Child seat – Safety matters

November 11th, 2018
Having child seats is an extra precaution, but one which is completely necessary.

TOWARDS the end of last month, Transport Minister Anthony Loke announced something which many had been waiting for. In fact, this column has several times pushed for it, and his announcement was welcome, indeed.

By 2020, said Loke, child car seats will be made compulsory for all private cars. Before then, he said, the ministry will conduct awareness programmes to educate the public on the importance of these seats. He went on to explain that another reason implementation would only be in 2020 was that at the moment, there were not enough suppliers, not enough stock.

Loke also wanted car seats to be sales and service tax exempt so as to make them cheaper. Malaysians, it must be said, are becoming more and more safety conscious. More and more, these days, you see couples with young children using such car seats. Kudos to them. Studies have shown that children in car seats have a better chance of surviving crashes.

But there are still those who refuse to take safety, of their children no less, into account when getting behind the wheel. Of course, when Loke’s announcement came out, there was a little bit of a hue and cry.

The most common argument against it was that it would cost a lot of money, especially for the poor and those with many children. To be fair, the prices of such items are terribly high.

In 2007, a couple expecting their first child noticed the price of such items here. It just so happened the couple flew to the United States soon after and found the same item for a third of the price in Malaysia.

Of course, not everyone can go to the US to shop, and heading there would cost more anyway. But since then, perhaps because Malaysians are becoming more safety conscious, there are more such items available and prices have come down somewhat, though they are still high. And, that is exactly what Loke and the ministry are trying to avoid.

The reason why he mentioned that there were not enough suppliers and stock is because, right now, these items are expensive.

Having more suppliers, and local manufacturers, mind you, will allow for prices to come down, at least a little. Will they be cheap enough for the poor to afford? That remains to be seen.

But the more pertinent and infinitely more important question would be this: What price your children’s safety?

Parents, generally, will risk it all for their children. They would sacrifice their lives for them. Yet there are many — perhaps through lack of knowledge or perhaps because they do not quite understand or just have not thought things through — who put their children’s lives at risk every day on Malaysian roads.

We are not talking here about the car seats, per se, but about parents who have their children on motorcycles, minus helmets. We are talking about the parents who, while their kids are jumping around in the rear, ironically sit buckled up, safe and sound.

Having child seats is an extra precaution, but one which is completely necessary. And mandatory in many countries. So it is an extra expense, but so what? Again, what price your children’s safety? Is your child’s life worth so little? Just a few hundred ringgit, perhaps?

That aside, there are other things that the government needs to ensure before such a plan is implemented. The first is quality control. There must be certain standards which need to be followed right from the materials used in the manufacture of the seats. Then there are the proper guidelines. This is easy enough to do.

There are many countries which have such laws. Just look at these countries to determine what needs to be done here. For instance, when do babies outgrow baby seats? When can they use car seats, when do kids “graduate” to booster seats? Do they face forwards or backwards? Can seats be in the front seat? These are just some of the questions which need to be answered.

And then there is also what needs to be done after car seats are made mandatory. This cannot be stressed enough in Malaysia. Enforcement is the key to making any law successful, yet sadly, enforcement always seems to be lacking in the country.


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Libraries must keep up with times

November 11th, 2018
The Tun Abdul Razak Library needs more books that appeal to young readers. FILE PIC

FOR a week last month, Libraries Week (Oct 8-13) celebrated the nation’s much-loved libraries. It was a time to remind the public about the contributions libraries, librarians and library workers made to their communities.

As one who uses public libraries, I was dismayed at the way the Tun Razak Library in Ipoh, Perak, is being managed. Suffice to say, it was below expectations.

The library is in the city centre, next to a school and near the magistrate’s court.

The last time I visited the library was 20 years ago. However, when I was there recently, I felt like time had stood still since 1998. It looked the same, with the same coat of paint and the same, ancient rules and regulations.

Let me start with the borrowing rules. I cannot access the online library catalogue from home. If the library aims to be user friendly, one should be able to request and renew books from their website, choose which branch to pick them up from and return the books to any branch, including the mobile library, if there is one.

