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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tighten your belt and brace ourselves for a hellish 2014

In a bid to to bring the country's deficit under control, the government has moved to cut subsidies on a number of essential items.

The government calls the move as "a necessary short-term pain" for sake of the country's long-term fiscal health.

However, these increases have created cascading effects, causing the prices of other good and services to increase as well because of the rising costs from the initial hikes.

To date, these are the items that have already increased in price:

1) RON 95 petrol – Increased from RM1.90 to RM2.10 per litre on Sept 3.

2) Diesel – Increased from RM1.80 to RM2.00 per litre on Sept 3.

3) Sugar – Increased from RM2.50 to RM2.84 per kg on Oct 25

For only three items, it isn't too bad. But what's going up next year?

1) Highway toll charges (In West Malaysia)

The government has indicated that higher toll charges is a given, but has not given a deadline as it seeks to find a mechanism to minimise the impact.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Wahid Omar said the government needed to allow the increase to comply with its agreements with the highway concessionaires.

According to reports, the increases are expected to be between RM0.30 and RM1 and involve 13 highways.

2) Taxi, bus, train fares

The Land Public Transport Commission (Spad) has announced that it is considering an increase in the fares for the light rail transit (LRT) and Kereta Api Tanah Melayu services.

It's argument is that fares have not been increased for 10 years now, and added that any hike will only come in the second half of 2014.

Spad said it is also reviewing the taxi and bus fares, but the Johor Taxi Association had revealed, after its discussions with Spad, that the increase will come into effect in February.

The Union of School Bus Associations has also indicated that it may impose a 40 percent surcharge on bus fares beginning next year, citing diesel the price increase.

3) Electricity

From January 2014, electricity in peninsula Malaysia will cost 15 percent more, from RM33.54 to RM38.53 per kilowatt and 16.9 percent more in Sabah and Labuan, increasing from RM29.52 to RM34.52 per kilowatt.

4) Ice

If you need to tighten your purse, "milo ais kurang manis" isn't going to cut it, as the ice will also have to go. The industry cites rising cost from diesel and electricity hike.

The 26-member Tube Ice Manufacturers of Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya announced that from January, a 50kg block of ice will cost about RM12.50 instead of RM10 and a 10kg bag of tube ice will cost about RM3.50, from RM3 now.

5) Stationery

The Federation of Stationers and Booksellers Association of Malaysia announced that stationeries are expected to see an increase in prices of between 20 and 30 percent by March. It cited increased costs from the fuel price hike.

6) Taxes

Klang Valley folks will have to fork out more money to their local government next year as the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) unveiled a revision of property valuation in the capital which will results in a hike in assessment rates.

Even though it has announced that the assessment rate for residential property will be reduced from 6 percent to 5 percent, the upward revision of valuation up to 300 percent will still see an overall increase of assessment fee.

Likewise, the Selangor government announced that business licence fees will go up, up to 400 percent effective next year.

7) Temperature

Yes, you heard right, from 21 degrees Celsius to 24 degrees Celsius to be exact.

The Malaysian Association for Shopping and Highrise Complex Management called on its 400-odd members to set air-conditioning at 23 to 24 degrees Celsius from current temperatures of as low as 21 degrees Celsius.

It said the move is to counter the electricity tariff hike.

