NST Leader: A dire situation

September 26th, 2020
Today is the Sabah polls and medical experts fear that the present stable Covid-19 situation may not be for long if extra precautionary measures are not in place. - NSTP/ASWADI ALIASToday is the Sabah polls and medical experts fear that the present stable Covid-19 situation may not be for long if extra precautionary measures are not in place. – NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS

WHEN Venice was hit by the bubonic plague in the mid-14th century, the Venetian government had sequestered those infected and medical teams on two islands — Lazzaretto Vecchio and Lazzaretto Nuovo.

The Venetian government then was the first in the Mediterranean region to implement large-scale quarantine and information gathering to monitor and fight the disease.There, the people were quarantined before being allowed back into the city. It was Venice’s public health response to the plague.

This particular historical information is especially relevant to the Covid19 pandemic, where many countries have implemented quarantine, lockdown and Movement Control Order (MCO) measures to contain the contagion.

Malaysia has done considerably well in managing Covid-19. Although there are active cases, the situation is stable. But today is the Sabah polls and medical experts fear that this stable situation may not be for long if extra precautionary measures are not in place.

And the measures include mandatory testing and quarantine for those returning here from Sabah. Why? To prevent Covid-19 from spreading, naturally. Quarantines have been particularly effective in controlling viruses and infectious diseases.

History is replete with such narratives. Besides the Venice experience, other notable quarantines include the sequestering of East Samoa during the 1918 flu pandemic and the 1972 Yugoslav smallpox outbreak.

The Health Ministry said earlier this month that it would study if there was a need to impose the mandatory quarantine.

The order may be necessary now with cases in Sabah increasing and five areas declared red zones. Up to yesterday, Malaysia recorded 10,687 cases, 858 of which are active and 111 new cases. And 97 of the new infections are from Sabah.

Let’s recall — in April, our Covid-19 R-naught (R0) was 1. In July and last month, the R0 was 0.72. But now it is 1.34. The infectivity rate is worrying, as affirmed by Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He also said the number of infections in Sabah and Kedah had greatly impacted the national figure. For the uninitiated, if the R0 is “above1even by a fraction”, it could trigger a damaging second Covid-19 wave.

Based on the damning figures, the government may want to consider mandatory quarantine. Universiti Malaya epidemiologist Professor Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud says the increased population movements caused by election campaigns and infections in Sabah’s migrant and local population have contributed to the current situation.

He proposes a 14-day quarantine upon arrival as cases, which originated from Sabah, have already been reported.

He also says aggressive active case detection is needed in Sabah’s east-coast districts as most of the infections were from there.

He adds that a Targeted Enhanced MCO may be required for some districts.

This Leader agrees. Prevention is always better than cure, cliched, yes, but necessary. What better alternative than compulsory quarantine for those who have been exposed to the disease?

It’s a matter of national security; the lives of millions of Malaysians will be at stake if precautionary measures are not taken.

Why take the risk? It’s do or die.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/leaders/2020/09/627307/nst-leader-dire-situation

Covid-19 accelerates digitalisation adoption rate in Malaysia

September 26th, 2020
By ensuring every member of our community has meaningful Internet connectivity, we can maximise our participation in the digital economy. - File pic, for illustration purposes onlyBy ensuring every member of our community has meaningful Internet connectivity, we can maximise our participation in the digital economy. – File pic, for illustration purposes only

WE have entered the next era of technology: the digital age. With the pace at which technology is rapidly evolving, it continues to revolutionise how we live and how businesses operate.

The full benefits that we can potentially enjoy, however, are yet to be fully leveraged. Regardless, a push towards greater digital adoption is one of the few positives to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Digitalisation, which is the process of leveraging digitisation to improve business processes, has created new trade opportunities for firms to sell more products to bigger markets, resulting in countries diversifying their export baskets.

With digitalisation, local small and medium-sized enterprises can enhance their global competitiveness and create high value added jobs for people.

The economic value of digital trade-enabled benefits to the Malaysian economy, if fully leveraged, is projected to grow to RM222 billion by 2030 from RM31 billion today.

The key to unlocking our full potential in the digital economy is to hasten digitalisation’s adoption rate. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, digital technologies have proven to be practical solutions.

Economic activities have increasingly moved online during the movement restriction periods. It is now normal to work from home, attend classes remotely and to use an e-wallet for offline and online shopping.

