Chinese New Year Reunion 2016


‘Falling’ in love: A screengrab of Mah Sing Group’s Chinese New Year video that is going viral on social media.

 

Another year, another reunion

The modern Malaysian Chinese family has come a long way. Many practices have been ‘adjusted’ but some things never change.

NOT many families want to talk about it openly. But the all-important Chinese New Year reunion dinners have become more complicated and in recent years, more stressful for sure.

It is almost impossible and even unfair to expect the patriarch and matriarch of the family to cook the meal, traditionally sumptuous and heavy in some cases, especially when they are getting along in years.

Mum’s cooking sounds good everywhere but in many cases, this has become a fond but distant memory. The maid has taken over this role and of course, our expectations have also become more realistic.

The world has changed. The women family members, whether daughters or daughters-in-law, are part of the work force now.

It is wrong to expect them to take over the kitchen duties. In fact, don’t even expect them to do the dishes. Don’t even think about it if you know what’s good for you especially during the festive season.

Cleaning up the house after a feast is a daunting task. All of us understand and accept the fact that we cannot overwork the maid, who are already grumbling about the weaker ringgit.

So, the modern Malaysian Chinese family settles for a compromised position – have the reunion dinner at a hotel or restaurant. Never mind if the food might be crappy.

For a Penangite like me, where Perakanan dishes are compulsory in the reunion meal, I resign to the fact that I won’t find my favourite jiu hoo char (stir-fried turnip with dried cuttlefish) and lobak (meat rolls) at any hotel banquet.

But you know that’s not all. The family member – perceived to be the most successful in life – always ends up paying the hefty bill. It’s only expected.

And we all know that hotel food, like those served on planes, is bad. But telling the person footing the bill that the meal is “lousy” right after dinner is not exactly the appropriate CNY greeting ….

Next, the giving of ang pow for the kids. While no one wants to admit that the amount in these red packets matter, it does!

It’s not going to look too good on you if the ang pow is small – and I mean the money inside, not the size of the packet – and especially if you are perceived to be better off.

Then, the conversation after the reunion dinner. And that is the most sensitive which can cause friction and great unhappiness.

I am not talking about the 1MDB and the RM2.6bil donation issue but explosive questions to family members, who are past 30 and still unmarried.

Yes, these purportedly choosy types, who think their partner, especially if you are a woman, should have better degrees, bigger car, a house, a club membership, a steady job with hopes of further promotions and of course, good looks, a great sense of humour as well as soft skills. By this, I mean having the ability to appreciate fine food and wine.

For the guys, they expect their partners to be able to cook like their mothers, be as good looking and curvy as the celebrities they see in heavily photoshopped pictures in magazines and of course, have a good career to help pay for the household bills.

But that’s not the end of it. If you are married and have not started a family, you would be offered many unsolicited solutions from busybody aunties – from artificial insemination to eating bull’s penises. Of course, there are subtle accusations of dangerous liaisons in China, what with the frequent business trips there.

No wonder the Chinese population in Malaysia is shrinking fast. But of course, like many Chinese voters, the blame has to fall on the Government. Their failure, or inability or refusal, to start a family, is the fault of the government entirely.

And if you happen to work in the media, all eyes will be on you. In this case, it’s me. With Google and news portals with anti-government slants easily available these days, everyone is now an expert on every issue. We have all become instant analysts and opinion shapers.

Yes, yes, of course, Malaysia’s temperature during the CNY will drop to as low as 16°C and will be the coldest CNY ever.

“That’s what the social media said what, so must be true mah!”

But it’s a reunion dinner. After the interrogation of the poor singles, it undoubtedly has to come to politics. I am not sure if this is a Malaysian thing, like the open house, but do people in other countries whine too?

Probably they do, and by now politicians in modern democracies would have realised that they have to earn their respect.

Don’t expect the people to pay homage to you because no one told you to stand for election and for sure, don’t expect us to be eternally grateful to you because you came begging for our votes with plenty of promises.

They have to learn that they will be belittled, ridiculed and criticised. So don’t run to the powers that be to shut anyone up with sedition charges. Get used to it.

I expect the grumbling and cynical remarks to be louder this year at gatherings with family and friends. There are a lot of unhappy people around.

But politicians do not have to worry too much as the louder yam seng will drown the complaints. To all Malaysians celebrating Chinese New Year, I wish you all Gong Xi Fa Cai!

