MARTIN COLLINS: John Durie | May 24, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
THE HAGUE, Belanda 24 Mei – Nelayan-nelayan di Johor terutamanya di kawasan Pengerang yang dihalang selama 22 tahun daripada mendekati perairan Middle Rocks, kini bebas menangkap ikan di kawasan tersebut berikutan keputusan Mahkamah Keadilan Antarabangsa (ICJ) di sini semalam mengekalkan kedaulatan bentuk maritim itu kepada Malaysia.... Berita Penuh
BERITADARIGUNUNG: memilih serpih kejayaan dalam longgok kegagalan Pulau Batu Puteh.
They are grateful as the International Court of Justice had ruled in Malaysia's favour on the ownership of Middle Rocks although jurisdiction of South Ledge is up in the air.
The imam of Masjid Ungku Muhammad Khalid in Skudai Kiri, Kamal Puteh, said his mosque had performed prayers on the matter at every maghrib and Friday prayers so the court would decide in Malaysia's favour."
Although we lost PBP to Singapore, we are grateful as we managed to get Middle Rocks. On the decision of South Ledge, we will leave it to Allah again," he said.
Masjid Jamek Bandar Baru Uda committee secretary Yahya Moktaram said nobody lost all and nobody won all in the court decision as both Malaysia and Singapore got their fair share of results.
BERITADARIGUNUNG: Interestingly favorable comments from Muslim community comes in nst.
Standardising prices of subsidised goods nationwide
By MARTIN CARVALHO and PAUL CHOO
MALACCA: The Federal Government will standardise the prices of subsidised goods throughout the country next month, following grouses raised by consumers in Sabah and Sarawak over price discrepancies.
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would make the announcement during his visit to Sabah early next month.
“For example, Bintulu produces gas, yet the price of gas in peninsular Malaysia is cheaper.
“This certainly makes the people of Bintulu angry because they can see the gas refinery yet pay higher prices for gas,” he told reporters after attending a forum and dialogue session with consumers on the rising prices of goods and cost of living at MITC in Ayer Keroh, near here, yesterday.
He added that this was also true for the price of cooking oil in Sarawak and Sabah.
Later, over a telephone interview, he assured Malaysians that there would be no increase in petrol prices at least until September, although Indonesia had raised fuel prices by 30% in the wake of spiralling global crude oil prices.
He said the move was to provide ample time for the special committee, led by the Finance Ministry, to evaluate the proposed subsidy management system, under which only deserving groups would be entitled to the subsidies.
Shahrir said a decision would be made by September on the various proposals as to how petrol ought to be subsidised.
“The situation is like this – at this moment all motorists are subsidised at the point of sale, meaning whenever they go to the petrol station and fill up their tank.
“What we are looking at now is how to provide these subsidies only to deserving groups.
“It could be via a special card registration method, using the MyKad or even through a car ownership basis,’’ he said.
“A decision will be made in September.’’
The world price of crude petroleum has hit US$135 per barrel
PETALING JAYA: Criticising or pressuring the Umno president to step down does not mean one is disloyal to the party, said former party president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Dr Mahathir went on to question the rationale of some claims that those who were not loyal to current president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi were not loyal to Umno.
“Is Umno Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and is Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Umno?
“Only those with individualistic interest will spread and support the concept that Umno is Datuk Seri Abdullah and not being loyal to Abdullah meant that members were not being loyal to Umno,” he said in his latest blog posting at www.chedet.com on Friday.
Dr Mahathir also cited past incidences where Umno leaders disagreed with the party presidency due to their loyalty to the party.
“Tun Razak and several Umno leaders disagreed with Yang di-Pertua Umno Datuk Onn Jaafar’s suggestion to open to all races which eventually caused Datuk Onn to back down.
“In 1969-1971, they also disagreed with Tunku Abdul Rahman’s leadership in the party and he stepped down. But does this mean that they did not love the party or were disloyal to it?” he asked.
Dr Mahathir also claimed that from 1986-1987, Tun Musa Hitam, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Abdullah acted to topple him as Umno president.
“They were clearly not loyal to me but did I accuse them of being disloyal? Were they barred from meeting members? Were they prevented from campaigning to tarnish my name or not to vote for me?
“Did I consider their opposition against me as party disloyalty? Actually Abdullah should not have been accepted into the new Umno after he lost, as he was not loyal to me,” said the former premier.
Abdullah, he added, was not only accepted in but was allowed to contest the supreme council member and later the vice president post.
“If I held on to the definition that anyone who is not loyal to me is not loyal to the party, would I have appointed Abdullah again as Minister and then as deputy prime minister and so forth?” he questioned.
By JOCELINE TAN
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has quit Umno but his attacks against his successor are unlikely to cease and he may even resort to Malay issues to get his way.
TENGKU Razaleigh Hamzah was in Kedah the day his former nemesis Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was speaking at a Malay function in Alor Star.
The charismatic Kelantan prince had two speaking engagements that Monday. At his first stop in Sungai Petani in the morning, a member of the audience said Umno was like a bus going down a hill since the elections and he wanted to know whether the problem was the driver, the engine or the terrain.
Goodbye Umno: The reaction to Dr Mahathir's resignation has been explosive, widespread and even emotional because he is, after all, the most towering living figure Umno has ever had.
Tengku Razaleigh's answer drew as much amusement as the question.
“If you are nervous about the way the bus is being driven, you should ask the driver to stop and let you off,” he said.
By the time he turned up at his second speaking appointment in Alor Star in the afternoon, news of Dr Mahathir's shock resignation was all over town.
This time, the royal politician had his audience tickled pink when he said: “Someone had earlier compared Umno to a poorly driven bus, so I suggested he get out of the bus if he does not feel confident. I did not expect Tun Mahathir to be the first to jump off the bus. I know Tun Mahathir is angry with the driver but I didn’t know he was that angry.”