Even as the majority of sectors were slowly reopened with safety precautions in place, the momentum for businesses to digitalise has begun.

By allowing online purchases and using digital marketing, businesses were able to sustain their operations during the desperate times.

Since then, government assistance through the ePenjana programme and compulsory checkins through the MySejahtera contact-tracing application has also increased familiarity with digital platforms, especially for the older generation.

As digital literacy programmes are still highly required, the pandemic has brought us together in shifting towards greater digitisation.

As a result of the pandemic, Malaysians are more eager than ever to have a national conversation on the future of Internet connectivity due to increasing demands for teleworking and online economic activity.

Here, the government has worked closely with the relevant industry players on supply-side solutions to provide steady Internet connectivity.

The pandemic has called for the government to stay committed to delivering meaningful and inclusive connectivity in Malaysia. To be sure, even before the pandemic, we were already considered a highly digital-networked nation.

Household Internet usage and mobile broadband penetration rates in Malaysia are above the global average. This is possibly due to our affordable mobile broadband rate, as our price per gigabyte of data for mobile broadband is less than 0.3 per cent of every state’s median individual monthly income.

In fact, Malaysia is performing well on its trajectory for digital transformation. The National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan has been implemented to expand coverage and improve the quality of fixed and mobile broadband, as well as to lay the foundation for 5G networks by 2023.

Further, the Affordability Drivers Index 2019 highlighted how well suited Malaysia’s policies and regulations are to expanding Internet infrastructure and enabling equitable broadband access across social groups.

Having said all that, the pandemic has exposed the digital divide in Malaysia. Most of the digital economy growth is concentrated in urban areas, which could be due to better connectivity in the area.

Teleworking cannot be used to increase productivity in absence of connectivity. It is no longer sufficient just to have basic access to the Internet, but what is needed is high-quality, affordable and stable connections.

There are other digital adoption barriers as well such as cost and security concerns. This raises the consideration that digital inclusion must evolve as technology advances.

The pandemic has shown us that we must break down the barriers inclusively and not only focus on urban areas, as doing so will widen the economic gap between rural and urban people. Among others, this will require social solutions, as well as bottom-up promotions of digital adoption.

By ensuring every member of our community has meaningful Internet connectivity, we can maximise our participation in the digital economy.

From the spirit of #KitaJagaKita, we should pay attention to digital exclusion with the same energy as we would hype the digital boon.

Here, it must be remembered that while we must increasingly adopt digital tools to become a leading nation in the digital economy, this must be coupled with meaningful connectivity to ensure that the benefits of digitalisation are enjoyed by all.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/09/627311/covid-19-accelerates-digitalisation-adoption-rate-malaysia

Ensure democracy, health, rule of law

September 26th, 2020
About making a pandemic proof election procedure, Myanmar’s Union Election Commission must equip election personnel with Personal Protective Equipment, check voters for Covid-19 symptoms, refer possible cases to medical facilities, ensure voters wear face masks and practise social distancing and regularly disinfect voting booths. - AFP file pic, for illustration purposes onlyAbout making a pandemic proof election procedure, Myanmar’s Union Election Commission must equip election personnel with Personal Protective Equipment, check voters for Covid-19 symptoms, refer possible cases to medical facilities, ensure voters wear face masks and practise social distancing and regularly disinfect voting booths. – AFP file pic, for illustration purposes only

VOTING is a right enshrined in international mechanisms and most national constitutions of democratic states, requiring national elections that are free, fair, timely and constitutionally bound.

However, Covid-19 is postponing elections to protect national health, thereby threatening the right to vote.

More than 50 nation states have held elections this year despite Covid-19 to avoid constitutional complexities. Singapore is the first Asean member to hold national elections in the pandemic followed by Myanmar on Nov 8.

The time frame between these national elections presents a unique opportunity to compare safe election initiatives. Let’s look at the background of elections in the Asean region. Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party maintains a strong parliamentary majorit Myanmar is a young democracy where the National League for Democracy party holds a majority alongside the Tatmadaw—guaranteed 25 per cent of parliamentary seats.

Both Parliaments have smaller opposition representation. Both use elections to build multiracial unity. Singapore’s Parliamentary Elections Act requires each Group Representation Constituency to include a member of a minority race while for Myanmar, before Covid-19 lockdowns, de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited nearly a dozen provincial cities with dominant minority populations to encourage unity through democracy between the eight main ethnic groups.

