Friday, June 27, 2008


Govt to continue improving service delivery system

•The Government will continue to improve and transform its service delivery system by being customer- focused, according to the Economic Planning Unit (EPU). Measures taken towards this from now until 2010 will include the integration of systems and services across Government agencies so as to provide quality service with greater ease to the public and businesses, it said. To further meet current users demand and enhance its competitiveness, the Government also aims to increase confidence in the public electronic-based services and promote a wider usage and acceptances of these services, the EPU said. In addition, an outcome-based approach to planning, monitoring and evaluation of programmes and projects will be implemented to maximise benefits to the people, it said. “Together with the cooperation and collaboration of the private sector, the Government will strive towards achieving service delivery excellence, with greater transparency, integrity and professionalism,” it added.The EPU said integrating services by consolidating processes and procedures across agencies will be done by reengineering service delivery, creating virtual one-stop centres, promoting information and infrastructure sharing, reviewing legal and regulatory frameworks, moving towards self- regulation, improving governance and developing competencies. For services that involve multiple agencies, work processes will be reviewed, re-engineered and streamlined toensureefficient delivery, it said. The processes will be designed around client needs where the adoption of a shared services culture, involving information and infrastructure will he promoted, the EPU said. Appropriate technology will be deployed to support the workflow of these re-engineered processes, it said. The EPU also said that integrated services by consolidating processes and procedures across agencies will be offered through the e-KL initiative in the Kiang Valley. This initiative includes job of access for loans and grants, enrollment of international students, speedy approval for billboard advertisements, single-window access for ICT companies to start operations as well as a standardized complaints management system. These efforts will provide better access to a wide range of integrated, online services including electronic submissions, payments, communications and complaints, it added. According to the EPU, the introduction of eForms will reduce processing time and cost as well as improve customer convenience. To accelerate migration to epayments, the Government will continue to implement strategies outlined in the roadmap, including removing barriers to allow for greater efficiency and innovation in the market. “Further improvements will be made in the retail payment systems to reduce the use of cash and cheques as well as to leverage on the Internet and mobile phones as pervasive and lowcost delivery channels for banking and payment services,” it said.


New commission to oversee public transport programs

• A commission will be established to plan and coordinate all public transport programmes and initiatives in the country, according to the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) of the Prime Minister’s Department. The commission will also be responsible for regulating the public transport sector and developing a more efficient and integrated public transport system, it said in the MidTerm Review of the Ninth Malaysia Plan (2006-2010). It said: “Efforts such as increasing coverage of the urban rail transit system and building more integrated transport terminals as well as improving the efficiency of the (KTM) Komuter, bus and taxi services will be undertaken to achieve the target ratio of private vehicles to public transport of 70:30 by 2010, particularly in the Kiang Valley.” The development of various transport infrastructure will also be taken into consideration, providing greater accessibility and more covenient public transport facilities to people with disabilities, it said. The EPU said the coverage of the Komuter service will be extended with the completion of the Sentul-Batu Caves electrified double-tracking rail project, which is expected to benefit about 8,800 commuters per day. The Kelana Jaya Line of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) will be extended from Kelana Jaya to Putra Heights, and the Ampang Line from Sri Petaling to Putra Heights, it said. Connectivity will be provided at Putra Heights by an interchange station for -both lines. It said the insufficient road space to cope with the rapidly increasing number of private vehicles and inadequate public transport services will be addressed systematically. On roads, it said a study is being undertaken to identify additional road requirements to improve the road network and accessibility in Sabah and Sarawak. Other road developments will include the second phase of the East Coast Highway, from Kuantan to Kuala Terengganu, and the Senai Desaru Highway. The EPU also said that rural air services will be expanded to improve access to remote areas in Sabah and Sarawak, and further improvement of the low-cost carrier (LCC) terminals will enable expansion of facilities and provide greater access to low-cost travel to a larger segment of the population. Touching on family development, the EPU said a National Family Policy will be formulated to integrate action to strengthen the family institution. “The shrinking family size and rising number of older persons will require formal institutions to complement traditional family responsibilities,” it said. The EPU said more one-stop family service centres will be established to provide the necessary support services, including counselling, parenting skills, training and reproductive health services. The private sector will be encouraged to implement programmes to assist families and individuals in need as part of their corporate social responsibilty initiatives, it said. On child safety, the EPU said an early childhood care and education policy will be formulated to provide the framework for the development of children from birth to four years.