Then he added, with a mischievous grin, that the bus was still quite new because Dr Mahathir had personally designed it in 1988.
He was, of course, referring to the 1987 power struggle between him and Dr Mahathir, the subsequent dissolution of Umno and Dr Mahathir's formation of Umno Baru, that is, the current Umno, in 1988.
Madhzir: Even in football, when your team loses, they criticise you, what more when you lose a state.
Tengku Razaleigh, as most people would know, has no intention of alighting from the Umno bus because while Dr Mahathir is trying to get rid of the driver, Tengku Razaleigh is vying to be the new driver.
But he is, by most accounts, having difficulty trying to get the licence to drive the bus.
Kedah, like the other states now under the Pakatan Rakyat, has been a political hotbed. The mood here is a little more complex than elsewhere.
“You have to remember this state has produced two prime ministers. So you can imagine how humiliating it is for us to lose power,” said Pendang Umno division chief Datuk Rozai Shafian.
Or as former Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid put it: “Even in football, when your team loses, they will criticise you. What more, when you lose the state. As leaders we have to take it in our stride.”
It has made Kedah a prime fishing ground for support in the Umno elections at the end of the year.
And, like it or not, alternative voices like Dr Mahathir and Tengku Razaleigh have been drawing the crowds. Umno members want answers to the political situation and if they cannot get it from established political figures, they go looking to alternative sources.
Tengku Razaleigh: Did not expect Dr Mahathir to be the first to jump off the Umno bus.
As such, it was no surprise Dr Mahathir chose Alor Star as the venue to announce his resignation. The reaction has been explosive, widespread and even emotional among some quarters. He is, after all, the most towering living figure that Umno has ever had and for several days, it was the only thing that people in Umno talked about.
“Tun Mahathir was a walking time bomb and the time bomb has exploded,” said Rozai.
And now that the dust has somewhat settled, the reasons behind Dr Mahathir's resignation are a little clearer.
It was certainly not a decision made on the spur of the moment, as some have suggested, nor was it engineered. But it was a very tactical move.
The circle around Dr Mahathir admitted the former Premier had been contemplating the drastic move even when he was in Johor last week. But they did not think he would do it so immediately.
The seasoned politician probably saw his moment in Alor Star on Monday when a member in the audience who happened to be a PAS member popped the question.
“It’s Dr Mahathir’s shock and awe tactic,” said long-time Mahathir observer Datuk A. Kadir Jasin.
Dr Mahathir had begun by taking his cause against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to the upper echelons of Umno. He also tried to instigate Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak against Abdullah.
All that did not produce the desired result, so he has decided to reach down to the lowest denomination of the Umno grassroots, that is, the branch level.
It was a calculated and tactical act and his aim was not to get people to follow him out because he has been around enough to know that would not happen.
According to long-time admirer Zakhir Mohamed, it was probably the doctor's idea of “shock treatment,” and to get the party grassroots to think hard and act accordingly.
“Tun Mahathir has always done things you don't expect. He is forever going against the current. Throughout his 22 years as Prime Minister, he swam against the current but I think this time, the current is against him. He is 82, he is no longer the PM and people are fed-up with his vendetta against Pak Lah,” said Rozai.
Quite understandably, his resignation went down badly with the party veterans who grew up with Umno and who intend to “die in Umno”.
“The trouble with Tun Mahathir is that nobody can ever meet his standards. He had trouble with his predecessors as well as successors. He dislikes Pak Lah but rejecting Umno is an odd and complicated way of achieving his objective,” said Kelantan Umno Veterans chairman Datuk Rozali Isohak,
A day after resigning, Dr Mahathir left for the annual Nikkei Conference in Tokyo. He and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali planned to spend a few days in Hakone, a resort town at the foot of Mount Fuji famed for its hot springs.
While he was away, the party scrambled to do damage control, ensure that its membership and hierarchy remains intact and its majority in Parliament unaffected. Generally, the party has stood by Abdullah.
“We cannot allow Tun Mahathir to set a precedent whereby the party president can be simply thrown out of the window,” said Rozai.
He will be back on Monday, refreshed from his hot springs vacation and, according to his admirers, ready for another hot round of politics.
Few expect him to clamp up even though he is no longer an Umno member.
“I see him reaching out to the wider Malay audience and going beyond Umno issues,” said Kadir.
In fact, it is likely he will start to air ultra Malay issues such as special rights of the Malays, Malay political power and even Malay hegemony. These are issues close to the Malay heart but which non-Malays will inevitably view as racial.
He is very astute. He has read the hidden feelings in Umno very well since the electoral defeats. The right-of-centre group in Umno has been deeply unhappy over what they view as an erosion of Malay power in the political equation.
He provided some hint of this when speaking in Johor a week ago. He said if Umno did not speak up, Malays would lose their rights and other races would take over.
In other words, one cannot discount Dr Mahathir using such Malay issues to sway the Umno grassroots to his side and against the leadership. He knows he will lose his non-Malay admirers but it looks like he is prepared to work up the conservative Malay ground in Umno in order to further his crusade against Abdullah.
People thought he had played his ultimate hand when he quit Umno but more stunning moves may lie ahead.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
|May 08, 2008 22:09 PM|
Perak MB Keeps Mum Over Karpal Singh's Issue
IPOH, May 8 (Bernama) --- Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin has opted to keep mum on DAP chairman Karpal Singh's controversial statement in questioning the prerogative of the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, in asking for the reinstatement of Datuk Jamry Sury as Perak Islamic Religious Affairs Department director.
When approached by reporters after a meeting with representatives of non-governmental organisations here Thursday, Mohammad Nizar declined to comment on the matter.
