Support the Sharing Economy

November 26th, 2014 by admin Categories: Opinion No Responses
Support the Sharing Economy

By Tricia Yeoh. First published on The Sun Daily on 12th November 2014

UBER – the increasingly popular ride-sharing mobile app that has riled up local authorities – has not only been controversial in Malaysia, but also in the Philippines, Australia, Germany and many others. And so, when we were asked to carry out a group campaign as part of a Think Tank MBA programme that I recently graduated from, it was simple enough to decide: we would set up a global coalition to promote the sharing economy, called #WeShare.

The sharing economy is basically peer-to-peer voluntary exchange of goods and services, which rides primarily on the speed and efficiency of technology. The global revenue of the sharing economy currently stands at US$14.5 billion and is forecast to reach more than US$360 billion by 2025. In the UK, 25% of adults already share online. In the global market, sharing in key sectors such as holiday accommodation and car sharing is estimated to reach 50% by 2025.

Online sites like eBay have optimised on consumers becoming retailers themselves for years; today, websites like Airbnb, and TaskRabbit match owners and renters, making use of smartphone technology to optimise their delivery of services. A similar tool to the US-based TaskRabbit in Malaysia is the recently set-up site called GoGet, which allows people to outsource their “to-do” list to others willing to run errands for a small fee.

The reason the sharing economy is so powerful is that it is user-driven, allowing each member of society the opportunity to earn on the existing capital that one already owns. The potential for growth is huge, as people may start to think of items in their own storerooms, which they would only ever use once a year.

Take for instance your bicycle, or power drill, which could easily be rented out for a small fee – if there was such a facility online to allow you to make extra pocket money for it. Companies could also capitalise on this as a business – idle office space and machines are just some examples.

If these apps are indeed bringing great benefits to consumers, why is it that governments around the world – including ours – are not exactly taking to it kindly? The reason given by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) in Malaysia is that Uber would need to comply with the laws requiring any driver who offers their service to apply for the appropriate licences. Like in most other countries in which Uber has been introduced, the local taxi lobby has been vocal against it. Taxi services that have monopolised the for-hire car industry for so many years would now need to compete and provide better quality services.

A second reason why governments may fear the sharing economy is their inability to regulate such private transactions. The government may feel it is their responsibility to ensure consumers are protected from potential dangers from unlicensed private drivers (in the case of Uber) or unapproved hotel-like rooms (in the case of Airbnb). But these peer-reviewed services make up for this by allowing for customer rankings and automatic feedback to be transparently made known to the public. Another person would not likely use a badly rated driver or apartment.

Finally, governments would be concerned that they are unable to monitor and collect taxes accruing from these services. This is legitimate, since the systems presently in place would simply not be efficient enough to track online transactions very well. However, this indicates the need for the tax system to modernise itself accordingly, taking the new sharing economy into consideration. When it does so, governments might even acknowledge that this increases their revenue base.

There are tremendous opportunities in countries like Malaysia that are so well connected – apparently, we have the second highest broadband penetration in the world – and the authorities would do well to recognise the positive impact the sharing economy can have on our economic growth.

Instead of viewing companies like Uber with distrust, we should celebrate a world in which everyone can be a supplier of goods, services and experiences. Each one of us is ultimately a consumer. Accessing these items we need when we want them, on demand, and at a price we can afford is part and parcel of the future.

Tricia Yeoh is the chief operating officer of a local, independent think-tank. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

 

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The Asian Face of Kiwi Islam

November 14th, 2014 by admin Categories: Opinion No Responses
The Asian Face of Kiwi Islam

by Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz. First published in The Malay Mail 14 November 2014

I was honoured to launch the Crescent Moon Exhibition: the Asian Face of Islam in New Zealand at the University of Malaya Library on 13 November. The month-long exhibition, based on photographs of New Zealand Muslims and accompanying interviews, will hopefully contribute to a dynamic academic life within campus, sparking curiosities and triggering debate.

Many Malaysians might not realise that Muslims thrive further southeast of Indonesia. Last year I visited Australia on a Muslim Cultural Exchange Programme and saw the diversity of Islam there. The highlight for me was visiting the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque in the suburbs of Sydney: I thought it was highly symbolic for the Turkish community there to invoke the site of a World War I battle that remains central to the national consciousness of Australia as well as New Zealand.

