Recession fears can by itself be a self-fulfilling prophecy


 

AS talk of a recession picks up, a veteran fund manager, Ang Kok Heng of Phillip Capital Management Sdn Bhd, correctly points out that the Malaysian stock market has been in “recession” in five of the six years since 2014.

Hence, he does not envisage how it can get worse for the Malaysian stock market if the global economy does go into a recession next year. Fears of a global recession have picked up pace based on the behaviour of the US yield curve.

The yield curve, which charts the spreads of US debt papers of various tenures, has inverted several times in the past few weeks. Most people would not understand what an inverted yield curve means.

Simply put, it means long-dated debt papers of 10 years giving lower returns compared to shorter-term debt papers such as two-year US Treasuries. It causes what is called an inverted yield curve.

It goes against the normal behaviour of US Treasury yields because long-term debt papers should give a higher return than short-term papers.

The consequence of an inverted yield curve is that it will lead to banks reducing their lending activities because their margins are narrow. Eventually, it results in companies reducing their activities and the country going into a slowdown or recession.

An inverted yield curve has been the precursor to all past recessions (see diagram).

However, there are some who are disputing the fears of an impending global recession based on the behaviour of the bond yield curve. Their reason is that the bond yields are not behaving as what they should due to the governments all around the world printing money to keep interest rates artificially low since 2009.

Interest rates have become so low to the extent that European banks are offering no returns on deposits. This means depositors do not get any money for keeping their money in the banks. Borrowers instead get discounts on their installments.

It’s happening in Europe because government bond yields there have turned negative.

For instance, the yield on 10-year Switzerland bonds is negative 0.74%, while German bonds of a similar tenure yield negative 0.52%. From France to Denmark, government debt papers have negative yields.

Only some countries such as Portugal and Spain still have positive yields on their debt papers.

Analysts believe that this has resulted in investors resorting to buying US debt papers that still offer positive yields. Hence, the price of bonds across all tenures in the US has gone up, causing their yields to come down.

The search for yields has also resulted in the narrowing of the difference between what the two-year and 10-year debt papers offer. And there have been several occasions in the last one month when the yield on the 10-year paper was lower than the two-year debt papers.

Apart from the behaviour of the yield curve, the other indicator that is seen as a precursor to a recession is the declining manufacturing sector all around the world caused by the trade war between the US and China. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which is a leading indicator to assess the state of the economy, has been declining for all major economies.

For Malaysia, the PMI has been less than the 50-point benchmark for almost a year now. The same trend is seen in China, while the indicator has started to decline in the US in the last few months, which some see as a result of the trade war.

The trade war has caused supply disruptions, impacting the manufacturing sector.

However, there are other indicators that do not indicate a recession is imminent.

Banks are fairly well-capitalised and have pulled the brakes on lending. We do not hear of banks being impacted by major corporate defaults except for some financial institutions in China. Malaysian banks, for instance, have weathered the storm quite well so far, thanks to Bank Negara keeping a tight rein on their lending activities.

There has not been any run-up in asset prices. Property prices in countries such as Malaysia have remained subdued since 2015 after Bank Negara pulled the brakes on lending. Since 2014, Bursa Malaysia has closed lower every year, except for 2017.

The only exception of rising asset prices is Wall Street that has soared to record highs. Stock prices are hitting all-time highs due to improved earnings growth.

Technology companies such as Apple and Amazon are US$1 trillion companies. The other technology companies such as Facebook and Alphabet are enjoying growing valuations because of earnings growth.

No other stock exchange in the world has such a large concentration of technology companies than the exchanges on Wall Street. All technology companies, even from China, want to list on Wall Street.

Even Alibaba is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and not in Hong Kong.

It has been 11 years since the last recession, but the world’s central banks have resumed their printing of cheap money to keep interest rates low. The European Central Bank has resumed quantitative easing, while the US Federal Reserve is reducing interest rates. In essence, central banks are taking these measures to prevent a slowing economy going into recession.

In the meantime, it has caused fear among people and companies. Companies are holding back on spending, and in fact, cutting down on their debt.

A clear indicator is in the US where companies raised the most amount of corporate debt. Apple and Disney raised US$7bil worth of debt papers to reduce their borrowings.

In Malaysia, corporations have been deleveraging for the past few years in anticipation of a slowdown. Companies are not expanding, as indicated by the declining private-sector gross capital formation.

It is only reasonable for companies and people to save for the upcoming rainy days. Even governments are cautious in spending. For instance, in the upcoming Budget 2020, many are expecting the government to start spending. But there is also a view that the government will adopt a cautious stance as it continues to strengthen its balance sheet and reduce debts.

If nobody spends for fear of a recession, it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Most people are expecting a recession, meaning negative growth. Fear of a recession has translated into a slowdown that the world and Malaysia are experiencing. If this fear continues to perpetuate, a recession would be a self-fulling prophecy.

It is good to be fearful, but being too fearful and conservative will also result in lost opportunity.

As Ang of Phillip Capital puts it, in times when fears of a recession seap in, cash must be held to seize opportunities. Holding cash as an investment is not a wise option.

