Archive for December, 2013

Businesses to set thermostats higher to cope with electricity tariff hike

Monday, December 30th, 2013

PETALING JAYA: It’s going to get warmer indoors in 2014 as shopping malls, tall buildings and offices raise temperatures to cut electricity costs.

The Malaysian Association for Shopping and Highrise Complex Management is advising its 400-odd members nationwide to set their air-conditioning at 23°C or 24°C.

Air conditioning, according to the association, takes up the largest share of energy – about 65% – in commercial buildings.

Its president H.C. Chan said most malls in the country are now too cold, with temperatures ranging from 21°C to 23°C.

“We can and should move up a few degrees especially now with mounting energy costs. The reality is that we need to be energy efficient and eliminate waste because electricity is our single, largest expenditure,” he added.

Chan noted that the government in countries like China and Singapore issues guidelines to regulate temperatures in commercial buildings at between 24°C and 26°C.

Building Management Association of Malaysia and International Real Estate Federation of Malaysia committee member Richard Chan said air-conditioning accounts for the bulk of the electricity bill in malls and high-rises.

“The bigger malls or complexes pay anything from RM2mil to RM3mil monthly on air-conditioning alone,” he said.

He said raising the temperature setting of the air conditioner “even by one degree” could significantly reduce bills.

Some buildings feel warm because of poor ventilation, and Chan proposed the management look into improving air circulation. Buildings with glass domes or glass panelling let in more heat, making it more expensive to maintain a comfortable ambience.

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Power hike is triple whammy, say employers

Monday, December 30th, 2013

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Employers Federation is appealing to the Government to defer the implementation of the electricity tariff increase.

MEF executive director Sham-suddin Bardan said the timing of the hike would adversely affect big and small businesses as employers are already facing higher operational costs with the minimum wage ruling effective next month and the retirement age extension to 60, which was implemented last July.

“These increases in the cost of doing business are on top of the additional 1% rise in EPF employer contributions for employees which came into effect last year.

“The bottom line of employers whose financial year is from April this year to March 2014 will also be negatively impacted because they did not budget for the extra electricity costs from January to March next year.

“The 2013 financial year profit and loss would be affected as the employer is not able to pass on the increase in electricity costs to consumers with prices of products already agreed on,” he said, adding that electricity accounts for 6% to 15% of small and medium enterprise business costs.

With the rise in electricity tariff, SME profits are expected to drop.

A chain reaction in overall price increases could result from the tariff hike, he warned.

MEF is asking for rebates to be offered to companies affected by the hike and for the current off-peak tariff rates to be reduced so that businesses can adjust their operation hours.

by Christina Chin.

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Reuse, recycle and buy in bulk to keep stationery costs down in 2014

Monday, December 30th, 2013

PETALING JAYA: Reuse, recycle and buy in bulk – these are the tips The Star Online has received when it comes to handling the mountain of expenses parents of school-going children are facing as the new school year draws closer along with a spike in the price of basic stationery items, such as pens, pencils and paper just two days away.

“There are many things that can be reused from the previous years. Go look and see what can be salvaged to cut down costs,” said Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman, Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim.

Noor Azimah gave an example of what she does at her home with her children.

We reuse exercise books from the previous year by reusing their good pages as rough paper. It is all about being creative in how you reuse and recycle items instead of throwing them at the end of the year – this is especially true when it comes to stationery. You don’t have to buy a new box of colour pencils or art blocks every year,” she said.

Stationery prices are expected to go up by 20% to 30% within the first quarter of next year, re necessary as other costs were already on the rise, adding that the increase, which is likely to kick in March is necessary to help offset rising costs faced by the industry.

Tan had pointed out that about 90% of stationery and books sold here are imported from China, he said, adding that since fuel prices went up recently, freight fee had also gone up by about 30%.

On the proposed hike itself, Noor Azimah criticised it, calling on stationery sellers to also consider spurring customer goodwill by putting lower costs on goods.

“I think the rising price of stationery is bad, everyone seems to be passing on the added costs to consumers, it is the most convenient thing to do. But costs can be managed to a minimum. How about taking a cut in your profits instead of maximising them. Customer goodwill is important too,” said Noor Azimah.

by Tan Yi Liang.

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How 2014 may be as ‘cheap’ as 2013.

Monday, December 30th, 2013

BUT B.B. KING SAYS: “And things are going up and up and up and up, And my check remains the same, That’s why I got the blues”

“FOLKS are bracing for a tough year,” says the friend in a white creaseless long sleeved shirt sitting across the small brown desk in an equally tiny but well-lit room. Outside, the strains of Joy to the World fill the spaces.

“Prices will go up”, says he with the square face, bulbous nose and gentle eyes, as he points to the low ceiling to make sure I understand. The song is reaching its crescendo.

