Sunday, October 31, 2010

Loss of Young Talent Thwarts Malaysia's Growth

With its dazzling skyscrapers, bright lights and ubiquitous symbols of modernity, Singapore has long worked its magic on Rachel Liew, 20. Even as a young girl visiting the city-state with her family from her native Malaysia, Singapore's clean streets, convenient public transportation and modern lifestyles made a lasting impression.
As Ms. Liew grew older, she came to believe that Singapore could also offer a better education than her homeland, and in 2008, she packed her bags and headed south across the border to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering at Nanyang Technological University.

"I might return to Malaysia if I had a really good job offer there, which I think would be unlikely, or if I eventually get married to a Malaysian who wants to live in his hometown," said Ms. Liew, one of about 700,000 Malaysians living abroad. "But other than that, I think I would probably settle down in Singapore."

That is exactly the kind of sentiment Malaysia's policy makers are desperate to change.

Many Asian nations have long been concerned about the outflow of human capital to more developed countries, but here in Malaysia, the need to address the problem has assumed a new urgency in the final decade for reaching its long-established goal of becoming a developed country by 2020.

Companies have long complained about a shortage of skilled labor in Malaysia, and economists say it is severely affecting the country's ability to attract more high-technology industries. The government is acutely aware of the shortage in skills and the potential hurdle it poses to the country's 2020 goal.

"We don't get it right, we are in serious trouble," the human resources minister, S. Subramaniam, said during an interview.

Studying and working overseas have long been considered attractive options for those Malaysians who can afford to make the move. About half of those living abroad can be found in neighboring Singapore. Australia, Britain and the United States are also popular.

Robert K. Chelliah, who runs an Australian immigration agency in Perth, with offices in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, said by phone that the number of Malaysians contacting his company with inquiries about moving to Australia had soared 80 percent since 2008.

"In the last two to three years, the motivation to acquire Australian permanent residency has sharply increased across all age sectors as well as across racial backgrounds," he said.

Like Ms Liew, most of the seven people interviewed for this article said that better education, wages and career opportunities could be found abroad, while parents wanted to ensure that their children received an internationally recognized education in English.

Many interviewees, when asked about their concerns about returning to Malaysia, cited racial tensions and the country's affirmative action policy, which gives special privileges to ethnic Malays, who make up 60 percent of the population. The government has recognized the need to change the policy, which was introduced in the 1970s to improve the economic standing of Malays, who were more highly represented among the nation's poor than its Chinese and Indian minorities.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has repeatedly emphasized that affirmative action would be made "market-friendly, merit-based, transparent and needs-based" under the country's latest plan, the New Economic Model, which is designed to steer Malaysia toward its development goals. Ethnic Malays, or bumiputras, still benefit from privileges like discounted housing, and some government contracts are available only to companies they control.

A Malaysian Chinese businessman, who left Malaysia for Canada as a university student in the 1970s and stayed there, said that because of the policy, only a handful of his Malaysian Chinese classmates who also studied abroad had returned to Malaysia. Several other Malay and non-Malay interviewees also described the system as unfair.

Danny Quah, a professor of economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science, says that the brain drain has had a huge effect on the country's economic and industrial development.

"People have left, growth prospects have dimmed, and then more people continue to leave," said Mr. Quah, who is also a member of the Malaysian National Economic Advisory Council. "It's a vicious cycle that the economy has had to confront for the last decade or longer."

Malaysia's growth rate dropped to an average of 5.5 percent a year from 2000 to 2008, from an average of about 9 percent a year from 1991 to 1997.

Private investment, meanwhile, has fallen to about 10 percent of gross domestic product in 2008 from more than a third of G.D.P. in 1997, and the World Bank has warned that a lack of human capital is a "critical constraint in Malaysia's ambition to become a high-income economy."

Stewart Forbes, executive director of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said foreign companies faced difficulties finding skilled workers in fields like electronics, the petrochemical industries and engineering. Some companies complain of poor communication and English skills.

"I don't think it's yet reached the stage where companies are saying, 'I cannot do my business here,"' Mr. Forbes said. "I think it's true to say, however, that there's lost investment opportunities here because of the labor situation."

Mr. Forbes contrasted the skill shortage in Malaysia, where 80 percent of the work force has only a high school education, with a country like Taiwan, which emphasizes the number of holders of graduate degrees available to investors.

Previous government attempts to lure back Malaysian expatriates, namely the Brain Gain Malaysia and Returning Expert programs, have had little success. Despite financial incentives like importing cars tax-free and efforts to ease access to permanent residency for foreign spouses, they have attracted fewer than 3,000 applicants.

The government now plans to enhance and consolidate those programs under a new agency, to be known as the Talent Corp. Its financing will be announced as part of the country's 2011 budget on Oct 15. It will recommend ways the country's education and training systems can be overhauled to produce graduates who better fulfill industry needs, especially in sectors like information technology and financial services.

Muhyiddin Yassin, Malaysia's deputy prime minister and education minister, is leading a major review of the education system. "There will definitely be a major overhaul of the system," he said in an interview, adding that the system needed to foster creativity and innovation.

Enhancing the skills of the existing work force, encouraging universities to work more closely with industry and increasing the number of students enrolled in vocational training are also priorities.

