Youngest USM don: Prof Dr Michael Khoo Boon Chong has made Penang proud

Khoo Boon Chong

Expert views: Prof Khoo delivering his public lecture at USM’s Dewan Kuliah A.

GEORGE TOWN: Penang-born Prof Dr Michael Khoo Boon Chong has made the state proud as the youngest professor in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

Prof Khoo, 39, who obtained his associate professor title in 2007, became a professor in the School of Mathematical Sciences four years ago when he was just 35.

He specialised in Statistical Quan­tity Control.

Prof Khoo, who hails from Bayan Lepas, said he chose to complete all his studies where he was born.

“I got my education, including my PhD in Penang. I went to La Salle School in Batu Lanchang (the school was closed down) from Year One to Year Three and then to St Xavier Primary School in Farquhar Street during Standard Four and continued my studies in St Xavier’s Insitution until I finished Form Six.

“I got my degree in Applied Sciences with first-class honours and my doctorate in Statistics from USM in 1999 and 2001 respectively.

“I joined USM School of Mathe­matical Sciences from 2001 as a lecturer,” he said after his inaugural public lecture after his appointment as a professor.

Citing the reasons for studying in Penang instead of overseas, he said as the only child, he wanted to be with his parents.

“I am not from a rich family. My 65-year-old father, Khoo Kah Peng, was a clerk with the city council and my mother Hoo Kim Bee, 67, is a housewife.

“My main priority during that time was that I wanted to stay close with my parents,” he said.

Prof Khoo said he followed his supervisor’s path to specialise in Statistical Quantity Control.

“I love to do research on Statistical Quantity Control, which is useful for industries to maximise profits and reduce costs,” he said.

He said he was thankful to USM as his hard work and research efforts were appreciated.

Prof Khoo is actively involved in publishing manuscripts and work papers.

He has published almost 100 manuscripts in international journals and presented more than 50 papers at national and international conferences.

BY Crystal Chiam Shiying The Star/Asia News Network

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Education: alleviating poverty or causing it, funding children with retirement fund?

Education_financial snacksIt is not prudent to fund children’s education with your retirement fund

EDUCATION is the social game changer. In poor countries, it alleviates poverty. In developing nations like Malaysia, a more educated population can catapult us to developed status.

Scores of parents are striving hard to send their children to international schools to gain the holistic education, have better choices of tertiary institutions and have access to better paying jobs.

Borrowing future funds

Sending children to international schools is deemed the ticket out of mediocrity in Malaysia and to have a fighting chance in the global job market. But to what end?

Whether it is using EPF savings or selling off property to fund children’s private or international school education, this can be costly to many middle-class parents. While it may be acceptable to borrow funds to ensure our children get better secondary or tertiary education as they can always pay off the loans when they become employed, it is harder to replace “lost” retirement funds.

Therefore, it is not a prudent move to use funds meant for retirement as the fund is most needed when the “parents” are not at income-generating age any more.

Prioritising funds

With today’s Gen X-ers who are becoming parents at later age, we not only have to nurture our children but also care for our ageing parents whilst saving for our retirement. Prioritising investments is key.

1. Be realistic. Parents want the best for our children. If education savings are started early to take advantage of compounding effect, that’s great. If funds only permit an overseas tertiary education, then find the best local education option as our children can still experience holistic learning during university years abroad.

2. Gen Y-er parent, start investing now into a diversified portfolio. It is already too late if you have not started, as the cost of education will only increase.

3. Education is not just about getting the paper qualification. It is about learning. Parents can show kids new ways to learn without busting purses. Take advantage of free online courses like TedTalk or Khan Academy and “experiences” offered by museums, art galleries, nature trips and even playtime in the park.


The writer can be contacted at / The Star/Asia News Network

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Financial planning is all about investing

LOTS of people shy away from financial planning because they think they may be pressured into investing. And when you think investing, what comes to mind are horror stories of people who lost their life savings during the Asian financial crisis and Dot Com Bubble.

