Thursday, 29 January 2015

Welcome Goat, may you goad us to greater heights 2015!

The sheep really gets my goat

The Horse is about to gallop off and in comes the Sheep ... or is it the Goat? Which is better?

THIS is the Year of the Yang. That’s the word in Mandarin for “a ruminant mammal, generally with horns on its head”. ( In Chinese, the goat is a homophone of yang and so represents the solar, masculine principle; it also signifies peace and the good)

To the Chinese, yang can refer to either sheep (mianyang) or goat (shanyang), so therein lies the confusion as to what animal is the eighth in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. To the Japanese, it’s the Year of the Sheep, to the Vietnamese, it’s the Goat, for the Koreans, it’s the Ram. The Chinese don’t mind either one.

But after a tumultuous Year of a runaway wild Horse, which would be a better animal for the year ahead? Let’s take a look at the characteristics of both cud-chewing critters, starting with the sheep.

According to David Murray in his essay, 12 Characteristics of Sheep, this is one stupid animal.

“I don’t know what sheep would score in an animal IQ, but I think they would be close to the bottom of the scale. They seem to only know how to do one thing well – eat grass (and produce more grass-eating sheep).

“It’s possible to know little, yet not be foolish; but not if you are a sheep. They are so irrational. You watch them as they pause in front of a stream. They know they can’t jump it or swim it. So what do they do? They jump in any way!” writes Murray, a pastor who got to know the animal well after 12 years in the sheep-infested Scottish Highlands.

Another characteristic is being slow to learn. Murray cites the example of a sheep getting caught in barbed wire while trying to break through a fence. Instead of learning from that painful lesson, it will do it again and again. That’s why sheep are dependent creatures, requiring close supervision by their shepherd, he adds.

Granted, scientists say new research shows sheep to be as intelligent as monkeys. But it will take a great deal more to change the long-held perception of this creature as being not just woolly on the body but in the head, too.

After all, we think “sheep” when it comes to mindlessly following the crowd, or for imitating what others do without understanding why.

Murray describes their behaviour thus: “When one sheep decides to start running, they all decide to start running. If you were able to ask one, ‘Why did you start running?’ it would say, ‘Well, because he started running.’ The next would say the same. And the next one. And when you got to the last sheep he would just say, ‘I dunno’.”

Goats, on the other hand, are described by animals.pawnation.com as “independent, intelligent and tolerant of interaction in general”. In other words, they don’t spook easily and don’t bunch together to graze.

The goat is also seen as a nimble, agile animal who can take on hilly terrain with ease. It’s even associated with determination for its ability to climb mountains and trees.

Because they are curious creatures, goats will try out new things and explore the unfamiliar – usually with their hyper-sensitive lips and tongue – and often end up chewing and eating strange stuff.

While the male goat is a symbol of virility and stamina, the female goat is a symbol for nurturing and nourishment. Which is why someone entrusted with looking after young children is called a nanny, which is a female goat.

After all that, which animal would you prefer for the Year of the Yang? My pick is the goat, for all the reasons I have listed.

We have enough of sheep-like behaviour from people who are spooked easily by certain groups and individuals using loud and intimidating tactics. What’s more, after being spooked, these people blindly and unquestioningly accept those noisy pronouncements and exhortations.

We also don’t need people who, like sheep, stick to their own kind, or harbour irrational fears and suspicions against their fellow citizens. Being more goat-like by mixing around and interacting with others is what we need more of in our society.

Neither can we afford any sheep-like slowness to learn and respond to the ever-changing socio-economic environment within and without the nation.

We can’t forever depend on a super shepherd (aka the Government) to think for and look after us. That has led to what we know as the crutch or subsidy mentality.

Of course Billy Goat has his critics too. Among Christians, being a sheep is preferable to a goat as the latter is depicted as devious and insincere in the famous parable about separating sheep from goats in favour of the sheep. There is also the view that goats are too independent and unpredictable to be good followers, unlike the mild and meek sheep.

Indeed, a citizenry can happily be meek and mild if there is a good shepherd who takes care of all its needs.

But this is not the time for meekness and mildness, but rather for fearlessness and fortitude.