With advancement in technology, not allowing one to bring charging cables to the library for their electronic devices is unthinkable. In this day and age, almost everyone works from his laptop, iPad or mobile phone. Just imagine how one should do one’s research in a library without the cables. Apparently, this rule applies only at the Tun Razak Library.

If the reason lies in short circuits or faulty sockets, getting them fixed will attract more people to use the library facilities more often. I saw a group of people in the library, who were reading newspapers, and only a handful borrowed books.

Perhaps, the library management can set up a multimedia section, where people can view or borrow CDs or DVDs. This will be beneficial for the public, especially for academicians, teachers, students and children.

Even the Internet connection at the library is slow. The library should consider buying new books as the ones available are outdated.

Authors like Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie do not appeal to young readers of today. Getting feedback from the community on their favourite authors and the type of books they would prefer to read can easily resolve this.

Gone are the days where strict librarians walk around, shooing kids and pointing to the “Keep Quiet” signs. A user-friendly library will be a beneficial meeting point for millennials to work, discuss and spend their time.

When I am in a public library, I feel I am a member of a wider community and society — sharing a public space and service, which I value.

By Zarina Zainudeen.

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Consider replacing the UPSR

November 11th, 2018

EXAMINATIONS are stressful. The word “examination” conjures fear, anxiety and pressure even to adult learners.

School examinations stress school children and take out the fun and joy of the learning process.

The Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination is the first public examination for the primary school children in Year Six and is used as the yardstick to measure the proficiency and competency of the children in their Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.

The UPSR examination is given much attention and significance by the teachers and the children’s parents.

The results determine the Key Performance Index (KPI) of the schools and teachers’ appraisal.

The headteachers make teachers work very hard and so in turn do the teachers, who want to ensure the children achieve excellent examination results.

To prepare the children for the UPSR, the school teachers would drill the children according to the examination procedure and testing.

For months the children are put through a rigorous learning and teaching process.

Extra classes, holiday classes, night classes, workshops, tuition and trial examinations are the norm for the children.

This year, 440,743 candidates sat for the UPSR at 8,100 exam centres nationwide. The children in national schools sat for six papers while those in vernacular schools sat for eight papers during the examination.

Even university students do not sit for six to eight papers in their tertiary examinations.

The examinations are made even more stressful as they are 100% centralised assessments.

The UPSR should have school based assessments to help them evaluate the children’s full potential.

The UPSR examination is primarily used to gauge how the Year Six children have progressed from Years One to Six and to measure their performance and competency in the primary schooling years.

Contrary to a centralised examination, a school based assessment will be able to adopt tools to measure the development of a child’s physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social elements more holistically.

A school based assessment will be a more comprehensive assessment of the child’s full potential. A written examination can only test the mental intelligence of a child.

We need to move away from placing too much importance on academic excellence. This is going to be an uphill task because it has been deeply rooted in our mindset that grades and As matter.

Much importance is placed on academic excellence as a pre-requisite to enter good schools and eventually in prestigious careers.

How do we undo this delicate issue?

The only option is to transform the 100% centralised assessment to school based assessment..



Promoting interest in STEM

November 11th, 2018

Ahmad Tajuddin (third right) sharing a light moment with Dr Siti Hamisah who was touring the KLESF exhibition.

Ahmad Tajuddin (third right) sharing a light moment with Dr Siti Hamisah who was touring the KLESF exhibition

THE next time you’re worried about parking, check your app.

The Chong brothers – Emerson, 10, and Sheldon, 12, aren’t old enough to drive but that didn’t stop them from attempting to solve a grown up problem.

Inspired by the Internet of Things (IOT), the homeschooled brothers spent over a month working on a smart parking app that tells drivers whether parking lots at the place they’re heading to, are full.

They were the Kuala Lumpur Engineering Science Fair (KLESF) International Challenge 2018 bronze medal winner in the primary school category.

Explaining their invention, the Chongs said using RFID (radio frequency identification) tags that contain driver and vehicle information, the app can even be used to book and pay for parking bays.