Wednesday, Pangkor assemblyman Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir called on the Menteri Besar to give the state government's stand on the matter since Karpal's insolent behaviour had hurt the feelings of the people.
Asked when he would have an audience with the Perak Sultan to convey his apology to the Ruler, Mohammad Nizar said he had not been given the date for the audience.
THIS week, the US Congress overwhelmingly passed the Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act to give the US Justice Department new powers to take action against international oil cartels and oil price gougers.
The bill, passed by a stunning majority of 324 to 84 votes, will be vetoed by President Bush for a very good reason: it completely misses the point about higher oil prices.
On the surface, the move should have been trumpeted as a chance to let the antitrust teams in the US Justice Department train their guns on oil cartels, but no one celebrated much because the debate has moved on.
Just like the federal Government's ill-conceived decision to impose a nationwide Fuel Watch program, complete with a taxpayer-funded oil price monitor, the US effort was just a bunch of politicians wanting to show their electorate they were doing something about higher prices.
The impact of the doubling of fuel prices in the last 12 months is nonetheless real and the politicians should be taking note of what the price rises are signalling.
This can best be described by two figures: the US has 250 million cars and China has 37 million.
Prices have moved faster than expected, but the speculators are simply doing what they always do and overreacting to clear indications that demand is outstripping supply.
Unfortunately, the regions which need to react to the price signals most have governments that impose artificial restraints, such as price controls (India and China) and subsidies (Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan).
Russia taxes its oil production so hard it is killing supply; at best, it hardly encourages new supply.
The debate in the US has turned once again to the push by oil companies to open up land protected on environmental grounds for oil drilling. No solution there.
As to the federal Opposition's move to cut excise taxes on petrol, certainly cutting any tax is good, but, as an attempt to alleviate the problems caused by higher oil prices, it also misses the point.
The answer is to either increase production or reduce demand. Hopefully, the market will produce this response in spite of all the politicking.
Goyder & McLeod show
WESFARMERS chief Richard Goyder's decision to grant his new Coles boss Ian McLeod a five-year contract is a double-edged sword.
The glass half-full version says it's better to lock the guy in for the full length of recovery lest he should make the same mistake as John Fletcher and go for short-term profits instead of long-term sustainable earnings.
The half-empty version says if the guy is a dud, then Goyder has to pay out big time on a contract, which will probably also mean a string of other departures as well. Football teams don't sign players on long-term contracts.
For now, Wesfarmers shareholders can rest easily knowing Goyder believes he has made the right call, and if he's wrong then he will probably be shown the door ahead of McLeod.
It's best to work from the proposition that McLeod will do what others before him have failed to do, and that's to get Coles back to retail basics.
This is no easy matter because the facts are that former boss John Fletcher didn't lay a finger on a fundamentally bad corporate culture, ripe with corruption and a management structure that was unresponsive. Coles under Fletcher was a bureaucratic nightmare and, according to some suppliers, he was always too busy to see them.
The next question to answer is, what is so good about British retailers?
Wesfarmers' Goyder, like John Fletcher before him, has put most of his Coles recovery eggs into the basket of former British retailers and in particular those who used to work for Wal-Mart offshoot Asda.
McLeod has worked for Asda, as have retail guru Archie Norman, who is on a contract to advise Goyder; operations boss Stuart Machin; new marketing boss Joe Blundell; and current Coles executive but new store format manager Gavin Parker.
John Durkan, a US retailer but most recently in the car phone game, will be the purchasing manager.
Wesfarmers rising star Terry Bowen will be the finance boss and former Shell executive and present supermarket boss Mick McMahon will run convenience stores, liquor, fuel and supply chain.
McLeod was asked yesterday what was so good about UK retailers, and he was modest enough to say there were good retailers everywhere. Obviously, there is cultural fit which attracts Australian managers to British retailers and they are available.
Given McLeod thinks Coles is not broken like ASDA was when he was there under Norman, who led the revival, the fact that so many of the new team came from the store smacks of old mates getting together. This can work, as the believers at Telstra would maintain.
The likeable McLeod is going to attack Coles from the store front first, which means he will get it back to retail 101. As he said yesterday, it's a long, slow process, and given the lack of past investment, an expensive one.
A new team under new ownership will hopefully bring the cultural overhaul the retailer needs, but its competitor Woolworths won't be sitting around watching it rebound.
Contrary to reports, Coles has no plans to get out of its Shell fuel business and its convenience network is being primed to boost returns.
After yesterday's bookbuild, Goyder now has $1.6 billion in new equity, and a new supermarket management team. Now the work begins.
Gunns and greens
The paper mill protesters dressed as cheerleaders outside ANZ's Melbourne headquarters this week missed the point big time. The reality is, Gunns may be a long-term client, but the bank was never going to hand John Gay a big cheque for his $2 billion paper mill. Those seeking confirmation from ANZ will also be disappointed because banks rarely put out press releases to say they won't be backing a client.
Gunns share price took a hammering yesterday, down some 6.5 per cent at $3 a share, putting its market capitalisation at $1.3 billion. On any stretch, for a company of that size to undertake a $2 billion expansion is a huge call, and given the environmental sensitivities, the banks have two good reasons to ignore the mills in these credit-constrained days.
John Gay is confident his mill is bankable, but the banks aren't and that's before you get into environmental concerns.
All the banks like to stress their green credentials, but the fact is they wouldn't let a couple of environmental issues get in the way of a big fee.
So the credit crunch and high risk nature of the project gave ANZ an easy way to avoid a decision which, in PR terms, was even higher risk.
The cheerleaders were in Collins Street celebrating the bank's non-decision and announcing the cancellation of yet another big anti-ANZ rally due on June 15.