We hear tales of greed and chasing the hottest sexiest investment themes that has led them down the path of poverty and for some great debt due to leverage.

Admittedly, in the wealth management business, investments do form a large part of conversations that happen between ourselves and our clients.

For the most part, people speak to financial planners or wealth managers about how to make their money grow faster so they can meet their goals.

How much return can I get?
What can I get if I invest in equities?
How about properties?
How can I start investing in currencies?

When people engage in a conversation about investments, inevitably, we get seduced by the quest to find the highest yielding asset. We steer into instruments we are not familiar with, drawn by the allure of high headline returns.

Think dotcoms. Think gold investments. Think land investments. Think bitcoin. Not necessarily bad investments but the basic concept of risk and diversification fall by the wayside as we chase returns.

But, step back for a moment.

Are you asking the right question?
Is financial planning only about finding the next best investment?

While investing will likely play a key role in your financial plan, there are a lot more questions that need to be answered before you can choose the right investment, or if you even need to invest aggressively.

First question, how much do you need?
Second question, when will you need it?
Third question, how much have you set aside or are prepared to set aside?
Last question, what returns are you going to get?

So say, I would like to buy a property in five years, of which I plan to make a downpayment of RM50,000. I have currently set aside RM10,000. I can currently save RM500 monthly.

Investing_coin_hands Investing_house

Let’s assume I have no experience investing and decide to place it in fixed deposit at 3% per annum. Doing my maths, after five years, with interest compounded, all this adds up to only RM43,000. You are RM7,000 short.

In such an example, most people approach an adviser to find out what could yield them higher returns. In the above example, any misadventures in your investments could possibly set you back in your acquisition of your next property.

What if this was your children’s education? You may not want to risk your child entering university two years late. These are things your adviser needs to know as there other alternatives.

Financial management is very much about balancing between these four requirements. While getting higher returns so you can meet your goal is one way, it’s not the only way! You have other options. So, let’s go back to the four questions.

Firstly, you could buy a cheaper property with RM43,000.
Alternatively, you could wait another year to purchase that property, giving you more time to save up.
Or, you could increase your monthly savings to RM600 at 3% per annum.
Lastly, consider investing in something that yields you 7% per annum.
So, really, out of four options, only one is about investing.

For the most part, investing plays quite an essential role in most people’s portfolio. However, before you even have that discussion, think about the goals you want to achieve and whether investing is required and what kind of investment performance is needed.

By Ong Shi Jie

For the most part, investing plays quite an essential role in most people’s portfolio. However, before you even have that discussion, think about the goals you want to achieve and whether investing is required and what kind of investment performance is needed, says Ong.

Ong Shi Jie (CJ) is head of wealth management, OCBC Bank (M) Bhd.


Money, money, money … Love of money is the root of all evil !

Lets not use Money as an all-powerful weapon to buy people

ONE can safely assume that the subject of money would be of interest to almost all and sundry. ABBA, the Swedish group, sang about it. Hong Kong’s canto pop king, Samuel Hui made a killing singing about it. Donna Summers, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Rick James and quite a few more, all did their versions of it.

Is money all that matters? The ‘be all and end all’ of life?

This will certainly be a fiercely-debated subject by people from both sides of the divide; the haves and have nots.

Just last week, my 12-year-old asked if the proverb Money is the root of all evil is true. Naturally, like most kids of his generation, he would not have a clue as to how difficult it is for money to come about. Or why, when it does come about, it has the power to make and break a person. To a Gen-Z kid, the concept of having to ‘earn’ money is somewhat alien. Simply because everything he ever needs and beyond is ‘magically’ provided for.

Forget about teaching this generation to earn their keeps, just expecting them to pick up after themselves is a herculean ask. But we are not here to talk about that, instead, is money really the root of all evil? Perhaps, the proper answer would be ‘the love of money is’.