By M. SHANMUGAM , The views expressed here are solely that of the writer. Source link

 

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A meaningless Merdeka


This Merdeka is a meaningless Merdeka for the nation as it entrenches itself into old political mindsets. A meaningless Merdeka …mysinchew.sinchew.com.my

By Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi

After 21 years of writing ideas, criticisms and advice for Malaysians, Malays and those in power in academic, religious and political institutions, I have no more to give. Malaysia is on a certain road of destruction with the Malay Muslims driving it to the ground. I have looked hard and deep into many other ways than I have mentioned and I have no more ideas to bring to the table.

This is the most difficult article to write for me and I have thought many times to just call up Sin Chew and refuse a requested writing for the first time in my entire career as an academic. I see no more hope for this country. The Malays will eventually destroy itself and others with it. The only hope for the idea of a Malaysia lies in the nations of Sabah and Sarawak. If these two quit the partnership, then the idea of Malaysia is just a joke. If I were younger by three decades, I would take my family outside this country and resettle in others or at least in neighboring Singapore and the nations of Sabah and Sarawak. At least they still have teh tarik there.

With muftis sounding like gangsters in a terrible movie plot and unchecked by their patrons, the Malays will continue to be educated in that manner. With veteran Malay politicians and businessmen helming the fate of the country, the Old Malaysia has just been given a new lease of life by a heart-bypass. With academia still counting their H-indexes and SCOPUS papers, these institutions of learning will continue to be irrelevant entities to social and political development getting fat by the tax payers money and their own sense of self grandeur. Religion, academia and politics of the Malays are safely entrenched to bring the country to a precipice of oblivion.

The editors of this article wants to know from me what can be changed? Well, I no longer have any more ideas except to say…save yourself and your family by hunkering down, tightening the stomach and strategically plan for the children to be placed outside this country.

I have now begun to seriously think about such a strategy for two of my children. There is nothing here in Malaysia that would be anything of a dignified existence of a person.

When a mufti with extremely low knowledge on the history of the Indian people can make simplistic and racist statements about them, and get away without any reprimand or reminder from his patrons, then the game is ended. When he calls on hardworking and dedicated groups of Chinese educationist to be outlawed without measuring their six decades of contribution, what dignity is there left? Worse, when a peddler of religious capitalism comes to this country blaring insults not only to other religions but also the presence of our own community of generations of people, ministers have dinner with him with smiling photo ops. Susah-lah ini macam.

Then there is a political party with Islam as its name spew venoms of Islamic brotherhood being more important than citizenry and that those who oppose the peddler of religious evangelism from another country as enemies of Islam, and the police sits quietly without any reaction. Apa lagi nak cerita?

I have trained myself to be an expert at identifying success and failure in everything I do. I can also expertly predict success and failure in some things others do. I can definitely say that Malaysia is a failure. It was failing badly before May 9th 2018, it has failed even worse after merely over a year.

In the beginning, this failure was caused by a reluctance of the Malay voters to change. Then, this failure was fueled by the marriage of the two discredited Malay parties. Now, the trust of the people has been totally betrayed by the smallest and least ideological party which happens to helm the leadership and is engineering a 1990s come-back formula.

Unless a miracle happens, Malaysia will be the first country to be listed as the ‘fourth world’ of a three world category. We will go nowhere, be no ‘thing’ and simply become stuck to the ground with our old ideas about economy, education, religion and having no sense of dignity to others and the world. When one day, Muslims will be rejected entry into most countries of the world as with their favorite penceramah, then the old Malay proverb of sudah jatuh ditimpa tangga or sudah jatuh baru tertenggadah becomes a stark reality.

What is this miracle that may reignite the fires of Malaysia? Only three things. First, by a stroke of miracle, the civil society restrategize itself with other existing political parties and puts up 70 independent candidates to oust the cancerous elements in PH and combine with the dignified parties of Sarawak and Sabah, then there may be a chance.

How hard is it to find 70 credible candidates of all races dedicated to nation building? The names are already on my computer list. The civil society, good and nation-conscious NGOs can work together with the grassroots of rejuvenated veteran parties that lost their shorts in the last election. Those civil leaders appointed by the PH must return to the fold when the time of GE15 draws closer.

The second miracle would be 100,000 Malay children and more to come out of their UEC education and these children must be tracked and given support so that they can be the savior of a nation from the old bigotry of Muslims and Malays in the public schools.

That is why Malay political parties despise the UEC as the new Malays who are trilingual and globalized networked with China and the West will reformulate new national constructs based on their times with the other communities in the UEC schools.

Regardless of whether the PH government will recognize or not, I see the UEC as the only savior of this nation. The sons and daughters rejected by the majority of their own race will come back to revive the idea of Malaysia and thus, we Malaysians must ensure that the UEC survives and thrive.

Those of our sons and daughters educated in the international schools with international curriculum would be the other force that can cure an ailing nation, and that too must be protected and expanded so that it becomes affordable to send our children too. Leave the public schools entrenched in its own issues and problems.

The third miracle would be the private education tertiary institutions. These institutions have gone through the economic gauntlet and is now secure with a mixed group of academics to lead the nation where public universities fail in their own ethno-centric constructs of self-delusion and irrelevant academia. If these private universities can wake up to fill the minds of young Malaysians with the right mind set and ideas to lead the future, than the future can be theirs for the taking.