Mr. Muhyiddin said that Malaysia needed to record annual economic growth of 6 percent for the next 10 years to achieve its 2020 goal and that a work force with the right skills was a "precondition" for such growth.

Still, enticing Malaysian expatriates home, when salaries there remain lower than abroad, presents a major challenge.

In Malaysia, the average income per capita is currently about $7,000, a figure the government wants to increase to $15,000 by 2020. In Singapore, by contrast, the figure hovers around $37,000, World Bank data show.

Mr. Subramaniam, the human resources minister, says that he expects salaries to rise as more high-technology industries develop and that, in the meantime, improvements in other factors, like work opportunities, may help lure Malaysians home.

"If we give them a good working environment, an area where they can grow, and it's stimulating and satisfying, they might be willing to take a slight cut in their salary," he said.

Still, some economists remain skeptical about the government's initiatives to reverse the diaspora.

Terence Gomez, a professor on the economics faculty of the University of Malaya, said that changing the affirmative action policy remained a highly contentious issue, with the government under pressure from right-leaning groups and members of its own party, the United Malays National Organization, to maintain it.

But he said it was vital that Malaysia become more of a meritocracy if it is to succeed in drawing back the diaspora. For instance, non-Malays need to be assured that they can be appointed to senior civil service positions, and the private sector must be based on transparency and fairness, rather than race, he said.

Otherwise, "professionals won't come back and work in the public sector, and investors won't come back and invest in the private sector," he added.

Mr. Quah of the London School said that it was not affirmative action alone that had driven the brain drain and that higher wages and economic growth, and good schooling opportunities, were vital to enticing expatriates home.

"This is an economically astute middle class, and they will see whether it's in their interests to return or not," he said.

Chen May Yee, 39, a Malaysian Chinese journalist who lives in Minneapolis with her American husband and two children, is yet to be convinced that Malaysia can offer the work opportunities and lifestyle she wants for her family. She said she had taken a pay cut each time she had previously moved back to Malaysia after stints in the United States or Singapore - sometimes as much as 50 percent.

"I'd love to move back for family and friends, but I just don't see how to make it work economically," she said.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen spent RM3.25 million on overseas trips since she was appointed tourism minister in 2009, according to the ministry’s reply to a question in Parliament made available yesterday.

In a written reply to Pandan MP Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat on October 26, the Tourism Ministry said Ng spent RM1.67 million on official overseas trips in 2009, and RM1.58 million between January and October this year.

“The tourism minister has made 16 visits overseas since being appointed. These visits include 26 countries, and 61 cities up to October 2010,” said the written reply.

The reply added that the ministry’s efforts overseas had earned Malaysia a ninth out of tenth placing in the “most popularly visited countries” in 2009.

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers have accused Ng of excessive spending overseas as minister, and have dubbed her as being more of a “tourist” than “minister”.

Ng has however brushed off the accusations, insisting that the ministry’s promotional activities abroad were instrumental in helping to expand the country’s tourism industry.

Last week, the Tourism Ministry released figures that showed its travel expenses ballooning by 40 per cent since 2008 while its promotion budget shrank by nearly 70 per cent in the same period.

At a press conference today, DAP MP Anthony Loke continued PR’s attacks on Ng’s ministry by pointing out grammatical errors in the brochures for the Malaysian pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

“The purpose of the expo is to showcase what the country can contribute to the world’s economy. Sadly there is nothing in the Malaysian pavilion that shows such a thing,” Loke said.

He pointed out the various spelling errors in the Malaysia pavilion brochure, where the word “development” is spelled as “decelopment” and “visitors” was wrongly spelled as “visitious”.

“Look at this sentence — To know more about Malaysia, we ‘incite’ you to step into the Malaysia Pavilion. What kind of standard is this?”

“Don’t tell me that no single Tourism Ministry official proof read this before printing the brochures? This is highly embarrassing, to say the least.

“Beautiful is even spelled as ‘beautuful’. A shame, really,” added the Rasah MP.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Malaysia remains top destination for Singapore travellers Singapore (2010-10-25)

MALAYSIA continues to be the top destination for Singapore travellers, with 6.3 million trips made between January and June, an increase of 2.5 per cent as compared to the same period in 2009.

According to a survey by the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, Indonesia came in second with half a million visits, followed by China with 484,000 visits.

Nine out of the top 10 outbound destinations registered positive growth for the first six months of this year, with the highest growth registered by Japan with an increase of 100.8 per cent. South Korea grew by 61.8 per cent; Hong Kong, 32.8 per cent; Taiwan, 30.3 per cent and Indonesia, 28.3 per cent.

Moderate growth was recorded for Thailand with an increase of 11.3 per cent, Australia with 3.4 per cent, and Macau with three per cent.

At a state assembly sitting in Johor Bahru recently it was mentioned that 3/4 of the Singapore arrivals are day trippers who are either doing business in Johor Bahru or doing their marketing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tourism To Increase Income Per Capita, Employment Rate By 2020

The tourism industry is expected to contribute significantly to the effort to increase the country's income per capita and provide higher employment opportunities by 2020, according to the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) report by Pemandu.