I nod, sympathetic. But I do no more. I do not turn my thoughts into spoken words, lest I add to his worries and confusion.

He is not the first to tell me of such foreboding. Many are those who have shared with me their fears for the year ahead. Whether they will have enough money to sustain their family. Whether they will be able to make payment for this bill and that. Whether they can afford to keep their offspring in the nurturing and expensive arms of university.

Anxiety very much flows in their veins and shows in their eyes; they are wrapped in a shadow of gloom as if waiting expectantly for a funeral.

The worst pessimists among them even speak of a manner of “starvation”, eating less because they “cannot afford to buy enough food every day”.

It is a strange thing to say, and to hear. We are not eating as nutritiously as we should, and it would take an ignorant soul to argue against this truth. But, starvation? In this land?

According to A History of The Modern World, during the Great Depression in America, “millions were reduced to living and supporting their families on the pittances of charity, doles, or relief”.

“City people, struck by depression in industry, cut down their expenditures for food.”

Reforms must go on despite hikes

Monday, December 30th, 2013

PRICES GOING UP: Government is also taking steps to soften the blow on the people.

ON average, there are 3,560 vehicles being registered in the country daily. Of these, about 1,000 vehicles are registered daily in Kuala Lumpur alone.

Considering that 7.2 million people live in the Klang Valley (a.k.a. Greater KL), that means the demand for cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, vans and other vehicles is the highest in the country.

With rising population, there will be greater pressures for transportation needs as well as other basic needs, such as fuel, food, shelter, jobs and higher incomes.

With people already coping with the rising cost of living (ranging from food items to school bus fares and even stationery), the prospect of rate increases by toll operators in the Klang Valley will inevitably hit their pockets as well.

What is unfortunate is that these price increases or possible increases are happening almost at the same time, around the New Year.

Economists forecast that inflation, which hovered at 2.9 per cent last month, could surpass the three per cent mark next month, with electricity tariff hikes taking effect, too.

This is not to mention other price increases directly or indirectly, attributed to dearer sugar, petrol and diesel.

We agree that the days of cheap, subsidised energy (fuel and electricity) are over. Subsidies distort the market economy and the true picture of energy pricing.

And, because the current subsidies for petrol and diesel are “blanket” subsidies, they are skewed towards higher income households. More often than not, subsidies benefit the rich more than the poor.

Gen Y demand more balance

Monday, December 30th, 2013

CORPORATE training specialist Silvis director and lead facilitator Nooreen Preusser said work-life balance is a serious area of concern in this country.

“The term ‘work-life balance’ started in the late 70s and early 80s. Work became separated from home and family with the advent of the industrialised market economies.

“Then, it was mainly men leaving the home to find gainful employment. As responsibilities in both work and home areas changed along with a shift in societal patterns, such as an increase in the number of women in the workplace and an increase in single parent households, there was more interest in the interdependency of work and family. This has been further expanded to work-life balance as working people altered their expectations of their quality of life outside of work.

“As easy as it would be to have an ideal work-life balance, the appropriate ratio is very much up to the individual. We have to consider that work — employment, career, and life — family, leisure, health and spiritual pursuits, occupy the main two domains of the life of a working person.

“Bringing the two domains into balance is a complex juggling act that is unique to each person. Each domain is characterised by particular behaviours, expectations and culture. Obviously, these will be different from person to person. Everyone decides which behaviour pattern, thinking pattern and emotional range is appropriate for each domain.”

She believes that there’s a realisation today, especially among Gen Y workers (aged 18 to 29), that healthy boundaries between work and other life pursuits and interests, will allow for better harmony.

The Islamic economic model

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

ISLAMIC banking has been presented as an alternative to conventional banking on the basis that it does not charge interest. Interest is perceived and understood by the public to akin to riba, having been indoctrinated as such by conventional economists.

However, modern jurists suggest that riba does not merely refer to interest but encapsulates elements of oppression, uncertainty and exploitation. This suggests that Islamic banking activities (including lending) is allowed by Syariah provided riba elements are not present in financing transactions.

Islamic and conventional banking exist side by side within the same economic framework. Thus, both systems are subject to the same variables, such as the movement and rates of interest applicable to both types of operations. Despite that, each system is distinguishable in terms of basic structure and philosophy.

The Islamic economic system stipulates profit and loss sharing structures where sharing of risk is a primary basis of Islamic financing. Financiers who undertake the role of capital provider have to internalise the values of an entrepreneur to measure, assess and appreciate the experiences of risk sharing.