Private universities must get out of their balance sheet mindset and show that they can take over what was left out by the big brother universities and strike out on their own. The private university academics can form their own Professor Council and produce strategies for real impactful research and ideas that can move Malaysia 50 years into the future and pool its student talents to research and recharge industries linking the world. The future industries are in a mapless world and do not require a Malay Majlis Perbandaran to give the okay to start a factory. The new ‘factories’ are in cyberspace and offshore. Countries will work with these students who do not display any sense of ethnic or religious superiority complex and shun those that do. The world belongs to the private enterprise as government fails to change because of Old Politics.

The third miracle would be the pooling of resources by private companies and enterprises across a maples world to provide financial and infra-structure backings to clear thinking and hard working graduates and young skilled individuals freeing itself from any governmental ‘requirements’. Again, governments do not control cyberspace and off shore dealings. Malaysians will be everywhere in the world working, living, playing and worshipping while still rooted to their ‘tanah tumpah darah ku’.

This Merdeka is a meaningless Merdeka for the nation as it entrenches itself into old political mindsets. But this Merdeka is a new Merdeka for all Malaysians who love the idea of living with deep respect to each other’s faith and cultures and working with each other for mutual prosperity.

What we need is a Merdeka from the old rules of the game towards a new game play of global dimension that frees us from the old 90s ball and chains.

To save this Malaysia, our children must ‘leave the present Malaysia’ and embrace the future Malaysia that lies beyond its shores into a global and universal construct rooted in our traditional faiths and cultures.

(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at UCSI University.)

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Design engineers at fault in landslide tragedy, act against negligent engineers


Design engineers at fault in landslide tragedy | The Star Online
https://rightways.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/8723e-penang2blandslide_tanjung2bbungah1.jpg

GEORGE TOWN: The State Commission of Inquiry (SCI) tasked with investigating the Tanjung Bungah landslide in October 2017 has found the design engineer of the slope primarily responsible for the incident that claimed 11 lives.

The SCI, in its 116-page report made public, has recommended that the engineer be investigated by the police under Section 304A of the Penal Code for gross negligence.

Besides the engineer, the commission found another design engineer responsible for being “contributorily negligent” for allowing excavation to be carried out without design, engineering calculations and supervision.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the commission found that the slope failure was a man-made tragedy and entirely preventable if those in charge had taken necessary and proper steps to ensure the stability of the slope and the safety of the workers.

“The landslide did not develop overnight, it was a disaster waiting to happen over a period of time.

“There were ample warnings which were sadly unheeded or inadequately heeded,” Chow said of the report at a press conference at his office in Komtar here yesterday.

Chow said the report, dated July 22 this year, was a result of public hearings conducted over 26 days with testimonies from 28 witnesses.

“The commission also considered voluminous documents, reports, photographs and drawings, as well as the opinions of six expert witnesses.

“The report provides further analysis of the background facts, excerpts of testimonies recorded during the hearings and findings on liability against several parties,” he said.

The commission also found the Occupational Safety and Health Department negligent for failing to take adequate steps to ascertain the extent of the danger posed by the unsafe slope, by not promptly issuing a prohibition notice after its visit to the site on Aug 18, 2017, which was two months before the fatal incident.

Chow said copies of the report would be sent to the police, Attorney General’s Chambers, Board of Engineers Malaysia and other authorities involved.

“The report also contains nine recommendations that the commission hopes will serve as guidelines and prevent such incidents from recurring,” he added.

On Oct 21, 2017, a temporary slope in the construction site of a high-rise apartment block in Tanjung Bungah collapsed while workers were trying to stabilise it. Tonnes of earth crumbled, killing 11 workers.

The full SCI report can be bought at Level Three, Komtar, for RM50 per copy between Sept 3 and 30. For more details, call 04-650 5480.- Source link

Chow: Agencies have to act against negligent engineers

Penang chief minister Chow Kon Yeow

GEORGE TOWN: It is up to the relevant agencies to take action against the consultant engineers who were found negligent, resulting in the Tanjung Bungah landslide tragedy, says Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

“It is up to the agencies and the police to take action as recommended by the State Commission of Inquiry (SCI).

“I have also directed the Town and Country Planning Department, Penang Island City Council, Seberang Prai Municipal Council and other related agencies to come up with recommendations to improve hill development.

“It was discussed at the State Planning Committee meeting and I have directed state housing, town and country planning and local government committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo to head the committee and come up with the recommendations within a month, ” said Chow at Komtar here yesterday.

It was reported that the SCI tasked with investigating the Tanjung Bungah landslide in October 2017 had found the design engineer of the slope primarily responsible for the incident that claimed 11 lives.

The SCI, in its 116-page report made public, had recommended that the engineer be investigated by the police under Section 304A of the Penal Code for gross negligence.

Besides the engineer, the commission found another design engineer responsible for being “contributorily negligent” for allowing excavation to be carried out without design, engineering calculations and supervision.

Penang Island City Council engineering director A. Rajendran, who was also present at the press conference, said the stop-work order on the project was lifted after the developer completed mitigation works.“However, different engineers have been overseeing the project since work resumed some time ago, ” said Rajendran.

On Oct 21,2017, a temporary slope at the construction site of a high-rise apartment block in Tanjung Bungah collapsed while workers were trying to stabilise it.