However, election authorities should be aware that Covid-19 is fuelling xenophobia and racial divisions. Singapore is a microstate largely dependent on foreign investment, which means hosting safe and fair elections despite the Covid-19 pandemic shows priority for rules-based order and national health.

Myanmar receives Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) from the United States, China, the European Union and Japan that helps improve access to national healthcare and support development.

With the exception of China, ODA comes with the condition of promoting democracy and human rights.

As such, Myanmar invites international election observers from foreign governments, but international travel restrictions due to Covid-19 have encouraged the US to appoint local representatives.

As for developing a healthy voting pool during campaigns, public gatherings are discouraged (and illegal in some cases) worldwide to prevent further infections.

Singapore used contactless campaigning by taking advantage of its high national connectivity rate to host virtual sessions while Myanmar’s citizens decorate their homes and vehicles with party flags rather than attend gatherings.

Online registration of voters and candidates, and digital solutions of casting and counting votes are practical considerations that are carefully weighed up. But Myanmar’s lower national connectivity rate and Internet blackouts in certain states complicates this procedure.

Digitalisating election processes also risk increasing “fake news”, which Facebook is seeking to rectify during Myanmar’s elections.

It is, therefore, recommended that Myanmar learn and adopt as many feasible digital initiatives from Singapore during pre-elections.

About making a pandemic proof election procedure, Myanmar’s Union Election Commission must equip election personnel with Personal Protective Equipment, check voters for Covid-19 symptoms, refer possible cases to medical facilities, ensure voters wear face masks and practise social distancing and regularly disinfect voting booths.

Additional polling staff should also be deployed and awareness building initiatives through knowledge materials need to be available at stations.

In Singapore, voters had to wear face masks (allowing for temporary removal to verify identities) before voting and depositing their ballot papers.

Voters were also requested to sanitise their hands before and after the voting process. Special voting hours were reserved for the elderly, persons with disabilities, and voters on stay-home notices to minimise the risk of infections.

Since voting is also mandatory in Singapore, the Parliamentary Election (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Act allowed for voting outside of electoral divisions.

This law considered voters in quarantine or affected by transportation limitations. Ballot papers from special votes were sealed and transported to counting centers.

The new act also allowed for registration of unattended voters without fine through the online application to the Elections Department. Myanmar similarly posted voters’ lists online and the Health and Sports Ministry requires all polling stations to allow for proper ventilation and social distancing.

City-wide lockdowns may also encourage Myanmar to consider special provisions for people confined to their homes to participate in the election process, therefore increasing the election outcome’s credibility.

In the post-electoral period, monitoring reports and expert observations need to be taken seriously to strategise further recommendations based on Myanmar’s election experience during Covid-19.

This will enable a smoother transition to democracy alongside preservation of national health and rule of law.

By Mahmudul HasanZandre Van Straten.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/09/627313/ensure-democracy-health-rule-law

Global Covid-19 deaths reach 984,068

September 26th, 2020
Employees are seen at the Vila Formosa cemetery, in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil on September 25, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. - Brazil now has the world's second highest death toll after the United States -- nearly 140,000 fatalities -- and is still battling to bring the virus under control. (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP)Employees are seen at the Vila Formosa cemetery, in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil on September 25, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. – Brazil now has the world’s second highest death toll after the United States — nearly 140,000 fatalities — and is still battling to bring the virus under control. (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP)

PARIS: The novel coronavirus has killed at least 984,068 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Friday.

At least 32,298,410 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 22,141,000 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organisation (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.

On Thursday, 5,730 new deaths and 312,068 new cases were recorded worldwide. Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were India with 1,141 new deaths, followed by the United States with 846 and Brazil with 831.

The United States is the worst-hit country with 202,827 deaths from 6,979,937 cases. At least 2,710,183 people have been declared recovered.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 139,808 deaths from 4,657,702 cases, India with 92,290 deaths from 5,818,570 cases, Mexico with 75,439 deaths from 715,457 cases, and Britain with 41,902 deaths from 416,363 cases.

The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Peru with 97 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Belgium with 86, Spain 67, Bolivia 67, and Brazil 66.

China – excluding Hong Kong and Macau – has to date declared 85,322 cases (8 new since Thursday), including 4,634 deaths and 80,522 recoveries.