FRIDAY-27 JUNE 2008- 625,000 NEW JOBS TO BE CRATED 2008 TO 2010

625,000 new jobs to be crated 2008 to 2010

• A total of 625,000 new jobs will be created, including in the regional growth corridors during the remaining Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) period from 2008 to 2010. Demand for knowledge workers is expected to grow at an average rate of 3.1 percent annually to form 47 percent of total jobs created, said the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) of the Prime Minister’s Department in its mid-term review of the 9MP (2006-2010) released yesterday. The rising demand for skilled human capital will be met by expansion in capacity and improvement in quality of education and training at all levels with the emphasis on high performance work culture and positive values, the EPU said. A combination of short- and long- term measures will be undertaken to reduce the number of low-skilled foreign labour to 1.8 million in 2010, it said. These include improving foreign labour intake and levy system, capping the number of foreign labour by sub- sector, revising the wage system, providing better facilities and benefits to retain locals in selected sectors, and systematically phasing out labour-intensive industries. In addition, participation of women in labour force will be increased to 50 percent in 2010 from 46.1 percent in 2007, the EPU said. The Government will review the policy, strategies, labour laws and procedures related to employment of experts and highly skilled foreign labour in specific occupations, it said. The population is expected to grow at a lower rate of 1.2 per cent per annum in the remaining 9MP period to reach 28.24 million in 2010. The labour force will grow at a slower rate of 1.76 percent per annum and employment is expected to increasing marginally higher at 1.79 percent, thus reducing further the unemployment rate to 3.1 percent in 2010. In the 9MP period, with the population increasing from 26.45 million in 2005 to 27.23 million in 2007, the labour force rose by 2.1 percent per year to 11.8 million. The unemployment rate continued to decline from 3.5 percent in 2005 to 3.2 percent last year, reflecting tightening of the labour market during this period, according to the EPU. In 2006, total of 785,000 skilled Malaysians worked in various countries, especially in Singapore and developed countries, it said. The employment of foreign labour increased from 1.8 million in 2005 to 2.04 million last year, it added. - Bernama