Tonnes of earth crumbled, killing 11 workers. – Source link

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Resolve race, religion and education to aspire for a better, the real new Malaysia


A short year since the first change in government gave the people hope for a resetting of the national direction, grave doubts about the pace of scope of reforms are clouding the mood for Merdeka Day.

The risk of political instability, economic pain for modest income-earners and worsening communal relations have left many wondering what has gone wrong with the dream of a New Malaysia.

In our Special Report this issue in conjunction with Merdeka, find out what the country’s young people are wishing for the nation amid the cacophony of noises. Contributors include co-founder of #Undi18 Qyira Yusri, Zahirah Zulkifly from Teach For Malaysia and lawyer Melissa Sasidaran, among others.

On the economic front, the country is better off today than decades ago, but the income gap between the B40, M40 and T20 has actually grown. This underscores the fact that economic growth has not been equally distributed to all levels of society.

Of concern is whether there will be sustained income and unemployment growth for all segments of society, especially the lower and middle-income groups.

Then there is the issue of navigating the country’s economy to the right path towards new growth engines that is sustainable and inclusive.

This would mean addressing the various challenges facing the country such as low productivity growth and capital efficiency, continued non-optimal investment in capital-intensive and value-added industries and automation, skills gap for the future workforce, among others.

My aspirations for our 62nd Merdeka

SIXTY-TWO years ago in 1957, Malaya gained independence. The new nation was blessed with a multiracial and multi-religious society and abundant natural resources and natural beauty.

There were serious challenges facing the new nation then, but we were blessed with honest, strong, competent and dedicated founding fathers and able leaders who provided good governance, set up credible national institutions like parliament, the judiciary, security and civil services.

Most importantly, poverty, which was widespread at independence, was considerably reduced as we moved forward, thanks to assertive rural development policies.

The country was also blessed with high economic growth and dubbed a tiger economy. There was little corruption and cronyism for many years after Merdeka.

The economy has since grown faster and developed more strongly in the last 61 years, and the country has progressed in peace and harmony except for the aberration of the 1969 riots.

We were more united then and shared a strong national family spirit. We emphasised and enjoyed our commonality and universality as Malayan and then as Malaysians.

After 60 years of being governed by one political party, we realised that we had been going off the track with rising corruption, cronyism and fracturing national unity, religious intolerance, racism and widening income inequality.

That was when we as a nation said “enough is enough” and elected a new government in our uniquely democratic Malaysian way. Thank God for the fundamental change and transition towards greater socioeconomic, political and institutional reforms and revitalisation of our country under the Pakatan Harapan government.

But we have to work harder to stick to the straight and narrow path and not go off the rails again.

So, on this auspicious 62nd Merdeka Day anniversary, can we all resolve to develop a new national consensus and mould a New Malaysia Policy (NMP)?

To do this, we need to:

1. Apply the NEP to all Malaysians regardless of race or religion. Make the NEP a needs-based socioeconomic policy and end the race-based policy as practised now. This change in policy will remove the sense of alienation that most non-Malays and even many neglected bumiputra now feel;

2. Show greater priority in increasing the opportunities for the B40 groups of all races to earn higher incomes through better and more skills-based education and training programmes;

3. Reject compulsory training in some non-academic studies that are not directly related to improving the present generally low quality of education at almost all levels. Provide more technical and vocational training and use English to teach science subjects. This is essential to make our graduates more employable and get a more rounded education;

4. There should be equal business and employment opportunities in both the government and private sectors. The civil service and business sectors have to be more multiracial in their employment make-up. One way to encourage more multiracial ownership and balanced employment in the private sector in the context of the new policy of “Shared Prosperity” would be to provide new tax incentives in Budget 2020;

5. National schools could teach our mother tongues to encourage higher multiracial attendance. The current perception of national schools being Islamic schools needs to be corrected. They could then become schools of choice;

6. The present campaign against corruption, cronyism and money politics must be stepped up. Continuation of any elements of these very bad practices will undermine national interest and the public’s well-being and welfare;

7. The government must take a harder stand against hate speech and those who promote racial and religious conflict. Foreign speakers and external financing that promote social unrest should be dealt with more sternly and quickly. The

government should not protect these undesirable troublemakers, both foreign and local, who can cause major disunity and instability;

8. Public institutions should be further strengthened and made more independent of any political interference. This is essential to safeguard the integrity and sustainability and, indeed, the very sovereignty of our nation;

9. With climate change and global warming becoming more critical, we must not look at short-term profits and neglect the longer-term devastation of Mother Earth; and

10. As far as possible, we should preach and practise universal human rights in a more sincere and serious way. We can always protect our religious and cultural values and adopt human rights at the same time.

On our 62nd Merdeka Day anniversary, let us all pledge to protect our precious Constitution, live by the principles of the Rukun Negara and resolve to aspire for a better Malaysia.

May God continue to bless our beloved country and people. Selamat Hari Merdeka 2019.

TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM, Chairman Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies –
Source link

 

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Race and religion, the sorry state of our unity


It is sad that mistrust among the different
races is rising even after 62 years of independence, with the various
communities having little interaction or empathy.

IN 10 days, we will mark our 62nd year of Merdeka but unlike last year when elation was in the air with a new government in Putrajaya, the prevailing mood is one of melancholy.

A year on, there is not much to show that we are doing better as a nation in terms of national unity and cohesion.

