can work until the political leadership understands that only by internalizing the diversity of the team can the team be a winner or at least not a loser.

Happy 2020.

The views expressed are the writer’s own.

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Fake News and Hard Truths


Balanced views: The print house of the daily newspaper Le Monde in France. When print media and television dominated the distribution of information, media could be trusted to give a balanced view to enable the reader to judge what is correct. — AFP

We live in an information age, or more likely, a disinformation age.

Growing up in a world that worships technology and knowledge, we have now entered a phase when we no longer are able to trust what information we receive is fake news or not. Worse, we don’t know whether the provider of the information is trustworthy or not.

Fake news has many definitions. Basically, fake news are manufactured with an intent to mislead, damage someone or to attract attention to a cause, and gain either financially, politically or higher media attention. Such information could be outright sensational, partial, incomplete, provocative, false or fabricated, with some journalists even paying for leaks or gossips. Today’s fake news also include tampered photographs and videos, or encouraging people to “act” in front of the cameras.

Up until the 1970s, when print media and television dominated the distribution of information, media could be trusted to give balanced views, setting out different sides of the argument to enable the reader to judge what is correct. Newspapers and television channels were rich enough to finance investigative journalism in uncovering the “truth”.

But with the arrival of digital information, these traditional channels lost advertising revenue to social media, so the quality of journalism deteriorated, and in order to attract attention, newspaper and television content became more and more sensational, as well as more biased to one side.

The battle over readership also affected social media, where the value (advertising revenue) of the media outlets depends on their ability to attract viewers and readers.

How important is fake news? When you click “fake news” in Google search, you get 1.48 billion results, versus 380 million for “Jesus Christ”. Trump gets 2 billion, which goes to show how successful he is in social media.

Is fake news damaging and should it be regulated?

Canadian think-tank Centre for International Governance and Innovation (CIGI) conducted an online survey in 25 countries on Internet Security and Trust and found that Facebook was the most commonly cited source of fake news, with 77% of Facebook users saying they had personally seen fake news there, followed by 62% of Twitter users and 74% of social media users in general.

The vast majority think that fake news is made worse by the Internet, with negative impact on their economy and worsened polarisation of views.

Significantly, one-third (35%) pointed to the United States as the country most responsible for the disruptive effect of fake news in their country, trailed significantly by Russia (12%) and China (9%).

There are clearly lots of bad online trolls & social media platforms who act to spread fake news, but it is very difficult to agree on who should regulate fake news and decide what is fake or not. Some people believe in self-policing by the social media platforms, but others want governments to be involved, but are also wary of censorship.

My own view is the apparently spontaneous protests in Hong Kong, Barcelona, Santiago, France, Indonesia and in the Middle East are clearly associated with the rapid spread of social media, including the tools to protest, organise and riot.

What is particularly disturbing is the huge divide of opinions, including violent action to stop the other party from presenting their points of view.

The opposing view is often labelled fake news with even the courts being questioned if they rule against the prevalent views.

Is free speech turbo-charged by social media promoting hate and divisions that increasingly verge on violence and social breakdown?

Australian philosopher Tim Dean has recently questioned whether free speech has failed us?

As he rightly points out, “Free speech is not an absolute good; it is not an end unto itself. Free speech is an instrumental good, one that promotes a higher good: seeking the truth.”

The real problem is that if we do not have facts, we cannot have rational debate on what is truth.

The rule of law works on the principle that if there is dispute in society, it is resolved civilly either through the courts or through the political process. But once violence is involved, the rule of law breaks down.

As Professor Dean says, “free speech only fulfils its truth-seeking function when all agents are speaking in good faith: when they all agree that the truth is the goal of the conversation, that the facts matter, that there are certain standards of evidence and argumentation that are admissible, that speakers have a duty to be open to criticism.”

If however, one side blocks out the opposing view through intimidation, insults, threats, violent action and the wilful spread of misinformation, then civil discourse disappears, as does the rule of law.