By Wong Chun Wai on the beat The Star

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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Malaysian home prices may go up 5~8%; heart-warming CNY family ties with EcoWorld 全家福


From Left :- Director of Valuation Services Chee Kok Thim , Rahim & Co Executive Chairman Senator Tan Sri Dato’ Abdul Rahim Abdul Rahman, DIrector Real Estate Agency Robert Ang and Director of Research & Strategic Planning Sulaiman Saheh after Press conference and Q&A session – Review on Malaysian Property Market and the prospects of 2016 – on Thursday Feb 4 2016.

KUALA LUMPUR: The property market is expected to remain challenging, with the hike in house prices slowing to between 5% and 8% this year, compared with 7% to 10% last year.

Rahim & Co Chartered Surveyors Sdn Bhd director Sulaiman Akhmady Mohd Saheh expects prices to rise but sees only marginal price gains for the residential sector.

“Depending on location and type of property, some may see price consolidation as the gap between sellers’ asking prices is closing towards the buyers’ expected prices,” he said during the firm’s property market review.

He said that there were concerns that the number of transactions may drop this year, as new property launches could face more challenges and slower take-up.

He said that based on average annual household incomes to the price of average terraced homes, housing affordability could have slightly improved last year compared with 2014 although house prices in general continued to increase.

“Nevertheless, housing affordability is still a big concern especially in urban centres and major towns throughout the country.

“The ratio improved from 3.6 in 2014 to 3.4 last year, which indicates that an average terraced house would cost an average household or family in Malaysia 3.4 times its annual gross income,” said executive chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Abdul Rahman.

Note that the least affordable terraced house in Malaysia last year was in Sabah, with a 5.7 times ratio, Penang, 5.3 times, Kuala Lumpur, 5.2 times and Sarawak, at 4.5 times.

He said that home ownership continued to be beyond the reach of many Malaysians, especially the younger generation.

“The ratio indicate that generally our houses are still moderately unaffordable. For Sabah, Penang and Kuala Lumpur, average prices of terraced houses are even categorised as severely unaffordable,” he said.

He added that the pace of construction and completion for affordable housing needed to be improved in order to address the issue of affordability.

“It is progressing but there should be more effort, for example in PR1MA. Among these, PR1MA is to provide 175,000 units where 74,399 units are currently in various stages of construction. “At present, only 10,000 units is due to be completed by the end of the year.

“That 74,399 units under construction should be intensified instead of completing 10,000 units by the end of the year,” he noted.

For the commercial sector, particularly the office sector, it will still remain challenging as absorption of new supply coming into the market is expected to slow down.

More office buildings are expected to undergo refurbishment to prevent tenants from relocating to newer office buildings.

However, there are concerns on whether the retail property sector might be heading into a glut in supply as a number of malls are being launched within Klang Valley.

Last year, retail sales were affected by the goods and services tax, which was implemented from April as well as a weakening ringgit, driving up costs and lowering consumer spending.

By Nadya Ngui The Star/Asia News Network

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Despite gloomy property sector share price of some property companies could rise

Heartwarning CNY video on family ties goes viral

//players.brightcove.net/4405352765001/default_default/index.html?videoId=4735800122001

Building strong ties: A video grab from EcoWorld’s ‘Family Portraits’ on its official YouTube page captures the essence of maintaining family values.

PETALING JAYA: A heart-warming Chinese New Year video showing a man’s life as seen through his family photographs has been released by EcoWorld Development Group Bhd.

The three-minute video titled Family Portraits, which can be seen on YouTube, has been viewed more than 78,000 times so far yesterday. It is meant to educate the viewer on maintaining strong family values. The video shows glimpses of the man’s life-long journey from early childhood until adulthood.

All throughout, viewers will notice that family plays a huge role in the main character’s life as he encounters the pivotal moments in life that are familiar to many of us. The loving embrace of his family is never too far away even as he grows up and leaves his parents to pursue a career and start a family of his own.

Family Portraits successfully conveys its message through very little dialogue, relying mostly on visual images that reflect the mood and spirit of the central theme of the video.

The touching video, while light hearted and filled with funny moments, sends a strong message that clearly emphasises the importance of family ties and the togetherness that is an integral part of the Chinese New Year festival.

“The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing. This Chinese New Year, capture the warmth and happiness with a family portrait and start a collection of beautiful memories to look back on for generations to come,” posted the company on its YouTube page.