Let’s see what sort of evil comes with this love of money. Top of mind would be corruption, covetousness, cheating, even murder, just to name a few. These, of course, are of the extreme.

What about at the workplace? How does the love of money or rather the lure of money affect the employment market? Let me take on a profession closer to my heart, the advertising industry. Annually, our varsities and colleges churn out thousands of mass communication and advertising grads. Of these, only a handful would venture into the industry. Where have all the others gone?

A quick check with fellow agency heads reveals that many have opted to go into the financial sectors as the starting packages are somehow always miraculously higher than those offered by advertising agencies. A classic case of money at work. For those who have actually joined the ad industry, some get pinched after a while because of a better offer of … money, and more. (As if this is not bad enough, the “pinchers” are often not only from within the industry but are clients!)

The fact is there is absolutely nothing wrong in working towards being the top of one’s profession and getting appropriately remunerated for it. The problem starts when money is used as the all-powerful weapon to ‘buy’ people. Premium ringgit is often paid to acquire many of these hires, some of whom, unfortunately, are still a little wet behind the ears. Paying big bucks for talent is all right, as long as the money commensurate with the ability and experience of the person.

Case in point is if an individual is qualified only as a junior executive with his current employer, should he then be offered the job as a manager and paid twice the last drawn salary? All because some of us are just so short on resources.

Now, hypothetically, if this person was offered the managerial post anyway, would he be able to manage the portfolio and deliver what is expected of him? Would he, for instance, ask what he needs to bring to the table? After all, he has suddenly become the client service director and draws a salary of RM20k a month. Does he actually need to bring more new businesses, or what? We can call ourselves all sorts of fancy titles but the point is we have got to earn it. As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Having served on the advertising association council for the past nine years and presiding over it the last two, it concerns me greatly to see the how money is affecting and somewhat thinning the line of qualified successors to the present heads.

The lack of new talents coming into the ad business is increasingly worrisome. Though it may look a seemingly distant issue to most clients, they must now take heed. The agencies are business partners and if there is going to be a dearth of talents it will surely affect the clients’ business in the near future. So rather than pinching the rare good ones from the agencies, would it then not be in the clients’ best interest to instead remunerate the agencies so to secure better and higher standards of expertise? Food for thought, eh?

Pardon me for being old school. I am a firm advocate of the saying that one should not chase money. First learn to be at the top of your trade and money will chase you. Then again, we are now dealing with and learning how to manage the present generation. A generation of young, smart, fearless, and somewhat impatient lot who may not be as loyal as their predecessors. A generation that loves life and crave excitement. Adventure is in their blood and ‘conforming’ is a bad word. And money, lots of it, makes the world go faster for them.

As elders, we need to look hard and deep into how to inculcate the right value of money in this new generation. These are our children. They are the future. If we make no attempt to set this right and instead keep on condoning the practice of over-remunerating them, we will be in trouble. The fact that Malaysia will soon have to compete in the free-trade region further allows money to flex its muscles more. I shudder to think what would happen to our young ones if we keep on mollycoddling them with the wrong idea that they ought to be highly paid just for breathing.

Folks, my sincere apologies if I have inadvertently touched some tender nerves but a wake-up call this has to be. For our dear clients, think about the proposition to review your agency’s remunerations – upwards I mean. This, over taking people from the industry, will save you more in the long run.

For those of us in the agencies, let us keep polishing up our skills and not let money be the sole motivator. If you are good, others will take notice. Work hard, the rewards will come. Just exercise some patience.

I leave you with a saying that one Mr Jaspal Singh said to me when I was a rookie advertising sales rep with The Star eons ago: “Man make money, money does NOT make a man”. (Or woman, of course.)

Till the next time, a very Happy Deepavali to all.

God bless!

By Datuk Johnny Mun, who has been an advertising practitioner for over 30 years, is president of the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents. He is also CEO of Krakatua ICOM, a local ad agency.