Instead, the deep fissures that threaten the very structure of the country have become more obvious, as seen daily on social media.

It is no exaggeration to say that highly provocative and sensitive comments stirring unrest among the people have become the norm.

Race and religion remain the most divisive issues, as they were under the previous six-decade-long administration but with the comparatively freer media today, they are being stoked to incite animosity and even flagrant threats of violence.

On Aug 14, a man threatened to behead lawyer Syahredzan Johan for urging the withdrawal of controversial preacher Zakir Naik’s permanent resident status in Malaysia. The 28-year-old security guard has been arrested and is being held under remand.

Last Saturday, an appalling video of man unsheathing three menacing weapons – a parang, a sword and katana (Samurai blade) went viral.

In the three-minute clip, he is heard threatening “impudent non-Malays” with violence as he demonstrates his supposed “invincibility” from harm by running the blades across his abdomen, hands and neck.

On Monday, police arrested a 43-year-old officer over a Facebook posting inciting Muslims to shed the blood of non-believers last Wednesday.

The man urged Muslims to “sharpen their parangs for kafir (infidels) who may want to become like sacrificial cows”.

Shockingly, the suspect is said to be an assistant director with the Islamic Development Department Malaysia (Jakim).

In the wake of such provocations, the Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has set up email and WhatsApp hotlines to lodge complaints against those who insult race, religion or the royal institution.

It’s tragic that mistrust among the different races is rising even after 62 years of independence. Malaysia is more fragmented with its disparate communities having little interaction or empathy for each other.

In the elation following Pakatan Harapan’s victory in last year’s election, hopes were raised for “Malaysia Baru”, a resetting of the nation towards a more progressive and equitable society.

The new vision, Shared Prosperity 2030, as announced by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in May to mark Pakatan Harapan’s first year in power, was aimed at ensuring fair, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth; fostering unity; celebrating cultural diversity; and creating decent living standards for all Malaysians.

But events and issues over the past few months, such as the move to introduce khat calligraphy, the resistance by Chinese educationist group Dong Zong, the furore against controversial Indian Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik and the Selangor government’s plan to allow for one parent to unilaterally convert a child to Islam, have shown that the new government is not much different from the old Barisan Nasional when it comes to matters that are inextricably linked to race and religion.

With Umno and PAS upping the ante in playing the race card and the Pakatan Harapan’s ebbing support in the Malay heartland, the new government has been treading very carefully.

In April, the government withdrew from the Rome Statute, after a storm of protests from Umno, PAS and Malay NGOs, which claimed that acceding to the treaty covering the International Criminal Court (ICC) would affect the sovereignty of the Malay Rulers.

Last year, it retreated from assenting to the International Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) after similar protests.

As for the case of Zakir, who faces criminal charges of money laundering and instigating terrorism in India, non-Muslim Malaysians were dumbfounded by his hobnobbing with the Prime Minister, Education Minister Maszlee Malik and de facto Islamic Affairs Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa, especially when the preacher openly supported the previous administration during GE14.

The government’s earlier stance of refusing to deport the televangelist, who was given Malaysian permanent resident status by the previous government in 2015, was seen as a move to appease the Malay/Islamic vote bank.

But things have changed drastically for Zakir, who attracted a crowd of 70,000 and was treated like a VIP during a mammoth rally on Aug 3.

He is being investigated for intentional insults to provoke a breach of the peace by making disparaging remarks against Malaysian Indians and Chinese. He has also been effectively barred from speaking across the country.

On Sunday, Dr Mahathir said Zakir had “crossed the line” by delving into politics and stirring racial tension in the country.

Among other things, he was supposed to have said that Malaysian Indians were more loyal to the Narendra Modi government in India and described the Malaysian Chinese community as “old guests” who should go back to China before he is made to leave the country.

Claiming that his remarks were taken out of context, Zakir has filed legal action against Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran, Penang Deputy Chief Minister Dr P. Ramasamy, Bagan Dalam assemblyman Satees Muniandy, Klang MP Charles Santiago and former ambassador Datuk Dennis Ignatius.

Dr Mahathir’s assurance that the rule of law will be imposed on the preacher has somewhat allayed fears that the government would treat him with kid gloves to placate his supporters.

The last thing our already tattered state of unity needs is a foreign agitator adding fuel to fire.

Media consultant M. Veera Pandiyan likes this view of Mark Twain: Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. The views expressed here are entirely the columnist’s own. – Source link
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E-cig & vape devices targeting teens


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Some of the latest e-cig and vape devices are cheap, as small as your thumb and can even be worn as a watch. Tobacco control experts say awareness among parents and teachers are crucial in keeping this new addiction out of schools. 

LET’S be clear – e-cigs and vape (ECV) are electronic drug delivery devices that can be used with the likes of meth and marijuana, warns Universiti Malaya Centre of Addiction Sciences (UMCAS) chief coordinator and the varsity’s Nicotine Addiction Research & Collaboration Group (NARCC) coordinator, Assoc Prof Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin.

The smoking cessation specialist says there’s a chance that students using ECV will be exposed to other drugs.

“And it’s likely they’ll face the same problems – like poor grades – as students who smoke.”

Dr Amer Siddiq was commenting on findings published in the July edition of the Journal of Criminal Justice.

