Benarkan Uber beroperasi

August 25th, 2014 by admin Categories: Economy & Trade, Opinion No Responses
Benarkan Uber beroperasi

oleh Amin Ahmad. Diterbitkan di dalam The Malaysian Insider 25 Ogos 2014

Isteri saya memperkenalkan Uber selepas ramai rakan-rakan di pejabatnya menggunakan perkhidmatan tersebut. Kemudian, saya sempat memuat turun aplikasi Uber untuk melihat apakah yang menarik mengenainya.

Berdasarkan aplikasinya, saya fikir tidak banyak perbezaan berbanding MyTeksi. Kedua-duanya sangat baik kerana memberikan maklumat penting untuk pengguna. Sebelum kedua–dua aplikasi ini wujud, kita seringkali mendengar banyak rungutan mengenai pemandu teksi yang tidak mahu menggunakan meter dan menipu dalam mengenakan caj kepada pengguna.

Continue Reading

Share Button

Shedding lights on public procurement

August 20th, 2014 by admin Categories: Economy & Trade, Governance, Opinion No Responses
Shedding lights on public procurement

by Tricia Yeoh. First published in The Sun Daily 20 August 2014

ONE of the many criticisms against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) that Malaysia is negotiating to sign alongside 11 other countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region is that procurement by government and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) would be opened up to foreign companies.

This has raised ire among local firms that fear their bread and butter contracts were being taken away, since foreign companies would be allowed to bid on similar terms as locals for goods, services and projects.

This is especially so given that government procurement formed an estimated RM1 trillion worth of projects in 2013, which makes up 23% of that year’s GDP. Naturally, it is a significant market size within which greater competition would affect the inefficient, and therefore weaker, players.

The government has responded by saying that it is negotiating for greater carve-outs, namely that Malaysia has carved out build-operate-transfer projects from its scope of commitments in the TPPA, although the threshold for construction services has not yet been determined. In fact, the government’s position is that certain areas of interest to the bumiputra business community and small and medium enterprises, as well as certain domestic operations of SOEs have been excluded.

While it is understandable that there are fears that local companies will no longer receive government assistance through national treatment, procurement is in fact one of the areas in which the TPPA could possibly bring about greater openness, transparency and competitiveness in the way our government handles its public procurement system. In short, value for money as a principle by which the administration handles its contracts.

Of course, the country need not necessarily sign the TPPA just to ensure its procurement is better managed, but the reality is that reforming government procurement is a long and arduous task. Without external factors, one would have to depend entirely on internal political will to push through change, and trends have shown this is a tough nut to crack.

A series of policy papers that our organisation IDEAS has published throughout the year on promoting transparency in public procurement provides several proposals on how reform can be pushed through, with or without the TPPA. And it was shown that by implementing a transparent public procurement system, the government could save up to RM4.5 billion a year, assuming that 50% of current public procurement is in fact non-transparent in nature.

Some of the recommendations include improving the procurement process itself to improve transparency and accountability, for example including evaluation criteria and weightage within tender documents, which is currently not the case.

We also recommended that preferences given to bumiputras should always be stated in the tender documents, even if the weightage is zero. Under the TPPA, the government has said there should be carve-outs for the bumiputra community, and although preferential treatment based on ethnicity does not help national development in the long run, perhaps a phasing out period over a fixed number of years would be ideal.

Having independent observers sit in to attend bidding evaluation meetings may seem unusual, but this would actually allow for more independent monitoring of how contracts are awarded.

The Ministry of Finance has responded positively to calls for greater openness in recent months, for instance publishing directly negotiated contracts on its website, MyProcurement, but to date there are only 64 contracts listed, and several details are still left out, making it difficult for the public to track. The awards themselves should be accompanied by publishing the criteria for choosing successful bidders and whether or not this would be further sub-contracted.

One might argue that the annual Auditor-General’s Report already reveals a host of compromised deals made by ministries, many of which centre on problematic procurement, but which have not led to any prosecution. Indeed, stronger investigative processes and punitive action should be carried out. Individuals making compromised contracting decisions must be held responsible for their misdeeds.

A rather ironic situation is that although our public administration was one of the first in the world to embrace online platforms, today it lies in an alphabet soup of sorts. Just for public procurement alone, there exist five procurement portals managed by different ministries (ePerolehan, MyProcurement, Government Information Procurement System, ePerunding and National e-Tendering Initiative). Much effort would be needed to consolidate these into one central platform.