It said Malaysia's growth in the tourism industry relied predominantly on growth of arrivals rather than yield, and said that if the trend continued, the country would need mass tourism arrivals."Going forward, it is more sustainable for Malaysia to shift its focus on growing yield per tourist rather than to rely heavily on growth and tourist arrivals.

"To attract the higher yield segment, we will need to both improve and upgrade tourist offerings and services and also enhance connectivity to key priority market," it said.The Tourism National Key Result Area (NKEA) targets to raise the total gross national income (GNI) to RM103.6 billion by 2020 from RM36.9 billion in 2009.

Twelve entry point projects (EPP) have been identified across five themes to enhance tourism yields, apart from three business opportunities together with organic sector growth, to stimulate tourism growth.The five themes cater to different segments ranging from the avid shopper to the nature lover and the business traveller as well as families on vacation.

Three of the business opportunities that have been highlighted are food and beverage outlets, local transportations and tour operators.According to the report, in order to achieve the targeted GNI, the sector needed to nearly triple GNI contribution from last year and focus on three main areas namely tourist arrivals, yields and tourist receipts.

The sector will require cumulative funding of RM203.9 billion from 2011 to 2020, where approximately three per cent will be public-sector funded while the remaining 97 per cent will come from the private sector."This represents a significant shift in both the scale of funding going into the tourism sector and also in the public-private funding mix," the report said.For baseline growth, a total of RM63.6 billion in investments are expected to sustain current tourism facilities and ongoing projects.

The government has also identified four enablers to ensure successful implementation of the EPPs, business opportunities and baseline growth including focusing on marketing, rolling out visa facilitation services, ensuring an adequate supply of qualified human capital and improving the tourism environment.

A Delivery Task Force (DTF) will be established and headed by the Prime Minister to ensure that the EPPs are implemented according to their timelines.

Monday, October 25, 2010


The wide variety of food in Malaysia can be an effective tool to demonstrate and communicate the nation's diversified culture to attract tourists.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said the extensive range of our local dishes was very much a reflection of the cultural melting pot that revolves around a unique yet distinct Malaysian identity.

In the tourism sector, she said food and beverages had contributed significantly to the total revenue earned from tourists.She said last year alone, out of the RM53.4 billion earned in tourist receipts, about RM9.29 billion or 17.4 percent was spent on food and beverages.

"For 2010, we projected tourist expenditure on food and beverages to rise to 18.4 percent or RM10.13 billion approximately," she said at the soft launch of the Fabulous Food 1Malaysia-Restaurant and Street Food Carnival (FF1M) here Saturday.

She added that by highlighting local delicacies, visitors, foreign and Malaysian alike, would have an opportunity to savour authentic rich local flavours of the people.On the festival, Ng said it would be part of the efforts to celebrate and promote Malaysia's local cuisine to woo more foreign tourists."This festival was to celebrate and promote Malaysia's local cuisine with a series of exciting activities to titillate, engage and delight the taste buds of Malaysians and visitors alike," she added.

The FF1M will take place at the Tun Razak Hall 1 of the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) from Dec 17 to 19 and the exhibition will feature presentations by local restaurant operators who will promote their restaurants' specialties to tourists.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Voluntourism involves people from all age and social classes traveling globally to give aid to communities in need and intimately experience the culture.

This combination of exploration and inspiration is growing in popularity, mostly due to an increase in the number and variety of opportunities now available. To help prospective volunteer vacationers, ASTA’s consumer Web site,, has a list of tips and advice to consider.

Travelers can now impact an entire community over the course of a week or two, or even during their honeymoon if they choose. Regardless of how travelers volunteer their time and energy, they always return satisfied that they made a lasting difference in the lives of their international neighbors.

ASTA President and Chair Chris Russo said. “A volunteer vacation is a great way to give back.”

Unfortunately Malaysia does not cater for this sort of tourism as this does not involve any promotional efforts and politicians cannot leverage on this to justify trips abroad.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Motor tourism is set to go on overdrive as a new tourism product in Malaysia.Come December, a task force is scheduled to meet to chart out a roadmap to develop the sector, said Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.

To extensively develop motor tourism in the country, she said key industry players, including Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA), would be roped in to study ways to fuel the sector. Already, the country had in place, good infrastructure such as highways, and comparatively cheaper fuel price, to help enhance motor tourism, she noted.

"We just need to look at how (best) to optimise this infrastructure and existing tourism products such as the many homestay programmes that we have, for the "motorism" prospect."But at the same time, we also need to study and improve our weaknesses, such as road signs," she said after launching the Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show 2010 (KLIMS ''10)''s advertising and promotion campaign today.

Dr Ng added that the ministry would also study the best practices from other countries before innovatively promoting motor tourism to suite the local prospective.Earlier in her speech, the minister said motor tourism had the potential to become a high yield tourism product and the KLIMS'10 could be used to promote the sector.

KLIMS'10 will be held from Dec 3 to 12 at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC). It is expected to lure about 330,000 visitors and tourists.Highlights of the event include a 16-foot high replica of the Bumblebee character from the Hollywood movie, ''Tranformers'', and the ''Bat Mobile'', as well as the latest model of eco-friendly and hybrid vehicles.