Those who wish to view the video may do so at EcoWorld’s official YouTube page.

Earlier this week, the company announced that it was offering a special Chinese New Year treat for buyers of the few remaining units of EcoWorld’s Eco Meadow Phase 1 homes by giving rebates of RM22,888 on top of an additional 5% early bird rebate from now until Feb 22.

Related:

EcoWorld – Creating Tomorrow & Beyond

http://ecoworld.my/

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Healing through hiking mountains


The arduous Pacific Crest Trails offered the author of The Girl In The Woods the chance to take back control of her life after being raped.

The first time I heard of the Pacific Crest Trail was at the recent George Town Literary Festival, when a friend expressed interest in hiking it. Stretching across mountains running along the western coast of the United States, it is a challenging trail that should be attempted by only the hardiest of hikers.

My own experience with hiking is limited to beginner trails in national parks and forest reserves. Hiking is fun, but I know well enough of its dangers – years ago, another friend of mine had gone hiking and disappeared. The friend at the festival who wanted to hike the Pacific Crest is a man in his 30s. In Girl In The Woods, the hiker, who goes by the name “Wild Child”, is a young woman of 19 and a survivor of rape.

Wild Child grew up as Deborah “Debby” Parker, a sheltered child who lived under the wing of her protective mother and influential, high-achieving brother. On the second night of her stay at college, she was raped.

The emotional and psychological effects of the rape, compounded with the lack of empathy from her college and her family, became the catalyst for her decision to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail.

For Wild Child, the hike was both a method of escaping a society that made her feel vulnerable and of confronting danger and, through that, regaining her sense of control and trust.

Author: Aspen Matis
Publisher :
 William Morrow/HarperCollins, non-fictionNature and the wilderness is often portrayed as a place of peace and isolation, but any illusion that the wilderness of the Pacific Crest Trail is isolated and peaceful is proven false in Wild Child’s experiences along the trail. The Pacific Crest Trail hiking line is a male-dominated environment, peopled with strange men and women, and offers very little protection from physical or verbal violence stemming from racism, misogyny, or sheer sadism.

Following Wild Child’s journey along the trail brings us to very close intimacy with her personality, her decisions, and her pain. Although survivor accounts and articles on the way rape affects psychology exist in abundance, Girl In The Woods vividly shows how rape shatters one’s sense of safety, trust, and control over one’s body and environment; more importantly, the book allows readers to witness the challenges of regaining that lost sense of security and control.

As we follow her journey, we are also made to confront rape culture – both when it is perpetrated by the people around Wild Child and when we are tempted to criticise her lack of self-preservation. Wild Child exposes herself (at times literally) to strangers and dangers, and readers may find themselves finding fault and blaming her for “tempting rape”. We are made to confront and encouraged to unshackle from our own preconceived, perhaps subconscious, perpetuation of victim blaming and rape culture.

The topic of rape may frighten some readers away from the book, but the harsh desert beauty of the Pacific Crest Trail and Wild Child’s own personal resilience tames its violence, so the experience of reading the book is not unpleasant.

Girl In The Woods is a powerful testament of nature’s healing qualities and an intimate examination of surviving rape.

It is an elegant narrative of loss of innocence, regaining of strength, and finding love and self-acceptance.

It is not merely an account of a survivor but an adventure book, a record of a coming-of-age, and a story of personal growth as the protagonist transforms from the insecure Debby Parker to Wild Child the hiker, before finally emerging as Aspen Matis (the name that she answers to now, and the pseudonym used to pen the book), a fully fledged survivor.

The only arguable weakness of Girl In The Woods is that the description of the landscape along the Pacific Crest Trail is rather sparse.

Perhaps this was omitted because it was unnecessary to the narrative, but I would have appreciated more details on the desert, mountains and forests that were traversed.

I tend to notice the beauty of natural landscapes when I travel, and keenly felt the omission of detailed descriptions on the beautiful American rural landscape.

But this is a minor complaint in an otherwise outstanding memoir.

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China ends one-child policy, are you ready for another child?


China to allow two children for all couples 
Videos:

http://player.cntv.cn/standard/cntvOutSidePlayer.swf
http://english.cntv.cn/2015/10/30/VIDE1446156842305273.shtml

http://player.cntv.cn/standard/cntvOutSidePlayer.swf

http://english.cntv.cn/2015/10/31/VIDE1446246722803731.shtml

https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/world/video/2015/oct/29/400m-births-prevented-what-chinas-one-child-policy-did-to-its-population-video


Dialogue 10/30/2015 One-child policy ends

Are you ready for another child?

