How to make living more affordable?


 

 

IN my previous article I asked the question, Do you earn enough to sustain your lifestyle?

The feedback received was consistent. People told me that they worry about the situation, some even wrote in to share their concern.

A reader by the name of Yap wrote me an email about his observation after reading my article.

“I always doubt how a family with a median household income can survive in KL. Based on my calculation, there is no way a family with two children can survive in KL with RM6,275 without accumulating bad debt or spending 4.5 hours to travel on the road. Housing is one of the factors, but not the only one,” he wrote in his email.

Belanjawanku, an expenditure guide launched by the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) in early March states that a married couple with two children spend about RM6,620 per month on food, transport, housing, childcare, utilities, healthcare, etc.

However, the median household income for Malaysians in 2016 was RM5,228. While the median income of M40 group (Middle 40%) was RM6,275, which means five out of 10 households in this category received RM6,275 per month or less. This is far below the RM6,620 required for a family with two children to stay in the Klang Valley.

Another alarming fact is… Belanjawanku compiles only core living expenses without including long-term financial planning tools such as education funds or investments. The actual budget constraint can be more severe if we take them into account.

The living cost in major cities is inevitably higher than in small towns or suburb areas.

As such, when we discuss housing affordability in the cities such as Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley, we shouldn’t impose the same benchmark of RM300,000 as everything else is more expensive in the city. Affordable housing should benchmark against the cost of living of the area.

Based on the research for Belanjawanku, even if housing was provided for free, a household of four would still need RM5,750 to sustain their lifestyle.

The transportation cost alone is RM1,040 for a family, higher than the RM870 allocated for housing.

Therefore, if a family is looking to lower their cost of living, moving to suburb areas would allow them to have a more affordable budget.

According to a news report which quoted information from brickz.my, the housing prices in KL are five times higher than in Seremban, with median housing price of RM1mil (RM940 psf) in the KL city centre, versus RM200,000 (RM210 psf) in Seremban.

Suburbs which are nearer to KL such as Klang and Shah Alam also offer attractive housing prices with a median price of RM340,000.

For families who stay in the city centre and plan to reduce their cost of living, they can consider moving to suburbs to enjoy a better quality of life, and leverage on the improved public transportation which offer hassle-free travelling from suburbs to city centre.

Although high living cost is a concern for many Malaysians, KL is ironically found to be the cheapest city to live out of the 11 major cities in Asia, according to the 2018 Wealth Report Asia.

We are “cheaper” or ranked lower than our neighbouring cities, including Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta. KL, Manila, and Jakarta are also the most price competitive cities when it comes to the residential properties segment.

Why are we still facing the challenge of high living costs despite being the “cheapest” city in the region? The underlying factor is because of the low household income earned by most Malaysians, as the previous government failed to transit us to a higher income nation.

In his email, Yap mentioned that “I always imagine what Malaysia can be if there were no leakages. Hundreds of billions could be spent to stimulate various industries. Our GDP per capita could be close to if not similar to Singapore’s”.

That is the vision and sentiment shared by a majority of Malaysians. With the new government that promises to be more transparent and efficient, we hope that one day, we can afford to live comfortably in any city we wish to, with a higher household income.

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the World President of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email bkp@bukitkiara.com

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Do you earn enough to sustain your lifestyle?


DO you know how much you need to sustain your lifestyle every month? Are you living within your budget or stretching to make ends meet?

We can now gain insights with the unveiling of Belanjawanku, an Expenditure Guide for Malaysian Individuals and Families, launched by the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) in early March.

The guide offers an idea of the living costs for respective household categories. It encompasses the expenditure on basic needs and involvement in society for a reasonable standard of living in the Klang Valley.

According to Belanjawanku, a married couple with two children spend about RM6,620 per month on food, transport, housing, childcare, utilities, healthcare, personal care, annual expenses, savings, social participation and discretionary expenses.

When I read this guide together with the income statistics published by the Statistics Department, it reveals that a vast majority of Malaysians can’t afford to live in the Klang Valley.

Based on the statistics, the median household income for Malaysian households in 2016 is RM5,228, far below the RM6,620 required for a family with two children to stay in the Klang Valley.

If we take a closer look, the median income of M40 group (Middle 40%) is RM6,275, which means five out of 10 households in this category received RM6,275 per month or less. This indicates that over 60% (40% from B40 households and half of the M40 households) of Malaysian households (if they have two children) can’t afford to stay in the Klang Valley.

What went wrong in the process? Why are many households having challenges to meet the required budget?

