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Building blocks for Malaysia 5.0 — Margarita Peredaryenko

4 ore 11 min fa

DECEMBER 1 — As Malaysia’s visionaries begin to champion the Malaysia 5.0 initiative, the stumbling question is whether we would have sufficient human capital at every level to successfully carry this initiative into the future. The Malaysia 5.0 initiative is inspired by Society 5.0, a concept proposed by the Japanese government and wholeheartedly embraced by its entire nation back in 2016. Even before Japan, a few other countries introduced similar national plans, including, for example, Estonia (e-Estonia), Germany (Industrie 4.0), and Singapore (Smart Nation). Importantly, simultaneously with adopting these plans the above countries initiated rigorous educational system reforms seeing education as the key success factor.

Analysing educational system changes introduced by these countries a few important and conspicuously common trends can be discerned. The first is focus on developing human strengths. The second is very early inclusion of 4IR elements into curriculum. The third is transcending the humanities/sciences divide.

Focus on human strengths

It is a somewhat erroneous fact, in the context of this discussion, that the early AI systems were built on the principle of memorisation, pattern matching and knowledge recall which was soon shown to be a weak approach. An attempt by a machine to find a solution to a problem which was not previously encoded into its memory would lead to a combinatoric explosion. As such machines were taught to independently create their own rules of data interpretation.

Why is it then that even when machines are taught creativity, in our curriculum we still test students’ ability to simply recall knowledge? In the era of Google-search and the copy-paste culture the highest levels of Bloom’s taxonomy should have disproportionally greater importance for the purpose of curriculum development. Humans must be trained to excel at something which will remain out of AI reach for at least some time to come.

The higher progression of knowledge is wisdom, which is the ability to make the best and most proper use of knowledge, sensing universal laws and relationships stretching beyond the known models or seeing the unseen. This unseen will remain inaccessible to AI which is trained on physically available data. Therefore, the focus of education from a very early age should be on ethics, complex communication, teamwork, creativity, ability to see non-obvious links between the concepts, ability to synthesise and produce knowledge, not just consume it. This kind of training will eventually supply not knowledge- but wisdom-workers which would be un ultimate demand of Society 5.0.

Early inclusion of 4IR elements into the curriculum

When we say that 4IR elements must be introduced in the school curriculum starting from the primary level, we must also ensure that correct “elements” are being introduced. It is self-deception to think that we are familiarising children with 4IR by simply introducing them to the use of technologies or allowing them to play, even though educational, computer games in class. Introduction to 4IR needs to be taken more seriously.

Use of a technology approach might be sufficient for society 4.0 or the information society. However, it is clearly an inferior approach if we want to transit to a society comprised of individuals who can skilfully navigate in 4IR reality — Malaysia 5.0 as envisioned. If we want to have equitable shared prosperity and avoid the concentration of powerful technologies in the hands of a few the nation will need to produce at scale not only active users, but also active creators of the technologies and for that we must start minting them immediately, at scale.

As Tiit Paananen of Skype, one of Estonia’s born unicorns, previously noted: “Your capability not only to use, but also to create IT components will give you a competitive edge”. Notably Estonia has been introducing programming and coding to children as young as seven years old for more than a decade now. Not surprisingly the country is one of the leaders in terms of the number of unicorn companies born.

The active creator approach must be prioritised over mere user of technology approach starting from the primary school level. A greater emphasis should be made on teaching programming logic, building algorithms, functional programming, object- and service-oriented programming (even if at elementary level). These are important tools to learn, understand and eventually see the modular and complementary nature of the 4IR frontier technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT and many more to come.

Only by imbuing this strong modular thinking, can we produce individuals who can become visionaries of the tech future — the backbone of the country’s economic growth and prosperity who can start seeing clearly how the revolutionary technologies can be applied to solve the specific socio-economic problems and elevate human life. And this is the essence of Society 5.0. Strengthening programming logic and modular thinking would also enhance the desired human skills as imagination, ability to synthesise conceptual ideas and eventually create knowledge and make sound judgement.

Transcending the humanities/sciences divide

To produce justly balanced individuals who can apply science and technology innovative solutions to the real-world socio-economic problems there should be no room for segregation of the humanities and math and science subjects. Even though the Malaysian education system has become stream-less since 2020 the students can still freely decide on which subjects, STEM/non-STEM to take. Therefore, this does not remove the barriers between subjects and disciplines effectively.

The approach which is needed is to have a standard, well-balanced set of subjects, STEM, and non-STEM which all students are required to take, up to university level. Even at university level, perhaps, at least for the first few years of education math, data science and tech should be made compulsory disciplines. Some Singapore universities, for example, go as far as making computational thinking, statistics, and programming a basic requirement regardless of major, humanities or science.

This approach will also help to increase job mobility which is not actually a problem or some undesired effect of 4IR but rather the innate and, in fact, desired characteristic of 4IR reality. Developing justly balanced individuals, all prepared and equipped for this extremely fluid and dynamic reality will reduce unemployment and underemployment problem.

All the above changes in the education system are crucial and have to be made immediately if we want to succeed on Malaysia 5.0 as experience of other nations indicate.

Let us rephrase it that time and 4IR tide wait for no man. When it comes to education, any small change today or a delay to make such a change is truly felt and amplified, as an exponent of time, years down the road. Given the speed of development brought about by science and technology innovations every minute of procrastination may cost us years of falling behind.

* Margarita Peredaryenko is Chief Research Officer at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

**This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

Categorie: Malesia

Saifuddin: MCMC built 61 telco towers in Orang Asli settlements as of Oct 2020

4 ore 19 min fa
Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said at the same time, there are eight towers in the implementation stage and are expected to completed in stages from the first quarter of 2021. — Bernama pic Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said at the same time, there are eight towers in the implementation stage and are expected to completed in stages from the first quarter of 2021. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission MCMC) has built 61 telecommunication towers that are providing internet coverage for Orang Asli settlements, as of October this year.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said at the same time, there are eight towers in the implementation stage and are expected to completed in stages from the first quarter of 2021.