What makes us Malaysian? Happy Mereka!

Malaysia Spirit 57

I always get excited when I meet fellow Malaysians, whether at work or during social functions. – Lee Yee Thian

Our sense of belonging is strong, despite living miles away from our homeland.

BACK home in Malaysia, “Chinese” is one of the options in the race column, while in China, it refers to a nationality.

It took me awhile to get used to not nodding when I was asked if I am a Chinese.

“I’m a Malaysian,” I would answer, and get a bewildered look from the inquirers.

“Oh, so you are a Malay? But you look exactly like us. And your command of Mandarin is so good,” was their usual reply.

I would then launch into a lengthy explanation of how I am ethnically Chinese but a Malaysian national, and “Malay” refers to the largest ethnic group in Malaysia and not the people of Malaysia.

I would add that I can read and write Mandarin because I attended Chinese vernacular school, but I could tell they were confused.

“Were you born in China? How old were you when you left for Malaysia?”

“No, I was born in Malaysia. I’m a third-generation Malaysian Chinese.”

And then came the inevitable question: “Where do you feel you belong?”

I grew up singing Negaraku every Monday during school assemblies.

I learned how to draw our national flag when I was in Year One. Next to the crescent, I traced the outline of a 50 sen coin and then carefully drew 14 spikes around the circle.

And until today, I can still hum the tune of Sejahtera Malaysia, a patriotic song that was aired years ago on RTM.

When we say we are Malaysians, we say it with a tinge of pride.

In addition to Malay, English and Mandarin, most Malaysian Chinese here can also understand one or more Chinese dialects.

It is a fact that draws the admiration of many locals.

I asked a few Malaysians in Beijing what makes them Malaysian.

Lee Yee Thian, who has been abroad in the United Kingdom and then China since 2000, said our multicultural background was instrumental in helping him to adapt to living in a foreign country.

The sense of belonging is strong, despite living miles away from our homeland.

“I always get excited when I meet fellow Malaysians, whether at work or during social functions,” the 37-year-old chartered surveyor said.

“We speak freely with our Malaysian accent and pepper our sentences with slang that only Malaysians understand.”

Wesley Tan of Wav Music Production said it was the vast opportunities in the entertainment industry in China that drew him to the Chinese capital 10 years ago.

“The market is huge with endless possibilities to grow and expand,” he said.

“We have to admit that we could not do as much in Malaysia, but it does not make me any less patriotic. I grew up in Malaysia and it will always be my home.”

The advantage of Malaysians, Tan said, is our ability to create products that appeal to an international target audience, with our tolerance and diverse background.

With Beijing being a fast-paced metropolis, the quality of life has plenty of room for improvement.

Air pollution and food safety aside, trust between people is thinning. Tan said he misses the courteous and caring ways of Malaysians.

“My parents-in-law, who are Chinese nationals, were so surprised that Malaysian drivers would actually pause to give way to opposite traffic during their visit to Kuala Lumpur,” he said.

The little gestures, such as placing one’s left hand on one’s right forearm when receiving or offering something, speak volumes about Malaysians’ pleasant disposition.

I couldn’t agree more.

Two weeks ago, I made a brief return to Malaysia. When waiting for my family to pick me up at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, a Malay girl next to me kindly shared a packet of buah jeruk (pickled fruits) with me. In return, I offered her my chocolates.

We did not exchange names during our brief encounter; only smiles and snacks, but in that moment, I knew I was home.

Happy Merdeka.


Check-in China by Tho Xin Yi The Star/Asia News Network

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 Happy together: Li gazing lovingly at Gan as she admires Li’s gift to her for Valentine’s Day. LI Kangyu has not left his house … A Chinese man meets a Malaysian woman online, and romance begins to bloom in a special way.

