Archive for the ‘General Topics’ Category

Education system revamp: At long last

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018
(File pix) Education revamp would change what students learn in school. Pix by Danial Saad

PRIME Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has given the media a heads-up on a possible overhaul of our education system, suggesting a change in the school curriculum.

Dr Mahathir, who is in Singapore to attend the 33rd Asean Summit, said the revamp would change what students learn in school. About time. Many parents, teachers and students will likely welcome this, though they will be asking: when will there be a final, holistic education blueprint to end all blueprints? Fair question.

There have been far too many revamps over the years, and that many blueprints too. Even the National Union of the Teaching Profession welcomes the move, though its support is rather qualified. NUTP secretary-general Harry Tan Huat Hock told the New Straits Times that the revamp should not overhaul the primary and secondary school curricula because

what exist are fit for the purpose. Instead, NUTP wants the revamp to aim its cross hairs at the curricula of vocational schools.

Be that as it may, we cannot deny that our students are losing 3.1 years of their 12 years of schooling. Khazanah Research Institute’s “The State of the Household 2018: Different Realities” report calls this “…potential deficiency in the Malaysian education system…

What is important is to begin with the end in mind. What really is the end of education? We venture to suggest that the whole point of education is to produce a good man. We rarely teach one how to build a life and on which foundation such a life should be built on. This is the world of values, the realm of ethics. It is of such stuff that good men are made of.

And a great nation is but a collection of such good individuals. Instead, we teach things mechanical to be regurgitated in examinations. And we start them early too.

How would such tender minds cope with the idea of failing at exams? Finland just has one exam at secondary school level. But we should not go Finnish for this reason alone. There must be some larger end for us to emulate an education system. What is good for the goose may not be good for the gander.

Higher education institutes, too, need to address the question of the purpose of education. Every year, we seem to be churning out between 200,000 and 250,000 graduates from our institutions of higher learning. Yet close to 20 per cent of them remain unemployed on an annual basis. Employers tell us that graduates from local universities are not employable. Interestingly, the employers find half of the graduates to have character and attitude issues. Is it a question of quality? Or are the employers being unrealistic?

By NST.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/leaders/2018/11/430918/education-system-revamp-long-last

Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau Officiated SIDMA College Kadazandusun Language Day

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

SIDMA College Sabah through its Kadazandusun Language Club, organised a SIDMA College Kadazandusun Language Day on 25 October 2018, as a platform for staff and students, especially those from the Kadazandusun community to immerse in the language throughout the day.

Mr Albert Bingkasan, who represented Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau during the officiating of the Semi Final Secondary School Students Kadazandusun Language Speech contest, known as “Pialaan Roisol Doid Boros Kadazandusun” at SIDMA College congratulated Dr Morni Hj Kambrie, Founder and Chairman of SIDMA College, for his undivided commitment to strive for the survival and continuity of the language in this modern era. Datuk Seri Panglima Welfred, through his representative, Mr Albert, also expressed his delights by noting the strong linkage and collaboration in existence between the Sabah Education Department and SIDMA College Sabah. He hoped that other colleges and higher learning institutions in this state will follow the way forward set by SIDMA College to complement various efforts taken by the Sabah Government to preserve one of the indigenous languages in the state.

The semi-final witnessed fifteen secondary school students from various districts of Sabah whom were accompanied by their respective teachers and District Education Officers to compete in range of topics, tackling crucial current issues such as language endangerment factors and needed preservation approaches, with relations to the Kadazandusun language.

Only five contestants with the highest marks were selected to contest in the Grand Final, which will be held on 30 November 2018 as a part of the closing ceremony Gala Night Dinner for Kadazandusun Language Day, or known as “Sodop Pisompuruan” at Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa. The finalists are:

  1. Asliana Kaling @ Jainis (SMK Tun Fuad Stephens, Kiulu) – Teacher Pinus
  2. Jessy Ginus (SMK Datuk Peter Mojuntin, Penampang) – Teacher Caroline
  3. Da Resty Gundang (SMK Narinang, Kota Belud) – Teacher Kisun Tampuling
  4. Rudolf Yuson (SMK Limbanak, Penampang) – Teacher Anita & Jimoty
  5. Abbylaylena Sitibon (SMK Kemburongoh, Ranau) – Teacher Kamaidah

Earlier Dr Morni in his welcoming address thanked and congratulated Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau for his dedicated supports to SIDMA College Sabah, especially towards SIDMA Kadazandusun Language Club, to continue striving for the future of the language.

