Archive for October, 2013

31
Oct
13

Petronas-owned ‘World’s best hospital’ lost RM1.1 BILLION

The recent 2012 Auditor-General’s Report has once again raised a storm over the Federal Government’s track record in financial management and expenditure. According to Serdang MP Dr Ong Kian Ming, up to RM6.5 billion may have been wasted over 64 cases identified by the report.

However, there is one major Government-Linked Company that does not get reviewed by the Auditor-General, and that is our national oil company, Petronas. Formed by an Act of Parliament in 1974, Petronas is the custodian of our nation’s entire oil and gas resources, and remains until today Malaysia’s one and only Fortune 500 company.

Petronas is also the Federal Government’s financial backer, providing 40 per cent of the Federal Budget through dividends, oil royalty and taxes, but excluding gas subsidies, which are additional contributions.

By law, specifically Section 3(2) of the Petroleum Development Act, Petronas is answerable solely to the Prime Minister. Even Members of Parliament have no access to its financial records besides a simple annual report that is published for public consumption.

More than a billion in losses

Besides oil and gas, Petronas has in recent times ventured out of its core business in an attempt to diversify its portfolio. As a result, Petronas is now heavily invested into properties as well as the healthcare sector through Prince Court Medical Centre, a luxury private hospital situated in the heart of KL city.

However, at a cost of RM544 million to build, the investment in Prince Court Medical Centre has not been able to reap any profit. In fact, according to its annual report, the private hospital has been suffering huge losses every year for 10 years in a row, particularly in the last five years since its operations started.

In 2008, Prince Court lost a total of RM111 million. This figure nearly doubled to RM192 million in 2009 before haemorrhaging a further RM450 million in 2010. By year ending 31 December 2011, the accumulated losses stood at an incredible RM1.08 billion, as shown in the table below.

…more
Petronas RM1.1 BILLION SHOCKER! ‘World’s best hospital’ loss-making for past 10 yrs
Written by Zairil Khir Johari
18 October 2013 – Malaysia Chronicle

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30
Oct
13

Tycoon’s legal battle over Umno’s assets set to be messier

An on-going legal tussle over Umno’s business assets, between Putrajaya and tycoon Tan Sri Halim Saad, is set to get messier, The Edge Review reported.

The digital weekly news publication reported that Halim, a former controlling shareholder of troubled conglomerate Renong Berhad, had filed a suit in mid-April to seek an order from the High Court to direct Putrajaya to honour a settlement agreement valued at roughly RM2 billion (US$629.7 million) for his takeover of the Renong group.

The filings also made public correspondence between him and former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic), which The Edge Review described as offering a “rare peek into behind-the-scenes manoeuvrings during some of the most dramatic days in corporate Malaysia” as the country struggled to boost investor confidence after the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

The report noted that recently, Halim has moved to back up his legal claims with sworn statements from key individuals, including his lawyer and a former Umno treasurer.

A senior Kuala Lumpur-based lawyer, Abdul Rashid Manaf, who had accompanied Halim to meetings with top government officials on the Renong takeover, claimed he was a witness to negotiations that culminated in an agreement on a financial settlement for Halim.

The report said Abdul Rashid recalled a meeting in April 2010 he attended between Dr Mahathir and Halim over protracted issues surrounding compensation for the former Renong boss.

“Dr Mahathir’s response was startling. According to him, there was never any reason to pay Halim all along,” he was quoted as saying.

The report also noted that in a separate sworn statement, Umno’s former treasurer, Datuk Seri Abdul Azim Mohd Zabidi, recalled discussions he had with Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop who implied that the Renong assets belonged to Umno.

“When I took over as Umno treasurer, I received a substantial amount of cash and shares belonging to Umno. Whether the cash portion was part of any settlement from the Renong deal, I don’t know and I never asked,” he was quoted as saying.

Halim is suing the government, the state-owned strategic investment fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd and former economic affairs minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, who acted as the government’s agent in the negotiations for the Renong takeover in 2001.

…more
Tycoon Halim Saad’s legal battle over Umno’s assets set to be messier, report reveals
By EILEEN NG
October 18, 2013 – TMI

29
Oct
13

Auditor-General: Rules in place, but enforcement lacking

Event though the problems have been highlighted in his report, Auditor-General Ambrin Buang says department heads are sometimes lax in taking disciplinary action against errant civil servants.