Migrant wives kept like slaves by Aussies


Aussie's hushandsLooking out for them: Case worker and former child bride Eman Sharobeem says victims are reluctant to pursue justice through legal means. – AFP

Unhappily married – In Australia, migrant wives in abusive marriages are all the more vulnerable as they are dependent on their husbands. 

KANYA thought she was starting a new life in Australia after arriving from India to marry her husband, but it quickly turned into a nightmare.

She was barred from going out on her own, forced to cook and clean for her partner’s family, and made to sleep outdoors if she did not complete her tasks.

The fate of the 18-year-old, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, mirrors that of others in “slave-like” relationships that Salvation Army worker Jenny Stanger has taken in at a Sydney refuge for trafficked people in recent years.

The women came to Australia under the promise of a happy marriage, only to be exploited by their partners.

“It’s an absolute deception on the part of the perpetrator,” said Stanger of a problem involving nearly a quarter of her safehouse’s residents. Immigration figures show women in such situations come from China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam among others.

“Marriage was the tool that was used to exploit the women for profit, gain or personal advantage.”

“In a typical case, the migrant wife would face extreme isolation, extreme denial of their basic rights around freedom of movement, possibly an exploitation of their labour … and being denied money,” she said.

Getting a sense of how many marriage visas under Australia’s partner migration programme are used to bring women in for exploitation is difficult. Social workers say victims are often deliberately isolated and threatened if they seek help.

Researcher Samantha Lyneham, co-author of the first Australian study looking into the exploitation of women through migrant relationships beyond forced marriages, said the reluctance of victims to report crimes was a problem – such is their dependence on their abusers.

Lyneham said the fear of being deported, which stemmed from the “precarious immigration status” the women faced, was a key barrier, along with language and also mistrust of police after bad experiences in their home countries.

An inaugural Global Slavery Index published by the Walk Free Foundation in October said roughly 30 million people were living in modern-day slavery, of whom up to 3,300 were in Australia.

Lyneham’s new Australian Institute of Criminology report recorded the experiences of eight female victims – including Kanya – aged 18 to 49, mostly from South-East Asia, but also the Pacific, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

They found that while some women moved to Australia on marriage visas in search of economic opportunities, others did so for love and to start a family.

All the women had consented to their marriages, having met their spouses through arranged situations, family links, online dating sites and chance encounters. Seven of the women said they married their husbands outside Australia.

Case workers said the husbands – half of whom were from the same countries of origin as the women – were most likely to be dual-citizens.

One woman told of how her husband would lock her out of the house at night. “I would have to stay in the tree overnight,” she said.

Others told of sexual violence and coerced pregnancies, according to the report. The women said their passports were taken and they were blocked from using telephones or having access to money.

Clandestine crime

Lyneham said although the interviews showed cases had been “happening for some time”, it was also clear when she raised the issue with authorities that some were not aware of it.

“It’s a clandestine type of crime that people mistake for domestic violence,” Lyneham said.

The use of domestic violence laws to address cases highlights the difficulties in identifying and prosecuting such crimes, which cut across legislation separately targeting human trafficking, slavery and domestic abuse.

Official Australian data between July 2001 and June 2011 showed 337,127 people were granted partner migration visas, with Britain, China and India the most common countries of origin.

Between July 2006 and Dec 2011, 3,654 people on the visas obtained protection under the Family Violence Provision.

This allows them to apply for permanent residency if they or a family member are subjected to violence. About 12% came from China, 10% from the Philippines and 8% from Vietnam. Others came from India, Britain, Thailand and Fiji.

Lyneham said while the numbers appeared low, previous research showed under-reporting, particularly in migrant communities.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott in June announced more than A$100mil (RM298mil) to fight domestic violence, and vowed a “particular focus” on women from culturally diverse and indigenous backgrounds.

Forced marriages were criminalised and laws against forced labour were strengthened in 2013.

Case worker Eman Sharobeem, a former child bride who was abused during her marriage, said some women who approached her for help were not comfortable pursuing their husbands through the legal system.