People must be steadfast and united in facing oil price crisis: Abdullah

• The rise in the global oil price poses the greatest challenge to the Malaysian economy as the country moves into the second half of the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), says Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. As such, the Prime Minister wants all levels of society to be steadfast and united in efforts to overcome the impact of the surging oil and commodity prices. “This crisis will not only have negative effects on the second half of the 9MP but also in the years to come,” he said when tabling the 9MP (2006-2010) Mid-Term Review in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday. Abdullah said efforts should be focused on meeting this challenge and making adjustments, and not let certain leaders and groups to take advantage of a difficult situation and firing up people’s sentiments with false promises just to wrest power and fulfill their personal agenda. “While the other Government leaders and I meet every week to find ways of lessening the people’s burden, these groups are busy thinking of ways to hoodwink the people. “I am confident the people can see which is true and which is false. I believe people are intelligent enough to assess the measures taken to protect their interests and to take care of the welfare of the middle and low-income groups. I believe in the kind voices and goodheartedness of the people,” he said. Abdullah said the reality was that, the oil price hike was a global phenomenon which affected all nations and was caused by various factors. He said one of the key factors which had led to the extreme rise in oil price at this moment in time was the geopolitical uncertainty. “The invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003 has crippled one of the world’s key oil-producing nations, and has resulted in a state of unrest in the Middle East which remains unresolved. “The earlier military action in Afghanistan and most recently, Israel’s threat to attack Iran further exacerbated geopolitical tensions.” Besides that, he said, the high demand from countries such as China and India, along with the refusal of OPEC countries to substantially increase their oil production, had also contributed to higher oil prices. “The situation is made worse by the action of speculators in the oil markets of international financial centres such as New York and London.” Apart from the extreme oil price increase, Abdullah said, Malaysia’s economy was also affected by the state of global financial markets, which had yet to recover from the sub—prime crisis. “In fact, many economic experts expect that this crisis may lead to a global recession, which will surely adversely impact on our own economic prospects. “The reality is that our nation faces difficult challenges, caused by external factors which are beyond our control.” Abdullah said in the face of these difficulties, the Government must have the courage to make decisions and initiate changes that would preserve public prosperity and national interest in the long term. He said this included the recent decision to restructure oil and gas subsidies, which the Government realised would increase costs. “Nevertheless, the Government was compelled to act decisively, since the global oil price hike has put a strain on the nation’s finances. “At the same time, the move was necessary to ensure that subsidies would go directly to those who need them most. “By restructuring subsidies, we will also have greater flexibility to navigate the risks of a global recession, should one occur in the near future,” he explained. Abdullah said the rising global oil price and uncertainty caused by external factors made it difficult for any nation to fully shield its citizens from hardship. Nevertheless, he said, the Government remained committed towards doing anything within its power to lighten the burden of the people and preserve their quality of life. “Therefore, in order to continue our path towards development while addressing the challenges of the present, let us give our undivided commitment towards ensuring the success of our National Mission. “Insya Allah (God willing), with collective resolve and a unified sense of purpose, our aspirations to build a secure, peaceful and prosperous nation can be achieved”, he said. - Bernama


Nuclear energy may be best option for Sabah: Masidi