He also thanked Y. Bhg. Datuk Hajah Maimunah Hj Suhaibul, Sabah Education Director and respective District Education Officers, Secondary School Principals, Kadazandusun teachers, judges who were specially invited for the event; namely Mr David Tiongin Lumbok, Chairman of SIDMA College’s Board of Governance, Madam Noumi @ Mazlinda Binti Jali, Inspectorate, from The Inspectorate and Quality Assurance of Ministry of Education Malaysia and Mr Victor Baga, a language teacher from Institute of Teacher Education Kent Campus; for the continuous support and all who have contributed in one way or another to support the implementation of the event. In addition, he too conveyed his appreciation to the co-chairperson of the Kadazandusun Language Speech Contest, Madam. Salumah Nain, and Madam Sitiamah Sahat, Kadazandusun Language Officer from Sabah Education Department; and was assisted by the programme coordinator, Ms Brenda Alexius Liaw.

Another activity held at SIDMA College Campus during the SIDMA Kadazandusun Language day was a Mini Funfair. The main aim was to expose to visitors the usage of the language in various settings, particularly while participating any of the activities held. The procedure, rules and regulations of each of the fun activities held was in the Kadazandusun language. In addition, lucky draws, Kadazandusun language songs request and dedication were among the various other activities held throughout the day.

To learn more about the upcoming activities and reserve your spot for the Gala Night Dinner, you may contact the SIDMA College Kadazandusun Language Club at 088 732 000.

Read more @ https://www.sidma.edu.my/index.php/others/188-datuk-seri-panglima-wilfred-madius-tangau-officiated-sidma-college-kadazandusun-language-day

Budget 2019: Lack of hospitals with medical specialists forces housemen to wait up to one year

Friday, October 26th, 2018
The lack of hospitals with medical specialists is among the issues that need to be looked into by the government ahead of the 2019 Budget 2019. NSTP File pic

KUALA LUMPUR: The lack of hospitals with medical specialists is among the issues that need to be looked into by the government ahead of the 2019 Budget 2019.

This is to address the issue of surplus of junior doctors and housemen in the country, said I-Medik vice-president Prof Dr. Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar.

Rafidah said the situation had forced many housemen to wait between six months and a year for spots to become available for them to carry their duties.

She said even though the country had about 139 hospitals, they did not meet the specific requirements to enable trainees to undergo their specialisations.

“With the increase of students in local and foreign medical colleges, the matter is becoming more complicated.

“Some of them are forced to find other jobs while waiting for their turns to be called for work. I hope this matter can be looked into by the government,” she said when met yesterday.

The 2019 Budget is expected to be tabled on Nov 2.

On the government’s proposal to provide insurance to those in the B40 income bracket, Dr Rafidah said it should be studied further in order to benefit the people.

This is to address the issue of surplus of junior doctors and housemen in the country, said I-Medik vice-president Prof Dr. Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar. Pic by STR/OWEE AH CHUN

“The government needs to have proper guidelines on this, apart from the need to determine the number of the people who go to hospital in a year and the amount allocated for this purpose, among others

“At the same time, I hope the government will continue to provide medical subsidies to the people as our health services are among the best in the world,” she said.

On the price of medicines, she said the increasing price of goods had prompted many people to switch from private to government hospitals and this had impacted the existing hospital staff.

“We need a budget that covers public health services for the people to receive the best treatments, and this is important to address the issue of people’s non-productivity due to chronic illnesses.

“Investment in the public health sector is important for the country’s savings in the long run, and this has been proven in many developed countries,” she said.

She also hoped the government would be able to increase the number cluster hospitals to complement district hospitals around the country.

By Saadiah Ismail and Syanty Octavia Amry.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2018/10/425277/budget-2019-lack-hospitals-medical-specialists-forces-housemen-wait-one

Committee set up to study and review nation’s education policies

Thursday, October 18th, 2018
The Education Ministry has set up a 13-member Committee comprising experts to study the nation’s education policies. (NSTP/ASYRAF HAMZAH)

KUALA LUMPUR: The Education Ministry has set up a 13-member Committee comprising experts to study the nation’s education policies.

