Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Anwar’s de-dollarisation: Will it hurt Malaysia?

Dedollarisation is a process of substituting US dollar as the currency used for (i) trading oil and/or other commodities, (ii) buying US dollars for the forex reserves, (iii) bilateral trade agreements, and (iv) dollar-denominated assets.

Mont Kiara, April 12: The RM170 b worth of MOU Malaysia signed with China during Anwar Ibrahim’s state visit recently is “historic” not just because of the potential investment involved but also for marking the start of Anwar Ibrahim’s dedollarisation policy for Malaysia. 

The Prime Minister made his pursuit for dedollarisation quite clear when he told Parliament on April 4, a few days after his return from Beijing, that There is no need to continue depending on US dollar for investment.

The problem with many Malaysians, even the smarter ones, is that we are so obsessed with disputing our own Prime Minister’s claim that, just four months into his premiership, the country could actually attract that much investment potential. “Ah, those are just MOU” was the detractor’s favourite comeback line. (For context, read my first posting on the China visit here). 

The “bigger story”, as one analyst who resides in the US told me, is that China is pushing its own currency as Asia’s “reserves”. And that with the RM170 b trade deal with China, Anwar has started to steer Malaysia away from the US-D!

 Elsewhere, Anwar’s dedollarisation has not escaped notice. Because eslewehere in the world, dedollarisatio is taking shape. In its report Countries worldwide are dropping the US dollar: De-dollarsisation in CHina, Russia, Brazil and Asean the independent noted how Malaysia is “publicly advocating dedollarisation”.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim met with Chinese President Xi in Beijing on March 31, where the two leaders discussed plans to weaken US dollar hegemony and even create an “Asian Monetary Fund”.

This is a frontal challenge to the US-dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF), which emerged from the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference that established the dollar as the global reserve currency.

Anwar proposed the Asian Monetary Fund at the Boao Forum in China’s Hainan province.

“There is no reason for Malaysia to continue depending on the dollar”, Anwar said, in comments reported by Bloomberg.

The media outlet added that Malaysia’s central bank is developing a payment mechanism so the Southeast Asian country can trade with China using its own currency, the ringgit.

ASEAN has also been talking about their predicament in relations to the US dollar. While Anwar was in China, the grouping’s finance ministers met in Bali and they talked about dumping the greenback. “We must remember the sanctions imposed by the US on Russia,” President Jokowi of Indonesia was quoted as saying. (Read Asean countries take steps to reduce reliance on US dollar),

However, an ASEAN consensus is not quite guarantee. As in the past (for example, when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was advocating the East Asia Economic Group, later Caucus, idea), Singapore could be the dissenting voice. Understandably so, as Singapore is the only economy in the region that could be adversely affected by this policy, the analyst added.

“Singapore’s status as the financial centre of Southeast Asia has historically been closely tied to its connections with the West and their capital, technology and values. However, as China’s influence in the region grows and its currency gains prominence, Singapore could face significant challenges in maintaining its position,” he said.

But how is that good for Malaysia? 

How dedollarisation will benefit us is a national conversation that the Anwar Administration needs to initiate in haste. Right now, information is at best trickling out of the government’s communication apparatus. Wisma Putra is quiet on the matter; in the past, it would be its responsibility to take the lead. MITI has been rather shy, too, except for its Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz’s commitment to ensure that the RM170 b MOU will be converted into contracts and jobs.

So far, Anwar is walking the talk. What is the rest of his Cabinet doing?

The media need to have a solid grasp on the matter in order to argue the idea of dedollarisation and the setting up of the Asian Monetary Fund. The financial and economic experts must help break down  the mechanics of this policy so that enterprises are aware of the opportunities that they may seize. The ordinary folk also want to know how this will improve their purchasing power and quality of life.

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

MOU: Their bastardisation by Malaysian cronies and what they mean in China

Wed, 5 April: Some Malaysians don’t think much of memoranda of understanding and that’s quite, er, understandable. For there was a time when corporate Malaysia would sign MOU after MOU with foreign parties without any intention of turning them into real business contracts that would bring the nation wealth and jobs. 