by Nigel Aw

Malaysia under 'BLUR' Umno misses ANOTHER lesson in economic development

Malaysia under 'BLUR' Umno misses ANOTHER lesson in economic development
As Malaysia strives to grow its economy to catch up with richer Asian countries, such as Singapore and South Korea, doubts are rising about whether its education system can provide the types of graduates needed to fill high-skilled jobs considered key to economic development.
In a recent report, the World Bank pointed out the "urgent need to transform Malaysia's education system" for it to produce the type of labor force required by a high-income economy.
The World Bank defines a high-income economy as one where economic output per citizen is a minimum of $12,616 a year. Last year, Malaysia's gross domestic product per capita was $9,928, putting it among the ranks of upper-middle income economies that include Turkey and South Africa.
Although primary education is required by law in Malaysia, the World Bank report notes, "access to schooling is a necessary, but insufficient condition for building human capital that will propel economic growth."
As demand for more high-skilled professionals has grown in the country, one of Southeast Asia's most developed and steadily growing, the education system has failed to reform to meet these shifting needs, says the World Bank, even though nearly 97% of children in the country are enrolled in primary school, according to government data.
The results of a recent global aptitude test for 15-year-olds that measures knowledge of science, mathematics and reading serves as an example.
Out of 65 countries surveyed in the test conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Programme for International Student Assessment, Malaysia ranked 52, ahead of Indonesia in Southeast Asia, but widely trailing second-ranked Singapore. It even lagged well behind low-income Vietnam, which secured the 17 position.
Ulrich Zachau, the World Bank's Southeast Asia director, attributes Malaysia's dismal performance to the lack of say over employment decisions and spending plans given to government schools, which account for the bulk of educational institutions in Malaysia.
Around 65% of teacher hires are done by the national government rather than individual schools, compared to 5% in South Korea, where public schools have more autonomy.
Schools also have little input when it comes to spending on new buildings or equipment, creating assessments for their students, or choosing text books – decisions that are regulated by the Ministry of Education.
Public information about individual school's performance is also difficult to access, and parents rarely provide feedback to school administrators – all factors that make schools less accountable, said Mr. Zachau.
And while the quantity of teachers is adequate, according to the World Bank, their quality is an issue, say some parents.
"Teachers are no longer committed to educating the young," said S. Balachandran, a commodities trader in Kuala Lumpur and the father of three children who go to government schools. "My son has mentioned in the past that his science teacher has the habit of twiddling on his phone while students are doing their work in the classroom."
Adele Phang, a secondary school teacher in Kuala Lumpur who has been teaching for 24 years, disputes such criticism.
"Teachers today adopt different methods in teaching subjects to students, " she said, calling comments about teachers being uncommitted "not fair."
Other parents say they are concerned with what they perceive as misdirected government policies guiding the education system.
"The government's frequent education policy shifts, such as switching the [language] of instruction to Bahasa from English, just add confusion in an already muddled system," said Sarah-Jane Thomas, a single mother whose three children attend a government school in Ipoh, around 120 miles north of Kuala Lumpur.
Deputy Minister for Education, P. Kamalanathan, admits such shifts may confuse the students in the short term, but says the education ministry is "determined to overcome" the challenges in implementing proposed education reforms.
To improve education standards, the Malaysian government has drafted a detailed policy roadmap called the "Education Blueprint" and is spending heavily to implement it. Launched in September, the blueprint seeks to raise the appeal of teaching as profession, give greater freedom to state and district education offices to manage their affairs and promote greater parent and community involvement.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has also allotted 54.6 billion ringgit ($16.9 billion) toward the education sector in the 2014 budget, the highest amount marked for any sector next year. But doubts remain over how well the government will be able to execute planned-for reforms.
"I think in any country an improvement in education is a long-term agenda, and that's not going to happen overnight," said Mr. Zachau.
Another problem facing Malaysia is that the best and brightest students emerging from its education system often travel overseas for higher study and then seek work abroad. Twenty percent of Malaysia's most highly educated now opt to leave for richer economies, according to a recent report by recruitment consulting firm Kelly Services. - AP

Perkasa the No. 14 componest: The 'BRIGHTEST' 'JEWEL' in BN's crown

Perkasa the No. 14 componest: The 'BRIGHTEST' 'JEWEL' in BN's crown
DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang has labelled Perkasa as the 14th member of Barisan Nasional coalition following Perkasa secretary general Syed Hassan Syed Ali’s admission that the right wing NGO has been receiving funding by various government agencies.
“The extremist and racist Perkasa is the unofficial 14th member of the Barisan Nasional coalition with greater heft and more influence than “7-11” MCA and the other 12 BN component parties combined.
We must thank the Perkasa President Ibrahim Ali for his hubris at the annual general meeting of Perkasa a week ago getting much too big for his shoes for this expose of this top UMNO/BN secret for the past four years,” mocked Lim in a statement posted in his blog.
Lim said Ibrahim’s so-called ‘threat’ for Perkasa to replace UMNO had helped to shed a lot of lights on Perkasa-UMNO’s secrets, especially when it prompted a sharp rebuke it received from Felda chairman Isa Samad who said: “We protected Perkasa and it received plenty of benefits from us. How will it replace us?”
“This led to the spilling of the beans that Perkasa had been receiving government funds with the Perkasa secretary-general Syed Hassan Syed Ali admitting receiving funds from government agencies such as the National Security Council (MKN), National Civic Bureau (BTN) and Special Affairs Department (Jasa) and the Selangor Perkasa chief Abdul Bakar Yahya saying these funds were intended to help BN in the 13th and 14th general elections,” said Lim.
The Gelang Patah MP said the revelation had put Prime Minister Najib Razak’s moderate image in scrutiny as Perkasa holds the belief of Ketuanan Melayu, which contradicted his 1Malaysia stand.
Lim said the people are entitled to know who gave the approval to fund Perkasa, whether there was any other government agency doing the same besides MKN, BTN and Jasa.
“Most important of all, whether Ministers and leaders from MCA and the other 12 BN component parties had given their approval for the secret government funding of Perkasa or whether they were kept completely in the dark about the BN/UMNO government’s secret funding of Perkasa,” he added. - Harakahdaily