In an effort to maintain Sabah as an eco-tourism destination, the State Government will only opt for clean power generating sources to protect the flora and fauna. Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, in stressing this, said the Government had considered all sorts of power generating sources, and to date, the proposal of using nuclear technology seems bright. “It is known as the cleanest and cost-effective energy. We do not even have to worry about the escalating oil price and this is probably the best option since there have been strong objection from the people on the use of coal-fired technology to generate electricity in the State,’ he said. Speaking to the media after launching a book, entitled ‘The Mystic of Borneo-Kadayan’, at the Sabah Society office here yesterday, Masidi said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had also announced that the Government would probably consider nuclear technology. “I fully support the idea,” he said, adding that the State Government had considered other sources such as hydro, wind and solar technology but they either provide limited electricity supply or are too expensive. He added, “Even coal could deplete.” Masidi said nuclear technology has proved to be successful in France where half of the country’s power supplies are generated using the technology. “There is however a misconception on nuclear energy as many would associate it with wars. And there is fear that it could be misused, but I believe that with proper supervision by the United Nations and the Nuclear Committee, there should be no danger and that it would be restricted to supplying energy only,” he said. The Atomic Energy Licensing Board Director-General, Datuk Dr Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan, had recently urged the Government to consider using nuclear power to generate electricity in the Country. Earlier, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Maximus Johnity Ongkili said his Ministry has prepared a comprehensive working paper to include nuclear as a new energy source that could generate electricity. Asked about the progress of Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s request for the State Government to allow it to find a new location in the east coast of Sabah to set up its proposed coal-fired power plant, Masidi said he would be leading a delegate for a study tour of other plants in the Peninsula and Sarawak. “The visit, which is arranged by TNB, will take place sometime in middle of July. And if it is necessary, we will be going to Korea and Japan to convince the State Government that only coal technology could meet the electricity needs in the east coast of Sabah,” he said. “Basically, the visit is to show us that there is nothing to fear about coal. “It is considered as a clean technology, but I must in all honesty tell you that there is no such thing as clean technology. Even in our daily life, we would contribute to pollution such as fuels, which release carbon monoxide,” he said. He said a report on the study tour would be submitted t. the State Cabinet. “There are a lot of things which need to be considered such as the amount of money we put out to set up the plant and how much it would cost us in the future,” he said. “We would prefer a cost effective technology which would bring good, to the people and the State,” he said. On another matter, Masidi said more locals should write books depicting the traditions, ethnics and cultures of Sabah. He said the newly launched book by Amde Sidik tells incidents involving the Kadayan communit in the 1950 to 1970s, touching on several aspects including culture, religion, customs and rituals. Describing Amde as a “weird but productive person”, Masidi said in a simple presentation, the author tried to excite readers on the importance of understanding ethnicity an culture. “There are about 300,000. Kadayans in the world, the majority’ of whom reside in Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei. But what surprises us is, Amde’s discovery of a pocketful of Kadayans who had made a silent, sojourn to Penang at the same time Francis Light landed on the island in, 1786. “Another interesting finding is the tracing of the family lineage of our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi where on his maternal side, he can trace his mother as a fifth generation Kadayan,” revealed’ Masidi. Masidi also encouraged Sabah Society to continue enhancing its collections and provide information and consultation services in its efforts to advance the intellectual development of the local community.