Set up as an independent body, members of the National Education Policy Committee received their letters of appointment from Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik at the Parliament building today.

The appointments are for a period of six months, from Oct this year to April next year.

“The committee will give a recommendation based on independent research on the overall education policy of the country,” said Maszlee in a press conference after the ceremony.

The committee will also study the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (pre-school until secondary education) and the 2015-2025 Malaysia Education Development Plan (Higher Education) with the cooperation from the National Education Advisory Council (MPPK), and submit a recommendation to the minister.

The committee members, led by Malaysian Association for Education (MAE) and Malaysian Society of Education Administration and Management (MSEAM) president Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid, have a wide range of expertise that covers education policies, management training, STEM, educational technology, arts and other fields beyond education such as imbalance, gap and humanity. Many of them such as Hasrizal Abdul Jamil from Khalifah Model School, also have vast experience from abroad.

Also present was Deputy Education Minister, Teo Nie Ching.

Speaking at the press conference, Ibrahim said that the first draft of recommendations from the committee would be ready by December 2018 and the second, by February 2019.

The penultimate draft of the report willl be presented in March just before the final report in April 2019.

“We are not reinventing the wheel,” said Ibrahim, “There are already so many good policies that have already been implemented.”

“However, there is a gap between the policies and the implementation that we are seeking to address.

“Our aim is to produce a comprehensive study report to help improve the nation’s education system.”

The committee is tasked with providing innovative ideas in redefining the national education system to create a holistic Malaysian society, among others.

It will also be reviewing national education policies and approaches in the existing teaching and learning processes, and will study and recommend the direction of the education system in Malaysia from pre-school to university, with the goal of making government schools the preferred choice of students.

By Hanna Sheikh Mokhtar .

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2018/10/422497/committee-set-study-and-review-nations-education-policies

PM: Hope is on the shoulders of the youth

Thursday, October 18th, 2018
The fate of a united and prosperous Malaysia now lies with the young generation, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. (NSTP/MALAI ROSMAH TUAH)

KUALA LUMPUR: The fate of a united and prosperous Malaysia now lies with the young generation, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The Prime Minister said the country’s future rests on the shoulder of the nation’s youth, especially in the event that their contemporaries from the older generation are no longer around.

“My hope is on the young. A large number of my generation is gone. Whose hands would we leave the fate of this nation to, if not to the young generation?

“I plead with the young generation, please learn and grasp every kind of knowledge to transform Malaysia into a developed country.

“Acquire all skills. Strengthen your inner character. Hold firm to religion and noble values. Reject corruption firmly. Inculcate truth, honesty, and justice. Let us work together and unite to create a bright future for Malaysia,” he said.

Dr Mahathir was speaking during a speech to unveil the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) Mid-Term Review (MTR) at the Dewan Rakyat this afternoon.

Meanwhile, he emphasized that 11MP MTR is for the prosperity of all Malaysians from Perlis to Sabah and encompassed Malays, Chinese, Iban, Kadazan, Murut, Orang Asli and other ethnic groups in the country.

“We want a united Malaysia. We want Malaysians who are successful and enjoy the nation’s wealth. I urge all Malaysians to shoulder this responsibility.

“If all contents in this document are implemented, I am confident that Malaysia would roar once again as the Asian Tiger.

“Malaysia’s image would change from a kleptocratic nation to a true democratic country, with a government which is clean, noble and with integrity.

“Malaysians at every corner of the world would be able to introduce themselves proudly as “I am a Malaysian.” This is our (government) vow. This is our promise.

By Hidir Reduan Abdul Rashid.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2018/10/422521/pm-hope-shoulders-youth

Malaysia among Asia’s most visited countries, says report.

Sunday, October 14th, 2018

BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): South East Asian region receives the highest number of travellers with China topping the list, according to the World Tourism Organisation report.

Tourism has been one of the growing economic sectors across the world.  According to the report by World Tourism Organisation the international tourist arrivals have increased from 25 million globally in 1950 to 278 million in 1980, 674 million in 2000, and 1,235 million in 2016.

The Asia Pacific region accounts for 30 per cent of the world’s international tourism receipts.

