Archive for the ‘New Year Resolutions’ Category

The challenges that lie ahead

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians can expect many changes in 2020, as we embark on a new decade.

The biggest event on the nation’s calendar is the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit.

The summit, which is scheduled to conclude in November, is significant not only in terms of regional politics, but domestically as well, since it is linked to the expected premiership transition from incumbent Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

While reiterating that he will keep his promise to hand over the reins to Anwar, Dr Mahathir has said he does not want a leadership change before the Apec summit as it would be “disruptive”.

“I made a promise to hand over and I will, accepting that I thought that a change immediately before the Apec summit would be disruptive.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m stepping down and I’m handing the baton to him (Anwar). If people don’t want him, that is their business, but I will do my part of the promise, ” he had said earlier.

With Dr Mahathir’s signalling the extension of his premiership beyond the two-year mark, anticipation is building up as many Malaysians wait with bated breath to see the leadership change finally take place.

The Apec summit will also be a high-profile affair, with Malaysia hosting it for the second time. The country last played host in 1998, also under the leadership of Dr Mahathir in his first tenure as prime minister.

About 16,000 delegates are expected to attend more than 120 meetings in five cities around Malaysia throughout the year.

With the theme “Optimising Human Potential Towards a Future of Shared Prosperity”, the summit will focus on driving trade and investment, spurring digital economy and technology, and ramping up innovative sustainability.

Meanwhile, the Sarawak state election must be held before September 2021, leading some to speculate that it could take place this year.

The Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) state government said they are gearing up for the fight, as they defend their position against Pakatan Harapan and other political parties.

Outside our borders

The dynamics of Malaysia’s political scene will be crucial in determining the country’s future as the leadership continues to navigate a dampened economy – both locally and globally.

However, external developments will also play a role in setting the course. US President Donald Trump’s impeachment, over charges of power abuse and obstructing Congress, will see him facing a trial in the Senate.

Analysts say that the Republican-led Senate is unlikely to remove Trump from power, but they also noted that he would be bearing the stain of the impeachment in his 2020 re-election bid.

Closer to home, Malaysia’s neighbour across the Causeway is likely to call for a general election in 2020, with observers speculating that it could take place after the Budget is announced in February.

A signal that Singapore is heading to the polls includes the formation of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee on Aug 1,2019.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who came to power in 2004, has indicated that the general election will likely be his last.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat is poised to be the next premier of the island-state in what is largely seen as a transitional general election.


Besides the Apec summit, Malaysia is also expected to see an upsurge in tourist arrivals as Visit Malaysia 2020 will be underway.

Tourism industry players and agencies are gearing up to make the best use of the year-long campaign, which targets 30 million international tourist arrivals and RM100bil in revenue.

Various initiatives, including the use of digital marketing and social media influencers, are in place to promote popular tourist sites in the country.

Kuala Lumpur has also been named the Unesco World Book Capital for 2020, which will see a variety of special events being held all year starting April 23.

With the theme “KL Baca (KL Reads)”, there are plans underway for the construction of a book city (Kota Buku Complex), a reading campaign for train commuters, and digital services for 12 libraries in low-income areas in the city.

Wages and allowances

For ordinary Malaysians, a number of government policies to ease the burden of the rising cost of living is also set to take off in 2020.

Minimum monthly wages will be bumped up to RM1,200 in 57 cities and municipality councils across the country.

The cities that will be seeing an increase in minimum wage include Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru, Petaling Jaya, Melaka, Penang, Kuala Terengganu, Ipoh, Miri and Kota Kinabalu.

The Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) aid will also cast its net wider, as single individuals aged above 40 earning than less RM2,000 monthly are now eligible for the scheme.

The Cost of Living Allowance for civil servants will also be increased by RM50 per month beginning this year.

Transport sector

Several policy changes are also expected to shake up the transport industry in the country.

Indonesian-based motorcycle-hailing firm Gojek and local firm Dego Ride will also disrupt the market with their entry into the Malaysian transportation scene this year.

The companies will be providing their services on a limited scale, with a six-month trial run in Kuala Lumpur.