KLESF steering committee co-chairman Datuk Hong Lee Pee said the fair’s objective was to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education among youths and the public.

The KLESF International Challenge 2018 was a main highlight as it allowed students to exhibit their original inventions.

Emerson and Sheldon with a prototype of their invention.

Emerson and Sheldon with a prototype of their invention.

“This year, 400 teams from 150 schools participated,” said Hong.

The International Challenge was among a myriad of exciting events including exhibitions, hands-on experiments and workshops, robotics, coding, science and chemical engineering competitions.

Kayson Choo, who was among the exhibitors, showcased his team’s humanoid fighter.

Using motion sensors, the humanoid punches when Choo moves his hand.

“Now it’s only the hands but we’re working on a prototype that will be controlled entirely by motion sensors.

“So if you duck, step forward or move backward, the humanoid will too.”

The KLESF was jointly organised by the Asean Academy of Engineering and Technology (AAET), Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) and the Institution of Engineers Malaysia.

Held from Nov 2 to Nov 4 at the MINES International Exhibition & Convention Centre (MIECC) in Seri Kembangan, over 60,000 visitors thronged the three-day event to promote STEM.

Education Ministry’s Department of Higher Education director-general Datin Paduka Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir, who launched the fair, said STEM education was important in producing critical thinkers and innovators for our future workforce.

Innovation leads to new and improvised products and processes that sustain our economy. And such science literacy depends on solid knowledge in STEM, she added.

Last year, it was reported that only 47% of school students opted for the science stream – short of the targeted 60:40 ratio of science and technical stream students to arts students.

“We’re working very hard to get students interested in STEM because the future is transdisciplinary. Everyone will need to understand and interpret data – even those in the arts field.

“The ministry’s centralised university unit (UPU) has to scrape the bottom of the barrel to get STEM students. So long as they meet the minimum requirement, students are offered STEM courses,” she said, adding that the ministry has conducted various initiatives including the setting up of a national STEM centre to promote hands-on activities and fun learning.

The centre’s inquiry-based science education (IBSE) workshops for 1,200 teachers nation-wide was recently completed, she said.

IBSE, she said, was crucial in developing critical skills for efficient learning.

The ministry, she added, welcomes engagement with all quarters as promoting STEM education has to be a concerted effort.

“Whether we like it or not, most of our activities are dependent on technology. Technology plays a big role in cooking, going places, studying and staying in touch with loved ones. Even when sleeping, technology keeps us cool and comfortable.

“So, a good grasp of scientific concepts is much needed, especially among the younger generation.”

But the decline in STEM interest, AAET and UTAR president Prof Datuk Dr Chuah Hean Teik said, was a global phenomenon.

He said it was important that STEM careers are highlighted in the media.

“If parents know future prospects are bright, they’d encourage their children to take up these subjects.”

Children naturally find STEM interesting as many toys today have scientific elements, MIGHT chairman Tan Sri Ahmad Tajuddin Ali said.

The problem is that children lose interest when they go to school.

“Is it school and our system that’s the problem? We’ve to make sure that their interest in science continues through their schooling years.”

The KLESF should strive to be as big as the Edinburgh International Science Festival. This, he said, would help generate interest among youngsters in the field.

By Christina Chin
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Authentic learning resource a boon

November 11th, 2018

Education pullout sponsorship a much-needed teaching aid for school

WHEN teacher Nor Zalila Hidayu Aman heard that her school was receiving sponsored copies of The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) pullout, she was over the moon.

“It is a blessing to us! We have not had much success with obtaining gadgets and we are not able to supply each student with a laptop. So this sponsorship is a much-needed resource,” said the English department head from SMK Kota Masai 2, Johor.

The school is one of 40 Johor schools benefitting from the PPB Group Berhad sponsorship of the NiE pullout. The sponsorship by the Malaysian diversified conglomerate was made under Star Media Group’s English for Better Opportunities (EBO) project. NiE workshops for teachers and students were also included in this sponsorship to help teachers understand the methodology of using the newspaper as a resource to teach English.