“Of the eight, two are in Cameron Highlands namely at Pos Lemoi and Pos Kg. Telimau. Through the National Digital Network Plan (phase 1), at total of 85 new towers with 4G service will be built in 136 Orang Asli settlements nationwide and are expected to implemented in the second quarter of 2021.

“Among the 85, 11 will be in Cameron Highlands, 38 in other places in Pahang, 19 in Perak. We will continue to work with industry players, state governments and local authorities to speed up provision of these towers,” he said during the Question-and-Answer session in the Dewan Rakyat today.

He was replying to a question from Dr Lee Boon Chye (PH-Gopeng) who wanted to know the status on internet coverage for the Orang Asli community and plans to improve the service.

Meanwhile, Saifuddin also said that his ministry was evaluating extent of usage and effectiveness of internet centres in Orang Asli settlements.

He said, of the 873 internet centres under the MCMC, 128 of them serve 181 Orang Asli communities and that the ministry was looking into improving the level of internet coverage in the areas involved. — Bernama

Categorie: Malesia

What will Elon Musk make of this e-bike concept inspired by Tesla?

4 ore 32 min fa
Kendall Toerner's idea of what a Tesla e-bike might look like. — Picture courtesy of Kendall Toerner via AFP Kendall Toerner's idea of what a Tesla e-bike might look like. — Picture courtesy of Kendall Toerner via AFP

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 1 — The American designer Kendall Toerner has imagined what a Tesla electric bike could be like with a concept he has even dubbed the “Model B.” But could this concept be enough to make Elon Musk change his mind and take the plunge into the e-bike market?

One of Kendall Toerner's latest concepts certainly hasn't gone unnoticed. The creation in question is an e-bike directly inspired by the Tesla company and its vehicles. The “Model B” concept has a sleek, futuristic look, echoing the style of a Model 3.

As well as the design, the concept also innovates with its two motors — one for each wheel — which could prove particularly handy for riding up hills with ease. Kendall Toerner has also imagined some autopilot features suitable for an e-bike.

These include all-round radar, cameras and ultrasonic sensors covering the front, back and sides of the bike to detect other cycles, cars, potholes, bumps and more. At any time, riders can flip into “autonomous” mode. And in all cases, a screen shows riders the route to follow.

In 2018, Elon Musk said that Tesla might very well build an electric bike one day. Since then, there's been no news. And yet, with e-bikes taking off around the world and given Tesla's skills and knowledge in the field of electric batteries, the American manufacturer would undoubtedly have something impressive to offer.

For more on the “Tesla Model B” click here. — AFP-Relaxnews

Categorie: Malesia

Situation in four flood-hit states under control

4 ore 32 min fa
A man rows a boat in floodwater as he examines the damage caused by the flood in Kampung Pasir Puteh in Marang November 29, 2020. — Bernama pic A man rows a boat in floodwater as he examines the damage caused by the flood in Kampung Pasir Puteh in Marang November 29, 2020. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — Perak saw 25 people moved to flood relief centres overnight while the situation in the flood-affected states of Melaka, Kelantan and Terengganu has remained unchanged, with 46 evacuees at relief centres as at 8am today.

Melaka has 16 evacuees; Kelantan, 22; and Terengganu, eight.

In Perak, Kampung Matang Tengah in Bagan Serai was struck by floods last night, two days after floodwaters from an earlier incident receded and the evacuated villagers had returned to their homes.

A spokesman of the Perak Fire & Rescue Department said its personnel responded to a distress call at 8 pm yesterday in this Kerian district and found that floodwaters had risen to 0.61 metre in the village.

“Fifteen people from four families moved on their own to the Sekolah Kebangsaan Changkat Lobak relief centre after their houses were flooded,” he said in a statement.

He also said that in the Perak Tengah district, 10 people from Kampung Parit 13 and Kampung Parit 14 were at the SK Titi Gantung, Bota, relief centre in Seri Iskandar.

In Melaka, 16 people from three families are at the Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Parit Gantong relief centre, the only one still open in the state, according to the state disaster management committee secretariat.

The evacuees are from Kampung Tasek, Kampung Tersusun and Kampung Parit Penghulu in Jasin where the floodwaters are receding and the weather this morning is fine, said Melaka Civil Defence Force director Lt Col (PA) Effendy Ali.

In Kelantan, 22 evacuees were at the Sekolah Kebangsaan Gual Tok Deh relief centre in Rantau Panjang, Pasir Mas, according to information from the Social Welfare Department.

The level of Sungai Golok in Rantau Panjang is dropping but has remained above the danger point of nine metres overnight.

In Terengganu, eight evacuees are still at the Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Merchang relief centre in Marang, according to State Disaster Management Committee Secretariat chief Lt Col (PA) Che Adam A Rahman.

He said heavy rainfall is expected in the districts of Besut, Setiu, Kuala Nerus and Kuala Terengganu up to Thursday.

“As such, people living in low-lying areas and close to rivers have to be wary of any drastic change in the weather and be ready for evacuation,” he said. — Bernama

Categorie: Malesia

Minister says govt has prepared 5,422 temporary evacuation centres to accommodate up to 1.55 million flood evacuees

4 ore 45 min fa
Flood victims rest at a temporary evacuation centre at Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Parit Gantong in Jasin November 30, 2020. — Bernama pic Flood victims rest at a temporary evacuation centre at Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Parit Gantong in Jasin November 30, 2020. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — A total of 5,422 temporary evacuation centres (PPS), capable of accommodating up to 1.55 million people, have been prepared to face the floods during the monsoon season, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Special Functions) Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof said each PPS could house at least 200 flood victims at any one time.