We need to have both qualities if we as a nation are to hold fast against forces bent on tearing apart our multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious fabric. And if we are to compete on the global economic front, we need the goat-like sense of inquisitiveness and boldness to be innovative and explore new possibilities and ventures.

Critically, in such challenging times, we need leaders who are like mountain goats who can nimbly guide us on the rocky path ahead, and not silly sheep that jump into water without knowing how to swim.

All this will require a lot of ram-like determination and stamina – if not virility – from leaders and citizens. So I say “Welcome, Goat”, and may you goad us to greater heights!

 So Aunty, So What? by June H.L. Wong

 Aunty discovered that a possible explanation for the idiom, “really gets my/your goat”, which means something that really infuriates you, involves the olden-day practice of using goats as companions to racing horses to keep the latter calm. Hence, taking away the goat could upset the horse and affect its performance in a race! Feedback to junewong@thestar.com.my

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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Abe’s strategy clearer after Japanese ISIS hostage crisis


The release of a video on Saturday showing a message that Haruna Yukawa, one of the Japanese hostages captured by Islamic State (IS) militants, had been slaughtered, shocked both Japanese society and its Western allies. Official institutions in both Japan and the US consider the video is likely to be authentic.

The IS claimed last Tuesday it had abducted two Japanese and gave the Japanese government 72 hours to pay $200 million in ransom for the captives. The Abe administration was put in a conundrum. In front of requests from the victims' families to save the hostages, the Japanese government vowed it would never give in to terrorism on one hand, on the other, it displayed a high-profile stance of striving to free the hostages. But it's believed that the Abe administration would be unlikely to carry out a dramatic rescue, which has already decided the fate of the hostages.

The brutality of the IS has become well-known. They kill hostages in a cold-blooded manner. Now that Japan has become a victim of global terrorism, Tokyo may reassess the challenges it faces. In the past few years, Japanese rightists portrayed China as Japan's major threat, despite the fact that China has never infringed upon Japan over the past century. It's instead Japan that invaded China and persecuted Chinese people again and again.

The death of the hostage also offers a new excuse for Abe to lift the ban on collective self-defense. Abe will face fewer hurdles now if he decides to cooperate with the US strategic deployment and strengthen Japan's military activities in the Middle East and its security deployment in East Asia.

Some claimed that Abe is more concerned about promoting rightist policies than rescuing hostages. For the good of peace in East Asia and the Japanese public, we hope such analysis is just speculative. Japan is not capable of playing an active role in the Middle East. East Asian countries are not supposed to be key targets of the atrocious IS. The Japanese hostage case sends a warning signal.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the US has spent great efforts in ensuring its domestic security. However, US allies such as European countries and Japan have been constantly targeted by terrorism. It's worthwhile studying the underlying reasons.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo seemingly unveiled the conflicts between the whole of European society and the Muslim community, but it was striking to see how the US tries to remain neutral over the issue.

Having a geopolitical advantage, Japan should be a country without enemies. However, the country is plagued with a terrible mess in its national strategy. It misperceives China as an imaginary enemy. Tokyo's ultimate goal is said to be getting rid of US control, however, it is forced to defer to the US due to its confrontation with China. The killing of the Japanese hostage is more or less the price that Japan has paid for its support to Washington.

We strongly condemn the brutal killing by the IS. In the meantime, we hope Japanese public opinion will take a clear-cut attitude against any terrorist attack launched on China. - Global Times

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Monday, 26 January 2015

We need local councillors who can do the job

I REFER to the article “Local govt polls may cause racial polarisation” ( Sunday Star, Jan 25) and would like to share my views on matters.

The core functions of local government is to look at matters that are closest to the people.

Both the state and federal governments are too far from the people for them to have good understanding of the needs of the people at the micro level. Today the local authority has become a government agency and the councillors have been a rubber stamp of the decisions made by the local authority. Many who were appointed to the post lacks quality and knowledge in functions and power of a councillor.

Appointed councillors are political party nominees. The council seats are shared according to an agreed ratio among the component parties. They are not independent. Appointments are given as part of political rewards to grassroot party leaders.