Last Sunday I was at the Tugu Negara to commemorate the fallen at the centenary of the start of World War I – organised by the British High Commission but well-attended by Australians, New Zealanders and Malaysians in uniform, some of whom laid wreaths and one of whom played the Last Post and Reveille to frame the solemn silence. Sadly, after World War I there was to be more joint sacrifice in the name of freedom in World War II, the Emergency and Konfrontasi. The cooperation amongst our armed forces continues to be taken very seriously, but the personal links are even more profound, and I’ve had the privilege of witnessing some of these through an organisation of which I am Patron, the World Malay-Polynesian Organisation, whose members include army veterans.

At their kind behest I visited New Zealand (specifically Waitangi and Auckland) earlier this year – and while the purpose of that trip wasn’t to explore Islam in New Zealand, I certainly experienced a tremendous warmth from our Maori and Pakeha hosts towards the Muslim members of our delegation. The astonishing similarities between Malay and Maori vocabulary convinced me beyond doubt of our shared blood and linguistic ancestry: but this exhibition shows that such things are not prerequisites for being welcome in New Zealand.

Indeed, the people whose photographs are displayed have origins and histories in Afghanistan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, India, Japan, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Iran, Indonesia, Cyprus, Singapore, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. They are a microcosm of the pluralism inherent amongst the Muslim faithful around the world. Their stories are important not just because they represent different cultural traditions and may follow different schools of jurisprudence, but because they are Muslim individuals speaking about their faith and country on their own terms, rather than being spoken for by politicians or self-declared leaders who claim to be speaking on their behalf. The diversity of professions too is remarkable: apart from students there’s an IT trainer, a farmer, a butcher, a broadcaster, an imam, a boxer, an accountant, a teacher, a political scientist, a Member of Parliament, several civil servants and activists. They like to swim, ride motorbikes, paint, go bowling, play cricket and row boats. They thrive in the liberal democracy of New Zealand.

Indeed, in the Overall Islamicity Index Rankings published by professors at the George Washington University to measure how countries’ policies reflect Muslim values, New Zealand came first in the world while Malaysia came first amongst countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Of course all such rankings have their critics, but such tools are useful in spurring alternative theories and ultimately help to improve policymaking in the future.

We can also be inspired by values espoused by the great polities of the historic Muslim world: the religious tolerance of Cordoba and Istanbul, the intellectual freedom of Fez and Cairo, the trading activity of Marrakech and Malacca. Yet, I wonder how many Muslim leaders are willing to learn from those examples, instead of resorting to rhetoric capitalising on nationalistic fervour over substance. To be seen to be “defending Islam” captures more political capital than actually applying the religion’s principles to governance.

And yet, many Malaysians forget that the first Secretary-General of the OIC was Tunku Abdul Rahman, and there was no doubt that he passionately believed in the principles of democracy. In the context of the Cold War he placed Malaysia firmly on the side of democratic nations, including New Zealand.

Today the Malaysia-New Zealand relationship is thriving across all diplomatic tracks, despite one or two challenges of late, and this exhibition will augment that relationship. Accordingly I hope UM opens its doors to enable as many Malaysians as possible to see the faces of Asian Islam in New Zealand.

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Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz is President of IDEAS

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More free trade should be pursued

November 10th, 2014 by admin Categories: Economy & Trade, Opinion No Responses
More free trade should be pursued

by Sri Murniati. First published in The Edge 10 November 2014

Among arguments used by those opposing free trade agreements, especially the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations, is the potential decline of Malaysia’s trade surpluses if we join a big trade group with dominant players such as the United States.

They argue that Malaysia’s exports to countries in the trade group such as the TPP may probably increase but our imports from those countries may increase even more. This will result in a net reduction in our Balance of Trade (BOT), creating a trade deficit. They argue that this is a bad thing for our country.

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Unlocking the region’s potential

November 7th, 2014 by admin Categories: Economy & Trade, Opinion No Responses
Unlocking the region’s potential

by Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz. First published in the Borneo Post 7 November 2014. A Chinese-language was published in the Oriental Daily 10 November 2014

Since its inception the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) has focused on domestic issues, but that will shift with our Southeast Asia Network for Development (SEANET), a partnership of like-minded organisations to promote economic liberalisation in ASEAN. Next year, Malaysia will be Chair of ASEAN and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) will be declared. SEANET will argue that ASEAN can reach higher levels of economic dynamism and sustained prosperity by subscribing to three principles.

Firstly, inclusive growth as the key to social stability, by opening up economies to provide opportunities for smaller companies and micro-entrepreneurs. We want to enhance competition, push down prices and drive up the quality of goods, resulting in improved living standards and better protection of consumers. We advocate the eventual elimination of protectionist policies, reduction of regulatory burdens that could dampen innovation, and removal of trade barriers within ASEAN as well as between ASEAN and the wider world.