He also said that the staff at the PPS were also prepared with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) set by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Security Council (MKN) to address the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic among evacuees placed at the centres.

“The National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) will continue to work closely with each state disaster management committee, state Civil Defence Force and other relevant agencies through engagement sessions involving management, disaster simulation, community capacity building and as well as ways to increase the resilience of all parties involved,” he said.

He said this in his reply to a question from Che Alias Hamid (PAS-Kemaman) who wanted to know the level of preparedness of Nadma in facing the floods this monsoon season as well as compliance with the Covid-19 SOPs to curb the spread of the virus infection at PPS, during the Minister’s Question Time session.

He also said that 15,000 units of cubicle tents have also been distributed for the use of flood evacuees at the PPS while another 26,000 units will be sent later in stages.

“To ensure that the pandemic (Covid-19) can continue to be curbed during the northeast monsoon season, Nadma is coordinating the procurement of personal protection equipment (PPE) for the use of frontliners,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said through Nadma’s recommendations, telecommunications companies had developed a system of early disaster warning to the people through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) as well as the deployment of short messaging service (SMS) system which would be implemented between November and March every year.

He said that early warnings will be sent to residents in flood-prone areas so that they will stay vigilant or move to safer places if the need arises.

“Early warning for residents in flood-prone locations based on forecasts from leading agencies, namely the Meteorological Department and the Department of Irrigation and Drainage via the flood forecast and alert programme,” he said. — Bernama

Categorie: Malesia

Asian markets resume rally as traders focus on virus jabs

4 ore 49 min fa
Tokyo took the lead while Sydney was also more than one per cent up. — Reuters pic Tokyo took the lead while Sydney was also more than one per cent up. — Reuters pic

HONG KONG, Dec 1 — Asian markets rose today as investors resumed their vaccine-fuelled buying spree, though gains were kept in check by the spectre of surging virus infections.

Equities fell across the world Monday after November's blockbuster rally — the Dow in New York enjoyed its best month in almost 34 years — that came in response to better-than-expected results from several coronavirus drugs and hopes they will begin to be rolled out before the end of the year.

Analysts said the prospect that millions of people will start getting a jab within weeks will allow traders to bet on a strong recovery in the world economy next year.

“I feel pretty confident that portfolios should be positioned for continued good performance from equity markets as we head into 2021,” Chris Iggo, at AXA Investment Managers, said.

Tokyo led gains as it piled on 1.5 per cent, while Sydney, Seoul, Manila and Jakarta were also more than one per cent up.

Hong Kong was back in positive territory a day after dropping more than two per cent as the city sees a new spike in infections that has forced leaders to reimpose containment measures, while Shanghai, Taipei and Singapore enjoyed gains.

“Flashing green lights at the end of the tunnel suggest investors should look through the immediate Covid-19 concerns and focus on the future, which seems incredibly bright and bullish,” said Axi's Stephen Innes.

However, he added a note of caution that “one cannot be certain what the landscape will look like on the other side.”

The spread of the virus is causing most unease as the US suffers a huge surge in cases and Donald Trump's top infectious disease expert warns of a fresh wave within weeks after millions of Americans travelled over Thanksgiving.

And Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell warned: “The rise in new Covid-19 cases, both here and abroad, is concerning and could prove challenging for the next few months.”

He told the Senate Banking Committee: “A full economic recovery is unlikely until people are confident that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities.”

'Stupidity on steroids'

Powell has for months been urging US lawmakers to agree a new stimulus for the beleaguered economy and while some were making the right noises, there remains little movement in the right direction.

“The American people need more help now. Congress should deliver more Covid relief this year,” tweeted Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while his Democratic opposite Chuck Schumer said negotiating a new relief bill was a priority.

Both sides blame the other for the lack of a deal.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner told MSNBC it would be “stupidity on steroids” not to pass a bill before the festive break and expressed anger that people will lose their unemployment benefits “the day after Christmas.”

Oil prices fell again as traders fret over a lack of news in talks between Opec and other top producers on extending output cuts, just as the spike in new infections fuels worries about another hit to demand.

The talks were adjourned with no decision and today's discussions “won't be easy,” said Iran's oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh.

“Some countries oppose extending the production reduction agreement... It will be difficult to come to an agreement,” he was quoted by his ministry as saying.

Bitcoin was closing in on US$20,000 (RM81,389) after pushing past its previous high Monday.

The cryptocurrency has piled on more than 170 percent since the start of the year, helped by PayPal online payments giant saying it would enable account holders to use the unit.

OANDA senior market analyst Craig Erlam said yesterday's prices were now “entering uncharted territory” and could go even higher as financial institutions show a growing interest in digital currencies. — AFP

Categorie: Malesia

Parliament in uproar over phantom voting on Budget 2021 yesterday

5 ore 3 min fa
Members of Parliament are pictured in Dewan Rakyat as the 2021 Supply Bill for the Prime Minister's Department is approved at committee stage through bloc voting November 30, 2020. — Bernama pic Members of Parliament are pictured in Dewan Rakyat as the 2021 Supply Bill for the Prime Minister's Department is approved at committee stage through bloc voting November 30, 2020. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — Federal lawmakers broke out in argument today after it was revealed that one among them voted on Budget 2021 yesterday despite being absent from the house.

Earlier, Deputy Speaker Datuk Rashid Hasnon read out a declaration from Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun that Noor Amin Ahmad (PH-Kangar) informed him Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz (BN-Padang Rengas) had been included in approving side of yesterday’s division when he was not present.

“So, for the Finance Ministry vote today it is 106 MPs agreeing, 95 disagreeing and 19 absent,” Rashid told the Dewan Rakyat and stressed that it did not alter the result

Datuk Shabudin Yahya (PN-Tasek Gelugor), who counted for the supporting side of the division, apologised to the Speaker and insisted he did not mean to mislead the house.

