Archive for the ‘General Topics’ Category

Mandarin oranges to cost same as last year

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

KOTA KINABALU: Although shipping costs have increased between 50 and 100 percent, the prices of Mandarin oranges are expected to maintain as previous year due to abundant supply.

Mr Lo, an importer of fresh fruits, vegetables and foodstuffs, said the abundant supply of Mandarin oranges in L and XL sizes this year have driven down their prices.

Meanwhile, he said the prices for smaller Mandarin oranges remained stable.

Lo, the owner of Lo Siew Lin Sdn Bhd, lamented that shipping costs have increased between 50 to 100 percent, depending on the shipping companies and routes, while shipments were often delayed by two to four weeks.

He said the delay in shipment was the worst that he had ever experienced, which was mainly caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lo said there was also an acute shortage of refrigerated containers which he used to import fresh vegetables and fruits.

He said there are fewer shipping vessels coming to Kota Kinabalu now because the volume of goods is little or due to scheduling reasons.

He said some mother vessels opted to go to Bintulu instead of Kota Kinabalu, after which the goods bound for Sabah were shipped using domestic vessels.

Lo said he imported Mandarin oranges from China and Taiwan.

“Our shipment from Kaohsiung, Taiwan travelled from China to Hong Kong, Kaohsiung and docked at Bintulu before the Mandarin oranges are delivered to Kota Kinabalu.”

He said the goods were often delayed two to three weeks, or even up to a month.

In fact, he said a shipment of Mandarin oranges was supposed to arrive on Sunday (Jan 3) but the consignment had been delayed for another 10 days.

“Shipping companies do not compensate for delays. We are only compensated if we purchase insurance.”
Nevertheless, Lo said the prices of Mandarin oranges would not be more expensive than last year.
“Mandarin oranges this year will not be more expensive than the previous year,” he said.

Lo said he had imported the same volume of Mandarin oranges as last year, though he declined to disclose the amount.

“We had sold out all our Mandarin oranges last year.”

However, he expected the sales of Mandarin oranges to drop by more than 30 percent due to the Covid-19 pandemic which had affected the livelihoods of many.


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Sabah lauds plan to list Kaamatan, Gawai festivals under Cuti-Cuti Malaysia calendar

Monday, January 4th, 2021

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah welcomes a proposal to include the Kaamatan and Gawai harvest festival celebrations under the Cuti-Cuti Malaysia programme calendar.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin (pic) said the listing of the harvest festival celebrations (Kaamatan in Sabah and Gawai in Sarawak) as part of Cuti-Cuti Malaysia would definitely bring in more tourists.

Jafry said that it would give an opportunity for people to consider holidays in Sabah during the harvest festivities while also give them an opportunity to observe Sabah’s multi-ethnic people and culture.

He believed that the move would also help in preserving the culture and customs of the people while supporting government’s efforts to drive the tourism industry especially once the Covid-19 pandemic ends.

The Kaamatan Festival, also known as the Harvest Festival, is a month long celebration of the ethnic Kadazandusun, Murut and Rungus communities in Sabah that begins in May and culminates on May 31. Gawai is celebrated on June1.

In Sabah, various cultural events are held including singing competitions called Sugandoi, crowning of the “Unduk Ngadau” (Beauty Queen), traditional sports as well other arts and handicraft exhibition to mark thanksgiving for a good harvest.

“I am confident that Kaamatan is not just a cultural festival, but also an important product in attracting tourists at home and abroad, as well as further strengthen Sabah’s position as a tourism hub”.

Apart from being a tourism product, this festival would be a platform in fostering unity not only for the community in Sabah but also the people throughout Malaysia, he said.

He was responding to Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri that her ministry had made recommendation that the Kaamatan and Gawai Festival holidays be included as part Cuti-Cuti Malaysia programme.


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Beating Covid-19 in 2021: Managing time, risk and ambition

Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

Think bigger: We must reimagine a a new social contract for health, one that protects citizens and non-citizens in fair, sustainable and politically acceptable ways.

VERY often in the pandemic of 2020, we found ourselves in situations with no good choices. That’s normal. This is a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic with no useful policy textbooks or manuals. Public health experts and scientists raced to understand Covid-19, and we continue to learn more. Political leaders and policymakers struggled to deploy old solutions for a vast new problem.