According to Belanjawanku, a married couple with two children spent the majority of their income on food (RM1,550), followed by childcare (RM1,150) and transport (RM1,040), then only on housing (RM870) and other items.

Based on the research, even if housing was provided for free, a household of four would still need RM5,750 to sustain their lifestyle. Therefore, the common perception that only housing is expensive is not right. It is not that housing is expensive, but that everything is expensive because of inflation over the years! The value of our currency has fallen due to global money printing measures over the past decade.

Belanjawanku compiles only core living expenses without luxury items or excessive spending. It also doesn’t include long-term financial planning tools such as funds for education or investments. If the majority of Malaysian households have challenges in meeting the existing expenses listed in the guide, it poses a serious concern on their future financial prospects.

The underlying factor of this challenge is the low household income earned by Malaysians. The previous government failed to move us to a high income nation as they had promised, and more families are stretching to make ends meet now. It may lead to serious financial problems in the future.

If median household incomes don’t increase, the B40 (Bottom 40%) and half of the M40 will always struggle even if housing is free, assuming that they aspire to have two children and to live in the Klang Valley.

According to Transparency International Malaysia, corruption had cost our country about 4% of its gross domestic product (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!

Imagine what we can do with these monies if there was no leakage in the system? The previous government should have channeled the money to stimulate economic growth and increase the income of the rakyat.

Going forward, I am optimistic that the new government, with its promise of a clean and transparent government, can finally fix the leakage and focus on generating a higher income level for all Malaysian households.

Financial independence is a key factor in the overall well being of the rakyat. We need to increase household incomes to a level where families can meet their basic needs and embark on long-term financial planning, to elevate their quality of life.

Then, and only then, will housing and other living expenses finally become affordable.

By

Food for thought By Alan Tong

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, email bkp@bukitkiara.com



 

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Steep learning curve


What is meant by “steep learning curve”?

Unfazed, this mass comm graduate overcame all kinds of challenges to make it in business.

SAMANTHA Mah did well on her first business venture but suffered a loss on her second. However, failure did not deter her and her two partners from moving on. They gave it another go until they could see the fruits of their labour.

Mah worked as a company administrator and voice talent for radio commercials before she decided to venture into business.— aNis aBdullah/The star

Mah’s first business received an investment of RM10,000 from her sister, Natasha, 37. She and two investor-partners started an online boutique targeted at young women. After one-and-a-half years, business picked up and was quite good.

Mah, 30, is the youngest in her family. She has two elder sisters and a brother.

Mah, Natasha and a friend Jason Leong, 31, started their trading company on March 8, 2011. Just four months later, it incurred a big loss, prompting them to change the products they were selling – from peanuts and sesame seeds to edible organic products.

A mass communication graduate from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) in Selangor, Mah had worked part-time as a company administrator and voice talent for radio commercials before she venturing into business. She is now the marketing manager/managing director of her company.

After starting Wide Tropism Trading, she passed her online boutique business to a friend.

One of the biggest challenges for Mah, at the beginning, was that neither she nor her partners had a corporate background.

“We handled matters based on our experiences. Sometimes we had to ask friends for advice.

“In the first few years, there were lots of arguments,” she said.

Mah is glad that her relationship with Natasha survived those trying times.

As part of the company’s costcutting measures, each of them had to take on more responsibilities in various departments.

“There were too many things on my plate – human resource, accounts, design and marketing – and I was suffocating. But we did not have enough (finances) to hire staff,” said Mah.

After two months, she “exploded” and cried during a meeting.

“I could not take the pressure and workload anymore,” she said.

Eventually, they could afford to hire new staff.

“Only then did things start to fall into place,” she said.


Cheated by a supplier

Initially, they were importing foods such as peanuts and sesame seeds, and distributing them to local suppliers. Unfortunately, they suffered a huge loss in the first year itself due to unscrupulous parties.

Due to limited cash flow, they could only import one container of stock at a time. Each time, they flew over to the exporting country, India, to check on the quality of the stock and witness the peanuts being loaded into the containers. The first two shipments went through successfully.

However, the third shipment, supposedly of Grade A peanuts, was discovered to contain Grade C stock instead, when it arrived.

She said: “No one in the market would accept the stock. We sought help from the local distributor to sell off the peanuts at a lower price but even then, no one wanted them. After trying for two months, we had to sell off the peanuts to a peanut butter factory at below cost. As a result, we ran into losses amounting to RM40,000.”