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Taxing morally

October 28th, 2014 by admin Categories: Economy & Trade, Governance, Opinion One Response
Taxing morally

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published as “Tax system should not discriminate ” in The Star 28 October 2014

In my column two weeks ago, I wrote about how taxes are a form of coercion by the government against the people. Since then, I received many comments saying that it is not fair to blame Barisan Nasional for everything.

I want to start this column by clarifying again that when I use the word ‘government’ I do not refer to any political party. A government is the entity that is tasked with governing. It can be at federal, state or local levels. And it can be made up of people from any party. I am not talking about Barisan Nasional government or Pakatan Rakyat government but simply the entity of the ‘government’ generally.

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Save money transparently

October 17th, 2014 by admin Categories: Economy & Trade, Opinion No Responses
Save money transparently

by Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz. First published in The Malay Mail Online 17 October 2014

“What’s in it for me?” is the inevitable lens through which most citizens analyse a national budget – rightly so, since it’s their money that the government will be spending, regardless of whether they voted for candidates representing the government party, or how ‘grateful’ they are for the ‘goodies’ they may or may not be getting.

The Finance Minister’s speech is perhaps the only remaining guaranteed set piece of parliamentary oratory in Malaysia; rarely are there long speeches tackling constitutional issues to arrive at powerful conclusions. Now it’s mostly short and punchy statements for easy media consumption, assuming the YB in question isn’t being shouted down by other members or being reprimanded by the Speaker. (For an example of a proper speech, see Tengku Razaleigh’s 20-minute tour de force in denouncing the 1993 constitutional amendments, available on YouTube.)

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Paying it backwards

October 17th, 2014 by admin Categories: Economy & Trade, Governance, Opinion No Responses
Paying it backwards

by Tricia Yeoh. First published in The Sun 17 October 2014

AMIDST the media frenzy that surrounds the budget each year, not many pay attention to the supplementary budgets. Did you know that the government spends billions of ringgit that is outside the main budget, which is only requested for in supplementary budgets many months later?

Consider this. The budget for 2011 was first tabled at RM211.3 billion, but the two supplementary budgets tabled later (for that particular year) came up to a whopping RM23.48 billion, forming more than 10% of the original total.

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Belanjawan 2015: Defisit, hutang dan perbelanjaan kerajaan

October 16th, 2014 by admin Categories: Economy & Trade, Opinion No Responses
Belanjawan 2015: Defisit, hutang dan perbelanjaan kerajaan

oleh Amin Ahmad. Diterbitkan di dalam The Malaysian Insider 17 Oktober 2014

Jumaat lalu perdana menteri merangkap menteri kewangan membentangkan belanjawan bagi 2015. Sebelumnya, ketua pembangkang mengumumkan belanjawan alternatif yang dicadangkan untuk pertimbangan kerajaan.

Dua peristiwa ini untuk saya penting. Pertama, sejak beberapa tahun lalu, khususnya apabila muncul apa yang kini dikenali ramai sebagai Pakatan Rakyat, rakyat Malaysia berpeluang melihat persaingan sihat, bukan sahaja dalam konteks undi semasa pilihan raya, tetapi juga dalam aspek idea dan hujah.

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You will pay for everything

October 14th, 2014 by admin Categories: Economy & Trade, Governance, Opinion 2 Responses
You will pay for everything

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan. First published as “How our money is spent” in The Star 14 October 2014

The Prime Minister delivered his Budget Speech last Friday. The speech started very well. I like Dato Sri Najib Razak’s admission that “The biggest challenge I face in administering Malaysia … is how to balance between policies that are populist in nature as compared to those policies based on economic and financial imperatives.”

This is the reality of politics. Politicians must be and must remain popular. Someone who does not worry about popularity shouldn’t even think about entering politics. Acknowledging that shows that Najib is a realistic politician, unlike some others who are extremely populist but always deny it.

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Do boarding schools cause more problems than they solve?

October 13th, 2014 by admin Categories: Education, Opinion One Response
Do boarding schools cause more problems than they solve?

by Tamanna Patel. First published in The Edge 13 October 2014

I recently returned from an insightful trip to the northern states of Kedah, Perlis and Penang. This was part of our study on the strengths and weaknesses of an initiative created to help primary school children from underprivileged families by putting them into a hostel facility. We interviewed the children and parents who took part in that initiative.

On the drive up, my colleagues and I discussed the concept of boarding schools and their relevance towards parents and the education system as a whole. While I am not a parent, one of my colleagues is and he weighed in his thoughts and comments. Another colleague, who is a product of boarding school, shared with us his perspective on studying and living away from home. This got me thinking about the purposes of boarding schools and whether our education system actually needs them.

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