The 1980s and 90s were notorious for this: the PM presided over scores of MOU churned out by cronies who were just interested in making headlines in the business pages and boost their share prices. These Malaysian businessmen were the ones who had bastardized the concept and principles of MOU,

As a result, some of us pooh-poohed PM Anwar Ibrahim when he recently announced the “historic” RM170 b worth of MOU signed during his visit to China.

What many Malaysians don’t understand is that the Chinese treat their MOU seriously. An article in the Forbes (In China, treat a memorandum like a binding contract). 
In common law countries like Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, MOUs typically mean little. Only the signed final contract really counts. This is not typically true in civil law countries like China which hold to a much stronger concept of good faith negotiation. Under that concept, it is not acceptable to simply walk away from an MOU if that would constitute “bad faith.” 
That’s right. When dealing with China, it is important foreign companies treat an MOU with a Chinese companyu just as it wold a binding contract. 

The challenge for the Government now is to cut the red-tape that would bog down efforts to realise the inflow of investments resulting from the China MOU. Former Finance Minister Johari Ghani, who is MP for Titiwangsa and lord of this country’s media industry, has proposed the setting up of a special panel to monitor the realisation of these MOU, which is not a bad idea. 

More importantly, as one Twitter buddy rightly pointed out, “Get rid of the little Napoleons first”. These little Napoleons, I take it, are those who would make it difficult for anyone to do business in this country unless they have been paid their commission. Anwar obviously understood this, which was why he had stressed the need to stop this “commission culture among civil servants” days before he announced the RM170mb MOU with China.

The commission culture is, of course, not limited to civil servants. Politicians are probably the bigger culprits.

Friday, March 31, 2023

Several top executives of public listed firms the target for Malaysia’s “corporate Mafia”

Friday 31 March: A reliable source told me the other day that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission was aware of activities where outside elements, with the help of unscrupulous enforcement officers in our enforcement agencies, had been working hand in hand  to “fix” certain targets in the corporate sector. 

The rise of the Malaysian Corporate Mafia, as some blogs call it. 

The modus operandi is simple enough: 

- a whistle blower (sometimes an officer of the enforcement agency himself) would lodge a complaint against these targets, who are typically major shareholders in public listed companies

- these targets would then be hauled in for interrogation, they may be detained for a day or ten by the enforcement agency if necessary,

- they would be pressured to such an extent that they would be so happy to surrender their shares in the company (the value of which would have dropped exponentially because of the bad publicity arising from the scandal) to this Mafia, or else …

- they would be charged in court. 

Or something to that effect. 

I’m sure the MO is more complicated than how I’ve made it sound to be, or how I was made to understand. But, bottomline, this unholy alliance existed!

MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki, who made reference to this alliance a week ago, is said to be aware that officers from the anti-graft commission may be involved. 

“The boss knows, We could see some fireworks in the days to come,” the source said. 

And like Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who said leaders in his own government are being investigated for corruption, the source believed Azam would have no qualms about investigating his own officers for wrongdoing.

Many suspect this unholy partnership is not confined to the ongoing scandal that has consumed Revenue Berhad, the gateway payment provider for none other than the Bank Negara. The money trail and “dead” bodies lead to several public listed companies and corporate people linked to some of our young politicians. Read the blogs.

For context, another reliable source in an enforcement agency sent me this article by the FMT for my Readers’ pleasure:

PETALING JAYA: The belief that they will escape punishment is a major reason law enforcement officers engage in corrupt practices, according to former Suhakam commissioner Jerald Joseph.

He was commenting on Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy chief commissioner Ahmad Khusairi Yahaya’s statement that unscrupulous enforcement officers were using their position to secure bribes from foreigners and that the situation had become “increasingly chronic and worrying .. 

