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Sunday, January 13, 2019

New allegations on 1MDB scandal: More clarity still needed

Story behind the story: Wright and his ‘Billion Dollar Whale’ co-author Hope have published new allegations on 1MDB but the anonymity of their sources could compromise their credibility.

Nothing should be assumed too easily about even an established scandal like 1MDB, certainly not guilt or culpability, if sound investigations and public confidence are not to be prejudiced.


JUST when everyone seemed inured to shocking details about 1MDB, Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporters appeared to have come up with more.

Investigative reporters Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, who covered 1MDB issues before, made additional claims last Monday that would be shocking if proven true.

They say that upon the initiative of Malaysian authorities, China offered to bail out 1MDB’s debts or losses in exchange for Malaysia’s support for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects.

These projects were further said to have come at inflated costs, were acknowledged as unprofitable, and lacked transparency in their implications.

Wright and Hope say their information came from the minutes of “secret meetings” between Malaysian and Chinese officials and the personal testimony of some Malaysian officials past and present.

The authors could have been more transparent about their sources and on the content of their revelations, but apparently not.

Countries do sometimes engage in such intrigue, but nonetheless it is always easier to allege than to verify. Serious allegations such as these require equally serious substantiation.

The gist of the claims had been troubling thoughtful Malaysians, yet few expected it to take such form. Not without reason, doubts linger about the details and accuracy of these claims among all parties.

Even when current government officials could have made political capital by weighing in, making the former government’s alleged actions seem nastier, they refrained from it.

Formal meetings between government officials of two countries are routinely confidential and therefore “secret”, so there is nothing particularly sinister about their unreported nature.

There is also doubt about the minutes of meetings containing compromising information. Some meetings were said to be in China where Malaysian officials visited, yet the hosts freely permitted the visitors to go home with the recorded minutes of potentially explosive discussions.

The WSJ’s story has present and former Malaysian officials informing it about a supposedly secretive pact between Malaysia and China, yet senior Malaysian officials both past and present know nothing about it. Both sets of Malaysian officials are genuinely concerned and seriously want to know. Yet it is said that some Malaysian officials already knew, had known for more than half a year since last May, and who preferred to tell all to the WSJ only now rather than to their colleagues or the media earlier.

The media at the time also did not know, neither Malaysiakini, Sarawak Report, nor any other that was actively covering the issues, despite a freer news environment after last May’s election that encouraged whistleblowing and exposés.

For the kinds of sources said to have been used for the WSJ story – minutes of several meetings, and the testimonies of officials – the substantiation has been rather lean.

In its January 7 report of just 1,703 words, only two dates (June 28 and September 22, 2016) have been mentioned for the meetings. Two Chinese officials had been named at the meetings but not any Malaysian.

Xiao Yaqing, Chairman of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, is quoted as stressing the importance of one particular meeting but nothing else.

Sun Lijun, “head of China’s domestic security force,” is cited as mentioning his agency’s capacity in conducting surveillance on parties inimical to Malaysia’s previous government, but nothing about what Malaysia is supposed to do in return.

Each of the two named persons had only part of a story to tell, with nothing to substantiate the larger claims made by the WSJ’s reporters. There is nothing definitive like a “smoking gun” to back those claims.

No Malaysian official at any of the meetings has been named or quoted, not even in reported speech. For many observers that seems odd, particularly where deals were supposedly agreed between two sides.

Malaysia is also supposed to have agreed to BRI projects only when China offered to bail out 1MDB. That presumption seems somewhat stilted.

Later in the story, former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is said in reported speech to have voiced support for “China’s position in the South China Sea during a regional summit in Laos.”

Najib’s Government may have been quiet on China’s sweeping maritime territorial claims, it was certainly less vocal than Vietnam or the Philippines on the dispute, but nowhere can it be said that it supported China’s position in the South China Sea.

And an Asean summit would have been the last place such a thing could have happened, even if it ever did. The WSJ story also claims that China had offered Malaysia its influence in stopping US investigations into 1MDB and Malaysian leaders at the time.

Given the highly competitive China-US relationship, particularly in third countries, what possible “influence” could China really have on the US in stopping investigations into allegedly shady deals involving China?

For many observers, the US would have had every incentive to proceed with such investigations, the more so when China appeared to be apprehensive about them.

It would be utterly foolish for any Chinese official to think there is such influence, and totally naïve for any Malaysian official to believe it. The same seems to apply to readers of the WSJ story.

The story behind the story is that the documents such as the minutes of meetings had been discovered in official files left behind by the previous Government after it had vacated official premises following its election defeat.

Again, many would doubt that the ousted officials had taken all possibly incriminating material with them as they left, except for these highly revealing documents.