The supplier denied it was his fault and instead blamed others. They then contacted the High Commission of India, in Kuala Lumpur, for help but to no avail.

“We wondered how we were going to continue business. My father advised us to pick ourselves up, learn from it, and be more careful. Everyone was very supportive and encouraged us to continue. They believed we could do better,” she said.

Mah then sought help from her uncle, an experienced fruit trader and grocer. He advised her to run a business that’s less risky, such as repackaging and distributing organic products.

She and her business partners promptly took his advice.

In July 2011, her company had its first customer, a newly opened supermarket in Petaling Jaya. In two months, Mah’s team had designed the logo and sourced for products and packaging. And so, their label Love Earth was born.

 Overcoming obstacles

Every day, Mah and her partners packed their products until midnight, and delivered them, working on weekends to selfpromote their products as well.

Said Mah: “Each time a new supermarket called, we’d celeto brate!”

Gradually, it was time start their expansion plan but they were hampered by limited cash flow.

They knew they had to spend more to create brand awareness. That’s when they started their online webstore.

“None of us had any knowledge about marketing. So I attended marketing and e-commerce talks to learn and see what we could do,” she said.

Mah recalled: “The first three years of business were really tough. My salary was only RM1,000 monthly (to cut costs).”

But their efforts paid off. After five years of sheer hard work, they could buy two units of four-storey shophouses.

The company started with 50 products and now has 180.

Currently, it is distributing these products to over 500 outlets throughout Malaysia.


New priorities

Mah, who got married two years ago, plans to expand her family this year. Her husband, C.V. Loh, 32, distributes bio-degradable plates, lunch boxes and bowls as well as health supplements.

She said: “I hope to have financial freedom, and more time for my family. If possible, I would like to be a part-time businesswoman and full-time housewife one day.”

She plans to raise her children herself and not send them to a nanny. She also hopes to travel more in the future. Presently, she travels at least thrice a year. Seeing other countries and cultures opens up one’s mind, she said.

Although she is a career woman, Mah believes in putting family first.

“Women play a role in bringing up the family. If a child is not well taught, he might be a nuisance to society in the future. But if he has a good upbringing, he can be the sun that shines and brings benefits to all. Also, a woman is the pillar that upholds the family,” she said.

Mah explained that even though she studied mass communication and broadcasting, it was during her internship that she realised that she wanted to go on a different career path than she had originally planned.

After her graduation, she thought of going into volunteer work. But her uncle advised against it. He told her to be successful so that she could help herself and others in future.

By Majorie Chiew The Star
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Hike in daycare & childcare centre fees in 2019


MONTHLY fees at majority of daycare centres in Perak are expected to increase between 15% and 20% in 2019.

Fees between RM300 and RM350 for a child could be increased to RM400.

Perak Daycare Association president Noor Shalina Sahari said the increase was due to the implementation of the minimum wage policy for workers set by the Government.

The minimum wage will be streamlined at RM1,100 nationwide starting Jan 1.

Noor Shalina said the increase at the respective daycare centres would differ from one another, depending on the number of employees and the locality.

“The ratio at a daycare centre is three employees to one child.

“The centre would require five staff to handle children aged one to three while 10 workers are needed for those aged three and above,” she said during a grant presentation ceremony at the Urban Transformation Centre in Ipoh.

“To be honest, the rate in Perak is still considered low.

“Currently, our rates are between RM300 and RM350. Next year, it could be between RM350 and RM400,” she added.

Noor Shalina said the increase would also be based on the respective areas.

“If the daycare is located in an area where majority of its residents are from the low income group, the increase would be minimal.

“It would also depend on the respective daycare operators,” she said, adding that the association has 120 members.

“There will be no drastic increase, it will not benefit us also as we are also competing with those that are home-based and not registered with the Government,” she added.

Source: The Star by Ivan Loh

Childcare centres to hike fees in 2019 – Rates to rise by 10% to 30% to cover costs 

‘Childcare providers are now required to have at least a diploma in early education’. – Norsheila Abdullah

PETALING JAYA: Taska (childcare centres) are expected to charge between 10% and 30% more next year to keep up with the minimum wage and to cover costs.

Association of Registered Childcare Pro­viders Malaysia president Norsheila Abdullah said this is unavoidable as the minimum wage for childcare providers has been fixed at RM1,100 and that they are increasingly becoming more qualified.

She expects the fee hike to affect all states as the minimum wage has been streamlined to RM1,100 nationwide starting Jan 1.

“I think the price increase is appropriate because they are receiving very low salary, between RM800 and RM900, and they deserve the minimum wage.