This is clearly the age not of information but of anger. As a result of financial capitalism, huge inequalities have been allowed to fester, breaking down rational discourse, engendering distrust of the establishment and old order, and pushing hate and divisions.

Should we allow social media to turbo-charge this process, not of healing but polarisation?

Singapore takes step to regulate fake news

The Singaporean government has taken the bold step of regulating fake news through the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), which came into effect this month. Under the act, the Singapore government can take action on false information on the Internet, either ordering that it be taken down, corrected or order technology companies to block accounts that are spreading untruths.

A wise friend told me that we are actually living in a fractured generational divide. The old wants to maintain the old order of stability. The young thinks that this is rigged against them and want to change the system that they will inherit. But something is seriously wrong when school children think that it is right to throw petrol bombs and that it is cool to beat up policemen and anyone that they think stand in their way.

For even reputable channels such as the BBC to start glorifying such action, one wonders whether fake news has truly won.

Andrew Sheng for Asia News Network

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China in the Asian century, Is the future truly Asian?



As China continues to develop, so does its global influence. What would the future be like for South-East Asia with a ‘risen China’?

Rising together: No, Chinese imperialism is not simply replacing US imperialism, as China emphasises win-win partnerships, says Prof Zhang. — Handout

 

China in the Asian century

PROF Zhang Weiwei is among the most respected scholars in China today. He is a leading expert on China’s “reform and opening up” policies and its status as a “civilisational state.”

As director of the China Institute at Shanghai’s elite Fudan University, he is also professor of International Relations and had served as English interpreter for China’s Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping. In an exclusive interview earlier in the week, Prof Zhang spoke to Sunday Star about future prospects with China.

As the leading authority on China’s civilisational state, how would you define it, as distinct from a nation state?

With China, it’s a combination of the world’s longest continuous civilisation and a super-large modern state. A civilisational state is made up of hundreds of states amalgamated into one large state.

China is a modern state respecting international law like a nation state, but culturally diverse, with sovereignty and territorial integrity.

There are four features of China’s civilisational state: a super-large population of 1.4 billion people, a continent-size territory, significant culture, and a long history.

If we are returning to an East Asian tributary system, what changes can we expect in China’s policies in this region today?

The tributary system is a Western name for China’s relations in this region (in the past). China is a “civilisational” – as an adjective – state, a modern amalgamation of many (component communities).

During the Ming Dynasty, China was a world power – but as a civilizational state more than a nation state – and did not seek to colonize other countries, unlike Western powers that were nation states. Since then, China’s status and capacity as a nation state has grown significantly. Will it then become more like Western powers now?
China today is a nation state, but different from European (nation) states. It is also still a civilisational state.

The Chinese people are not just Han, although the Han majority is 92%. There are 56 ethnic groups in China, (mostly) minorities.

But China rejected the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling on the South China Sea, initiated by the Philippines, which found China’s claims insupportable.

The tribunal was illegal; it had no right to make such decisions. The Permanent Court of Arbitration is not part of the United Nations.

How can countries in South-East Asia be convinced that the rise of China will not simply result in Chinese imperialism replacing US imperialism?

China emphasises win-win partnerships, such as in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It encourages discovering, building, and benefiting together.

Countries in South-East Asia join the BRI out of their own interest. It is not something imposed by China.

Some countries have described the Second Belt and Road Summit this year as being more consultative than the first. As for the future?

The future Belt and Road Summits will be even more open and consultative.

Is the current US-China trade dispute only a symptom of much larger differences, such as a historic divide in the reshaping of a new global order?

It is more than about trade. With the United States especially, it is zero-sum, but for China it is win-win.

The Chinese economy is larger than the US economy, or soon will be. (In PPP or purchasing power parity terms, China’s economy grew larger than the US economy in 2014.)

The United States is trying to decouple its economy from China’s. How can China ensure that it would not only withstand these efforts but also triumph?

The attempt to decouple the two economies will fail. About 85% of US companies that are already in China want to stay.