EBO is a multi-level platform aimed at making immersive driven English language programmes interactive, fun and accessible to all levels of society.

Having used the newspaper as a teaching tool before being introduced to NiE, Nor Zalila Hidayu is familiar with the benefits of using this authentic resource.

“Not every student has flipped through an English newspaper. Some do not even know that you can find the comics in the newspaper. NiE exposes them to something new.

“It helps most in building vocabulary. Students write better when they see examples of correctly written sentences. They can see authentic news reports in the newspaper. They also stumble on things that they are curious about and it would prompt them to question things.

“Not many students in this school can converse well in English. They are very shy, but they try. That’s why we organise English programmes.”

The Star-NiE programme, now in its 21st year, has been breathing life into English classroom lessons with engaging, hands-on activities using the newspaper. The colourful, syllabus-based 12-page pullout is written by a team of experienced English language teachers.

NiE was part of an English camp at SMK Kota Masai, Johor. Students enjoyed the engaging and hands-on newspaper activities.

NiE was part of an English camp at SMK Kota Masai, Johor. Students enjoyed the engaging and hands-on newspaper activities.

Last month, SMK Kota Masai 2 hosted an English camp. Two other schools, SMK Tanjung Puteri Resort and SMK Seri Kota Puteri, were also invited to the camp. NiE activities were used as part of the camp acitivities.

“The teachers who attended the earlier NiE workshops (for teachers) were the ones who suggested that we include an NiE session in the English camp.

“Students liked the activities – they were very engaged and happy.

“Seeing how successful the camp was, I said to myself that I should let The Star know. We are very grateful to the sponsors. I would really like to thank them. The NiE workshops for teachers were very helpful – we got ideas of how to use the newspaper in class. “

“The students now look forward to English classes with NiE. They would ask if we are using the newspapers when we have English lessons,” she added.

English teacher Siti Salbiah Salleh, who also attended one of the NiE workshops sponsored by PPB this year, enjoys using NiE in her classes.

“NiE can be fully utilised to enhance a range of language skills. Furthermore, NiE is relatively inexpensive compared to other materials.

“The activities in NiE are designed to promote students’ critical thinking skills. They can be used to empower students to become independent learners.”

She also likes the fact that the newspapers are visually stimulating.

“They contain a lot of pictures to encapsulate a vast range of topics. It can also be used to target different learning styles, As a result, learning becomes more interesting, meaningful and motivating for the learners. Students are able to learn real language in context as it aids students in developing a solid language base.”

Form Two student Fara Nurumairah Kamaruzzaman said she finds that the newspaper has a lot of news and information to offer.

“The newspaper has pictures of the situation, which makes me understand the issue better.”

She also liked the fact that NiE encourages group work.

“I like working in groups because I can share my opinions and thoughts. The lesson is more exciting than when studying alone. Study groups encourage us to learn new skills and gain new perspectives.

“Besides that, NiE helps me improve my English by introducing new words to me. With better vocabulary, I can create better essays.”

Student Syed Muhammad Azriel Syed Faizal, 14, said that NiE encourages him to read.

“I never knew that the newspaper can also be useful for learning! I like using NiE in English lessons.

“For me, learning with NiE is different from learning with the textbook. This is because the NiE pullout is more exciting and it has a lot of colourful pictures. The newspaper is also updated and shows different things every day.”

Form One student Priyalatha Setha said that NiE encourages her to read the newspaper.

“I was afraid to read English newspapers at first, but now I like reading them because they have many interesting sections. By reading more, I can improve my vocabulary as well as writing in English.

By Emily Chan
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RM7.35bil Samurai bond to fund education, transport sectors, not repay national debts, says Kadir.

November 11th, 2018

PETALING JAYA: The RM7.35bil Samurai bond issuance, which the Japanese government has offered to guarantee, is not intended to repay Malaysia’s existing debts, says Datuk A. Kadir Jasin.

The Prime Minister’s media adviser said the money raised will be used to fund the education and transportation sector and visit exchanges between Japan and Malaysia.

He said if there is confidence in the government owing to its excellent economic achievement records and sound administration, this will enable it to secure loans domestically and from abroad.

