Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wednesday April 30, 2008 THESTAR
Fuel subsidy cut shouldn’t hurt public
THE restructuring of fuel subsidies looks inevitable after Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Samad announced that diesel would be the first fuel to see a rise in price at the pump.
He said the larger petrol subsidies would be dealt with next but stressed that subsidies would still be given for economic groups that need cheaper diesel.
The announcement marks a bold political step for the Government in trying to move away from subsidies and the high cost of maintaining them.

The Government said RM33bil is spent on fuel subsidies and RM20bil is in the form of forgone revenue to Petroliam Nasional Bhd from the sale of natural gas at the subsidised rate.
In tackling diesel subsidies first, the Government is dealing with a fuel group that between 2004 and 2006 has shown little growth in terms of consumption at petrol stations throughout the country.
Consumption of petrol, however, continues to grow strongly and petrol is sold at almost a 2:1 ratio against diesel in 2006, according to the ministry's website.
This makes it easier to deal with diesel subsidies first but the ramifications of higher-priced diesel can be wide.
Much of the transportation sector uses diesel to fuel the trucks and lorries that ferry goods throughout the country and when the cost of transportation goes up, the higher charges inescapably finds its way into the essential goods Malaysians consume.
Higher costs is something the public will loathe considering how much the ringgit is already being stretched with the prices of food escalating.
Furthermore, the rakyat must also be aware how the savings from lower subsidies are going to be used to their benefit.
While higher diesel prices will hit pockets of users, it is nothing like what higher petrol costs will do.

The argument that since petrol prices are cheap in Malaysia, we can raise them will ring hollow for many Malaysians who can bring up other statistics to show otherwise. The bottom line is that petrol in Malaysia is cheaper than in some countries and more expensive in others.
But whatever the debate on the positives and negatives for the cut in fuel subsidies is, the reduction or removal of fuel subsidies is like an extra tax and its ramifications on cost of goods and services would be far-ranging.
As a balance, and in the interest of fairness, there should be a corresponding decrease in other taxes and charges such as road taxes, toll charges, import duties on cars or even personal income taxes, so that a drop in fuel subsidies does not burden the public.
Also, while the Government still makes more money with every US dollar increase in the price of global oil prices, measures to instil a fuel saving culture should be escalated.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

MAS mulls consolidation ahead of overcapacity

Thursday April 24, 2008 MYT 5:43:43 PM THESTAR

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airline System Bhd (MAS) is keeping a lookout for possible consolidations with partner airlines, as there are indications of overcapacity in five years’ time coupled with a tougher operating environment due to high oil price.
MAS managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Idris Jala said on Thursday the airline was only looking at possibilities now. "Its still early days and we haven't identified any airline," he said.

Idris said based on current airplane orders, there was an indication of overcapacity in five years with several airlines not being able to survive due to a tougher operating environment.
"As overcapacity kicks in, consolidation in the industry will become inevitable and it'll happen very quickly, just like in the oil and gas industry some years back," he said.
Idris said it was "possible" that MAS would acquire another airline in the five-year period or beyond but that would depend on such factors as synergy value and whether the airline in question could complement MAS' business model.
He said one way of looking at consolidation possibilities were the many tie-ups that MAS has with various airlines.

"There's no hurry because there's no overcapacity yet," Idris told reporters at a press conference Thursday after his address at the Airline Distribution 2008 forum.
He said to remain competitive and to leverage on Malaysia's multiethnic identity, collaboration with airlines from China, India and Indonesia were desirable over the next 10 to 15 years.
"We should leverage on these advantages since we've sections of the population with affinities to these countries," Idris said.