PRICE HIKE PROTEST: Is Umno so WEAK or is Zahid just STUPID?

PRICE HIKE PROTEST: Is Umno so WEAK or is Zahid just STUPID?
How a rally to protest price hike at Dataran Merdeka this coming December 31 have casted so much terror to UMNO-BN to the extent of being accused as an attempt to topple the government?
Is UMNO that weak?
Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in a statement to MCA daily The Star, had warned the organisers of the New Year’s eve rally to cancel their plans, and continued playing the drama of calling the demonstration as an attempt to topple the government.
Zahid also stressed that there would be “no concessions from authorities” on the event and urged the opposition to stop the “negative culture” of demonstrating.
“The Home Ministry will never allow a subversive political culture created by the opposition to continue spreading.
“Be a responsible opposition and do not try to take advantage of the situation,” the UMNO vice president was quoted as saying.
ILLOGICAL
Meanwhile, Malaysian Consultative Council for Islamic Organization president Azmi Abdul Hamid said it was illogical to accuse the people who want to protest against price hikes of attempting to overthrow the government.
“The rally aimed to voice out the people’s demands to the government to take action against rising cost of living should not be viewed wrongly.
We would like to remind the government if they continue with their denial syndrome on price hikes, and the government insists that the hikes are reasonable and cannot be avoided, then the people will only see them as irresponsible,” said Azmi in a statement to Harakahdaily.
Azmi said rising cost of living has affected more than 80 percent of the population, and as a responsible and ‘People’s first’ government, BN should take action to counter the economic situation and respect the people’s right to demonstrate to voice their grouses. - Harakahdaily

TERESA turns the mirror on Umno, Zaiton: YOU GET OUT OF MALAYSIA!

TERESA turns the mirror on Umno, Zaiton: YOU GET OUT OF MALAYSIA!
PETALING JAYA - More criticisms poured in today from all sides against Kuantan Wanita Umno chief Datuk Zaiton Mat over her recent statement asking those who dislike the Barisan Nasional (BN) government to leave the country.
Senior DAP leader Lim Kit Siang said this is a very shocking statement to be made by a party member whose party has been in rule for half a century and this show's her shallow mindset.
"Her comment reflects on their leadership and this is against the prime minister's objective of uniting the people under the 1Malaysia concept," he said.
Lim, who is Gelang Patah MP, added if the people are asked the leave the country "we wont be able to become a high income and developed nation which is one of the aims of Vision 2020".
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam also slammed Zaiton for her statement.
"This is a mischievous comment which does not reflect the views of BN.
"In a democracy we recognise dissent and the role of BN is to win back those who disagree rather than ostracise them," the MIC deputy president said via a text message to theSun.
"This is not the first time we are hearing such arrogant remarks from the Umno leaders and this is the problem of having political parties that survive on racial issues," said Seputeh MP and DAP national vice-chairperson Teresa Kok on the matter which has irked many Malaysians.
"To rebut the racist remarks of this Umno leader, maybe I should say to her, 'if you are not happy with people who fight the BN government and champion the cause of justice and democracy in Malaysia, you should leave the country'," Kok said. - The Sundaily

Some already charging 6% ‘GST’