The new Pakatan Harapan leaders had also been slow in taking office, first with the delayed swearing-in ceremony of the new Prime Minister and then in the phased nature of ministerial appointments.

Yet despite these delays, it is said that the departing Barisan Nasional leaders still did not retrieve the documents that could be used against them.

The WSJ sources rest on the what (documented minutes) and even more on the who (Malaysian officials who provided the minutes, and those who testified to it).

All of these officials are persons unknown or unnamed. Anonymity sometimes accords legitimate protection, but not now when it only compromises their credibility.

When serious allegations are levelled against one party or another, in this case against both Chinese and former Malaysian officials, some vested political interests of someone somewhere could be served.

It has also been implied that other “secret talks” had led to Malaysia’s readiness for Chinese naval vessels to dock in Malaysian ports.

But to a non-aligned country, the docking of vessels from friendly nations for supplies and refuelling should not be an issue – certainly not an issue requiring the seal of approval from secret negotiations.

Sarawak Report, which initially gave 1MDB information to several newspapers including WSJ, has since complained about some of its methods.

The WSJ has done very good work on 1MDB investigations and similar stories before, and it will most certainly do so again.

Najib and Jho Low have meanwhile rejected the latest WSJ story as expected, but others also have their doubts.

To get to the truth behind hazy intrigues, both clarity and credibility are essential at every stage. That has yet to happen consistently with 1MDB coverage.

Behind The Headlines by Bunn Nagara The Star

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Pushing blockchain revolution

(From left) World of Sharing business development manager Ice Wong, EUNEX (Asia) marketing director Kyan Lee, MBAEX chief executive officer Sebastian Ionut Diaconu, Lim, International Blockchain Research Club vice-president Sunny Chao and blockchain technology company Milletique OTO Distribution senior manager Jasmond Ng posing at Fintech Blockchain Summit in Kulim, Kedah

OVER 2,000 blockchain enthusiasts and leaders shared the latest ideas at Fintech Blockchain Summit which was held in Kulim, Kedah.

The summit themed ‘Blockchain Era, Connecting Future’ explored the potential of blockchain technology in various economic fields.

Delegates discussed blockchain trends and evolution to various platforms and digital assets.

Held at MBI Desaku Multi-function Convention Centre, the summit was jointly organised by World Crypto Organisation, Makefamous Creative Hub Sdn Bhd, Milletique OTO Distribution Sdn Bhd, Mightficent Global Sdn Bhd, Menbridges Academy Sdn Bhd and Macsintec Social Media Sdn Bhd.

Among those attending the summit was Super Minor Community vice-president Nicholas Lim who is also Chainverses magazine chief editor.

“Various groups joined us at the summit to contribute to the progression of financial technology through discussions and sharing sessions.

“We hope this summit will open up greater opportunities for development,” Lim said.

Lim opined that blockchain had good concepts and ideas.

However, he said the biggest resistance in the current blockchain development was the lack of economic support in terms of adoption.

“To overcome this, we need teamwork, good practical solutions and support from the community to push the adoption of blockchain in the country forward,” he added.

During the summit, four groups signed an MoU, including International Financial Technology Academy, Linton University College, Milletique Technology and Menbridges Academy.

The MoU aimed to promote blockchain financial technology through education with the hope of cultivating more blockchain experts in the future.

By emilia ismail The Star


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From Industrial 4.0 to Finance 4.0

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Huawei unveils server chipset as China cuts reliance on imports

New chip: A Kunpeng 920 chip is displayed during an unveiling ceremony in Shenzhen. Huawei is seeking growth avenues in cloud computing and enterprise services. — AP

https://youtu.be/IX5k_k4Q68c

HONG KONG: Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has launched a new chipset for use in servers, at a time when China is pushing to enhance its chip-making capabilities and reduce its heavy reliance on imports, especially from the United States.

Huawei, which gets the bulk of its revenue from the sale of telecommunications equipment and smartphones, is seeking growth avenues in cloud computing and enterprise services as its equipment business comes under increased scrutiny in the West amid worries about Chinese government influence over the firm.

Huawei has repeatedly denied any such influence.

Chinese firms are also seeking to minimise the impact of a trade dispute that has seen China and the United States slap tariffs on each other’s technology imports.

For Huawei, the launch of the chipset – called the Kunpeng 920 and designed by subsidiary HiSilicon – boosts its credentials as a semiconductor designer, although the company said it had no intention of becoming solely a chip firm.

“It is part of our system solution and cloud servicing for clients. We will never make our chipset business a standalone business,” said Ai Wei, who is in charge of strategic planning for Huawei’s chipsets and hardware technology.