There already are rules in place to punish civil servants, but enforcement is lacking, Ambrin told a forum last night.

“(Punitive) action cannot be taken as long as department heads do not act. And we wonder why they are not acting.

“Perhaps the department head does not view the matter seriously. Perhaps he takes pity on his officers; that the officers did well in other areas and only overlooked in this one,” Ambrin said.

Ambrin was speaking to some 100 students at Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Economics and Administration, alongside two academicians, Lee Hwok Aun and Muhammad Asri Mohd Ali.

He said this in answer to a question from the moderator on whether a special committee had been set up to scrutinise his report, since doubts have been raised about the veracity of the audit report.

Ambrin dismissed this contention and explained that the committee, chaired by the chief secretary to the government, Ali Hamsa, was set up to ensure follow-up action is taken on the audit report and to hold the departmental director-generals accountable on this.

He added that disciplinary action is appropriate when irregularities occur, even if without criminal intent, it these incur losses to the government.

Public wants fast, firm action

Penalties include written warnings that would delay salary increments, a delay in promotion, the imposition of a surcharge or even dismissal from service.

In cases where there is believed to be criminal intent, such as corruption, the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) would investigate and refer the findings to the attorney-general.

“The public demands action. They want faster action and they want firmer action… It must hurt. Only then will they (civil servants) feel it.

“When we take action, others will watch. Only then it would count. That person responsible would have lost his promotion or have his salary adjustment delayed, and it becomes a topic of conversation,” Ambrin added.

…more
Rules in place, but errant civil servants not punished
Koh Jun Lin
Oct 18, 2013 – Malaysiakini

28
Oct
13

Zahid’s offer to tweak PCA shows law is faulty

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 — The government’s offer to adopt suggestions to modify the amended Prevention of Crime Act (PCA) only after it was passed shows that it knew the “draconian” changes were flawed to begin with, DAP lawmaker Gobind Singh Deo said.

The Puchong MP further said that soliciting suggestions to alter the law after pushing it through both the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara made a travesty of the august Parliament.

“This is most alarming. It appears that the Dewan Rakyat has been misled into passing a law which is most draconian although the bill still needed discussion and was therefore yet to be finalised.

“It is obvious that the [Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi] knows full well that what he pushed through in the Dewan was not only unconstitutional but also seriously flawed in many aspects. Yet, he went ahead and rushed the bill through,” Gobind said in a statement today.

Given the grave nature of the amendments to reintroduce detention without law, Gobind said the home minister should have informed Parliament that the then-proposed amendments were not yet finalised and subject to further amendments pending discussions.

Passing the law first and seeking feedback later meant the government was in a “dangerous and unfortunate” situation of unleashing a law with dire consequences despite knowing it was not ready for application, the parliamentarian said.

“So what will Zahid do now in the meanwhile? Is he going to put everything on hold pending finalization? Then why push it through in the first place? Was it a really all a drama to enhance his popularity for the Umno VP contest?”

Yesterday, Ahmad Zahid was reported as saying the Home Ministry will reach out to organisations unhappy with changes to the PCA.

…more
Zahid’s offer to tweak PCA shows law is faulty, says DAP MP
October 18, 2013 – Malay Mail Online

28
Oct
13

Archbishop: Denying ‘Allah’ to Christians akin to persecution

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 — Denying Malay-speaking Christians the right to describe God as “Allah” in their worship and in the Al-Kitab is tantamount to persecution, Catholic Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam has said, as he continued to express the Church’s objection to last week’s controversial court ruling.

The archbishop of Kuala Lumpur also pointed out that more than half of the Catholic Church’s parish churches and chapels in the peninsula conduct at least one worship service or catechism lessons weekly in Bahasa Malaysia, in order to cater to the thousands of Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians from Sabah and Sarawak who live here.

“Hence, to conclude that the word ‘Allah’ is not essential to the Christian faith would be a grave denial of the fundamental right of the Bahasa Malaysia speaking Christian community to use this word in prayer, worship services, prayer books, the Al-Kitab and other publications,” Pakiam said in a statement issued yesterday.

