Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Malaysia, Where Are We Heading?

Malaysia, Where Are We Heading?

Remember Vision 2020? Isn’t this year we are supposed to achieved “developed” status? The year is about to come to an end. However, far from it, we seem to have lapsed instead into a state of semi-paralysis. Or to be flying in an auto-pilot mood?

I have increasing become less confident about where we are heading.

First the Covid-19 situation. When we only hit single or double digits, we thought we were managing the crisis very well. Indeed, we even gloated about ours vis-à-vis our clever neighbour’s. But for the past weeks, we have seen our numbers piked. It was more than 2000 yesterday, and about 70% of the cases were detected in the most urban part of the country – the Klang Valley! And the virus seems to be lurking everywhere.

Our Heath Director-General Dr Nor Hashim continues to update us on a daily basis. But are we confident that he is in full control of the situation now? I for one think the statistics that are being dished out day in and day out do not really reflect the situation in the Covid-19 management of the country. I suspect they contain omissions and reflect non-timely reporting in many instances. To me, the behaviour of the occurrence graph does not quite conform to statistical norms. Besides telling us this and that clusters, we don’t seem to hear much about strategies or longer-terms plans or contemplations. People like me living in the Klang Valley, we also do not know where we should refrain visiting or the places to avoid. Clusters are quite meaningless to men-in-the-street; people are not confined to the clusters that have been named, are they? Be that as it may, let’s don’t pour too much cold water onto this good doctor who is trying his absolute best to contain the virus.  

Second, an order of vaccine has already landed in Changi Airport. What has happened to our orders? Arriving next February? And nothing from China? But before the vaccines arrive, we are already hearing some rent-seeking moves. Hope they are not true. But given the frequency of these occurrences, we can only hope.

Third, the FDI or the foreign direct investment. It is reported that Malaysia only managed to corner 5% of the ASEAN cake. What happened? I thought we ranked high in the eyes of foreign investors? I dread touching on race and religion; but isn’t time for us to do some soul searching about them and about our education system?

Fourth, our recent Budget. It has been passed by the Parliament. Can we spend our way to recovery without talking about the future of the country’s finances? We appear to be stepping into the middle-income trap. I remember most of my contemporaries were able to buy a decent roof over our head three of four years after entering the work force, even though bank interest was something like 12% then. Many graduates in our country today can only do so with the help of their parents!

Fifth, the one-time-too-often interruptions in our water supply in the Klang Valley. Irresponsible dumping? Sabotage? We deserve a better answer!

Yet, we can get so worked out over someone’s marriage to a sports celebrity in India. Just because they are of different faiths.

Sad indeed.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Hi Air Selangor, I am totally unimpressed!

For non-Malaysian friends of mine, Air Selangor is not an airline. It is the water supply monopoly in the state of Selangor, Malaysia. However, it is still a private company.

My son decided to buy a bigger unit at the highest floor of the condominium he is now staying. No sooner had the balance of the purchase price been paid than the vendor’s law firm went ahead to terminate all the utility services. We did not know until we found there was no electricity when we went there to organise some renovation plans. Apparently, the vendor’s lawyer had informed my lawyer, who might have overlooked to advise us. But courtesy would dictate that the purchaser was given a week or two before the services under the vendor’s name were terminated. The termination of the electricity supply also affected the water supply since the latter to the unit was powered by a pump. We had no choice but to rush to these utility offices to try to reconnect the supply.

Tenaga Nasional, or the power monopoly, was superb. Fearing long queues, I went early to the nearest office. I was the first customer and within minutes, everything was done. The technician came in the afternoon and had the supply reconnected. A big bravo to you, Tenaga Nasional!

The same morning, we drove to the nearest office that was stated in Air Selangor’s website. It was closed! There was a notice asking consumers to go to other offices of theirs. We proceeded to the one at Pantai Bahru.

I had in the previous evening visited Air Selangor’s website to try to download all the forms that had to be filled and signed. But the prescribed copy of the agreement was no way to be downloaded in a manner that could be printed by a home computer. It was in a double A4 format! I also typed out an authorization letter signed by my son for me to act for him in the application.