The Shenzhen-based company already makes the Kirin series of smartphone chips used in its high-end phones, and the Ascend series of chipsets for artificial intelligence computing launched in October.

It said its latest seven nanometre, 64-core central processing unit (CPU) would provide much higher computing performance for data centres and slash power consumption.

It is based on the architecture of British chip design firm ARM – owned by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp – which is seeking to challenge the dominance in server CPUs of US maker Intel Corp.

Huawei aims to drive the development of the ARM ecosystem, said chief marketing officer William Xu. He said the chip has “unique advantages in performance and power consumption”.

Xu also said Huawei would continue its “long-term strategic partnership” with Intel.

Huawei’s new ARM-based CPU is not a competitor to the US company’s x86 CPUs and servers, but complementary, Xu added. Redfox Qiu, president of the intelligent computing business department at Huawei, said the company shipped 900,000 units of servers in 2018, versus 77,000 in 2012 when it started.

Huawei was seeing “good momentum for the server business in Europe and Asia Pacific” and expects the contribution from its international business to continue to rise, Qiu added.

Huawei also released its TaiShan series of servers powered by the new chipset, built for big data, distributed storage and ARM native applications.

The firm founded chip designer HiSilicon in 2004 to help reduce its reliance on imports.

In modem chips, Huawei internally sources 54% of those in its own devices, with 22% coming from Qualcomm Inc and the remainder from elsewhere, evidence presented at an antitrust trial for Qualcomm showed. — Reuters


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China's Huawei Technologies launched the world's first core chip specifically designed for 5G base stations on Thursday in Beijing, securing its leading position for 5G deployments in spite of political pressure.


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Huawei


https://youtu.be/0fDUgBJ8yfY https://youtu.be/0jnDXocDmRo http://sh-meet.bigpixel.cn/? from=groupmessage& isappinstalled=0 ...
4 https://youtu.be/03D-0uDOj_c https://youtu.be/N8IyDSrMY3w The arrest of a top Huawei executive may spark a conflict that could cr.
5G connectivity promises faster Internet speeds and more efficiency to run complex tasks in the cloud. — 123rf.com   https://youtu.b...

Monday, January 7, 2019

Apple faces brewing storm of challenges


Shrinking share: People walk outside an Apple store in Beijing. Apple’s market share in China in the third quarter of 2018 was around 9, and has dipped from above 14 in 2015, overtaken by local rivals like Huawei, Oppo and Vivo. — Reuters
https://youtu.be/iJfCBqPUKHQ

SHANGHAI: Apple Inc’s chief executive Tim Cook has his work cut out in China this year: the iPhone maker faces the looming threat of a court-ordered sales ban, the uncertain outcome of trade war talks and the roll-out of a new 5G network, where it finds itself behind rivals like Huawei and Samsung.

The complex outlook raises a challenge for Apple as it looks to revive its China fortunes after weakness there sparked a rare drop in its global sales forecast, knocked US$75bil from its market valuation and roiled global markets.

Cook told investors that the main drag on the firm’s performance in China had been a sharper-than-expected slowdown in the country’s economy, exacerbated by the impact of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.

“We did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” he said.

Chinese shoppers told Reuters another element had been key: the high price-tag on Apple’s flagship phones.

Analysts said the firm faced a brewing storm of challenges: an economic slowdown, stronger rivals like Huawei Technologies Co Ltd bringing out comparable tech at lower prices and bubbling patriotic sentiment amid the trade war.

A Chinese court has also issued a preliminary injunction banning some Apple phones, part of a legal battle with chip maker Qualcomm Inc. This ban, potentially hitting iPhone models from the 6S through the X, has yet to be enforced.

Last Thursday a local industry body, the China Anti-Infringement and Anti-Counterfeit Innovation Strategic Alliance, called on Apple to heed the court order and not “trample the Chinese law by leveraging its super economic power and clout.” Apple declined to comment on the group’s statement but has previously said it believed its current phones complied with the Chinese court’s order.

“These are tough times for Apple in China,” said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint, adding the iPhone could see its market share slip to 7% this year in the face of stronger local rivals and worry about the sales ban.

Apple’s market share in the third-quarter of 2018 was around 9%, and has dipped from above 14% in 2015, overtaken by local rivals like Huawei, Oppo and Vivo.

Another question mark for Apple is its 5G strategy in China, where the US firm is not expected to have a 5G-enabled phone until 2020, behind rivals like Huawei, Xiaomi Corp and Samsung Electronics.

China is looking to push ahead with its rollout of a faster 5G network, with a pre-commercial phase this year and a commercial network in 2020.

Some are looking to make an early bet on the technology.