Macquarie Bank was mentioned in dispatches recently as a potential lead book running on a debt deal, but this won't be happening. Gay has Pacific Road's Paul Espie on hand to manage the project financing, which will come from offshore backers.
At least that's the game plan.
BERITADARIGUNUNG: Shahrir, looking beyond the sticky issue, and it doesnt smell politic!
Saturday May 24, 2008
Malaysia must move up value chain
PETALING JAYA: This week's shock resignation by former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Umno member citing loss of confidence in the current party leadership grabbed the headlines.
The announcement was made as millions of Buddhist devotees around the world celebrated Wesak Day.
Many brokerages had expected the market to face selling pressure when it opened on Tuesday after the public holiday, just like the beating it took after the March 8 general election. Surprisingly, the stock market did not plummet as much as on March 10.
Yes, trading was lacklustre this week but the cause for the cautiousness was not limited to political uncertainty; it included external concerns over widening credit losses and weaker demand from China.
It doesn't help that the price of crude oil breached US$130 per barrel on Wednesday, with some analysts predicting that it could cross US$140 by year-end. That is just slightly more than six months away.
While subsidies have been shielding Malaysians from the impact of high energy prices, the Government announced this week that a new subsidy scheme is ready to be introduced in a few months.
In the meantime, prices of rice, soya and corn have reached all-time highs and inflation fuelled by food prices is hurting the pocket of the man in the street. A plate of char kuey teow and a glass of teh ais now cost about RM4.50 and RM1.80 respectively at hawker stalls. And these are not even the air-conditioned kopitiams.
The price of bread has increased by at least 20 sen a loaf and so have the prices of all dairy products.
The Government could, to a certain extent, control price increases or continue to subsidise certain basic goods but, in the longer term, we need a more productive economy to withstand more challenging times.
The challenge is to reduce wastage in the economy, increase efficiency and enhance competency, and move up the value chain. These are issues that have been raised again and again but the solutions so far have yet to bear the desired results.
Perhaps our subsidy mentality has prevented us from thinking out of the box. It has made us comfortable and complacent, and lulled us into losing our competitiveness to regional peers like Singapore and Vietnam. Even Thailand and Indonesia are getting back into foreigners' radar.
Malaysia has to come to terms with the fact that being a manufacturing base for multinationals is no longer sufficient to sustain the economy, especially when we keep focusing on low-end manufacturing.
Over the years, Singapore has created a niche in biotechnology and as a financial hub, and boasts knowledge workers while Vietnam has attracted foreign funds by offering cheaper, hardworking labour force, plus incentives like lower taxes.
But, when investors think of Malaysia, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
We have outsourced domestic work to Indonesian and Filipino maids and construction labour to Indonesians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis while workers from Myanmar dominate our restaurants and cafes.
Yet, thousands of fresh graduates who flood the market every year can't find jobs. Either there are not enough vacancies or they don't fit the bill of what companies require in an employee.
In the end, the Government has to spend millions of ringgit on programmes to improve the competency of these graduates. If we are not nurturing the right type of labour force, how then can the economy move up the value chain? Where will this put Malaysia if we remain as we are?
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Posted on: Friday, 23 May 2008, 00:00 CDT
SOME government agencies still demand contractors to apply for approved permits (APs ) to import steel bars, despite Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi having declared that the steel bar and billet market has been fully liberalised from May 12.
"Our members on May 15 had wanted to import steel bars, but the Johor Customs Department at entry point had told them to apply for an AP," said Master Builders Association of Malaysia (MBAM) president Patrick Wong told reporters after the preview of the First Malaysian Construction Summit 2008 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
"They were also told to apply for APs to stockpile steel bars at the worksite," he said.
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He said the association is saddened that there is a lack of follow-through when it comes to the implementation of the Cabinet's decision to liberalise the steel bar and billet market.
"We have written to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry on this matter," he added.
The government had scrapped the ceiling prices on steel bars from May 12 to enable contractors undertaking government projects to claim for changes in the contract price based on the market price.
In addition, contractors are no longer required to apply for APs to import or pay import duties when they buy steel bars from the overseas market.
There is also no export restriction on steel millers to sell steel bars and billets to their overseas clients.
On the government's move to open up the local cement market, Wong said contractors were told that the implementation date will be announced "anytime soon".
The First Malaysian Construction Summit 2008, which is jointly organised by MBAM and the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (Asli), will be held on June 3 in Kuala Lumpur.
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad is scheduled to deliver the keynote address on ways to solve supply-chain bottlenecks in the construction industry.
(c) 2008 New Straits Times. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.
Source: New Straits Times
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SINGAPORE: The government is finalising a holistic review of the fuel subsidy programme where “sharp measures” are to be introduced to ensure the financial aid goes directly to the poor and deserving.
Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop said the reform on the subsidy plan, which would be announced “in a couple of months”, would do away with “blunt subsidy measures” and instead introduce “sharp measures”. He alluded that with the “sharp measures” in place, the subsidy bill could be reduced without compromising on its objectives of alleviating the suffering of those in need.
In reply to a question at an investor conference organised by CLSA here, Nor Mohamed estimated that the subsidy bill could reach about RM53 billion this year, at the present price of oil. Yesterday, crude oil price rose to a record above US$135 (RM438.75) a barrel in New York after US stockpiles unexpectedly dropped. Oil price has risen 19% this month.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported Nor Mohamed as saying that the government wants to introduce a new petroleum subsidy arrangement “as soon as possible’’ to reduce the bill significantly.
Malaysia’s inflation rate is at a 14-month high, and voter dissatisfaction with rising prices contributed to the government’s worst election result in March. Still, the cost of the handout deprives state oil company Petroliam Nasional Bhd, or Petronas, of funds as the country runs out of oil reserves.
