Sunday, April 26, 2015

Jho Low Earns Big Bucks from 1MDB

The 1MDB horror stories continue. 
 
Whistleblower site Sarawak Report is claiming that a $330 million (RM1.18 billion) loan 1MDB had issued to PetroSaudi International in 2011 was actually deposited into the account of Good Star Limited, Jho Low’s company. Citing documents from official investigators, the money was transferred in four separate tranches into Good Star Limited’s RBS Coutts, Zurich account.
 
However, approval was granted by the regulators for 1MDB to lend the money to their former JV partner, PetroSaudi, on the basis that it was to “finance on-going overseas investment in the oil and gas sector”. No mention was made of the company Good Star Limited in the loan application and neither was approval granted for the money to be sent to it.
 
The investigation also revealed that this $330 million, which was sent to Good Star Limited, was officially reported to Bank Negara as having been paid to the PetroSaudi company 1MDB PetroSaudi.
 
Sarawak Report rightly asked: "The question now is who was responsible for providing this misleading information that Good Star Limited was a subsidiary company of PetroSaudi International"? And "Also, why did none of the banks involved in any of these transactions ever see fit to file a suspicious transaction report?"
 
According to the website's calculations, $1.19 billion of the $1.93 billion that 1MDB lent to PetroSaudi ultimately went to Good Star Limited. This included the $700 million Good Star allegedly siphoned from 1MDB's now-ended joint venture with PetroSaudi, which was orchestrated by Jho Low.
 
Obviously that was not enough for the money grabber because Good Star Limited had also received an additional $160 million from a Murabaha Loan agreement signed between PetroSaudi and 1MDB, which was also masterminded by Low. On Thursday, Sarawak Report said Good Star Limited was found to have transferred over $500 million to one of the businessperson’s bank accounts at BSI Bank Limited in Singapore in 2011 and 2012.
 
Greed knows no limits.
 
In the EPL match on Saturday between Liverpool and West Brom, the former paid for lack of firepower in this goalless draw with the latter. What a ho-hum game.
 
In the end it was a game that confirmed to Brendan Rodgers what he already knew. With Luis Su├írez long gone and Daniel Sturridge absent once again, Liverpool are unrecognizable from the team that swept opponents aside last season and it is easy to see why the manager talked on the eve of this match about signing a consistent goal scorer who can perform “at a top level every week”. Is he finally admitting he had erred with his signings? Wouldn’t it be better if he spares us more pain by “unsigning” himself and leave Liverpool FC for good?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Say Goodbye, Najib Razak

UMNO members have started to speak out. Especially those who have a mind of their own.

One of them is Pulai UMNO division chief Nur Jazlan Mohamad (left) who proclaimed in his blog post on Wednesday that party members must choose one or the other, i.e. between UMNO or Najib Razak – if they wish to survive the next general election. And to make his point even clearer, he said: “…it can’t be both and a choice must be made immediately”.
 
The fact that he said the above already put him on a collision course with Najib. And the latter’s avowed supporters and backers – I call them a gaggle of noisy geese – will probably squirm, fret and agonize.
 
Nur Jazlan was being honest – maybe, too honest for his own good – but I believe he did the right thing when he gave that 'advice'. Don't we know about the  Chinese proverb that says “The fish rots from the head”?
 
 
In addition, there are Facebook pages that are openly calling for Najib’s resignation – and each has collected thousands of “likes”. One Facebook page LetakJawatan (which means “step down” in Malay) was created just one month ago, but has already garnered 104,621 “likes” as at 10:30 PM today.
 
Nearly every post on this particular page has over 100 to 1000 “likes”, with users generally agreeing in the comments section or writing on the page itself that the country was in bad shape and Najib must go.
 
And those who liked the page are aged 20 to 35 years, according to the Facebook statistics, and the page administrator said they are “the voters who decide who will rule the country”.
 
LetakJawatan joins the ranks of older pages such as 100,000 People Request Najib Tun Razak Resignation, which has already garnered 242,961 “likes” (as at 10:33 PM today); and 1 Juta Rakyat Mahukan Najib Razak Letak Jawatan (1 million citizens want Najib Razak to step down), which collected 18,985 "likes" (as at 10:35 PM today), among others.
 
I believe Najib’s time is almost up and he should be getting ready to say Goodbye.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Tale of 3 Cities: KL, Pekan and Almaty

The Malaysian Insider published a report on April 18, 2015 that the University Malaya Medical Centre’s 2015 budget has been slashed from RM510 million last year to RM387 million, which means that the teaching hospital will have to compromise on patient care and training for undergraduate and postgraduate medical students.
 