Instead, Shabudin asserted that he counted Nazri by mistake.

“A few minutes before that (the division) I saw Padang Rengas, but then I am not sure if Padang Rengas was still there.

“I have no intention to deceive the Dewan. I have sincerely informed the Speaker of this and apologised,” he said when the Opposition began demanding an explanation.

Noor Amin, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (Muda-Muar) and RSN Rayer (PH-Jelutong) rose to press the Deputy Speaker for a ruling to ensure that any of today’s divisions would be done accurately and transparently.

They said this development exposed a fundamental flaw in the way divisions were conducted, which required a measure to ensure it was not repeated.

Fuziah Salleh (PH-Kuantan) then rose and cited Standing Order (SO) 47 (1) and 47 (2), which stated that MPs who acted as vote counter must clearly ask each lawmaker on their side of the division whether they were for, against, or abstaining from voting on any specific motion.

Hannah Yeoh (PH-Segambut) then repeated the call for Rashid to make a ruling to ensure there was no recurrence of the phantom voting.

However, Rashid only said he would raise the matter with Azhar and that any lawmaker who took issue with this should formally notify the Speaker under Standing Order 43.

He also assured lawmakers that SO 47 that required each MP to expressly state their position during bloc voting would be employed.

Yesterday, the Opposition failed to block the Ministry of Finance’s expenditure under Budget 2021 that was approved with 107 votes for and 95 against. It was the second division the Opposition lost yesterday.

Rashid, who was presiding over the matter then, had agreed to call for a division vote when nearly all Opposition MPs stood up requesting one because the outcome of the earlier voice vote was unclear.

However, just before voting started, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun stepped back into the House to oversee the process, which enabled Rashid, who is also Batu Pahat MP, to vote.

Azhar then told the Dewan Rakyat that no lawmakers would be allowed to enter the House once voting begins.

The RM21 billion allocation for the Ministry of Finance under Budget 2021 was then passed.

Categorie: Malesia

Flash floods spark anxiety among Pahang’s Sungai Lembing residents

5 ore 13 min fa
Sungai Lembing has been hit by floods every monsoon season and is usually the earliest location in this district to be flooded. — Bernama pic Sungai Lembing has been hit by floods every monsoon season and is usually the earliest location in this district to be flooded. — Bernama pic

KUANTAN, Dec 1 — Residents of Sungai Lembing faced an anxious moment when continuous heavy rain early this morning caused their small town to be inundated by up to two metres of flood waters, starting at 6am today.

Restaurant operator Chua Chan Mum, 50, said that the water rose sharply as he was preparing to start his business, causing him to decide to put all tables and chairs together to prevent them from being swept away by the current.

He said the heavy rain started around 2am, but subsided about an hour and a half later, causing him to leave home as usual at 5am to go to his shop which is located about one kilometre away in Kampung Seberang.

“I am thankful because water did not enter the store. The atmosphere around was quite chaotic because the traders adjacent to my restaurant were busy moving goods in preparation if the water level rises further.

“Fortunately, the water started to recede slowly around 8am. However, many people decided not to do run business today because they were worried that the water will rise again as the weather was still cloudy apart from having to clean up their shops,” he told Bernama here today.

Chua, who is also a volunteer firefighter, said the flash flood information was disseminated on the WhatsApp and WeChat groups to warn the villagers as they were worried that it would be a ‘sign’ of the beginning of the flood season this year.

As a native of Sungai Lembing, Chua said that the village has been hit by floods every monsoon season and is usually the earliest location in this district to be flooded.

Meanwhile, Kampung Melayu Sungai Lembing Development and Security Committee (JKKK) chairman Muhammad Ridzal Sukimi, 45, said several houses and shops had suffered losses because majority of them did not have enough time to move goods to safety as the water rose rapidly.

“Heavy rain occurred while the residents were sleeping causing many to be unaware of the rising water. By the time they woken up, it was a bit late to move goods especially large electrical appliances such as refrigerators.

“This is the first time flood occurred this year, and usually we can expect flood will occur whenever it was raining continuously for several days, compared to this time which it was raining continuously for few hours only,” he said.

Muhammad Ridzal, however, was thankful that the water began to recede, allowing residents to start cleaning their homes, apart from no injuries or loss of life reported. — Bernama

Categorie: Malesia

Estate owners’ group appeals for review of ‘unfair’ taxes on palm oil sector

5 ore 22 min fa
MEOA described the palm oil sector as the most heavily taxed in the country other than the “sin sectors” of gaming, tobacco and alcohol. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim MEOA described the palm oil sector as the most heavily taxed in the country other than the “sin sectors” of gaming, tobacco and alcohol. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — The Malaysia Estate Owners’ Association (MEOA) is appealing for various taxes on the oil palm industry to be suspended or abolished, calling them “unfair”.

The taxes it is referring to are the windfall profit levy (WPL) on crude palm oil (CPO), 7.5 per cent sales taxes in Sabah on sales of CPO, and five per cent sales taxes in Sarawak on sales of CPO as well as crude palm kernel oil (CPKO).

In a statement today, MEOA described the palm oil sector as the most heavily taxed in the country other than the “sin sectors” of gaming, tobacco and alcohol.

“Collectively, they (the taxes on the oil palm industry) amounted to an estimated RM1.3 billion in 2019 when CPO prices were low, averaging RM2,079 per tonne.

“Based on year 2019 production numbers and assuming CPO price sustains at RM3,200 per tonne, MEOA expects these taxes could balloon to RM2.8 billion a year,” it said.

Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz, in an interview with Bernama last week, said the imposition of a windfall tax on glove manufacturers would make investors think twice before investing in the country.

Referring to his remark, MEOA said: “We therefore ask whether the finance minister will expand this policy thinking to also exempt the palm oil industry from this tax.