“Besides the minimum wage, other reasons for the increase include hidden costs such as childcare providers’ qualifications and overhead costs such as rental, electricity and water bills.

“Childcare providers are now required to have at least a diploma in early education and to be certified with the Permata Early Childhood Education Programme (KAP), a government-run course that costs RM900, and first aid training,” she said.

Currently in Kuala Lumpur, the fee per child in taska is typically no less than RM450 per month, said Norsheila.

The increase of taska fees would however vary according to the operating costs in the particular location, said Norsheila.

It is likely that only centres charging lower fees will increase them by 30%.

“How much the increase will be depends on the taska. If they are charging between RM200 and RM250, then maybe they will increase by 30% because they need to keep up,” she said.

Norsheila suggests that parents sending children to registered centres be given rebates by the government and taska which adhere to all the regulations be allowed tax exemption.

Selangor Taska Association president Mahanom Basri said taska operators should not haphazardly increase fees without matching it with quality service.

“We don’t actually want to increase the price without any reason. Most of the childcare providers have either a diploma or a degree and sometimes work more than 10 hours per day but they are lowly paid. So we hope the parents will understand and not be angry with us.

“If childcare providers are paid accordingly, they will take care of the children well and both parties will be satisfied,” she said.

While there are over 1,500 taska in Selangor, Mahanom gave assurance that there would be no standardisation of fees among the operators because they are still bound by the Competition Act 2010.

She said the Selangor state government has been assisting parents in need via incentives such as the Sikembar programme, whereby they subsidise RM100 for every child sent to a taska registered under the Community Welfare Department.

Mahanom added that there are also alternatives to the fee increase.

“Currently, I know of some taska operators who don’t want to charge the parents too much so they work out a compromise whereby the parents, as partners in education, would contribute items like rice and vegetables monthly to the taska so that it takes away a
a bit of the operating cost burden,” she said.
The  Star by fatimah zainal

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Restructuring our household debt


NEW Year always come with new resolutions. Finance is an important aspect of most people’s checklists when it comes to planning new goals.

While it is good to set new financial targets, it is also vital to re-look at our debt portfolio to ascertain if it is at a healthy state.

At a national level, our country also has its financial targets matched against its debt portfolio.

According to the latest Risk Developments and Assessment of Financial Stability 2016 Report by Bank Negara, the country’s household debt was at RM1.086 trillion or 88.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) as at end 2016.

Residential housing loan accounted for 50.3% (RM546.3bil) of total household debts, motor vehicles at 14.6%, personal financing at 14.9%, non-residential loan was 7.4%, securities at 5.7%, followed by credit cards at 3.5% and other items at 3.6%.

Evidently, residential housing loan is the highest among all types of household debt. However, a McKinsey Global Institute Report on “Debt and (Not Much) Deleveraging” in 2015 highlighted that in advanced countries, mortgage or housing loan comprises 74% of total household debt on average.

As a country that aspires to be a developed nation, a housing loan ratio of 50.3% to total household debt would be considered low, compared to 74% for the advanced countries. In other words, we are spending too much on items that depreciate in value immediately – such as car loans, credit card loans and personal loans – compared to assets that appreciate in value in the long run, such as houses.

Advanced economies, which are usually consumer nations, have only 26% debts on non-housing loan as compared to ours at 49.7%.

In order to adopt the household debt ratio of advanced economies, our housing loan of RM546.3bil should be at 74% of total household debt. This means that if we were to keep our housing loan of RM546.3bil constant, our total household debt should be reduced from the current RM1.086 trillion to a more manageable RM738bil. This would require other non-housing loans (car loans, credit card loans and personal loans etc) to reduce from 49.7% of total household debt to only 26%. To achieve this ratio, the non-housing loan debt must collapse from the current RM539.7bil to only RM192bil.

Reducing total household debt from the current RM1.086 trillion to a more manageable RM738bil would also have the added benefit of reducing our total household debt-to-GDP ratio from the high 88.4% to only 60%, making us one of the top countries globally for financial health.

Malaysia’s household debt at present ranked as one of the highest in Asia. Based on the same 2015 McKinsey Report, our household debt-to-income ratio was 146% in 2014 (the ratio of other developing countries was about 42%) compared to the average of 110% in advanced economies.

Adjusting the debt ratio by reducing car loans, personal loans and credit card loans will make our nation stay financially healthy.