Read more, What Keeps Corrupt Officers Going

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Mahathir wages “holy” war against Anwar

Wed, 29 March:: PM4+7 Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has officially spoken up against Anwar Ibrahim and his unity government. And in the holy month of Ramadan, too, when Muslims around the world make extra effort for restraint. 

He’s called Anwar’s administration NATO (Anwar’s government all talk and no action) and in almost the same breath is threatening to sue the Prime Minister for slander (Tun M demands Anwar retract defamatory statements) for hinting that he was the “scoundrel” who had amassed billions during his premiership for his children, cronies and himself.

Should Anwar worry? Of course. Mahathir brought down a couple of successors with relative ease after stepping down as the longest PM in 2003. He even earned a second premiership along the way. He is not one to be taken lightly. 

Should Anwar stop speaking his mind against corruption and abuse of power, especially by the very powerful? Hopefully, not. Anwar can always offer a bouquet to Mahathir, seeing that this is hari baik, bulan baik. But when restraint is no longer required, the people want to see their Prime Minister go after each and every one of those politicians who have wronged us, as he said he would  (Leaders in govt being probed for corruption, too).

After all, how hard can it be to prove abuse of power and corruption? Dr M did that relatively easily against Anwar back then … 

But let’s please wait until after the Holy month.. Ramadan Mubarak, AI. 

Monday, March 06, 2023

Fahmi’s appointments that say it won’t be business as usual anymore

KL, Mar 06: IT’S still early in the game but young Minister  Fahmi Fadzil seems to be making all the right moves. The appointment of billionaire Mohamad Salim Fateh Din as chairman of the MCMC, for instance, should make some people wet their pants. It won’t be business as usual for MCMC as the seasoned corporate man is expected to bring in external auditors, new brooms and fire extinguishers for greater transparency and better governance. The best thing is Salim would know exactly what to do: he was there as interim chairman before offering Fahmi his resignation in Dec last year. The MCMC sits on a huge pile of money contributed by telco companies and we need to know all that money have gone and will go to the right places and not the pockets of the corrupt and unscrupulous. It also needs a clearer direction and leadership. Right now, most people see MCMC as a little more than just cybercops.

Fahmi, who turned 40 in Feb, had earlier announced the appointment of Al-Ishsal Ishak, a former chairman of MCMC  (also short-lived), as Communications and Digital Advisor to the Minister. Ishsal was instrumental in launching the 5G services in this country, starting with a standalone pilot project in Langkawi way back in Dec 2019. He was replaced in June 2020 following the so-called Sheraton Move. His stints with Pos Malaysia (prior to MCMC) and a leading news portal in the country (post-MCMC) make Ishsal a formidable force in Fahmi’s team.

Under Fahmi’s watch, a decision on 5G will be made one way or another. (in other words, one DNB or two DNBs) and Salim and Ishsal will have a big say on that. From the little I know of both men,  I believe neither is pre-occupied with the debate on whether a single wholesale network is better than a multiple wholesale network.  Their question, I’m guessing, would be: should government be directly involved in business at all, in the first place?

Fahmi has made two more major appointments: Kamil Othman as Finas chairman and Suhaimi Sulaiman as director-general of RTM. While the first-time minister looks to Suhaimi to modernise RTM and make the government broadcasting company less a propaganda tool and more BBC or CNN, he may expect the seasoned Kamil to help him cleanse the National Film Development Corp. The Auditor-General’s report for 2021 found that RM4 million had been awarded to production houses with links to FInas directors, a revelation that, quite frankly, hardly raised eyebrows because … why, it’s Finas!

Saturday, March 04, 2023

The latest Aerotrain incident at KLIA: A lesson on procrastination

03 Mar: The aerotrain at our main airport, KLIA, is quite old. Last century technology. But the trains have served us well. They have done 2.8 million km in service (roughly 69 times the Earth’s circumference) and carried some 300 million passengers since 1998, according to  The Vibes. 