Latin America and the Caribbean overall has 332,701 deaths from 9,020,315 cases, Europe 228,459 deaths from 5,128,975 infections, the United States and Canada 212,113 deaths from 7,128,683 cases, Asia 131,533 deaths from 7,665,710 cases, Middle East 43,622 deaths from 1,883,757 cases, Africa 34,706 deaths from 1,439,657 cases, and Oceania 934 deaths from 31,321 cases.

As a result of corrections by national authorities or late publication of data, the figures updated over the past 24 hours may not correspond exactly to the previous day’s tallies.

by AFP.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/world/world/2020/09/627348/global-covid-19-deaths-reach-984068

111 new Covid-19 cases today

September 25th, 2020
Ninety-seven of the cases were in Sabah, with 74 linked to the Bangau cluster. -- Bernama File PixNinety-seven of the cases were in Sabah, with 74 linked to the Bangau cluster. — Bernama File Pix

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry recorded 111 new Covid-19 positive cases as of noon today, bringing the infection tally to 10,687.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah in a statement said of the total, four were imported involving foreigners from Indonesia with two cases, as well as one each from India and Singapore.

As for local transmissions, he said 76 cases involved Malaysians while 31 were foreigners.

Ninety-seven of the cases were in Sabah, with 74 linked to the Bangau cluster involving 48 Malaysians and 26 foreigners and 13 cases linked to the Benteng LD cluster involving Malaysians.

“Another two cases were from Laut Cluster, involving foreigners; two cases involving Malaysians detected during referral screening at hospital and two cases detected during screening at the workplace involving a Malaysian and a foreigner.

“Also detected two cases during symptomatic screening involving a Malaysian and a foreigner; one case of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) at Tawau Hospital involving a Malaysian, as well as one positive case during screening at international entrance involving a Malaysian.”

Elsewhere, eight cases were detected in Kedah and one each in Pahang and Selangor respectively.

“In Kedah, seven cases were detected from the Sungai cluster involving six Malaysians and a foreigner.

“(And) one SARI case at Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital involving a Malaysian.”

In Pahang, the case was detected during symptomatic screening case involving a local, who returned from Semporna.

As for Selangor, Dr Noor Hisham said the positive case was detected during symptomatic screening, also involving a local who returned Kota Kinabalu.

Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham said four cases are in the intensive care unit, with three requiring respiratory assistance.

He added that 30 patients had recovered from the infection today, bringing the total to 9,696.

No new fatality was recorded today, and the death toll stands at 133.

By Nor Ain Mohamed Radhi.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/09/627267/111-new-covid-19-cases-today

Cuepacs wants 55,000 terminated contract staff reappointed

September 25th, 2020
IPOH: The Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) has called on the government to reappoint 55,000 contract workers whose services had been terminated in the public sector following the change of government two years ago.

Its president Adnan Mat said the statistics comprised employees who had served in the Special Affairs Department (Jasa), National Service Training Programme (PLKN) and Seranta Felda.

“Special consideration should be given to all contract staff who had been terminated by the previous government so that they can be reemployed in any agency as the needs arise.

“This matter should be given priority in addition to giving them the opportunity to return to work after being affected for almost two years following the termination,” he told a press conference after attending the tri-annual general meeting of the Islamic Affairs Support Group Staff Union, Perak Islamic Religious Department (JAIPk) here yesterday.

Adnan said, they could also be absorbed as permanent employees as some of the positions have permanent appointment warrants as issued by the Public Service Department (JPA).

Adnan also welcomed the government’s move not to reduce the size of 1.6 million civil servants nationwide despite the implementation of the electronic government (e-government) system.

He said the move was important as there were matters or approaches that required direct contact between civil servants and the people in addressing an issue..

by Bernama.

Read more @ https://www.theborneopost.com/2020/09/25/cuepacs-wants-55000-terminated-contract-staff-reappointed/

Covid-19: 71 new cases recorded yesterday, with 63 in Sabah

September 25th, 2020
KUALA LUMPUR: The number of new Covid-19 cases in the country dropped to two digits yesterday, with 71 cases reported, of which 63 were recorded in Sabah, said Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He said 69 of the cases were local transmissions involving 43 Malaysians and 26 foreigners while the two imported cases involved foreigners returning from Singapore and Indonesia.

