Only the brave teach


Show of solidarity: Fellow teachers and
unionists gathering at the Seremban magistrate court last month in
support of Cikgu Azizan (centre in white).

 

ONE tight slap – I still vividly remember that hard, stinging smack across my cheek as my teacher flew into a fit of rage after I did something naughty as a primary school pupil at St Xavier’s Institution in Penang.

I can’t recall which teacher hit me, but there must have been more than one. They pinched my stomach and even my nipples. Many of my classmates can attest to that, even 40 years on.

There was also the occasional caning, which I felt was an act of gross injustice and, perhaps, even one of perversion on the part of our disciplinary teacher. To me, back then, he was an unfair individual, and my opinion still stands. To this day, I have no idea why I was caned and not given the chance to defend myself.

But, bless his soul, because he has passed on. Most students from back then would have forgiven him by now, for he probably knew not what he was doing.

However, one thing is certain – as far as I know, none of us returned home and complained about this disciplinary action to our parents.

Comedian Harith Iskandar always reminds his audience that if one complained to their parents, they can expect to get another tight slap that “would burn your face and send an electrifying chilling effect to all parts of your body,” and consequently, leave a lifetime’s reminder.

So, the smartest thing to do, as most older Malaysians can testify, was to keep quiet. Of course, we also warned our classmates, some of whom were our neighbors, to swear to keep things under wraps and not tell their parents about the drama at school.

The caning and slaps, by disciplinary standards, were the “final” punishments. We surely remember the use of rulers, feather dusters, belts, black board dusters and in my case, even a shoe that flew in my direction.

And I wasn’t even in the naughty boys’ category. I didn’t get into fights or was caught loitering with the bad hats after school.

As one writer, Adrian Lee Yuen Beng, wrote in Aliran: “The teachers were our ad hoc parents who taught with joy and passion, and like their predecessors, never demanded any recognition. They customarily stood at the back of the class, silently rejoicing as the students celebrated their exam success.

“We received an education steeped in tradition as mission schoolteachers took teaching seriously; it was not a mere job, but a vocation, nay, a calling.

“Our teachers were proud of their lessons and believed in their form of education. They shaped us into intellectuals, sportspersons, politicians, educators, religionists, physicians and other important societal figures.”

Fast forward to today – and it’s the total reverse. The guilty party – the student – runs home to complain to his parents.

Now, the father and mother fly into a rage and decide to confront the teacher at school the following day. What unnecessary drama!

Adding insult to injury, the parents then seek the help of a politician, who has likely been deprived of the media’s glare for a while. Then, all three confront the teacher.

Lodging a police report is, of course, the next thing they do, and to embarrass the teacher and school further, they call for a press conference.

This is modern Malaysia. Perhaps, today’s family is smaller. There are only one or two children in a family, and they are, invariably, pampered.

During my time, there were at least four or five siblings and even so, we were still regarded a small family. Dad was always too busy earning a living, trying to put food on the table, so, he was thankful that the teacher played surrogate father, at least during school hours. The lesser-educated father would have been equally respectful of teachers. After all, it’s accepted that teachers mould the character, calibre and prospects of their students.

However, the modern-day father thinks he’s smarter and earns more than the teacher, his condescending and confrontational attitude not boding well for the situation.

He probably thinks the teacher has a dead-end job or is too busy distributing business cards to pupils for after-school tuition.

But, for an old-school type like me, I find it difficult to accept news of teachers being hauled to court for purportedly hurting their students.

Honestly, don’t the police and prosecutors have better things to do than to charge these teachers who were merely trying to discipline the children – responsibilities which may have been neglected by their caregivers?

In December, a teacher facing the charge of hurting his student, was given a discharge not amounting to acquittal by the magistrate’s court.

Magistrate Mohd Zaki Abdul Rahim delivered judgement after the prosecution told the court that they wished to withdraw the case.

Azizan Manap, also known as Cikgu Azizan, claimed trial to the charge of slapping an 11-year-old male student on the left cheek in April for indiscipline, the misdemeanour including sniffing glue, bullying and playing truant.

He was charged under Section 323 of the Penal Code for voluntarily causing hurt and was left facing a jail term of up to a year, a fine of RM,2000, or both, upon conviction.

Leading up to his discharge, several hundred people, including fellow teachers, gathered at the court in a show of solidarity for Cikgu Azizan.

By all means, go ahead and Google it: there are numerous reports of teachers threatened or roughed up in schools, and surprisingly, we seldom hear of offensive parents charged in court for criminal intimidation or causing bodily harm.

We have now been made to understand that the old ways don’t work anymore. The children need counselling and their hair needs to be stroked to motivate them. Have these methods worked better? That remains to be conclusively proven.

One thing’s for sure, though, the tight slap was unbeatable in my time in instilling discipline. Now, when I enter a lift, the millennials are too busy looking at their handphones, so don’t expect them to address you as “sir” or even greet you.

You’d be lucky if they called you “bro” and gave you an enthusiastic high-five, instead.

Would the proverbial one tight slap work today in curing disciplinary ills? Hardly likely.

By Wong Chun Wai

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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Childcare centre fees set to go up


Child care centre fees will likely increase by 10 per cent next year. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli

Operators expect 10% hike next year

SUNGAI BULOH: The fees for childcare centres across the country are expected to increase by at least 10% next year, says the Association of Childcare Centres Selangor.

This was due to the revised minimum wage, said association president Mahanom Basri.

“The increase depends on the management of the centre. If the rent, salaries and other expenditures have gone up, it will increase by between 5% and 10%.

“It won’t be a lot, but there will definitely be an increase,” she said here yesterday.

For example, Mahanom said a 10% increase from the RM300 fee per child would result in a new fee of RM330.