Certain businesses in Klang Valley have tweaked their cash registers.
PETALING JAYA: Some businesses in the Klang Valley are already issuing receipts that include a GST charge at 6% although the Goods and Services Tax is not due for implementation until 2015.
This has alarmed some consumers, but according to an official at the Customs Department, no law has been broken.
The charge is actually for the currently applicable service tax, sometimes printed as “Govt Tax” on cash register receipts.
Apparently, some establishments have tweaked their cash registers in preparation for April 1, 2015, the date the GST will be introduced, as announced by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in his budget speech last October.
GST, a consumption tax on goods and services, will be levied at every stage of the chain from supply up to retail.
Malaysians currently pay a sale or service tax on certain goods or services.
Sales Tax was introduced in February 1972 as a single-stage consumption tax. It is charged either at the input or output stage.
The general rate for Sales Tax is 10%, but this is reduced to 5% for building materials and foodstuff classified as “non-essential”. Furthermore, there there are specific rates for petroleum products.
Service Tax was introduced in 1975 as a form of indirect tax imposed on specified goods and services, including tobacco, food served in certain restaurants and services rendered at hotels.
The service tax rate was 5% until January 2011, when it was raised to 6%.

CLAIMING THE MORAL HIGH GROUND

corridors_power
We must return to the time of how we did things back in 1998. Back in those days even the foreign media picked up what we said and quoted us in their news reports on Malaysia. Today, the foreign media regards what we say as just as incredible as what the government says. 
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Politics is about winning the hearts and minds of the people. That was why when the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) embarked on a campaign of terror the British decided not to retaliate with armed resistance (even though there were cases of such things happening, sometimes unsanctioned even).
The British decided that terror versus terror would only enable the CPM to gain more ground due to the sympathy factor. The British were seen as the occupiers and the CPM as those fighting to free the country from colonialism. Hence, on a ‘level playing field’, the CPM would win the moral high ground.
This was also probably why Gandhi chose passive resistance over active resistance. Then the Indians would be seen as the victims with the noble cause against the ‘evil’ British who resorted to violence. Because of this the Indians managed to claim the moral high ground and the British had no choice in the end but to concede defeat and grant India independence from Britain.
Take the various Middle East conflicts as an example. Both sides are shooting and bombing each other and we no longer know who is the aggressor and who is the victim. We are appalled by the high number of deaths and in the end have come to a conclusion that both sides are violent and do not treasure the lives of innocent people who are caught in the cross-fire and become ‘collateral damage’.
We no longer bother to follow the developments in the Middle East because we regard both sides as terrorists, and hence evil, whether it is the government in power or those who are trying to topple the government. We do not sympathise with the government or the rebels because both are invariably the reverse side of the same coin.
The Sri Lanka issue is one more example. Who, in the end, are the terrorists when both sides embark upon a reign of terror? And the same goes for many of those countries that suffer violence in the fight over territory and/or political power (which is what it is really all about in the end).
Are the Shias the goodies or the Sunnis who are the goodies? From the point of view of most people both the Shias and the Sunnis are baddies and they can wipe each other off the face of this earth as far as most people are concerned. Maybe less Muslims in this world (whether Shias or Sunnis) is better for us all.
That, in the end, would be the conclusion most of us would come to even though we should actually feel sorry for the ‘non-combatant’ women and children being massacred in these ‘holy wars’.
Malaysia, of course, has not reached the level of these countries (yet). Our fight is still a shouting match to see who can shout the most, the loudest, and the longest. We are still at the level of ‘I step on your father’s head and I dare you to step on my father’s head’ and ‘if you dare you start first’, ‘no, you start first’ — as how we used to fight in standard one in primary school.
Nevertheless, we still need to win the battle of the hearts and minds of the people and claim that moral high ground.
In 1998, when the Reformasi movement first exploded onto the Malaysian scene, we were wining the moral high ground. We were seen as those fighting a noble cause while the government was seen as fighting dirty.
That was about 15 years or so ago but since then things have changed a lot. Today, the opposition, too, uses lies and fabricated ‘evidence’ against the government and this is hurting the opposition cause. If we continue like this we are going to lose the moral high ground.
I have seen a lot of spinning from the opposition side that are either downright lies or a distortion and misrepresentation of the truth. In the beginning people might swallow all this hook, line and sinker. But eventually the truth will emerge and if you do this once too often people will no longer believe what you say.
We must return to the time of how we did things back in 1998. Back in those days even the foreign media picked up what we said and quoted us in their news reports on Malaysia. Today, the foreign media regards what we say as just as incredible as what the government says.
We not only want to win the hearts and minds of Malaysians. We also want to win in the international court of public opinion. This will be very difficult to achieve if what we say no longer sounds credible.
Someone has to rein in these ‘guerrillas’ who are hurting rather than helping the cause. These ‘soldiers’ need to be trained and guided on how to fight a good fight. Throwing bombs into the market place and killing innocent people just because the government also shot one of our people is not going to win converts.
And there are still a lot of fence-sitters out there who we need to convert but will shy away if all they see are two equally evil groups fighting over power without any care about the truth and decency.
Hmm…can this be regarded as my New Year message to Malaysians (fight lies with truth and not fight lies with more lies)?