RM13.5 bln for rural education will benefit Sabah, says Masidi


The Prime Minister’s announcement on the RM13.5 billion allocation to develop rural education has been described as “a wise decision” that could benefit thousands of rural people, especially in Sabah. Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, who is the Minister in charge of education, said the huge allocation would go a long way in enhancing the level of rural educationing Sabah. “We welcome the announcement. Sabah still lacks basic facilities.., for instance classrooms and teachers’ houses are in dilapidated condition, and in some places there are none at all. “So we hope the huge allocation can be used to tackle the problem,” he said when asked to comment on the RM13.5 billion allocation announced by Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday. Tabling the Ninth Malaysia Plan’s mid-term review, Abdullah said special attention would be given to rural schools in Sabah and Sarawak, including pre-school education. Masidi also urged the Federal Government to build hostels in each rural school in Sabah. “There are pupils who have to walk for miles to, get to school. I think it’s time that we do something to help them,” he said. He also welcomed the Government’s move to equip rural schools with information and communication technology (ICT) facility. “This is one of the ways in which we can bridge the digital divide between rural and urban schools. But the ICT equipment will be rendered useless if the schools are without electricity,” he said. -Bernama


Cancellations of Govt events to hurt hotels


The Sabah Hotels Association (SHA) has expressed fear that the Government’s decision to cancel all its official events and functions at hotels will cause serious financial difficulties and consequential damage to the hotel industry. Its President Christopher Chan said losses in revenue of some hotels for June alone as a result of the cancellations range from RM18,000 to RM240,000. He said revenue from the Government sector, including functions, meetings and seminars and accommodation amounts to over RM400 million annually in Sabah, and the loss from the 5 per cent sales tax alone amounts to over RM20 million in tax shortfall to the Government yearly. “The major hotel players have indicated they will experience a drop of 25 percent to as high as 40 percent in their annual income in the months to come, which translates to over RM100 million annually,” he said in a statement yesterday. Chan said SHA has already anticipated a drop in tourist arrivals for this year as a result of the increase in fuel surcharges imposed by all airlines. “This will result in lower room occupancy and possibly a drop in room rates as a result of higher rooms inventory and stiffer competition,” he said. Chan said SHA has submitted a Memorandum of Appeal to the Government through the Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun over the Government’s decision to cancel all its functions at hotels. According to him, the Government’s latest move as part of its cost-cutting measures in line with its recent decision to increase the fuel prices has no justification. He pointed out that over the years the hotel industry has been evolving to meet with the Government’s call to upgrade and improve on the facilities and services to international standards, whereby hotels are graded according to star rating based on criteria set by the Ministry of Tourism. He said the industry has also spent millions of ringgit on human resource development and training hotel staff to upgrade to not only the national skill standards but also international skill standards. “We understand the Government’s decision to cut its expenses and being thrifty in view of the recent hike in fuel prices but what we don’t understand is that why is the hotel industry singled out in this cost-cutting exercise,” he said. “Why are we (hoteliers) being penalized?” Chan said the hotel industry has just started to recover from the financial crisis and recession that struck a decade ago followed by the coxsackie outbreak and the SARS epidemic, Nipah virus, bird flu virus outbreak and other challenges. “The Sabah hotel industry endured all these calamities without much help from the Government and struggled to survive under all these bad weathers,” he said. “Now it seems that we are going back into doldrums of uncertainty. Such change in policies without justification does not auger well for the hotel industry.” Meanwhile, Chan described the latest announcement by the Federal Cabinet to discuss hotel tax reduction as a joke. “You cut off a leg and now try to replace it with a hand. Will you still perform normally and expect to be healthy?” he asked, adding that changing policies without foreseeing the impact of such change will be very damaging in the long run. Chan said that the 5 per cent sales tax collected from the tourism industry in 2007 translates into 15 percent of the Sabah’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP). “Tourism receipts for 2008 are expected to hit RM5. 16 billion and RM5.79billioninyear2009,andabout one third of these receipts go to the Federal Government coffers,” he said Chan said the anticipated drop in tourist arrivals will make it more challenging for the hotels in Sabah to maintain their average room occupancy, which has been going up from 65 per cent in 2005 to almost 80 per cent in 2007. “We forecast not only a drop in the average occupancy but also a drop in the average room rate across the board due to an increase in more than 1,500 rooms available for 2008 and stiff competition. “Sabah has always been dependent on air travel as the mode of transport by tourists to the State (96 %). With the expected shortfall in travellers and a drastic loss of an important market segment from the Government, the hotels will face a hard time and the scenario of the NPL from the hotel industry will be a very real prospect,” he said.


RM30 bln more to ease burden
Monorail among big projects scrapped as Govt shifts focus to people-centred projects