It’s now 11 months since Malaysia’s first Covid-19 case. As we forge ahead into 2021, I humbly offer three strategies for Malaysia’s national health: to use time wisely; to stabilise our tolerance levels of risk; and to match our solutions to the size of the problem. This will help us in our second year with Covid-19.

Firstly, Malaysia must use time wisely. In other words, we must prepare for future problems today, instead of waiting for the problems to arrive. For example, we had four months between June-Sept 2020 when we had very few cases. That quiet period came after a national MCO sacrifice of two months. We may not have utilised that four quiet months effectively.

Some of the problems in the third wave are similar to the problems in the first two waves. Examples include the living conditions of foreign workers, the speed and scale of testing and isolating, effective contact tracing using apps, data sharing from the Health Ministry, and coordination between federal-state responses.

This is why Malaysia must use time wisely in 2021. Quiet periods or not, the government must use time to rebuild, strengthen infrastructure and implement long-term durable solutions. Two specific examples include building the vaccine infrastructure before the first stocks arrive in Feb 2021, and to deliver a clear management plan when we find positive Covid-19 cases during the mass testing of foreign workers starting in Jan 2021.

In the second year of the pandemic, we cannot fight the same problems as in the first year. We must get these old problems under control, and then solve new ones. That means we must use our time wisely, and not waste it.

The second strategy for national health in 2021 is to stabilise our tolerance levels for risk. After one year, it seems like we are willing to tolerate much higher levels of risk, compared to the early stages of the pandemic. This can be dangerous. We must have a stable tolerance level of risk, not increasingly tolerate more and more risk.

Here’s an example. In March, we had approximately 100-300 daily new cases. In December, we had approximately 850-2300 daily new cases. Despite this dramatic increase, everyone has started taking Covid-19 lightly. Government entities are no longer marching to the same disciplined tune as in the beginning of the pandemic and appear to be more relaxed. Citizens are no longer consistently wearing masks or physically distancing.

There may be reasons why we take it lightly. We all have pandemic fatigue and want our old lives back. Malaysia may have 2000 daily cases in December, but we feel better when comparing it to Indonesia’s 5000-8000 cases or the United Kingdom’s 13,000-53,000 cases in the same month. These are understandable, but dangerous.

We cannot take Covid-19 lightly. We cannot endlessly tolerate increasing amounts of pandemic risk. I do not think a second full lockdown will work to help avoid it. But I do not believe that we can endlessly tolerate more risk and assume that we will never need it.

What I do support is a stable level of risk tolerance. In other words, take Covid-19 consistently seriously until we are all safe. A pandemic continues to rage around us. To government agencies, take things seriously, communicate better, use time wisely and prepare for future problems. To citizens, wear your masks and stay home where possible. Don’t let the increasing numbers numb us into thinking that we can endlessly tolerate more risk.

The third and final strategy for national health in 2021 is to match our solutions to the size of the pandemic. In other words, we need solutions that are proportional to the size of the problem. After one year of fighting Covid-19, we know that our pre-2020 solutions, tools and policies are inadequate. Covid-19 is simply too big for any old solutions.

In the early stages, all governments are forgiven if they don’t know what to do. After one year of Covid-19, all governments lose that excuse. Given the scale of Covid-19, we need ambitious, imaginative and Very Big solutions to a Very Big problem. In other words, unprecedented problems need unprecedented solutions, not old, timid and ineffective solutions.

This means that our government must aim much higher in 2021. We need new ways to deliver history’s most important vaccination program, as safely, effectively and quickly as possible. We must reimagine a new social contract for health, that protects citizens and non-citizens in fair, sustainable and politically acceptable ways. We can integrate our non-health and health infrastructure to enable better contact tracing, such as South Korea’s use of credit card transactions and China’s use of QR codes. We need a true whole-of-society response.