“This would be tantamount to signalling a form of persecution,” added the senior cleric.

The Court of Appeal ruled last week against a 2009 High Court decision allowing the Catholic Church to refer to the Christian god with the Arabic word “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia section of its weekly paper, the Herald.

The court adjudged the usage of the word “Allah” as not integral to the Christian faith and said that allowing such an application would cause confusion in the Muslim community.

Pakiam noted today that the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians from East Malaysia who have migrated to the peninsula include armed forces personnel, police officers, civil servants, college and university students, as well as other workers in the private sector.

“As committed religious leaders, we have to ensure that we respectfully minister to them in the national language.

“For this reason then, we do not accept the statement of these judges and stand in solidarity with other Church leaders who have also emphatically voiced their objection,” said Pakiam.

He also called the Court of Appeal “grossly misinformed” in concluding that the word “Allah” was not essential to the Christian faith.

…more
Archbishop: Denying ‘Allah’ to Christians akin to persecution
By Boo Su-Lyn
October 21, 2013 – Malay Mail Online

27
Oct
13

Bridge over troubled waters

Straits project a bridge too far?

KINIBIZ Economists are questioning the economic viability of building a bridge from Teluk Gong in Malacca with the port of Dumai in Sumatra across the Straits of Malacca, after it emerged that the plan which was first mooted in 1995, could be revived.

“While there is no specific feasibility studies to reference, available data in terms of population size, economic capacity of the Indonesian people in the Dumai area and the prospect of substantial capital investment, makes the project’s viability quite questionable,” said RAM Holdings group chief economist Yeah Kim Leng.

The project was first suggested in the mid-nineties, under then prime minister Dr Mathathir Mohamad, but shelved when the Asian Financial Crises hit. In the later years of the 2000s, the project came up every once in awhile; in 2006 and again in 2009 then Malacca chief minister Ali Rustam broached the subject, but again it never took off.

It is estimated that the 48km plus bridge from Teluk Gong in Malacca to Pulau Rupat (the closest connecting point) will cost approximately RM44.3 billion, and at this length is will be the longest sea crossing in the world. From there, a 71.2km highway across Pulau Rupat will connect the bridge with the port city of Dumai.

Yeah highlighted that funding the project will be a major issue, as either public or private investment will come with its own set of concerns.

Although the Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM), have indicated in the past that it would be willing to invest substantially in the project, Yeah says that the are still long-term cost issues. He notes “even if the EXIM bank funded the project, there is the issue of repayment, which will be substantial … is there really a sufficient amount of traffic to be able to pay it off and at what rate (toll rate)? … it is likely that the governments will have to step in to top it up (repayment costs).”

In the event, that the government decides to fund the project, then the question shifts to the multiplier effects to make it worthwhile, said Yeah. He questions if there are better projects to spend the money on, especially in view of the government’s recent announcements that it will be sequencing mega projects, to prioritise those with high multiplier effects and low import content.

…more
Straits project a bridge too far?
Stephanie Jacob, KiniBiz
Oct 17, 2013 – Malaysiakini

 

Bridge to Dumai: Don’t jump (for joy) too soon

Malacca-Dumai Bridge project could increase the national debt level and a cost-benefit analysis should be done first, said CIMB chief economist Lee Heng Guie.

UPDATED

PETALING JAYA: The federal and Malacca state governments should consider the current economic situation and debt problem before undertaking the Malacca-Dumai bridge project across the Straits of Malacca, said CIMB chief economist Lee Heng Guie.

Lee said the government should conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis before it carrying such a mega-project.

He said it would be an extra burden for the government to contain the increasing national debt because work on the Mass Rapid Transit project had already started.

The chief economist suggested revamping the public transportation system in the country before thinking of a bridge to connect Indonesia.

The 48.69km bridge, crossing one of the busiest international shipping waterway, would be the world’s longest, even without including a 71.2km-long highway to be built between Dumai and Pulau Rupat.