Most young couples can provide the best learning and growth environment for only one child. When you decide to have another child, you should plan your budget in advance. If you or your parents can’t take care of your baby, you have to at least spend an extra 5000 yuan per month to hire a nanny. If the gender of your new baby is different from your first one, you have to prepare another bedroom. If you want to send your kids to study abroad, you have to save another 1 million yuan. I think most young Chinese couples cannot afford the expense.
Are you ready for another child?
A girl with her younger brother. [Photo by Wang Nina/Provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
Bcnu (US)
If you aren’t terribly happy parenting one child –don’t have the second. Two is more than twice the work, there’s no guaranteeing they’ll share interests; they could very well fight or want to head off in completely different directions. If you find you love the second one more than the first, I don’t see how that could possibly make life simple, as children are very sensitive to that sort of thing. Having a second child will also extend the number of years until your nest will be empty again.
It’s very unrealistic to expect that you will love your second child if you’re having trouble loving the first. My advice is to take care of yourself and take time for your love for the first child to relax and grow before even thinking about having a second child.
Are you ready for another child?
A couple with their two children in this file photo. [Photo by Li Chuanping/Asianewsphoto]
Luciana (UK)
Being a one-child family allows me to keep a good balance between my family life and my job. It gives me the joy of being a mother, but it’s not too overwhelming to the point where I don’t have any time for myself or my husband. Financial barriers were also a factor in my decision. With a mortgage, and two cars, we have to be a two-income family. Having another child is financially just not an option for us.
Are you ready for another child?
The two-child policy was put into practice in early 2014 and did not lead to a baby boom in many provinces in China. [Photo by Zou Zhongpin/for China Daily]
Steven (US)
Sometimes we make some choices not because we prefer them but because we have no other choices to make. The twists and turns of life always narrow your choices or eliminate them completely. I always thought having two kids sounded perfect. But when my daughter was born with life-threatening health problems I know she would be my only kid. Raising our daughter was going to take a lot of emotional, physical, and financial resources. If I had any more children, I didn’t think I could handle it.
Are you ready for another child?
He Shaodong (L) and his wife Zhou Jun show their birth certificate for a second child in Hefei, capital of east China’s Anhui province, Feb. 14, 2014. [Photo/Xinhua]
William (China)
Under the one-child policy carried out in China for three decades, many kids are spoilt by their parents. The “litter emperors” have no idea of sharing and giving and many of them even become self-centered. If we have another child, the first one will learn something about responsibility, sharing and caring for others.
Are you ready for another child?

A girl poses for a photograph at a commercial area of downtown Shanghai, in this November 28, 2012. [Photo/Agencies

– China Daily

Building billions with $3.40


Global vision: Tiong hopes his food products and ships will be seen in all corners of the globe.

Sarawak’s tycoon Datuk Tiong Su Kouk learned from a young age that wealth and success comes only from tried and tested hard work.

AT his gala birthday party on Sept 27 in Sibu, Sarawak’s tycoon Datuk Tiong Su Kouk was inundated with loud praises and exclusive gifts from business partners, Chinese associations and relatives from near and afar.

But the well-crafted gift of “Three dollar notes and 40 cent coins” from Tiong’s 2,000 ­employees in his listed company CCK Consolidated Holdings Bhd was the one which stood out among the glittering jewellery, bright Chinese paintings and flattering messages.

The four rusty copper coins and three one dollar notes bearing Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait, which were legal tender in 1950s British-ruled Sarawak, symbolise the beginning of Tiong’s rags-to-riches story.

The astute businessman is known in Sibu to have built up his huge business empire from a mere $3.40 at the tender age of 14.

Tiong, 73, is one of the top five tycoons in Sibu, which is famous for “nurturing” Malaysia’s top timber businessmen of the Foo Chow clan. The clan’s ancestors braved rough seas to land in Sibu to open up virgin jungles in 1901.

But unlike other tycoons, this Foo Chow who loves to sing the Mandarin song Unity is Strength at gatherings, began his career at a wet market selling fish and prawns.

The National Hawkers Association of Malaysia, which took pride of its own fellow hawker’s success and generous donations, has crowned Tiong “The Father of Hawkers”.