The region has outperformed all other regions in terms of growth, with international tourist arrivals increasing an average 7% per year compared to the world average of 4%.

It attracted the highest number of tourists in the region with a record number of inflow of 59.27 million people in the year 2016.

Great Wall of China draws highest number of visitors followed by Forbidden city, Ming dynasty palaces. Apart from the architectural feats China has many natural sites that attract international tourists.

Thailand attracted second highest number of tourists in the region with 32.58 million visitors in 2016.

The country has an easy visa policy that makes it easier for tourists to travel. Malaysia attracted 26.75 million tourists last year, although the average number of days of stay decreased.

Japan and India followed with 24.04 and 14.56 million tourists respectively.

In India, it was a new high since foreign tourist arrival crossed ten million for the first time and pushed the country’s earnings to 27 billion dollars.

The numbers also helped the country go up 25 places in the Tourism competitive Index.

South Korea had the sixth highest number of tourists in the year 2016.

However the numbers plunged to a low owing to the boycott by Chinese tour groups after South Korea installed the Thaad system.

Singapore and Vietnam followed with 12.91 million and 10.01 million tourists respectively.In 2017, Philippines’ tourist arrival went up by 11 per cent at 5.96 million. South Koreans remained the highest numbers of visitors to the country.

The Nation/Asia News Network
Read more @
https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/10/14/malaysia-among-asias-most-visited-countries-says-report/#pHSiDS2orxSYZl08.99

The danger of being neutral

Saturday, September 29th, 2018
In this July 13, 2018, photo, a globe shows the islands on the South China Sea with nine-dash line claims under Chinese territory on display at a bookstore in Beijing. In the South China Sea, China is pitted against smaller neighbours in multiple=

In this July 13, 2018, photo, a globe shows the islands on the South China Sea with nine-dash line claims under Chinese territory on display at a bookstore in Beijing. In the South China Sea, China is pitted against smaller neighbours in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

It was just a six-paragraph statement issued by the Defence Ministry.

It was the outcome of a meeting at the Pentagon in Washington DC between United States Defence Secretary James Mattis and his Malaysian counterpart, Mohamad Sabu.

After one reading, most would dismiss it as a discussion on defence and security issues.

But the second paragraph of the Mindef statement issued on Tuesday and reported by several local media has caught the attention of Malaysian officials.

Several questions came to mind. When is Malaysia neutral on South China Sea? Does Malaysia now have a new policy on its maritime claims in the South China Sea?

Is Malaysia no more a claimant state?

If we are still one, then Malaysia cannot afford to be neutral.

It is a national position which Malaysia has taken for as long as one can remember – dating back to the first time Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad served as the Prime Minister.

This position has consistently been upheld by successive administrations of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Malaysia’s position on the South China Sea issue is clear and consistent. We are a claimant state and Malaysia takes the position that all claims must be based and resolved in accordance with international law, in particular the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) on the overlapping claims.

When contacted, several officials insisted that the Mindef statement did not reflect the true picture of Malaysia’s claim in the area.

“I don’t recall any discussion on Malaysia changing its position on claims in South China Sea. In addition, the code of conduct negotiation is still ongoing between Asean and China,” said an official.

The official was referring to the Asean and China negotiations on a binding code to address numerous issues faced by claimant countries since 2002.

The proposed code seeks to advance a 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DoC) of Parties in the South China Sea, which commits to following the Unclos, ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight, and refraining from the action of inhabiting the presently uninhabited island, reefs, shoals, cays and other features.

The area, which has rich fishing grounds along with oil and gas deposits, is claimed by four Asean countries – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. China and Taiwan are the two non-Asean claimant countries.

In August this year, Asean and China agreed on a draft CoC that will lay the foundation for negotiations over the disputed maritime area.

Negotiations on the code is under the purview of the Foreign Ministry.

While these negotiations are taking place, China continues to aggressively make its presence felt with militarisation activities in the region which Beijing says are being done peacefully.

Lately, more countries including Britain, Japan and the United States have found common cause in countering growing Chinese influence in the region that they worry could put key commercial sea lanes linking Asia with Europe, the United States and elsewhere under Beijing’s sway.