“It should be pointed out that no oil palm planter will be rejoicing endlessly with today’s palm oil prices, given the cumulative effect of relentless cost increases over the years.”

Yesterday the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) chairperson Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub said that WPL collections could be about RM500 million in 2021 if the price of CPO was between RM3,000 and RM3,500 per tonne.

“In other words, WPL collections from the palm oil sector next year could exceed the RM400 million that several glove manufacturers donated to the government’s Covid-19 Fund,” it said.

Meanwhile, MEOA urged the Sarawak state government to review the sales taxes on CPO and CPKO with the aim of reducing or abolishing them.

“These taxes, on revenue rather than profits, are a heavy burden on the sustainability of oil palm operations, especially when CPO prices are low, and on Sarawak planters, many of whom were late starters vis-à-vis Peninsular Malaysia or Sabah planters in oil palm cultivation,” it said.

As for Sabah, the association requested the state government to consider the possibility of lowering or scrapping the 7.5 per cent CPO sales tax, which amounted to an estimated RM791 million last year.

As the tax was on revenue rather than profits, MEOA calculated that this amounted to an outsize 44 per cent of economic profits in 2019 when CPO prices were low.

MEOA said over the years, the oil palm sector had transformed Malaysia into a driving force in the global edible oil market while nurturing the national economy and remaining an indispensable economic pillar in the social-political landscape, especially in bringing development and creating well-being in the rural areas.

“The industry has remained steadfast, providing and sustaining employment opportunities, creating many multiplying and spin-off benefits, and generating significant foreign exchange for the country.

“All these aspects must be sustained to enable a win-win proposition for all relevant stakeholders,” it added. — Bernama

Categorie: Malesia

Penang LRT project to go on with other financing options, says Chow

5 ore 39 min fa
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow expressed his disappointment in the finance minister for repeatedly stating the rejection of the state’s application for a loan guarantee to fund the LRT project that will link Komtar to Bayan Lepas . — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow expressed his disappointment in the finance minister for repeatedly stating the rejection of the state’s application for a loan guarantee to fund the LRT project that will link Komtar to Bayan Lepas . — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Dec 1 — Penang will not give up on its proposed Light Rail Transit (LRT) project despite Putrajaya withdrawing its guarantee, said Chow Kon Yeow. 

The Penang chief minister said the state will continue with its LRT project as it generally has several other financing options to fund projects under the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

“At the same time, the state government will continue to win the federal government’s confidence in prioritising the financing of the LRT project and give equal treatment to Penang as we have continued to play an important role by taking the lead in attracting foreign direct investments and creating thousands of job opportunities not only for the state but also for northern Malaysia,” he said in a statement today.

Chow was responding to a recent announcement by Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz that the federal government will not provide a government guarantee for a US$500 million (RM2 billion) loan application for Penang to partially finance the RM9.5 billion LRT project. 

He expressed his disappointment in the finance minister for repeatedly stating the rejection of the state’s application for a loan guarantee to fund the LRT project that will link Komtar to Bayan Lepas despite the importance of the project for the state’s economic development. 

“I wish to remind the Finance Ministry and Perikatan Nasional that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wrote to me, in a letter dated October 1, 2019, that the federal government will provide a guarantee for the bonds issued by the state for the project,” he said.

Chow said he presented the above arguments to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed during a discussion session on allocations under the 12th Malaysia Plan (RMK-12) for Penang on November 26. 

“I also stated the same to Tengku Zafrul during a dialogue session on the Budget 2021 Consultation for Penang organised by the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority on August 8 and during RMK-12 engagement sessions with Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali on August 2 last year,” he said.

Categorie: Malesia

FBM KLCI surges to above 1,600 level at mid-morning

5 ore 47 min fa
On the broader market, gainers outnumbered losers 667 to 333 while 452 counters were unchanged, 656 untraded and 16 others suspended. — Bernama pic On the broader market, gainers outnumbered losers 667 to 333 while 452 counters were unchanged, 656 untraded and 16 others suspended. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — KL shares further recovered at mid-morning with the barometer index trading surging above the 1,600 level amid continued supports, mainly in the banking sector.

At 11.05am, the FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI (FBM KLCI) surged 2.44 per cent or 38.13 points to 1,600.84 compared with Monday’s close of 1,562.71.

The index opened 17.46 points stronger at 1,580.17.

On the broader market, gainers outnumbered losers 667 to 333 while 452 counters were unchanged, 656 untraded and 16 others suspended.

Volume stood at 3.69 billion units worth RM1.83 billion.

Among the heavyweights, Hong Leong Bank climbed 78 sen to RM17.96, Axiata went up 12 sen to RM3.67, CIMB rose nine sen to RM3.72, and Digi added 11 sen to RM4.11.

In contrast, Petronas Gas down 80 sen to RM17.36 and Top Glove dropped one sen to RM7.11.

Among the actives, AT Systematization added one sen to 21 sen, while Pegasus and Kanger International were flat at three sen and 18 sen, respectively.

On the index board, the FBM Emas Index increased 219.59 points to 11,554.46, the FBMT 100 Index inched up 211.83 points to 11,322.57 and the FBM Emas Shariah Index expanded 202.91 points to 13,350.28.

The FBM 70 surged 105.60 points to 14,934.52 and the FBM ACE rose 47.49 points to 10,749.10.

Meanwhile, the Industrial Products and Services Index jumped 4.40 points to 165.06, the Plantation Index was 84.39 points higher at 7,301.12 and the Financial Services Index leaped 410.31 points to 14,214.52. — Bernama

Categorie: Malesia

Minister: Suhakam report will not be debated in Parliament this year

5 ore 54 min fa
Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said that if the 2019 Suhakam report were to be debated, it must be submitted through a motion by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in accordance with Meeting Rules 27 (3) of the Dewan Rakyat. — Bernama pic Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said that if the 2019 Suhakam report were to be debated, it must be submitted through a motion by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in accordance with Meeting Rules 27 (3) of the Dewan Rakyat. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — The government will not table a motion to debate the findings of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia’s (Suhakam) annual report this year as there is not enough time, said de facto law minister Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan.

