Sunday, October 24, 2021

FIVE people will end up as billionaire cronies from our 5G sellout, the rest of us will pay, pay, pay

THEY SAY Anwar Ibrahim does not have that ‘killer instinct’. I think it’s true, sometimes. The Opposition leader was one of the first to raise questions about the RM11 billion 5G conundrum back in July but there was hardly any follow through. 

Not too late, though. During the Budget 2022 debate in Parliament, Anwar can still lead a campaign to voice out against this opaque, highly-suspicious and potentially disastrous scheme. We need to press PM Ismail Sabri to go back to the drawing board and review the nation’s 5G rollout.

Our 5G story so far: 

Instead of assigning 5G spectrum to multiple private mobile network operators (such as Celcom and Maxis), Malaysia’s previous government led by Muhyiddin Yassin decided to go with a SWN (single wholesale network) approach. According to GSMA Intelligence, only three networks in this whole wide world have been rolled out, with other markets beset by slow progress and delayed or cancelled launches. Kenya, Russia and South Africa abandoned SWN projects, while those that are live today have all experienced difficulties. (Read GSMA raises concerns over Malaysia’s 5G rollout).The rest of the world, in the meantime, decided it would be smarter to auction their 5G to their existing telcos. The Thais, for example, whom we think are not as smart as us, raised US$3.2 billion  from their auction exercises recently. The Canadian spectrum auction raised a whopping US$8.9 billion.  Singapore and the US are also expected to earn billions of dollars from selling their 5G spectrums via open tenders, not SWN.

The Muhyiddin Yassin administration saw 5G as a legitimate means to build a war chest (for the next general election). That’s the talk, anyway, and of course they will says it’s crap but then again, the facts are: the people pushing hard for the idea sat/sit on high-level economic advisory committees; the SPV created to oversee the SWN is Digital Nasional Berhad, which comes directly under the Minister of Finance, who was appointed by Muhyiddin (or, some says, by the King himself); Digital Nasional Berhad’s plan is to spend RM11 billion to get 5G to Cyberjaya, Putrajaya and KL by Christmas this year (and nationwide by 2024), whereas, f we were to auction the 5G spectrum to the existing players (Celcom, Maxis, etc), the Government could be earning (instead of spending) RM12 billion! 

If more talk (or more crap?) were to be believed, this 5G scheme will benefit FIVE people, who will end up with hundreds of millions in their bank accounts to last at least 5 generations. All five are already shameless cronies: a former banker who became a media baron; his good pal who used to lord over the 4th floor operations of a former prime minister; a royal pain; a former banker who came into the government via the back door and harbours /hopes to run in the next general election; and a former Prime Minister.

They must be stopped.

P.S. Former Cabinet Minister Mohd Shafie Afdal was also one of the early ones to raise the red flag on Muhyiddin-Tengku Zafrul’s 5G grand scheme. Instead of spending RM11 billion, Shafie said the Government could easily EARN RM12 billion from the 5G spectrum. Perhaps Anwar and Shafie should set aside their differences for once and work together and stop this 5G spectre. 

Tengku Zafrul, the MOF, tables the 2022 Budget this Friday.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Ah, Iskandar Mizal Mahmood!

involving the top brass of any GLC will get noticed. And when the appointment is timed just days before the tabling of the Budget, which is the 'moment of truth' for any incumbent Minister of Finance, as in the case of the appointment of Iskandar Mizal Mahmood as managing director of Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, it will raise an eyebrow or two. 

On top of that, this is MAHB. You'd remember how the Minister of Finance was compelled to come out with a public assurance that Subang Airport, one of the 39 airports operated by MAHB (and, more importantly, one of the most lucrative), would not be given to a 'friendly' property developer to run? MOF Tengku Zafrul Aziz was unhappy with the previous MAHB MD, Mohd Shukrie Mohd Salleh, for opposing the Subang Airport deal, or so legend had it. 

Of course, I didn't buy into such talk. I believe any MAHB chief in his right mind will NOT support such sellout. Nor would any decent MOF, for that matter.

The fact is, Shukrie's contract was up. He had done an excellent job under the circumstances, that is clear. The airports trade union pointed out that under Shukri, nobody had lost their jobs despite the pandemic. The entire MAHB board and management deserve our praise.

It would seem that Iskandar Mizal has his work cut out for him. He is coming on board at the tail-end of the pandemic (we wish) and just as the economy is picking up (we hope) and borders opening up (we pray). And he's got three decades of experience in so many fields, including as a mere manager at MAHB some 20 years earlier. Aviation is key to Malaysia's economic recovery. Feet on the ground, head in the clouds and I'm quite confident Iskandar will be up to the task. 

Read also: MAHB shares wishlist for Budget 2022

Friday, October 22, 2021

Against Nur Sajat's slurs, silence is NOT an option, JAIS

'SORRY, NO COMMENT': Jais mum on Nur Sajat's allegations. I find Jais' stand  to remain silent totally inappropriate. Nur Sajat, the millionaire publicity junkie and LGBT poster boy now happily exiled in Australia, made some damning accusations against the Selangor authorities in charge of Islamic affairs: Religious officials assaulted, groped me". Playing dumb in this case is dumb. Jais needs to clear its name. Lodge a police report against Nur Sajat and use all means to take her to court. And sue New York Times, too. At the very least, Jais ought to deny the allegations.

Unless, of course, Sajat didn't make up any of it and that the allegations are true. Are those allegations true, then?  