Four days later, the same news portal reported that Putrajaya will not go ahead with the Padang Besar Hospital project in Perlis citing the economic situation – at least according to Perlis Health and Rural Development Committee chairperson, Jafperi Othman. The hospital project is part of Barisan Nasional's promise during the 13th general election in 2013.
 
I don’t understand the above at all.
 
If you ask Bank Negara Malaysia governor Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, she’d say that Malaysia is in tip-top fiscal shape and we’re doing great. If you believe her that is. Putting aside the knowledge that Fitch are contemplating a downgrade.
 
The Prime Minister had even tweeted late Wednesday that government tax revenue would continue to strengthen, with an estimated RM183.37 billion expected to be collected this year, an increase from RM171.77 billion in 2014.
 
The country seems to be in an okay situation, even if the economy is not running on all cylinders. But are we really okay?
 
1MDB are still one big black hole. ‘Big’ is not even the right adjective to use here because it is not really describing the real mess that 1MDB have gotten themselves into. GST has kicked in and folks are complaining because GST is just a government scam. And the ringgit is still very sick.
 
So what does it mean when the government said we are cutting back on healthcare? Are we broke? Or getting perilously close to being broke?
 

But Najib Razak could afford to buy a private jet. And he and his wife Rosmah flew to Almaty, Kazakhstan for the wedding reception of daughter Nooryana Najwa from April 17 to 19, 2015 – notwithstanding there had been two receptions here in Kuala Lumpur (March 28) and Pekan (April 04). And two hundred and fifty other Malaysians decided to keep them company in Almaty.
 
I read that the Prime Minister paid a courtesy call on Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. In the meeting that lasted an hour, the pair discussed bilateral cooperation on trade, economy, investment, industry and culture apart from raising some international issues.
 
That made it a working visit, did it not? So the government should pick the tab. Very convenient.
 
Ordinary Malaysians must grit their teeth and try to get through life while a minority of the population is having a ball of a time.
 
On Thursday, I was at KL’s Berjaya Times Square to attend the Berjaya UCH Toastmasters meeting where I evaluated a CC speech #7. It was a good meeting although I note that there were only a handful of students. There must be a more concerted effort at reaching out to students. A 7 over 10 score.
 














 

Tesco: A Massive Bleed

Tesco plunged to an annual loss of £6.38 billion on Wednesday – the worst in their 96-year history. Their trading profit was £1.4 billion, in line with company guidance but less than half of the £3.3 billion made the year before and a third straight year of decline.
 
Badly wounded by an accounting scandal and a price war sparked by the march of discount groups Aldi and Lidl, the supermarket entity wrote down the value of their business by £7 billion – in fact, the writedown was larger than forecast – to reflect restructuring charges and the lower sales their stores were making. The statutory loss, which also includes stock writedowns, is one of the biggest in British corporate history. Already ratings agencies had reduced the company to “junk” status.
 
Dave Lewis, the chief executive parachuted in to mastermind a turnaround last year, described the loss as a “big significant number”. But the former Unilever executive insisted the supermarket was on the road to recovery.
 
From my various readings, I have compiled a small list of 5 mistakes that have cost Tesco billions:
 
1. Tesco haven’t kept up with the seismic shifts in the retail landscape – They need to recognise how much the retail landscape has changed, and adapt their strategy accordingly. They’ve been focused on ‘big box cathedrals’ until now – massive, hypermarket-style superstores – but there’s been a shift towards consumers preferring to shop at local convenience stores, or online.
 
2. Tesco have lost the plot on customer service – They must become more focussed on the customer experience, and in particular the interaction with their customers in-store. Stores need to be destinations and give people a reason to return. People buy from people.
 
3. Tesco should have closed their 200 underperforming stores – you need to be ruthless.
 
4. Tesco haven’t made the best use of their bigger retail outlets – Shopping habits have changed and people now do their grocery shopping online or at a smaller store, and Tesco have a number of larger stores that are costing a fortune. So a key priority for Tesco has to be making better use of these bigger stores. One option is to sub-let floor space to other retail brands, but Tesco could also look to use the space to better connect online and offline.
 
5. Tesco must embrace technology more – The opportunity for Tesco – and indeed all retailers – is to reimagine how their businesses work digitally. It shouldn’t be a thing that happens “online” – it should be a service layer that unites a customer experience, smooth’s out the buying process, and allows personalised benefits. With an epic database, they should look at how this data be turned into a tool for enhancing the customer experience, rather than targeting offers. After all, people’s shopping habits are changing; we are buying less stuff, more often. Why not take the evolution of shopping further with a recurring monthly fee that covers a regular drop off of staples to your door: a 21st Century Milkman. This commitment would allow better forecasting and the cost saving could be passed onto the customer.