‘It’s all the rage! Exploring the nuances in the link between vaping and adolescent delinquency’ suggests that there may be something “criminogenic about vaping among adolescents”. But the strength of the relationship between vaping and delinquency depends on what is being vaped, with marijuana vaping being most heavily correlated with delinquency.

Dr Nur Amani@Natasha Ahmad Tajuddin, the lead of the NARCC smoking prevention programme in schools, says when the use of ECV is related to crimes like theft, violence, fighting, bullying, and running away from home, more effort is needed to curb the habit.

“Parents must realise that ECV has negative health, mental, economic and academic impact on youths.”

Young at risk.

Four years ago, ECV use among students was less than 3% because the devices were too pricey for most teenagers, Assoc Prof Dr Anne Yee notes..

According to the Tobacco and E-cigarette Survey among Malaysian Adolescents 2016 (Tecma), a whopping 36.9% of students start on the devices between the ages of 14 and 15, and now, we’re seeing a spike in teenage use..

Easily passed-off as a smart watch, thumb drive or pen, the eye-catching devices look like the latest fashion accessories, says the addiction psychiatry expert and UMCAS member..

“Sellers are going all out to push the product to teens by making it cheaper and more accessible..

“Many even give it free to attract young customers. Drug pushers use the same tactic to get people hooked so that they keep coming back.”.

These days, huge, eye-catching banners adorn night markets with traders openly displaying their wares. Clearly, the colourful e-liquid bottles with fancy names were designed for kids, teenagers and women, she says. These are groups that may never smoke yet we’re turning them into ECV users..

“If sellers are targeting adult smokers who want to quit, they wouldn’t need gimmicks. Why make such fancy designs?”.

Dr Nur Amani says a recent study reported that 22% of children aged between 11 and 15 in England, use ECV compared to 18% who start smoking..

“This is because ECV ads are appealing. Here we have celebrities promoting ECV on social media to entice kids.”.

Dr Amer Siddiq says more needs to be done to prevent a new generation of nicotine addicts from emerging..

“ECV isn’t safe. The devices could burn and the e-liquids could be adulterated.”.

While studies have shown that children and adolescents see ECV as cool, pleasurable and fun to use, Dr Nur Amani says there’s a pattern of kids from lower socio-economic income groups being targeted by unscrupulous sellers..

Getting the girls.

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan says teachers nationwide are noticing a rise in ECV use among girls..

“This is scary because with cigarettes, it was mostly just the boys. But these devices are popular among both boys and girls.”.

Dr Yee is worried because nicotine is being touted as a way to lose weight. It’s like what drug pushers tell women about meth..

As it is, more young girls are experimenting with e-cigs as compared to cigarettes..

Cute cartoon packaging and fruity flavours are aimed at female non-smokers.

Society still has a negative perception of women who smoke. But with ECV, the message is that even ‘‘good girls’’ use it because it’s fashionable and can help you lose weight, adds Dr Yee.

In December last year, The Star highlighted how ECV and e-liquids were promoted as weight management aids.

“Even e-liquids that claim to be nicotine-free contain the drug. And you’ll never know for sure how much nicotine is inside. It could be equal to 20 cigarettes.

“A nicotine high lasts for less than two hours before the craving starts. So getting youngsters hooked on ECV is a business tactic, ” explains Dr Yee.

If your kids are turning to cigarettes, ECV or drugs, it could be because they’re bored or have no one to turn to, she says, adding that children who feel a sense of belonging in the family don’t need these harmful distractions.


Easily addicted

Dr Yee says teenagers are much more susceptible to addiction compared to adults. Some even start to have nicotine cravings after just one try.

“The teenage brain has yet to mature. That’s why adolescents are more impulsive, emotional and susceptible to advertisements aimed at influencing their behaviour.”

Parents whose children are already smoking aren’t helping by getting them an ECV. While it’s better than a tobacco cigarette, ECV is harmful for non-smokers.

When inhaled, tiny chemical particles in the e-liquids can enter the bloodstream and cause long-term harm.

Those between the ages of 10 and 18, adds Dr Nur Amani, are especially vulnerable to addiction.

The medical doctor says e-liquids contain toxic materials like lead, arsenic, manganese and chromium. Exposure to even small amounts can worsen symptoms of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

ECV use among varsity students is also worrying, says Dr Amer Siddiq, who was among the researches behind The use of e-cigarettes among university students in Malaysia journal paper published in December.

The study, funded by the Education Ministry, involved 1, 302 students in six Malaysian varsities.

“Over 40% of students smoke and use ECV. This means that ECV has not helped them quit smoking, ” he says, adding that some users even experienced adverse effects like dizziness, coughs and headaches.

Anti-vape campaign

The Education Ministry recently announced that it would intensify awareness campaigns after claims of ECV being freely distributed among students, and photos of youths vaping, went viral.

Calling on parents and society to stop students from bringing the devices to schools, the ministry’s director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin notes that ECV has become the norm these days – becoming more sophisticated and difficult to distinguish from other electronic gadgets.

Welcoming the ministry’s move, Dr Nur Amani feels it’s important to get tobacco cessation experts onboard to work with teachers.

More awareness campaigns need to be conducted by health scientists, educationists, politicians and non-governmental organisations, to show that ECV use is not “normal behaviour”.

Group activities, instead of talks, work better to impart knowledge. And, it’s more sustainable.