Looking at the trade structure, most Chinese exports to the US are irreplaceable. No other place in the world gives a better price-quality ratio in manufactured goods.

So the US cannot win in this decoupling because there are no alternatives (as desirable producing countries). China has the world’s largest chain or network, or factory clusters, for all kinds of goods.

How likely do you see a hot war – more than a trade war or a cold war – breaking out between a rising China and what is perceived to be a declining United States?

The US knows that it won’t win (a hot war). No two nuclear-armed countries will go to war. It would be very messy.

So far no two nuclear-armed countries have fought. There may be a small likelihood of direct confrontation, but not a war situation.

No commercial shipping has been interrupted by China. So the US need not worry.

Can Asean, or an Asean country like Malaysia, help to bring the United States and China closer together as partners rather than as rivals?

Possibly. Malaysia perhaps can help, as it is friendly to both China and the US.

As China continues in its rise, what steps is it taking to provide for more cooperative and consultative relations in this region?

Trade between China and Asean countries, for example, has grown, and has now exceeded China-US trade.

Generally, China’s relations with Asean countries are quite promising, with Free Trade Area relationships as well.

By Bunn Nagara, who is Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

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Poised for growth: Shipping containers sit stacked next to gantry cranes at the Yantian International Container Terminals in Shenzhen, China. — Bloomberg

 

Is the future truly Asian?

The Region, while growing fast, faces issues such as youth joblessness, climate change and income gaps

THIS is a question that is at the heart of the tensions across the Pacific.

To Parag Khanna, author of The Future Is Asian (2019), the answer is almost self-evident.

However, if you read his book carefully, you will find that he thinks global power will be shared between Asian and Western civilisations

For the West, the rise of Asia has been frighteningly fast, because as late as 1960, most of Asia was poor, agricultural and rural, with an average income per capita of less than US$1,000 in 2010 prices.

But 50 years on, Asia has become more urban and industrialised, and is becoming a challenge to the West in terms of trade, income and innovation.

Global management consulting firm McKinsey has just published a study on “The Future is Asian” that highlights many aspects why Asia is both attractive to businessmen and yet feared as a competitor.

Conventionally, excluding the Middle East and Iran, Asia is divided into North-East Asia (China, Japan and South Korea), South-East Asia (mostly Asean), South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) and Central Asia.

But McKinsey has identified at least four Asias that are quite complementary to each other.

First, there is Advanced Asia, comprising Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Singapore, each with per capita incomes exceeding US$30,000 (RM125,600), highly urbanised and rich, with a combined GDP that is 10% of global GDP.

This group provides technology, capital and markets for the rest of Asia, but it is ageing fast.

Second, China is the world’s largest trading economy, second largest in GDP after the United States, and a growing consumer powerhouse. By 2030, the Chinese consumer market will be equal to Western Europe and the United States combined.

China is also an increasing capital provider to the rest of the world.

Third, the 11 countries of Emerging Asia (Asean plus Bhutan and Nepal, excluding Singapore) have young populations, fast growth and cultural diversity.

Fourth, Frontier Asia and India – covering essentially South and Central Asia including Afghanistan – which have 1.8 billion in population, still rural but young.

Taken together, these four Asias today account for one-third of global GDP and 40% of the world’s middle class.

But what is remarkable is that while the region grew from trading with the rest of the world, intra-regional trade has grown faster, to 60% of total trade, with intra-regional foreign direct investment (FDI) at 66% of total inward FDI, and 74% of air traffic.

Much of Asian growth will come from rapid urbanisation, amid growing connectivity with each other. The top 20 cities in Asia will be mega conglomerates that are among the largest cities in the world with the fastest-growing income.

A major finding is that America First-style protectionism is helping to intensify the localisation and regionalisation of intra-regional connectivity in terms of trade, finance, knowledge and cultural networks.

Furthermore, the traditional savings surpluses in Asia basically went to London and New York and were recycled back in terms of foreign direct investment and portfolio flows.

But no longer.

