Friday, June 27, 2008

9MP Mid-Term Review: More Questions Than Answers

Yesterday, the Prime Minister tabled the mid-term review of the Ninth Malaysia Plan in Parliament and revealed that the overall ceiling for development allocation for the Plan would be increased from RM200 billion to RM230 billion. Meaning an extra RM30 billion because of the global fuel, food and economic woes.
I have listed below, what Malaysian Indians have been promised. Although, the PM had made a few guarantees, no details of how Indians would gain directly from the mid-term review were announced. Again, we are waiting for the details so that we could better understand and work our way towards achieving the desired targets. I hope that the details would be announced soon

> To increase corporate equity ownership among ethnic Indians to 1.5 % by 2010, efforts would be continued to increase access to skills training and entrepreneurship development programmes. In addition, special assistance will be given to the ethnic Indian community to raise the level of their equity ownership through unit trust schemes.

Note: Details of this scheme is yet to be announced. Whatever it is, the scheme must be transparent and not tied down to a particular political party or corporation. It must be run by an independent body, comprising of Indian business leaders, who have experiance in the share market.

> Nevertheless, in absolute terms, ethnic Indian equity ownership increased from RM575.2 million or 9 % over the period of 2004-2007.

Note: Even with this increase Indians only account for 1.1 % of total corporate equity ownership as at 2007.

> Lower the overall poverty rate from 5.7 % in 2004 to 3.6 % in 2007, whereby incidences of absolute poverty was reduced from 1.2 % to 0.7 % in 2007; Reduce inter-ethnic, regional and urban-rural economic divides; Develop almost 68,000 new entrepreneurs as well as train more than 120,000 existing entrepreneurs through various entrepreneurial development programs;

Note: How many Indians would gain from these programmes? No details..

> In line with the Government’s aspiration of making National Schools the school of preferred choice for all races, continuous efforts will be directed toward enhancing teaching quality and facilities in National Schools. Among others, the teaching of Mandarin and Tamil languages in National Schools will be further improved.

Note: How is it going to be further improved? Is there going to be allocation to improve Tamil teaching at National Schools? If Yes, how much? How many Tamil teachers would be absorbed into National-type schools?

> Absolute poverty in Malaysia continues to be on the decline. The overall incidence of poverty among Malaysians had been reduced, from 5.7 % in 2004 to 3.6 % in 2007. The number of poor households had also declined by 33 % from 311,300 to 209,000 over the same period. This decline in the incidence and number of poor households is the result of steady economic growth as well as the implementation of various poverty-eradication programs and projects. Poverty had declined in both rural and urban areas. The incidence of urban poverty has been reduced from 2.5 % in 2004 to 2.0 % in 2007; whereas in rural areas, the incidence of poverty has been significantly reduced from 11.9 % to 7.1 %. Hardcore poverty had declined from 1.2 % in 2004 to 0.7 % in 2007. The number of hardcore poor households has declined by 43 %, from 67,300 to 38,400 over the same period. Based on this trend, the Government is confident that the Ninth Malaysia Plan target to eradicate hardcore poverty by 2010 will be achieved. All ethnic groups registered an increase in household income over this period.

In 2007, the average household income of the Bumiputera rose by 5.2 per cent to RM3,156 a month, whereas the average income of ethnic Chinese households rose by 3.0 per cent a year to RM4,853 while that of ethnic Indian households rose by 3.2 per cent to RM3,799.
The disparity between the average income of the Bumiputera community and the Chinese community continued to improve with the disparity ratio declining from 1:1.64 in 2004 to 1:1.54 in 2007. Similarly, the disparity with the Indian community also improved, from 1:1.27 to 1:1.20 over the same period.

> Measures would continue to be undertaken to encourage the private sector to employ more staff from Bumiputera, Indian and minority communities at professional and managerial levels. Furthermore, more non-Bumiputera will be encouraged to work in the public sector.

Note: How are we going to ask the private sector, largely owned by the Chinese, to take in Malays and Indians at professional and managerial levels? Are they willing? And how is the government going to encourage non-Bumis to work in the public sector? If they do join the civil service, what levels would they be employed in? Would non-bumis be given positions of Directors, Director-General and Secretary-General positions at Ministries or government agencies. What about non-bumi participation in Government-linked-companies? Would it be increased and again what positions would non-bumis be allowed to occupy?

Lots of questions to be answered by the relevant government bodies. Only time will tell.....