Huawei is planning a 5G phone mid-year, while Xiaomi is aiming for the third quarter. Samsung is expected to unveil a 5G phone in the first half of the year.

Industry insiders, however, said Apple would likely hold off until the fall of 2020 to have its own 5G-enabled phone, a strategy that would bypass the untested early period of the technology, but which could mean Chinese shoppers delay iPhone purchases or buy another brand that switched to 5G earlier.

“I’ll definitely be paying attention to 5G functionality when I buy my next phone,” said Wu Chengjun, a graduate student in Beijing who currently uses an iPhone X.

With the exception of Huawei, which makes it own 5G chips, Qualcomm is providing the technology to many of the major phone makers releasing 5G handsets this year.

“If you’re a (phone maker) looking for a ‘super cycle’ (of sales), if you don’t have 5G, your situation won’t get any better,” Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm’s president, told Reuters in an interview. ”

The carrier channel is going to be incentivised to start selling 5G phones in the second half of 2019, he said. — Reuters

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Saturday, January 5, 2019

2019 - The rise of the quantum era

US President Donald Trump discards staff like changing shirts and reverses policies without any forewarnings to staff or supporters alike. This behaviour is described by Armenian President Sarkissian, a quantum physicist-turned-politician, as quantum politics. afp -  
THE year 2018 was an exhausting one, but it marked the exhaustion of the old neo-liberal order, willingly dismantled by President Donald Trump to the aghast of friends and foes alike.

We seem to live at the edge of chaos, in which every dawn is broken by tweets that disrupt the status quo. There are no anchors of stability. Trump discarded staff like changing shirts, and reversed policies without any forewarnings to staff or supporters alike.

This behaviour was described by Armenian President Armen Vardani Sarkissian, a quantum physicist turned politician, as quantum politics.

Most of us use the term quantum to mean anything that we cannot understand. The reason why we find quantum concepts weird is that they do not conform with normal logic. As Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli explains it, “Reality is not what it seems”.

Human beings live at the macroscopic scale, which we observe from daily life. We like stability and order. But at the beginning of the 20th century, Albert Einstein and Nils Bohr changed the way physicists thought about how nature behaved. Quantum physics evolved from the study of the behaviour of atoms at the microscopic scale.

Order is only one phase in the process of evolution.

And since the 1980s, quantum science has expanded beyond physics to neuro-science, information computing, cryptography and causal modelling, with great practical success.

Like the iPhone, most people don’t know how it works, but quantum mechanics does work in practice.

The first quantum concept is that it is probablistic, not deterministic. In simple language, there is no such thing as certainty, which classical science, religion and our normal instincts teach us to believe. In the beautiful language of Rovelli, “quantum fields draw space, time, matter and light, exchanging information between one event or another. Reality is a network of granular events, the dynamic which connects them is probabilistic; between one event and another, space, time, matter and energy melt in a cloud of probability.”

Second, Bohr defined a dualistic property of quantum situations called complementarity. Light is both a particle and wave, not either/or. This concept of complementarity leads to the famous Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which basically says that the position and velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly and simultaneously, even in theory. If everything in the world comprises atoms and photons moving constantly, nothing can be measured exactly – the principle of indeterminacy.

The third concept is relational, in that everything is related to something. There are no absolutes, just as there is no certainty. Everything exists relative to something else. Quantum entanglement occurs when pairs or groups of particles interact with each other so that the quantum state of each particle is somehow related to the state of the other(s), even across great distances.

This phenomenon is popularly called the butterfly effect, which dramatically says that a butterfly flapping its wings may cause a typhoon across the Pacific. Einstein called entanglement “Spooky Action at a Distance”, and he tried hard to disprove it. But these effects were empirically verified in the 1970s.

Quantum physics is moving to centre stage because quantum information theory led to the invention of quantum computing. Until recently conventional computers use binary “bits” (one and zero) as the process for calculation of information. But a quantum computer uses quantum bits, called qubits, which can exist in both states simultaneously, and in so doing, it can process information faster and more securely than conventional computers.

This breakthrough means that quantum computing will transform artificial intelligence, deep learning and advance technology at speed, scale and scope that rivals anything we have witnessed in the world of classical computing. The goldmine of quantum computing is going to make fortunes for everyone, but he who controls the infrastructure (or pipes) across which quantum computing will be conducted will be the big winner.

Information Age

In the Information Age, knowledge, technology and knowhow is more valuable than gold. Central bank monetary creation as well as cyber-currencies like bitcoin, are quantum money, because the marginal cost of production of such “money” is near zero.