Starting this year, the government will also fully enforce its ruling on the use of rear seatbelts in cars, which has been been mandatory since 2009.

The use of child seats and seatbelts for bus passengers will also now be fully enforced.

Toll rates, meanwhile, are expected to be reduced by at least 18% across all PLUS highways, as announced in Budget 2020.

The Transport Ministry also announced that the country will be hosting the inaugural Kuala Lumpur International Logistics and Transport Exhibition (KiLAT) 2020, in a bid to boost Malaysia’s image as a regional transport hub.

The expo, which will be held from July 8-11, is expected to draw exhibitors from Asean and other nations, such as the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Health coverage expands

The mySalam health protection plan will also be expanded to include middle-income individuals; that is, Malaysians with an annual gross income of up to RM100,000.

The maximum age of those eligible will also be increased to 65 from 55.

The scheme will also be expanded to cover 45 critical illnesses and polio, instead of the current 36 critical illnesses.

Meanwhile, the Skim Peduli Kesihatan (Peka40) will also be expanded to include individuals from age 40, while previously it was only open for those aged 50 to 60.

Smoking and plastic straw bans

Malaysians will also see the smoking ban being fully enforced this year, with the educational period officially ending in 2019.

This means that smokers who violate the ban face a fine of up to RM10,000 or two years’ jail.

Eateries will also not use plastic straws as their ban will be fully enforced in 2020.

Clampdown on illegal migrant workers

The Immigration Department will start clamping down on illegal foreign workers, as the deadline for the Back for Good (B4G) repatriation programme ends.

There will be no extension of the amnesty programme, which allows illegal workers to return to their countries voluntarily.

Legal matters

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will be given more bite as a new clause in the MACC Act will give it prosecutorial powers over business entities, and not just individuals.

The newly introduced Section 17A of the MACC Act will take effect in June.

Meanwhile, the Bill to repeal the mandatory death penalty is expected to be tabled in Parliament in March.

Youth aid

Free breakfast will be provided for primary school children, with the first phase of the programme implemented at 100 primary schools nationwide in January.

To encourage e-wallet use, the government will credit RM30 into the e-wallet of Malaysians aged 18 years and above, who earn an annual income below RM100,000.

The money, which will be credited today, will be valid for two months.

The government will also be giving a leg up to young Malaysians by extending the deadline of the Youth Housing Scheme from January 2020 to December 2021.

The scheme, administered by Bank Simpanan Nasional, offers a 10% loan guarantee through Cagamas (the National Mortgage Corporation) to give borrowers access to full financing while providing a RM200 monthly instalment assistance for the first two years, limited to 10,000 home units.

By The Star Team.

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Leaders urge Malaysians to strive for a better year

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

PETALING JAYA: In heralding a new year, the nation’s leaders call on all Malaysians to strive for a better Malaysia come 2020.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the government will continue to fight against graft and instil integrity and honesty in the country.

“For 2020, let us focus on the positives. In 2020, we promise to continue working towards a better Malaysia, ” said Dr Wan Azizah.

Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said it is time to stop playing up racial issues.

“Lately, there have been too many racial issues which have been spun by certain quarters to create tension in society.

“In the spirit of ushering in a new year, I beg all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, to preserve harmony and peace.

“Avoid speeches and actions that would create suspicions among us.

“Stern action according to the Constitution and laws of the country will be taken to ensure the country remains peaceful and safe, ” he said.

Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali said Malaysians must be brave to face the global economic challenges.

“We need a new imagination and the courage to think big to face the challenges as we shift away from the United States and Europe.

“The Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 has opened up opportunities for collective economy and technological cooperation in a community of 1.7 billion and we should look at all opportunities to get through the storm of the China-US trade war.

“The Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 will be the anchor to the efforts of developing a dynamic and sustainable economy.

“This will not only strengthen the growth and peace but close the gaps between income groups, ethnicities and areas.

“Let us enter the new year and new decade with the spirit of one nation, ” said Azmin.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said that despite the differences, all Malaysians must strive to defend the country’s harmony.