“We cannot give it all away as subsidies,” Nor Mohamed told reporters. “This income from Petronas will not last forever. By 2014, we could be a net importer of oil.’’
A spokesman for Petronas did not immediately reply to a message left on his phone or to an email.
The cost of keeping domestic natural gas, petrol and diesel prices artificially low in 2007, including direct subsidies and taxes foregone, was RM35 billion, the government has said.
Surging fuel costs may also make it harder for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to narrow the government’s budget deficit to 3.1% of gross domestic product this year.
The cost of providing fuel subsidies was the biggest problem facing the country and inflation was not a “major issue”, Nor Mohamed said.
Inflation is likely to exceed 3% this year, he said. Consumer prices rose 3% in April from a year earlier on rising food costs. The central bank forecast in March inflation would average 2.5% to 3% this year.
The government this month eased import restrictions on steel and capped the price of more types of rice to contain inflation.
It may consider imposing a “windfall tax’’ to curb inflation, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Shahrir Abdul Samad said on Wednesday. Nor Mohamed said yesterday he wasn’t aware of the windfall tax proposal.
The Prime Minister, facing calls from some of his own party members to step down, has avoided increasing local fuel costs so far this year even as record oil prices force the government to pay more in subsidies to keep pump prices low.
Instead, the government said in April it may introduce more expensive petrol that isn’t subsidised as much as lower-grade fuel to reduce its subsidy costs.
Nor Mohamed didn’t give details on the new subsidy arrangements, saying the mechanism still needs to be worked out.
BERITADARIGUNUNG: The fuel, the food and the belt, as Nor and Shahrir are looking beyond their plates.
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World Bank says food prices to remain high for 2-3 years - UPDATE Forbesall 259 news articles »
BERITADARIGUNUNG: Politic is on the plate where food is. Shahrir.
With overall inflation hovering above 7 per cent, food prices have become a political hot potato. The Government is desperately looking for policy options to contain food inflation. Exports of certain agricultural products (rice, wheat, select pulses) have been banned, and several commodities have been suspended from trading in the futures market.
Many traders have been raided for “hoarding”, and so on. What is being missed is a more in-depth understanding of the price formation in the food market and the various effective points of entry for the government to tame food inflation.
In agricultural commodities, much of the price formation takes place between the farmer and the consumer, which for many is a “black box” composed of wholesale, processor, and retail segments.
We call it “black box” because its workings are not well known to the public or policymakers, and is not typically under the analytical microscope of researchers in India, but in public debate, various opinions are held on its functioning (assumptions that it is speculative, for example, abound).
Yet, that “black box” is important in India as, typically, cereals account for 40 per cent of the consumer food price with fruits, vegetables, dairy and fish/chicken making up the balance. Very roughly, and depending on the product, the shares of the “black box” are about a third to wholesalers, processors, and retailers.
Little is known about how that “black box” contributes to inflation. Research under the International Food Policy Research Institute/Michigan State University (IFPRI/MSU) programme, however, shows that the “black box”, can be made more efficient and competitive by compressing the value chain, investing in the missing infrastructure and institutions, and by creating greater transparency and competition among the stakeholders in the value chain from wholesalers, processors, to retailers.
A brief survey was made of prices in the organised and traditional retail in Delhi.
We first visited traditional retailers (handcarts, weekly markets, make-shift retail stalls, and kirana stores) and then five organised retail chain stores, both in north Delhi. Organised versus traditional retail
We bought the same unit size and form, and a “medium quality” of each product that was sure to be in both traditional and organised retail shops — to ensure strict comparability per item over retail outlets. We examined 20 basic food items (11 vegetables, 6 fruits, wheat atta, parboiled rice, mustard oil, sunflower oil, and channa dal).
It was found that for vegetables, organised retailers were, with no product exception — 33 per cent cheaper than traditional retailers; for fruits, organised retail was 15 per cent cheaper; for parboiled rice, 14 per cent cheaper; for atta, 5 per cent cheaper; for mustard oil, 6 per cent cheaper; for sunflower oil, 17 per cent cheaper; and for channa dal, 1 per cent cheaper.
The finding that organised retail sells food more cheaply than traditional retailers in the urban areas broadly matches evidence from a number of developing countries.
In other developing countries, supermarkets drove down consumer prices (relative to traditional retail) as an essential to their take-off in early- to mid-1990s and beyond. This appears to be the case in India today.
The main reason organised retail can charge lower prices is because they combine: (1) economies of scale in procurement (mass buying from suppliers) with (2) economies of scale in handling and logistics such as via modernised distribution centres. The supermarket chains are known to build regional and global food procurement networks to reduce costs, de-seasonaliseofferings, and increase product diversity.
Indian supermarket chains are also improving the back endof fresh produce procurement quite early in their development stage leading to greater efficiency and price advantage that one usually observes in more advancedorganised retail of countries such as Mexico, Brazil, S Korea, and Thailand.
What do these findings signal to the policy makers in India looking for ways to contain food price inflation? Organised retail can be an ally in promoting food security for the urban poor and dampening food price inflation.
Supermarkets can be key players in making food markets more efficient and serving consumers by reducing the size of the margin going to the “black box” between the farm gate and the consumer.
Price competition combined with cost-cutting by large retailers in the US was even responsible for a well-documented dampening of inflation — the leaders in organised retail in the US were supposed to have been responsible for reducing the inflation rate by one-third! (The authors are co-directors of International Food Policy Research Institute/Michigan State University programme on “Markets in Asia”.)
BERITADARIGUNUNG: Shahrir, your way to look on the plate...
UN analysts paint grim picture
Aretha Welch firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, May 23rd 2008
Visit any supermarket and you will notice that a pound of rice, which would have cost you less than $3 last year, now puts you out of pocket by about $9.
