Sunday, January 31, 2016

Budget 2016 Recalibration

The fact that Budget 2016 has to be recalibrated is itself an acknowledgment that Malaysia is finally facing up to the global headwinds and the prolonged oil price slump. Not to mention, slowing domestic economic growth.
The country is still stubbornly holding onto its 2016 fiscal deficit target at 3.1 percent of gross domestic product and it reckons government debt is still manageable at 55 percent of GDP.
Anyway, PM Najib Razak on Thursday unveiled a series of revisions expected to save the government RM9 billion.
That of course, is based on the price of Brent crude oil staying within the $30 to $35 per barrel. (Note: At the time of Budget 2016’s earlier announcement, oil price was then just hovering around $40 a barrel. and unrealistic Putrajaya had based its projections on $48 per barrel price).
This means that the GDP growth outlook for 2016 has to be trimmed to 4%-4.5% from 4%-5%. The Goods and Services Tax however will remain – after all, it is a massive revenue earner for the beleaguered government. The GST imposed in April 2015 has helped to narrow Malaysia's fiscal deficit even as Malaysians suffer from a higher cost of living.
Still, the government are keenly aware of a growing public disaffection over rising costs. And the 2016 budget revisions are supposedly supportive for consumption although I don't think that is going to happen.
EPF contributions for employees are reduced by 3% from March 2016 to December 2017 although contributions from employers are unchanged. And a special tax relief of RM2,000 to individual tax payers earning RM8,000 a month for year of assessment 2015. Najib forgets that ordinary Malaysians are hurting.
Other measures, in my opinion, are just not noteworthy enough. The odds of fiscal slippage remain high with little maneuvering space, especially if oil remains on a significantly lower glide path and tax revenue is crimped by lower corporate profits and weaker growth.
This is the second year in a row that Najib had been forced to revise the Budget, after oil price fell from $110 to below $50 last year and made it necessary to reduce Budget 2015 last January. 
We seem to have a government caught up in a time warp.
On Thursday, I was in Avenue 7, The Horizon in KL’s Bangsar South for the BP Asia BSC-Air Products Toastmasters Clubs joint-meeting.
I was fortunate to be given a speaking slot and I delivered CC#8 titled “Being Normal”.
Good attendance from both clubs and even a good meeting in spite of the fact that Air Products’ Eddie Lai was absent because he’s in the US of A. His effusiveness may have been missed but that did not prevent us from having an enjoyable time.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Bloody Attack on Bacha Khan University

Image credit:

Image credit:

Photo: Caren Firouz/Reuters

Photo: Aamir Quereshi/AFP/Getty Images

INP Photo by Sikandar Shah

Image credit:

Photo: N Takar /VOA Deewa

Photo: AP

Four heavily-armed gunmen stormed the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, which is located 29km from Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan, randomly spraying bullets on students and staff on the morning of January 20, 2016. The brazen attack killed 21 people and left 50 others injured. 

Pakistani Taliban commander Umar Mansoor, the mastermind of the student massacre in December 2014 at a military-run school in nearby Peshawar – you may read this tragedy of a story at this link – claimed responsibility for the assault.

It yet again raised questions about whether security forces are able to protect the country’s educational institutions from extremists.
On Wednesday, I was at the Scope Toastmasters meeting in Petaling Jaya – at the request of D’Utama Advanced’s Lim Lay Kun – to evaluate her Advanced speech that she was presenting there.

One of Scope's rare evening meetings.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Malaysia Ranks No. 54 in CPI 2015

Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2015 saw Malaysia take a tumble from 50th to 54th placing.
This is surely reflective of Malaysians’ deteriorating deficit of trust in government – it is as simple as that. It also represents Malaysians’ lack of faith in authorities’ attempts to investigate and prosecute corruption cases.
This TI CPI 2015 was announced a day after Apandi Ali, the Attorney-General had ordered the case closed on the RM2.6 billion donation deposited into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal accounts prior to Election 2013.
Pursuant to my blogpost yesterday, MACC had decided to seek a review of the afore-mentioned case. The Operations Review Panel is an independent oversight body set up by the Malaysian government to monitor the operations of the anti-graft agency according to the MACC Act 2009 and which would give its views concerning cases that are not taken to court for prosecution.
One of Najib’s cheerleaders spoke up in support of Apandi. Azalina Othman Said, minister in the Prime Minister's Department maintained that no one can challenge the A-G’s decision because the law gave him the ultimate discretion to decide on all criminal proceedings. Therefore, she said, Malaysians should stop debating the case further.
No wonder democracy is dying in Malaysia!
On Tuesday, I was in TTDI in KL to attend the WIM Toastmasters meeting where I delivered my CC speech #7 titled "The Bane of Low Prices". In this context, I was referring to the low global oil price, low value of our ringgit and low Malaysian salaries – for sure, they impact on our lives, one way or another.