“We as Malaysians of different races and religions have long lived with much respect (among each other).

“Harmony and order that has been built since independence must be defended and not be destroyed by narrow-minded quarters who use race and religious issues for their own political interests, ” he said.

Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran hopes for Malaysians to be less dependent on foreign labour.

“Employers also need to pay better wages to attract more Malaysians to work for them.

“Every working Malaysian must be skilled or upskilled or reskilled.

“This will translate into higher productivity and better wages for our workers, ” he added.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador called on members of the force to better themselves for the sake of the people and the country.

He also hoped the new year would bring renewed vigour among police personnel of all levels to serve the people better.

“Experiences throughout this year have taught the police force about striving to be better and overcoming challenges.

“To members of the police force, let us start the new year by vowing to conduct our duties sincerely and do away with any negative elements, ” he said in his New Year’s address.

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NST Leader: Be an optimist

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

For Malaysia, it is the start of a renewed vision for a developed nation by 2030

2020 has a nice ring to it. Like the Roaring Twenties, which refers to the decade of the 1920s in Western society and culture. A period of economic prosperity “with a distinctive cultural edge” experienced in the United States and Europe.

Likewise, 2020 is the beginning of the third decade in the 21st century. It’s also the year Malaysia was expected to be a developed nation. Unfortunately, circumstances dictated otherwise. But despair not, the timeline has been brought forward to 2030, a shared prosperity vision for the country as espoused by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

What do Malaysians want from this decade? Much has happened in the last decade, not only in Malaysia, but all over the globe. From the ongoing United States-China trade war, rising Islamophobia and Brexit, to geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, global warming and climate change — some naysayers have described the period 2010-2019 as frantic.

This Leader, however, shall not dwell on what has happened; over the last few weeks, this newspaper has carried numerous articles under the 2019 Recap/2020 Preview. The new year must be looked upon as a year of new beginnings — the start of the digital and smart era — “a new chapter in human history”.

Globally, economic and political changes will continue in 2020; those in the corporate sector have foretold that success and motivation will become the story of society. There will be changes in order, power and structure.

For Malaysia, it is the start of a renewed vision for a developed nation by 2030. Work must start now in order for the vision to materialise. The government must set the stage and implement policies that will propel us forward. From creating new jobs to boosting productivity, 2020 will be the game changer.

It is enlightening to know that the government is committed in ensuring good governance, the rule of law, with a firm belief in personal freedom and responsibility — all these augur well for us. But what will happen in the first few months of the year will be crucial — they will define Malaysia’s path to the future. We must be ready to face the challenges in top form.

Havig said that, this new year calls for Malaysians to work at being an optimist. There has been a lot of negative vibes in 2019, no more. Negativity spreads like wildfire, it will consume us if we are not careful. Stop the rumour mongering and brickbats, deal in facts and figures. Don’t compare ourselves negatively with other countries — we are Malaysians and we should continually try to better ourselves. Don’t look back and groan, instead focus on the good, accept our failures and learn from them.

The Internet has certainly changed our landscape; more changes are expected over the next few years. In an increasingly networked global economy, everyone seems to have an opinion on everything, but let that not influence us.

“The people who unite without prejudice in celebrating the diversity of races and cultures are fundamental to the unity of the country,” said Dr Mahathir. And so it is — let 2020 be the year where we grow and unite as one people.

A happy and prosperous 2020 to all.

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NST Leader: Be productive

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019
For Malaysians, work has become a catchword, almost a shibboleth — a principle or custom that has shaped our lives. NSTP/MUSTAFFA KAMAL.

WORK, work, work. This appears to be the mantra for many people around the globe. For Malaysians, work has become a catchword, almost a shibboleth — a principle or custom that has shaped our lives.

We have to work to survive; if we don’t, we have no money and we have nothing to eat. At least that’s what work means to most of us.

It is no wonder that fast-paced Kuala Lumpur has been lumped together with Singapore and Tokyo where workers in these three cities spend longer hours in the office and take fewer holidays. A report in This Week In Asia says workers in KL, Singapore and Tokyo “have some of the worst work-life balance in the world”.