He said it was now tougher to reduce costs by another RM1bil this year due to the higher price of oil.
"We're on track to reduce costs in certain areas and we're not in others," Idris said, adding that the airline had hedged 43% of this year's fuel based on US$89 per barrel and 13% of next year's requirement based on US$95 per barrel.
He said the airline has no plans to revise the fuel surcharge and would only do so on a route-by-route basis.
Idris said the plans to acquire wide-bodied aircraft to replace the airline's 777 and 747 aircrafts would only be finalised before the end of the year. MAS had earlier finalised plans to acquire 35 narrow-bodied aircraft with options to acquire another 20.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

20% more load allowed for lorries

Wednesday April 23, 2008 MYT 6:55:00 PM THE STAR

Higher loads allowed for lorries

KUALA LUMPUR: Lorries will be allowed to carry 20% more load on federal roads after bridges along the routes are repaired and upgraded.
Works Minister Datuk Mohd Zin Mohamed said the move would keep transportation costs down and allow the industry to be more efficient.
The Pan Malaysia Lorry Owners Association (PMLOA) and the Association of Malaysian Hauliers (AMH) lauded the move, saying it would help them maintain the escalating operational costs.
Mohd Zin said the lorries were previously allowed to carry not more than 10 metric tonnes per axle on federal roads, but could now carry 12 metric tonnes per axle.
"The international standard is 13 metric tonnes, but we prefer to stay on the safe side," he said.
He added that there would be no changes to the axle load limit on highways, which is already 12 metric tonnes per axle.
Lorries in Malaysia, depending on size, have a maximum of seven axles.
PMLOA president Er Sui See said he was happy with the move, as he had lobbied for it for 10 years.
"It gives the message that our roads are of international standards. And our lorries are more than able to carry the extra load.
"The price of tyres and spare parts has been rising. This will keep our cost down, and since we can sustain our operations at the existing rates, we do not need to increase our fees," he said.
AMH president Datuk Ahmad Shalimin Shaffie also welcomed the move, saying that it would resolve the issue of lorries overloading.
He said on average, those who overload carry about 30% more than the allowed limit and many would stop doing so as the 20% limit increase would already be cost efficient to the operators.
"With the move, transportation costs can be maintained and we need not need to pass them down to our clients, who will in turn pass them on to consumers," he said.

Friday, April 18, 2008

42m mishandled luggage missing in 2007

April 18, 2008

42m mishandled luggage costing S$5.1b went missing last year
But one bag for every 2,000 passengers was lost forever.
By Karamjit Kaur, Aviation Correspondent, Straits Times

THEY waited and waited at airports but their bags never came.
For many of the owners of about 42 million pieces of luggage that went 'missing' last year, their belongings eventually arrived within 48 hours.
But one bag for every 2,000 passengers was lost forever, according to the latest report by Sita - a Geneva-based information technology company that helps track baggage.
Around the world, airports handled 2.25 billion bags last year, which meant perfect landing more than 98 per cent of the time.
Still, the delayed and lost bags cost the industry a stagggering US$3.8 billion (S$5.1 billion) - a sum it can ill afford to lose given sky-high fuel prices and other challenges on the horizon, experts said.
The report blamed growing passenger numbers, tight aircraft turnaround times and increased security, for the problem of mishandled baggage.
Data for Changi Airport was not immediately available but Singapore Airlines which handled more than 18 million pieces of checked-in luggage across its network last year, said fewer than four out of every 1,000 bags were delayed.
About 200 bags were forever lost, said SIA spokesman Stephen Forshaw.
According to the Sita report, more than half of the bags that did not arrive with their owners went missing during transit.
Even with a success rate of over 98 per cent globally, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) - the global voice of airports - wants to see improvements.
It has warned that unless the situation improves and with annual passenger numbers expected to reach 2.75 billion by 2011, the industry is looking at well over 50 million mishandled bags a year.
To help airports and airlines reduce the problem of mishandled baggage, Iata aims to visit six airports and work with six airlines this year to share best practices. This is part of its recently-launched Baggage Improvement Programme (BIP).
Iata is also encouraging the use of Radio Frequency Identification or RFID technology for more efficient tracking of bags. Most airports today use bar code technology for baggage tagging.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Under threat? What threat?

Thursday April 17, 2008

Since the recent general election, voices have risen up in a shrill warning cry that the Malays are now ‘under threat’. But perhaps the real threat is the threat to Umno hegemony.