Thursday’s breakdown was not the first one. In 2017, scores of passengers trapped in a stalled train put their own lives in danger when they decided to get off the train and walk to the terminal; it was a miracle all of them lived to tell the tale. It was clear by then that KLIA needed a replacement. For reasons known only to them, however, the decision makers deferred a long-term solution for quick fixes.

The decision to replace the aerotrain with a brand new 21st century system was approved only last year. The replacement project is due for completion in March 2025. 

After the latest incident, Malaysia Airports swiftly decided to suspend the Aerotrain services. So from now, buses will ferry all arriving and departing passengers between the satellite building and the terminal, instead. Buses may not be the most efficient mode for transfer of passengers at airports but they are pleasant, safe and, OKU-friendly. I’m sure you have been on these terminal buses in the world’s biggest airports like Dubai, Doha and O’Hare. 

But MAHB better make them buses operate efficiently for passenger comfort and safety as well as the airport’s overall efficiency. Make sure there are sufficient buses (and drivers). And that the March 2025 deadline is met. 

Monday, February 27, 2023

So what is so madani about Anwar Ibrahim’s Malaysia if it takes the Immigration hours to stamp one passport?

“Malaysia’s great potential can only be optimised if the principle of integrity is upheld and there are no corrupt practices, while leaders or ministers are not racing to accumulate wealth.” - PM Anwar Ibrahim: Uphold Integrity, Reject Corruption to realise country’s development plan

Feb 27: The day after Anwar Ibrahim tabled his RM388 b “madani Budget”, hundreds maybe thousands of arrivals at KLIA had to queue up for up to THREE hours just for their passports to be stamped. 

The culprit was, apparently, our Immigration. This wasn’t a glitch and it certainly was not a one-off: delays at immigration checkpoints are fast becoming a norm for tourists and visitors to Malaysia, giving KLIA a bad name. If our Immigration keeps this up - and, based on their excuse for Saturday’s congestion (see end of posting),  we will soon see the numbers of arrivals falling. And that translates into losses in much-needed revenues for the government.

Immigration is just one of hundreds of government apparatus that need to buck up. 

Take the arrest and detention of two secondary school students in Hulu Selangor for ranting on the net about their SPRM history paper. According to the chief of the police district involved, the 18-year olds were detained for two days “to have their statements recorded thoroughly and to fact-check with related parties, including (checking) the contents of the mobile phone and get a disciplinary report from the school”. They were released (to sit for their ongoing SPRM exam) only after the Hulu Selangor district police were “satisfied with the progress of our investigations”. Read Malaysian police defend arrest of two students over exam rent that “insulted Singapore”.

And we wonder why real crime, such as corruption, takes forever to investigate and solve, if ever.

We know now, for example, that some officers from some local agencies have been protecting an international scam operating in this country. Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief Azam Baki said so here last week. 

According to the Auditor General, millions in public funds were lost by various agencies due to negligence in complying with government’s rules or procedures and lack of proper planning. The Customs Department alone accounted for RM72.3 m in losses due to understated customs duties. The Prime Minister, in his Budget last Friday, said these were for import of vehicles. Some RM10 billion was “stolen” from the government’s diesel subsidies and another RM3 billion was lost due to inefficiency and corrupt practices of some agencies. 

Not that difficult to trace the culprits, right? So why haven’t they been arrested and remanded, like those students in Hulu Selangor? Because, sorry to say, the political will needed is still absent. Our authorities will act only against traffic offenders, shoplifters and ranters while the big criminals go scot-free. And when these authorities themselves are corrupt, who will act against them? The MACC? And if the MACC is corrupt, who goes after them?

Excerpts from NST report on the excuse for Saturday’s long queue at the airport Immigration:

Immigration DG: Long lines at KLIA due to large number of arrivals

By Kalbana Perimbanayagam - February 26, 2023 @ 8:51pm 

KUALA LUMPUR: The long lines at the Immigration counters at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on Saturday were due to a large number of aircraft arrivals. 