“The children themselves can then act as ‘peer experts’. The impact is greater when the message is shared by those of the same age group.”

Campaigns can be effective if we target parents and teachers, says Dr Yee.

With children and adolescents, the more you say no, the more they will want to try it, she says, adding that parents shouldn’t over-react if they find their child smoking, using ECV or taking drugs.

“It’s not the end of the world. Be an ally to your children instead of acting like the police.”

She suggests talking to children about the dangers out there instead of sweeping things under the carpet.

“Make them realise that sellers only want to make money by getting youths hooked on an addictive habit whether it’s nicotine or drugs.”

The Health and Education Ministries are already working together on the Kotak (Kesihatan Oral Tanpa Asap Rokok) programme to highlight the harms of cigarettes and its related products, says Dr Amer Siddiq.

But with the introduction of newer ECV models, there’s a need to raise awareness among the adults

Citing some pod-and-USB-like devices as examples, he says these have very high nicotine content but most parents and teachers don’t know about them.

Recently, children were mimicking vaping because of what they see on social media, Dr Amer Siddiq says in reference to the crackdown on Ghost Smoke – a candy consumed by sucking on a straw to produce a vapour-like effect.

“The Kotak programme must be enhanced to cover ECV and its dangers especially the impact on young developing brains.”

NUTP’s Tan says most teachers are in a cocoon when it comes to ECV.

“We need to expose teachers to this new threat so that they know what to look out for.

“And teachers must be given more authority. Since we cannot cane and are vulnerable to lawsuits, we want legislation that compels parents of problematic students to come to school and be responsible for their kids’ behaviour.”

UM, says Dr Nur Amani, has been conducting educational and advocacy programmes in schools through its No-Cotine Club and Community and Sustainability Centre (UMCARES).

Trained students go to colleges and schools to carry out activities that de-normalise smoking and vaping, she says.

“Soon we’ll be approaching 80 partner schools to tell our children that EVC is not just ‘evaporated water’.

“The effects are harmful and it’s haram for Muslims. Hopefully when they go home, they’ll share the message with their parents.”

Smoking and IR 4.0

ECV will be among the hot topics at the upcoming KL Nicotine Addiction International Conference (KLNAC) 2020, says its organising chairman Dr Amer Siddiq.

As the country moves towards realising the National Strategic Plan to make Malaysia smoke-free by 2045, it’s crucial to look at all forms of technology that can prevent the uptake of cigarettes, he says.

“We’ve decided on the theme ‘Mission IR 4.0: Redesign Tobacco Control’ because of the emergence of various disruptive technologies that can either assist quitting, prevent youths from starting the habit, or attract people to smoking.

“ECV was initially touted as a way to help smokers quit but we’ve seen how Juul has ended up enticing youths to take it up instead.”

UM, he says, is already using data and technology in its tobacco control efforts.

The varsity’s dental group is working on an app for school children to prevent initiation to smoking.

And, Dr Yee is collecting data to match smokers with cessation apps that are right for them.

“We’ve thousands of smoking cessation apps yet the success rate is only 25%. Each app caters to specific personalities so we’re trying to match smokers with apps that cater to their preferences. This will ensure a higher success rate.”

By CHRISTINA CHIN – Source link

Teens the target for vape products


Cause for concern: Subbarow showing the smart watch vape gadget at the CAP office in Jalan Masjid Negeri, Penang.

GEORGE TOWN: Vape products in all shapes and sizes have been flooding the market, including those targeting schoolchildren.

Besides vape pens and chocolates, the latest is the vape smart watch.

The gadget, which has a strap and detachable watch, is being sold openly in shops for RM132 each.

“These watches can cost less than RM130 and some students are using pooled money to buy and share them.

“They also pay RM50 for a 30ml bottle of liquid nicotine, ” said Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) education officer N.V. Subbarow.

He said recently, teachers in two schools in the state seized vape gadgets from students, showing a disturbing trend of students vaping.

“They look like regular smart watches and teachers may not easily identify them. The liquid is poured into the detachable watch face unit, and the vaping device is shared among the students.

“One can easily lay their hands on the China-made product as they seem to be used by schoolchildren. This could lead to serious health issues.

“The government may have banned cigarettes in schools or public places, but the law still allows e-cigarettes. Sadly, many unscrupulous traders are promoting these products as gifts, ” he said in an interview.

Subbarow also claimed that a preschool teacher confiscated a “cigarette pad” from a five-year-old recently.

“When you roll each page torn off from the small note pad, it looks like a cigarette. This seems to be a plaything among the children.

“There is like a pattern now where smoking is being promoted at an early age, which would have disastrous effects on a growing child. There are no laws stopping profiteering from these gadgets, ” he said.

Subbarow added that students often got away with vaping, compared to smoking cigarettes because they come in many flavours and are water-based, without emanating much smoke or smell.

“The fruity flavours of apple, orange or strawberry cause the vapers to have fresh breath, making it difficult for teachers and parents to know if their children are vaping, ” he said.

When met, two 16-year-olds from a school in Jelutong, who were vaping near the CAP office at Jalan Masjid Negeri, said they bought an e-cigarette for RM100 and liquid nicotine for RM50 and that they smoked outside the school.