We are all so dazzled by such marvellous creation that many investors moved into the alchemy of asset price bubbles. It is no coincidence that the South Sea and Tulip bubbles occurred in an era of great “displacement”, when 17th century investors (including Isaac Newton) had no clue how to price massive returns from new companies colonising the South Seas, or the technological rarity of creating a black tulip.

In qubit terms, hard assets and soft/virtual liabilities are quantumly entangled with each other. If you can generate quantum liabilities at near zero cost, you can control and increase real assets to the disadvantage of your competitors. Put crudely, with a quantum computer and deep learning, you might be able to generate a drone-sized nuclear bomb using 3D printing at very low cost.

Or even more bluntly, you can do this under quantum encryption that the incumbent powers do not even know what you are doing.

It is therefore no coincidence, that the Western Deep States moved quickly against Chinese enterprises ZTE and Huawei, because these two have been big developers and users of quantum computing. First, deprive the competitor from access to the key high-tech fast chips that enable quantum computing to perform at speed. Second, disrupt the management and key talent that would enable such quantum capacity to be operationalised. Third, prevent them acquiring market share to an entrenched level, so that you have time to bring your own technology up to speed.

All these suggest that if you think in Thucydides Trap terms (classical arms race to nuclear war), we will all end up in nuclear mutual destruction.

If quantum thinking is a more “natural” way of thinking about our physical world and human behaviour (since our brains appear to neurologically work in quantum terms), then it means that we need to get rid of old classical thinking and mental traps. The real challenges to global prosperity and survival are climate change, social injustice, corruption, crime and disruptive technology, but mostly outdated mindsets. We need to think through these challenges in quantum terms, which means very new and weird ways of thinking round these obstacles.

Discarding old mindsets is never easy. But mankind has always thrived on getting new solutions to old problems, perhaps this time through a quantum frame of mind. On that optimistic note,

Happy New Year to all!

By Andrew Sheng - Think Asian- Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

Related:


The photo shows electronics for use in a quantum computer in the quantum computing lab. Describing the inner workings of a quantum computer isn’t easy, even for top scholars. — AP








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Friday, January 4, 2019

China lands on far side of the moon

https://youtu.be/3reQGq3yX8A https://youtu.be/U2dcjFCvnmU
https://youtu.be/deAjOFW5kgg https://youtu.be/oShND5JmGY0 https://youtu.be/YLoA_nofE0U https://youtu.be/L6Bm5EVoW1c

Rugged patch: The ‘dark side’ of the moon as seen from the Chinese lunar rover after landing. — AFP

BEIJING: A Chinese lunar rover landed on the far side of the moon, in a global first that boosts Beijing’s ambitions to become a space superpower.

The Chang’e-4 probe touched down and sent a photo of the so-called “dark side” of the moon to the Queqiao satellite, which will relay communications to controllers on Earth, China’s national space agency said on its website.

Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022, and of eventually sending humans to the moon.

The Chang’e-4 lunar probe mission – named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology – launched in December from the southwestern Xichang launch centre.

It is the second Chinese probe to land on the moon, following the Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover mission in 2013.

Unlike the near side of the moon that offers many flat areas to touch down on, the far side is mountainous and rugged. The moon is “tidally locked” to Earth in its rotation so the same side is always facing Earth.

Chang’e-4 is carrying six experiments from China and four from abroad, including low-frequency radio astronomical studies – aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the moon’s far side.

The rover will also conduct mineral and radiation tests, the China National Space Administration has said.

“It’s a very good start,” said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration programme, in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV. “We are now building China into an aerospace power.”

Beijing is planning to send another lunar lander, Chang’e-5, later this year to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.

It is among a slew of ambitious Chinese targets, which include a reusable launcher by 2021, a super-powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those Nasa and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a moon base, a permanently crewed space station and a Mars rover.

The People’s Liberation Army “looks at space as a new strategic high ground”, said Michael Raska, who studies security and defence issues at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. — AFP

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Thursday, January 3, 2019

UEC recognition, unequal wealth distribution between ethic groups, TAR UC funding


 UEC recognition: Malays' feelings must be respected,  PM. Mahathir says while it is very easy for the government... See more: http://www.sinchew.com.my/node/1826751


MCA and DAP voice concerns over Dr M's UEC remarks

PETALING JAYA: MCA and DAP have voiced strong concerns over Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks on the Unified Examination Certification (UEC) recognition.

MCA vice-president Datuk Tan Teik Cheng said the issue must take into account the feelings of the Chinese community too as their sentiments about the recognition of the certification appeared to be ignored.

“The people who supported (Dr Mahathir) include Malays, Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups.

“UEC is not just a Chinese but a national issue, but the government only takes into account the feelings of the Malays and not the Chinese,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Tan questioned why the feelings of the Chinese were not considered in the issue.