In the first year, governments can be forgiven for relying on what they are familiar with. In the second year, governments must respond to Covid-19 in much bigger ways. This once-in-a-lifetime problem requires once-in-a-lifetime solutions. Only then can we beat this pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic will define not just 2020, but the 2020s. The strategic choices we make in 2021 will define how effectively Malaysia manages Covid-19 and recovers from it. This new year let us make three resolutions as a country: to use our time wisely, to stabilise our tolerance of risk, and to bring ambitious giant solutions to a giant problem. — Sin Chew Daily/Asia News Network

by Dr Khor Swee Kheng

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Country’s current size of civil service is still ideal, says Cuepacs

Saturday, January 2nd, 2021
Cuepacs president Adnan Mat says the actual number of civil servants in Malaysia is 600,000 people. - NSTP file picCuepacs president Adnan Mat says the actual number of civil servants in Malaysia is 600,000 people. – NSTP file pic

KUALA LUMPUR: The current size of the country’s civil service with 1.6 million people is still ideal since it includes personnel from the public health and education sectors as well as those attached to security and enforcement agencies.

The Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) president Adnan Mat said the actual number of civil servants was 600,000 people. This was if Malaysia adopted the same approach as other developed countries by excluding the armed forces, police, education and health personnel in their definition of public sector.

“Taking into consideration the present challenges (brought about by the global Covid-19 pandemic) and the preparation for the future, we still need more people in the education, security and the public health sectors,” said Adnan in a statement today.

He was responding to an Opinion piece written by Datuk Dr Fauziah Mohd Taib titled “Is It Time To Trim The Civil Service?” published in the New Straits Times today.

Fauziah in her column pointed out that the pandemic had forced ministries and agencies to embrace the new normal and that more work could be done online.

Although the growth in civil service had provided more jobs, Fauziah said, it also resulted in the government having a bigger obligation to service pension.

Adnan described Fauziah’s view that the civil service could still operate at 30 per cent capacity as inaccurate and that it could mislead the public.

“In actual fact, the civil service is still operating at 100 per cent capacity irrespective on the ground, at the office or from homes.

“The 30 per cent capacity (as pointed out by Fauziah) only involved civil servants who are required to be at their respective offices in selected states, during the implementation of the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) in October last year.

“Civil servants who are not required to come to the office during the period are still performing their duties from home with the assistance of technology and equipment,” he said.

The efficiency and effectiveness of the civil service, he said, had helped to ensure smooth government delivery services despite the movement restrictions resulting from the measures implemented by the government to stem the spread of the virus.

He said Cuepacs expressed hoped that Fauziah could use the right channel in the future by expressing her views with the Public Services Department and not on a public platform with facts that could be inaccurate.

By Adib Povera

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A new chapter in China-Malaysia ties

Friday, January 1st, 2021

Giant pandas Xing Xing and Liang Liang symbolise the  friendship between China and Malaysia.  FILE PIC

Giant pandas Xing Xing and Liang Liang symbolise the friendship between China and Malaysia. FILE PIC

I AM no stranger to Malaysia. My ties with Malaysia dates back to several working visits to this country in the past few years. Malaysia’s vibrant, beautiful beaches, blue skies, its diverse, warmth and friendly people have all left great impressions on me. At that time, I did not expect to have another chapter with Malaysia.

I still remember the giant pandas Xing Xing and Liang Liang, symbolising the China-Malaysia friendship, making their way from Sichuan to Malaysia in 2014. I heard that in just six years’ time, two adorable baby pandas — Nuan Nuan and Yi Yi — were born in this blessed land.

Throughout the last six years, the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Malaysia has been full of vigour, just like the baby pandas. The pragmatic cooperation between the two countries, which spans various fields, has borne fruitful results.

Several years ago, I may have been just be a passerby to Malaysia. But now, as the 16th ambassador of China to Malaysia, I am ready to pick up the baton to pass on and forge ahead with the China-Malaysia friendship. We are now standing on the historical high point of bilateral relations. Hence, for me, it is both a great honour and a great responsibility to carry on the flames of our bilateral relations.

As we enter 2021, on behalf of the Embassy of China in Malaysia, I would like to wish “Happy New Year” to the Malaysian people and to friends from all walks of life who care and support the development of China-Malaysia relations. I believe that the new year will inject new momentum into the mutually beneficial cooperation and open a new chapter for friendly relations.

In the new year, China and Malaysia will embrace new opportunities. The year 2021 marks the beginning of China’s “14th Five-Year Plan”, through which China will realise its first centenary goal (to build a moderately prosperous society in all aspects by the time the Communist Party of China celebrates its centenary in 2021).