Friday, October 22, 2010


The Tourism Ministry is expected to spend RM1.7 million for the "official trips" of minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen abroad this year.

In a written reply to MP Tian Chua (DAP-Batu), Dr Ng said the cost of the Tourism Minister's visit was RM1.2 million in 2008 and RM1.6 million last year.

"To ensure the tourism industry continue to grow, the ministry and its agency, Tourism Malaysia, carry out tourism promotions abroad such as through sales missions, road shows, seminars, workshops and working visits.

"These are among strategies to promote tourism apart from taking up media advertisement," she said.speaking for herself.

MP Tian Chua, who distributed the written reply to the media in parliament, told reporters that the amount was "alarming".

It would be good for him to get more detailed account of why most of the trips are to China and why only certain people accompany her besides her henpecked husband and the usual MCA junkets.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen flayed the opposition today for nitpicking her ministry's bloated travel bills, pointing out that her promotion strategies had successfully attracted more tourist arrivals.

When approached in Parliament this morning, the minister appeared agitated when told of PKR MP Chua Tian Chang's allegation that she had spent more to travel but less to promote the country abroad.

He had even accused her of being more of a tourist than a tourism minister due to her extensive travels.

In quick response, Ng immediately opened her handbag, whipped out her Apple iPad to show reporters statistical proof of how her travels abroad and drop in promotional expenditure had helped revitalise the country's tourism industry.

She charged at Chua for being a “generalist” and called herself a “specialist” in the industry, pointing out that her promotion work abroad had attracted more than 23 million tourists last year.

“You want to talk to a specialist, you talk to me,” she said, looking upset.She explained that she had lent a more personal touch to her tourism promotion methods by visiting the various countries herself to attract more tourists.“I decided that I am going to go down myself more often. I speak to tour operators, the media and the authorities to convince them that Malaysia is a good country to visit.“The impact of a minister's visit is much more than just a general promotion... it means you know your job,” she said.

Dr Ng explained that at present, the ministry was moving to spend less for promotions for every tourist who arrived in the country.“Last year, for every tourist that came in the promotion money we spent was RM14 [each person] and the spending of every tourist was RM2,600.“In 2008, we spent RM16 per tourist. In 2007, we spent RM18 and in 2006, we spent RM20,” she said.She added that last year's figures were the lowest as she had personally decided to go straight to the countries to address the concerns of tourists.

“We tell them do not be afraid of H1N1, come to Malaysia. We tell them Thailand may have political problems but we have no problem.“The words of a minister are important so they (the opposition) can say anything they want, I only refer to the figures,” she said.Ng also said that in 2008, the promotion budget for her ministry, which was at the time under her predecessor Datuk Seri Azalina Othman, was RM358 million.Tourist arrivals for the year, she noted, was 22 million with a total of RM49.56 billion spent in the country.

“Last year, our promotion budget was RM337 million but tourist arrivals rose to 23.65 million. Total amount spent here was RM53.4 billion.“But we only spent RM14 for promotions for each tourist while in 2008, we spent RM16,” she said.

Ng concluded that this showed that her strategies were working.“The figures speak for itself. You have to know your strategies. If your general strategies do not work, change it.“I do not speak to non-specialists,” she said.

When pushed further to explain allegations by Chua of certain trips where the ministry's delegation had spent tens of thousands of ringgit for each person, Ng brushed off the questions angrily.Making reference to her trip in August to Australia and New Zealand, she explained that it was because of her tight schedule that her travel bill had ballooned.

“Excuse me, excuse me, you look. I travelled to six cities. You know how much it costs for the fare? But I do not want to go to that extent.“All is clear and transparent. These [figures] are audited,” she said.

The opposition had accused Dr Ng of overspending during her trip where she had spent a total of RM244,720 for a 10-day trip with a delegation of three ministry officials, three agencies, two hotel operators and three state government representatives.“I spent one day in one city. If I wanted to enjoy life, I would have at least spent two days. You know, for example, if you go to New Zealand and spend one night, it is more expensive than if you spent four nights.“But I am focused on my work and in every city I spent only one day,” she said.

Dr.Ng concluded that this was the “last time” she would answer questions on the issue.- Malaysian Insider

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


A Facebook page created last Saturday, to which more than 11,000 people had signed up has seen an outpouring of criticism from Malaysians who say the money would be better spent elsewhere than build the 100 storey megatower in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

"Malaysia needs better education, better health care, better public transportation, safer neighbourhoods, cleaner water, but not a taller building. We don't need another white elephant!" said the page, which was receiving hundreds more members each hour.

Many of those posting comments accused the ruling coalition of spending taxpayers' money to boost its own standing, which has slipped badly in recent years in the face of a resurgent opposition.

"I will support this project if you give me the contract!" said a Facebook user named Chee Chuan Tat, referring to endemic cronyism linked to the Barisan Nasional coalition.

"It's taxpayers' money, and taxpayers say NO," said Adrian Matthew Yee.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Dato Sri Najib Razak defended his plans for a 100-storey megatower in Kuala Lumpur after this backlash.

PM Najib unveiled plans for the tower, to be built by 2020 at a cost of 1.6 billion dollars, during last week's budget speech, which included a number of grand infrastructure projects.