Car values depreciate at about 10% to 20% per year based on insurance calculations, accounting standards and actual market prices. Assets financed by personal and credit card loans typically depreciate immediately and aggressively.

The easy access to credit cards and personal loan facilities tend to encourage people to spend excessively, especially when there is no maximum credit limit imposed on credit cards for those earning more than RM36,000 per year.

If we maximised the credit limit given without considering our financial ability, we will need a long time to repay due to the high interest rates, which ranged from 15% to 18% per annum.

Based on a report in The Star recently, Malaysia’s youth are seeing a worrying trend with those aged between 25 and 44 forming the biggest group classified as bankrupt.

The top four reasons for bankruptcy were car loans (26.63%), personal loans (25.48%), housing loans (16.87%) and business loans (10.24%).

It is time for the Government to introduce more drastic cooling-off measures for non-housing loans in order to curb debt that is not backed by assets. This will protect the rakyat from further impoverishment that they are voicing and feeling today.

As we kick start the new year, it is good to relook into our debt portfolio. When we are able to identify where we make up most of our debts, and start to reallocate our financial resources more effectively, we will be heading towards a sound and healthier financial status as a nation.

By Alan Tong – Food for thought

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the world president of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please e-mail feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.
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Moving forward with affordable housing


One way to solve housing shortage problem is to build more houses.

“If we take a look at countries with commendable housing policies such
as Singapore and Hong Kong, we notice that the government plays a very
important role in building and ensuring a sufficient supply of housing
for their people.”

THE issue of affordable housing has been a hot potato for many countries, especially for a nation with a growing population and urbanisation like ours.

In my previous article, I mentioned that there was a growing shortage of affordable housing in our country according to Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim. The shortage is expected to reach one million units by 2020.

According to Bank of England governor Mark Carney, one of the most effective ways to address the issue is to build more houses. There are good examples in countries like United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore, which have 2.4, 2.6 and 3.35 persons per household respectively.

In comparison, the average persons per household in our country is 4.06 person, a ratio which Australia had already achieved in 1933! To improve the current ratio, we need to put more effort into building houses to bring prices down.

If we take a look at countries with commendable housing policies such as Singapore and Hong Kong, we notice that the government plays a very important role in building and ensuring a sufficient supply of housing for their people.

For example in Singapore, their Housing and Development Board (HDB) has built over one million flats and houses since 1960, to house 90% of Singaporeans in their properties. In Hong Kong, the government provides affordable housing for lower-income residents, with nearly half of the population residing in some form of public housing nowadays. The rents and prices of public housing are subsidised by the government and are significantly lower than for private housing.

To be on par with Australia (2.6 persons per household), our country needs a total of 8.6 million homes to house our urban population of 22.4 million people. In other words, we need an additional 3.3 million houses on top of our existing 5.3 million residential houses.

However, with our current total national housing production of about 80,000 units a year, it will take us more than 40 years to build 3.3 million houses! With household formation growing at a faster rate than housing production, we will still be faced with a housing shortage 40 years from now.

Therefore, even if the private sector dedicated all its current output to build affordable housing, it will still be a long journey ahead to produce sufficient houses for the nation. It is of course impossible for the private sector to do so as it will be running at a loss due to rising costs of land and construction.

In view of the above, the government has to shoulder the responsibility of building more houses for the rakyat due to the availability of resources owned by the government. Land, for example, is the most crucial element in housing development. As a lot of land resources are owned by government, they must offer these lands to relevant agencies or authorities to develop affordable housing.

I recall when I was one of the founding directors of the Selangor State Development Corp in 1970s, its main objectives was to build public housing for the rakyat.

However, today the corporation has also ventured into high end developments in order to subsidise its affordable housing initiatives. This will somehow distract them from focusing on the affordable housing sector.

Although government has rolled out various initiatives in encouraging affordable houses, it is also important for the authorities to constantly review the original objectives of the relevant housing agencies, such as the various State Economic Development Corporations, Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd, and 1 Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme, to ensure they have ample resources especially land and funding to continue their mission in building affordable housing.

A successful housing policy and easy access to affordable housing have a huge impact on the rakyat. It is hoped that our government escalates its effort in building affordable housing, which will enhance the happiness and well-being of the people, and the advancement of our nation.


Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.
By Alan Tong

Citizens’ frustrations, Malaysian youths worry about future; MCA dares to face criticism


Citizen Liow’ plays dual role in National Day video
Myself and I: Citizen Liow (left) comes face-to-face with the politician in ‘Citizens’ in conjunction with National Day.