With more countries getting involved in the South China Sea area, it came as a surprise that Mindef decided to issue a statement on Malaysia’s “stance of neutrality” after the meeting between Mohamad and Mattis.

It is understood the Foreign Ministry is seeking a clarification from Mindef on this “change” of the national position.

The statement which used the word neutrality can be interpreted in many different ways according to an official.

“For a layman when we say we are neutral on South China Sea, it means that we are not a claimant state and we are showing no interest at all on this.

“Perhaps the statement did not give a clear indication on what actually transpired at the Pentagon meeting,” he said.

It also points to one thing. There was lack of consultation among the ministries and agencies involved in this issue.

Which means these ministries are working in silos instead of working and coordinating with each other especially on issues affecting national policies and positions.

Perhaps, there is also a lack of understanding among Mindef personnel on how sensitive this issue is.

“This is a national position. How can you come up with a statement using that line? That is puzzling and dangerous.

“China for sure is making notes from this statement on Malaysia’s stance and we will be queried by them,” said an official.

Mindef perhaps needs to understand some foreign policy dimension when dealing in geo political and geo economic issues.

The ministry must be made fully aware whatever they say whether verbally or in writing, especially touching on the government’s positions, will have consequences if they are not careful.

Mindef can start by reading the statement issued by the US Defence Department after the Pentagon meeting.

By Mergawati Zulfakar
Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/mergawati/2018/09/28/the-danger-of-being-neutral-mindef-needs-to-send-the-right-signal-on-malaysias-position-on-south-chi/#13Feskkhyigvu5Ti.99

Kopeks encourages increasing total share investment

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

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Kastian (fourth left) presenting education incentive to one of the recipients, witnessed by Maznah (third left) and other guests.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Government Employees Cooperative Society Bhd (Kopeks) is encouraging its members to increase their total share investment to enjoy mutual benefit and greater dividend.

Chairperson Datuk Maznah Abdul Ghani said although the compulsory RM50 fee and the minimum RM200 share may seem like a forced saving, members need not worry as the investment promises them returns for both fee and share.

“We are telling our members to put their leftover money into shares; instead of buying unnecessary items like cigarettes, they might as well put here and get the return.

“While the fee is already deducted through their salary, why not do the same for the share? RM20 is fine, although it seems low but it is safe and they are being paid. We have paid dividends since the last 10 years.

“We currently have RM50 million for fee and RM2 million for shares and this low figure is caused by members who are resistant to invest; I hope in years to come, there will be improvement in both (fee and shares),” she said.

She was speaking to reporters during the Kopeks 2016 dividend distribution and presentation of education incentives for members’ children at Sabah Public Works Department headquarters yesterday.

Maznah earlier announced that the dividend for financial year 2016, amounted to RM521,263, was six per cent that is one per cent on fee and five per cent on share.

“We could actually afford to pay 15 per cent as in 2015 but Cooperative Commission of Malaysia (SKM) has asked for nine per cent to be retained in the cooperative to generate business capital,” she said.

Since 2009 until 2016, Kopeks had distributed RM6.09 million cash dividend to its members and from 2009 until 2018, a total of RM207.24 million of loan had been granted with accumulated profit of RM26.253 million.

She added that Kopeks had also successfully settled its accumulated loss of RM24 million it had accrued before 2005.

According to her, the cooperative also sets out RM50,000 every year for education corporate social responsibility particularly for its members’ children who excel in schools.

“Today, a total of 77 UPSR, PT3 and SPM children receives cash incentives of RM300 each; the total payout since it was introduced was RM78,000.

“However, I realize that there were less recipients so I hope parents would recommend their children especially those in the rural areas because we want to uplift these children,” said Maznah.

Noting that Kopeks is currently 37th in the Best Malaysian Co-operative Index out of 14,000 cooperatives in Malaysia, she stressed on the mutual benefit for its members including loans for school or university fees, road tax and insurance as well as medical costs among others.

She asserted that Kopeks had also assisted more than 400 members settle their debts totaling RM4.5 million with loan sharks.

To date, the cooperative has introduced the Ar-Rahnu Islamic gold-for-cash scheme and set up the Kopeks Mini Market in 2015 to facilitate grocery shopping and gain returns for its members.