Increasingly, Asian financial centres are emerging to compete to re-pump surplus capital from Advanced Asia and China to fund the growth in Emerging and Frontier Asia.

In short, intra-regional finance is following intra-regional trade.

In a multipolar world, no one wants to be completely dependent on any single player but prefers network connectivity to other cities and centres of activity and creativity.

As Khanna puts it: “The phrase ‘China-led Asia’ is thus no more acceptable to most Asians than the notion of a ‘US-led West’ is to Europeans.”

But are such rosy growth prospects in Asia predestined or ordained?

Based on the trajectory of demographic growth of half the world’s young population moving into middle income, the logical answer appears to be yes.

But there are at least three major bumps in that trajectory.

First, Asia, like the rest of the world, is highly vulnerable to global warming.

Large populations with faster growth mean more energy consumption, carbon emissions and natural resource degradation. Large chunks of Asia will be vulnerable to more water, food and energy stresses, as well as natural disasters (rising seas, forest fires, pandemics, typhoons, etc).

Second, even though more Asians have been lifted out of poverty, domestic inequality of income and wealth has increased in the last 20 years.

Part of this is caused by rural-urban disparities, and widening gaps in high-value knowledge and skills. Without adequate social safety nets, healthcare and social security, dissatisfaction over youth unemployment, access to housing, and deafness to problems by bureaucracies has erupted in protests everywhere.

Third, geopolitical rivalry has meant that there will be tensions between diverse Asia over territorial, cultural and religious differences that can rapidly escalate into conflict. The region is beginning to spend more on armaments and defence instead of focusing on alleviating poverty and addressing the common threat of climate change.

Two generational leaders from the West have approached these threats from very different angles.

Addressing the United Nations, 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg dramatically shamed the older generation for its lack of action on climate change.

“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you, ” she said.

The young are idealistically appealing for unity in action against a common fate.

In contrast, addressing the UN Security Council, US President Donald Trump was arguing the case for patriotism as a solution to global issues. Climate change was not mentioned at all.

Since the older generation created most of the carbon emissions in the first place, no wonder the young are asking why they are inheriting all the problems that the old deny.

This then is the difference in passion between generations.

Globalisation occurred because of increasing flows of trade, finance, data and people. That is not stoppable by patriot-protected borders.

A multipolar Asia within a multipolar world means that even America First, however strong, will have to work with everyone, despite differences in worldviews.

All patriots will have to remember that it is the richness of diversity that keeps the world in balance.

The writer ANDREW SHENG is a distinguished fellow with the Asia Global Institute at the University of Hong Kong. This article is part of the Asian Editors Circle series, a weekly commentary by editors from the Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media titles across the region.

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Daim: Malaysia far from being able to compete globally | The Edge …

Let us not be under any illusions * We are still far from being out of the woods * We are far from being ready for the changes happening around us * We are far from being a united people * We are far from being able to compete at global level * We are far from being able to embrace differences and changes * underpinning all this unpreparedness is education * education key to preparing youth for future * education ministry has failed to prioritise right issues * hindered  progress of reforms within the national education policy


Malaysia far from developed country with unified citizens ready to face industrial challenges of futures said Tun Daim Zainuddin.

Malaysia still playing catch up with 4th IR other countries gearing for 5th IR
Let us not be under any illusions
We are still far from being out of the woods
We are far from being ready for the changes happening around us.
We are far from being a united people

We are far from being able to compete at global level

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is still far from reaching the status of a developed country with a unified citizen that is ready to face the industrial challenges of the future, said Council of Eminent Persons chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin.

Daim said Malaysia is still playing catch up with the fourth industrial revolution when other countries are already gearing for the supposed fifth industrial revolution.

“Let us not be under any illusions. We are still far from being out of the woods. We are far from being ready for the changes happening around us.

“We are far from being a united people. We are far from being able to compete at the global level. We are far from being able to embrace differences and changes.

“And underpinning all of this unpreparedness is education,” he said at the launch of the International Conference on Emerging Issues in Public Policy at Universiti Malaya’s Institute of Public Policy and Management.

