Monday, August 31, 2015

#SehatiSejiwa 2015

It's hard to feel excited with Merdeka 2015 with the current political climate. However, there is indeed a fine line between patriotism and politics:
Patriotism - devoted love, support, and defense of one's country, national loyalty
Politics - the science or art of political government, use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control
I pray for Malaysia's keamanan and kesejahteraan, politically and economically. I continue to hope for a day when we are all interdependent Malaysians:
Dependent citizens always depend on government assistance for basic and other needs through subsidies, preferential treatment, etc. On the other hand, independent citizens does not need any government assistance to live a comfortable life. The final stage is when all independent citizens, regardless of skin colors, are working together to effectively compete in global economies for the betterment of the country.

Remember Tun. M's wise words:
Bukan kecil tugas kita
meneruskan perjuangan kemerdekaan kita
kerana rupanya selain memerdekakan,
mengisi kemerdekaan itu jauh lebih sengsara.

Semoga Tuhan mencucuri rahmat pejuang-pejuang kemerdekaan. (Note: the following is UMNO's propaganda, but does capture the sacrifices of our forefathers):

Atas Nama Perjuangan (Part 1 of 3)
Atas Nama Perjuangan (Part 2 of 3)
Atas Nama Perjuangan (Part 3 of 3)

Last but not least, check out this Tanah Pusaka song:

Monday, August 10, 2015

Najib Razak's Popularity Plunged by 61% Since Last Year?

My 35th birthday is coming up in a few days. My 3-year old girl has been leaking some secrets about the kind of cake my wife has ordered. I'm sure I will get some wishes from my closest friends and colleagues. Some people whom I may have wronged directly or indirectly in the past year will probably not going to waste their time to wish me well this year.

It occurred to me that I could do some birthday-related data analytics to estimate PM Najib Razak's popularity since his birthday was a few weeks ago. I didn't remember the date, just saw a few tweets wishing he well (I did have to memorize the birthdays of all PMs when I represented Perlis in Kuiz Perdana, but that was before Najib and Pak Lah). Anyway, I thought I should compare how many birthday wishes Najib received last year versus this year, you know after the 1MDB brouhaha and all. This could be a proxy metric to compare his popularity before and after the 1MDB scandal.

Granted, Twitter users may represent only a slice of Malaysian population, some wishes may or may not be sincere, and like other surveys, the results are subjected to sampling errors. However, this is a controlled, non-random, approach using the same methodology in identifying birthday wishes in English and Malay (original tweets and retweets) to @NajibRazak within the month of July in 2015 versus the same month in 2014. As such the relative percentage difference is more important than the absolute numbers (raw data here).

The verdict is not good. Najib's birthday wishes dropped by a whopping 61% this year as compared to that in 2014.

I was hoping to compare the result with the Merdeka Center's survey, but the their latest result (January 2015) is quite outdated for comparison.

Although this is a proxy estimate, I would argue that it is much better (indirect, revealed preference) than asking a room full of UMNO Ketua Bahagian and Majlis Tertinggi (direct, stated preference) as people tend to lie when been asked directly in a survey to protect their interests.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Bullshit is Everywhere

Bullshit is everywhere. There is very little that you will encounter in life that has not been, in some ways, infused with bullshit.
Not all of it is bad. Your general, day-to-day, organic, free-range bullshit is often necessary, or at the very least innocuous - "Oh, what a beautiful baby. I'm sure it will grow into that". That kind of bullshit in many ways provides important social-contract fertilizer. It keeps people from making each other cry all day.

But then there is the more pernicious bullshit. Your premeditated, institutional bullshit, designed to obscure and distract. Designed by whom? The bullshitocracy. It comes in three basic flavors.
One, making bad things sound like good things e.g. organic, all-natural cupcakes because factory-made sugar oatmeal balls doesn’t sell, Patriot Act because “are you scared enough to let me look at all your phone records” Act doesn’t sell. So whenever something has been titled "Freedom", "Family", "Fairness", "Health America", take a good long sniff. Chances are it’s been manufactured in a facility that may contain traces of bullshit.