Najib is right on austerity but wrong on where to start – Steven Sim


The past six months had been a rollercoaster ride for Malaysians. First, the will of the majority (52%) to have a regime change was denied in the 13th general election (GE13) tainted by allegations of fraud.
Then, Barisan Nasional’s (BN) supporters, and their MPs no less, were getting more and more embarrassed everyday by the inflationary policies of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government.
Within less than four months after winning one of the toughest general elections Umno-BN ever faced in the country’s history, the government spilled the bad news, the first of a bout of subsidy cuts.
The mother of all these would be the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST), announced by Najib during his budget speech to be implemented 16 months from now on April 1, 2015.
Chickens coming home to roost
What is happening today is clearly chickens coming home to roost for the BN regime.
In the 80s and 90s, under Mahathirism, the regime pursued an economic growth founded on mega projects from making ships to making cars to making big buildings. There were many labels, from industrialisation policy to “Look East” to liberalisation to Malaysian Inc. to Vision 2020, but all were under the scheme, the same rent-seeking model where the juiciest parts of the economy went to well-connected individuals and corporations.
However, the private sector had been lackadaisical. Private investment falling drastically from over 30% of the country’s GDP in the 90s to less than 10% by 2007. In its place, the government became a bigger and bigger spender even as the so-called GLCs (government-linked corporations) were touted as private sector corporations.
There was macroeconomic growth to be sure, but prosperity did not reach far enough. By 1990, the top 20% took in more than 50% of the country’s income share while the bottom 40% only had 14.5%, ten years later in 2000, the situation did not change, in fact it worsened slightly against the bottom 40% and by 2009, the top 20% were raking in 51%, the bottom 40% has 14.5% but the middle class were reaping lesser from the economic pie than they did a decade ago. In other words, the majority of Malaysians regardless of race and religion did not benefit much from whatever growth the country was experiencing in the last 30 years.
To avoid massive public discontent, it was important for the regime to ensure that the masses were cushioned from higher cost of living as a result of all the growth around them. Subsidies were dished out directly and indirectly not only to feed the rentiers, but also to ensure prices of major items were kept artificially low to placate the masses. That Malaysia is a net exporter of petroleum since the 70s of course helped to ensure the regime has access to seemly bottomless pocket to fuel this subsidy system. 
As a result, today, we are a nation both addicted to and burdened by our culture of subsidy. Despite the cut, the regime’s subsidy cost is still high, at RM39.4 billion, or 20% of the 2014 federal budget.
Decades of mismanagement and the regime’s rentier economy also led to the lack of efficiency, low productivity and high cost in the public delivery system, lack of innovation in the private sector and rampant corruption. These, and the burgeoning economic gap mentioned above surely vindicate federal minister Idris Jala’s apocalyptic prophecy of Malaysia being a bankrupt state by 2019.
Thus, the Najib administration’s harsh austerity drive is but the haunting of the ghost from Umno-BN’s past. Najib has no choice, especially not after his expensive GE13 campaign which lasted for a full five years since his appointment as Prime Minister in 2009.
What can we expect in 2014?
In the 20 months succeeding the 13th general election in May this year, Malaysians are faced with three waves of major economic inflation.
The first wave is what we are experiencing the last six months, beginning with the petrol price increase in September followed by the sugar price increase in October.
The second wave which is probably more severe than the first will start from January 2014 with the increase in electricity tariff, toll hike, implementation of the minimum wage policy as well as the anticipated further reduction in fuel subsidy. The second wave will also see the effect of QE tapering in the USA which may result in a short-term drop in demands from the global economy.
Finally, the third wave which will take place 16 months from now upon the implementation of the GST on 1 April 2015.
The Malaysian Employers Federation has also warned of lower salary increment and lower bonus in 2014 for private sector workers.
Despite government officials’ repeated assurances, including the absurd guarantee that there will be zero to minimal price increase, it is not difficult to see that Malaysians in general should be braced for a tough year ahead.
Apa lagi rakyat mahu?
The famous words of Ayatollah Khomeini must be ringing in BN leaders’ mind bending on finding a justification for all the broken promises of GE13: the revolution is not to bring down the price of watermelons.
Therefore, despite the first wave and the approaching second wave of price inflation, the government busied themselves fighting boogeymen, from communists to Christians to Shias to “groups trying to topple the government”.
Finally, just two days before the end of 2013, and after much pressure, no less from civil society and the opposition, the Prime Minister announced 11 belt-tightening measures by the government, including a 10% ministerial entertainment allowance cut, an obvious sign of desperation to pacify Malaysians who are getting angrier by the day.
As much as we would like to believe Najib’s sincerity, these however are only superficial measures. Why cut the 50 ringgit toll facility for civil servants when billions are being wasted through a non-transparent government contract award system? Airline downgrade for civil servants may be good in times like this, but what about ministers and their spouses jetting around the world on hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money? Why talk about buntings and nasi lemak and kueh and teh susu served during government events but not about the government procurement process which led to billions of ringgit being wasted annually on “overpriced” items.
The rot started from three decades of failed governance; hence any fix must also begin there, within the government itself. In the end, it boils down to the need for institutional reforms, in particular to improve delivery, plug leakages and curb corruption.
If Umno is to save Malaysia, before weaning the people from the bad economic habits nurtured through the years, the ruling party should first wean itself from its addiction to constantly dip into the cookie jar. Yes, austerity was not a choice for Najib. But his mistake was to start with the already hard-squeezed regular Malaysians instead of his own lavish government and party, the source of the problems we face today.
*Steven Sim is the MP for Bukit Mertajam and the National Political Education director for DAP Socialist Youth (DAPSY).