With this strong impetus, China will begin its new journey towards the second centenary goal (to turn China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious by the time the People’s Republic of China celebrates its centenary in 2049).

China will accelerate the process of creating a dual circulation development pattern that centres around internal circulation with the domestic and international markets promoting each other.

This will stimulate the huge domestic market potential of China, while, at the same time, make China’s opening-up measures larger in extent, wider in scope and deeper in degree. Meanwhile, Malaysia is currently formulating the 12th Malaysia Plan, which will chart the course of economic recovery in revitalising the country. With highly complementary development demands, China and Malaysia are natural cooperative partners.

Malaysia is set to benefit from China’s development with more investments and more opportunities, reaping the fruitful results of China’s development. Soon, China and Malaysia will accelerate the process of implementing the Belt and Road Initiative, pinpointing crucial projects such as “Two Countries, Twin Parks” and East Coast Rail Link to ensure development momentum.

The “new normal” brought by the pandemic has stimulated greater bilateral cooperation. Emerging industries, such as e-commerce, digital economy and artificial intelligence, will be the new growth areas for bilateral cooperation.

In the new year, the China-Malaysia friendship will reach new heights. Currently, Chinese and Malaysian people are fighting on the frontline of the pandemic prevention and economy recovery. We expect more, and we must work more, so that we will harvest more. We will continue to join hands with the Malaysian side and push forward our mutually beneficial cooperation, achieving common development. For this goal, I am full of confidence and expectation.

A frequent saying of the Chinese is “great accomplishments require ambition and tireless effort”, and I have recently come to know a similar Malaysian saying, “Rajin berusaha tangga kejayaan” (hardwork is the ladder to success).

From today, I will come to know and love Malaysia as my home with an open arm and heart, and I will work hard with Malaysian friends from all walks of life to carry on with the glory of the past and forge ahead with friendly cooperation between China and Malaysia. Together, we will create a better tomorrow for China-Malaysia relations.

By Quyang Yujing.

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Kota Kinabalu’s first woman mayor ready to face challenges

Thursday, December 31st, 2020
Outgoing Kota Kinabalu Mayor Datuk Nordin Siman (left) presenting a mace as a symbol of handing over duties to incoming mayor Noorliza Awang Alip, during the ceremony at  Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK). -NSTP/MOHD ADAM ARININOutgoing Kota Kinabalu Mayor Datuk Nordin Siman (left) presenting a mace as a symbol of handing over duties to incoming mayor Noorliza Awang Alip, during the ceremony at Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK). -NSTP/MOHD ADAM ARININ

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s first woman mayor has pledged to work as a team with Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) staff in order to meet the challenges of running the state capital.

Noorliza Awang Alip, 55, who will effectively take over from Datuk Nordin Siman as Kota Kinabalu mayor tomorrow, acknowledged that there is pressure with being appointed to the position.

“I was thinking whether I could do it as my predecessors did great jobs.

“But again, I have been doing this for so long. I’ve been part of DBKK since 1996 and I have received support from many,” said the DBKK director-general who began her career as the council’s assistant secretary.

She was speaking to the press after the mayorship handover ceremony. Nordin served as the KK mayor for two years.

Also present were state Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Yakub Khan, state secretary Datuk Seri Safar Untong and Datuk Abidin Madingkir, who Assistant Minister to the Sabah Chief Minister.

Noorliza, who will become the state capital’s sixth mayor, said DBKK is a dynamic organisation that works towards meeting the expectations of the city folk.

“It is a big challenge, given the city’s 580,000 population and coverage an area of 360 square kilometres.

“The needs and aspirations are always changing. DBKK aspires to work in tandem with the expectations of the people,” she said

Nordin, meanwhile, described his successor as an experienced, knowledgeable, disciplined and dedicated leader.

“I am confident that Noorliza Awang Alip is capable of doing even better as the mayor of Kota Kinabalu.

“I urge all DBKK officers and staff to lend her their support.”

By Olivia Miwil

Farewell, New Sabah Times

Wednesday, December 30th, 2020

The New Sabah Times will print its final edition tomorrow (Dec 31). – Photo from New Sabah Times Facebook page

KOTA KINABALU (Dec 30): The New Sabah Times will print its final edition tomorrow (Dec 31), stopping the presses for good after more than six decades as one of the state’s oldest and reputable news sources.