The building, named "Warisan Merdeka" or "Heritage of Independence", would be the tallest in Malaysia, dwarfing the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, which were the world's tallest buildings at 88 storeys when completed in 1998.

Najib has said such projects exemplify the spirit of "Malaysia Boleh" or "Malaysia Can", a national campaign conceived by former premier Mahathir Mohamad, an advocate of mega projects.

He stoutly defended the project, and said the Petronas Towers -- now a much-loved national symbol -- had originally attracted similar criticism.

"We want a building that will be a symbol of the country that is not only modern but progressive and it will have a multiplier effect on the economy," he told a press conference.

"We want the area to become a business hub," he said. "So this project is not a waste but is one which will benefit the people."

Opposition lawmaker Fong Kui Lun, in whose constituency the building would be located near the city's Chinatown, said it would be an eyesore and totally unsuited to the crowded downtown district.

"What the building will do is to destroy the character of the area while creating a traffic nightmare for all," he added.

"There are more than enough office spaces in downtown KL and this will cause a glut of office space, becoming a white elephant like many of the other government projects."

Tony Pua, also from the Democratic Action Party which is part of the opposition alliance, said the online criticism was a sign that people were concerned.

"The country does not need another mega project as the era of mega projects is gone and most Malaysians are not impressed by them any more," he said.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010


Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr S.Subramaniam said about 200,000 jobs could be created by boosting the local healthcare industry as one of the National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs).

"Under the healthcare NKEA, the government is targeting to welcome one million health travellers to Malaysia and conduct 1,000 clinical trials," he said at the launch of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and CAT scan (CT Scan) units at a private hospital in Bayu Perdana.

Besides that, he said, the government aimed to beef up the local pharmaceutical industry and medical technology sector.

"The market value for pharmaceuticals and prescription drugs in Malaysia is over RM400 billion a year and there is a significant opportunity for Malaysia to manufacture more medicines locally.

"Such an opportunity means more bio-chemists and microbiologists to be employed by the industry apart from doctors and nurses.

"Malaysia has a comparative advantage in healthcare tourism as the treatment provided by private hospitals here is of good quality and at a reasonable cost."

Dr Subramaniam said the government might be looking at the visa requirement regulations to attract more travellers to Malaysia for medical treatment.

"Some of the private hospitals in Melaka, Penang and Johor are favoured by Indonesians seeking treatment."

Dr Subramaniam said the active development of the healthcare industry was also in line with the government's aspiration to make Malaysia a high-income economy.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Among the benefits are:

> For first time house buyers, the government will provide a guarantee of 10% down payment for houses below RM220,000 through Cagamas Sdn Bhd, allowing them to take a 100% housing loan.

> Youths will also benefit from the formation of Talent Corp, 1Malaysia Training Programme and The Academic Medical Centre.

> The exemption of import duty and sales tax on broadband equipments and mobile phones until 2012, to increase broadband penetration is welcmoed.

The RM119 million allocation for Multimedia Development Corridor programmes to create an innovative digital economy is also lauded. It is hoped that the funds will be used wisely, supported by homegrown knowledge workers who are also local graduates.

Other positive elements include RM5 billion for development in Sabah and Sarawak and the freeze on toll hikes for PLUS expressways for the next five years. It is hoped that this move will also be extended to other expressway concessionaires.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


To reinvigorating the private investment, the Budget has laid out the following action plans;

Privafe-public partnerships
* In 2011, private investment is estimated to expand 12.5% to RM86 billion

* The implementation of the 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) to generate investment exceeding RM1.3 trillion and create 3.3 million jobs

* The private sector will finance 92% of the NKEA and the remaining by the government

* Several PPP projects identified under the 10MP will be implemented in 2011 through private investment of RM12.5 billion

* The government to allocate RM1 billion from the Facilitation Fund.

* Construction of highways such as the Ampang-Cheras-Pandan Elevated Highway, Guthrie-Damansara Expressway, Damansara-Petaling Jaya Highway, Pantai Barat-Banting-Taiping Highway, Sungai Dua-Juru Highway and Paroi-Senawang-KLIA Highway;

* Construction of a 300-megawatt combined-cycle gas power plant in Kimanis, Sabah to increase electricity generation capacity to meet rising demand; and

* Development of projects such as the International Islamic University Malaysia Teaching Hospital in Kuantan, Pahang, the Women and Children's Hospital as well as the Integrated Health Research Institute Complex in Kuala Lumpur.

* The Academic Medical Centre, a joint venture between Academic Medical Centre Sdn Bhd and Johns Hopkins Medicine International as well as Royal College of Surgeons Ireland. This project involves private investment of RM2 billion.

* 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in collaboration with Mubadala Development Company, an investment arm of the Government of Abu Dhabi, to develop the Kuala Lumpur International Financial District (KLIFD) valued at RM26 billion, commencing in 2011.

* The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) in Greater KL (Klang Valley) will be implemented beginning 2011. This project, with an estimated private investment of RM40 billion, is expected to be fully completed by 2020.
Upon completion, the utilisation rate of public transport is expected to increase to at least 40%.