AND so it begins. Race-based rhetoric has raised its ugly little head in response to a democratic process. Over 49% of the people of Malaysia have voted for parties that have rejected race-based affirmative action in favour of a needs-based platform.
It did not take very long for voices, both common and royal, to rise up in a shrill warning cry that the Malays are now “under threat”.
“Under threat” from what, may I ask? Let’s take a bit of time to look at this so-called “threat”. Firstly, Malays are given special protection under Article 153 of the Constitution.
Article 153 is titled “Reservation of quotas in respect of services, permits, etc, for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak”. Article 152 states that Malay is the National Language. The Supreme Head of the Federation, according to Article 32, is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, a Malay ruler.
This is the foundation of Malay “special privileges”.
None of the Pakatan Rakyat component parties, including the DAP, have said anything about removing Articles 153, 152 and 32. They remain safe and secure with no sign whatsoever of any sort of threat.
Besides, in order to change it, you would need a two-thirds majority in the lower and upper houses of Parliament plus the support of the Conference of Rulers. The last time I checked, no one has a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat.
Secondly, due to simple demographics, it is unlikely that a totally non-Malay party is ever going to win absolute control of the government. Of the five state governments in the hands of the Pakatan, four are led by a Malay Mentri Besar.
Penang is an exception, but Penang has been led by non-Malays since the 60s. Why was there was no outcry before this?
Thirdly, the proposed doing-away with the NEP (or whatever it is called nowadays), I suppose, can be seen as a threat to the Malays.
But how it can be a threat is beyond me, because the replacement suggested by the Pakatan is not some sort of laissez-faire capitalist economy. Instead, it is an economic system with affirmative action promised to those in need.
If the Malays are the largest group of people in Malaysia who are in the most need, then they will get the most help. If they are not in the most need, then why on earth do they need help then?
This is the point where I will get angry letters about how the NEP is needed; because in the business world – the real world which I know nothing about because I am just a lowly-academic trapped in my ivory tower – Malays are discriminated against by the Chinese. So we need a policy like the NEP to provide some balance.
I disagree.
If there are racist business policies being conducted against the Malays, then you face it head on with anti-discrimination laws.
If some person feels he is being discriminated against, no matter what his race, then let there be a law to help him, and let us punish the racists with a hefty fine or jail term.
You do not meet racism with racism; you challenge it by destroying all traces of it.
The problem with the NEP, as I see it, is that it breeds a mentality of entitlement based on race and not merit. This mentality seeps into governance, and it creates an atmosphere of mediocrity. One example of this is how the Constitution has been disregarded in relation to employment issues.
The Federal Constitution states that you can set quotas at the entry points of government services, for example, the civil service and public universities. However, this is counter-balanced by Article 136 that says all federal employees must be treated fairly regardless of race.
This means that once inside a service, everyone is to be treated equally based on merit. In such a situation, only the cream will rise to the top.
However, since the introduction of the NEP, the practice in government services has been to promote Malays mainly. This has in turn led to a drop in the number of non-Malay actors in the service of the public.
Taking my profession for example, the closeted unrealistic world of academia, I look down south and I see that 30% of the staff in the National University of Singapore Law School are Malaysians.
How come these clever fellows who are good enough to teach in a university that is among the top 20 in the world are not here in the land of their birth? Why are the blinking Singaporeans enjoying our talent? Is it because that talent is all non-Malay and they feel they have better opportunities there than here?
This is a complete waste, and in the end this loss of talent means a loss for the university, the country and the people of this country, including the Malay students who miss out on the best possible teachers.
Perhaps the real threat is the threat to Umno hegemony, in which case my answer to that is this: clean up your act, live up to your promises and listen to what the people are saying.
Make yourself electable by proving that you can create good government.
That is called democracy.