Besides the minimum wage, she said childcare centre operators also had to install CCTVs for extra security.

“Quality facilities require money so I hope parents are ready to pay for them,” she added.

The Government introduced the minimum wage policy in 2013.

On July 1, the monthly minimum wage was increased from RM900 to RM1,000 for peninsular Malaysia and from RM800 to RM920 for Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.

Mahanom, together with more than 300 childcare centre operators, attended a dialogue session with Deputy Women, Family and Community Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun yesterday.

One of the issues raised during the two-hour closed-door dialogue was the licensing fees charged by local councils.

“We have proposed to the local councils that they could treat childcare centres as community service instead of commercial business.

“By doing so, they can reduce the licensing fees,” Chew said.

She said the ministry was also looking into easing some regulations.

“We will be looking at the ratio; such as how many children should be cared by one minder without compromising on safety.

“Childcare service is important and the demand is big. Many families have both parents working so we need to have a strong childcare service,” she added.

By Nurbaiti Hamdan The Star/Asia News Network

Related posts:

 May 24, 2016 “After all, parents are looking for a safe and good daycare centre … That is a chunk of money that could be used for education or even holidays.

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Sep 11, 2016 A childcare centre in a single storey terrace corner lot is allowed to house a …themselves to ensure our children get quality care and education.

My home, my school  

The Zika virus spreading to Malaysia and Singapore


Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys by researchers monitoring yellow fever. The virus got its name from the Zika Forest in Uganda where it was first discovered. It is classified as a flavivirus, which puts it in the same family as yellow fever, West Nile, Japanese encephalitis viruses and dengue. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, Brazil saw 20 times more microcephaly cases in 2015 than usual, following the outbreak of Zika in the country that year.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/H5IbCDebdBM

The Zika virus, explained 

 https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/OILBAbva6QA


First Zika patient getting better

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Video: http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/09/02/first-zika-patient-getting-better-doc-womans-last-blood-test-turned-out-negative-but-we-will-retest/

The first Zika patient in the country is recuperating well at the Sungai Buloh Hospital.

The hospital’s infectious disease head Datuk Dr Christopher Lee said the symptoms that the 58-year-old woman suffered from, including rashes, had also cleared up.

“We will be doing a blood test on her today and if it turns out to be negative, we can let her go home in a few days’ time,” he said yesterday.

He said her mild rashes cleared up in two or three days and the last blood test was negative but the hospital decided to keep her for a little longer just to ensure there would be no transmission to other people.

The blood test today was to reconfirm that she was free of Zika, he said.

The woman and her husband had visited their daughter in Singapore on Aug 19 and returned on Aug 21.

A week later, the woman developed rashes and fever, and sought medical attention at a private clinic in Klang.

She was referred to the Sungai Buloh Hospital, and on Aug 31, her urine sample tested positive for the Zika virus.

Her daughter, who works and lives in Paya Lebar, Singapore, has also been infected.

The woman’s husband and other family members who lived in the same house in Ambang Botanic have yet to show any symptoms of the infection.

Dr Lee said the most common symptoms of Zika were fever, body aches, rashes and red eyes which would normally clear up within a few days.

He said that if a woman was infected by Zika, the vaginal fluids might contain the virus for up to two months after she had recovered.

“So, if she has sex with a man within the two months, the man can be infected with Zika.

“The virus can also stay in a man’s semen for up to six months after he has recovered.”

Infected pregnant women face the risk of delivering a child with microcephaly, while others might suffer from Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological condition.

According to the American National Institute of Neurological Disorder’s fact sheet, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.

These symptoms can increase in intensity until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the person is almost totally paralysed.

Dr Lee recommended that pregnant women who have travelled to affected countries like Brazil and Singapore go for check-ups at nearby hospitals.

By Loh foon fong, wani muthiah, joseph kaos, tho xin yi, shazni ong, christopher tan, neville spykerman, dina murad, victoria brown, mohd farhaan shah, norbaiti phaharoradzi, nabila ahmad, rebecca rajaendram, edward rajendra The Star/ANN

Take precautions when in Singapore 

 

Personal measure: Bus passenger Naizatul Takiah Ali, 21, spraying mosquito repellent on herself at the Larkin bus terminal in Johor Baru.

It is unrealistic to stop Malaysians from travelling to Singapore, but people must take precautions against mosquito bites, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

There are about 200,000 Malaysians working in Singapore, with some travelling to and fro on a daily basis, so it would be difficult to block people from going to the republic, he said.

“We have to be realistic. The more practical way to prevent the spread of the Zika virus is to take precautions against mosquito bites.

“Apply an adequate amount of mosquito repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid being bitten.

“If you can avoid visiting Singapore, then avoid.

“But this is only voluntary and not an instruction from Malaysia. Malaysians visiting the republic should take preventive measures against mosquito bites,” he said at a press conference here yesterday.

He said Malaysians who have visited Singapore and have symptoms of the virus such as fever and rashes should seek immediate attention.

Dr Subramaniam also said vehicles coming into Malaysia from Singapore, especially buses, would be sprayed with insecticide as an additional measure.

“We know this does not prevent the spread of the virus 100%, but is an additional precautionary measure on top of other methods that we have carried out throughout the country,” he added.

The minister also said pregnant women or those planning to have a child should seek advice from their doctors, as there has been a reported link between the Zika virus with microcephaly, which causes deformity in babies.

Those who are infected should abstain from having sex, or use protection, as the virus can be spread through sexual activities.

“The virus can stay in an infected man’s body for six months and for two months inside a woman’s body,” he said.

Singapore battling outbreak of Zika virus

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/WR4Fh3GanhI

Foreigners account for half of Singapore cases

SINGAPORE: Half of the Zika cases in Singapore are foreigners who live or work here, and six of them are Malaysians.