Malaysia shelved some large building projects yesterday and pledged to spend RM30 billion more to boost rice production and ease poverty, as the Government sought to quell growing public anger over rising prices. Under the Mid-Term Review of the Ninth Malaysia Plan (2006-2010) tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Government stuck to its average annual economic growth target of 6 percent for 2006- 2010, saying domestic spending would offset the effects of weak global demand. The Government said it was reviewing spending to focus on projects that would benefit the public as high energy and building material prices strain its finances. To free up money for other projects, the Government put on hold a RM1 .5 billion road project and a RM2 billion monorail, both in northern Penang state, said Sulaiman Mahbob, Director General of the Economic Planning Unit. Penang is one of five states that fell to Opposition rule during the March poll. The Government also deferred plans to build administrative centres in Kelantan, Sarawak and Pahang for an unspecified sum. It allocated RM30 billion more to improve health, raise rice output, build schools and rural roads and reduce poverty, bringing development spending to RM230 billion under the Ninth Malaysia Plan. “The additional ceiling is to take into account additional development requirements and the increase in construction-related materials cost,” the Government said in the review report. “Development projects will also be reprioritised giving priority to people-centred projects.” Abdullah is battling perceptions that his Government hasn’t done enough to shield the public from rising inflation while it reaps hefty gains from high energy prices. Malaysia, Asia’s largest net oil exporter, earns RM250 million a year in revenue for every $1 rise in crude prices. It raised petrol prices by 41 percent and diesel by 63 percent this month as part of a broad revamp of its energy price system that would save it $4.23 billion. The Government said yesterday it would continue to gradually cut fuel subsidies, but did not elaborate. “While the subsidy on petroleum and gas will be systematically and gradually reduced, a social safety net will be introduced to ensure the poor and deserving continue to receive some form of support to mitigate its impact,” it said. Despite the planned increase in development spending, the Government said it would cut its fiscal deficit to 3.2 percent of GDP in 2010, lower than an earlier estimate of 3.4 percent. The Government expects a deficit of 3.1 percent this year, compared with 3.2 percent last year. Annual inflation was expected to average 3-4 percent in 2008-2010, above the 2 percent recorded last year, it said. Malaysian annual inflation hit a 22-month high of 3.8 percent in May and is expected to rise further, at a time when the authorities are eager to keep interest rates low to support domestic demand. At 3.50 percent, Malaysia’s key interest rate is among the lowest policy rates in the region. The Government also said it would increase the equity ownership of indigenous people, including ethnic Malays, to 20-25 percent in 2010 from 19 percent in 2006. The Government would do more to ensure the indigenous group, or bumiputras, have a controlling stake in private firms and review foreign investment and public procurement rules to facilitate more bumiputra participation in the economy. “A special package programme will be created, to facilitate greater bumiputra participation inthe economy, particularly in the new growth and high value-added sectors.” Abdullah stressed that the review was of utmost importance in ensuring continuity of the agenda of national development especially in the light of the current challenging economic situation. “In the absence of effective measures, the sharp rise in oil and commodity prices as well as the continued turbulence in global fmancial markets could potentially derail our efforts to maintain economic stability and achieve robust growth,” he said in his speech when tabling the review. He said the tabling of the review was aimed at implementing strategies and programmes as well as making provisions to mould Malaysia into a strong and united nation. As such, he said, one of the main objectives of the second phase of implementation of the ninth plan was to ensure that the quality of life of Malaysians was protected. He also said that programmes to increase earnings propensity as well as to provide social safety nets would continue to be implemented and enhanced. At the same time, the Mid-Term Review did not ignore the nation’s need to enhance capacity and competitiveness. “Infrastructure development, human resource improvements and expansion of sectors contributing towards new sources of growth will continue to be pursued, taking into account the long-term developmental needs of the nation,” he said. Abdullah said that to ensure that Malaysia was able to sustain a positive growth momentum, the national development agenda would continue to be based on the five main thrusts of the National Mission, which are: • to move the economy up the value chain;
• to raise the capacity for knowledge and innovation and nurture “first-class mentality”;
• to address persistent socio-economic inequalities constructively and productively;
• to improve the standard and sustainability of quality of life, and
• to strengthen the institutional and implementation capacity.
Abdullah also outlined several accomplishments during the first two years of the implementation of the ninth plan, including sustaining economic growth at an encouraging rate of 6.1 per cent per annum and enhancing the quality of life of Malaysians by increasing per capita income from RM18,840 in 2005 to RM23,066 in 2007. Also, during the period, the Government reduced the fiscal deficit from 3.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2005 to 3.2 per cent in 2007 through prudent management of the budget, he said, adding that the Government cultivated new sources of economic growth and enhanced worker productivity levels. He said that the Government enhanced the quality and access to the national education system through the implementation of the Education Development Master Plan and the National Higher Education Strategic Plan. He said it also lowered the overall poverty rate from 5.7 per cent in 2004 to 3.6 per cent in 2007, whereby incidences of absolute poverty were reduced from 1.2 per cent to 0.7 per cent in 2007. The Government also reduced inter-ethnic, regional and urban-rural economic divides, he added. During the two-year period, the Government developed almost 68,000 new entrepreneurs as well as trained more than 120,000 existing entrepreneurs through various entrepreneurial development programmes, he said. Abdullah said the Government also ensured better health care services, housing amenities, rural road networks, public transportation and road safety. Besides, he added, it improved the effectiveness of the public service delivery system, which included replacing the Certificate of Fitness for Occupation (CFO) issued by local Governments with the Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC), as well as reduced the ct of doing business through the Special Taskforce to Facilitate Business (Pemudah). Abdullah said it was evident that the implementation of the Ninth Malaysia Plan was not confined to planning or limited to mere rhetoric and that it had resulted in tangible accomplishments.