In 2017, I wrote about a court case involving Majilis Agama Islam Selangor and a consortium of banks led by Bank Muamalat. MAIS came down hard on this blog. It lodged a police report against me and went to all the media, including national television, to demand an apology from me while reserving their right to sue defamation. The following year, it was ordered by the High Court to pay the banks RM326.7 million but this was later reversed by the Appeals Court. This month, the Federal Court reaffirmed the decision in favour of MAIS. Read MAIS lega tuntutan hutang Bank Muamalat ditolak.   

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Pas de probleme over Timah


PAS DE PROBLEME is an informal expression that can be used to shrug off an apology or a potential problem. It is also the name of a "casual, affordable and highly drinkable" pinot noir sourced from vineyards in the Languedoc region, just minutes away from the Mediterranean Sea. Despite its name, this wine has absolutely nothing to do with PAS, Malaysia's political party that claims to be Islamic. Can't say the same about the on-going controversy over Timah, though. PAS lawmaker Idris Ahmad, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, has wasted no time to distil himself as the toast of PAS and the legions of the PAS-minded in this country. He's still at it: Minister fears provocative Timah whiskey aimed at normalising drinking among Muslims.

The probleme is PAS politicians are not the only ones proving to be holier than they really are. Amir Hafizi, the columnist with The Mole, sees it as politicians trying hard to out-stupid one another. In his latest article Storm in a Timah cup, he observes that "not a single one of these people were up in arms when there is a thing called Kacip Fatimah which I believe drags the name ‘Fatimah’ clearly into the lower trenches".

This (Kacip Fatimiah) is a herb that was often sold as a ‘sex tonic’ of sorts to women, the word ‘kacip’ implying the bestowing of a vice-like grip to the vagina or cervix or whatever it is that has muscles down there. Kacip Fatimah is the counterpart to the Tongkat Ali, with ‘tongkat’ implying the length and hardness of the man’s answer to the vagina. Ali and Fatimah hold significance for Muslims because Ali was the fourth rightly guided caliph and the cousin to Muhammad, while Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad, was his wife.

I don't know what Amir's drinking but he is absolutely right!

Would any Muslim, upon seeing the word ‘Timah’ on the bottle, be instantly reminded of our relatives named Fatimah, like my grandmother? And be compelled to drink it, buoyed by thoughts of Middle-Eastern women – or young boys – serving some sort of halal fermented drinks?

PAS needs to sober up. You can only out-stupid morons and the Malay-Muslims aren't stupid. As it is, anyone working with this so-called Islamic party during the next general election won't be getting my vote. They don't deserve to be in government.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Passenger arrivals down 78% and you want to upgrade airports, for what?

Or, rather, for whom? Well, Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong's response his predecessor Loke Siew Fook got me wondering. 

According to Wee, the number of passengers that arrived at Malaysian airports under MAHB had dropped to 26 million in 2020 from 109 million in 2019. But it still had to cough up RM140 million a month to maintain the 39 airports, even during the pandemic. The aviation sector is expected to recover fully only in 2025 (Airport upgrades, construction out on hold)

It's a timely response from the Minister to Anthony Loke's call to delist MAHB "so that all the nation's airports can be upgraded". He had argued that although the aviation industry is experiencing a decline due to low demand, there'll be an increase in demand post-pandemic. "Surely when this happens the needs for airports will increase; thus, we must plan for the future given that upgrading works at airports will take time." (Delist MAHB so that nation's airports can be upgraded: Loke). 

Interestingly, Loke also said that private companies are ready with initiatives to work on these airports. We know who some of these private companies are but it be nice if Wee could get from Loke the official full list so the ministry will know who to call, if you know what I mean.

So related: Why Loke's "delisting" proposal is a bad idea 

Monday, October 04, 2021

Why Loke's "delisting" proposal is a bad idea

I FIND YB Anthony Loke's suggestion to delist Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad on the pretext that "all the nation's airports can be upgraded" shallow. I might add it stinks of vested interest but I'd be careful to go there, of course. As a former Transport Minister, Loke would surely be aware that there's not much of an issue with 'upgrading' airports in the country. MAHB has been doing quite a decent job in that department for years before Loke joined the Cabinet in 2018. And then the pandemic hit us and everything slowed down. Even then, plans to upgrade KLIA are ongoing, even during Loke's tenure as Minister. MAHB has also done a good job managing several airports outside Malaysia.

The issue, as I see it, is unrelated parties wanting to take over the building and running of airports in the country. Tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary took over the airport in JB (and what happened to wanting Senai to compete with Changi?), Tony Fernandes fought to have his own airport in Labu, Negri Sembilan and, most recently, the government of Kedah wanted its own airport even thought Penang's Bayan Lepas is more than capable to serving the traffic up north. And, of course, the attempt to "upgrade" the Subang airport by a property giant, something Loke must be very familiar with.

Not all airports in the country are profitable. The MAHB operates and maintains all of them by having to keep that delicate balance between the need to make money and serve the interest of the population, including those in the rural areas. Something no private entity, which is concerned only with its bottomline, would be too excited to undertake, I'm sure. And there's the question of national security, too.

If Loke wants to pursue delisting of GLCs, start with our utilities. Tenaga Nasional, for example, has become way too profit-oriented (especially after the IPPs came into the picture), making electricity ridiculously expensive, which erodes our competitiveness and affects quality of life.