In the future, she said, they are planning to set up a Kopeks village to provide physical amenities and a social space for its members; it is expected to be located somewhere near the Pan Borneo Highway stretch.

“All along we have been giving loans so now I’m trying to appeal to them please give us a chance to give you something physical where you can enjoy social activities, perhaps a market for members to sell their products every Saturday and Sunday.

“While it is to encourage business, at the same time we are also keeping their welfare,” she said, adding that Kopeks has also started a pilot project on Swiftlet farming.

Thus, she said, it was crucial for members to repay their loans to ensure these plans could be executed and to provide loans to other members as well.

“We need to keep in mind that if we don’t pay our loans, then our performance will be affected and this will bring impact to other members as well.

By DK RYNI QAREENA.

Read more @ http://www.newsabahtimes.com.my/nstweb/fullstory/26907

Fiscal deficit is ok

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018
(File pix) Kuala Lumpur skyline. A budget deficit will boost aggregate demand in the economy by compensating for the muted growth in public consumption. Pix by Surianie Mohd Hanif

AS Budget Day draws near, it is the normal practice for the government to take stock of the milieu enveloping the country today. The milieu does not look sunny.

Take the global scene. The world is tilting towards de-globalisation and populism. The global recession, consequent to the 2008 global financial crisis, triggered this tilt. United States President Donald Trump’s trade wars against China, European Union, Canada and Mexico, further fuel this slide to increasing protectionism. They risk eroding the potential gains to global wealth as a result of free trade.

Together, our key trading partners, China, EU and the US, consume nearly a quarter of our exports.

Declining fortunes in these countries can negatively impact on our export earnings and, consequently, our welfare. If it is of any consolation, the depreciating ringgit should boost our global competitiveness. It should keep our exports afloat amid the dampening of fortunes in our export markets.

The increase in petroleum prices recently might seem a relief. At around US$79 (RM327) the price is US$28 more than that which was used to estimate energy revenues for the 2018 budget.

Assuming that the price holds, the government should be able to rake in an additional RM8 billion in revenue next year. Alas, much of it will go to subsidise fuel prices at the pump, leaving barely little, if at all, to finance other public expenditures next year.

On the home front, the government is concerned with the budget deficit and debt management. If these do take precedence over other matters of public finance, then that will only point to fiscal consolidation in the coming year.

From a Keynesian viewpoint that may not augur well to revitalising a slowing economy. Added to this, the elimination of the regressive sales and services tax or GST will punch another RM17 billion hole in the public coffers next year.

The gap would have been even wider if not for the sales and services tax or SST delivering RM27 billion to the government treasury.

All is not lost however. What is loss to the government coffers will be a gain to the public. The increased disposal income should enlarge public consumption and should help grow our economy.

Sadly, that may not be the case. Our household debts, at 88 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), rank as one of the highest in Asia. The increased disposal income may go to reducing household debt, leaving little for spending. Notwithstanding, debt reduction itself is a good thing. It will eventually make the economy healthier.

While we have almost eradicated poverty, our society is still unequal in income distribution. Our GINI coefficient, a measure of inequality, is 0.399. We are too close for comfort to the World Bank’s cut-off point of 0.4, beyond which a nation becomes highly unequal.

Weighed down by auto and housing loans, our bank lending growth has yet to hit double-digit growth to catalyse a moderately growing economy. The population is ageing. By 2030 we willl have 15 per cent or six million people over 60 years. Urbanisation is on the march as well. By 2050, 90 per cent of the population will be urban. These issues make public-policy changes imperative.

It is against this cheerless scenario that we need to assess the concern over budget deficit. Paul Krugman, a Noble-prize winning economist, argues that budget deficits are a necessity. They can reduce unemployment and bring about the needed economic recovery.

Without such pump-priming the economy in times of slower growth, as our country is experiencing now, a country can descend into a recession. There are already such signs looming in the horizon.

That is what happened to the United States in 1937 when then president Franklin Roosevelt prematurely reduced the New Deal stimulus. The New Deal, initiated in the aftermath of the depression in 1933, introduced all manner of programmes to provide economic relief during the Great Depression. Stimulus cutback threw the US back into recession.

In a similar refrain, Richard Koo in his 2015 book The Escape from Balance Sheet Recession and the QE Trap argues that budget deficits are not all that bad. Perhaps it was to avert such an apocalypse that Japan’s fiscal policy over the last decade has been expansionary.