At times decisions made by the council are not in the best interest of the people as for the councillors, party interest comes first. There are clear professional conflicts of interest between political parties nominees and between those meeting the needs the people.

In my area, the appointed councillors do not understand their role as councillors. They have been turned into “complaint centre” for people to bring their issues to the local authority.

These councillors have been assigned certain zones and have been tasked to look after drainage, rubbish collection and grass cutting.

They have very poor knowledge of the local authority by-laws. They fail to function as a “Board of Directors” of the local authority and provide the much needed check and balance between addressing the needs of the people and the local authorities.

While we can accept the point of maintaining the current system but we cannot accept the fact that the powers-that-be failed to nominate “independent people with strong knowledge on the governance of local authority” as specified under Section 10(2) in Act 171.

The law says that the state authority must appoint councillors who have wide experience in local government affairs or have achieved distinction in any profession, commerce or industry, or are otherwise capable of representing the interests of their communities in the local authority area.

Unfortunately the state government appoints party members who are grassroot leaders who in most cases do not meet the requirement of the law.

In Petaling Jaya, the capable ones were removed as councillors and replaced with mediocre group of people. In Ampang, we have unemployed party members and people with poor education background serving as councillors. They do not meet the requirement of the Local Council Act.

The question remains which political parties in power will be the first to push forward the agenda that focuses on the people and not their respective parties.

By Dr Mohamed Fafick Khan Ampang The Star/Asia News Network

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Sunday, 25 January 2015

Living life to the fullest

Chan, an avid mountaineer and myelofibrosis patient, with a photo of himself (in red jacket) and fellow climbers at the summit of Mount Kinabalu. Photo: UU BAN/The Star >>

Despite having a rare blood disorder, Tan Sri Chan Choong Tak not only continued his active lifestyle , but also took up mountain-climbing.

FORMER Dewan Negara president Tan Sri Chan Choong Tak’s motto in life is to live it to the fullest.

Not surprising then that among his many accomplishments are two Malaysian Book of Records titles as the oldest Malaysian to reach the top of Mount Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak (on Aug 31, 2003, at the age of 70) and the oldest Malaysian to reach the top of Mount Kinabalu’s King George Peak (on Aug 29, 2004, at the age of 71).

Uhuru Peak is the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro, which is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world (from sea level) and the tallest mountain in Africa, while King George Peak is located on the more challenging and lessclimbed Eastern Plateau of Mount Kinabalu, Sabah.

What makes these two records more significant – aside from the impressive fact that Chan only took up mountain-climbing in his sixties – is that he was suffering from a rare bone marrow disorder at the same time.

His condition, primary myelofibrosis, is one of a group of diseases called myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are caused by abnormal production of blood cells in the bone marrow.

In the case of myelofibrosis, the problem lies in the abnormally-increased production of megakaryocytes, which are the cells that directly give rise to platelets. This results in an initial increased number of platelets in the body.

Cytokines – protein growth factors that are produced by megakaryocytes – are also correspondingly increased.

And as these cytokines are what stimulate the bone marrow’s fibroblasts to produce collagen, this results in an excessive amount of collagen being made.

The collagen deposits in the bone marrow as webs of fibre – similar to scar tissue on the skin – resulting in the disease’s characteristic fibrosis of the bone marrow.

With the collagen taking up so much space in the bone marrow, regular blood cell production is disrupted.

Red blood cells (RBCs) are usually decreased in number and abnormally formed, resulting in anaemia, while white blood cells (WBCs) are abnormal and immature, resulting in increased infection rates.

With production of blood cells in the bone marrow disrupted, the spleen, which is the body’s secondary supplier of blood cells, steps up to meet the body’s needs.

This extra work usually causes the spleen to enlarge (splenomegaly), resulting in pain or a feeling of fullness below the left rib.

Occurring commonly in those above 50 years of age, myelofibrosis is caused by a spontaneous genetic mutation (i.e. not inherited) in the affected person’s blood stem cells. This is what causes the uncontrolled production of megakaryocytes.

The cause of the mutation itself in primary myelofibrosis is, as yet, unknown.