Immigration Department director-general Datuk Seri Khairul Dzaimee Daud said 147 flights arrived at KLIA's Terminal 1 that day, including 67 between 3pm and 11pm.

He said there were flights at intervals of between five and 10 minutes, with the total number of people arriving being 14,515, while there were 17,872 people flying out of the airport.

"The school holiday season also led to an increase in the number of passengers, as well as Malaysians performing the umrah," he said.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Nurul Izzah’s appointment: What nepotism?

Jalan Kapas, 1feb23: It is hard to defend Anwar Ibrahim’s decision to appoint his own daughter, Nurul Izzah, as the Prime Minister’s senior financial advisor. The PM being Anwar himself, that is, aside from beiing the Minister of Finance as well. But Omar Ong, once an advisor to a prime minister of this country, and not one of Anwar’s favourite persons (if I’m not mistaken), suggests that Anwar’s appointment of his daughter could easily be justified. The good thing is Omar does not try to fool anyone by saying that the appointment isn’t an act of nepotism because it is, which ever way you want to see it. But so what? Omar argues in his latest posting on his blog Musings of the (occasional) thinker, planner and do-er that nepotism is alive and well in Malaysia, and has been so since Merdeka. 


There are many who today argue that nepotism in whatever shape, form or circumstance, has no place at all in society and public office. That it is by definition a corrupt, self serving act that inevitably corrodes trust and good will in society. I am not one of them and if it is not already obvious, more sanguine in my view.

But I would very much like to hear how those who subscribe to such an unequivocal belief, would characterise the moral and ethical positions of Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein Onn during their time in public office.

I am also certain there are those who honestly and sincerely believe nepotism has no place in society and I would like to understand your perspective as it applies present day to the 10th Prime Minister, his party as well as to the DAP, PAS and other Sarawak & Sabah based parties, where such practices are alive and well. 

Is nepotism by sheer virtue of its presence, a death knell for public trust and good governance?

Or can it also be a benign force in a period of great personal mistrust, misunderstanding and Machiavellian machinations among the great, the good, the bad and downright ugly who lead in our name?

READ ALSO:  Much Ado about Nurul, also by Omar Ong 

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Will Anwar do the inappropriate with Singapore?


KL, Jan 27: I don’t know why the editors at The Vibes decided to drop the word “irregular” from the headline as that was exactly how Attorney-General Idrus Harun, in his report to Anwar Ibrahim’s Cabinet on Jan 11, had put it: the decision by Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration in 2018 to withdraw the review application in relation to sovereignty over Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge was “irregular and inappropriate”. 

In the diplomatic world, every word, nuance, punctuation is thought through. When Anwar meets his Singapore counterpart early next week, he may choose to omit either or both words the AG used or both PMs may decide to defer talks on Batu Putih altogether. 

The top officials of their foreign ministries, however, don’t have the luxury. They will have to visit the subject, even though it has been 15 years since the ICJ gave away Malaysia’s outcrops off Johor to the republic. It’s their job.

I believe a lot of Malaysians are still interested to know. Why Tun Mahathir withdrew the application. Why AG Idrus think it was irregular and inappropriate. Did an officer in ex AG Apandi Ali’s office really advise Mahathir to withdraw. How and why did we lose Pulau Batu Puteh. Where is ex AG Gani Patail in all this? How will this affect Malaysia-Singapore ties under the unity government led by Anwar?

It will also be interesting if the potentially game-changing High Speed Railway project, which was stalled also by the previous Pakatan Harapan government and later terminated by the Muhyiddin administration (costing us taxpayers some RM380 million of money for nothing), will be raised between Anwar and his counterpart.

The Singaporeans are, obviously, still hopeful. Their media (read HERE) seem to be. 