Takiyuddin added that although Section 21 of the Suhakam Act (Act 597) stipulates the annual report must be presented to Parliament, there is no provision that the House should debate it.

“The government does not plan to table a motion to debate this report as government affairs are the priority, based on the standing order. There also isn’t enough time.

“If any member of parliament (MP) is interested in discussing it indirectly, they can quote the report at an appropriate time during a debate,” he said, answering a question from Fahmi Fadzil (PH-Lembah Pantai) during Ministers’ Question Time today.

The 2019 Suhakam report was tabled in Parliament on November 4 as a Statute Paper (ST.88/2020).

The previous 2018 Suhakam report was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat on April 11, 2019 and debated on December 5, 2019.

In a written reply provided afterwards, Takiyuddin added that if the 2019 Suhakam report were to be debated, it must be submitted through a motion by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in accordance with Meeting Rules 27 (3) of the Dewan Rakyat.

“In this case, the government needs to take into account the remaining sessions on December, 16 and 17, 2020 as well as Bills that will follow and are related to the Supply Bill 2021,” he said.

Fahmi then took to his Twitter account to share Takiyuddin’s answer and expressed his concerns that the decision could be seen as a sign that the Perikatan Nasional government is not committed to human rights issues.

“This sends a regrettable message about the government’s commitment to efforts at strengthening all aspects of human rights,” he tweeted.

 

MQT.1) Menteri @takiyuddin61 berkata Kerajaan tak berniat membawa usul bahas laporan tahunan @SUHAKAM seperti tahun lalu, atas alasan tiada masa & urusan Kerajaan didahulukan

Ini beri mesej yg kurang baik terhadap komitmen Kerajaan kpd usaha tambahbaik aspek Hak Asasi Manusia pic.twitter.com/vU3uaIwPf0

— Fahmi Fadzil #BantahDarurat (@fahmi_fadzil) December 1, 2020
Categorie: Malesia

Mystery still shrouds Covid-19 origin

5 ore 55 min fa
A security guard stands outside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market where the coronavirus was detected in Wuhan January 24, 2020. — AFP pic A security guard stands outside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market where the coronavirus was detected in Wuhan January 24, 2020. — AFP pic

PARIS, Dec 1 — While many scientists are racing to find vaccines to tame the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, other researchers are probing the past, trying to unravel one of the greatest mysteries of the virus: Exactly where it came from.

The World Health Organization has assembled an international team of 10 scientists to trace the origins of the virus.

They will have to investigate both the suspect animals and how the first patients may have been infected.

“We want to know the origin and we will do everything to know the origin,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters yesterday.

But success is by no means assured.

Source of the spread

The first cases were reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan a year ago, before countries across the world began to record growing infections.

The WHO said the first cases in Wuhan are believed to date from the beginning of December.

But “where an epidemic is first detected does not necessarily reflect where it started”, it added in a November report. 

In recent months, researchers in various countries have suggested that cases may have gone unnoticed long before December 2019, based on analysis of wastewater or blood samples. 

But there is a lack of “clear evidence” to back up these claims, said Etienne Simon-Loriere, of the virology department at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. 

To establish a virus family tree, researchers rely on genetic analysis. 

This can help “better understand transmission dynamics, particularly how the virus may have evolved over time and how clusters might be related in time and place”, the WHO said.

Leap to humans

Scientists agree that the disease has an animal origin.

“The big question is what led it to jump into humans,” Etienne Simon-Loriere told AFP.

Suspicions have fallen on bats, which are “a major reservoir for coronaviruses”, he adds.

But there would likely have been an intermediary animal to shepherd SARS-CoV-2 into people.

The pangolin — a mammal subject to rampant regional wildlife smuggling — was identified as a likely carrier early on based on genetic analysis. But the case is not settled.

WHO investigators will need to clarify this point by probing the wet market in Wuhan, which sold live and wild animals and has been linked to many of the early cases.

The team will be armed with clues we did not have at the start of the pandemic.

Simon-Loriere said they could look out for an animal with a virus receptor, a protein called ACE2, similar to the one found in humans.

It is through this receptor that the virus latches onto cells.

Some animals such as mink and ferrets have been found to have a very similar receptor to humans, while others are quite different.

Another origin theory that swirled in conspiracy rumours for months was that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was involved in the outbreak.

Against the backdrop of diplomatic tensions, US President Donald Trump touted the idea, claiming the virus could have leaked from the biosafety lab.

China has rejected the accusations.  

While Simon-Loriere said it was not yet possible to completely rule out the idea that the virus escaped accidentally, he stressed that there was “no indication it was manmade”. 

“All the elements of its genome have already been observed in nature, mainly in bat coronaviruses,” he said.

Unravelling the ‘riddle’

The WHO says understanding how an epidemic began is “essential to preventing further introductions to the human population”.

But it has warned that the process of tracing how a disease jumped from animals “is a riddle that can take years to solve”.

“The introduction of a new virus to the human population is one of the greatest mysteries an epidemiologist can hope to unravel,” it said. 

The goal is to “understand the mechanism and put in place measures to avoid the emergence of a new SARS-CoV-3, 4, etc.”, said Simon-Loriere. 

For example, during the 2002 SARS epidemic, a ban on the consumption of civet cats — identified as an intermediary host of that coronavirus — is credited with having helped prevent the reintroduction of the virus into humans. 

The UN health agency sent an advance team to Beijing in July to lay the groundwork for the probe.

But it has remained unclear when the larger team will be able to travel to China to start its work.