Demonstrate, but don’t be like Siam – A Kadir Jasin



I AM not against people demonstrating. Even if I do, there’s little that I can do about it. Our Constitution guarantees peaceful assembly.
It is the fundamental constitutional rights of the people to gather in a peaceful assembly for legitimate purposes.
Therefore, I shall neither honour nor humour the people who are planning all kinds of demonstrations to bid farewell to 2013 and welcome the New Year 2014.
It is always difficult to maintain peace in a demonstration attended by a large group of people especially when the purpose is a strident one.
My two cents worth of unsolicited advice is, be calm and follow the rules. This applies to everybody – the demonstrators, the policemen and the City Hall enforcement officers.
The protestors will most certainly be young. So are the policemen. Even the IGP was young when the bloody Memali incident took place in 1985.
I remember that well because I attended a series of press conferences and briefings at the Home Ministry in the days that followed.
When it took place, the then PM, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was abroad and Tun Musa Hitam was made Acting PM. He was also Home Minister.
We have our share of demonstrations. But do ask: Do we want to be like Siam?
PM not here to hear
WHILE the protestors, be they for or against the government, may be demanding this and that, they should know that the man who could make things happen, i.e. the Prime Minister, Mohd Najib Abdul Razak, is not here to hear their demands firsthand.
He will be abroad for the New Year celebrations. Despite an earlier denial by a member of his Communication Advisory Group (CAG), the PM is indeed abroad.
A Kedai Kopi Assembly (KKA) regular said he left soon after Christmas celebrations in Penang and is not due back until Jan. 5.
Some readers and commentators may consider this article a gossip and “fitnah” (libel/slander) or even sacrilegious. But the following is the sequence of events to drive home my point.
1. In the posting entitled “Wanita Chief and the Grandmaster” on December 11, a debater going by the name of Zainol, had, among other things, commented: “…Dia kata Najib akan pergi cuti di LA dengan Isteri…Mereka terbang dari LA ka Sydney nak tengok matahari naik di Sydney. Jam itu kita masih tidor di Malaysia. Lepas itu mereka akan terbang dari Sydney pergi ka Les vagas untok tengok kalimkedua matahari naik. sebab Amerika satu hari lambat dari Australia.”
2. I asked a member of the CAG via SMS if this is true. The response: “NO!!!..” which I duly posted in the comment section of the posting entitled “Suspending Newspapers May Not Be The Answer.”
3. I then made the following notation: “Jadi, kalau ikut penasihat CAG itu, berita/dakwaan PM akan bercuti di luar negara pada tahun baru tidak betul. Tetapi tahun baru masih 7 hari lagi.”
4. Today, on the advice of the CAG member (one who denied the PM was going abroad) I sent the following SMS to the PM’s Press Secretary, Tengku Sharifuddin Tengku Ahmad: “Salam Tengku. This is akj. I have published a denial that the PM and wife are going to sydney and las vegas on the new year’s eve. The source asked me to confirm with you. Tq.”
5. He replied “Dato.. PM is on leave and overseas.” (So the CAG member was wrong!)
6. Just to be absolutely sure and not be accused of gossiping, libelling and slandering, I sent another SMS to Tengku Sharifuddin: “Sorry, I assume he will not be around for the new year. Tq.”
7. His response: “Overseas on leave. Dpm will be around.”
(Good luck Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin. Tired or not our well being is in your hand for the next few days.)  
8. Just to be super sure that I wasn’t missing anything, I asked two very senior newspaper editors, one of whom is also a member of the CAG, via SMS: “Sdr, akj here. Was there official announcement that the PM is on leave abroad? For my blog. Help appreciated. Tq.”