Accidental discovery

As the symptoms of myelofibrosis, like fatigue, shortness of breath, pallor, frequent infections and easy bruising, are quite vague, diagnosis can be quite difficult.

In Chan’s case, he did not notice any signs or symptoms of myelofibrosis prior to his diagnosis.

In fact, it was a combination of a road accident and his wife, Puan Sri Cecelia Chia’s sharp eyes that alerted them to the possibility of a problem.

He shares: “My son gave me a racing bike for my 60th birthday – that was 21 years ago. So, I used to cycle around. Then, I met with a road accident.”

Chan was cycling along the narrow, winding roads of his hillside residential area in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, when he suddenly met an oncoming car.

With no space to avoid the car, he braked hard and was thrown to the ground in a head-first fall.

“My helmet broke and I thought I would be paralysed. My friend, who is a doctor, straightaway rang up the hospital and they sent the ambulance,” he says.

Fortunately, Chan suffered no major injuries from the accident.

However, his cardiologist son insisted that he be checked more thoroughly for brain injuries, which resulted in him seeing a neurologist.

While his brain turned out to be fine, his wife noticed that his platelet count from the blood test were quite high – between 600,000 to 700,000 platelets per cubic millimetre, when the upper limit for normal is 400,000.

His son then sent him to consultant haematologist Dr Ng Soo Chin, who prescribed hydroxyurea to bring down his platelet count.

That seemed to work quite well for Chan, and it was, in fact, shortly after this that he began mountain-climbing with a group of fellow MBA (Masters of Business Administration) alumni from Tenaga Nasional Bhd.

Chan was then a director of the company, and had gone to Ohio University, United States, to study his MBA along with other Tenaga Nasional executives.

“So, as I climbed, I continued to take hydroxyurea and everything was normal.

“But Soo Chin said, hydroxyurea will eventually bring down your red corpuscles (another term for RBCs), and recommended anagrelide,” he says. Anagrelide is a platelet-reducing agent.

Accelerating disease

Chan continued happily with the two medications, until the year 2011, 18 years after his initial diagnosis.

By then, he was seeing consultant haematologist Datuk Dr Chang Kian Meng at Hospital Ampang, Selangor, as Dr Ng had advised him to continue his follow-ups at a public hospital as his medications are quite expensive.

Chan shares that Dr Chang started him on epoetin alfa and pegylated interferon that year as his blood cell levels were fluctuating.

While interferon decreases the production of blood cells in general, epoetin alfa stimulates the production of RBCs to counteract the effects of anaemia.

However, his haemoglobin levels dropped even further, and he started requiring blood transfusions about once every two months.

The transfusions made a big difference as he reports feeling “very energetic” after receiving the first one. (Fatigue is a common symptom of anaemia.)

The following year, it was the WBCs turn to go “completely haywire”, when a blood test revealed that they had dramatically increased to about 56 from the regular range of about 4 to 10.

He also started experiencing profuse night sweats and cramps, along with the occasional itchiness that had started in his seventies – all of which are among the symptoms of myelofibrosis.

“Then, both Dr Chang and Soo Chin agreed that I had entered into myelofibrosis in acceleration,” he says.

The only cure for myelofibrosis is a bone marrow transplant, but aside from the difficulty of finding a suitable donor and the riskiness of the procedure, Chan’s age rendered him unsuitable for such a treatment.

Fortunately for him, a new drug had recently been approved by both the European Commission and the United States Food and Drug Administration for use in myelofibrosis at that time.

A new drug

The drug, ruxolitinib, inhibits certain enzymes in the JAK pathway, which regulates blood cell production. Half of primary myelofibrosis cases are caused by mutations in the JAK genes, which results in the dysfunctional production of blood cells in the bone marrow.

However, the drug was not available in Malaysia then. (It was only launched in the Malaysian market in 2013.)

This is where his political connections as a Gerakan life member and former secretary-general came in useful.

Then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon offered to help pass on the letter Chan had written to the Health Ministry requesting approval to use the drug on compassionate grounds, to the Health secretary-general.

Four days later, Chan received the approval he needed, and received his first dose of ruxolitinib in October 2012.

Since then, after some adjustments in dosage, Chan’s blood cells are back in the normal range and his last transfusion was in December 2013.