The newspaper’s managing editor, Felix Gusti, said that a sharp drop in circulation and falling ad revenue were the main reasons for the closure.

It was earlier scheduled to close on Dec 20, but Gusti said the company wanted to finish its newsprint before closing tomorrow (Dec 31).

Amin Muin, the paper’s Bahasa Melayu editor, confirmed that the staff were offered three months’ pay without (any other) compensation.

Datuk Muguntan Vanar, 55, who was a journalist at the paper from 1988 – 1993, said he feels sad that the newspaper is closing because it was a training ground for many Sabah journalists.

“The stories in Sabah Times captured many of Sabah’s historical events, especially during the 1960s, 70s and even 1980s to the early 1990s,” said the Sabah Journalists Association (SJA) president.

Muguntan, who is presently The Star bureau chief for Sabah, said the name ‘Sabah Times’ is synonymous with newspapers for many Sabahans.

“The problems faced by Sabah Times is a global problem facing many newspapers in the country and around the world due to the social media challenge,” he said.

The paper was founded in 1949 as Kinabalu Times, then renamed Sabah Times, by Tun Muhammad Fuad Stephens who worked as a reporter at the Sandakan-based weekly, North Borneo News, before becoming the first Sabah Chief Minister after the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

The Sabah Times first shut down on March 24, 1995 before it was revived on March 8, 1998 following a takeover by publishing company, Inna Kinabalu Sdn Bhd. Henceforth, it was known as New Sabah Times.

Another former staff member, Joseph Joswan Bingkasan, 65, said the Sabah Times was where he learned to be a newsman.

“I was a journalist with Sabah Times, under former chief editor, Hugh Mabbett, an Australian, in the late 70s. Publication of Sabah Times was suspended a few times, but it hit the streets again.

“Sabah Times is a household name. Sabahans, especially the elders, referred to all the newspapers as ‘Sabah Times’. When they say ‘read Sabah Time’, they are referring to newspapers, not necessarily Sabah Times.

“Sabah Times will be missed, but I’m optimistic that it will — God willing — be revived and go into publication again,” said Bingkasan, who went on to become News Editor at the New Straits Times.

Recalling some of his memorable experiences while working at the Sabah Times, Bingkasan said that due to a shortage of staff there were times when he had to do reporting assignments as well as edit stories for the English, Bahasa Melayu and Kadazan sections.

“At times it was too late to go home, so I slept on my table,” said Bingkasan, who was awarded the Tokoh Kewartawanan Sabah by the Sabah Press Club last year.

With the New Sabah Times closing, only English papers the Daily Express and Borneo Post will be available in the state. – Bernama

(Editor’s note: The writer, Emin Madi, 70, a Sabah-based Bernama stringer, was Senior Journalist at the New Sabah Times from 1973 – 1993.)

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Trump pardons more allies, including Kushner’s father: White House

Thursday, December 24th, 2020
(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 12, 2018 US President Donald Trump (R) gestures as he meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore. - US President Donald Trump, who is seeking reelection on November 3, has regularly jolted the world with statements about other leaders that sharply deviate from long-held diplomatic protocol. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 12, 2018 US President Donald Trump (R) gestures as he meets with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore. – US President Donald Trump, who is seeking reelection on November 3, has regularly jolted the world with statements about other leaders that sharply deviate from long-held diplomatic protocol. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

WASHINGTON: With his insults of US allies, soft spot for autocratic rulers and contempt for international agreements, President chas turned US foreign policy on its head over a chaotic four years.

But behind the bombast, is there in fact a “Trump Doctrine,” a method behind the madness on which voters will decide on November 3?

Trump has embraced the term “America First,” reflecting his campaign promises four years ago of curbing immigration, confronting a rising China, winding down “endless wars” and renegotiating trade deals that the tycoon charged had hurt US workers.

Colin Dueck, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of “Age of Iron: On Conservative Nationalism,” said that Trump’s worldview has on some core issues been strikingly consistent.

“I think there is a kind of Trump Doctrine, even though it obviously doesn’t fit the usual DC pattern at all,” Dueck said.