According to a report in TODAYonline.com which quoted the Singapore Ministry of Health, the news portal said that out of 115 cases, 57 are foreigners.

The largest group is 23 people from China, followed by 15 from India and 10 from Bangladesh.

Six cases are Malaysians, and one case each from Indonesia, Myanmar and Taiwan.

“All had mild illnesses. Most have recovered while the rest are recovering well,” a ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying.

On Saturday, it was reported that a Malaysian woman is believed to be the first patient infected by locally-transmitted Zika virus in Singapore.

As the 47-year-old had not travelled to Zika-affected areas recently, she was likely to have been infected in the republic. She resides at Block 102, Aljunied Crescent and works in Singapore. — Bernama

Related stories:

Parents-to-be taking additional precautions against disease

 Reality bites hard in Ambang Botanic

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Doc: Clean up your act 

It will spread but we must put a stop to it, says minister

Rio Olympics contingent reported to be Zika-free

Young adults in developed countries rent, we buy houses for good


While young adults all over the world are renting homes, successful Malaysians and Singaporeans prefer to own homes instead of cars, as soon as they get their first pay cheque.Instead of blowing their cash on pricey gadgets, young Malaysians are saving up for their first home.

While most Gen Y shy away from owning property in developed countries and big cities, demand from millennials here is still holding, especially with parents assisting them with the downpayment, Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Datuk Seri F.D. Iskandar said.

(Gen Y, also known as millennials, are commonly referred to those who are born in the early 1980s to 2000s. They are sometimes referred to as the strawberry generation).

Demand from first-time buyers, including the younger generation, remains strong although housing affordability is a challenge, said Bank Negara.

The central bank added that they accounted for 75% of 1.47 million borrowers.

Owning and investing in a house remains a priority for many Malaysians.

This is reflected in the household borrowing trend where the buying of homes continues to be the fastest growing segment of household lending, with annual growth sustained at double-digit levels (11% as at end-March 2016), said Bank Negara in a statement.

Those who cannot afford it themselves, and do not have parents to help, turn to their friends.

In his 30s, Daryl Toh, and two of his college mates own a condominium in Penang; they pooled their resources to purchase the unit five years ago.

“It’s in a premium area and since we couldn’t afford a place on our own – at least not prime property, we became joint owners.”

Financial adviser Yap Ming Hui said it makes perfect sense to own.

“Of course the Gen Y here are still keen on buying. You pay the instalments and eventually own a home. Only those who can’t afford to buy are forced to rent.”

Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector of Malaysia adviser Wong Kok Soo said property prices in Hong Kong have escalated beyond the purchasing power of the Gen Y but the trend hasn’t caught on here – yet.

Wong, who is also a consultant with the National House Buyers Association, however, said there were signs that the Gen Y could no longer afford to live in big cities like Kuala Lumpur, Penang Island, Johor Baru and Sabah.

“Parents are chipping in for the downpayment. And, commuting from the suburbs to the city centre is still an option.

“But when prices get inflated far beyond their means, the same will happen here (as in Hong Kong),” said Wong, who, however, felt that even if demand dropped, it would not be substantial.

Iskandar agreed, saying that although the property market was slow now, the drop was manageable. “Like everything else, it’s cyclical. “The property market goes up for years and after some time, begins falling before rising again.”

He said the market would pick up with the completion of infrastructure development and public transportation facilities.

Rehda, he said, was working closely with the Government to find ways to facilitate home acquisition especially among first-time buyers.

“We proposed a review of the financing guidelines that have negatively impacted buyers’ ability to secure financing,” he said. – The Star/Asia News Network

Demand from first-time buyers still strong despite affordability challenge

PETALING JAYA: Instead of blowing their cash on pricey gadgets, young Malaysians are saving up for their first home.

While most Gen Y shy away from owning property in developed countries and big cities, demand from millennials here is still holding, especially with parents assisting them with the downpayment, Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Datuk Seri F.D. Iskandar said.

(Gen Y, also known as millennials, are commonly referred to those who are born in the early 1980s to 2000s. They are sometimes referred to as the strawberry generation).

Demand from first-time buyers, including the younger generation, remains strong although housing affordability is a challenge, said Bank Negara.

The central bank added that they accounted for 75% of 1.47 million borrowers.

Owning and investing in a house remains a priority for many Malay­sians.

This is reflected in the household borrowing trend where the buying of homes continues to be the fastest growing segment of household lending, with annual growth sustained at double-digit levels (11% as at end-March 2016), said Bank Negara in a statement.

Those who cannot afford it themselves, and do not have parents to help, turn to their friends.

In his 30s, Daryl Toh, and two of his college mates own a condominium in Penang; they pooled their resources to purchase the unit five years ago.

“It’s in a premium area and since we couldn’t afford a place on our own – at least not prime property, we became joint owners.”

Financial adviser Yap Ming Hui said it makes perfect sense to own.

“Of course the Gen Y here are still keen on buying. You pay the instalments and eventually own a home. Only those who can’t afford to buy are forced to rent.”

Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector of Malaysia adviser Wong Kok Soo said property prices in Hong Kong have escalated beyond the purchasing power of the Gen Y but the trend hasn’t caught on here – yet.

Wong, who is also a consultant with the National House Buyers Association, however, said there were signs that the Gen Y could no longer afford to live in big cities like Kuala Lumpur, Penang Island, Johor Baru and Sabah.

“Parents are chipping in for the downpayment. And, commuting from the suburbs to the city centre is still an option.

“But when prices get inflated far beyond their means, the same will happen here (as in Hong Kong),” said Wong, who, however, felt that even if demand dropped, it would not be substantial.

Iskandar agreed, saying that although the property market was slow now, the drop was manageable.

“Like everything else, it’s cyclical.