One of them said he had borrowed money from another friend and it was nothing new as many peers in his school have e-cigarettes.He said they would also meet after school for vaping sessions.

Subbarow cautioned that thousands have died from lung infections and other diseases due to smoking, which is higher than those who were killed in accidents.

“Our checks in about eight schools showed that the situation is critical. Prompt action must be taken to address the issue, including amending the laws to ban vaping in public places.

“The anti-vape campaign started five years ago when vaping was a hot issue but it soon fizzled out as the Health Ministry did not follow through, ” he said.

“It’s time for drastic action or we’ll lose an entire generation, who will end up becoming vaping addicts.”

By R. SEKARANSource link
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State of GLCs a matter for concern


A MAJOR topic at the inaugural Malaysian Economic Symposium held on July 26 at the Parliament Complex was government-linked companies (GLCs). The big issues about GLCs are not only their large presence in the economy but also their governance.

As mentioned in the symposium, which was jointly organised by the Office of the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat, the Backbenchers Council and the Parliamentary Caucus on Reform and Governance to get a deeper understanding of the challenges facing the economy, there are so many GLCs that nobody knows what the total number is. The other concern is their lack of transparency and accountability.

About 15 years ago, the then prime minister launched the GLC Transformation Programme to raise the standards of corporate governance in government-linked companies following the guidelines issued by the Securities Commission and Bank Negara Malaysia, as part of the reforms to make the economy more resilient to external shocks.

The New Economic Model report to the National Economic Action Council also stressed the need to reform GLCs so that they do not affect adversely the efficiency and competitiveness of the economy and become an obstacle towards making Malaysia a fully developed high income country.

Khazanah Nasional, Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) adopted these guidelines to strengthen their internal checks and balance and make their major GLCs more attractive to local and foreign investors. Good governance in the companies owned by these three national institutions is important as their shareholdings in the corporate sector account for a big share of the market capitalisation.

Further, as the country’s national wealth fund, Khazanah realised its responsibility as an MoF (Ministry of Finance) Inc corporation to set the tone for good governance.

EPF and PNB are responsible for paying good dividends to millions of their subscribers. Like Khazanah, they too insist on their investee companies to adopt good governance practices so that when they do well in the market place, the benefits will go to their subscribers.

One of the important guidelines in good corporate governance is that the board of directors should be evaluated on the “fit and proper“ criteria before they are appointed. One major requirement in the criteria is that the nominee for board appointment should not be politically connected or linked so as to protect the independence of the board from outside interference.

A good board should have the committees on audit, nomination, renumeration and risk management actively checking the management and also providing it with professional advice and recommendations.

The presentation by the university professor at the symposium highlighted the political links of GLCs, with many ministries involved in overseeing them. Thus, the ministries dealing with rural and land development, technology and research, tourism, sports, youth and culture are among the ministries which have GLCs to implement their policies and projects.

Ministerial influence on the GLCs is not always good. The federal GLCs are MoF Inc in ownership but administratively, they answer to the ministers. Often, the GLCs have bumiputra partners who are linked to the top circles or their own relatives in forming joint venture business to provide the privatised services to the ministry.

With the political connections, the contract prices that the ministry pays to the GLCs for supplying the work orders or purchases may well be above the market price. The GLCs are thus operating at the expense of taxpayers.

Some politicians use GLCs and trustee foundations under religious authorities to promote their political activities under the guise of CSR (corporate social responsibility), like sending pilgrims to Mekah, sponsoring religious events, building surau or paying for goodwill golf trips overseas, including their wives’ travel costs.

States also have their GLCs established as Mentri Besar Inc companies or as subsidiaries of statutory bodies like state economic development corporations (SEDC) and state agricultural development corporations. Many of these GLCs have joint ventures with bumiputra partners who are politically linked. Malay property developers have raised issues over the SEDCs which build shop lots and commercial buildings at lower cost because they get priority access to state land and often at lower than market price, thus undercutting the genuine Malay private sector.

The Pakatan Harapan government has pledged that the appointments to GLCs will be non-political in the sense that politically active persons will not be appointed as directors of the companies. The government wants to bring professionals to serve on the GLC boards to improve their performance. The definition “non- political“ should include persons holding any kind of party positions because those at the lower levels can be just as ambitious in using the GLCs for gaining influence among the top leaders.

Some professionals have left active politics but remain advisers to a political party or are business associates with high-ranking politicians or are married into powerful political families. It’s not clear whether such professionals can be considered as independent or free from politics.

A good board should respect the views of its committees on nomination, remuneration, audit and risk management. These committees are mandatory for listed companies and banks as the Securities Commission and Bank Negara are very strict about good corporate governance to provide the internal checks and balance to prevent the board from making wrong decisions or from being influenced by the chairman’s personal or political interests.

The government should make it compulsory for all GLCs to be similarly regulated, especially those under the control of state governments and statutory bodies as they are highly politicised.

Business associations have always complained in every dialogue with the government that the GLC sector is too large and is crowding out the private sector. As growth is fundamental so that more wealth can be created in the economy to generate the resources for the government to spend on the poor, it should consider reducing the size of the GLC sector so as to strengthen the investment climate and provide more room for the private sector to expand locally. Those GLCs that are a financial burden to taxpayers should be closed down or sold off before they cause a financial crisis to the country.

Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassm Kuala Lumpur
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