“Is it because he considers the Chinese second-class citizens in Malaysia?” he asked.

Selangor DAP secretary and Sungai Pelek assemblyman Ronnie Liu said he read Dr Mahathir’s remarks “with concern” and expressed his disappointment.

“Excuse me but recognising the UEC was part of the Pakatan Harapan pledge. This was a promise made to the voters.

“You can’t just turn around after the election and say you can’t fulfil your promises because you are concerned about how some people might feel about it.

“I’m very disappointed with this and I hope Pakatan leaders will speak up about the importance of keeping promises,” he said.

Dr Mahathir in an interview with Sin Chew Daily said the government needs to address the unequal wealth distribution between ethnic groups before recognising the UEC. http://www.sinchew.com.my/node/1826751

“Recognising UEC is easy, just sign. But we need time to bring two to three racial groups, including natives in Sabah and Sarawak, onto the same position of economic development.

“They (Malays) feel that they are getting lesser, and this kind of imbalance is getting bigger,” he said. - The Star

Why TAR UC should still receive government funding?

Helping TAR UC will heal the nation - Letters | The Star Online



Private universities have no political interference because their owners are private citizens. TAR UC is an entity created by a political party and in that sense, I see no difference between it and UiTM. The huge elephant in the room is that TAR UC was gracious enough to allow my niece, daughter and my friend Salahuddin to study at an affordable price while the other allows in only one race.


Helping TAR UC will heal the nation - Letters | The Star Online

By Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi

I read with sadness that this year, Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC) will not be getting some of the financial assistance it received over the past 50 years.

The Pakatan Harapan government, on Dec 6, said in Parliament that the government would only provide TAR UC with a development fund of RM5.5 million, not the RM30 million matching grant it had been getting under the previous Barisan Nasional government.

The reason for this retraction of funding was that TAR UC has political ties with MCA. My utmost respect to the principle behind the reason given, as well as to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng who has foiled critics who would like us to think that he favours one race.

But I would like to go on record to say I believe the funding for TAR UC should be continued. My reasons are as follows.

Firstly, TAR UC has never indulged in any extremist activities that would destroy our nation-building efforts to create a harmonious society.

I have read that Universiti Teknologi Malaysia once held a seminar attacking the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, while Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) held a conference attacking our fellow Christian citizens. Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia also held a forum on the conditions to kill Malaysian citizens who are considered, under Pahang mufti Abdul Rahman Osman’s classification, “kafir harbi”.

These three shameful acts of bigotry and extremism have no place in a Malaysia where tolerance and respect for diversity form its two main anchors of co-existence. I do not remember TAR UC acting in this shameful manner, which is a testament to its commitment to producing level-headed Malaysians devoid of a sense of bigotry or racial and religious extremism.

Secondly, TAR UC has been providing high quality education at a most affordable fee that has put hundreds of thousands of young Malaysians into the job market and created a good and tolerant society.

Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub is one such character. A man of strong Islamic faith and commitment, he follows the true path of Islam, not the brand touted by his former party, PAS, which supports leaders who have been tainted with massive corruption and hurtful messages of extremism.

I, too, sent my niece and daughter to TAR at one time. My niece was studying for a certificate in fashion design and my daughter took a diploma in Mass Communications. Both have turned out to be well-rounded citizens. My niece once worked in the office of former Skudai assemblyman Dr Boo Cheng Hau while my daughter became a journalist with BFM and is now a full-time lecturer at First City University College, having obtained a masters degree from Monash University.

Neither of them ever said a word to me about being discriminated against while they were there. Both enjoyed studying there and have no qualms about recommending TAR to other Malay families.

For that, I wish to credit MCA for being a party that has put the interest of the country above any racial ideology, although the party is one which supports a race-based philosophy.

I would like to go on record again to say that I am against any race-based or religious party and would not hesitate to support a law that disallows any political party to be based on religious or ethnic grounds. I would not hesitate to sign a memorandum outlawing the existence of parties like Umno, MCA, MIC, PPBM and PAS.

Although each of these political parties, except for the new PPBM, has made great contributions to its members and the country, we must move on and disregard these entities as we enter a new future. Having said that clearly and in no uncertain terms, I praise MCA for being a moderate party which contributed greatly to nation-building during Malaya’s formative years, and for its sacrifice in setting up and sustaining TAR UC until now.

With respect to Lim’s principle that TAR UC can be given funding if it severs ties with MCA, I would say that while the minister’s principle is most admirable and idealistic, non-political interference in some universities in Malaysia is impractical.

As long as UiTM exists, there will always be political interference. As long as public universities have 80% funding and not 50%, there will be interference simply because these entities belong to the people of Malaysia.