It says the “workaholic culture” is in “stark contrast” to cities in northern Europe, where “vacations are long and the average working week is shorter”.

The report quotes a study of 40 cities by an office access control systems provider. Tokyo took top spot, followed by Singapore, United States’ capital Washington, DC and Kuala Lumpur, which, it says, has the longest average working week at 46 hours. Imagine that! Do we ever have some downtime?

This Leader, in April, had called on Malaysians to “set the equation right” — strive to be productive, as well as make living a priority. “A higher output and outcome, but without compromising the ideals. Revisit the work smart concept to achieve a work-life balance.” Has anything changed since?

Sadly, no. If anything, we seem to be working harder. Work-life balance seems an illusion in today’s dog-eat-dog world. We are one day away from the third decade of the 21st century; something must change, something’s got to give. Former US First Lady Michelle Obama says “we need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list”. Yes, this we must.

Working long hours puts us at risk of health issues such as heart disease and diabetes. Let’s pause and ponder. We need a balance. Consider the benefits — improved productivity, reduction in employee turnover, lower medical costs and a better reputation for the company.

Companies should consider allowing employees to take short breaks in between. A 2011 study by the University of Illinois highlighted the importance of taking breaks. It said “prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance”, and that it was difficult for our brains to focus on one thing for long periods. Once we’ve reached our optimum, a short interruption or “break is what we need to stay on track”.

The idea of work-life balance actually goes back to the 4th century B.C, during the days of Greek philosopher Aristotle, who believed that “maintaining balance and not going into the extreme” was the key to happiness. He also believed that in life, change was “necessary and natural”.

There you have it. Today’s advanced technology has made our tasks easier; we do not need an Einstein to help us formulate a work-life balance. We can do this, let’s make this our resolution for 2020.

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Renew resolve, hope and confidence to build a New Malaysia in 2020

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019
(Filepic) DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang said it was a sign of failure of the “spring of hope” in Malaysia. -NSTP/MUHD ZAABA ZAKERIA.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians were urged to persevere in working towards the “spring of hope”, renewing their resolve, hope and confidence to build a New Malaysia in 2020 despite setbacks and vicissitudes.

DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang said it was a sign of failure of the “spring of hope” in Malaysia, in that after 19 months of the Pakatan Harapan government – the first time that Malaysia gave the world hope that a peaceful and democratic transition of power can bring about reform and change at a time when democracy was in retreat in the world for over a decade – seemed to have dissolved in such an ignominious fashion in very discordant and divisive dispute over the Jawi issue.

The Seri Iskandar MP said since the historic outcome of May 9 in 2018, lies, fake news and hate speech by irresponsible and extremist elements resorting to politics of race, religion as well as aided by the Internet and the social media platforms had conspired to create a false situation where every ethnic group and religion felt that it was facing an existential threat.

“As a result, the Vision 2020 of a fully developed Malaysia which is a united nation, with a confident Malaysian society, infused by strong moral and ethical values, living in a society that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, caring, economically just and equitable, progressive and prosperous, and in full possession of an economy that is competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient” is not within reach on the horizon.

“We seem to have lost confidence in ourselves as a plural society, where our diversity should be our asset, fearful and suspicious of each other and unable to leverage on the best values and qualities of the Islamic, Chinese, Indian and Western civilisations which meet in confluence in Malaysia to build a great Malaysian nation.

“The Malays feel threatened, the Chinese feel threatened, the Indians feel threatened, Islam is under threat and the non-Islamic religions are under threat,” he said in a statement in conjunction with 2020 New Year.

Lim said every community was made to believe that its ethnicity, culture and religion was facing an existential threat.

“But who is creating all these threats to all ethnic and religious groups in the country? We must not mortgage our future and that of our children and children’s children to the extremists from whatever quarter.

“We must promote the moderate Malaysian centre to build a confident Malaysian society, infused by strong moral and ethical values, living in a society that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, caring, economically just and equitable, progressive and prosperous, and in full possession of an economy that is competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient.”