9. One responded: “No. I don’t think so. Don’t quote me plse.”
10. My response to him; “…May I say, a newspaper editor said no official media statement to that effect? Tq.”
11. He replied: “Ok.”
12. To be fair to all, I shot another SMS to Tengku Sharifuddin: “So the allegation that he might be in sydney and las vegas to see the sunrise on the new year could possibly be true. Someone from the CAG said pm wasn’t going abroad. I have to clarify in my blog. Anything u would like to add? Tq.”
The PM was also away at this time last year. But he is not alone. Many other ministers are also out of the country.
So if this is a gossip, a libel and a slander ( as I have alleged), I am willing to have debaters and visitors departing this blog in droves and not ever again commit sins by debating here as many a pious Muslim has been warning us lately. – kadirjasin.blogspot.com
* A Kadir Jasin was Group Editor NST Sdn Bhd and Group Editor-in-Chief of NSTP Bhd between 1988 and 2000.

Najib begins austerity measures to appease growing discontent over price hikes

Stung by growing criticisms that his government was out of touch with people's problems, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak (pic) today announced that the Government would implement 11 measures to slash public sector expenditure beginning January 1 next year.
The measures include reducing the entertainment allowance of ministers and deputy ministers by 10% and that of senior government officers on the Jusa C Grade and above by between 5% and 10%, he said in a statement issued by Putrajaya today.
According to Bernama, these measures are in accordance with the government's desire to practise more prudent spending in the new year.
Najib said the government would also reduce the entertainment allowance of senior government officers on the Jusa C Grade and above by between 5% and 10%.
Furthermore, the toll facility for senior government officers would also be reduced by between RM50 and RM100 or 30%, he said.
Najib, who is also the finance minister, said the government would also amend the eligibility for domestic and international flight tickets for civil servants, whereby civil servants on the Jusa C Grade and below will only be eligible for the economy class on domestic flights.
The government would also reduce by 5% the electricity utility cost at all ministries, departments, agencies and government premises, he said.
The prime minister said the government would freeze fresh applications for renovation of government offices while optimising use of existing office space to reduce rental of offices premises.
Najib said the government would tighten the appointment of consultants for government physical projects, including the conducting of feasibility studies.
The proposal for appointment of these consultants would have to be submitted to the National Development Planning Committee chaired by the Chief Secretary to the Government for prior approval.
Najib said the government would also cut down on the use of event management companies as well as the awarding of door gifts or souvenirs during government conferences or events involving members of the administration and civil servants.
Bernama also reported the prime minister as saying that the government would reduce the food and drinks as well as the use of buntings and banners when organising conferences, seminars, meetings, courses, workshops or any official government function.
The government would also apply the National Blue Ocean Strategy approach by optimising the use of the 1Malaysia Training Centre (1MTC) and facilities at government-owned training institutions for organising courses, seminar and workshops, he said.