The idea to build the bridge was first mooted in 1995 to increase economic opportunities between Malaysia and Indonesia but halted during the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

Strait of Malacca Partners Sdn Bhd owner Lim Sue Beng had already done a feasibility study on the bridge and presented a paper at the 8th Asean Leadership Forum at Hotel Nikko in Jakarta in May 2011.

The company also appointed the Hunan Provincial Communications Planning, Survey & Design Institute of China to prepare the bridge design.

The project was again discussed during the 10th Chief Ministers and Governors’ Forum (CMGF) of the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) held in Koh Samui, Thailand, on Sept 12.

Among the matters discussed was the economic potential and strategic positioning of the IMT-GT with the construction of the bridge.

It has been reported that the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China had agreed to finance 85% of the bridge’s cost of about RM44.3billion.

Economically challenging

RAM chief economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng said the project would be economically challenging due to its high cost.

Dr Yeah said even though the project could be implemented through a public-private partnership approach, at the end of the day the financing burden would fall on the government.

“This will indirectly involve taxpayers’ money which should be used for projects to benefit the public,” he said.

Dr Yeah said the government should look into the debt level and budget deficit before thinking of mega projects.

Civil engineering expert Prof Andrew Chan from the University of Nottingham (Malaysia campus) said technically it is feasible to build the bridge but questioned whether there is a demand for such a mega-project.

He added that there were some highways built without public demand and the government should conduct a study to show that the project benefited the public.

…more
Bridge to Dumai: Don’t jump (for joy) too soon
P Ramani
October 17, 2013 – FMT

 

The proposed Strait of Malacca bridge: Linking or breaking the region?

Plans have been mooted to construct a bridge to link the Indonesian port-city of Dumai in the Sumatran province of Riau with Malacca. This bridge will obviously result to any of these two circumstances; linking or breaking the region.

Another issue which arises is whether the bridge could really foster economic benefits for both countries. Would the level of cost involved in constructing the bridge be justified by subsequent usage?

The cost of constructing the bridge would result in high debt liabilities for both Malaysia and Indonesia which would be passed on to bridge users in higher tolls. In contrast to the Oresund Bridge in the Scandinavian region, both Malaysia and Indonesia are developing States and do not enjoy the relatively high standards of living of Scandinavia.

If the toll imposed on the bridge is too expensive, the public at large may refrain from using it and may revert to using ferries and boats to cross the Strait of Malacca.

In terms of tourism, the bridge may attract more tourists into both countries but this cannot be guaranteed. With the tropical weather conditions which are common in both Malaysia and Indonesia, thunder storms are a natural phenomenon in the evening. Driving across the Strait would be dangerous in this type of weather.

If there is not much vehicle traffic on the bridge, drivers may likely then be exposed to hijacking and other criminal activities like highway robberies and carjacking. The substantial length of the bridge which is likely to be up to 127.92km would make it difficult for the authorities to maintain the safety and security of drivers.

Malacca on the Malaysian side is a strategic site for the bridge as Malacca and other major cities in Malaysia including Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Johor Bahru and neighbouring Singapore are not too far away from Malacca.

These cities are served with good highway connections that link them to the city of Malacca. However, Dumai is not a similarly strategic site on the Indonesian side as it only has a relatively small population of around 215,789 in 2008, is not a major city in Indonesia and is distant from other main Indonesian cities like Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Medan, Palembang and Padang.

Dumai is not served with a good network of expressways connecting it with these other cities. The proposed bridge plan would only be practically viable if it connects Malacca with another major city or cities in Indonesia, particularly Jakarta.

With the emergence of many budget airlines like Air Asia, Sriwijaya Air and Lion Air in the region that provide affordable flight services, flying is likely to be the preferred method of transportation. Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia is approximately 1063 kms away from Dumai.

So, it would be more practical for Indonesians that reside in Jakarta or other parts of Java, wishing to come to Malaysia to fly directly to Kuala Lumpur instead of driving a long way to Dumai to use the bridge. For Malaysians that intend to go to Sumatra or Java, flying would be the preferred option over using the bridge as it is a cheaper mode of transportation and not as time consuming.

Conclusion

Taking these considerations into account, having a bridge connection between Malacca and Dumai is not likely to boost economic growth between the two nations. It could also be seen as a potential major navigational hazard for international shipping traffic transiting the Strait of Malacca as raising the likelihood of maritime accidents and marine pollution. For now, it is not entirely viable to have the bridge, not just yet. – September 24, 2013.