In late November the WHO said it hoped to have a larger team of scientists on the ground “as soon as possible”.

The US has accused Beijing of not being transparent, while it says the WHO kowtowed to China and dragged its feet in investigating how the outbreak first started.

Others have voiced concern that the agency may have allowed China to dictate the terms of an international investigation into the origins of the virus.

Tedros told critics to stop “politicising” the issue yesterday. — AFP

Categorie: Malesia

Fire alarm disrupts Parliament sitting, cause under investigation

6 ore 5 sec fa
The fire alarm sounded about 40 minutes into the day’s sitting and forced the proceedings for Question Time to be halted. — Bernama pic The fire alarm sounded about 40 minutes into the day’s sitting and forced the proceedings for Question Time to be halted. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — The Dewan Rakyat sitting today was interrupted this morning when a fire alarm was triggered.

The fire alarm sounded about 40 minutes into the day’s sitting and forced the proceedings for Question Time to be halted.

However, Parliament resumed shortly after.

“Thank you for your cooperation, there is some technical problem.

“The source of the incident is being investigated,” Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun told the parliamentarians.

The lower House today saw the resumption of ministers’ question time and Second Reading of the Supply Bill 2021.

Categorie: Malesia

‘Cinema under the stars’ offers Indonesians safe entertainment amid pandemic

6 ore 33 sec fa
People watch movies from tents placed for social distancing at the campsites in Bandung, Indonesia, November 4, 2020. — Antara Foto/M Agung Rajasa handout via Reuters People watch movies from tents placed for social distancing at the campsites in Bandung, Indonesia, November 4, 2020. — Antara Foto/M Agung Rajasa handout via Reuters

BANDUNG, Dec 1 — Perched on a hilltop overlooking the Indonesian city of Bandung neat lines of teepee-style tents are set up each evening on a patch of lawn in front of a large screen.

Known as ‘Cinema Under the Stars’, the outdoor camp-style movie space opened two months ago in the capital of Indonesia’s most populous province of West Java with the aim of keeping people both entertained and socially distanced.

“Movies are usually watched indoors... but now we have this outdoor cinema with the view of Bandung,” said 20-year-old local resident Lidia Utari.

“And what’s more interesting is that they use tents here, so I wanted to give it a try,” she added.

Supplied with pillows, blankets and snacks, each tent is also equipped with hand sanitiser and disinfectant in line with health protocols, organisers say.

Moviegoers sit at the entrance to the tents with small tables in front with food and drink, all lit up by candlelight.

No more than three people are allowed to use each of the 28 tents, which are spaced about 1.5 metres to 2 metres apart.

The cost for each tent is 215,000 rupiah (RM62) per movie.

“We started this business during the pandemic, that’s why we were brainstorming about how to attract visitors as people have a thirst for entertainment in times like these,” said Ilham Fahri Suhada, one of the organisers.

With more than 530,000 infections and 16,000 deaths, Indonesia has the highest number of coronavirus cases and fatalities in South-east Asia.

Some health experts say limited testing and contact tracing, as well as a high positivity rate — the infection rate per person tested — indicate actual rates may be far higher.

Unlike many neighbours, the world’s fourth most populous country with 270 million people has not had national lockdowns but has instead imposed localised social restrictions.

While tents may not provide much additional protection from the virus, film-goers seem content with the setup.

“I don’t have to worry (about Covid-19) here because they carry out proper health protocols,” said Juliatun Hasanah, 21. — Reuters

Categorie: Malesia

US arms sales to UAE draw fire from 29 rights groups

6 ore 9 min fa
Twenty-nine arms control and human rights organisations have signed a letter opposing the sale of US$23 billion worth of missiles, fighter jets and drones to the United Arab Emirates. — Reuters pic Twenty-nine arms control and human rights organisations have signed a letter opposing the sale of US$23 billion worth of missiles, fighter jets and drones to the United Arab Emirates. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Dec 1 — Twenty-nine arms control and human rights organisations have signed a letter opposing the sale of US$23 billion (RM94 billion) worth of missiles, fighter jets and drones to the United Arab Emirates and asking the US Congress to block the deal.

“The hope is to stop these sales altogether,” said Seth Binder, advocacy officer at the Project on Middle East Democracy, who spearheaded the effort. “But if that is not possible in the short term, this sends an important signal to the incoming Biden administration that there is a diverse group of organisations that oppose delivery of these weapons.”

Three US senators earlier this month proposed legislation to halt the sale, which includes drones from privately held General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp F-35s and missiles made by Raytheon, setting up a showdown with President Donald Trump weeks before he is due to leave office.

US law allows senators to force votes on resolutions of disapproval on major arms deal. However, to become effective resolutions must first pass both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The measure would also need two-third majorities in both the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-led House to survive a presidential veto.

Trump administration officials briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the deal on Monday evening.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, a sponsor of the resolutions of disapproval, responded later on Twitter: “Just a mind blowing number of unsettled issues and questions the Administration couldn’t answer. Hard to overstate the danger of rushing this.”

The sale was approved following a US-brokered agreement in September in which the UAE agreed to normalise relations with Israel.

The letter from the rights groups, sent to lawmakers and the State Department, said the planned arms sale would fuel continued harm to civilians and exacerbate humanitarian crises due to conflicts in Yemen and Libya.

Signatories include human rights organizations from the region, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and Mwatana for Human Rights.

The UAE embassy said in a statement, “Aligned closely with US interests and values, the UAE’s highly capable military is a forceful deterrent to aggression and an effective response to violent extremism.” — Reuters

Categorie: Malesia

Asian factories continue recovery from Covid-19 woes as China booms

6 ore 11 min fa
People queue at a restaurant during lunch time amid the Covid-19 outbreak in Beijing, China November 16, 2020. — Reuters pic People queue at a restaurant during lunch time amid the Covid-19 outbreak in Beijing, China November 16, 2020. — Reuters pic

TOKYO, Dec 1 — Asian factories continued to recover steadily in November thanks to a boom in economic powerhouse China, private surveys showed today, offering hope the region was shaking off the drag from the Covid-19 crisis.