Dueck noted that Trump has constantly prioritized US commercial interests and, when not appearing alongside the security establishment, has questioned the need for military deployments, most recently vowing to speed up the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In style, the real estate mogul — who has boasted for decades of his negotiating skills — has shown a willingness to engage widely, putting out not just barbed tweets but also eyebrow-raising praise.

The rhetorical whiplash has been no more stunning than on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with whom Trump said he “fell in love” a year after he mocked him as “Little Rocket Man.”

“He’s open to negotiating with almost anybody other than ISIS,” Dueck said of Trump. “The up-and-down ladder of escalation is characteristic.”

Even if Trump is not known to be a student of history, Dueck said that Trump was reviving a pre-Cold War US approach to the world.

Leaders of Trump’s Republican Party a century ago similarly ran on the “America First” slogan — slamming the brakes on immigration, rejecting the fledgling League of Nations and vigorously promoting economic goals.

“The US as an independent actor, not thinking of multilateral commitments of having primary importance, and just looking at the world from the point of view of does this serve American interests narrowly defined — it was a dominant strain of American foreign policy for generations prior to World War II.”


Trump, who is trailing in polls to Democrat Joe Biden, is highlighting several international wins in recent months after disappointments earlier in his term.

In September, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed to recognize Israel, a coup for the Jewish state — a major cause for the Republicans’ evangelical Christian base — as Gulf Arabs and Israel both rally behind Trump’s campaign against Iran.

Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban have opened peace talks, although there has been no visible progress, and the administration has found limited but growing success in coaxing nations to reject China when adopting fifth-generation internet.

But relations have hit rock-bottom with European allies, which resent Trump’s coarse approach and his rejection of international diplomacy — including of the Paris climate accord at a time when temperatures are rising dangerously.

Iran has stepped up nuclear work and flexed muscle around the region even as its economy is devastated by US sanctions unilaterally imposed by Trump.

A Pew survey found that views of the United States in other wealthy nations had plunged to historic lows over doubts on Trump’s leadership, especially over the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thomas Wright, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that Trump had few real achievements and that his foreign policy was largely “flirting with catastrophe.”

Gulf Arabs had already been warming to Israel for a decade, while the tougher approach on China is part of a bipartisan consensus in Washington, Wright said.


On the flip side, Trump has for the first time raised questions abo

ut US commitments to the NATO alliance and aggravated the impact of the Covid crisis, Wright said.

“I think there’s uncertainty about America’s role in the world that wasn’t there before,” Wright said.

“With a combination of Trump and Covid, we don’t really know if we’re ever going to go back to sort of a more open global economy,” he said.

Even if Trump loses, his impact will likely be long-lasting for the United States and the world.

He has shattered a Republican consensus, barely questioned in his party during George W. Bush’s presidency, of supporting robust military action, unfettered free trade, at least modest immigration and democratic values abroad.

“Trump couldn’t have won on his own,” Dueck said. “He needed millions of people to nod their heads and say, actually, yeah, why are we continuing to operate on autopilot?”

by AFP.

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Brands that nurture emotional bonds with customers are more successful

Sunday, December 20th, 2020
Since March, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought changes to the lives of billions of people. - NSTP file picSince March, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought changes to the lives of billions of people. – NSTP file pic

ON any given minute, scores of brand names are being paraded to appeal to our emotions. They are placed on delivery bags, advertised in daily newspapers and on television or “crawl” excessively on smartphones.

We h ave been immersed in brands since advertising made waves in human culture in the 20th century.

Brand names made their presence in our lives so pervasive that our parents preferred to call a brand name like “Milo” for any chocolate drink as much as “Colgate” for any brand of toothpaste.

My late mother used to make me buy “Milo” and “Colgate” although she did not mind whatever brand I bought as long as they were chocolate drink powder and toothpaste.

But what do brands signify to society these days? It is about creating a fixation. Since March, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought changes to the lives of billions of people. It has created an environment where people indulge in buying almost anything and everything online.

Like cause and effect, fixation on brands is largely created by technology. Today, we have become “slaves” of sorts, thanks to our obsession with electronic devices, curiousness of the latest contents and information, fascination with e-commerce gateways, and our preoccupation with applications installed on our smartphones.

The “smartphone ecology”, so to speak, has brought many changes to our daily routine. Businesses build brands in our minds on every platform known to man. These entities engage us every second, fulfilling our needs during the pandemic.