Instead, if a country had a poor track record or if the government had ulterior motives in taking up loans such as seen in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, then it would be harder to secure loans domestically and internationally.

“If under the old government we secured huge debts in dubious ways especially from China, now we managed to get a special loan with a low-interest rate,” he wrote in his capacity as National Journalist Laureate in his column in Sinar Harian published on Sunday (Nov 11).

He said that the government may borrow domestically or from abroad at a lower interest rate to repay the debts left by the previous administration.

“Considering the financial situation of the government that is ridden with debt and liabilities of more than RM1tril, restructuring of loans is one of the challenging duties in the financial and economic administration in the next coming years,” he wrote.

In June, Malaysia asked for a yen loan during Dr Mahathir’s first meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to help resolve the government’s debts.

By Fatimah Zainal
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Asia’s largest zoo croc injured by stone-throwing Chinese tourists

November 10th, 2018
A group of overexcited Chinese tourists threw stones – as well as a 17cm-diameter rock – at Asia’s largest crocodile in captivity on Monday, injuring the reptile. – NSTP FILE PIC

KUALA LUMPUR: A group of overexcited Chinese tourists threw stones – as well as a 17cm-diameter rock – at Asia’s largest crocodile in captivity on Monday, injuring the reptile.

The tourists – a family of laughing adults and children – reportedly wanted to make the 1,250kg African crocodile move, as they were initially sceptical that it was real. When it reacted, they were thrilled and began taking pictures, and possibly videos.

According to the South China Morning Post, the family persisted in throwing projectiles at the 5.8-metre animal despite objections from fellow tourists and visitors at the Xiamen Central Africa Zoo in Fujian province on Nov 5.

But when the 37-year-old male crocodile named Xiao He began oozing blood from three cuts it incurred from the largest rock thrown at it, the tourists fled.

The zoo’s manager was immediately notified, and staff rushed to treat the crocodile using special medicine shipped in from Taiwan, the South China Morning Post reported.

Since news of the incident broke, social media users have been scathing over the tourists’ cruelty, as well as the example the adult members of the group had set for the children


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Budget Highlights

November 10th, 2018

Kota Kinabalu:

1. Setting up of three new ministries – the Ministry of Health and People’s Wellbeing; the Ministry of Education and Innovation; and the Ministry of Law and Native Affairs.

2. Abolishment of Communal Titles (with certain clauses to protect land ownership for the Natives).

3. Review of lopsided deals

4. Formulating a land-use plan that will address the dual needs of development and conservation.

5. RM5 billion Development Budget for Sabah from the Federal Government.

6. Downstream procession of Sabah’s resources like timber, oil and gas and crude palm oil to create value-added products and more job opportunities.

7. To improve the development of productive sectors, including attracting investments to drive economic growth and generate State revenue:

  • To address socio-economic imbalances and improve people’s living standards through inclusive approaches;
  • To accelerate the development of quality human capital through increased knowledge, skills, productivity and innovation;
  • To develop enablers such as basic infrastructures, utilities and public amenities, including ICT in order to support economic expansion; and
  • To strengthen the capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of Sabah Government’s management and delivery system.

8. Government will commence the collection of sales tax on fishery commodities brought out from Sabah at a rate of 5 per cent beginning next year. Revenue collection from this sales tax is estimated at RM20 million.

9. After restructuring of Sabah Water Department’s administration, RM66.8 million of revenue managed to be collected from August until the end of October 2018. With such administrative and management improvements, the Sabah Water Department is expected to collect revenue of RM330.2 million in year 2019.

10. Setting up of Kalabakan District Office.

11. To attract investment and promote further growth in the industrial sector, the Government will also introduce a number of new incentives. Among them is reduction on land premium

12. Allocated RM636.69 million to the State Water Department for the purpose of its operation and implementation of development programmes.