Surely this would make it easier for government officers, suppliers and the public, to keep track of contracts.

So whether or not the TPPA is implemented, there are steps that the government can immediately take to assure the public of its commitment to greater transparency to make its procurement systems more productive. Of course, signing the TPPA may speed up this process, but this would come with a host of other challenges that are not discussed in this article.

Although there have been briefings by the government on the TPPA status, the information could still be more forthcoming. For instance, although they have said that state and local governments will not be subject to government procurement rules, the exact thresholds – which are, understandably, still under negotiation – at the federal level have not been specified.

There has been much public disquiet about the TPPA namely because many stakeholders (the most affected parties like farmers, manufacturers of generic medicines and so on) likely feel that information from the government has only been general at best. Perhaps the ministry concerned could produce policy factsheets that demonstrate the magnitude and scale of how each interest group would be affected. Until then, the arguments for and against the TPPA will continue to take place in a vacuum, with asymmetric information.

Tricia Yeoh is the chief operating officer of IDEAS

Share Button

Learn from PAS

August 19th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
Learn from PAS

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published  as “Learn from the dynamics in PAS “in The Star 19 August 2014

Last Sunday evening, I attended an event where the PAS “poster boys” once again tried to convince the public that their party can be trusted despite what happened in the Selangor MB crisis.

The speakers were Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, PAS central committee member Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, and PAS Youth Chief Suhaizan Kayat.

Continue Reading

Share Button

A youthful vision of ASEAN

August 15th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
A youthful vision of ASEAN

by Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz. First published by the Borneo Post Online 15 August 2014

AMIDST the asinine squalor of domestic politics centred on egos, greed, broken promises, claims of disloyalty and presumptuous attempts to reconcile interpretations of “what the voters actually want” with the manner in which the state constitution actually endows legitimacy, shafts of optimistic light have, thankfully, managed to shine through this post-Raya period.

August always features a high density of student events as organisers take advantage of overlapping holidays for students from local and foreign universities, but this year I haven’t been able to say yes to as many speaking invitations as I would like.

So far I’ve done a book sharing session for ‘Roaming Beyond the Fence’ at the remarkable Popular Book Fest (where I was nominated for the Readers’ Choice Award but gladly lost to Tim Donoghue’s ‘The Tiger of Jelutong’), and then co-judged a group of pre-university students at the LSE Malaysia Club’s inaugural Economic Leadership Forum.

But so far the most engaging session has been at UKM, where Professor Datuk Saran Kaur Gill, executive director of the Asean Youth Volunteer-Leaders Secretariat and a deputy vice-chancellor, invited me to speak about the role of Asean civil society — a topic which I had spoken about some months to a group of mostly Malaysian civil servants (see ‘Strengthen civil society in Asean’, Conservatively Speaking Freely, April 14, 2014 in The Borneo Post). This time, at this second Asean Youth Volunteer Programme, the audience was 50 youth volunteers, selected competitively from 1,400 applicants from across all 10 member countries.

This fact alone suggested that these youths were genuinely committed to Asean, unlike many politicians sent on conferences across the region to pay lip service to an entity that they have no motivation in actually promoting. I told the 18- to 30-year-olds that no community can be forced into being: leaders cannot simply tell 600 million people of diverse national, cultural, religious or ethnic backgrounds that they are now part of a community and expect them to embrace it (particularly when some of these leaders promote or tolerate division in their own countries if it suits their political survival).

Rather, the successful realisation of an Asean community depends on a cohesive Asean civil society that concerns itself with issues across the region. Unfortunately, the differing levels of democratic health across the 10 countries means that for now, civil society flourishes in certain places and is stifled in others: indeed, official Asean events with civil society have seen the farcical inclusion of only ‘government-sponsored NGOs’ — a despicable contradiction in terms.

Last year the programme’s theme was protecting Asean’s environment, and this year it is on Asean’s heritage: worthy causes, for sure — and since they’re going to Melaka I pointed out that democratic principles such as rule of law and separation of powers as well as free movement of capital, goods and labour as espoused by the Asean Economic Community are nothing new, and a far cry from being alien concepts that are incompatible with our cultural traditions.