Malaysia is all about us – On The Beat

‘Citizen Liow’ vents his frustration in short film

KUALA LUMPUR: It is Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai as we have never seen him before – shabby, dispirited and a little rude.

Without his signature full-rim spectacles, Liow, playing an ordinary citizen in a video with a poignant but powerful message, vents his spleen about the country’s current mood.

From the hurtful balik tongsan comment to corrupt practices, Citizen Liow is determined to get his frustrations off his chest.

He even throws a fistful of sweets at a guest in his home. The guest is also played by Liow, who essentially portrays his everyday role of a politician.

The on-screen sparring between both Liows is a creative, yet brutally frank, account of the general sentiments of the local Chinese community.

It is almost painful to watch the heated encounter, but that is exactly why the six minute-long video Citizens is so compelling.

Producers Pete Teo and Liew Seng Tat did not attempt to paint a rosy and glowing picture even though the clip was meant for the upcoming National Day celebrations.

The video boldly addresses the grievances and fears of the Chinese community in Malaysia, which means there will inevitably be “anger, helplessness and conflict”, as Teo explained on his Facebook.

Liow, in his real life as Transport Minister, Bentong MP and especially MCA president, must have often been at the receiving end of the kind of harsh comments hurled by “Citizen Liow” in the clip.

“Politicians only know how to talk!” is perhaps the most common sweeping statement that disregards the efforts and contributions of community and government leaders. In the video, Liow the politician admits there are shortcomings.

The seasoned politician says: “I can find excuses and try to defend ourselves by saying that circumstances do not work in our favour, but no, I won’t do that.”

“We didn’t say there weren’t mistakes. We did not handle many things well, but it is not easy to rule a country.”

“We have seen many politicians from both sides dwelling on the negatives when support for them fades. This alienates the people even further,” he said.

With the National Day just days away, the video is a timely reminder to those with political ambitions to reflect on their vision for the country.

Similarly, the public can look back at the past 60 years of the country’s development, from a mining and agricultural-based economy to today’s multi-sector economy anchored in manufacturing and services.

Of course, there will always be challenges and sacrifices as we progress. Good governance is a must if we are to continue on that path of growth and prosperity.

But as Citizens reminds us, it is important not to lose hope. We must believe that our founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman’s vision of Malaysia will come true.

At the end of the video, “Citizen Liow” has a change of heart. He quietly retrieves the Jalur Gemilang from storage and displays it on his balcony, with his real-life wife Datin Seri Lee Sun Loo at his side.

When met by reporters yesterday, Liow was visibly pleased with how the video has turned out. He said the message he wanted to send through the video was for Malaysians to unite and work together to make the country a progressive nation.

“We love this nation. We are proud to be Malaysians and we are working hard to make this country a stronger nation. That’s the aspiration and message we want to send out,” he said.

By Tho Xin Yi The Star/ANN

‘Youths worry about future, not politics’

Future wave: Liow and Chong (second from left) sharing a light moment with students after the TN50 DialogueUTAR in the Sungai Long Campus.

CHERAS: Youths are more concerned about their future than politics. This is the feedback gathered during the recent TN50 dialogues with students from several universities, said MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

“However, I don’t think they are indifferent towards politics. They are aware of issues.

“For instance, they know that this is about TN50 and about a future that they want,” Liow said after attending a TN50 Dialogue @UTAR with 700 students at UTAR Sungai Long Campus here yesterday.

He cited education and health issues, including the ability to earn a decent living, as some of the aspirations raised by the students during the hour-long dialogue session.

Liow said it is crucial for youths to continue upholding the core value system practised by Barisan Nasional.

He added that Barisan’s core values such as consensus, mutual respect, unity, cooperation and harmony are shared by Malaysians.

“Barisan upholds values of consensus and mutual respect but DAP is sowing the seeds of hatred. The party is also sowing the seeds of anger towards the Government which is causing a split in our society,” he said.

Liow added that the Opposition lacked the core values and was now in a chaotic state.

There was a casual air about the dialogue session where students were asked by moderator MCA youth chief Datuk Chong Sin Woon to address Liow as “Ah Liow” and himself as “Ah Chong”.

Earlier during the dialogue, Chong warned students to be wary of fake news on social media.

“The reality is that most news on social media are fake.

“You should check the source and not blindly believe all that you read,” he said.

He also said that youths were more concerned about “bread and butter” issues rather that politics.

At another function, Liow said more skilled workers were needed as the country progresses.