“Of the 63 cases in Sabah, 47 were from the Bangau- Bangau Cluster, 10 from the Laut Cluster, two from hospital admission screenings as

well as one each from the Benteng LD Cluster, referral screening to Tawau Hospital, pre-procedure screening at the Semporna Hospital and symptomatic screening at a health centre that has been warded at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

“The other six local transmissions involved four cases in Kedah from the Sungai Cluster and two cases in Selangor involving the screening of individuals who returned from Semporna, Sabah,” he said in a statement on Covid-19 developments yesterday.

Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham said there were 64 recoveries yesterday and no deaths, while six cases were being treated in the intensive care unit, with two of them requiring ventilator support. Dr Noor Hisham also said that there has been an increase in the number of cases in the three clusters in Sabah, with the Bangau-Bangau Cluster recording 60 cases following the 47 new cases yesterday; the Laut Cluster 22 cases (up by 10); and the Benteng LD Cluster 730 cases (one new case).

The Sungai Cluster now has 91 cases following the four new cases reported yesterday.

Meanwhile, he said the infectivity rate or R-Naught (RO) of any virus at the start of an outbreak in the community had risen yesterday to 1.34, with Sabah recording 1.37 and Kedah 1.15 As such, he urged everyone to comply with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

“Although many areas in the country have been declared green zones, the Health Ministry (MOH) wishes to advise symptomatic individuals who recently visited or are coming from red zones to undergo compulsory screening at the nearest health facilities,” he said.

by Bernama.

Read more @ https://www.theborneopost.com/2020/09/25/covid-19-71-new-cases-recorded-yesterday-with-63-in-sabah/

Prevent gadget overuse among kids

September 25th, 2020

Experts say screen time induces dopamine release that weakens children’s ability to control their impulses. -- PEXELS PIC
Experts say screen time induces dopamine release that weakens children’s ability to control their impulses. — PEXELS PIC

LETTER: I posit that early introduction and unrestrained use of gadgets involving high-speed, highly interactive mediums of human interface and high levels of visual and audio stimuli could contribute to a powerful “re-wiring” of human growth and development, both mentally and physiologically.

The magnitude of impact depends on age of exposure, frequency, duration and type of content being accessed. Pure recreational use is likely to be the most potent.

Is it strange then that children who are exposed to high levels of visual and audio stimulation early on in their growth find it difficult to focus in school? Or just focusing on anything, for that matter?

Researchers have indicated a strong relationship between excessive screen time (signs of digital technology addiction) and psychiatric disorders such as Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder.

Their minds have been trained to operate at such a high level of stimulation that real life appears too dull. In all these cases, technology becomes a limiting prerequisite, instead of an enabler for the discovery and utilisation of innate passion and talent.

The apparent “addiction” may not be easily recognised as society often associates it with substance abuse, but the habitual impact can be just as real. The psychological “re-wiring” may be attributed to an overstimulated dopamine pathway of the brain, combined with an under-stimulation of other parts.

Dopamine is a pleasure chemical, which is released in the brain when we eat sweet things, look at someone that we like or experience the destructive high from cocaine. Therefore, gadget-induced dopamine “rush” could be mimicking these reward pathways.

In short, dopamine stimulation can reinforce our behaviour. In this case, it develops a bad habit that exhibits itself as the need to gratify an immediate urge for more stimulation, similar to how drugs induce addiction.

Furthermore, life is more than just mediums of interaction and certainly not just in education. Even with digital transformation fully implemented in the education system, the very nature of high-speed interaction with gadgets would do little to develop a generation that is resilient and patient.

A simple search is completed in milliseconds and is boosted by predictive search and artificial intelligence (AI). Mere finger swipes get you to move from one webspace to another in a lagless and smooth fashion.

Research is under way to integrate our minds with technology so that we don’t even need to lift a finger.

The ever-increasing processor and Internet speeds exponentially boost this effect further.

With proper use, these are great for productivity, but a premature and unregulated exposure, especially for entertainment, may undermine virtues such as hard work, patience and delayed gratification.

Health and science writer Lauren Vinopal says screen time induces dopamine release that weakens the children’s ability to control their impulses. It is not surprising with speedy and responsive interaction and super-fast content.

Instant sources of dopamine boost means on-demand instant gratification.

As dopamine also influences many parts of human behaviour and physical functions, including learning, motivation, heart rate, kidney function, mood, attention, sleep and pain processing, the over-rewarded brains of underdeveloped minds, which have operated with mostly high-speed interactions, may find learning, information processing, emotional regulation, social interaction, overcoming challenges, empathising with others or simply having to wait in a queue very difficult.

Psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee explains this perfectly: “Unless we are intentionally creating opportunities for focus, for delay of gratification, and for boredom, the portions of the brain that regulate these functions have the potential to show less robust, and possibly even diminished function.”

by AMEEN KAMAL

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2020/09/627030/prevent-gadget-overuse-among-kids

Will Anwar finally achieve his long sought-after goal?

September 25th, 2020
PKR president, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, gestures during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 23. - NSTP/MOHAMAD SHAHRIL BADRI SAALIPKR president, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, gestures during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 23. – NSTP/MOHAMAD SHAHRIL BADRI SAALI

DATUK Seri Anwar Ibrahim has waited for decades to take power in Malaysia.

If he finally achieves that goal, the 73-year-old politician will need to figure out how to implement policies he’s long advocated in an increasingly fractious parliament.

While Malaysia has always been beset by coalition politics, for six decades the former ruling bloc helmed by Umno oversaw a stable if domineering government with policies aimed at benefiting the country’s dominant racial and religious group. Its downfall in 2018, spearheaded by Anwar and former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, promised an inclusive multiracial “New Malaysia” free from corruption.

Yet the new coalition quickly became beset by policy differences, all while dealing with constant intrigue over when Dr Mahathir, now 95, would hand over power to Anwar. The drama came to a head with Dr Mahathir’s resignation in February, prompting a round of horse-trading that propelled Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to the premiership backed by former members of Umno.

This week, Anwar claimed to have a “convincing” majority to unseat Muhyiddin, and vowed to prove the numbers in a meeting with Malaysia’s monarch that has yet to be scheduled. It’s still unclear whether that will lead to another change in leadership or a fresh election.

But one thing is certain: The political landscape is far from settled.

“It’s the most fluid period in Malaysian politics ever – the party allegiances have become very, very shaky,” said Johan Saravanamuttu, an adjunct senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies who researches Malaysian politics.

“It’s just to be in power. Whether the whole idea of reform politics is the direction being taken is not entirely clear to me. Idealism is out of the window.”

Royal Pardon

For Anwar, a little pragmatism might be forgiven. He was seen as Dr Mahathir’s successor in the 1990s before he was fired in the wake of the Asian Financial Crisis, after which he spent six years in prison on convictions for abuse of power and sodomy. Anwar went back to jail again in 2015 on a subsequent sodomy charge, only to be released after the 2018 election thanks to a royal pardon.

As leader of PKR, a key party in the previous Pakatan Harapan government, Anwar waited patiently for Dr Mahathir to fulfill a pledge to eventually name him prime minister. Dr Mahathir kept pushing back the date, and soon the government unravelled.

On Wednesday, Anwar said he was ready to replace Muhyiddin, who could only command a majority of a few lawmakers since he took office in March. While the prime minister denounced the push for power, Umno leader Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said some members of the government’s biggest party were now backing Anwar.

On its face, it would seem odd for Anwar to link up with Umno given he previously called for the end of affirmative action policies it championed. He’s also blasted the party for corruption related to former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who was found guilty of corruption last month and sentenced to 12 years in prison in the first trial over the 1MDB scandal to reach a conclusion.

Fair Representation

But Anwar has shown signs of softening his stance in recent years, and made clear in his statement on Wednesday that the majority of lawmakers backing him were “Malay and Muslim.”

He promised “fair representation” for all races, without naming ethnic Indians and Chinese who hold key posts in his own party and coalition.

“We are committed to uphold the principles of the constitution that recognises the position of Islam, the sovereignty of the Malay rulers and uphold the position of the Malay language as the official language and the special position of the Malays and Bumiputra as well as give assurance to defend the rights of all races,” he said in a statement.

Anwar has paid a “high price” over the years and now wants to make his mark, said Greg Lopez, a lecturer at Murdoch University Executive Education Center in Perth and co-editor of “Regime Resilience in Malaysia and Singapore.”

“He wants that opportunity to actually demonstrate that he can do a good job,” Lopez said. “Given the fact he has survived all these decades being hammered left, right and centre, he has the necessary skills to manoeuver Malaysia – or at least he won’t do any more damage than any of the other prime ministers.”

Financial Crisis

If Anwar finally takes power, he’ll inherit an economy that suffered its worst performance in the second quarter since the financial crisis in the 1990s. Muhyiddin has pushed major fiscal stimulus to revive the economy, which along with others around the globe is suffering from unprecedented mobility restrictions and business closures.