He also called upon Malaysians to ensure success of Pakatan Harapan government in fulfilling the Buku Harapan promises through resetting nation-building policies for Malaysia by returning to the founding principles of the Malaysian Constitution.

This was done by ensuring unity, justice, freedom, excellence and integrity in Malaysia, where there is separation of powers, the rule of law, public integrity and respect for human rights, he said.

Lim also called upon Malaysians to allow PH to fulfil the five pillar-promises towards the building of a New Malaysia:

- Reduce people’s burden;

- Institutional and political reforms;

- Spur sustainable and equitable economic growth;

- Return Sabah and Sarawak to the status accorded in Malaysia Agreement 1963; and

- Create a Malaysia that is inclusive, moderate and respected globally.

“Malaysia will not achieve Vision 2020 in 2020. But it will be a make-or-break year for the Pakatan Harapan Government in Putrajaya to reset nation-building policies for Malaysia,” he said.

By New Straits Times.

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Have a realistic outlook

Thursday, December 12th, 2019
Pix for illustration purposes only.

AS we welcome 2020, we should have a realistic outlook of life. Life is not a bed of roses. Time and again, we have been reminded that to achieve anything in life, one must struggle hard.

A farmer will not see his harvest if he fails to toil the land. No flower will bloom if it is not provided with water and sunlight. It goes without saying that our children will not be able to make the grade if they are lazy and refuse to study.

We should not envy the wealthy who have amassed millions because they have toiled during their youth. It is only through hard work and perseverance that they are where they are today.

How do you think the mamak restaurants survive in every Penang street corner if not for their effort and hard work to survive in a highly competitive environment?

The road ahead is long. We should not be contented with hiding in our comfort zone. We cannot rest on our laurels. The world does not owe us anything. We need to strive hard if we plan to accomplish what we set out to do. No other Asian nation but Japan can claim to be the first to defeat a European nation.

Japan defeated Russian superior maritime power in the 19th century. Who else if not the Japanese who bombed Pearl Harbour in 1941 that destroyed the United States’ air superiority.

If you have used Japanese cars and electronic products, which are used in almost every household, you will wonder how, in a short span of time, Japan became so successful.

Look at Hiroshima today. It was bombed by the Allied forces in 1945 and thousands died. Many of those who survived suffer to this day. The Japanese did not look back. What was destroyed, they rebuilt.

Today Hiroshima can be proud of its superb infrastructure and beautiful landscape.

For 2020, let’s get motivated and keep working.


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Less conflicts, more harmony in Year of the Boar – feng shui master

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Jeanette (middle) answering questions from the participants of the workshop.

KOTA KINABALU: The Year of the Boar which starts on February 5 is set to be a well-balanced year as there will be less conflicts and more harmony.

Feng Shui consultant based here, Jeanette See said that based on the chart for the year, things would look up economically too.

“Last year, the Year of the Dog was the first of the five-year recovery period so things will be looking up in the Year of the Boar,” she said, adding that the feng shui chart also showed that there would be less international conflicts.

“We can look forward to a better year but the beginning part of the year will be a bit slow,” said Jeanette when met at her annual feng shui update workshop here recently.

She also pointed out that there are opportunities for wealth creation but efforts must be done to activate the opportunities.

“But remember, feng shui is only 30 per cent of the effort, the rest is up to you to work hard and ensure that the opportunities do not slip past your fingers. This means that after implementing the cures for afflictions and enhancers for the auspicious stars, you don’t just sit down and wait for good fortune to come to you.

“You must work hard and then reap the harvest of your good work,” she told the participants of the workshop.

She also disclosed that the younger generation would be leading in the generation of wealth in the Year of the Boar as they would be filled with ideas.

On the lucky colours for the Year of the Boar, Jeanette, who studies under Grandmaster feng shui consultant Lillian Too, said that all colours are good for the year but in order to enhance the element needed for you to succeed you should wear the colours that symbolise the element.

“For instance if you want more authority then have to activate the earth element and colours to wear will be yellow and light brown. Those who want to be creative should enhance the wood element and the colours are light green, dark green and dark brown.