“The property market goes up for years and after some time, begins falling before rising again.”

He said the market would pick up with the completion of infrastructure development and public tran­sportation facilities.

Rehda, he said, was working closely with the Government to find ways to facilitate home acquisition especially among first-time buyers.

“We proposed a review of the financing guidelines that have negatively impacted buyers’ ability to secure financing,” he said. – By Christina Chin The Star

A pricey priority

 

Wary of big, life-changing purchases, the ‘Strawberry Generation’ – those ‘easily bruised’, coddled young people in their 30s – prefers to rent, global reports say. Malaysians, however, are bucking the trend despite steep property prices. Mainly thanks to supportive parents, it seems.

BEST friends Leh Mon Soo, 38, and Brandy Yu, 39, are finally buying their first home.

After months of serious scouting, the two managers found units that matched their budget and needs, coincidentally, in the same condominium in Petaling Jaya. Leh is getting a three-bedroom unit while Yu is happy with a 48sqm studio apartment.

Yu feels that the RM365,000 she’s paying is affordable as she can still save about RM1,700 monthly after paying the loan instalment.

“I’m only paying RM400 more a month than what I’ve been forking out for rent. And unlike the rental, this unit will be mine one day,” she says.

Leh ended up forking out a whopping RM690,000 even though she dreads the long-term commitment. While “not a bargain, and at the upper limit of what I can afford”, she says that it’s still a pretty good price, as other, smaller, units were going for higher prices.

“I was only willing to pay RM500,000 initially. Then I saw a two-bedroom in the same condominium going for RM680,000. So I bit the bullet and got this. Property prices won’t be dropping any time soon and our ringgit’s shrinking. It’s now or never. I’ll have to cough up even more later if I don’t get a place now,” she says pragmatically.

The soon-to-be neighbours think property is still in demand, even among Gen Y-ers, aka Millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s, typically perceived as brought up and very familiar with digital and electronic technology).

But they’re more privileged because their parents have either already invested in property for them or are helping them buy it, Leh offers. Renting is not for the long-term, she says firmly, and even the younger ones know that.

The Malaysian mindset, Yu quips, is that everyone must own at least one property.

Gym owner Chip Ang, 26, agrees. He got the keys to his new 78sqm unit in Shah Alam last week.

Although it was his parents who suggested he get the RM168,000 place under the Selangor Government’s affordable housing scheme, Ang says property ownership is always a hot topic between him and his friends. Young professionals want to own property. The issue is affordability, he thinks.

“Many are unrealistic. They want their ideal home in the ideal place. Of course that’s unaffordable. Most affordable homes are in up and coming townships, not prime locations.”

The experience of getting his own place was a “blur” because it happened so fast, he says, though he does recall that, “because it’s affordable housing, I had to fulfil a number of requirements including proving that I’m a bachelor”. While the RM700 monthly mortgage payment is doable, he’s still nervous about being “tied down”.

Writer Teddy Gomez, 29, doesn’t think people have given up on owning property but sees a new trend emerging.

“Buying property is still big here but I see more renters because it’s cheaper and more flexible,” says Gomez, who got “a little help” from his dad buying a 83sqm apartment in Kuala Lumpur last year. Although the cosy RM400,000 unit is “not really affordable”, he says it’s time to leave the nest.

Like Gomez, a blogger who only wants to be known as Robyn, 24, thinks it’s nice to have your own space. She’s moving into an apartment in Petaling Jaya soon. The fresh graduate admits being lucky because her dad’s the owner. She’s getting the three-room unit for less than RM140,000 although it’s valued at over RM750,000.

“For the next three years, I’ll pay the RM3,800 monthly loan instalments. Now, I’m only contributing RM2,000 because I just started working. Dad’s helping until I can afford to take on the full amount myself.”

She knows she’s better off than most her age and is thankful for her family’s support – many of her friends are also looking for properties to buy but are resigned to living outside the city in places like Bangi and Kajang in Selangor. Still, with a RM200,000 budget, they’re willing to travel and own property rather than pay rent indefinitely.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj says it’s unfair to tell consumers to live on the outskirts of city centres because public transportation is still a problem in the Klang Valley. Unless the homes are accessible, living far away from the workplace isn’t practical.

National House Buyers Association (HBA) honorary secretary-general Chang Kim Loong sees a very strong demand for affordable properties in Malaysia because of our young population and urban migration.

For instance, the Government’s First House Deposit Financing (MyDeposit) scheme that was launched on April 6 received more than 6,000 online registrations within a week, a sure sign that Malaysians are still keen on owning property.

Fomca’s Selvaraj says property is a priority for most Malaysians because it’s a sound investment. They just can’t afford it in most urban areas.

“If you’re living on bread and water after paying your loan, then the house is unaffordable. For most young families, RM300,000-plus is affordable but it’s RM600,000 homes that are being built.”

Property is the best hedge against inflation so demand will always be strong, says HBA’s Chang. But there’s a “serious mismatch” between what’s classified as affordable by developers and the rakyat’s definition. To developers, an affordable property for first-time buyers is RM500,000. For upgraders, it’s up to RM1mil. Definitions on the ground are much lower. First-time buyers deem RM150,000 to RM300,000 affordable while those looking to upgrade can only pay between RM300,000 and RM600,000.

But if you can afford it – with family help, perhaps – M. Rajendran, 53, says invest early. The air traffic controller got his double-storey home in Kajang 21, Selangor, years ago for RM146,000. It’s worth at least RM600,000 now.

“If I hadn’t bought it then, I definitely wouldn’t be able to afford it now with the financial commitments I have. And at my age, no bank is going to give me a loan. Buy when you’re young because it’s cheaper and you can settle your loan faster.”