However, if we want to forge something that can truly be called ‘Asean civil society’, rather than just an amalgam of unequal civil society landscapes across the region, then democratic institutions need to be strengthened everywhere, and I hope the organisers fully dedicate a future edition to this theme. Encouragingly, the representatives from Vietnam and Myanmar agreed with me, and then the Indonesians and Filipinos in the group, shyly at first but quickly more confidently, alluded to the complementary features of strong democracy that I had mentioned in my speech — decentralisation (via the example of the rise of President-Elect Jokowi), limiting executive authority, the importance of a truly private (instead of a crony-capitalist) sector — and how they too wanted to ensure these things were protected. The CLMV participants seemed comforted to share in similar challenges.

Towards the end one lady wondered whether national sovereignty should be obsolete in a future Asean: I asked her to consider why you would want to transfer sovereignty when the risks are so high. For the foreseeable future, our nation states are more likely better protectors of individual rights and freedoms than a hypothetical superstate, and the idea of centralising decision-making power should only be revisited once there is more democratic parity in the region.

Egotistical and greedy politicians like to cause chaos when the prize is substantial power and resources: imagine the power and resources a hypothetical Asean President or Prime Minister (that constitutional question would be a headache in itself) would have. And imagine the chaos, when the tussle over the leadership of a single state in one of Asean’s comparatively better democracies is chaotic enough.

- – -

Tunku Abidin Muhriz is president of IDEAS.

Image credit: inewmedia.org

Share Button

Increasing our common wealth

August 8th, 2014 by admin Categories: Opinion, Other No Responses
Increasing our common wealth

by Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz. First published in The Malay Mail 8 August 2014

Every so often diplomats and scholars ask the question: is the Commonwealth of Nations relevant? Critics denounce its lack of teeth to enforce decisions and its imperial origins, while supporters praise the organisation’s commitment to democracy and its voluntary nature. But its greatest advertisement happens every four years: the Commonwealth Games gives smaller countries a chance to shine in an international spotlight, and provides cities that are not yet ready to host the Olympics (and not rich enough to buy other prestigious events) an opportunity to have some of the world’s best athletes in town.

This year in Glasgow, Malaysia was prominent from the start. There was a moment of silence in memory of MH17 before the Queen’s Baton arrived. The President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Prince Imran – the first Malaysian to hold that position – did a “great comedy act” (his own words) when the vessel containing the Head of the Commonwealth’s speech briefly refused to open, prompting Scottish cyclist Sir Chris Hoy’s equally amusing intervention.

Tunku Imran, who holds the Negeri Sembilan title of Tunku Muda Serting, has contributed enormously to Malaysian sporting life over the years – particularly in squash where he served as the first secretary of the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (to which I was recently elected as a committee member). His father Tuanku Ja’afar hosted Queen Elizabeth II in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 – the footage of the closing ceremony is on YouTube, complete with the embarrassing quick-march version of Negaraku then in use performed after the majestic God Save the Queen.

During the Parade of Nations, the Malaysian contingent was led by athletes wearing Malaysia Airlines uniforms while the rest of the team wore black armbands, and cyclist Fatehah Mustapa carried the Jalur Gemilang at half-mast. This was apparently not permitted by the organisers, but no one was going to criticise this gesture of respect: indeed, we had the support of the Commonwealth family that day. Alas, that warmth was dented by reports of certain Malaysian politicians condemning the use of Scottie dogs to display the names of the countries. Politicians in the other eight OIC countries also in the Commonwealth were apparently not so incensed.

Then, of course, were the sports themselves. There were triumphs and disappointments that the sports pages documented, in contrast to the shenanigans that dominated the front pages – the former Deputy Prime Minister in the spotlight during the 1998 Games was a main news item during the 2014 Games too. Thankfully, the power of sport to unite Malaysians is ever stronger, perhaps because public confidence in other national institutions has ebbed.

Unfortunately, we were one shy of our target of seven gold medals, being beaten by Singapore (with eight) for the first time, although most of these came courtesy of their controversial Foreign Sports Talent Scheme. Together with seven silver and six bronze medals, we garnered a total of 19 medals. This is a marked drop from performances since 1998. Then, we achieved an unprecedented 35 medals, followed by 34 in Manchester, 29 in Melbourne and 36 in Delhi. (These figures are from the Commonwealth Games Federation website: there is inconsistency across other sources.)

We can try and console ourselves that on a medal per capita basis, we are not terrible – roughly 1.5 million people per medal compared to India’s 20 million people per medal – but well behind Australia’s 170,000 people per medal. Such statistical fossicking does not change the fact that we have much to do to improve our performance, though.