I don't mean to sound like a racist...but as a leader in a political party, which represents Indians, I have to ask these questions. This does not mean, that I do not care for the other Malaysians out there. Please understand that the Malaysian Indian community lags way behind the Chinese and Malays. One of my many aims as a politician is to bring them on par with the other major communities in the country.

p/s: Euro scores: Spain 3 Russia 0. It would be a good final. Germany vs Spain.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Newsmen and The Parliament

I would like to apologise for not being able to blog since Monday. Over the last two days, the Parliament has been abuzz, not only with the proceedings, but also with the happenings outside the respected hall. On Monday, news organisations were told by "authorities" in Parliament, that they could only send five media personal to cover Parliament sittings. This new ruling had irked journalist. To make things worse, on Tuesday, the "authorities" were at it again, this time "cordoning" off reporters from the Parliament lobby. Although, I am a first time MP, I had served as a senator for two terms and have become accustomed to many journalists, who are now my friends. The second move was the last straw for many journalists.
"Datuk, do we look like some insane people that we need to be cordoned off and wait for MPs (which include Ministers and Deputy Ministers) to hold press conferences, like dogs waiting to be thrown a bone," one newsmen asked me. This was his mildest remark or question!
The "authorities" revealed that these measures were to ensure security. I don't buy this one bit. Reporters and cameramen use different entry and exit points. Their identity is checked. They need not one, but two tags to get in. We all know the regular faces, although some many be newbies. The Parliament house is fitted with CCTVs almost at all angles. In fact reporters are asked to go through a metal detector before entering the building. What more security do you need? Maybe the authorities would like to do a strip search next?
Two nights ago, I met up with some of my journalists friends and asked them to explain on the workings of a media organisation in Parliament. "They are letting five reporters per organisation, is that not enough?," I enquired.
The explanation given to me was in full and after listening, I realised that indeed five was not sufficient, if an organisation was to provide full coverage of the proceedings. If the government wants the people to know what is being debated etc, then it should allow more reporters to cover instead of restricting them. The one hour question and answer session, requires at least two to three reporters. This number could increase if the PM or the DPM were answering questions. Then you have unscheduled press conferences by Ministers, Deputy Ministers, the Opposition leaders etc. That requires another reporter. Then you have the "boss" who clears copies in Parliament so reports are coordinated and to ensure there is no duplication in reporting. Now you tell me, do you expect these reporters to work without rest for the whole proceedings, which sometimes drags up to 10pm? Surely they would need to take turns to take a breather. So, my conclusion is five is not enough! Allow them to bring in whatever number of reporters they think is appropriate. Let them do their job.
On cordoning off the lobby, I certainly do not agree with this! These newsmen, know the dos and don'ts. They behave and are a courteous lot. The "authorities" have said that some people (outsiders) are conducting birthday celebrations in the lobby and one way to stop this is to cordon off reporters. Does this make sense? For me, it definitely does not! Treat them with respect. Journalists might earn a lot less than what the MPs are getting, but they are, for me, the most important component of the system. Without them, whatever you do, whatever you talk and whatever you think, stays within you. Why upset the very people you are supposed to keep happy? For me all this just does not make sense.
It would be good if those in charge of making such rash decisions, hire a media consultant to find ways to keep the newsmen happy, without undermining security. This can be done with ease. Let the consultant come up with a proper guideline, which is agreeable to all. Views of the media in drawing up the guideline is paramount. We do not want a guideline which does not take into account the views of media practitioners. This would definitely work and ensure journalists are free to do their job without any hassle.
I would like to finish this post with a point made by a journalist friend the other day.
"Datuk, journalist are like chefs. When a chef makes a dish, he or she must put some passion and love in what is being cooked. If the chef does not do this, the dish would not have anything extra, as it would be just another dish. But if the chef, puts these two important ingredients in cooking the dish, then the end product would have that extra zing and taste delicious. The same with journalists. If the reporter is happy and likes what he or she is writing, then the report would be off good quality. These new rules in Parliament certainly does not make a reporter happy, so what do you expect of Parliament reports?"
I replied:" Point taken and noted brother."

p/s: Euro scores -- Germany 3 Turkey 2. (although Turkey lost, they deserve a pat on the back for the good show during the whole tournament. I wish the Malaysian team that much of grit. If they did, we would be a force to be reckoned with in Asia alongside Japan, Korea and such).

Monday, June 23, 2008

Me And Tamil Schools

Firstly, I would clarify here that this posting is to reply to a few comments I got for the last posting about Dr Mahathir. Last week, I registered my younger daughter in a Tamil school in Brickfields. It was covered by Tamil papers, which printed it on Sunday. Enrolling my daughter into a Tamil school was one of my dreams. I wanted it! I did not do it just as a publicity stunt or to make my beloved daughter a pawn in the political game. I sincerely and truthfully did not know that by enrolling her in a Tamil school, I had become the only MIC leader, who had enrolled his or her child into a Tamil school. I don't care if I am the only leader who had done so. All I wanted was for my daughter to get a good education. I am a Tamil school "graduate" myself and I know the advantages of sending a child to the vernacular school. It was never my intention to make my daughter a showcase and to further my political ambition. This is my daughter we are talking about. As a parent, I care for her. I would not do anything to harm her or use her for my political means. This applies not only to my daughter but also all children in the country. Kids are not to be used. I was not brought-up this way and sincerely hope that all those out there who think that I registered her in a Tamil school for my own gains, to think otherwise. This is my explanation to the sensitive issue that some comments have raised.

p/s: Euro scores - Spain 0 Italy 0 (Spain won on penalties -- 4-2). Now the quarters are over, the semi final cast are: Germany vs Turkey and Russia vs Spain. My bet is a Germany vs Spain final. But then again, judging from the upsets at this Euro, I would not discount the possiblity of a Russia vs Turkey final or even a Russia vs Germany final, although it would be an anti climax.