However, he warns that current economic challenges could result in a rise in the number of abandoned projects, so those looking at new properties should be cautious and do their homework.

“Scout around. Choose locations with infrastructure and amenities so that the potential for property prices to appreciate is higher.” – By Christina Chin The Star

Don’t bank on the banks

 Chang Kim LoongRELAXING lending conditions won’t help more people buy their own homes. It will only worsen the situation as developers increase prices further to match the lending surge, predicts Chang Kim Loong, honorary secretary-general of the National House Buyers Association (HBA).

Datuk Paul Selvaraj also doesn’t think it’s a good idea. The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association secretary-general says home ownership is a right, and it’s the Government’s responsibility to make it a reality. The Government, he stresses, must either build more affordable housing or force developers to cater to the neglected market. It’s wrong to force banks to take bigger lending risks by calling on them to relax lending conditions, he feels.

“Banks will only lend money if they can get it back. It’s unfair to expect them to do otherwise. Also, if the borrowers cannot pay, they themselves will end up with a big headache.”

Banks are rightly stringent as times are uncertain, says Wong Kok Soo, an adviser to the Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector of Malaysia and consultant to the HBA.

Lenient policies encourage purchases that are beyond one’s means and are not a good idea; instead, the margin of financing should be increased or the loan tenure extended, for first home buyers. For existing loans, there should be some flexibility in extending tenures and adjusting debt servicing ratio, he feels.

Last year, housing in Kelantan, Penang, Sabah, Sarawak and Selangor, as well as Kuala Lumpur, were listed as severely unaffordable by market experts. Nationwide, only Malacca made the affordable category with housing in the other states deemed either seriously or moderately unaffordable.

Bank Negara’s “Financial Stability and Payment Systems Report 2015” showed an increasing supply of homes above RM500,000 while those priced below RM250,000 accounted for less than 30% of the total launches in the first nine months of last year.

Deputy Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique has since called on developers to build more houses priced at RM300,000 for Malaysians.

The next generation won’t be able to own property without financial help from their parents unless concrete measures are taken to increase the supply of properties costing between RM150,000 and RM300,000 and to stem the steep rise in existing property prices due to excessive speculation, says HBA’s Chang.

A Khazanah Research Institute report reveals that Malaysia’s housing market is considered to be “seriously unaffordable”, with a median house price of more than four times the median annual household income. This problem, Chang notes, surfaced a little under a decade ago but if prices continue to soar, the situation could worsen.

Not that there aren’t affordable schemes and funding plans in place to help – in the last 50 years, scores have been introduced but information on them is scarce, he observes. Details of projects by developers, state agencies and federal bodies must be available in a public database, he suggests. And a single umbrella body under the Federal Government must coordinate the distribution and availability of such units.

Chang stresses also that there’s no place for racial profiling when it comes to housing. Whoever deserves a house must get a house, he insists.

There’s never a wrong time to buy property but one must balance the risk of buying with renting, he advices. Owning a house is riskier as buyers take on enormous debts, sign multi-year loan agreements and become responsible for homeowner costs, he cautions.

“Flip through the newspapers – you’ll see many proclamations of sales of units for public auction that are below RM50,000. Some even dip below RM10,000. On bank websites, you’ll find property foreclosure cases.”

A list of properties put up for auction by CIMB bank showed 35 units in Selangor at reserved prices of less than RM42,000 – that’s the price of a new low-cost unit, notes Chang.

Low-cost units auctioned off for half of the purchase price is an alarming trend, he says. Unfortunately, there aren’t any official statistics on how many low income earners have lost their homes or are struggling with their monthly loan commitment. Where do these homeowners and their families end up living, Chang wonders.

Foreclosures can devastate a family’s economic and social standing, possibly leaving them poorer than before they bought the property. Financiers, local authorities and communities benefit from homeowners being better informed of their rights and responsibilities as borrowers. Ensuring that lower income households have sufficient personal financial management skills and support is crucial.

It’s not enough just to provide homes for the low- and medium-income group. Chang recommends that a homeownership education programme be set up to raise financial literacy and prepare households for the responsibilities of owning a home.

“Manuals, advice or information given via telephone, workshops or counselling to help households maintain their homes and manage their finances must be given before first-time buyers sign the sale and purchase agreement. Public housing schemes are only successful if buyers can hold on to their property.”

Specifically, Chang says education should cover:

> Pre-purchase period – understanding the various types of available housing, the process of buying a house, loan process, and financial preparation needed; and evaluating household needs.

> Post-purchase period – budgeting monthly expenses; making payments promptly; avoiding loan defaults; living within a community; social responsibility; property taxes, assessments, insurance, service charges and sinking fund; home maintenance; and handling problems with the property.

Educate yourself and learn from the mistakes of others to avoid being disappointed or, worse, becoming “house poor” (when most of your income goes towards home ownership), Chang advises. Aspiring buyers must get something that’s within their budget. It could be an older or smaller unit but start small and slowly increase your property portfolio, he says.

“Don’t let friends or family influence you into getting something that’s above your budget, as home ownership is a long term investment. You must be able to service the loan while maintaining an acceptable standard of living.”

The majority may prefer to rent while waiting for the market to soften but it’s better to have your own shelter, says HBA consultant Wong.

The average Malaysian, he insists, can still own property. Consider buying at auctions. Research is a must, though, as inspections aren’t allowed at auctions. It’s an “as is, where is” bid, he stresses. Find out about the surrounding units and the neighbourhood, he suggests.

Better to own but…

PROPERTY investment helps maintain our socioeconomic well-being and must be encouraged, says Datuk Seri F.D. Iskandar, president of the Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Malaysia (Rehda).

Property – a wealth-creation instrument without the volatility of stock markets – has consistently out-performed traditional investment options like bonds, he points out.