Many theories have been put forward to explain why we’re not doing better: a lack of grassroots development, insufficient funding, politicisation and corruption of sports associations, and underdevelopment of coaches. The truth is likely to be a combination of all those things in varying degrees, with particular amendments for certain sports: in some cases, like hockey, we were once a force to be reckoned with, but our team was trounced in Glasgow – enthusiasts tell me we have never recovered since the switch to artificial turf in the seventies. In other cases, like badminton and squash, there is concern that there may be no successors to our current stars. Then there were those wins by Mohd Hafifi Mansor in weightlifting and Ooi Tze Liang in diving, and hopefully such success can be built upon.

For squash, at least, the grassroots programme is delivering results and uncovering tremendous raw talent. The weakest link now is the lack of elite coaches, and it’s one of SRAM’s current key objectives to address this by enhancing the resources available. The goal is to ensure a good number of Malaysians in the global top twenty: for while it’s impossible to guarantee another legend like Nicol David, with a strong overall squad, we can increase the probability.

Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz is President of IDEAS

Image credit: NST.com.my

Share Button

In and out of school

August 6th, 2014 by admin Categories: Education, Opinion No Responses
In and out of school

by Tricia Yeoh. First published in The Sun Online 6 August 2014

AT an IDEAS education-related roundtable held earlier this week, the issue of school dropouts in Malaysia was raised, specifically in relation to the findings of our nationwide survey among the bottom 40% of poor and underprivileged parents on the challenges faced by their schoolgoing children.

Our study of more than 1,200 parents across Malaysia had 150 families with at least one child having dropped out of the public schooling system. Since the survey sample is statistically representative of the bottom 40% of the Malaysian population, this means that 12 out of every 100 households in the bottom 40% would have at least one child having dropped out of school.

Continue Reading

Share Button

Khalid must go

August 5th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion 2 Responses
Khalid must go

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published by The Star 5 August 2014

It is really sad that the Raya festivities were clouded by the Selangor Menteri Besar crisis. Even on the Raya day itself I was receiving calls from reporters asking for comments.

I personally like the way Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s style of running the state. I do not know him personally but I have been told many times that he does not allow partisan politics to get in the way of state administration.

Continue Reading

Share Button

Why more information is better

July 24th, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
Why more information is better

by Tricia Yeoh. First published in The Sun Online 24 July 2014

WHAT both MH370 and MH17 have shown us is that accurate and timely information being provided to the public is absolutely crucial, and this is surely a lesson that must be extended beyond moments of crisis.

The MH370 incident took the world by storm in March. And our government suffered the consequences of not having responded with immediacy as well as providing inconsistent press statements. Having learnt from the past, credit should be given to Malaysia Airlines for releasing the MH17 cargo manifest in under a week, after this second tragedy in just four months.

Continue Reading

Share Button

Prime Ministerial Leadership

July 22nd, 2014 by admin Categories: Governance, Opinion No Responses
Prime Ministerial Leadership

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published “The face of the Conservatives” 22 July 2014

The whole country is still in shock with what happened to MH17 last week. This is a national tragedy and I wish to express my deepest condolences to the families and relatives of those involved. This incident is particularly painful because two of our staff have loved ones on that fateful flight.

At the time of writing, the details of this incident is still sketchy. So I will not write too much about it yet. The only thing I want to say about this incident is that I find it quite distasteful for people to blame Malaysia Airlines for the downing of MH17. No airline would intentionally put a flight on a route known to be risky. To insinuate otherwise is reckless. And I really hope the international community will work together to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Continue Reading

Share Button

Quest for more organ donors

July 19th, 2014 by admin Categories: Healthcare, Opinion No Responses
Quest for more organ donors

by Dr. Helmy Haja Mydin. First published in The News Straits Times 19 July 2014

THE local newspapers recently carried a story on Malaysia’s first cardiac death organ donor. Shelly Mahoney, a tourist from Australia, tragically passed away when in Penang but two patients with end-stage kidney disease were given a new lease of life when they received her kidneys.

Organ transplants are complicated procedures, but the concept is not new. Kidney transplants were first performed in the 1950s; Malaysia had her first in the 1970s. A number of organs can be transplanted — the kidney, lungs, heart, liver and even the intestine. Recipients tend to have failing organs with poor outlook, but many thousands have been saved by the gift of a new organ.

Continue Reading

Share Button