And United Nations food analysts say the prices are only going to get worse.
With rice prices now at an all-time high and the demand for the staple food far outweighing the level of production globally, economists say although countries may be able to access rice, the price of the item, which is a staple food for over three billion people (half the world), is set to rise even more as the year continues.
According to Bloomberg business news, if one is to take a cue from the fact that the price of rice has been climbing by an average of 12 per cent on the international commodities market every month for the last nine months, prices are set to soar even higher.
Supply fears and over pricing are being further pushed, as several Asian countries which are major rice producers are finding it difficult to feed their own populations, let alone grow enough rice for export purposes.
The world's biggest rice exporter, Thailand, has already banned exports, causing countries all over the world to spend top dollar to grab up some of the limited rice which is available for sale.
The recent natural disasters in the Eastern part world is not helping the price of rice either, as the Chinese who are both the world's largest rice growers and consumers are too busy recovering from the May 12 earthquake which shook their country to plant food. And Burma (Myanmar), which is the sixth largest rice producer in the world has had its crops destroyed by Cyclone Nargis which hit the country on May 3.
With the prices of wheat, soya, corn and other staple items also rising steadily the United Nations has now warned that over 1.5 billion people in the developing countries (such as those in the Caribbean) now run the risk of malnutrition.
Last month, Trinidad and Tobago's main rice supplier, Brazil banned all its rice exports and used the excess to bulk up their rice reserves at home. The ban is yet to be lifted.
However, managing director of JMH Enterprises, Charles James, distributors for the Par Excellence brand of rice and the main supplier for State-owned food company National Flour Mills, told the Express two weeks ago that this country had nothing to fear as he was part owner of a rice farm in Brazil and he would ensure the country's supply was steady.
One shopper at the Back to Basics Supermarket in Port of Spain said, however, "If more rice means more high prices, the rice might have to stay on the shelf from now on, every time they bring it, it going up, poor people can't cope."
When contacted by the Express on Tuesday, James refused to comment on whether or not the next wholesale supply of rice which the country received would be even more expensive than the last.
BERITADARIGUNUNG: SHAHRIR cannot play politicking too much. Reality is on the table!
Friday, May 23, 2008
KOTA BHARU: Ketua Wanita Umno, Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz hari ini menyelar anggota Umno yang bersikap hipokrit sehingga menyebabkan parti itu berterusan dilanda pelbagai kemelut.
Rafidah berkata, sikap ’yes boss’ anggota parti yang mengiakan setiap keputusan dan kata-kata pemimpin walaupun mereka sebenarnya tidak bersependapat, menyumbang kepada masalah yang bertimpa-timpa dihadapi parti ketika ini.
Dengan sikap sebegitu, katanya, tidak wajar dipersalahkan sepenuhnya Perdana Menteri dan Presiden Umno, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi bagi kekalahan besar Umno pada pilihan raya umum 8 Mac lalu.
"Tidak patutlah kalau nak salahkan presiden semata-mata sehingga suruh dia letak jawatan. Ahli Umno ni ramai yang hipokrit, sebab itulah nakhoda tidak tahu mana nak pergi, dia ingat semua nak pergi satu tempat kerana di depan mereka kata ya, tak pernah ditegur, tapi belakang pula kata lain.
"Bila timbul masalah, suruh tukar nakhoda. Tak bolehlah setiap kali kapal nak karam, kita angkat nakhoda buang ke laut,” katanya ketika berucap pada majlis perjumpaan dengan Wanita Umno Kelantan di sini hari ini.
Rafidah berkata pelbagai kemelut yang berlaku dalam Umno kini memberi isyarat kepada anggotanya bahawa sudah tiba masanya mereka berubah dan lebih ikhlas dan berani dalam perjuangan.
"Hakikatnya tidak ada sesiapa yang berani cakap perkara yang menyakitkan hati ketua mereka. Ada yang berani tegur malangnya kalau ketua mereka sakit hati, terimalah padahnya, tapi yang pentingnya, perlu ikhlas dalam perjuangan.
"Ketua pun kenalah terima teguran anak buah dan anggap itu teguran membina. Dua-dua pihak sepatutnya lebih terbuka. Tapi cara tegur tu kenalah betul,” katanya.
Menyentuh isu peralihan kuasa, Rafidah berpendapat ahli Umno tidak wajar terlalu mendesak dan seharusnya menyerahkan soal bila ia akan berlaku kepada pertimbangan Abdullah dan Timbalannya, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
"Kita janganlah nak letak banyak sangat syarat, biar orang nombor satu parti dan nombor dua berunding sebaik mungkin, mereka faham apa yang perlu dilakukan.
"Kalau sememangnya ada peralihan kuasa, biar mereka yang tentukan. Itu yang sebaiknya untuk parti, bukan baik untuk individu,” katanya.
Mengulas tindakan bekas Perdana Menteri, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad keluar Umno pada Isnin lalu sambil menggesa anggota parti itu mengikut jejaknya, Rafidah berkata, beliau yakin ahli Umno lebih setia kepada parti berbanding kepada individu.
Katanya, tindakan Dr Mahathir itu sesuatu yang mendukacitakan kerana sanggup menyanggah prinsip setia kepada parti seperti yang pernah diajarnya ketika memimpin parti.
"Umnolah yang bawa dia sampai ke puncak sehingga menjadi Perdana Menteri selama 22 tahun. Apa yang berlaku ini bukan salah Umno tapi masalah kita yang ada di dalam parti ini.
"Kita ikut ajaran Tun (Mahathir) supaya kita setia kepada parti, tetapi dia sendiri tidak buat.