“I came from a family of nine siblings. We struggled with the meagre income from my father’s fish stall. So, when he was offered a manager’s job elsewhere, he told me to take over his stall and passed me $3.40 in a sachet,” says Tiong at Sibu’s CCK headquarters, which houses a large photo gallery of his achievements in the past 50 years.

Humble beginnings: The four rusty copper coins and three one dollar notes bearing Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait, which were legal tender in 1950s British-ruled Sarawak, symbolise the beginning of Tiong’s rags-to-riches story.

“I was a bit bitter then. Why choose me among nine and make me stop schooling at 14? Perhaps it was because I was a fast and hardy rubber tapper (from age eight to 14). But looking back, it was a blessing in disguise. I am the ­greatest achiever in amassing wealth. I might not be where I am today without making a sacrifice early,” adds Tiong in Mandarin, at a three-hour interview with the Sunday Star..

After netting success in fish trading, Tiong went into the frozen seafood business at the age of 27. His seafood products are still a common sight in the market and supermarket till today..

Ten years ago, he ventured into the poultry industry and prawn farming. His food products have entered other areas in South-East Asia, China, Australia, even Europe and the United States..

Apart from the food business, grouped under CCK listed in Bursa Malaysia, Tiong ventured into boat-building some 40 years ago under the name Nam Cheong. Today, this Singapore-listed company is a leading global marine player and Malaysia’s largest builder of offshore support vessels (OSV)..

Under his privately held S.K. Tiong Group of Companies, Tiong has a hand in housing and commercial property developments worth over RM2bil in the country. This group is also an agent for national car Proton and various brands of beverages in Sibu..

Recollecting his early days, Tiong said he used his “two hands and brains” to do business. He was perhaps the first fishmonger to “customise” service for his customers to suit their needs. This was perhaps why within a short time, the young fishmonger became the biggest seafood trader..

Remembering his roots: Tiong giving donations in Minchiang, Fuzhou, where his ancestors came from, in 1986.

With success came recognition. For the past 20 years, Tiong has been an active community leader, holding top posts in many associations. He headed the Sarawak Chinese Chamber of Commerce and was deputy president of the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM). He was also a member of the Government’s special economic consultative council when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister.

Tiong, known for his business acumen, is seen as a good boss. He showed compassion to his staff who did not have a roof over their head in Sibu, and sold them houses at cost price. His name also appears in many charitable bodies.

Tiong was conferred the Panglima Jasa Negara, with the title “Datuk”, by the King in 2001.

The friendly and unassuming businessman, who describes himself as “happy as an angel”, shares his success recipe and life philosophies. Below are the excerpts:

How did you break away from the wet market?

I worked very hard, 16 hours a day for 12 years in the wet market. So when a foreigner recently asked me which university I graduated from, I said: “Market University.”

In the market, I customised my service. When someone wanted to cook curry fish for a family of four, I would pack the right type of fish for her. When I delivered the fish to her home, it came with curry powder and vegetables.

But as fresh seafood gets stale fast, this trade could only expand to a limit. So I went to Japan to learn the food freezing technology.

I started the first frozen seafood outlet in Sibu at 27. It was tough selling. People said frozen foods were stones, not edible. For three months, there was no business. To win customers over, I gave them (the food) for free. I said: “If edible, come and buy. If not, you can forget me.” After that, there were no more issues with frozen food.

Please talk about your food ­business and CCK.

My food products are sold in Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong, Europe and the US, among others, via more than 70 retail outlets. My target is to have at least 100 outlets. I am also importing food products.

In terms of food processing, I have two factories in Indonesia and a chicken meat processing plant. I have a large prawn farm in East Malaysia and we export frozen prawns and related products.

Birthday joy: Tiong with his wife at his birthday celebration in Sibu on Sept 27.

The current slowdown has affected our business slightly, but not much, as food is a necessity. The share price of CCK at around 75 sen/unit is low but as the company is solid, I am not concerned. I don’t buy or sell CCK shares.

(CCK posted a net profit of RM5.75mil and revenue of RM245.53mil in the first half of ­calendar year 2015. Its net asset per share stood at RM1 as at end-June 2015).

How is Nam Cheong Ltd doing?

Orders for shipbuilding have been hit by the plunge in crude oil price.