Higher debt levels may make it hard for Anwar to do anything too ambitious. The political turmoil adds another layer of uncertainty that could hamper investment and stall longer-term infrastructure projects, according to Chua Hak Bin, senior economist at Maybank Kim Eng Research in Singapore.

Anwar’s statement on Wednesday emphasised the need for a stable government to see Malaysia through the pandemic. It was largely focused on bread-and-butter issues, rather than lofty calls for reform.

At this point for Anwar, any idealism means little if he’s not in a position to change anything.

“If he were to become PM, it would mark the culmination of a more than two decade journey,” said Awang Azman Awang Pawi, a professor at the University of Malaya who frequently comments on politics. “It would also make him the first PM from a multiracial, multi-religious party – a first in Malaysia’s history.”

by Bloomberg.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/politics/2020/09/627138/will-anwar-finally-achieve-his-long-sought-after-goal

Tengku Zafrul: Stimulus packages to contribute 3.7 to 4.0pct to 2020′S GDP

September 25th, 2020
Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz says the government is also expecting a multiplier effect from the measures implemented under Kita Prihatin and the economic stimulus packages which are currently in place. - NSTP/File picFinance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz says the government is also expecting a multiplier effect from the measures implemented under Kita Prihatin and the economic stimulus packages which are currently in place. – NSTP/File pic

KUALA LUMPUR: The RM10 billion Prihatin Supplementary Initiative Package (Kita Prihatin) is expected to have a positive impact on the nation’s economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2020 (Q4 2020).

Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said the economic stimulus packages announced by the government – Prihatin, Prihatin SME+, Penjana and Kita Prihatin, worth a total of RM305 billion – are expected to contribute 3.7 to 4.0 per cent to the nation’s gross domestic product this year.

The move will also place the country in a better position for economic recovery by 2021, he said.

“The RM10 billion allocation is expected to result in a positive growth which will be channelled directly to the people as well as businesses.

“The government is also expecting a multiplier effect from the measures implemented under Kita Prihatin and the economic stimulus packages which are currently in place,” he said in a statement today.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the Kita Prihatin package, comprising the RM7 billion Bantuan Prihatin Nasional 2.0 (BPN 2.0), RM2.4 billion Targeted Wage Subsidy Programme and RM600 million Prihatin Special Grant (GKP).

Tengku Zafrul said the BPN 2.0 will not only ease cashflow challenges, but also allow individuals and families to purchase their daily necessities, including promotional items under the Penjana initiative through the Buy Malaysian Products campaign.

“At the same time, the Targeted Wage Subsidy Programme 2.0 and the GKP will help to guarantee business and job sustainability, which ensure that economic activities can be conducted and productivity increased.

“Based on recent economic recovery indicators, such as the reduction in the unemployment rate and the increase in the Industrial Production Index, Leading Index as well as the retail and recreation sectors, the government is confident that Kita Prihatin will be able to maintain the recovery momentum,” he said.

The minister said although the government’s expenditure is expected to increase due to the additional stimulus measures, the government’s objectives remain consistent, prioritising the people’s well-being, business sustainability and job retention.

At the same time, he said the government remains committed in ensuring fiscal discipline, adding that the Finance Ministry (MoF) is monitoring various economic indicators at the domestic and global level in ensuring that the country remains on track for a strong economic recovery.

Tengku Zafrul said Kita Prihatin is the result of the government’s proactive response to the various engagement and meet-the-people sessions, as well as feedback from the MoF’s #JelajahBelanjawan2021.

“The government takes note of the challenges faced by the people as well as businesses and stakeholders that were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in drafting the Kita Prihatin package.

“The list of Frequently Asked Questions has also been uploaded onto the MoF’s website,” he said.

Those seeking more information on the packages may visit https://www.treasury.gov.my/index.php/kitaprihatin2020/.

On a related development, he said the MoF, through the Economic Stimulus Implementation and Coordination Unit Between National Agencies (Laksana) will continue to monitor the implementation of the economic stimulus packages and improve the existing measures.

Tengku Zafrul also added that measures to revitalise the economy will be introduced under the Budget 2021 which will be announced on Nov 6.

by Bernama.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/09/627215/tengku-zafrul-stimulus-packages-contribute-37-40pct-2020s-gdp