Number two, the second way, hiding the bad things under mountains of bullshit. Complexity. You know, I would love to download Drizzy’s latest Meek Mill Diss. Everyone promised me that that made sense. But I’m not really interested right now on reading Tolstoy’s iTunes agreement. So I’ll just click agree, even if it grants Apple prima nocta with my spouse. Here’s another one: simply put, simply put. Banks shouldn’t be able to bet your pension money on red. Bulshitly put, it’s hey, this Dodd Frank. Hey, a handful of billionaires can’t buy our elections, right? Of course not. They can only pour unlimited, anonymous cash into a 501(c)4 if 50% is devoted to issues like education, otherwise they’d have to 501(c)6 it, or funnel it openly through a non-campaign coordinated super PAC.
And finally, it’s the bullshit of infinite possibility. These bullshitters cover their unwillingness to act under the guise of unending inquiry. We can’t do anything because we don’t yet know everything. We cannot take action on climate change, until everyone in the world agrees gay-marriage vaccines won’t cause our children to marry goats, who are going to come for our guns. Until then, I say it leads to controversy.

Now, the good news is this. Bullshitters have gotten pretty lazy, and their work is easily detected. And looking for it is kind of a pleasant way to pass the time. Like an “I Spy” of bullshit. So I say to you tonight, friends. The best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.
- Jon Stewart, The Daily Show final episode

Potential Silver Linings Behind Ringgit's Decline

There are opportunities in every crisis. The Star reported that Ringgit fell through the 3.9 support level against the US dollar on Thursday. Bloomberg yesterday reported that Societe Generale cut its third-quarter Ringgit forecast to 4.10 from 3.80, and the year-end estimate to 3.90 from 3.70. It appears that there is a chance for a prolonged period of undervalued Ringgit. What does this mean to our competitive advantages in the region, and globally?

Ringgit's continuing decline is such an instance that should require the country to revisit its transformation agenda and strategies. With more than 10% decline this year, all Malaysian strategic arms and think tanks should regroup to address the potential negative repercussions as well as strategies to take advantage of the situation, especially in revamping certain exports. In plain language, how do we take the advantage when Made in Malaysia products are cheaper in foreign markets. Below are some relevant industries and strategies that can be considered:
  1. Palm Oil
    In 2011 palm oil accounts for 33% of global market share of cooking oil. Can the production be significantly increase for export? A WSJ article this week discussed red palm oil as a superfood - packed with healthy antioxidants and good for the heart. Perhaps we can start riding a new food revolution with red palm oil, MPOC?
    Sample red palm oil from Malaysia. Source:
  2. Petrochemical
    Lower Ringgit and lower crude oil price should be a double-bonanza for oil and gas downstream industry. In particular, should the Pengerang project be expedited? The project is intended to add value to imported crude oil by producing "new high-value and high-demand products and by-products, such as polymers, pharmaceutical products and plastics".  
    Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC). Source:
  3. Electronics How about supporting local electronics productions for export especially by Malaysian companies that have been organically developed by Malaysians and through Malaysian government and private equity support. A case in point is Quantum Electro Opto Systems Sdn Bhd (QEOS) to “pioneer the commercial development of high speed, low-cost and power efficient fiber optics communication solutions”. Disclaimer: QEOS' CEO, Dr. Gabriel Walter, covered in The Star in January, was my housemate while studying together in USA.
    Optical Modules
    QEOS' high-speed optical modules. Source:
  4. Halal Food
    What happen to the goal to make Malaysia as the international halal food hub? Perhaps this is the time to rehashing the strategies to reach the goal?
These are just some example of industries and/or sectors that can be expanded to increase export to take advantage of low Ringgit in global markets.

Related article: Transformation Continues

Saturday, August 1, 2015

WhatsApp Chat re Najib, 1MDB etc. with Malaysian Like-Minds

Disclaimer: Real names, phone numbers and locations are not disclosed to protect privacy. All are 30 something Malays with either UK or US higher education.