* The Malaysian Rubber Board land in Sungai Buloh of 2,680 acres (1,085ha) will be developed at RM10 billion and is expected to be completed by 2025. The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) will undertake mixed development comprising affordable houses as well as commercial, industrial and infrastructure facilities.

* Another landmark development is by Permodalan Nasional Berhad — Warisan Merdeka, expected to be completed by 2020. Comprising a 100-storey tower, the tallest in Malaysia, it will retain Stadium Merdeka and Stadium Negara as national heritage. The total project cost is RM5 billion, with the tower expected to be completed by 2015.

Friday, October 15, 2010


The Transport Ministry (MOT) will go ahead with the purchase of 38 units of six-car Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains despite an ongoing investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

The ministry said today it had given the letter of award (LoA) to CSR Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Co Ltd of China on May 19, "before any investigation was initiated by MACC", and an agreement was signed on July 23.

"The allegations are (being) investigated by MACC and till today, MOT has not received any report on the investigation," it said.

In August, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recommended an investigation into KTMB’s RM1.89 billion purchase of the new electric trains. PAC chairman Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid had said the committee had formally made a request to the MACC in a letter.

We are reminded about the cancellation of the purchase of eight Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) from Spain for KTMB’s commuter service network despite an LoA and agreement already signed.

In rushing to secure the EMUs to overcome the poor state of public transport, KTMB had not "ironed out the entire scope of work in the agreement with the supplier".

Zhuzhou is now asking for extra charges for the automatic train protection (ATP) system and, worse still, it wants to extend the delivery period. So why the rush in the first place?

We are also unhappy over KTMB’s agreement to buy the EMUs at a cost of RM48 million each, using the direct negotiation method. He said the ministry may end up paying about RM500 million extra for the whole deal if it goes ahead with the purchase from the company, which had earlier won a tender to supply eight three-car EMU sets at a cost of RM13.725 million a set.

The tender for the three-car EMUs in 2008 was cancelled following new demands and needs highlighted by the National Key Results Area (NKRA) for urban public transportation. The NKRA had highlighted the need to increase passenger capacity rapidly.

Former transport minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat had defended the increase in cost, citing the difference in technical specifications. Ong had said Dzulkefly "runs the risk of comparing apples with oranges".

The only difference in the specifications between the two sets was the CCTV and slide presentation panel for the 38 EMU six-car trains.

Even after taking into account various anomalies like the foreign exchange rate and rising cost of materials, the sets should only be priced at RM35 million each, at the most.

So where is the loophole ?

Thursday, October 14, 2010


MANY residents in the Klang Valley have been taking safety into their own hands, but not necessarily good for MM2H

They fork out money to hire security guards to patrol their streets, and some chip in to fence up their area to prevent intrusion of strangers into their neighbourhoods.

While the intention is to have a safer place to live in, there have been instances where these security schemes caused disputes among the residents.

Therefore, it is timely for the Housing and Local Government Ministry to release a set of Gated Community and Guarded Neighbourhood Guidelines to regulate the situation.

The guidelines, introduced in September, clearly spelled out the do’s and don’ts for gated community with strata title and guarded neighbourhood with individual titles.

Both are only allowed to be implemented in urban areas, especially those with a high crime rate.

Although it is a trend at many guarded neighbourhoods, perimeter fencing and blocking of backlanes and sidelines are not allowed.

According to the Frequently Asked Questions section in the guidelines, the fences that surrounded guarded neighbourhood are built on road reserve, hence the prohibition.

The permission to erect temporary physical obstacles like manual boomgates, cones and security signs will be considered provided the locations are manned by security guards around the clock.

The guarded neighbourhood scheme is strictly prohibited at housing areas with public facilities, such as schools, mosques and community halls, and those which are part of the public bus routes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Tourism Minister Datuk Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen is now in South Korea to promoted golf packages.

“Our golf courses are located in the mountains, along the sea shores, on tropical islands and in rainforests, offering many choices and challenges to golfers. Golf resorts and clubhouses are equipped with the best facilities and amenities, including accommodation and convention facilities. Some of our courses were designed by top golf personalities such as Jack Nicklaus,” the minister said.

She added that they have been extending their full support to Amiga Tour and Asiana Airlines in launching an exclusive golf tour package especially for Koreans.

The airline plans to operate a charter plane to Johor State in Malaysia from Incheon International Airport twice a week — Thursday and Sunday — from Dec. 23 2010 through March 3, 2011.

In partnership with Pulai Springs Country Club and Tanjung Puteri Country Club, the travel agency will provide golfers with unlimited rounds of golf, accommodation, as well as massages and other services.

“Additionally, we will also promote the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2M) program among Koreans who have reached retirement, encouraging them to consider making the Southeast Asian nation their second home,” the minister said.

The program was launched to attract foreign citizens. Participants can enjoy various incentives, including a renewable social visit pass with multiple-entry into Malaysia for up to 10 years.A total of 227,321 Korean tourists visited Malaysia last year, down from 267,461 in 2008.

The 15-percent decline was largely due to the global economic downturn and the H1N1 epidemic.“We saw a 17-percent-increase in the number of Korean visitors for the first six months of this year, compared to the same period last year. We will do our best to attract at least 280,000 visitors from Korea as a whole,” she said.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP) and the Former Assemblymen Council (Mubarak) had join the band wagon by taking the lead in organising a seminar to discuss the state’s historical background including its Sultanate and prominent figures.