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Averting a UiTM tragedy

Bangsar, 12 Jan: At the UiTM’s faculty of communications and media studies’ 50th anniversary celebration last October, vice chancellor Dr Roziah Mohd Janor pooped the party by announcing the merger of the faculty with two unrelated disciplines; namely, the Computer Science & Mathematics faculty and the Information Management faculty. Everyone was dumbfounded. Protests qucikly followed. 

Last week, the poor VC gave in to pressure from the faculty’s alumni: she promised to undo the merger. But it would take three to six months before the mistake can be “dismantled”, according to news reports.

You may call this merger-demerger whatever. In one word, I’ll call it regressive. A waste of everyone’s time and resources. Ngabih  boreh.

If this ill-conceived merger is not reversed, it will be a tragedy.

When I enrolled into the faculty in 1982, UiTM was still just an “institute” but its School of Mass Communications, the brainchild of some of hte country’s finest intellects, was churning out quality journalists, broadcasters, pr practitioners and advertising execs. Today the faculty’s influence on the country’s media landscape is indisputable.

The varsity should be looking into ways to expand its comms and media studies faculty’s capabilites in order to address the various challenges posed by social media, cyber security, and tiktok. Its comms faculty should be leading national efforts to help the nation deal with cyber security issues, fake news, online scams, 

Read also: After UKM, now UiTM stops pro-democracy forum

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Rm1.3 billion projects in Sabah just tip of iceberg (Now we know what they all did just days before the Nov 19 GE)

KL, 10 Jan: Poor pundits sure got themselves worked up for nothing by the so-called Sabah political condunrum. Was it even that - a conundrum - in the first place? Joniston Bangkuai, the state assemblyman for Kiulu, laughed it off: 

“Just a storm in a tea cup,” he told me. “Our ship remains steady.”

Indeed. Just days after threatening to bring down the Hajiji-led state government, Umno/BN strongman Bung Mokhtar, a controversial figure in Malaysian politics, finds himself face down in the political crap of his own making. His attempt at political blackmail, which is what this conundrum really is according to some political observers, has brought about a terrible backlash, not just against himself but Umno and BN in the state. 

Chief Minister Hajiji Noor himself seems unaffected, if not stronger than before. There is a sense of finality to this when Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, fresh from his quick visit to Jakarta, said Hajiji had his support to continue leading the state goverment. Read HERE.

“Touching,” Joniston said, “that a few upright Umno state assemblymen (in the state) have stayed clear of those out to topple the CM and continued to support Hajiji.

“What is even more significant is the support of the seven Aduns from (Anwar Ibrahim’s) Pakatan Harapan.”

Under Hajiji’s leadership, Sabah, always one the poorest states in Malaysia, posted RM6.6 billion in revenues in 2022, its largest ever, and a healthy RM33 billion in investment.

“To put it in a nutshell, there is really no reason to disrupt the encouraging development momentum or to replace the Chief Minister,” Joniston added.

But all the reasons in the world now for the relevant authorities to rush in and investigate claims that some of those behind the failed coup had hastily given out some RM1.3 billion worth of projects during the days leading up to the recent general elections in November. 

Were those projects given out to cronies with blatant disregard of proper procedures? Were proceeds from those projects used for the election? Or did people pocket the money for themselves?

People believe Hajiji became a target for the coup after he reportedly refused to sign off the RM1.3 billion projects.

Interestingly, we’ve been hearing that the same thing also happened in several ministries in the Federal government just prior to the GE. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission is already onto one corporation that was said to have almost emptied its coffers in the days leading up to the elections, according to my sources. 

I guess we’ll know more soon enough …

Read also:

Kinabalu coup bid shows Anwar is weak: poor pundits

Bung mahu Shafie Apdal, lantik Salleh Menteri Kewangan, ambil semula RM1.3 bilion tidak dilulus MOF Sabah

Krisis Sabah: Ini semua salah Haji, kata Shafie Apdal

Anwar’s de-dollarisation: Will it hurt Malaysia?

D edollarisation is a process of substituting US dollar as the currency used for (i) trading oil and/or other commodities, (ii) buying US do...