– Mohd Hazmi and Wan Izatul Asma

…more
The proposed Strait of Malacca bridge: Linking or breaking the region? – Mohd Hazmi and Wan Izatul Asma
September 24, 2013 – TMI

 

Malacca-Dumai bridge: More questions raised

Building bridges must have value-added purpose, not a competition for Book of Records listing.

PETALING JAYA: The idea to have a bridge connecting Malacca to Dumai in Sumatra, and achieving the title of longest suspension bridge in the world, receives a not ‘too glowing’ appraisal from a local structural expert.

Structure expert Cheong C Kwong who has over 30 years experience in bridge structures, gave FMT his expert views on bridge designs.

According to Cheong, the Straits of Malacca has a deep sea bed that requires to be studied before embarking on such a mega project.

“Before we can ever think on having a suspension bridge, the consultants need to carry out a ‘feasibility reconnaissance’ on the Straits of Malacca,” said Cheong.

The feasibility reconnaissance is to assist in determining whether an intended plan can eventually be implemented and development can proceed. The study will be able to determine the optimum point for a bridge span (length).

“In usual practise, the engineers will look for an optimum point from one end to another which means that the bridge will have the right span to hold the design,” said Cheong.

He added that when constructing bridges, engineers look for the shortest and optimum span (length) for a bridge, and not to compete for records such as building the longest bridge in the world.

According to Cheong, other factors to look into before constructing bridges is the pier (support) design for the bridge, how the pier will be supported and other dynamics of the bridge structure.

The reason behind why the bridge from Malacca to Dumai has to be a suspension bridge is because of the longer span (length) from one point to another, he explained.

He pointed out that the first and second Penang bridges were constructed using the ‘cable-stayed’ concept. A cable-stayed bridge has one or more towers (or pylons), from which cables support the bridge deck.

“To have [a] suspension bridge it will be very costly compared to [a] cable-stayed bridge,” he added.

Other poor factors

The structural expert commented that when constructing bridges, there should be some purpose and economic returns. He questions the valid economic returns to be benefited in having a bridge between Malacca and Dumai.

To him, he did not see any economic returns, apart from the hefty cost to construct the bridge.

Secondly, the structure expert believes that weather conditions will not permit the development of such a bridge.

“The engineers need to consider all the possibilities to have a strong support if an earthquake or tsunami takes place,” he said.

“Not only earthquakes, haze also impairs the vision and how are drivers able to see the road ahead,” he said.

Another technical point to be considered is that the height of the bridge is expected to be 76 metres above sea level and the bridge designers have proposed a ‘one-way single ship’ and ‘one-way double ship’ channel to pass under the bridge.

One way single and double ship is the pathway for ships to travel under the bridge.

He stated that the proposed 76m will not be an optimum if large or cruise ships were to pass under the bridge.

The structure expert also questioned as to who will control sea traffic management considering that the Straits of Malacca is known for it’s busy waters.

“This will surely create a traffic congestion on the sea,” he added.

…more
Malacca-Dumai bridge: More questions raised
P Ramani
October 24, 2013 – FMT

27
Oct
13

Scrap National Service to save cost

Scrap the National Service to reduce the nation’s deficit, Pakatan Rakyat urged Putrajaya today.

In a press conference at Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s headquarters in Tropicana, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim called on the government to review the NS programme.

“We propose that the NS, which has caused the death of 22 teenagers, be stopped next year as a moratorium to allow a parliament select committee to be set up to make revisions or scrap it altogether,” he said.

Anwar was commenting on PR’s shadow budget for 2014, which aims to reduce Malaysia’s deficit by 3%.

“The focus of our budget will be on inequality; the widening gap between the rich and the poor,” he said.

…more
Scrap National Service to save cost, Anwar urges Putrajaya
BY ELIZABETH ZACHARIAH
October 17, 2013 – TMI




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All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

- Edmund Burke
When the people
fears their government,
there is TYRANNY;
when the government
fears the people,
there is LIBERTY.

- Thomas Jefferson
Do you hear the people sing?

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