13. Increased allocation for Scholarships, Bursaries and Financial Assistance for students. This allocation, now placed under the Ministry of Education and Innovation, has increased by RM15 million to RM52 million in year 2019 compared to RM37 million in year 2018. Yayasan Sabah started a RM10 million one-off assistance for students in 2018 and will continue in 2019 with the amount to be increased depending on the foundation’s performance.

14. Development of religious and non-Muslim institutions as well as missionary and private schools are allocated RM35 million. The Government has also increased the allocation for missionary and private schools from RM12 million in year 2018 to RM15 million in year 2019.

15.Development of hill paddy sector to improve the livelihoods of the rural folk in Ranau, Tambunan, Keningau, Kota Belud, Sipitang, Pitas and Kota Marudu. Hill paddy fetches good prices in the local market and is also fast becoming a desired food for the health conscious. A RM5 million special allocation to assist them.

16. The Sabah Government also allocates RM24.45 million for special fund and loan for entrepreneurial development including for the youths. The Government is confident that this provision will also help to encourage the activities of Small and Medium Enterprises in Sabah

17. RM9.56 million is provided for this purpose under the Public Service Department (JPAN) for local and international training courses. To increase the ability, professionalism and efficiency of the civil servant, the Government encourages continuous lifelong learning culture, which includes acquiring new skills in keeping up with dynamic development of the world.

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Writing a resume: Art of your ownself

November 9th, 2018
(File pix) When writing a resume, job applicants should create an outstanding first impression through an attention grabbing layout, powerful keywords and clearly articulated achievements. Pix by Hafiz Sohaim

WHEN writing a resume, job applicants should create an outstanding first impression through an attention grabbing layout, powerful keywords and clearly articulated achievements.

Career Expert managing director Ainul Naim, a resume consultant, said a good resume is one that attracts recruitment managers and promises a job interview opportunity.

A resume is a tool to promote and market yourself to the industry.

“When the industry offers you an interview, you know that your resume is good. A good resume is a masterpiece of your own, crafted with proper guidance,” she added.

A lot of effort should be put into writing a resume.

“Writing a good resume is where the life of a graduate begins. It is important for graduates to learn to write their own resume — it’s an art of your ownself.

“If they fail to make a good impression through the resume, then it will be a rough career journey ahead.

“It requires a lot of effort to market yourself, much more than the work put in at university.”

As a Certified Professional Rèsumè Writer and Certified Employment Interview Professional with more than 13 years of experience, Hans Toh said the best resume is one that is tailored made for a specific position.

An excellent resume contains three key elements — relevant working experience, measurable achievements and educational background or professional training obtained.

“In a resume, work experiences are the subjects while measurable achievements are the grades. You only have less than 10 seconds to market yourself. That is all it takes for employers to read your resume and know you.

“Fresh graduates should keep their resumes to one or two pages. Don’t make the mistake that the longer the resume, the better.

“The information presented in the resume has to be relevant to the job,” he added.

Job seekers should ideally start planning three months before they graduate. “Every year, public and private universities produce hundred of thousands of graduates who compete in the job market. So it is important to kick-start the job hunt as early as possible.”

Fresh graduates make similar mistakes in their resumes which are not meant to be a history of every course, training and examination in their life.

“I’m not saying these are not important but highlight your skills suitable for the job you are applying for.”

There are two types of skills — specific job-related skills and transferable skills that are general and can survive the shift from one industry to another.

“Highlight the ones that match the requirements of the position — the more matches, the higher the chances of getting a job interview.

Provide relevant, important information in short, simple sentences and bullet points, and your resume will have a much higher chance of catching the right attention.

“Details such as format, standardised headings and spacing as well as font sizes make the overall appearance of the resume look well-planned. Use bullet points instead of long-winded sentences.

“State your facts, and leave out unnecessary flowery words and adjectives unless you’re applying to be a writer. Avoid unnecessary use of bold and italics, they are for emphasis only.”

Toh has developed highly effective resumes and cover letters for many clients in all fields throughout the country.

Since 2002, he has reviewed and written over 10,000 resumes for all levels of career progression including entry, junior, managerial and senior management.

He also provides coaching on effective interviewing skills and conducts workshops at universities and colleges. He recently published a book on resume-writing and interview techniques, Get Hired!