The former finance minister pointed out that education is the key to preparing the youth for the future. However, he said the education ministry has failed to prioritise the right issues to tackle, which has hindered the progress of reforms within the national education policy.

“We are still arguing over whether we should teach Maths and Science in English, when the rest of the world has embarked on advanced curriculums that focus on Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4) so as to make their youth more competitive and relevant in a world that is going to be dominated by artificial intelligence and robotics,” he said.

“To participate in IR4, we must go through a knowledge-based economy and here Malaysia has failed because the government, through the ministry of education, has not got its priorities right. The education ministry must not fail our nation.

“While we are still mired in the political rhetoric of languages, others around us have moved beyond English or Mandarin or Bahasa Malaysia into the language of programming and coding. When will we realise just how far behind we are and lacking?” Daim added.

In facing the rise of technology in industrialisation, Daim said the government should implement policies that create an environment where people are allowed to maximise their potential and pursue creative pursuits that are complemented by technology, not replaced by it.

The reality is, he said, technology will have the most impact on future employment as robots replace humans in menial tasks. But where one window closes, another opens, he added.

“Fields such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Robotics, Supply Chain Logistics, and Smart Manufacturing need skilled workers and indeed, the World Economic Forum has estimated that 133 million jobs will emerge as technology advances,” he said.

At the same time, Daim stressed that education is not just for skills development, but it is also for the soul. He said the values, that are instilled in the youth at home and at the school level, will greatly impact on the type of adults they evolve into.

“We must empower them with the ability to think critically, logically, wisely and to make their own informed decisions, no matter the situation. We must raise a new generation of leaders and great thinkers, not of sheep and cowards,” he said.

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TUN DAIM CONFIRMS MASZLEE ‘DUNGGU’: OKAY, SO WHAT NEXT? AND WHAT SAYS THEIR BOSS TUN M – WHY HASN’T HE FIRED THE ‘DUNGGU’ YET?

Here is a recent interview with Tun Daim that appeared in The Edge.

 

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Recession fears hit Asian region including Singapore


Malaysia may, to a certain extent, be less vulnerable with the revival of major construction projects which in view of the country’s strained finances, have been shrunk to cut costs. The Singapore economy may undergo a “shallow, technical recession” in the third quarter.

TALK of recession has hit the region, and near home, Maybank Kim Eng Research is flagging that possibility for Singapore in the next quarter.

Export-reliant economies are hard hit by slowing growth and supply chain disruptions caused by the prolonged US-China trade and tech war.

There may be a ceasefire now in the fight between the US and China following talks between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 Summit in Osaka last Saturday.

Existing US tariffs on Chinese imports still remain; additional tariffs on the remaining US$300 bil worth of Chinese imports, as threatened, will not be imposed for now

However, the new timeline for truce remains elusive; the suspicion is that of a “creeping” imposition of tariffs, as “each truce is followed by new tariffs and then, another truce.”

In December last year, Trump and Xi had struck a truce following which talks broke down in May this year, and tariffs on US$200bil of Chinese imports leaped from 10% to 25%.

Will there be light out of this tunnel, with harder issues involving tech and supremacy not tackled? Smaller economies with the fiscal and monetary space may be able to cushion their economies somewhat from the downdraft on growth.

Malaysia may, to a certain extent, be less vulnerable with the revival of major construction projects which in view of the country’s strained finances, have been shrunk to cut costs.

The Bandar Malaysia and East Coast Rail Link projects to be revived, are now downsized to RM144bil and RM44bil respectively.

Works for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) 3, from Bandar Utama in Petaling Jaya to Johan Setia in Klang, will resume in the second half of the year, at a reduced cost of RM16.63bil.

Talks are said to be ongoing to revive the Mass Rapid Transit Line (MRT) 3, or MRT Circle Line round the city centre, at possibly RM22.5bil which is half the original cost.

“The timing (of the revival of these projects) has been very good for Malaysia,’’ said Pong Teng Siew, the head of research at Inter-Pacific Securities. “These projects will go on for several years and positively impact the economy over that period.’’