Some customers have delayed their buy orders but none have cancelled their orders. During this period, we have to be understanding towards our customers. Due to bad market conditions, we may hold back any expansion plan.

However, I believe 2016 will be a better year for Nam Cheong, as the market is likely to improve in the first half of 2016.

(Nam Cheong posted revenue of RM518.9mil and net profit of RM49.8mil in the first half of this year.)

Please tell us more about your property investments.

I have never encountered any major failure in my property investments in my buy-low sell-high strategy. Currently, I have housing and property development projects in the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak.

During 1997/98 Asian financial crisis and 2008 slowdown, I picked up cheap deals. When I could make reasonable gains, I let go. Before the
current down cycle struck, I had sold a property project in Iskandar Malaysia. I am holding back on my hotel project in Danga Bay, Johor Baru.

Fruit of his labour: Tiong and his family are all smiles at his home in Sibu.

But my commercial projects in Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Miri and Johor Baru will go on because there is still demand.

I think property prices have not hit bottom yet. We may see the bottom in one to two years.

I have plans to list my property business. We need to face pressure in order to progress and work efficiently. When we list our entity, the management will be centralised, we will have to be more disciplined, transparent and accountable.

Like in the case of Nam Cheong, we had to comply with rules on corporate governance. I am proud that Nam Cheong won the The Most Trans­parent Company award (in foreign listing) in 2013.

What is the recipe for your ­success? Did ­connections and ­politics play a part?

I work very hard. I am sincere and trustworthy. Hence, professional bankers trust me and give me financial support. As a businessman, I have also shown that I am sharp, able to make the right decision and act fast.

As a boss, I am lucky to have the strong support of my staff. They treat the company like their family. Every year, they celebrate my birthday. I am very touched by their gesture. I remember during the anti-Chinese riots in Indonesia in 1998, the staff there put up a 24-hour vigil to protect the factory.

I daresay my business has largely depended on our own hard work – not politics, though I have friends who are influential politicians.

For chicken farming, you have to start work at midnight. And in shipbuilding, it is work 24 hours. You have to follow the rules of work, not politics. Businessmen cannot rely on political support too much. It is too risky to do so.

And as a person with little formal education, how do I overcome obstacles? I hire the right people to help me. Some are experts with doctorate degrees. Their advice help turn me into an expert like them. With these people around, I have become a Zhuge Liang (the legendary genius and military strategist who masterminded the rise of Shu Kingdom in the Romance of Three Kingdoms).

What are your greatest ­achievements in life and business?

In life, my greatest achievement is having my family living harmoniously together. I enjoy reunions with my siblings and friends.

In community service, I am proud that I was the first Foo Chow in the world to become president of the Foo Chow associations at the local, national and world levels simultaneously. I am also proud that I spearheaded the construction of the World Fuzhou Heritage Gallery in Sibu. It is the first such gallery outside China and it houses antiques and exhibits depicting the history of the Foo Chow in Sibu, their early hardship, customs and culture.

In business, I am glad to have two listed companies and see my staff working happily. A few years back, when I moved house and offered to sell my old house to any staff without a house, there was no taker. Every­body has a house. That was one of the happiest moments in my life and also my pride.

Since 1986, I have donated millions to help the financially backward Foo Chows in China. This was the wish of my late father.

Is there any advice you wish to give to young entrepreneurs?

There is no golden advice. Just do it. Build your brand name. Don’t be afraid of failure. As the Chinese saying goes, failure is the mother of success. Once you earn the first pot of gold, the next is easy to come by.

Who will be the ­successor to your ­business empire?

Whoever has the most wisdom and best performance will take over the lead role. Although as a Chinese, I am inclined to follow the Chinese custom and tradition of handing over the baton to the ­eldest son, this may not necessarily be the case. It’s all based on merit.

I have three sons and a daughter. My sons, as well as my son-in-law, are in CCK and Nam Cheong taking up important positions. They will be judged by their performance. But they should know that whoever takes over the leadership, he will have to face the greatest pressure and responsibility while enjoying the most prestige and happiness.

As a successful ­businessman at 73, what else would you want to do?

I still have to do some work for ­society. I am doing a lot of charities. About 19 years ago, I set up a RM10mil foundation to help schools, poor students and the under-privileged. I plan to give out more as helping people makes me happy. But business-wise, I still have a vision. I like to look out at the world from my Singapore office. I hope one day my food products and ships will be seen in all corners of the globe.