“It is important for us to train more technical professionals. For MCA, we would like to expand VTAR Institute because of our significant growth in students from 100 to 700 in these few years.

“We will find the right place to expand VTAR and we hope to have more than 1,000 students here,” he told reporters after launching the PW2 wireman competency licence course at the institute in Setapak here yesterday.

VTAR is the vocational education arm of MCA.

Earlier during the function, VTAR CEO Tan Cheng Liang signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federation of Malaysian Electrical Appliances Dealers Association (Fomeda) president Gan Cheng Swee to run the PW2 programme. – The Star

‘Citizen Liow’ plays dual role in National Day video

国民 CITIZENS

A screengrab from the video short “Citizens”.

PETALING JAYA: You’re not seeing double – it really is Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai playing two roles in a National Day video by producers Pete Teo and Liew Seng Tat.

The six minute-long video short entitled Citizens was released on Monday in conjunction with the upcoming National Day celebrations.

In the video, he portrays himself in his everyday role as Transport Minister, having a no-holds-barred conversation with a citizen who has grouses about the way the country is run – a role also played by Liow.

Liow, the minister, is smartly dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and slacks, while “Citizen Liow” is dressed very casually, with his hair a little unkempt and wearing a grey T-shirt, without spectacles.

Teo, in a Facebook post on Friday, said the project took months to put together.

“Largely this was because the script required a Federal Minister who had the gumption to submit to what we wanted to shoot.

“We kept trying and eventually found our man,” he said.

Teo said they did not want to make a film that could be confused for a “tourism video.”

Citizens reflects the current mood of the country, especially the fears of the Chinese community.

“It would therefore have to contain anger, helplessness and conflict. Yet it must contain hope – for we are even now not without hope – and so the film should also unite us in hope across the political spectrum,” said Teo.

This is not Liow’s first film. He previously acted in other 15Malaysia and Hari Malaysia shorts, also produced by Teo.

“What is different this time is that while he was civilly treated as a cabinet minister before, he will be brutalised this time; and while he was stereotyped as a politician before, he is now a human being – filled with the same fears, regret, conflicts and hope as all of us,” said Teo, adding that he thought long and hard about the casting.

Also making an appearance in the film is Liow’s wife Datin Seri Lee Sun Loo.

Teo said that it took courage for Liow, who is MCA president, to act in the film especially since he and MCA “are deeply maligned in sections of the Chinese community”.

‘Citizens’ Liow trends at second spot

PETALING JAYA: As Pete Teo expected, his National Day video in which Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai plays two roles is gaining traction among Malaysians.

The six-minute clip Citizens clinched the second spot on YouTube’s Malaysian trending list as at yesterday afternoon. It had 127,766 views, trailing Taylor Swift’s new music video. The rest were content related to SEA Games.

In the video, Liow, 56, portrays himself as the Transport Minister having an honest conversation with a citizen, also played by Liow, who has grouses about the way the country is run.

Teo, who produced the video with Liew Seng Tat, was glad to see it attracting attention.

“We expect the video to do well, because we think it is a good video and it has something important to say that goes beyond party politics,” he told The Star.

Teo said there were twice as many likes as dislikes.

He applauded Liow for being able to rise above his persona as MCA president and act as an ordinary citizen.

The video was released on Monday in conjunction with National Day celebrations.

Meanwhile, Tan Sri Pheng Yin Huah said the video was “unpretentious and right to the point” and therefore, was well received by the community.

The Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Hua Zong) president said it rightly captured the country’s current situation.

“A main point stressed is that the situation warrants the need for us to listen to each other, consolidate our strengths, stay united and be loyal to our country.

“This is a way to overcome the challenges, instead of just venting our frustrations,” Pheng said.

Apart from acknowledging the people’s disappointments and empathising with them, he said Liow had been tirelessly reaching out to the community to guide and help them in whatever ways possible.

Pheng pointed out that Liow had to draw on the party’s strengths and his role in the Government to help the community effectively.

In conjunction with National Day, Pheng said it was timely for all Malaysians to reinforce respect, love and tolerance among themselves and for the country so as to move forward together.

‘Citizen’ producer all praise for Liow – Nation


PETALING JAYA: The producer of the National Day video titled Citizen says it was brave of Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai to come onboard a production which had an “edgy” script.

Saying he would absolutely cast the Transport Minister in such a role again, filmmaker Pete Teo (pic) brushed aside some of the adverse comments on the casting choice.

“We think he did a great job playing the dual role of minister and citizen.

“That his casting is controversial has nothing to do with the job he does.