Toh studied engineering and worked in the field for several years before he switched to a career as a resume-writing specialist. “Young graduates should not limit themselves to their comfort zone and apply for jobs in their field of studies.

By Zulita Mustafa.

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A budget for hope in Malaysia?

November 9th, 2018

The government has outlined its plans to collect and spend money next year. Equally important are institutional reforms and stakeholder engagement.

IN evaluating how other people are going to spend your money on your behalf, there are inevitably a number of different perspectives you can take.

The contents of a national budget can have a huge impact on your life, whether you are a student or a retiree, an employer or an emplo­yee, and regardless of your cultural background, age, and current level of income, assets and spending.

But despite the approval or disapproval citizens may have about certain proposals in a national budget that affect them personally, I believe the majority of Malaysians want all their compatriots to live free of poverty and hardship, and ultimately to thrive in a land of bountiful opportunity.


Naturally, the immediate reactions to the first Pakatan Harapan budget pertained to those with a personal impact. Colleagues and friends celebrated or decried the departure levy, fuel subsidies and soda tax.

In terms of the impact on society as a whole, my colleagues at the Institute for Democracy and Econo­mic Affairs (Ideas) have said this: “[The budget] promises transparency and better value for taxpayers’ money, provides adequate non-tax measures to fill revenue shortfalls, and proposes a range of measures for economic growth focusing on SMEs and boosting trade, agricultural and industrial activities.

“The budget represents a delivery of many manifesto promises, with some creative compromises such as on tolls and PTPTN. This … makes the budget good news for average households and businesses alike.

“This has not come cheaply however – operational spending has gone up by over 10%. This year, the government is being helped by a RM30bil special dividend from Petronas but that cannot be counted on every year, so there will need to be further reductions in spending in the near future.”

We welcome the support for SMEs, which we have always believed should be the main driver of the economy, and it’s good that social enterprises are getting due recognition through income tax deductions for contributions to them.

Similarly we look forward to the conclusions of the task force to review GLCs under Ministry of Finance Inc to ensure they do not compete with the private sector. However, bodies under other ministries should be reviewed too, and it is important to define “strategic” sectors clearly.

Support for the B40 (the bottom 40% of the population with the lowest household incomes) is also notable with targeted payments and subsidies to help smoothen consumption levels.

In terms of affordable housing, the exemption of stamp duty for first-time home buyers together with low-interest financing for low-cost housing purchases will hopefully go some way to opening up home-owning opportunities.

Still, while addressing cost of living was one of the main thrusts of the manifesto, it is hoped that the government’s objectives on promoting renewables and developing the energy market are not derailed by fuel subsidies.

For me, one highlight was the com­­mitments to institutional reforms. Although governments all over the world have to embed some populism and compromise in a national budget, such spending can at least be optimised by ensuring cleaner and leaner institutions that encourage competition and transparency where possible.

That is why we applaud the utilisation of more open tenders instead of direct negotiations, and of course we hope the government succeeds in recovering some of the losses through revenue leakages such as through illicit trade – in addition, of course, to claiming back debts that should never have been issued in the first place.

In the longer term, the manifesto promised to further engage stakeholders in the policymaking process by drafting Green Papers to promote discussion, and White Papers before Acts of Parliament are introduced. Such a process would particularly benefit budget-related legislation.

However, while I was happy that the Malay term used was the Sanskrit-derived belanjawan rather than bajet, I was disappointed that the Finance Minister continued the practice of carrying the document in a leather briefcase – albeit a different brand from the one the previous finance minister used.

I have nothing against these brands, but I thought that the minister could have located Tun Tan Siew Sin’s original budget box and used that instead.

Symbolically, it might have echoed the early optimism of a new country, compared to perpetuating an affinity for foreign luxury bags.

But if you’re going to use a new bag, then why not choose one of the many artisanal options crafted by local communities spurred by social entrepreneurs? That would have been a better symbol of bountiful opportunity being carried by Malay­sians, for Malaysians.

By Tunku Zain Al-‘Abidin
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