“Fire is for wealth so wear more red pink and orange for wealth,” she said, adding that the colours for the metal element which enhances support are gold, silver and white. Wearing light blue, dark blue, grey and black will enhance the water element to help overcome competition,” she said.

Wearing the colour can be in the form of clothes, underwear, handbag, shoes and even the frames of spectacles, she added.

“I advise those who want to have a better year to apply the feng shui cures and enhancers before February 4, the eve of the lunar new year. Those who have any questions or are in need of assistance in the matter can come and see me at my shop, WOFS Sabah in Karamunsing Capital,” said Jeanette.

by Nancy Lai.

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2018: End of an era

Monday, December 31st, 2018

WHAT a year it’s been, for Malaysians and the world! Truly a historic landmark 2018. And the new year ­promises to be even more eventful.

Three things catapulted Malaysia to the top of the global news. First, the continuing drama of 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd). With one revelation after another, the country had the awful reputation of having the greatest conmen perpetrating the greatest financial fraud of recent times.

Second, against all odds, the 61-year-old Umno-led regime was overthrown and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad re-emerged as prime minister through a tumultuous general election. Within weeks, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was pardoned and released. He then went on to win a Parliamentary seat in a by-election.

Third, Malaysia was held up as a rare example of how citizens outraged by corrupt leaders in an authoritarian state could effect change through the vote without bloodshed.

History shows that after an uprising or overthrow of a dictator, there often is chaos, violence, a reinstatement of the old regime or a long period of anarchy as warlords or competing ideologies fight it out.

Malaysia’s political transition has in comparison been smooth and non-violent, which holds a democratic promise for our region. The prosecution of the old corrupt leaders and other crooks has proceeded with vigour. The malpractices in the Finance Ministry and agencies like Tabung Haji and Felda are being exposed. These have been among the notable achievements.

But the general euphoria from the May 9 general election has dissipated as the realities of the old society are increasingly clashing with the promises of a new Malaysia. This shows that May 9 was only the tip; the rest of the iceberg has to be reshaped in terms of new policies and democratic practices, if we are to achieve long-lasting and positive structural change.

Two other major challenges have emerged as the year ends. First, Pakatan Harapan has to work through the differences between their parties and leaders, as well as within each component party. This is extremely complex as it involves strong personalities and each party’s ideas on policy reform.

Second, there are clear signs of a weakening domestic economy, in line with unfavourable global trends.

These include a sharp fall in oil prices (which disturbs the government budget projections), the low prices of palm oil and rubber (causing more hardship for smallholders), the rising cost of living, and uncertainties regarding the ringgit, capital flows and the stock market.

The work is thus cut out for the Harapan government in the new year. It will need to deal with multiple immediate problems, even crises, while simultaneously moving forward with righting the wrongs of the old regime, and coming up with new policy measures to build a new society.

We the citizens can only hope and pray that the seeds planted in 2018 will grow into green healthy plants in 2019.

At global level, 2018 was also a landmark year, but not for the better.

United States President Donald Trump plunged ahead with his “America First” strategy. Hopes that the weight of high office would move him more to the centre were dashed when he upgraded ultra-right persons to his inner circle, while a string of less ultra officials left one by one.

By year end, Trump was in a position to do as he pleases, and what seems to give him most pleasure is to disrupt the US and global establishment.

He got the US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy there. He pulled the US out from the nuclear deal with Iran. He announced the pulling out of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

Trump raised the stakes in the US trade war with China. The 90-day truce declared by the presidents of the two countries in early December may be a temporary lull. But the Trump team has decided on much more than just a fight to reduce the US trade deficit with China.

It wants to stop China’s progress as a leading global industrial power. China may agree to increase imports from the US, but nobody expects China to back away from its plan to be a world economic leader.

But Trump’s fight goes beyond China. He has slapped higher duties on some products from Europe, Canada, Japan, Mexico and others and promises more to come.

His unilateral measures undermine the once iron-clad rules of the World Trade Organization, which he openly threatens to paralyse.

But these are not simply the acts of a crazy US president, which can be overturned by a saner successor.