But a global resurgence in coronavirus infections has made the outlook highly uncertain, keeping governments and central banks under pressure to maintain or ramp up their massive stimulus programmes, analysts say.

China's factory activity accelerated at the fastest pace in a decade in November, a private survey showed today, a sign the world's second-largest economy is recovering to pre-pandemic levels.

The upbeat findings were in line with an official survey that showed activity at Chinese factories expanded at the fastest pace in more than three years in November, with growth in the services sector hitting a multi-year high.

“Manufacturing continued to recover and the economy increasingly returned to normality as (the) fallout from the domestic Covid-19 epidemic faded,” said Wang Zhe, senior economist at Caixin Insight Group.

China's Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 54.9 from October's 53.6, marking the highest level since November 2010.

The gauge stayed well above the 50-level that separates growth from contraction for the seventh consecutive month.

A steady recovery in global demand also helped Japan's factory activity move a notch closer to stabilisation in November, and that of South Korea to accelerate at the fastest pace in nearly a decade.

The final au Jibun Bank Japan Manufacturing PMI hit 49.0 in November, up from the previous month's 48.7 and a preliminary 48.3 reading.

South Korea's IHS Markit PMI rose to 52.9 in November from 51.2 in October, the highest reading since February 2011 and marking the second month of activity expansion.

Factory activity also grew in Taiwan and Indonesia, a sign the pick-up in Chinese demand was underpinning the region's economy.

Many analysts, however, remain cautious on the outlook with global and domestic demand vulnerable to infection trends.

“Japan's economy likely slowed in July-September but averted a contraction due to a pick-up in exports and the effect of government campaigns to prop up demand,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.

“But the economy may contract in January-March if households hold off on spending again. If service-sector firms suffering from plunging sales cut spending, that could hit jobs and capital expenditure.” — Reuters

Categorie: Malesia

Mexico announces new US$11.3b investment plan

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Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, March 17, 2020. — Reuters pic Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, March 17, 2020. — Reuters pic

MEXICO CITY, Dec 1 — Mexico announced yesterday new investment of US$11.3 billion (RM45.98 billion) in infrastructure projects in cooperation with the private sector to help revive the pandemic-afflicted economy.

The 228-billion-peso plan is the second of its kind since October, when 297 billion pesos of investments were unveiled to boost Latin America's second-largest economy.

The latest round includes 29 infrastructure projects in the energy, transportation, water and sanitation sectors, among others.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador hailed the announcement as “an alliance for investment, for development, for job creation.”

Mexico's economy suffered a 17 per cent plunge in the second quarter of 2020 from the previous quarter after the government introduced pandemic control measures.

Gross domestic product (GDP) rebounded 12.1 per cent in the July-September period as the economy began to reopen.

Mexico has officially registered more than 105,000 coronavirus deaths — one of the world's highest tolls. — AFP

Categorie: Malesia

Japan plans to cut aviation fuel tax by 80pc at most, reports Kyodo

6 ore 30 min fa
Japan is reported to be looking at temporarily slashing its aviation fuel tax by 80 per cent at most to help the airline industry. — Reuters pic Japan is reported to be looking at temporarily slashing its aviation fuel tax by 80 per cent at most to help the airline industry. — Reuters pic

TOKYO, Dec 1 — Japan plans to temporarily cut its aviation fuel tax by 80 per cent at most to help the airline industry, which is struggling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Kyodo news agency reported today.

The nation is considering lowering the tax from 18,000 yen (RM703.44) per kilolitre to 4,000 yen during fiscal 2021, the report said.

But the government and the ruling coalition will carefully discuss the level of tax cut as the nation needs to secure funds for managing airports, the report said. — Reuters

Categorie: Malesia

Petrol bombs hurled at Hong Kong police club

6 ore 45 min fa
Police clear an area after protesters throw Molotov cocktails at an MTR station in Hung Hom in Hong Kong December 1, 2019. — Reuters pic Police clear an area after protesters throw Molotov cocktails at an MTR station in Hung Hom in Hong Kong December 1, 2019. — Reuters pic

HONG KONG, Dec 1 — Petrol bombs were hurled at a Hong Kong police recreation club in the early hours of today, a rare attack on a police facility since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law.

Police said they received a report of three men dressed in black hurling Molotov cocktails into the car park of the Police Sports and Recreation Club in Mongkok, a district that saw many clashes during last year’s huge democracy protests.

Local media images showed the front of a truck was burned out but no further damage. 

An 18-year-old man was later arrested a short walk away from the club carrying pepper spray, police said, although it was not clear if he was a suspect.

Hong Kong was convulsed by seven straight months of huge and often violent rallies last year calling for democracy and greater police accountability.

Riot police fired thousands of rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds — as well as some live rounds. 

Groups of militant protesters resorted to rocks and petrol bombs with police stations often targeted. 

Mass arrests and the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic dampened the protests at the start of the year.

Beijing then ramped up a crackdown, including the imposition of a security law that outlaws calls for greater autonomy or independence.

Attacks on police are now classified as terrorism and are punishable by sentences of 10 years to life in prison.

The first person charged under the new law was a man who allegedly drove a motorbike into police while flying an independence flag. He is being prosecuted for two new security crimes: secession and terrorism. 

Most of those arrested under the new law are being investigated or prosecuted for things they have said, not violent crimes. 

Beijing says the law has restored stability. 

Critics, including many Western powers, say it has eviscerated the freedoms and autonomy China promised Hong Kong could keep after its handover from colonial ruler Britain in 1997. — AFP

Categorie: Malesia