But to invest, one must study the property and its market potential. With the right location and strategy, property can be a very profitable investment. The value will appreciate over time, he says.

To many, the most important aspect of owning property is to secure a home. In current conditions, most developers are coming up with attractive packages to close the deal, so it’s a good time to buy. Securing a bank loan now, though, is one of the biggest barriers, he says.

Rehda’s recommendations to the Government and Bank Negara are:

> Encourage innovative home financing packages like the developers interest bearing scheme (better known as DIBS).

> Allow flexible or accelerated tiered payments (longer loan tenure so you pay less now but more later when your salary has increased).

> Relax loan approval criteria with higher financing margins (up to 100%).

Also, banks, he says, shouldn’t just focus on a loan applicant’s current net income; future prospects of higher salaries and other incomes and bonuses must be taken into account.

He dismisses talk that the average Malaysian has been priced out of owning his or her first home.

There’s still a range of prices and options in both the primary and secondary property markets, he says.

With new launches, developers usually offer special incentives, rebates or discounts that will help buyers reduce their initial payment. In the secondary market, however, what you see is what you get. Depending on what you’re looking for, factors like location, surroundings, facilities, transportation and infrastructure will help you decide.

“Property prices in city centres are high because of land value but there are many cheaper options in less-urbanised areas. There are many affordable houses, including those by PR1MA (the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme). The average Malaysian can definitely afford these.

“With an improving transportation system and connectivity, these places are now easily accessible from city centres.”

We are paid enough

Property price and value to Income per country in SEA 20014

WAGES are rising in tandem with the country’s consumer price index (CPI), which is a broad measure of inflation and our productivity.

Both criteria are used to determine wages here, says Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, executive director of the Malaysian Employers Federation.

While Malaysians lament how their salaries aren’t enough to cope with soaring costs of products and services, their grouses aren’t reflected in the low CPI numbers, he says.

“Measured against the CPI, our average salary growth isn’t lagging. In the region, our salaries are second only to Singapore. Of course, you must consider the currency exchange. Singaporeans earn an average of S$3,000 (RM9,000) while Malaysians take home RM2,800 monthly.

“But bear in mind that the productivity of Singaporeans is 3.8 times higher than ours. Their per unit cost of production per employee is lower than us. In the United States, the productivity level is seven times higher than ours. So when you say we aren’t earning enough, you have to consider our productivity level too,” he states, pointing to how in some of our neighbouring countries, the average salary is less than US$100 (RM400).

However, he acknowledges that houses are beyond the reach of most – and fresh graduates in particular – and adds that even when both husband and wife work, they still may not have enough for the down payment and are forced to rent.

It’s tough, he admits, even for those who have already been working for a decade, to own a house now without financial support from parents.

Related: Renting is OK too

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Ringgit Malaysia slides to lowest vs USD: fears of low oil prices, rate hike, rethink study options


Ringgit slide

PETALING JAYA: The ringgit has fallen to its lowest against the US dollar since August 2009 amid concerns over the impact of low oil prices on Malaysia’s economy and the timing of US interest rate hike.

Ringgit slide_oil

At 5pm yesterday, the ringgit was quoted at 3.5425 against the US dollar, which has been gaining strength against all major currencies in the world. That represented a weakening of 10.81% for the ringgit against the US dollar in the last six months.

According to independent economist Lee Heng Guie, the ringgit would likely remain under downward pressure as investors were concerned about the impact of falling crude oil prices on Malaysia’s economy.

Malaysia, which is a net exporter of crude oil and petroleum, is seen as the biggest loser in Asean of lower oil prices.

“Being a net oil and gas exporter, it will cause a sharp slowdown in oil and gas investments and affect the Government’s ability to spend as it struggles to manage its fiscal deficit on account of falling oil revenue,” RHB Research Institute said in a recent report.

Low oil prices would result in some loss of income for Malaysia through lower dividends from state oil producer Petroliam Nasional Bhd and lower tax and excise duties. Petroleum-related revenues account for around 30%-40% of total government revenue each year.

Savings from recent subsidy reforms might not be sufficient to offset the loss in income for the Government that was looking to cut its fiscal deficit to 3% of gross domestic income (GDP) in 2015 from 3.5% of GDP this year, economists said.

There were divided views as to whether Malaysia would momentarily slip into twin deficits, a situation where an economy is running both fiscal and current deficits, in the coming months.

Brent crude oil, an international benchmark, fell to a fresh five-year low at 5pm yesterday when it was quoted at US$54.23 (RM192.11) per barrel. That represented a decline of more than half from the peak of around US$115 (RM406.80) per barrel in mid-June.

Investors are expecting the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in the coming months, following the end of its third round of quantitative easing (QE3) programme last October.

QE3, which was launched in September 2012, involved the buying of long-term US Treasury bonds to push long-term interest rates low to support the country’s economic recovery.

In the last six months, the ringgit had also weakened against other regional currencies, including the Singapore dollar, against which it fell 3.63% to 2.6493. The ringgit fell 0.91% against the South Korean won to 0.3184; and 2.9% against the Indonesian rupiah to 0.02801.

Nevertheless, the ringgit had appreciated against the British pound, euro, Australian dollar and Japanese yen over the last six months.

Yesterday, the ringgit was quoted at 5.4080 against the pound, 4.2249 against the euro, 2.8541 against the Australian dollar and 2.9397 against 100 yen.

By Celilia Kok The Star/Asia News Network

Weakening ringgit forces parents to rethink study options

Ringgit

PETALING JAYA: Parents planning to send their children to study overseas, particularly the United States, are beginning to feel the pinch with the ringgit continuing its slide against the greenback.

Many are reconsidering their options by looking at other destinations for their children’s higher studies.