BY HO WAH FOON

Ageing together: it takes a nation, family; more children if you can afford to


Chew mei funTHE Government cannot face the challenges of an ageing nation alone, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun says.The problem requires a joint effort involving the Government, local councils, developers, insurance companies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals, she says.

“Everybody must be responsible and do their part,” she insists.

Giving an example, she says developers should plan townships for senior citizens to grow old within the community “like one big family”.

She says local councils also play a very important role in ensuring that the roads and buildings are accessible to the elderly.

To encourage collaborations between the NGOs, the Government gives incentives to corporations to run corporate social responsibility projects, she says.

She says individuals have to plan for old age by keeping healthy and active and saving for their future needs.

On plans to build more homes to accommodate the growing number of seniors, she says the ministry hopes to de-institutionalise homes because a family environment is always better.

However, legislation forcing grown children to care for their parents, is “not the way”, she stressed.

She says cultivating values like filial piety by stressing on the importance of family bonds through education, is preferable.

“We have nine (registered) old folks homes nationwide with a total of 1,590 residents.

“And, there are an additional two homes housing more than 200 bedridden residents, 70% of whom are above age 60.

“If we accept residents too easily, some will just send them to us because it’s convenient,” she says, adding that five activity centres for seniors will be built in addition to the existing 45 nationwide. The number will be increased steadily.

She says ‘caring complexes’ housing both seniors and orphans are in the pipeline.

“The idea is for kids to cheer up the seniors while learning from their elders,” she says.

She says better health services have led to Malaysians living longer with couples now having to care for their children, parents and grandparents.

Acknowledging that it’s a huge financial burden, she says the ministry is trying to educate young couples on how to better plan for their family.

Explaining that family planning isn’t just about birth control, she says it entails managing family finances.

“We’re not asking couples to give birth blindly but if you can afford to, you should have more children,” she says.

On June 14, Sunday Star front paged how urban parents can expect to pay as much as the combined price of a luxury car and a semi-detached house to raise a child up to degree level. The report followed a remark by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim urging Malaysians to have more kids to address the projected shrinking population.

National Council of Senior Citizens Organisations Malaysia president Datuk Dr Soon Ting Kueh is “very disappointed” that the country’s seniors were left out of both the 10th and 11th Malaysia Plan, lamenting that the elderly are a neglected lot.

“There is no social security for the old,” he points out.

Calling for a national forum to be held fast, he cautions that the country may reach aged nation status even before 2030.

“Everyone will grow old. The only question is when.

“We must tackle these challenges together but the Government has to spearhead the solution with a detailed development plan.”

While supportive of the Government’s call for couples to have more kids, he feels that it won’t solve the problem.

Suggesting a private pension fund be set up, he says it will ease the financial burden on families caring for their old parents while giving the seniors a sense of independence.

Seniors who are poor and without family must be cared for by the Government, he insists.

“There aren’t enough government old folk homes nationwide,” he says.

“We need at least 90 but we don’t even have one per state.”

Those who can afford private nursing homes are also suffering, he says.

He estimates there are some 4,000 private centres nationwide but only slightly more than 200 are regulated.

“Some pay between RM500 and RM600 to live in very poor conditions where seniors are hosed down instead of getting a proper bath.

“These unlicensed homes are stinky and the living conditions very undignified,” he says.

He feels that country’s healthcare system also needs to be improved.

“The waiting time is too long and there are not many geriatric doctors.

“The seniors will be dead by the time they get treatment,” he says, only half-in-jest.

But, he stresses, the seniors themselves must grow old with dignity by keeping active.

Soon’s deputy, Susan Suah, says there’s a need for aged-friendly housing.

The interior designer is working to come up with building guidelines. Some problems in current housing include the lack of bathrooms on the ground floor, switches that are too high up and poor lighting, she says.

“We have rooms for maids but not for old parents?,”she says adding that aged-friendly homes must be made mandatory.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (School of Social Sciences) associate professor Dr Saidatulakmal Mohd notes that while some supermarkets and shopping centres have started becoming aged-friendly, none of the new housing developments are.It’s worse when residential houses are converted into nursing homes for the elderly as it has been proven to be non-conducive to their wellbeing.

“We don’t need to wait until Malaysia becomes an aged society. Many of the elderly are already being abandoned and abused, she says.

“While it’s easy to point to the Government for a solution, it’s important to note that welfare aid for seniors has risen over the years.”