“We hope Datuk Seri Liow’s contribution will at least be acknowledged in the good spirit that it was given,” Teo said when contacted.

Teo, who produced the clip with writer-director Liew Seng Tat, said they had expected some form of backlash as soon as they decided that the role would be best played by a real-life politician.

“The fact that we eventually cast a Barisan National politician is besides the point, really. If we had picked an Opposition politician, the situation would be the same, except the accusations would be from Barisan supporters.

“So in a way, it was a no-win for us unless we had cast an actor,” he pointed out.

According to Teo, the film would have lost immediacy if they had cast an actor to play the role.

“So the decision was made to cast a politician. In fact, our choices were more limited than that because the script ideally required a Federal Minister.

“This narrowed down the choice to only several people. In the end, Datuk Seri Liow agreed to play the role and we went with him,” he added.

Teo said through the film, he and Liew wanted to drive home the message that it was important not to lose hope and to stay united when the going got tough.

“As said in the film’s opening lines, the last decade or more have been tough for the country. Non-Malay communities, in particular have felt alienated, helpless and fearful.

“That is why we are getting such hyper-emotive response to a Merdeka PSA film promoting hope and unity featuring a serving Cabinet minister from the MCA.

It would be easy to dismiss these aggressive social media outbursts as rantings of opposition cybertroopers, but these are real people with real grievances,’’ he added.

Teo, a multiple award-winning singer-songwriter, also praised Liow for having the courage to be involved in a film with “brutally frank dialogue”.

“Many have ignored the fact that the minister explicitly said in the film that he doesn’t mind who citizens voted for as long as they let their conscience be their guide.

“This is a massively important statement. It underlines our film’s non-partisan credentials,” Teo said.

In the six-minute video, Liow portrays himself in his everyday role as Transport Minister, having a no-holds barred conversation with a citizen who has grouses about the way the country is run – a role also played by Liow.

The video clocked in more than 200,000 views in four days since it was uploaded on YouTube.

 

‘MCA dares to face criticisms’ , Liow: We understand the voices and feelings of the people

 

Liow chatting with China’s Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang.

KUALA LUMPUR: MCA understands the voices and feelings of the people and dares to face criticism, said Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

The party president said having understood the people’s grievances, MCA is committed to overcoming the problems.

“I must stress here that I am aware of the people’s opinions and feelings. Therefore, I am willing to face the reality as I know that is the only way for us to change for the better,” he said.

Liow, speaking at the Blossom Arts Festival Malaysia (BAFM) 2017 awards ceremony and closing at Wisma MCA last night, was responding to some of the responses towards his double role in “Citizens”, a National Day video.

In the clip produced by Pete Teo and Liew Seng Tat, Liow portrays himself as the Transport Minister having an honest conversation with a citizen, also played by Liow, who has grouses about the way the country is run.

Liow also explained that the video aimed at telling people to have faith in the country and never give up, besides showcasing the inner voices of a Cabinet minister and a layman.

Liow added that MCA is steadfast in performing its role in Barisan Nasional.

“We will continue to be the defender of the Federal Constitution, the corrector and the balancing force against hegemony.

“History would reveal that during critical moments, be it fighting for citizenship, persistency on multi-stream education, pushing for the establishment of National Economic Action Council or the recent movement against PAS’ Private Member’s Bill to amend Act 355, MCA has been consistent in playing its role in Barisan,” he said.

Meanwhile, MCA vice-president Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun said the next edition of BAFM would be put on hold pending the general election.

“My comrades and I, as well as MCA staff, must turn our full attention towards preparing for the coming general election,” Chew, who is also the Malaysian Chinese Culture and Arts Consultative Council chairman and BAFM organising chairman, said.

Big celebration: Drummers performing during the closing ceremony of the Blossom Arts Festival Malaysia at Wisma MCA. (Right) Liow chatting with China’s Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang.

She said BAFM has received the attention of foreign academicians.

Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Department of Cultural and Religious Studies, for instance, sent professors and students to observe the event, she added.

“If we persevere, we are confident of becoming a household name and a premier event among artists,” she said in her speech.

The month-long BAFM concluded yesterday. Also present at the event was China’s ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang.

By Yimie Yong The Star Online

Related Links:

PM: Chinese not ‘pendatang’, but loyal citizens

Head to Bentong to refresh your lungs

Ti: ‘Citizens’ parody shows DAP’s true face – Nation

Merdeka video not meant to offend anyone

Rail business on track – Nation 

Enough is enough, Penang govt told – Nation

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