Some are also planning to shorten the study period of their children to cope with the extra costs incurred, while there are those who are thinking of asking their children to take up part time jobs to help finance their education.

The ringgit has slipped to its lowest since August 2009 at 3.5280 to the US dollar.

A media practitioner said he enrolled his daughter for an American degree programme with a local college two years ago.

“She’s doing a twinning course with two of the four years to be spent in the US. At that time, the ringgit was holding up fairly well against the US dollar.

“With the ringgit’s slide now, I’ll have to cough up much more to finance my daughter’s studies in the US,” he said.

Retired pilot Wong Yoon Fatt, a father of two, said he planned to send his 18-year-old daughter overseas as he had saved up funds for his children’s education.

“However, if the ringgit continues to weaken, I may shorten the duration of their studies abroad. From three years, I may consider cutting it to just a year or two abroad,” he said, adding that he would encourage his children to take up part-time jobs during their vacation.

Housewife Noorhaidah Mohd Ibrahim, 61, said if the economic situation worsened, she was prepared to send her 21-year-old daughter Tasneem to study at a local university.

“If we can get the same quality of education here, then why not?” she said, adding that she was planning to send Tasneem to pursue higher education in Britain.

Mass communication student S. Samhitha, 21, said she had a choice of continuing her final-year overseas but opted to stay back because of increasing costs to study abroad.

“I can still get the same degree here. However, the thing I will miss is the exposure of studying in a different country,” she said.

Law student Janani Silvanathan, who is in Britain, said she would feel the pinch of the weakening ringgit in her next term when she would have to travel back and forth from Bristol to London weekly.

“Transportation will be more expensive. A train ticket from Bristol to London costs RM180 each now,” the 24-year-old lamented.

A 20-year-old film making student who identified herself as Stephanie said she was planning to study in Canada but would have take up a part-time job.

“The depreciating ringgit will not severely affect me but my parents will definitely incur higher costs,” she said.

Law student Lisa J. Ariffin, 25, who is studying in Cardiff, Wales, said she was more careful in spending money, even on food.

“I can’t eat out as often and will always look out for good bargains or offers,” she said.

By Yuen Meikeng The Star/Asia News Network

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Old and abandoned by children like trash !


Old discardedThe forgotten: Foong with an elderly inmate of Rumah Kasih in Taman Mutiara Barat.

PETALING JAYA: Each week, at least 10 elderly Malaysians end up in old folks homes and that is just the official average, based on centres registered under the Welfare Department.

According to department director-general Datuk Norani Hashim, an average of 536 elderly persons were placed in registered centres each year between 2009 and 2012.

“The actual number could be much higher as some privately run homes are not registered with the department,” she said.

She said between 1993 and last year, a total of 4,968 senior citizens were placed in 211 centres nationwide.

“Perak has the most number with 1,339 in 56 centres, followed by Selangor with 860 in 45 centres but only nine of the centres are under direct supervision of the department,” she added.

In Kuala Lumpur, Foong Peng Lam, the coordinator of Rumah Kasih, which takes in old folks and patients found abandoned in government hospitals, said at least one person was admitted each week.

He said most of the patients were abandoned because their families claimed they could not afford to take care of them.

“Their family members do not provide any form of financial assistance and do not come over to visit,” he said.

The home has taken in over 600 abandoned individuals since its inception in 2000.

“Weak elderly people who had collapsed by the roadside were also brought in by strangers.

“There were also those who were brought in by family members who never return to visit or take them home,” he said.

Foong said the number of abandoned patients had been increasing steadily – from seven in 2000, to the 60 at present.

Apart from Hospital Kuala Lumpur, the home has been taking in patients from Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Hospital Selayang, Tung Shin Hospital, Hospital Seremban, Hospital Sungai Buloh, University Malaya Medical Centre, Hospital Ampang and Hospital Kajang.

He said the hospitals would first try to contact the families, who would usually promise to take the patient home, but never turn up.

“This can go on for up to two months before they bring a patient in.

“Even when we manage to contact the families they usually refuse to take any responsibility,” he added.

Figures from the National Population and Family Development Board, an agency under the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, show that about 675,000 elderly parents did not receive financial support from their children in 2004 when the Fourth Malaysian Population and Family Survey was conducted.

 Abandoned by loved ones after becoming ‘worthless’ 

KUALA LUMPUR: S.K. Cheng, 65, spent three months at Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL), waiting for his family to take him home.

The diabetic collapsed while walking by the roadside in September last year.

He woke up in the hospital and was told that his left leg would have to be amputated below the knee.

“I did not take care of my children when they were younger. That is why they do not want me now. I could not afford to take care of them well because I did not have enough money,” he lamented at the Rumah Kasih in Cheras, his current home.

Cheng said he used to work in a coffee shop and lived with his wife and three children.

He said his wife passed away 10 years ago and his son and daughters soon moved on with their lives elsewhere.

They came to visit him at the hospital once, but that was the last time he saw them.

Another inmate, also surnamed Cheng, said she was also left at HKL for nearly three months before she was sent to the home.

The woman, in her 70’s, was bedridden after suffering a stroke.

Her son, in his 40s, did not want to take her home because he could not afford the medical bills.

“She used to work odd jobs and was living with her son before she became ill.

“Her son just dumped her, expecting the hospital to care for his mother,” said a caretaker at the home.

While most Rumah Kasih patients are elderly there is also a 36-year old woman known only as Chan.

She spent six weeks in Hospital Selayang without anyone in her family visiting her.

“I used to be happy. I was working as a cashier and was married with three young children.

“When I suffered a stroke and became paralysed, my husband left me at the hospital and left my kids with my father,” she said.

“He said he could not take me. Now that I cannot work anymore I am worthless and they do not want me.”