Domestic spending and activities will provide ‘some comfort’ to the local economy but we should ensure that any further monetary easing actually goes into the real economy to support these activities, according to Anthony Dass, head of AmBank Research.

Malaysia’s private consumption was at a record 59.5% of its nominal (calculated at current market prices) Gross Domestic Product, which hit US$88.5 bil in March, 2019, according to CEIC Data.

Benefits from trade diversion from China, the current US tariff hotspot, are offset by downward pressure on global trade where volume was flat in the first quarter, the weakest since the financial crisis.

Global semiconductor sales also declined in February and March, the first back-to-back double digit contraction since the financial crisis.

In view of this decline, the volatile global trade environment and rising geopolitical tensions, open economies “should be prepared for the unexpected,’’ said Nor Zahidi Alias, the associate director of economic research of Malaysian Rating Corp.

The Singapore economy may undergo a “shallow, technical recession” in the third quarter, said Maybank Kim Eng, pointing to possible intensification of supply chain disruptions and US export controls on more Chinese tech firms.

Following the Trump-Xi talks, the US has reversed its equipment sales ban on Huawei but will that ease fears of other similar bans down the road? Defined as two consecutive quarters of negative quarter-on-quarter growth, a recession will prompt further easing of monetary policy in Singapore.

Manufacturing in Singapore, which accounts for a fifth of the economy, fell 2.4%, with electronics dropping 10.8% in May from a year ago; output is expected to decline again in June.

Hong Kong has also been issued warnings of recession, as its economy experienced the largest contraction since 2011, declining by 0.4% in the first quarter against the previous quarter.

Thailand’s economy grew at its slowest pace in four years, in the first quarter, hitting 2.8% from 3.6% in the same period last year; exports remain weak.

Taiwan’s economy avoided contraction in the first quarter but private consumption and gross capital formation slowed significantly while government consumption declined.

In the US, a mis-calibration in interest rate policy by the Federal Reserve can cause a sharper slowdown than expected or bring on a recession.“Monetary policy affects the economy with unpredictable lags, it could be hard for the Fed to time its policy (rate cut) that can prevent a downturn this and next year,’’ said Lee Heng Guie, the executive director of Socio Economic Research Center.

Columnist Yap Leng Kuen notes the reminder to ‘expect the unexpected.’

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Uncertainty over the future of US-China economic relations has derailed the once high-flying global equity market, which rose almost 15 per .

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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It’s time for Penang to reinvent itself; RM70bil to be raised from the 3 man-made islands to finance LRT, PIL infrastruture under PTMP


Looking ahead: An aerial view of Penang’s Free Industrial Zone. Penang
is banking on land reclamation to the south of the island to help fund
the state’s economic development.

ALMOST three decades ago, my then news editor Nizam Mohamad tried to convince me to work in Kuala Lumpur instead of remaining content in Penang, but like most Penangites, I enjoyed the slower pace of life on the island.

The food was good, the beach was marvellous, and I could be with my sweetheart, now my wife. I had my friends, who were my schoolmates, and my family members.

Finally, when the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit was held in KL in 1990, Nizam asked me to “help out with the coverage”.

When I reported for duty, he handed me my transfer letter on the spot. It was as simple as that, and I remember he told me that “you would go nowhere if you remain in Penang”.

For decades, skills migration and brain drain, and the lack of high-quality job opportunities, has been Penang’s Achilles heel.

Shoe designer Datuk Jimmy Choo wouldn’t have become a world icon had he remained in George Town. The same fate could have befallen sports personalities Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Datuk Nicol David had they, too, not moved to KL.

Munich-based Datuk Ooi Chean See would have no renowned orchestra to conduct if she were still in Penang, and Hong Kong-based fund manager, Datuk Seri Cheah Cheng Hye, wouldn’t be a billionaire had he stayed put in the state.

Nizam was right, and I am thankful for his foresight. Like many of my fellow islanders, our careers have moved up and onwards since moving to the nation’s capital, given its greater opportunities.