@ilmuialahkuasa: This article really made me thinking:
@ilmuialahkuasa: It was pretty sloppy of Najib to allegedly channeled the money to his account, but if he actually used the money for political campaigning, not personal use, has he done anything wrong? It's definitely wrong and unethical in the U.S. In Malaysia?
Gosh: in Malaysia, nothing is wrong sbnrnya
Wan: @ilmuialahkuasa, good article..i thot in US it is okay since everything must b declared?
Wan: Tp in najib's case sbb the source tied to 1mdb, which is very3 suspicious..being a glc etc
Sham: 1st, Let us be clear that donation for political means & corruption are totally seperate matters.. Ex in US, donation is legal, but corruption is not..
@ilmuialahkuasa: Yeah political donation is legal and have to be declared. But x leh pi personal account candidate.
Wan: Oh..i see..patut gi the party's account
Han: Yup malaysia mmg political donation legal
Sham: 2nd Yes in Malaysia, startng from Dr M, all PM/head of Umno has access to undisclosed fund.. But this fund is controlld by 3 person, normally d President, d Deputy& secretary general..
Han: To expense out, u need to give to political parties
Sham: U can read about this is Malaysian Maverick bu Barry Wain
Han: Tulis check ke akaun umno malaysia or political parties lain
Sham: But never b4, such a huge fund is act being channel to an individual account that even the deputy president doesnt know the transaction details..
@ilmuialahkuasa: Kat US big companies donate to both parties, democrats and republican. To some extend its some sort of hedging coz dua2 kuat.
Sham: And somehow this transactions has been made known to the international media, and this has affectd Malaysia international standings politically & economically..
@ilmuialahkuasa: Najib has a tendency to built separate teams to handle stuffs. Tu style leadership dia which might be very efficient in some cases like PEMANDU, but not in election spending apparently. This approach alienate some people like specific ministries, and apparently his own deputy.
Sham: And never b4 too such a huge enterprise as RM40bn 1mdb has been used as a channel for this dirty money.. IMO, if this goes unpunishd, who knows that even a bigger scandal will be cooked up, in excess of trillions RM.. And who says all d biggest institutions in Malaysia such as Petronas, PNB, TNB & even Khazanah will be safe from this corrupt approach???
@ilmuialahkuasa: Sham, perception is one thing truth is another. Things are grey for sure.
Sham: Coz all these organisations's BOD are being chaired directly by PM or his trustee..
Sham: No, its really wrong.. Even in Malaysian Law, that's why d previous AG was dismissd..
Sham: Najib is really just buying time.. To clear all d records i think..
Tan: Okay Wak masuk masuk
Tan: Jangan type sket2 je
Tan: ��������
@ilmuialahkuasa: Are you saying a Malaysian court would actually find Najib guilty for receiving large amount of money for political campaigning? Remember even WSJ article not sure the source of the money and how it was spent
Sham: From Political Science, we know that a leader cannot rule effectively if his influence  has been eroded, in d case of Najib, extensively..
Sham: Unless he became a dictator..
Sham: @ilmuialahkuasa, i suggest he can be chargd in court for corruption, not for donation..
Tan: Good discussion.. Let's continue it with makan2 ��
Sham: Whethr he will be found guilty, that's depends whether the court is truly independent or not..
Tan: Tak best tengok screen je
@ilmuialahkuasa: But the proof for corruption is weak.
Sham: For a PM, it is enuf for him to be charged in court to justify he cannnot continue as PM anymore, in this case of national importance..