Contributed by  P Aruna, Farik Zolkepli, Zora Chan, and Vanes Devindran The Star/ANN

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Go see your parents… or else!

Go see your parents… or else!


Mum_Angry-asian-woman Malaysians are still divided on the need of a filial piety law, but many countries in the world are already enforcing it.

IF you are disrespectful to your elders, you will be tortured and killed – that was the law during the Han Dynasty in ancient China. Although the death sentence is no longer mandatory for such behaviour in modern China, it is still a crime under its newly revised law Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly.

Enforced in July last year, the Act lists nine new clauses that stipulate the duties of children – finacially and emotionally – towards their elderly parents. A main clause requires family members living apart from the elderly to “frequently visit or send greetings to the elderly persons.”

And if that is difficult for those living far away, a provision was included requiring employers to allow their employees time off to visit their elderly parents. However, no punishments were stipulated for those who neglect their parents.

The law allows senior citizens to sue their children and get a court order for financial aid, care and visits.

It was introduced due to the growing number of cases of the aged being abandoned in China in the last few decades, despite the deeply ingrained filial piety belief in its culture. In 2011, it was reported that nearly half of the 185 million people aged 60 and above live apart from their children.

An ageing population was also the impetus behind India’s 2007 filial piety law which states that adult children have an obligation of fulfilling all their parent’s needs including housing, food, and medical care. Failure to do so is punishable by hefty fines, and jail.

Closer to home, Singapore has enforced a Maintenance of Parents Act since 1999. The law also allows parents to sue their grown children for an allowance and care; or face six months in jail.

What many will find surprising is that filial piety laws are also practised in the United States, or rather in 30 American states. What is more surprising is that they are based on a law dating back to 1601, the Elizabethan Poor Relief Act, which stipulated that “the father and grandfather, and the mother and grandmother, and the children of ‘every poor, old, blind, lame and impotent person’ being of a sufficient ability, shall, at their own charges, relieve and maintain every such poor Person.”

The American filial piety laws differ from state to state but each generally describes the responsibility of children to provide financial support to their parents.

Many of the laws enable nursing homes to sue the adult children for their parents’ unpaid medical bills. A dozen states stipulate it a crime punishable by jail. South Dakota allows children who have been sued to get a court order for their siblings to pitch in.

Six states make grandchildren accountable.

As many have found out, living in another state does not protect them against a lawsuit – in 2007, Elnora Thomas from Florida was reportedly sued by her mother’s nursing home in Pennsylvania for unpaid bills. When she was unable to cough up the money, she was told they would put a lien on her house.

In France, the filial piety law allows senior citizens to get cash and care from their children-in-law too. Other Western countries that mandate financial support from adult children to their aged parents are Canada, Ukraine and Russia.

Can you legislate filial loyalty and love?

ONE of the cases that pushed the government of China to mandate filial piety was in Jiangsu province where a local TV station reported that a farmer had kept his 100-year-old mother in a pigsty with a 200kg sow.

Last December, 94-year-old Zhang Zefang won her suit against her four children for financial support and care. They were ordered to split her medical bills and take turns to look after her. Due to their own financial problems, the siblings asked the youngest brother to take her in. He put her up in his garage – which was in a condition arguably worse than a pigsty.

Whose responsibility is it to look after the aged?

A CRITICISM of the filial piety law is that it is an attempt by the government to pass the buck of elderly care to the people with the growing size of the ageing population and escalating costs of healthcare, property and general living.

Another concern is for those who were abused by their parents when they were younger – should they be legally bound to care for the abusive parents?

Recently, the father of K-pop idol group Super Junior leader Leeteuk hanged himself after killing his own parents.

He reportedly suffered from depression due to the overwhelming financial and emotional burden of caring for his elderly parents who had dementia.

The high publicity case has sent the republic into a national debate on the public support system available for carers and relatives of the elderly suffering from serious illnesses, especially Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

In New York last week, a group of 70-something Korean-Americans were evicted from a McDonald’s restaurant for overstaying – they reportedly hogged the tables at the eatery from 5am until dark every day, affecting its business. The senior citizens are not homeless; they just have no other place to hang out together!

Symbols of filial piety

In Japan, filial piety is embodied in various statues called kohyo no zou (filial piety statues) around its public buildings and temples. One of the most famous statues is that of Nippon Foundation founder Ryoichi Sasakawa carrying his elderly mother up the stairs of a temple.

In China last year, Guangzhou Daily highlighted the filial heroics of a 26-year-old man who pushed his disabled mother for 93 days in a wheelchair for a holiday at a popular tourist site in Yunnan Province.

Filial tradition

FILIAL piety is a key virtue in cultures rooted in Confucianism such as that of China and South Korea. It is defined as respect for one’s parents and ancestors. However, the concept is well-ingrained in many other cultures too.

Known as seva in the Indian culture, filial piety is demonstrated at various traditional ceremonies including weddings where the young would serve milk to the elders and wash their feet.

In the Malay culture, the tale of Si Tanggang is used to caution the young on the consequences of filial impiety.

Si Tanggang is a poor young boy who goes off to sea in search of his fortunes. He promises to return for his mother when he makes something of himself. However, when he gets rich, he forgets her. When he returns after many years, she rushes to the shore with his favourite dish, but Si Tanggang is so ashamed of his poor mother that he refuses to acknowledge her. Worse, he orders his men to throw her off his ship. Heartbroken, Si Tanggang’s mother prays for God to turn him into stone.

For the Muslims, filial piety is asserted in various Quran verses and Hadith. A common reminder is “Heaven is at the bottom of your mother’s feet.”

Similarly, in the Jewish and Christian traditions, filial piety is asserted in various instances of their holy texts, such as the Fifth Commandment which says “Honor your father and your mother”.

Contributed by Hariati Azizan The Star/Asia News Network
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