"Bagaimanapun, kita tidak bimbang anggota Umno akan ikut keluar parti kerana anggota Umno setia kepada Umno,” katanya. — Bernama
Day 1 :
Thursday, May 22 10:00-17:15
Ryoki Sugita (Chairman, NIKKEI)
Suwit Khunkitti (Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Industry, Kingdom of Thailand)
Focus Session "Subprime Loan Problem and Asia"
♦ Panelists :
Bandid Nijathaworn (Deputy Governor, Bank of Thailand)
Ifzal Ali (Chief Economist, Economics and Research Department, Asian Development Bank )
Rajiv Kumar (Director and Chief Executive, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER))
Zhou Qiren (Professor, The China Center for Economic Research (CCER) at Beijing University)
♦ Moderator :
Eisuke Sakakibara (Professor, Waseda University)
Choummaly Sayasone (President, Lao People's Democratic Republic)
Focus Session "New Partnerships in an Era of Surging Oil Prices"
♦ Panelists :
Yoshihiro Shigehisa (Chairman and CEO, JGC Corporation)
Nasser H. Saidi (Chief Economist, Dubai International Financial Centre)
Ikmal Hijaz Hashim (CEO, Iskandar Regional Development Authority, Malaysia)
♦ Moderator :
Yuzo Waki (Deputy Chief Editorial Writer, NIKKEI)
♦ Moderator :
Yasuhiko Ota (Editorial Writer, Senior Staff Writer, NIKKEI)
Day 2 :
Friday, May 23 10:00-17:25
Focus Session "Asia and the World: Coping with Environmental Problems"
♦ Moderator :
Naoaki Okabe (Senior Executive Editor, NIKKEI)
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Prime Minister, Malaysia)
♦ Moderator :
Nobumichi Izumi (Deputy Chief Editorial Writer, NIKKEI)
Heizo Takenaka (Senior Advisor, Japan Center for Economic Research)
Focus Session "Political Situation in East Asia"
♦ Panelists :
Cui Tiankai (Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to Japan)
Alexander A. Arvizu (Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State)
Yun Dukmin (Professor, Institute of Foreign Affairs & National Security, Republic of Korea)
Hitoshi Tanaka (Senior Fellow, Japan Center for International Exchange)
Domingo L. Siazon, Jr. (Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to Japan)
♦ Moderator :
Akira Kojima (Chairman, Japan Center for Economic Research)
Masahiko Koumura (Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan)
PM to deliver keynote address at Nikkei forumBy : Fauziah Ismail in Tokyo
DATUK Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will make his fifth appearance at the annual Nikkei Conference tomorrow, where he will address a select group of political leaders, including several heads of government and corporate executives.
He will deliver a speech based on the conference's theme of "Asia's Role: In pursuit of Global Coexistence".
The prime minister and his wife, Datin Paduka Seri Jeanne Abdullah, are expected to arrive in the Japanese capital later tonight for a three-day working visit.
Among those participating in the conference are Laos President Choummaly Sayasone, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Masahiko Koumura and Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Industry Minister Suwit Khunkitti.
Iskandar Malaysia chief executive officer Datuk Ikmal Hijaz Hashim will participate in a focus session on "New partnerships in an era of surging oil prices".
In the past two years, Japan remained Malaysia's number one investor, with its companies either upgrading or expanding manufacturing facilities in the country. Last year, Malaysia saw RM6.5 billion worth of investments from Japan, up 32 per cent from RM4.4 billion in 2006.
There are more than 1,400 Japanese enterprises operating in Malaysia. These companies have provided a broad manufacturing base in Malay-sia and significantly contributed to the economic growth and further development of the country.
In terms of trade, Japan was Malaysia's third largest trading partner, registering growth in bilateral trade of 14 per cent last year.
In his talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda tomorrow, Abdullah is expected to discuss promoting trade through a bilateral free trade agreement and other issues. He will also attend a luncheon with Japanese members of parliament.
On Saturday, he will accompany Jeanne to the Soka University in Hachioji, a suburb of Tokyo, where she will be conferred an award.
The prime minister and wife will return home on May 27 after a two-day private
TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he will continue his efforts to "cure" Umno even though he has quit the party.
"Those not loyal to Abdullah are deemed disloyal to the party," he said.
The former prime minister and party president was commenting on the barrage of criticism against his political ploy of leaving Umno to force Abdullah from office.
"Some people don't understand... because you go against the president, that doesn't mean you are going against the party," he told Malaysian newsmen here where he is attending the Nikkei Conference.
Bernama, Malaysia -
TOKYO, May 22 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi arrived here Thursday night to attend the prestigious 14th Nikkei International ...
BERITADARIGUNUNG: remembering Kalimullah story on Mahathir and Abdullah meeting sometime ago.
Call for royal mediation
'Difference of opinion won't divide Malays'
Dr M: I'll continue bid to cure party
Umno unfazed by 1000-odd defections
Mahathir shakes up UMNO
Abdullah Arrives In Tokyo For Nikkei Conference
Malaysia, a net oil exporter, pays a hefty fuel subsidy of 45 billion ringgit (14 billion dollars) based on the oil price of 120 dollars per barrel. ...
Rich to pay more under new subsidy scheme
Opposition states 'will also be developed'
Bernama, Malaysia -
The ceiling price of cooking oil in Malaysia has been fixed since 1997 and includes the one kilogram (kg) polybag (RM1.85) and bottle packaging ranging from ...
BERITADARIGUNUNG: while everyone is gearing towards another inflation. Malaysia is somewhat blessed with the best minister for decades, and statement by him Shahrir will be posted in this blog. Talks and actions can be beautifully married, i think.
PETALING JAYA: Khairy Jamaluddin says that being the Prime Minister’s son-in-law has provided him “protection” which he wants to use to change things for the better.
The Umno Youth deputy chief said he was able to “push the envelope now” partly because of that relationship with the prime minister.