It became clearer in 2018 that the global liberal order, established in 1945 to prevent another world war and to stabilise the global economy, is coming under serious attack.

We would expect this attack to come from the people in less developed countries that have been left out of the general progress. But in fact, many of those who are against the global liberal order are citizens of developed nations.

Many of those in the developed world have borne the brunt of the ill effects of globalisation, as factories and jobs moved to low-wage countries and as immigrants moved in, especially in the European Union, but also the US.

The inequalities of globalisation, with the bottom half increasingly angry while the top 20% enjoy life as the global elite, formed the basis of rebellion against the free flow of goods, capital and labour.

It was the basis for Trump’s electoral support, and for Brexit, the riots in Paris, the loss of support for German leader Angela Merkel and the upsurge of so-called “populism”.

This is why 2018 will probably be seen as a landmark year, for the growth of the rebellion within the West against the global order its post-World War II leaders created. What 2019 will bring on this front remains to be seen.

By Martin Khor
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The new year, the new me

Saturday, January 6th, 2018
The concept of Malaysian rubber time is legendary. Being ‘on the way’ or ‘stuck in traffic’ when we should have arrived at an appointed time and place is not one of our most endearing qualities. FILE PIC

THE new year is almost a week old today. So, it is safe to say that most resolutions so fervently made under the fireworks last Sunday have gone out the proverbial window by now.

I heard some pretty outrageous resolutions being made. “I won’t talk for a year”, or “I won’t go shopping”, with my favourite being “I won’t use social media until the end of 2018” — posted online of course. Albeit, to imagine and, in some cases, a welcome effort, it is hardly surprising that these rash promises haven’t survived the first week of the new year.

More traditional resolves, like healthy eating, gym visits and quitting cigarettes, will hopefully outlive the first month. But, we all know that they, too, will eventually go the way most resolutions go.

It would seem that all these attempts at betterment have one thing in common. Well, two actually, if you count their obvious transiency. They are all centred on ourselves. We want to become more healthy, more happy, more prosperous, more zen. Maybe, herein lays the cause of our failure to uphold our lofty goals. What if, instead of attempting to better our own lives, we pledged to better everyone else’s life? Which, come to think of it, would result in improving our own lives by proxy.

No need for big announcements and ridiculous declarations. We only need to promise ourselves to try and be more considerate towards others. It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

Let’s look at Japan, one of the world’s most courteous societies, for inspiration. The Japanese believe, and teach their children that, only a polite society can prosper. But, what does politeness really mean? Bowing your head and acting all humble and demure? Not exactly.

The Oxford Dictionary defines politeness as “having or showing behaviour that is respectful or considerate of other people”. A considerate society will readily embrace an inconvenience to the majority to help a few.

Like Malaysian pavements, Japanese sidewalks feature tactile paving as a navigation aid to visually impaired pedestrians. While these grooves can be a nuisance to many; prams, trolleys, bicycles to name but some, and expensive for town councils to install and maintain, they serve a few, more vulnerable members of society.

Unlike in Japan, however, parked bikes, plastic road dividers or generic refuse often obstruct tactile paving in Malaysia.

Enter a restaurant in Malaysia. Where do women place their handbags, and men leave their man-bags? Either on the floor, so very unhygienic, or on a free seat, so very inconsiderate. In a Japanese eatery, you find baskets provided for your shopping bag or personal effects.

The art of being caring consists not only in providing help for the ones in need of assistance. It also means anticipating possible rude behaviour and affording one the opportunity not to act on it. Did you know that the word polite originates in the Latin politus, to smoothen, to polish? Making life smoother for another, a stranger, makes life easier for everyone. As in queuing for a service or waiting for the elevator, the light-rail transit, a taxicab.

Speaking of cabs, why do Japanese cabs feature white seat covers? And, why do the drivers wear white gloves? To demonstrate their effort to provide a clean environment for their passengers. In Malaysia, we take our shoes off before we enter someone’s home in the same attempt to demonstrate our respect for our host’s clean home, but there are some who don’t show much consideration for public clean spaces when they dispose of their trash right out of their car windows.