Penangites, many of whom now work outside the state, generally also lack properties in the state because we no longer live there. The rental yield simply doesn’t make business sense for investment.

The truth is, Penang is stagnating and hasn’t been able to reinvent itself. The state remains dependent on the electrical and electronics (E&E) sector. Putting it more accurately, with a GDP of RM80bil, half of Penang’s economy is reliant on this sector with the other half on tourism and the services industry.

Despite having achieved a high growth rate of 11% per annum between 1970 and 2008, growing from RM790mil in 1970 to RM49bil in 2008, GDP growth rate has slowed down to 5% for the past 10 years.

The past decade also saw GDP per capita easing off to 4% per annum, and with inflation at 3% per annum, the standard of living for Penangites has been on the decline, relative to the past four decades.

Growing up on the island, where I spent much time at the Batu Ferringhi beaches, we all know why it’s now hard for Penang to compete against the likes of Bali, Phuket and Koh Lipe as its beaches and water have simply lost their lustre.

Penang can no longer call itself the “The Pearl Of The Orient” or even “Penang Leads”, a tagline locals revelled in during the era of then Chief Minister Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu.

The state is losing ground in tourism, especially with it having not invested sufficiently in this sector, a situation compounded by how cities around the world are reinventing themselves.

In the E&E sector, we are trapped between China and Vietnam, two fast-moving low-cost locations, while Singapore and Taiwan portray highly skilled research and design centres. Basically, we’ve lost out on both ends.

More discouraging is how Penang, especially the island side with its premium value, has run out of land for safe development, open spaces and infrastructure.

Much of the state’s people are unaware that almost 40% of Penang’s land is classified as Class III or above. This classification means that the terrain is sloped at more than 25 degrees, measured from a horizontal plane.

These are the foliaged hilly and sloppy terrains subjected to undue pressure from hillside developments. Recent catastrophes of landslides, floods and fatalities remain etched in our minds.

It has become increasingly difficult to buy homes on the island, and it’s common knowledge how rich Singaporeans have snapped up the pre-war homes in heritage sites there for a song.

As land becomes scarcer, the manufacturing and services sector will not be able to grow and will remain stunted.

That could all change soon with the state and federal governments now under the rule of the same political coalition. The state needs to accelerate its inevitable transformation which will fundamentally change the way Penangites live and work, and it needs to embrace digital economy, globalisation and urbanisation. To put it succinctly, Penang must brand itself a Smart City.

In other countries, there is always a second city – Beijing and Shanghai, Sydney and Melbourne, Hanoi and Ho Chin Minh, New York and Los Angeles. However, George Town has never been able to capture the second city status (partnering KL), and it must now compete with Johor Baru for that prestigious identity. Penang has severely lagged.

Understandably, most Penangites are averse to change. Putting up buildings doesn’t mean development, and besides, no one comes to Penang to see skyscrapers. The quality of life is important, and it’s fortunate that Penang has a vibrant civil society.

The non-governmental organisations are alert and outspoken, and that’s what a mature democracy should be like – keeping a close eye on politicians.

But Penang can’t remain stagnant, so it needs land. All around the world, land reclamation is a norm. Just look at Singapore and Hong Kong. Manhattan wouldn’t exist if New York didn’t add land to it. And if Johor hadn’t done the same, Singaporeans can see Johoreans from their flats, as they reclaim without any debates.

“Location, location, location” is the mantra of land developers. The plan to create three man-made islands, totalling 1,821ha (4,500 acres) under the Penang South Reclamation Scheme (PSR) is proof of heading in the right direction. The RM70bil deal involves the construction of the RM9bil rail transit (LRT) line, the RM9.6bil Pan Island Link 1 (PIL1) and other supporting infrastructure projects under the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP). see more below …

Land may be in abundance on the mainland, but the island is the preferred choice, because in terms of value, it has always fetched higher prices. Having the three islands next to the Bayan Lepas Industrial Zone, the Penang International Airport and the Second Penang Bridge is the right thing to do.