UMP vice chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Daing Nasir Ibrahim said the seminar was a platform to highlight and interprete the state’s significant features that would be noteworthy in helping to place Pahang on the World map.

Preparations are therefore underway to put Pahang in the Unesco’s World Heritage Map as the state has significant cultural, historical and natural heritage.

“Information and feedback obtained from the seminar will form the basis in drafting a strategy to put Pahang on Unesco’s World Heritage Map. The seminar is not only for historians and intellectuals to gather and discuss about the state’s heritage but also a platform for undergraduates to learn about the past so they can move forward in the right direction,” he said.
He added that some 1,000 intellectuals and undergraduates had turned up for the seminar.

Mubarak acting president Datuk Seri Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman said the association was more
than willing to work with any government agencies, corporate bodies, institute of higher learnin and non governmental organisations.

“Mubarak comprised members who made great contributions to the country and have a lot of experience and we are willing to share our knowledge and experience with the younger generation. Both parties can learn a lot from each other for the sake of the nation,” he added.

He said the country has seen good progress and great physical development but it would be meaningless if one’s sense of patriotism is not inculcated at an early age.

Datuk Seri Abdul Aziz added that history played an important role for if one disregarded it, it would spell doom to the nation. He lauded efforts taken by UMP in having the seminar which showed that the university placed equal emphasis on non-tecnical matters.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

More automation at passport control, baggage handing-in and excess fees.

International airline passengers want self-service extended from online booking and kiosk check-in to security and passport control and boarding their flights, an industry report said.

The report, based on surveys taken at seven major airports on five continents, said most travellers also want more automation for handing in baggage and paying excess fees, reporting missing luggage and switching flights.

The surveys found that on-line booking and check-in have well overtaken the traditional methods of visiting an airline office or travel agent and collecting boarding passes from registration desks at the airport.

"People just want more self-service at every step of their journey," said the report.

The report said an average of 71 per cent of passengers surveyed at the seven hubs had booked in online or at automated airport kiosks for their flights, and many more would be ready to do so if they understood the process better.

But checking in on mobile phones was much less common, with only 3 per cent of those questioned on the day of the survey having used the method.

SITA recorded a sharp growth in passengers using airline websites to book hotels -- up from 21 per cent of those surveyed in 2009 to 38 per cent this year -- and to rent cars -- up from 19 to 35 per cent.

There were similar increases in use of carriers' websites for other services like buying travel insurance, bus and train tickets and for ordering duty-free items in advance, SITA said.

The surveys were carried out on a single day among what SITA said was a representative sample of the millions of travelers using the seven airports -- Atlanta, Beijing, Frankfurt, Johannesburg-Tambo, Mumbai, Moscow Domodedovo and Sao Paulo.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


In echoing DPMs call for green tourism, the industry has been told
that there has been a growing trend among travelers opting for tour operators, resorts and hotels that are able to keep their carbon footprint low.

And realising this, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman therefore urged tourism players to go
green by coming up with eco-friendly products and services.

Stressing that the task could not be done overnight, he however believed that by taking small steps, it would eventually accumulate to make a difference. “By keeping up with trends especially on sustainability, we can ensure that our tourism assets are protected and that we are able to meet the visitors’ expectations.

“The tourism industry is dynamic and highly sensitive to changing visitor perceptions and needs. Visitors have become more knowledgeable, with many carrying out their own research through the internet to determine their choice of destinations.”

He added that the state government had established smart partnerships with the private sector and many other stakeholders, including local communities, that would lead to the steady growth of the tourism industry to bring significant contribution to Sabah’s and national economies. This was reflected by the diversification of tourism products and growth of visitor arrivals.

All governments must recognised that tourism and its development needed to be sustainable for the long term and for the generation to benefit. This requires careful thought and planning from project design all the way to implementation.

Tourism in Malaysia is in many ways linked with the environment and this is why we advocate sustainable development of our resources, embracing both nature and culture.


World tourism bodies under the United Nations should develop measures for green tourism that can be adopted by nations developing their tourism industry.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said this could be done by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO), adding that the latest technology and information on green tourism should also be disseminated.

“There is a need to come out with clear guidelines, may be some standard approach on how this issue can be managed by governments and also by the various stakeholders,” he told reporters yesterday after opening the World Tourism Conference attended by about 500 delegates from 44 countries.

He said environment and conservation were important, and Malaysia wanted to push tourism into the forefront of generating revenue for the country while not harming the environment.

DPM also said tourists currently preferred to move away from cities and “head towards nature”.

“They want to go up the mountain, they want to enjoy the environment. These are the pristine values of tourism that need to be conserved for future generations,” he added.

Earlier in his speech, Tan Sri Muhyiddin said Malaysia was keen to develop green technology and implement the best practices in sustainable development to resolve adverse environmental issues frequently attributed to tourism.


Malaysia hosted the World Tourism Conference 2010 (WTC2010) in KotaKinabalu Monday after its record-breaking success in 2007.

Hosting the international event again proved that the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) – a United Nations agency – had great confidence in the country, said sources from the Tourism Ministry.