Sham: Haha Tan aku ok ajer.. Anyday after 10pm.. Lpas budk2 tido
@ilmuialahkuasa: He's indeed buying time. As long as he can shut up Ahmad Maslan and let people like Rahman Dahlan to speak, he might be winning the perception war.
Sham: Perhaps.. I just hope Malaysians is able to see beyond d cloud of deceptions& media play..
Tan: Syukur Malaysia masih aman
@ilmuialahkuasa: Yup, sib baik TSMY x rile up people cam Anwar.
Sham: Ramai org taye siapa bleh gnti najib? I would suggest KJ.. Walaupn i dun know him much, but act time Paklah i power, a lot of gud things happnd..
@ilmuialahkuasa: Nyaris2 kita pi join reformasi time dulu.
Sham: D new khazanah was establshd in 2004, whn Pak Lah jst jd PM.. It introducd transparncy & business acumn into GLC that brngs many gud things to Malaysian 10 yrs later..
Sham: Unifi, 4G from Celcom, new highways from PLUS, relatively stable & cheap electricity from TNB etc etc..
@ilmuialahkuasa: Umno has quite a hierarchical system sham. Kalau TSMY retire, Vice Presidents are the only options, practically between Zahid and Hishamuddin
Sham: Its not prfect but much better than 1mdb for sure..
Sham: That 's my daydream tp i dun think much changes will come from both d deputy & vice..
@ilmuialahkuasa: Aku suspect all those things are Tun's brainchild but peaked time Pak Lah
Sham: Perhaps 2x
@ilmuialahkuasa: KJ is sure cool to the youngsters but among pros he's being seen as playing it too safe
@ilmuialahkuasa: Ketua Pemuda kena buat scene cam Zahid time Anwar, Hishamuddin dgn keris
@ilmuialahkuasa: He's wasting a crisis IMHO
Sham: Nobody has gut.. Najib is very much in control 4 now..
Wan: Kita tukar lah sekali...60 thn party sama je ��
Wan: I think this is partially why leaders act in such way...knowing they'll be there no matter what
Wan: If people can show they cant tolerate nonsense from both sides..they care, they r watching..
Sham: My cousin who is a kontraktor kelas D in JB once told me that he need to markup 40% for donations for any govmnt project that he bids..
Sham: Tambah dgn profit margin 30% that any businessman will do, that leave only 30% for the actual project cost..
Pip: The problem is systemic. I believe we need to impose campaign financing requirements to address the issue.  Otherwise tukar gov pun sama je.
@ilmuialahkuasa: Susah opposition nk survive pip kalau nk kena declare. Malaih aku nk clarify takut cia ketuk umah
Pip: All political parties must declare all their financing. Kalau US, there is a limit on how much an individual can donate. Dulu USD 2000. Corporation I'm not sure.
Pip: Both sides pun susah sbnrnya. Aku ade kenal tukang bwk bag full of cash masuk pst penamaan calon. Kalau ade legislation BN pun susah
Sham: Satu lg, we dont grow statesman, but rather politican cum biz man.. Stateman like d old Tun Razak, Tun Dr Ismail, even Dr M..
Sham: Our talents go wastd doing backdoor work that nobody noticed..
@ilmuialahkuasa: Agreed pip. Lagi bnyk pros than cons with transparency.
Sham: Or they went to greenr pasture like u guys..
@ilmuialahkuasa: I'd prefer doing work behind the door sham, low profile. Politics is not for the faint heart
Sham: D best of d best shud go to politics.. At least accordng to Plato..
Sham: Tp if u go to any Umno grassroot meetings, they r dominatd by those rent seekng small time traders that wud not be competitive  without connection..
Sham: Maybe in PR, but IMO they r still a longshot to Putrajaya..
@ilmuialahkuasa: Money politics is a turned off. Aku balik jadi perwakilan umno zaman Pak Lah dulu depa dok bagi duit sepah2 cam air. Penat aku mengaji tinggi2 tgk anak2 depa lps spm pakai 3 series.
Han: Hahah
Sham: Hahaha