Dr Azmi Sharom is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

Singapore Mass Rapid Transit Milestones

SMRT celebrates 20 years of moving with the nation
Nakheel and SMRT Engineering Pte Ltd enter partnership for the operation of The Palm Jumeirah Rail Transit system
SMRT celebrates 100-Millionth passenger milestone at Bukit Panjang LRT

SMRT launches inaugural SMRT Silver Tribute Fund for needy elderly and caregivers
SMRT trains the community in emergency response through the SMRT Community Emergency Preparedness Programme
Citibank and SMRT launch Singapore’s first 2-in-1 Visa and ez-link card
SMRT launches S$142 million mid-life upgrade project for 66 trains
SMRT Taxis launches SMRT SPACE – Singapore’s largest MPV Taxi
SMRT wins the Corporate Governance Award at 7th SIAS Investors' Choice Awards 2006
SMRT launches first regular free shuttle service to Chinatown and Little India

SMRT opens Sembawang Bus Interchange, an integrated transport hub with easy access to bus and train services.
SMRT Buses completes Integrated Bus Operations System which tracks the movement of its buses.
Raffles Xchange was launched to give Raffles Place MRT Station commuters a new lifestyle shopping experience.

Six subsidiaries under SMRT Corporation Ltd adopted the SMRT brand

Changi Airport Station opens for passenger service

Expo Station opens for passenger serviceSMRT launches shuttle train service between Tanah Merah and Expo stations
Dover Station opens for passenger service
Merger of SMRT Corporation Ltd and TIBS Holdings Ltd Pursuant to a Scheme of Arrangement under Section 210 of the Companies Act, Chapter 50

Incorporation of SMRT Corporation Ltd
SMRT signs Memorandum of Understanding for a joint venture to publish and distribute a newspaper for public transport commuters
SMRT Night Rider services commence

Bukit Panjang LRT system opens for passenger service

SMRT signs 30-year Licence and Operating Agreement (LOA) with Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA).

SMRT incorporates Singapore LRT Pte Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of SMRT
SMRT marks first ten years of operating the MRT system

Woodlands Extension - comprising 16 kilometres of track and six stations linking Yishun to Choa Chu Kang – opens

Eighth MRT section, Bukit Batok to Choa Chu Kang, opens
Ninth MRT section, Boon Lay, opensSMRT holds official ceremony commemorating the completion of the 67 kilometre, 42-station MRT system

Sixth MRT section, Bugis to Tanah Merah, opens
Seventh MRT section, Simei to Pasir Ris, opens

Third MRT section, Tiong Bahru to Clement, opens.First phase of the MRT system which covers 20 stations is completed
Fourth MRT section, Jurong East to Lakeside, opens
Fifth MRT section, Khatib to Yishun, opens

SMRT incorporated
SMRT and MRTC signs 10-year Licence and Operating Agreement (LOA)
Revenue service for the first MRT section Toa Payoh to Yio Chu Kang, commences
Second MRT section, Novena to Outram Park, opens

Penangites want ferry services to go on

By ANDREA FILMER (THE STAR Thursday April 17, 2008)
PENANG: Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has expressed disappointment over news that the completion of the Second Link or second Penang Bridge would be delayed.
Responding to reports that the second link would need an extra nine months to be completed, Lim said bridge contractor UEM Builders Bhd had yet to inform the state about the delay.
“All we know is what we read in the newspapers.
“It seems that the promise made by Tan Sri Zaini Omar (the second bridge’s special task force head) to complete the Second Link by 1 Jan 2011 remains an unfulfilled promise.
“We are very disheartened with the delay and higher costs of the project as in the end, Penangites will be the ones to pay more,” Lim said after visiting the recently resumed Penang Hill funicular railway Thursday morning.
News reports said the Federal Government had set the cost of the bridge at RM4.3bil over the previous estimate of RM3.5bil.
Lim said the project delay and lack of information from the Federal Government was disappointing.
“The state government is ready and willing to work with the Federal Government, however, we don’t seem to be getting any response.
"This is not a healthy way for the Federal Government to react to the sincerity of the new state government,” he said.
Lim added that “other measures” would be looked into if the state continued to get the cold shoulder from the Federal Government, but declined to elaborate.
On the public spat between him and former deputy chief minister Datuk Seri Abdul Rashid Abdullah, Lim said his office was drafting a letter to invite Abdul Rashid to a meeting.
“The state government is trying to be fair and we want to hear his side of the story on several land issues.
“While we can access information from the Land Office, this does not shed light on why certain deals that are not in the public’s interest, were made in the first place,” Lim said, saying that these deals led to tens of millions of ringgit being siphoned off.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Is it possible?

Some societies are making progress to achieve reliable public transportation, where does Malaysia stand?