Profit and loss sharing structures according to Islamic principles are best exemplified by the practices (sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), who undertook business enterprise with capital provided by Siti Khadijah. The decision by Siti Khadijah to entrust her business ventures with Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) as her agent illustrate a culture of taking cognisance of a person’s character, integrity, goodwill, reputation and skill as a basis for investment.

It is a departure from the conventional banking philosophy of evaluating projects based primarily on the weight of the collateral provided and the credit worthiness of the partners in the business ventures.

The conventional finance framework provide opportunities for a certain class of people who have the means to support their credit requirement from the bank. Such a system could not cater to an aspiring entrepreneur who fulfills the aspects of good character, goodwill, reputation, innovative and skillful but lack capital to undertake a business venture.

To stay true to the Islamic economic framework, there could have to be a paradigm shift from a debt-based economy to one that promotes risk-sharing by way of jointly undertaking business ventures and partnerships. Risk-sharing is not merely a commercial activity, it is also an act of worship, a means of perfecting our faith as we learn to put our trust in Allah for all our undertakings that we decide to embark upon.

by Fakihah Azahari

Parents rush to get kids ready for new school year.

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: As the 2014 new school term nears, parents and children are shopping for uniforms, schoolbags, shoes and stationery.

Shopping complexes and premises selling school paraphernalia were packed with parents as they dragged their  children to equip them for the new school term which starts on Jan 2. Top on the list of parents were  school shoes, uniforms, bags, stationery and  work and text books.

Rachelle Ong, 32, mother of 6-year-old Charmaine Ng, said she made early preparation  to buy all school essentials to ensure her daughter had all the necessary school items.

She said her daughter was excited and enjoyed the activities during the orientation programme at the school yesterday. However, she was concerned about her girl’s adaptability  to the primary school.

“Although she attended pre-school before,  I am worried if she cannot adapt to a new education environment,” she said, adding  her daughter would be joining other Year One pupils at SJK (Cina) Mun Yee, here.

Muhammad Syafiq Jamaluddin, 12, who is entering Form One, said he  only bought necessary items like uniforms and pants as he was waiting  to enter boarding school.

In Kuching, Dayang Zarina Awang, 37, said every year, she would return to India Street here to shop for school uniforms, shoes, stationery and  bags as it was cheaper compared with shopping complexes.

“The cost of living now is very high and shopping in India Street is still a good idea for me as I can save and buy a lot of items here,” she said,   with her  son yesterday.

‘Increase cost of living allowance’

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has proposed a RM3,000 per month cost of living allowance (Cola) for all 10 million private sector workers in view of the escalating cost of living.

Its president, Khalid Atan, said it was essential for the government to implement the increase in  Cola as  almost five million private sector workers were  earning  RM30 above the poverty line of RM870 per month.

At present, the minimum wage for workers in peninsular Malaysia is RM900 and  RM800 for workers  in Sabah and Sarawak.

Khalid said MTUC was working on strategies to help ease the workers’ burden.

In the interim period, he suggested that companies help their workers by providing subsidised food and lodging.

In turn, he said the workers would help the companies to increase its productivity, thus making it a win-win situation.

Let unity be the new year theme

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

NATIONAL RESOLUTION: Malaysians must follow Rukun Negara’s tenet of creating a just society.

LET me first wish Merry Christmas to my Christian friends. Soon, we will be ushering in the new year, 2014, and bidding farewell to 2013, a year full of action after we went through the 13th General Election and the incursion in  Lahad Datu, Sabah.

Many of us are preparing new year resolutions, trying to catch up with lost grounds from the many promises that we could not deliver. For many of us, we may want to shed a few kilos around our waist and consume less sugar. As always, promises remain promises.

Malaysians may have good times, yet, often grumble too much about the shortcomings of their country. Not the least, there are also those who are too eager to belittle the country, as if the country is going down the drain.

Little we do realise that thousands of foreigners are content in eking out a living in this country, that we have the ability to drive around in view of lower energy prices compared with our neighbours’ (thanks to the energy subsidy policy) and in our ability to access modern education as well as health facilities at highly subsidised prices of RM1 for a trip to government hospitals. So, we see Malaysians making fun of our national anthem and leaders. Recently, a Malaysian was arrested for making fun of the flag of a neighbouring country.

Thank God, we do not have tsunamis, earthquakes, and typhoons, which occur regularly in neighbouring countries, bringing down along their paths schools, houses and lives. Yet, the victims are humbled by these calamities and remain steadfast.

Because we do not have these calamities of nature, life may seem dull. So, some of us tend to create social calamities. In 1969, we had racial tension in the aftermath of a general election that gave free rein to political expression. Then, we had demonstrations over general election processes that the courts found little basis to agree. Time and resources were wasted when we could have used them for gardening, helping out in old folks’ homes or volunteering at the zoo.