Oh, the queue was long! I was directed to see a “gatekeeper” first.

“Where is agreement?” He asked. I told him there was no way I could download it from Air Selangor’s website. He handed me a set. They must be signed by my son.

 “You are not the owner, right? Where is the authorization letter?”

I showed him what I have prepared, he mumbled something to the effect that it was not the language they would accept. I have been using the same format in many other instances. I just could not understand what he was talking about. He also told me that I had to take a picture of the meter. I was very exasperated with the demand for such a simple service application. In many countries, everything could be done over the Internet.

The visit was a futile exercise since I could not submit the application without my son’s signature on the documents.

In Malaysia, we usually use “runners” to do this stuff for us. While I was trying to enquire for one, one of the condo’s executives volunteered to do the submission for us. I thanked him profusely.

More than a week later, this kind man telephoned me.

“Mr Lim, I visited Air Selangor, they said the owner must personally do the submission.”

What a rubbish. He was just telling a white lie. The checklist clearly said on-behalf application is allowed. Surely all the VIPs property owners - Tan Sris, Datuks, etc - will not want to personally go there to apply for a simple utility connection! I suspect he might have gone there but was deterred from the queue he saw.

Fortunately, the water man has not come to turn off the tap!

We decided not to go there ourselves a second time.

There was a queue. There was a notice saying senior citizens were entitled to priorities. But the attitude of the staff was simply dismissive. It was not being enforced, Period. But before I joined the queue, I had to overcome this same gatekeeper again. Again, he was trying to find fault with the documents. I simply told him off. Why was he trying to be difficult when Air Selangor was essentially a service provider? He said I could try my luck with the counter people if I insisted on proceeding to submit.

I did, and found the application was accepted and duly processed – after queueing for some forty-five minutes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Climbing out of Lethargy

I have not been blogging for some months. I felt very lethargic, not physically, but mentally – all because of politics! And no that I am involved in politics, but in what I saw about the politics in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Taiwan and at home. 

I just could not understand why so many Americans could support Donald Trump. Oh boy, I hate to see the way he speaks, not to mention the rubbish that he spews. Oh boy, I also cannot bear the sight of Mike Pompeo and Peter Navarro; they are so fake! And day in and day out, you saw them in the news channels. 

And oh boy, I cannot understand Tsai Ing-wen can be so un-nationalistic to think Taiwan is not part of China. 

 And in the meantime, the company I most admire, namely Huawei, is being viciously attacked by America, and dropped by the United Kingdom and Australia in the name of “national security risk”. 

If Trump got re-elected, Boris Johnson, Scott Morrison, and Tsai Ing-wen will remain steadfast in their stances in the respective issues. 

At home, everything seems to be on autopilot. There are so many ministers; how many of us can tell who they are and what portfolio they are holding? I used to hold the Director General of the Ministry of Health in high esteem. But his armour seems to have lost its shine lately. We are now seeing new cases exceeding a thousand daily. Yet the daily charts look so stale! 

Our paramount concerns such as “Is where we are safe?”, or “What’s being done to contain the spread?”, are not addressed. As laymen, what we want to know from the ministry's release every day is a snapshot that tells basically this: How many new cases and how many in our state? The details can then follow, not the other way around. The fatigue syndrome is so very evident. Even the Star is so complacent in its reporting. (Go to their bulleting and you will see the same narrative about the spread to Malaysia is being posted day in and day out since the disease first broke out.) 

And few are diligent in observing the MCO’s SOPs. In eateries and wet markets, you see masks hanging below chins. I do not mean to dope in people, but there is no easy channel for concerned citizens to bring offenders to the notice of authorities. And you see many VVIPs not showing examples. Sad indeed, hence my lethargy for the last couple of months. 

Now with Trump about to go, I sense hope. Many have doubts about Joe Biden. But I believe he CANNOT be worse than Trump - in at least one thing: Decency. And that is the premise of my optimism. And with this, I hope my lethargy will go away.