To cover rising public healthcare costs, she anticipates higher taxes for the future generation.

But unlike their parents, youngsters today don’t expect their children to care for them in their old age.

“This is because they are facing financial hardship providing for their family while supporting their aged parents and don’t want their children to go through the same thing,” she explains.

She calls on the Ministry of Women, Family and Community to bring back the ‘elderly in the community’ initiative to promote active ageing.

To be a developed nation by 2020, we need active seniors who can contribute to the nation but this is only possible if aged-friendly infrastructure is ready and the elderly are financially supported.

“In the UK, I saw seniors shopping for groceries, paying their own bills and eating out – which is rare here.

“In Malaysia, seniors are seen as ‘abandoned’ if they do these things themselves.

“The perception needs to change.” – The Star/Asian News Network

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Not ready to age

Can Malaysia’s household debt at 87.9% in 2014 be reduced to 54% ?


BEING a teenager, my granddaughter started to pick up interest on how the economy works, what are the real assets and liabilities in one’s financial planning. As the topic itself can be slightly “dry”, I made an attempt to discuss it in a way that was easier for her to digest.

“Our national household debt to GDP ratio edged up to 87.9% last year. Is the number alarming?” she asked one day.

“It depends. We have good debts and bad debts in life. For example, 10 years later, our new cars may have depreciated more than 80% and our new clothes would have been worn out. Those are liabilities. On the other hand, houses are assets as they will appreciate in the long run. Debts which are backed by appreciating assets are considered good debts,” I said.

As she nodded in agreement with my simple explanation of good debts and bad debts, her question has piqued my curiosity to look into the details of our household debt.

Overall, is our nation having more good debts or bad debts?

Bank Negara report shows that our household debt was at RM940.4bil or 87.9% of GDP as at end of 2014. Residential housing loans accounted for 45.7% (RM429.7bil) of total debts, hire purchase at 16.6%, personal financing stood at 15.7%, non-residential loans were 7.7%, securities at 6.5%, followed by credit cards and other items at 3.9% respectively.

At first glance, our residential housing loans were the highest among all types of household debts. However, a recent McKinsey Global Institute Report highlighted that in advanced countries, mortgages or housing loans comprise 74% of total household debt on average. As a country that aspires to be a developed nation by 2020, our housing loans that stand at 45.7% is considered low. In other words, we are spending too much on other depreciating items instead of appreciating assets like houses.

If advanced economies, which are usually consumer nations, have only 26% debts on non-housing loans, we shouldn’t have as high as 54% loans on items such as hire-purchase (which are mostly cars), personal loans, credit cards and others.

If we were to follow the household debt ratio of advanced economies, our housing loans of RM429.7bil should be at 74% of total household debts, and other loans should be reduced from 54% to 26%, i.e. from RM510.7bil to RM150.9bil. With such reduction, total household debt would be slashed significantly from RM940.4bil to RM580.6bil (existing housing loans plus reduced non-housing loans), the amount would be at 54.2% of GDP instead of 87.9%.

I am wondering why we can’t have a household debt to GDP ratio of 54.2% as illustrated above. Are we spending too much on depreciating items?

Non-housing loans comprise mainly borrowings for cars, personal loans and credit cards. Car value depreciates about 10% to 20% per year based on insurance calculation and accounting practice. Borrowings for personal loans and credit card are also likely to depreciate over time which can be dubbed as “bad debt”.

Perhaps it is time for the Government to introduce massive cooling off measures for non-housing loans in order to curb bad debt in our household debt.

According to our Deputy Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister, our homeownership rate currently stands at 50% and the Government strives to increase the number with more affordable homes. As a comparison, almost 85% of Singaporeans are homeowners.

We can expedite the above vision if more stringent measures are imposed on non-housing loans, it will free up more resources for household financial planning. The rakyat should be encouraged to secure a roof over their heads with effective execution of affordable housing policy by the Government.

It is time to re-look our debt categories and reallocate our resources appropriately. If we are willing to cut back on cars, clothes, shoes and other depreciating items, reducing a household debt to GDP ratio of 54.2% is not only an aspiration, but an achievable reality.

By ALAN TONG Food for Thought

And the more beneficial effect is, more rakyat will have the financial resources to own a house, which is both a shelter and an appreciating asset.

■ FIABCI Asia-Pacific regional secretariat chairman 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.

 

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