Tesco have gone stale – it is as simple as that.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Gamecasters

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Online gaming is massively popular everywhere. Often than not, it can involve long hours alone.
 
In China, gamers are hiring female "online escorts" to keep them company while they play, the Want China Times website reported. Chinese men who dedicate their waking hours to immersing themselves in the virtual world can now buy time with a woman, known as a gamecaster, who will join in. It costs between 20 and 100 yuan ($3-$16; £2-£10) per hour, and some women also demonstrate games and give advice via a face-to-face online chat.
 
But the women don't have to be particularly skilled gamers themselves – one escort company says having a "sweet voice" is a more popular feature.
 
Of course in China, we know that men vastly outnumber women, partly due to years of a one-child policy which led to a preference for male babies. That has left many single men looking for female company – even those who are primarily preoccupied with gaming and nothing much else.
 
The growing online escort business can be lucrative for the women involved. Zhang Jun, a 26-year-old gamecaster, says she makes about 6000 yuan ($970; £650) a month which is a respectable Chinese wage.
 
Not exactly a job that has career advancement potential but it’s still a job, I suppose.
 
Gary Mackay-Steven (32) and Virgil Van Dijk (63) had scored either side of half-time and then, Dundee United sneaked in a consolation goal in the eighty-seventh minute through Jim McAllister. Still, it was a comfortable 2-1 win for Celtic on this Wednesday night and they have increased their Scottish Premiership lead to eight points.
 
Last evening, I completed my twenty-second round of the CC manual when I delivered CC #10 titled “Sorry Seems the Hardest Word”. My evaluator was YC Yap from Ukay Toastmasters Club.
 
I was at No. 16-18, Jalan Tun Sambanthan 3 in KL’s Brickfields where the MIA Toastmasters Club meets. Eleven of us attended the meeting. Regrettably, we started eleven minutes late and this tardiness was sadly observed. It is a bane that afflicts many Toastmasters meetings. We shouldn't really take this issue lightly but alas, many Malaysians don't care. I am giving this meeting a 5.5 score over 10.
 










 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Najib Razak's Fragrant Fart

Even the moron who calls himself Ridhuan Tee Abdullah had urged Prime Minister Najib Razak to answer the questions former premier Mahathir Mohamad had for him.
 
Writing in his column in Sinar Harian, Ridhuan said Mahathir couldn't help it. He just couldn't stay quiet.
 
“His heart cannot find peace when something is not right”, he explained.
 
And then Ridhuan started condemning the “apple polishing culture” in UMNO, saying party members just love to flatter those in power.
 
Ridhuan also said Najib’s fart will be fragrant to them. I didn't know he even knows Najib that well. He must have been in close proximity with Najib oftentimes to know the fact. 

Even so, fragrant or not, I wouldn’t want to be near him! A fart is still a fart.
 
At the Taylor's College Toastmasters meeting on Tuesday, I was the Evaluator for an interesting CC#5 speech titled "Dream Dictionary".  I had one grouse, i.e. the meeting started fourteen minutes late and that was disappointing never mind the General Evaluator was the reason. We should just start. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the meeting. Score-wise, I would give this meeting a 5.5 over 10.   
 













 

Double Agent Shoes











Image credit: http://www.ozy.com/good-sht/secret-soles-help-you-hide-stuff-in-your-shoes/39796?utm_source=Outbrain&utm_medium=CPC&utm_campaign=INTL%20Recent%20Content

When Carolina Ferreira of Florida, USA was robbed at gunpoint, she stopped carrying a purse, opting to stash her essentials in her bra. Of course, this was an imperfect solution. Stuff would fall out and things would get lost.
 
She had her eureka moment and she combined her favorite shoe style – wedges – with storage, and creating a compartment in the shoe between the sole and the heel. The back of the shoe features a “door” with a retractable mechanism in the back of the heel and a tiny latch. To open it, unhook and it folds out; small magnets snap it back into place.
 
So there we have it: a shoe that has fashion and functionality. She offers five styles – a mix of strappy wedges, lace-up boots and multi-colored party shoes, ranging in price from $165–$225 – all the Double Agent compartment.



You may check the shoes out at http://www.DoubleAgentShoes.com
 
Toastmasters are joining forces with the School of Charisma to present a half-day workshop “Unlock Your X-Factor”. The event – organized by ITC Bintang & PricewaterhouseCoopers Toastmasters Clubs – will be held at Sunway University on Saturday, May 16, 2015.
 
 
The School of Charisma describes itself as the nucleus “to train in the art of personal branding, profiling, etiquette and communications”.
 
To get tickets, please contact Benny Chia at 017 8867483. Already the 150 tickets are selling fast. And I have been reliably informed that less than 30 tickets are still available.