Saturday, July 11, 2015

1MDB: Imprudent or Fraudulent?

For foreign investors, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and The Economist are among the most trusted sources of information to guide their decision makings. Their thought process in evaluating their direct or indirect investments in Malaysia, vis-à-vis 1MDB and its impact to Malaysia’s economy, and their perceptions, might be as follows:
  1. Was 1MDB imprudent? Yes - There made consistent irrational business decisions to buy high and sell low (sources: WSJ – Fund Controversy Threatens Malaysia’s Leader, The Economist – Gathering Steam).
  2. Was 1MDB fraudulent? Was it used illegally to enrich certain individuals? Quasi-Yes/Quasi-No - There are money trails to the Malaysian PM’s personal account, but there is no evidence that the transferred fund was used for personal use (source: WSJ – Investigators Believe Money Flowed to Malaysian Leader Najib’s Accounts Amid 1MDB Probe). For what it is worth, the PM may invest it politically to stay in power so that 1MDB could still be in life support until its full turnaround.
  3. Was 1MDB and the PM, for that matter, unethical? Hell Yes – WSJ presented proofs of the money trails from 1MDB-affiliates to the PM, and at this stage, there is no proof or denial that the PM did not receive the money. The only denial was the PM emphasized he’s not using it for personal use.
  4. Verdict: 1MDB will not survive, but the PM and Malaysia’s economy may. As such, reduce, but not eliminate all investments for potential up swing.
My verdict: Imprudent? Yes. Fraudulent? Maybe. Unethical? Who am I to judge? Maybe politicians skimming or raiding money from government-linked companies is as acceptable in Malaysia as my buddies accepting invitations from suppliers to “berbuka puasa” (break the Ramadan fast) at lavish hotels.

The problem with people of faith like us, we perceive that we could commit any sin today because we could always repent tomorrow or the day after or the day after the day after etc. The rule of ethics is simple – what is wrong is wrong, no matter how you spin it.

p/s: I haven’t been blogging for a while, but have been tweeting to share my quick thoughts or things I read via @ilmuialahkuasa. Regardless, here are some things that crossed my mind that I may never further tweet or blog about:
  • Suing WSJ is playing with fire for Najib. He may get counter-sued or worse indicted by Attorney General in New York ala FIFA scandal because in both cases financial transactions passed through banks in New York. Plenty of people need a trophy before the next election season in the States. Be careful the next time in attending UN meetings in Manhattan Mr. Najib!
  • PKR, DAP and other oppositions, you have much better chance to capture Putrajaya if Najib in power. Shut-up and get your ducks in a row instead. Life in Selangor and Penang is not bad at all right, besides the occasional water shortage problems?
  • PAS, stay put in Pakatan. You could be the Trojan horse to protect the Malays/Muslims when (not if) Barisan lost the general election.
  • UMNO, oh UMNO. It’s the party not a person! And don’t be ungrateful SOBs towards Tun!
  • Malays/Muslims, rest-assured, the kings are there to protect our rights post-UMNO demise. Daulat Tuanku!
  • Ahmad Maslan….don’t even get me started!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

River Commuter Service in KL?

In my recent trip, I was fortunate to stop by London and rode the river commuter service along the Thames, about 10-km ride in approximately 40 minutes (average speed 15kph). It struck my mind that why can't we have such a river commuter system in Kuala Lumpur (KL) areas with Sungai Klang, Sungai Gombak and Sungai Batu as key river-ways?

A similar river trip on Sungai Klang between hypothetical docks near Plaza Tol Puchong Barat and KL Sentral would take about 50 minutes or so (peak-hour driving could easily exceed 90 minutes). The operational cost to transport per passenger would be much lower than other modes. The capital cost to deepen the rivers and increase clearances at bridges and locks could potentially be lower than building new highways or rail routes.

Technical and environmental impact analyses are needed to determine the feasibility of a river commuter system in KL. Historical water level along specific water routes need to be reviewed. Can a similar, high-capacity, catamaran ferry used in London be used on Sungai Klang? Or a lower-capacity, but more versatile hovercraft-like vehicle is more applicable (see example new technology from South Korea)? 

Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat (SPAD) would certainly has the competency to lead such a feasibility study (note that the federal and state Jabatan Pengairan and Saliran - JPS are also key stakeholders). However, SPAD probably need a new mandate to include not just land transport (and drop the "D").

There are certainly benefits to adopt integrated multimodal transportation planning. In the context of intercity travel, a similar planning would determine the optimal mode(s) of transportation (for both passenger and freight) between different cities. For example KL-Ipoh or KL-JB can be better served by rail, so airlines could reduce or eliminate the short, but costly routes. The government can also allocate limited resources more optimally.