I don’t know if Japanese people are very punctual, but the concept of Malaysian rubber time is legendary. Being “on the way” or “stuck in traffic” when we should have arrived at an appointed time and place is not one of our most endearing qualities. It is neither considerate nor polite; it is certainly not caring for the convenience of others.

Instead of pledging not to shop this year, which in turn offers us a great excuse not to go to the gym, for lack of proper attire, we could try and be more aware of the need of others. We could try and smooth other people’s lives, help others avoid unpleasant surprises.


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Critical trends to watch in 2018

Monday, January 1st, 2018

ANOTHER new year has dawned, and it’s time to preview what to expect in 2018.

The most obvious topic would be to anticipate how Donald Trump, the most unorthodox of American presidents, would continue to upset the world order. But more about that later.

Just as importantly as politics, we are now in the midst of several social trends that have important long-term effects. Some are on the verge of reaching a tipping point, where a trend becomes a critical and sometimes irreversible event. We may see some of that in 2018.

Who would have expected that 2017 would end with such an upsurge of the movement against sexual harassment? Like a tidal wave it swept away Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, film star Kevin Spacey, TV interviewer Charlie Rose and many other icons.

Another issue that has been brewing is the rapid growth and effects of digital technology. Those enjoying the benefits of the smartphone, Google search, WhatsApp, Uber and online shopping usually sing its praises.

But the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It has many benefits but also serious downsides, and the debate is now picking up.

First, automation with artificial intelligence can make many jobs redundant. Uber displaced taxis, and will soon displace its drivers with driver-less cars.

The global alarm over job losses is resonating at home. An International Labour Organisation report warning that 54% of jobs in Malaysia are at high risk of being displaced by technology in the next 20 years was cited by Khazanah Research Institute in its own study last April. TalentCorp has estimated that 43% of jobs in Malaysia may potentially be lost to automation.

Second is a recent chorus of warnings, including by some of digital technology’s creators, that addiction and frequent use of the smartphone are making humans less intelligent and socially deficient.

Third is the loss of privacy as personal data collected from Internet use is collected by tech companies like Facebook and sold to advertisers.

Fourth is the threat of cyber-fraud and cyber-warfare as data from hacked devices can be used to empty bank accounts, steal information from governments and companies, and as part of warfare.

Fifth is the worsening of inequality and the digital divide as those countries and people with little access to digital devices, including small businesses, will be left behind.

The usual response to these points is that people and governments must be prepared to get the benefits and counter the ill effects. For example, laid-off workers should be retrained, companies taught to use e-commerce, and a tax can be imposed on using robots (an idea supported by Bill Gates).

But the technologies are moving ahead faster than policy makers’ capacity to keep track and come up with policies and regulations. Expect this debate to move from conference rooms to the public arena in 2018, as more technologies are introduced and more effects become evident.

On climate change, scientists frustrated by the lack of action will continue to raise the alarm that the situation is far worse than earlier predicted.

In fact, the tipping point may well have been reached already. On Dec 20, the United Nations stated that the Arctic has been forever changed by the rapidly warming climate. The Arctic continued in 2017 to warm at double the rate of the global temperature increase, resulting in the loss of sea ice.

These past three years have been the warmest on record. The target of limiting temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, a benchmark just two years ago by the UN’s top scientific climate panel and the Paris Agreement, seems outdated and a new target of 1.5°C could be adopted in 2018.

But it is much harder to meet this new target. Will political leaders and the public rise to the challenge, or will 2018 see a wider disconnect between what needs to be done, and a lack of the needed urgent response?

Another issue reaching tipping point is the continuing rise of antibiotic resistance, with bacteria mutating to render antibiotics increasingly ineffective to treat many diseases. There are global and national efforts to contain this crisis, but not enough, and there is little time left to act before millions die from once-treatable ailments.

Finally, back to Trump. His style and policies have been disruptive to the domestic and global order, but last year he seemed unconcerned about criticisms on this. So we can expect more of the same or even more shocking measures in 2018.

by Martin Khor
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