“It is indeed an important event for our country to be hosting an international conference. It provides a platform where world leaders can share with us their successful tourism stories,” Tourism Minister said.

“We believe that by sharing the experiences with over 43 countries, it will help increase total world tourism. It is about creating opportunity,” she added.

WTC2010 entitled “Tourism Success Stories and Rising Stars” brought together a wide range of world leaders from the tourism industry, high-level policymakers, specialists and experts to put forward ideas and provide guidance for future tourism development.

The conference aims to uncover the secrets of tourism’s leaders, learning from those destinations and organisations which have succeeded in tourism planning, development and marketing.
WTC 2010 was organised by the Tourism Ministry, the Government of Sabah and UNWTO from Oct 4 to 6 at Magellan Sutera, Sutera Harbour, in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Sabah was chosen as the venue as it is an established eco-tourism state.

The conference was graced by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin.
WTC was held for the first time in Manila, the Philippines, in 1980, followed by Acapulco, Mexico, in 1982.

After an absence of 25 years, the WTC returned for the third time in Kuala Lumpur in 2007.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


by Terence Fernandes

At a recent press conference Tourism Minister Dato Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen threw this challenge: "Do a comparative study on the expo on the cost of the Singapore, Saudi Arabian and UK pavilion."

Well, she’s right. In terms of cost, we spent far less than our southern neighbours who forked out RM90 million for their pavilion; the Saudis (a whopping RM492 million) and the British RM123 million.

But these pavilions embraced the expo’s theme of "Better City Better Life" perfectly capturing the essence of their people and national identity while giving a glimpse of the future. These pavilions have welcomed between five million and 10 million visitors compared to the 4.7 million who walked through our doors.

It is a given that Singapore’s futuristic "music box" pavilion would need deep pockets with its sound-and-light show and musical fountains that capture the essence of the garden city.

The 6,000 sq m Saudi pavilion features a "flying carpet" and the world’s largest Imax screen with 1,600 sq m of pixels. And the UK Pavilion showcases the best of Britain’s past, tourism and industry in a fibre optic shell that makes up the pavilion’s exterior.

Does RM35 million constitute money well spent on an exhibition to showcase leather goods, furniture, massage chairs and 3-in-1 coffee over a 3,000 sq m venue?

The Minister fired a final salvo when quizzed on my allegation that the construction of the pavilion was supervised by government officials instead of civil engineers. She said: "Why don’t you ask them (the contractor) or go visit for yourself. I have got no time (to) cushion-chair problems."

She said it is unfair to talk about the pavilion and its cost after one year. What? There’s now a statute of limitations to question officials over the use of public funds?

We will keep asking until we get satisfactory answers – and this includes the recipient of the ministry’s RM600 million advertising and promotions contract that is being decided.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


The BTTF 2010 was declared opened in Dhaka on Thursday 30 October by Bangladesh Minister of Civil Aviation and Tourism Hon Ghulam Muhammed Quader. Held at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka, the BTTF is the third organised by Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB).

It provide an excellent opportunity for local and foreign travel and tourism businesses to showcase their products and services. A huge number of committed business visitors were seen on opening day. The fair was opened to the public yesterday and will be opened until this evening.

Tourism Malaysia, headed by Salman Ahmad and assisted by Mushtak Ahmad Mustafa were seen busy answering questions from both the local and foreign visitors. Located at booth 27 and 28 Tourism Malaysia's present was strategic and there were many interests to come to Malaysia.

Although new to the MICE industry, TOAB has been successful in organising this show and not less 100,000 people are expected to visit the show during the two days opened to the public.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Business opportunities in the tourism sector

Tourism, one of the fastest growing sectors in Malaysia, was ranked number five after oil and gas, finance services, wholesale retail and palm oil as depicted by one of this exhibit boards displayed at the recent Economic Transformation Programme Open Day in Kuala Lumpur.

The exhibit also showed inbound tourism to be growing from RM29.7 billion in 2004 to RM53.3 billion in 2009 with the gross national income (GNI) per capita for the tourism sector at RM375 billion.

While our current GNI is RM37 billion, up from RM34 billion in 2009, the country’s aspiration is to enlarge this to RM97 billion in 2020.

Tremendous business opportunities abound for this sector. According to the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu), an estimated 45,000 additional taxis will be required by 2020, which also means we require more taxi drivers in terms of manpower.

Taxi drivers, who have daily interactions with tourists, would be one of the best brand ambassadors for the country if they are given proper training and incentives.

Pemandu also envisaged 830 new food and beverage outlets to be established and the demand for 7,500 more tour operators and guides in the country by 2020.

It is talking about enhancing the yield per visitor from RM1billion per week in 2009 based on the country’s tourism receipts of RM53 billion received last year and increasing it to RM3 billion per week in 2020 with the tourism receipts projected to reach RM168 billion by then.

Malaysia, which received 24 million tourist arrivals last year, is expected to increase it to 36 million by 2020.

Looking at the higher arrivals coming into Malaysia and the niche market segments like meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions that we hope to tap further into, we certainly need to look into the manpower needs for this sector, in particular training our front liners, including taxi drivers, to be more friendly and service oriented.