Without its fiscal deficits Japan could have suffered a great depression like that of the US.

In our quest to reduce the budget deficit we have often taken the easy way out by cutting development expenditure. As a result, development expenditure as a share of the total annual expenditure has declined some 40 per cent since early 2000s. Budget deficits are not bad if they are meant to finance development to revitalise the economy.

A budget deficit too will boost aggregate demand in the economy by compensating for the muted growth in public consumption.

As such, fiscal retrenchment amid weak demand will be disastrous.

At three per cent of the GDP, our budget deficit is small.

But we must acknowledge that we have been incurring it for nearly 20 years. Hence the enlarged public debt that went to financing them.

By DATUK DR JOHN ANTONY XAVIER.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/09/412460/fiscal-deficit-ok

Work, Matters! : Finding Balance at Work and in Life

Sunday, September 9th, 2018
Pic by NSTP/NIK HARIFF HASSAN

My wife and I returned back to Kuala Lumpur last weekend, after almost three weeks of being away. Aside from our biannual trip to her home in Austria, we also did a fair of bit traveling around Scandinavia.

I especially like traveling, and I spend time planning these trips to ensure that we both see and experience as much as possible.

After such a connected and intense time together with my wife, the hardest part is to come back home, decouple, and get back to our daily work lives.

Usually for the first few days of being back, we both feel a sense of separation having spent a lot of time with each other, on holiday. While these vacations serve as a break, and offer us tremendous opportunities to learn, most importantly they help me connect quite deeply with my wife.

Many of you who read my column every week put in long hours at work.

It is pretty clear that for you to advance in your professional lives you will need to work between eight and 12 hours a day, for the foreseeable future.

Often, for you, the 60-hour work a week is the absolute minimum.

In my leadership coaching session, people sometimes ask me how to manage being a good spouse, while still succeeding at work, considering the number of hours their work demands.

To be frank, I am still a work in progress in this regard.

But, I understand that the dilemma that most of us face is the conflict between our private life, and the demands of a rigorous work-life.

How do you find balance?

Juggling a professional career as well as being an owner of multiple businesses, and also being a husband, I have had to work out what success actually means to me.

While the delineation of my work-life balance varies from time to time, the hardest part has always been to get my professional and personal needs, aligned.

At some points I have found it impossible to pay enough attention to both facets of my life. And sadly, like many of you, I, too, have opted for the wrong priorities.

My feeling used to be that my work or business life had to take priority, because it paid for my life-style choices.

But as my marriage and my health suffered from the lack of attention, I understood that I had to make changes.

I decided that I would actively seek the balance I need to give to all aspects of my life.

Professionally, I continue to work quite intensely. But I have become more demanding of myself on how I use my time. At work, I became selective of what to do each day, within a given number of hours, without overreaching.

To be successful at this, you must be absolutely honest with yourself.

You must curb laziness, and learn to manage your tendency to procrastinate. Each day, focus on what needs to be done and prioritise. But pay attention to how you can free yourself up within a given time-frame. This way you have more time to share with the people and the things you care about

I also have some other techniques I use to ensure that I achieve this balance.

My wife and I try to spend about an hour each morning together, before we head off to work. This time is not spent attending to our morning chores. Those things get done earlier. This is time spent hanging out together, talking and connecting over a cup of coffee.

The tough part is to not get drawn to the newspapers or your social media feeds. And if you manage to get this morning connection done effectively, it sets you up nicely for the rest of the day.

The next thing is to create a schedule in your life. As boring and predictable as this may sound, it will be your salvation when trying to balance your work and private lives.

I am fortunate that I work for myself therefore I am not constrained by rigid working hours. However, this also means that I can end up working all day long. So, I work on following a schedule. This includes planning when I reply my emails, or how often I count the “likes” on my social media posts.

And, arguably the most important discipline both my wife and I have cultivated, is to go on “work-free-dates”. This simply means that we go out for a movie, or for a walk, or for a meal, and choose not to discuss work matters at all. But instead, we just focus on being in each other’s company.

By SHANKAR R. SANTHIRAM.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/09/409689/work-matters-finding-balance-work-and-life