While she worked with politicians to help formulate the 2013 laws, what “we are really interested in is educating the community more than just having a law to guide them”.

Her views are echoed by Salvation Army worker Stanger, who praised the legislation but added: “They (victims) are looking for a way out, so … the more doors we can open, the more likely someone is going to step through that door.” – AFP

Unhappily Married

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Happy together: Li gazing lovingly at Gan as she admires Li’s gift to her for Valentine’s Day. LI Kangyu has not left his house …

A love story like a fairy tale

Love storyHappy together: Li gazing lovingly at Gan as she admires Li’s gift to her for Valentine’s Day.

A Chinese man meets a Malaysian woman online, and romance begins to bloom in a special way.

LI Kangyu has not left his house for 30 years. Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, he has been paralysed and bedridden since he was seven.But his life took an unexpected turn for the better when he met a Malaysian woman Gan Suh Eng by chance on QQ, an online instant messaging platform, three years ago.

Despite being physically miles apart, they were drawn to each other.

“She has opened the windows of my soul,” Li, 39, said.

A year ago today, they exchanged wedding vows and began their life together at Li’s hometown, a village in Tangshan, Hebei province.

Li described their love story, which has attracted widespread media attention, as a fairy tale.

To him, Gan is an angel sent from heaven.

Her presence in his life has opened many doors for him.

Lying on a customised wheelchair given by a Good Samaritan, he can now enjoy the sunshine outside his house with Gan by his side.

Together they have travelled to Shanghai and Suzhou, among other cities, where Li has been invited to give motivational talks.

“A Shanghainese enterprise has shown interest in training me to become a motivational speaker.

“A book on my life story, to be penned by a writer, is also in the pipeline,” he said during The Star’s visit to his house, about 45 minutes by car from the city centre of Tangshan.

It is obvious that the love between the inseparable couple is going strong.

For the Chinese Valentine’s Day, qixi, which was celebrated last Saturday, Li presented Gan with a novelty ring that had a hidden clock face, while she surprised him with a blue striped tie.

Wearing a pink top that he had bought on online shopping site Taobao specially for the occasion, Li was delighted when told that the patterns printed on the shirt were that of Malaysia’s national flower, the hibiscus.

“It was a happy coincidence,” he said.

As Li recounted their first year together as husband and wife, Gan sat next to him, stroking his head affectionately.

They were more than happy to oblige when Gan was asked to give a peck on Li’s cheek.

“In the blink of an eye, a year has passed. We are both tolerant of and accommodating to each other’s shortcomings. Our love has grown deeper,” Li said.

Gan, 36, who hails from Selayang, was smitten by Li’s romantic and caring nature.

“Sometimes he will insist on helping me blow-dry my hair,” the former employee of a Malaysian Christian NGO said.

The couple leads a simple life in the village, surviving mostly on Li’s financial assistance from the government.

Although it is a meagre sum, Gan said the cost of living in the village is low, so they are doing fine.

Family members on both sides, who originally objected to their marriage, have now accepted them.

“My mum now cares about Li more than she cares about me,” Gan protested in jest. “She will ask to speak to him every time we talk on the phone, reminding him to take good care of himself and rest more.”

A local reporter who has been following their story since last year noted that Li appeared rosier and more cheerful.

“I am about 5kg heavier now and I have gained more muscle on my thigh,” Li said.

Their bright and neat space, a room in the house of Li’s third sister, is furnished with a double bed and sofa. Adorning the walls are their wedding photos.

A small wooden table sits on the bed for Li to use his laptop. As he cannot move his joints, he operates the laptop with a mouse placed near his right hip.

Looking ahead, Li dreams of having their own house and raising a child.

“We also want to start a charitable foundation to help the less fortunate. It looks like a far-fetched goal but I believe it will come to fruition one day,” he said.

Check In China by Tho Sin Yi The Star Columnists/Asia News Network


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