“There’s a certain extent (to which) these people in Umno will not go after me. So it gives me ‘protection’ to change things.
“If I don’t use this ‘protection’ to change things for the better, then I’m just wasting time and marking my time to go up the ladder of politics. That’s not what I am about.
“I want to use this time that I have while I have this ‘protection’ to change things, to change Umno for the better,” he said yesterday during a question-and-answer session at the Kancil Awards Festival Speakers series.
Khairy, who is married to Nori, the daughter of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said it was true that this relationship meant he knew which buttons to push and which leaders to pull in to make a particular programme a success.
He was asked if his MyTeam football project would have received sponsorship and the wide TV3 coverage that it did had he not been the prime minister’s son-in-law.
Khairy said that even though he leveraged on the family ties, “it would have been embarrassing all-round if it didn’t work – I’d be finished.”
Thankfully though, he said, the idea was right and its execution worked well, so much so that viewership for the MyTeam programme even topped that of Siti Nurhaliza’s wedding.
He said people opened doors in many different ways and sometimes for him people opened the door because his father-in-law is the Prime Minister.
“People will tell you connections matter but at the end of the day, it’s the results (that matter).”
He said his goal in life was to contribute in whatever way he could to make Malaysia reach its potential and this was not necessarily through politics.
“I always tell my friends and family that if everything comes crashing down in politics, it’s not the end of the world.
“If after one day, my father-in-law retires and all of Umno decide to go after me, that’s reality ... politics is my profession and passion but I can live outside it,” he added.
He said that having a baby had put things in perspective.
“I hope to be in politics as long as possible to change as much as possible and see how things can be improved. But there’s always something else to life than going up the ‘greasy’ pole of politics,” he added.
Khairy also said that he felt strongly about wanting to start a genuine national conversation among people of different backgrounds, ethnicity and religions on Malaysians as a people.
“There must be a middle ground somewhere,” he added.
He also wanted to push for Malaysians to become automatic voters upon reaching 21, without having to register.
BERITADARIGUNUNG: renewed news from star on line
Abdullah menyepi. Sebenarnya Abdullah menggunakan kes saman malu Anwar dan juga kes liwat yang melibatkan Sukma sebagai satu senjata terakhir yang akan memakan diri Mahathir. Buat masa sekarang Mahathir nampaknya lantang menghentam Abdullah. Manakala Ezam bergerak dengan kes Hakim Syed Mohd Idid bagi menentukan kes rasuah hakim-hakim mahkamah tinggi terus berjalan.
PUTRAJAYA: The defeat of Barisan Nasional in five states in the just-concluded 12th general election proves the political maturity of the country’s election process and democracy.
Beritadarigunung: our shahrir
In 1982, I met a young deputy minister at an assignment in Kuala Lumpur. I was with a colleague, Zainah Anwar who was there to talk to him for a political story.
I had just been back a year from my journalism studies in the US to resume work with the NST, and was there to cover the young political leader who was the main guest at the event.
At 31, Shahrir Samad was Deputy Trade and Industry Minister. I took an instant liking to him because he spoke so passionately and articulately when replying to questions. I liked him also because I found him to be smart and very outspoken. It was refreshing to listen to this brave and brash young leader.
In my book, Shahrir Samad was a non-conformist. He had gall and gumption. His outspokenness became his trademark notoriety.
Before assuming the trade and industry portfolio, he was Deputy Finance Minister.
I also remember him to have been the youngest Cabinet Minister at 34 when in 1983, he was made Federal Territory Minister.
His last Cabinet post was as Welfare Services Minister. He held the post until 1986, before the infamous 1987 Umno (Team A-Team B) split when Tengku Razaleigh challenged incumbent Dr Mahathir Mohamad for the party presidency.
beritadarigunung: from nuraina's
Backbenchers’ Club Chairman Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad Quits
Shahrir quits BBC over rejection of integrity motion
KUALA LUMPUR: It was a morning of high drama in Parliament today (May 4, 2006) when the rejection of a motion by opposition leader Lim Kit Siang sparked the immediate resignation of Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad (BN-Johor Baru) as Backbenchers Club (BBC) chairman.
Shahrir, who had supported the motion to refer an integrity issue involving an MP to the rights and privileges committee, quit because backbenchers did not back him in the vote.
He said he supported the motion to defend the integrity of MPs and Parliament.
His abrupt decision to quit caught MPs by surprise when he walked out of the House to announce his decision to reporters in the lobby about half an hour after the sitting began at 10am.
This was followed by impromptu media conferences by BBC deputy head Datuk Raja Ahmad Zainuddin Raja Omar and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Aziz, as well as other backbenchers, urging Shahrir to reverse his decision.
BERITADARIGUNUNG: Quitting has been Shahrir's way. Then nobody knows what he is fighting for. Integrity?
In February 1988, Shahrir refused to join the new Umno which was banned and was among eight of the party's Supreme Council members left out of the Umno Baru pro-tem committee led by Datuk Seri (now Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
With that decision, he became an independent member in Parliament and resigned as MP on April 1988, paving the way for a by-election where as an independent candidate, he defeated BN's Mas'ud Abdul Rahman, enabling him to become an elected MP for Johor Baharu. Shahrir was dismissed from the Dewan Rakyat when he refused to take his oath as a new MP before the then Speaker, Tan Sri Zahir Ismail (now deceased) as the latter was a member of the tribunal that had recommended Chief Justice Tun Salleh Abas be sacked from his judicial post.
But Shahrir eventually took his oath and one year later (1989) he returned to Umno by joining the Gertak Merah branch in the Johor Baharu division.
In the same year, he accepted the offer to be a party Supreme Council member and in 1990, became the Johor Baharu Umno division chief.