Private universities have no political interference because their owners are private citizens. TAR UC is an entity created by a political party and in that sense, I see no difference between it and UiTM. The huge elephant in the room is that TAR UC was gracious enough to allow my niece, daughter and my friend Salahuddin to study at an affordable price while the other allows in only one race.

I therefore have no problem with TAR UC being “politically connected” to MCA. Has MCA ever raised a sword in the halls of TAR UC, shouting slogans of abuse against Malays and Islam? Have its vice-chancellors spoken to derail our nation-building efforts by uttering statements that would jeopardise national harmony? I seem to recall one vice-chancellor of UiTM indulging in racial statements that, to me, were totally unbecoming of a civil servant of the nation.

Finally, if for nothing else, I wholeheartedly believe that TAR UC’s funding should be continued in memory of the father of our nation, the humble and easy-going but hardworking Tunku Abdul Rahman. The Tunku was a unique individual who did not indulge in building mega projects such as the Petronas Twin Towers, the Penang Bridge or a whole city called Putrajaya. His simple sense of tolerance, compassion and balanced political experience brought him the trust of all communities. There were other leaders during his time but they were too “ultra-Malay” to gain the trust of the whole nation of diverse faiths, cultures, languages and expectations.

The simple concrete building of TAR UC boasts no special architectural characteristics. The landscaping of the campus boasts no requirement of maintenance like Putrajaya. The students drive Kancils and Myvis as opposed to the Vios and Civics seen at other private universities. The whole atmosphere of the campus is compact, full of simple life and gurgling with enthusiasm for study towards an assured future.

The Tunku promised that we would live a life of calmness, dignity and happiness in a moderate existence of financial stability, social respectability and political honesty. TAR UC, in my opinion, speaks volumes of the legacy of the Tunku.

Let us all continue to support TAR UC as a manifestation of the true spirit of Malaysia. - Malaysia Today



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Politicising education hurts the Chinese 

 WHEN Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, in his Budget 2019 presented early this month, removed the RM30mil matching grant for Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC), it hurt not just the MCA but also the Chinese community. The government will provide a mere RM5.5mil as development fund to TAR UC.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

China’s Xi Urges Self-Reliance Amid Change ‘Unseen in 100 Years’

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2018-12-18/china-won-t-be-dictated-to-jinping-video
https://youtu.be/8A10yeIodrc https://youtu.be/sajhWARyFJM https://youtu.be/lX2cxhaagew

Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed self-reliance amid “changes unseen in 100 years,” as the country faced an economic slowdown and a more confrontational U.S. under President Donald Trump.

In his annual New Year’s Eve address, Xi stressed China’s capacity to weather the storm, citing a series of industrial and technological achievements in 2018. He said the government would keep growth from slowing too quickly and follow through on a tax cut as part of an effort “to ease the burden on enterprises.”

“Despite all sorts of risks and challenges, we pushed our economy towards high-quality development, sped up the replacement of the old drivers of growth, and kept the major economic indicators within a reasonable range,” Xi said.

The speech followed reminders of Xi’s twin challenges: another dose of weak economic data Monday and a phone call with Trump on Saturday touching on their trade dispute. China’s factories slid back into contraction territory in December, with the manufacturing purchasing mangers index dropping to 49.4.

Meanwhile, a U.S. delegation led by Deputy Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish was preparing for talks in Beijing next week that would test a tariff cease-fire established earlier in the month by the two sides. Trump said he and Xi spoke at length and that “big progress” is being made toward a deal.

Looking Ahead

Next year marks 70 years since Mao Zedong led the Communist Party to power -- a milestone that would surpass the Soviet Union. The anniversary underscores the urgency Xi faces in turning around stalled growth and investor confidence, while pushing forward an agenda of political reform that will strengthen his power.

The government launched over 100 reform measures in 2018, Xi said Monday, and stepped up efforts to improve standards of living.

“Our people are the country’s solid foundation and our main source of confidence to govern,” he said.

A little less than a year since he scrapped term limits, clearing the path toward his indefinite rule, Xi has seen his major initiatives -- notably the Belt and Road trade and infrastructure program -- draw international backlash amid the unprecedented trade war.

Over the next few months, March’s National People’s Congress and April’s Belt and Road Summit, both to be held in Beijing, could see the announcement of new regulations and investments meant to counter skepticism over Xi’s leadership.

China is already considering a new law on the practice of forced technology transfer that has drawn U.S. ire, and stepped up internal scrutiny of Belt and Road as poorer countries adopt a more cautious approach to China’s plans for what it regards as its backyard.