Malaysia’s E&E industry is centred in Bayan Lepas, contributing RM120bil in exports, and these islands will help boost this crucial sector further, and encourage Penang to reinvent itself as a digital economy.

A properly planned transport link is long overdue. For years, I have made it a point to return to Penang for the reunion dinner days ahead of Chinese New Year, simply because I can no longer handle the stress of traffic jams on the island.

The final straw was when a jaga kereta boy demanded RM10 for my car, which was parked near Kek Lok Si temple where my wife used to live, because “you have a KL number plate” and “you are not a Penangite”.

Although Penang was the first state in Malaya to introduce a tram system (in the 1880s), the streets there are simply too narrow. So, while it sounds good in theory, it’s just not practical.

Going above the streets – like what modern rails do – is the right thing, and such an “elevated” move will remove the chaos each time it rains and transforms George Town into a huge canal.

The bottom line is, the E&E sector is stagnant, tourism earnings have reduced, Penang isn’t on the global business map, traffic congestion is horrendous, housing on the island is unsustainable and worse, the best brains will not come to Penang for career advancement.

You can have investments, but it doesn’t make sense if the best talents are not attracted to work in the state. There is only so much char koay teow one can eat in Penang.

It’s no good for Penang to be a pick for expatriate retirees. Instead, we need it to be a choice for the workforce, both Malaysian and foreign, from the knowledge economy, supporting services, manufacturing and renewed tourism industries. Penang must move up the value chain to reclaim its lost stature of “Penang Leads”.

By Wong Chun Wai – comment The Star

RM70bil will be flowing in from here 

 

Penang can expect to raise over RM70bil through projects

This is the plan – set up three man-made islands under the Penang South Reclamation Scheme and then, rake in enough to finance the state’s economic development for the next 30 years.

GEORGE TOWN: Over RM70bil is expected to be raised from the three man-made islands under the Penang South Reclamation Scheme (PSR), enough to spearhead the state’s economic development for the next 30 years.

Sources told The Star that out of the more than RM70bil, about RM46bil would be used for the construction of the RM9bil light rail transit (LRT) line, the RM9.6bil Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1), and other supporting infrastructure projects under the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

According to a prominent Penang developer, the present price of industrial land on the island would be around RM70-RM200psf, depending on its status as leasehold or freehold land.

Because the industrial lots on the island are freehold land, the pricing is around RM20psf.

“When the reclamation of the islands starts in 2020, there could be at a 10% appreciation. The island will be sold via an open tender process,” he said.

It will take at least six years for the reclamation, which will be done in stages, to be completed.

It was previously reported that sources had said that about 75% of the three islands were for sale, with some 30% of the enquiries received so far being for industrial land.

When contacted, a local manufacturing company said it would be interested to bid for the lots once an open tender was called.

“There’s currently a slowdown in the manufacturing sector. When the reclamation is done, the global economy should also see a recovery,” said its spokesman.

The National Physical Planning Council is expected to approve the reclamation of the three islands, totalling 1,821ha (4,500acres), before the end of this month.

The SRS Consortium – a 60:20:20 joint venture involving Gamuda Bhd, Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd and Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd – is the project delivery partner, appointed by the state government to oversee the implementation of the LRT, PIL 1 and PSR scheme, components of the PTMP.

It was also earlier reported that the tender to reclaim the island would be out in the third quarter of this year.

Island A will house industrial projects – which lots will be developed for sale to foreign and local investors to generate funds for PTMP – and residential development, while Island B will accommodate the state administrative offices and commercial properties.

Residential properties will be developed on Island C.

The LRT is an integrated transport solution comprising a monorail link, cable cars and water taxis to solve traffic congestion in Penang while the 19.5km PIL highway project connects Gurney Drive to the Penang International Airport.

The LRT begins from Komtar in the northeast corner of the island and passes through Jelutong, Gelugor, Bayan Lepas and the airport before ending at Island B.  – The Star

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