Brands that are part of the smartphone ecosystem generally outperform those that are not, and the ecosystem has only increased in strength during the pandemic. Moreover, brands that fall into the “devices” or “content/information” categories have higher intimacy scores and are therefore more loved.

There has also been an increase in the performance of brands in the “access” category provided by telecommunication companies, which contribute to the value people place on communication during the pandemic.

Hence, when it comes to giving consumers what they want, brands or even a popular Penang asam laksa trader who advertises online, provide three crucial needs to their customers.

First, it is fulfilment — where a brand exceeds expectations by delivering on superior service, quality and efficacy.

Second, it is ritual — when customers ingrain a brand into their daily actions, it becomes an important part of their everyday life. Third, it is enhancement — it happens when customers become better through the use of the brand.

They will become smarter, more capable and connected. It is all about customers’ experience that weaves emotional connections for us. Brands that nurture emotional bonds with their customers tend to be more successful than others.

They are successful in building greater trust, which breeds a loyal consumer base over time. A survey has found that consumers have demonstrated a 23 per cent increase in the number of brands they have an emotional connection with.

Mario Natarelli, the managing partner of MBLM, a Dubai-based brand intimacy agency, said brand intimacy is important for marketers because emotions a re proven to drive purchase decisions and also long-term customer bonds.

In the United States, according to research conducted by visual, Apple Inc has been named the most loved brand during the pandemic, moving up from third place before its emergence.

Even though the tech giant had beaten The Walt Disney Company and Inc for the top spot, its success is mostly due to its female and millennial consumers. Meanwhile, Amazon was voted the most loved brand for male consumers.

The list of most loved brands has seen three new additions throughout the year — Google, YouTube and Netflix, which means media and entertainment brands are now dominating the list.

In Malaysia, many people are fixated on media and entertainment while we laze at home during the pandemic. We have the knack of purchasing needful things from Shopee or Lazada and having food delivered via Grab Food and Food Panda.

We are fixated on everything that has “delivery” in its tag. For northern folks like me, we are fixated on Kopi Cap Gantang, a less known brand of coffee, but it is popular in Kedah, Perlis and Penang over the past three decades.

It was said that men in Kedah would not leave their home unless they had their daily fix of Kopi Cap Gantang from Baling, Kedah. And that is fixation!

By Rohiman Haroon.

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Ismail Sabri: 248 issued compounds for violating MCO regulations, one remanded

Saturday, December 19th, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Police arrested 249 individuals for failing to comply with movement control order (MCO) regulations on Friday (Dec 18), says Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

The Defence Minister said among the offences were failure to comply with physical distancing (132 individuals), not wearing masks (63 individuals) and not leaving contact details (54 individuals).

“A total of 248 individuals were given compounds and one was remanded, ” he said in statement Saturday (Dec 19).

The task force on standard operating procedure (SOP) compliance also conducted 47,811 checks, involving at 3,549 supermarkets, 4,761 restaurants, 1,794 hawkers, 1,144 factories, 3,321 banks and 548 government offices.

“A total of 962 land transport terminals, 245 water transport terminals, as well as 111 air transport terminals, were also monitored, ” he said.

Ismail said enforcement authorities nabbed 46 illegal immigrants, two tekongs (skippers) and seized eight land vehicles, with 118 roadblocks set up on Friday.

Meanwhile, pubic sanitisation operations, which are regulated under the Housing and Local Government Ministry, have since March 30 been conducted 12,834 times in 137 zones.

“A total of 14,600 premises have been sanitised, involving 2,921 business centres, 1,690 residential areas including PPR, 2,905 public places, 357 supermarkets and 6,727 government buildings, ” he said.

On Friday, he said, 40 sanitisation operations were conducted across 14 red zones, three orange zones, 12 yellow zones and three green zones, involving 11 states and two federal territories.

On mandatory quarantines, a total of 88,827 individuals who have returned to the country between July 24 to Dec 18 have undergone quarantine at 73 hotels and 16 public training institutes and private education institutes across the country.

“Out of the total, 8,357 individuals are still undergoing the mandatory quarantine, while 532 individuals have been sent to hospital for treatment.

“A total of 79,938 individuals were allowed to return home. The individuals had returned from 36 countries, including Cambodia, Thailand, India and others,” he said.

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