The country’s growth is still slowing as it transitions from a high-growth, export-led model to a consumer- focused state. Top economic policy makers last week pledged to exact “significant” stimulus policies this coming year.

— Bloomberg, with assistance by Shuping Niu, Dandan Li, and Fox Hu

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2018: End of an era - Global Trends 

 

China will tread own path steadily in 2019

In the face of sudden escalation of China-US trade conflict throughout 2018, Beijing chose neither a concession nor a confrontation. The country has continued advancing and establishing its position as the world's second largest economy, maximizing its vitality and cooperation. Undoubtedly, that is China's lifeline to keep steady progress in an increasingly restless world.

https://youtu.be/FBABIdKFzfQ
https://youtu.be/S8Va_K4Omkc

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Hike in daycare & childcare centre fees in 2019


MONTHLY fees at majority of daycare centres in Perak are expected to increase between 15% and 20% in 2019.

Fees between RM300 and RM350 for a child could be increased to RM400.

Perak Daycare Association president Noor Shalina Sahari said the increase was due to the implementation of the minimum wage policy for workers set by the Government.

The minimum wage will be streamlined at RM1,100 nationwide starting Jan 1.

Noor Shalina said the increase at the respective daycare centres would differ from one another, depending on the number of employees and the locality.

“The ratio at a daycare centre is three employees to one child.

“The centre would require five staff to handle children aged one to three while 10 workers are needed for those aged three and above,” she said during a grant presentation ceremony at the Urban Transformation Centre in Ipoh.

“To be honest, the rate in Perak is still considered low.

“Currently, our rates are between RM300 and RM350. Next year, it could be between RM350 and RM400,” she added.

Noor Shalina said the increase would also be based on the respective areas.

“If the daycare is located in an area where majority of its residents are from the low income group, the increase would be minimal.

“It would also depend on the respective daycare operators,” she said, adding that the association has 120 members.

“There will be no drastic increase, it will not benefit us also as we are also competing with those that are home-based and not registered with the Government,” she added.

Source: The Star by Ivan Loh


Childcare centres to hike fees in 2019 - Rates to rise by 10% to 30% to cover costs 

'Childcare providers are now required to have at least a diploma in early education'. - Norsheila Abdullah

PETALING JAYA: Taska (childcare centres) are expected to charge between 10% and 30% more next year to keep up with the minimum wage and to cover costs.

Association of Registered Childcare Pro­viders Malaysia president Norsheila Abdullah said this is unavoidable as the minimum wage for childcare providers has been fixed at RM1,100 and that they are increasingly becoming more qualified.

She expects the fee hike to affect all states as the minimum wage has been streamlined to RM1,100 nationwide starting Jan 1.

“I think the price increase is appropriate because they are receiving very low salary, between RM800 and RM900, and they deserve the minimum wage.

“Besides the minimum wage, other reasons for the increase include hidden costs such as childcare providers’ qualifications and overhead costs such as rental, electricity and water bills.

“Childcare providers are now required to have at least a diploma in early education and to be certified with the Permata Early Childhood Education Programme (KAP), a government-run course that costs RM900, and first aid training,” she said.

Currently in Kuala Lumpur, the fee per child in taska is typically no less than RM450 per month, said Norsheila.

The increase of taska fees would however vary according to the operating costs in the particular location, said Norsheila.

It is likely that only centres charging lower fees will increase them by 30%.

“How much the increase will be depends on the taska. If they are charging between RM200 and RM250, then maybe they will increase by 30% because they need to keep up,” she said.

Norsheila suggests that parents sending children to registered centres be given rebates by the government and taska which adhere to all the regulations be allowed tax exemption.

Selangor Taska Association president Mahanom Basri said taska operators should not haphazardly increase fees without matching it with quality service.

“We don’t actually want to increase the price without any reason. Most of the childcare providers have either a diploma or a degree and sometimes work more than 10 hours per day but they are lowly paid. So we hope the parents will understand and not be angry with us.

“If childcare providers are paid accordingly, they will take care of the children well and both parties will be satisfied,” she said.

While there are over 1,500 taska in Selangor, Mahanom gave assurance that there would be no standardisation of fees among the operators because they are still bound by the Competition Act 2010.

She said the Selangor state government has been assisting parents in need via incentives such as the Sikembar programme, whereby they subsidise RM100 for every child sent to a taska registered under the Community Welfare Department.

Mahanom added that there are also alternatives to the fee increase.

“Currently, I know of some taska operators who don’t want to charge the parents too much so they work out a compromise whereby the parents, as partners in education, would contribute items like rice and vegetables monthly to the taska so that it takes away a a bit of the operating cost burden,” she said.


The  Star by fatimah zainal

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