He is currently doing well enough for his doctor to lower his dosage of ruxolitinib, while still taking epoetin alfa and interferon.

Life goes on as normal for this active 81-year-old, who still climbs hills, reads newspapers of various languages and blogs daily, works out in the gym and does regular morning calisthenics.

Of his condition, Chan shares that he never felt the need to know about the disease, being only interested in his blood test results.

“I didn’t know what myelofibrosis was all about until I was asked to do this interview. That was the first time I went into Google to see what was myelofibrosis,” he says with a laugh.

“But I knew it was a dangerous disease, but I wasn’t bothered. I continued to carry on with my normal life.”

He adds: “I’m not bothered with what happens because I have full trust in my doctors.

By Tan shiow China The Star/ANN

 Related:


101 Ways To Live Your Life To The Fullest personalexcellence.co/blog/101-ways-to-live-your-life-to-the-fullest/  - If your answer to any of the above is a no, maybe or not sure, that means you're not living your life to the fullest.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

US: an engine or a threat to the world economy? Unwise to write shortsighted rules!


Is the US an engine or a threat to the world economy?

According to the World Economic Outlook published by the World Bank, the international economy is forecast to grow by 3 percent in 2015 and 3.3 percent in 2016. The US and the UK will maintain their economy recovery while Japan and the eurozone will remain sluggish, with growth forecast at no more than 1.1 percent. The World Bank also predicted that the US economy will grow by 3.2 percent in 2015. Developing countries are facing lots of challenges in its economic development.

The US seems to be the only engine of the world economy. But the US Federal Reserve is likely to raise its interest rate from 0 to 0.25 percent. The World Bank worries that any such move will make it more difficult for emerging economies to raise money. The US has emerged from its financial crisis while other countries are still trapped in economic troubles. From this perspective it is hard to assess whether the US is an engine or a threat to the world economy.

There is still a worry that Greece will exit the eurozone. If this happens, the eurozone will be thrown into turmoil. In Japan, so-called "Abenomics" have failed to generate the anticipated results. Russia and Venezuela are each facing their own troubles and threats.

The US economy is closely linked to the whole. Only when other economies achieve sound development, can the US economy maintain sustainable development. The US can't just focus on its own development.

This article was edited and translated from 《美国是引擎还是威胁?》, source: People's Daily Overseas Edition, Author: Zhang Hong

It is unwise for the U.S. to write shortsighted rules

In the latest State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama mentioned China many times. He claimed that China wants to write the rules for the world's fastest-growing region (Asia-Pacific) but the U.S. should write those rules. He went on to urge Congress to give him the authority to promote trade with this region.

Obama is setting considerable store by the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP) Agreement (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). These trans-regional trade and investment agreements are designed to increase America's competitiveness and encourage its exports. Although Obama's government has tried hard to promote these agreements and to make his mark on presidential history in the U.S., parts of the bills of the two agreements are opposed by some of the negotiation partners, and it is not clear whether Congress will support the agreements.

The U.S. is avoiding queries over its strategic rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific. The American government cannot give a clear answer to whether TPP targets any specific country. However Obama has now made his position clear: "We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair."

It is readily apparent that America is not satisfied with international trade rules set by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Some countries are trying to break rules while China is attempting to set rules for the world's fastest-growing region. However, China's efforts could undermine American interests. Obama hold the view that China is taking advantages of existing free trade rules and it is not fair to the U.S.

It is not wrong for America to benefit from reform of international trade rules. But from a country good at promoting global rules in the past to one now busy promoting trans-regional rules between Asia and Europe, America's leadership in international system gradually fades out. The U.S. thinks that it has suffered losses from past world trade rules and therefore wants to establish new trans-regional institutions that exclude China and other counties.

America is no longer a country positively promoting global financial trade rules. It now seems to be focused on short-term rules to suit itself and a few allies. Although these agreements will co-exist with the WTO, world trade may become more fragmentized due to trans-regional agreements. A conflict of interests is slowly developing between a group of developed countries, including America, and the developing countries. Trade interests between developing countries might also be damaged. In view of this situation, it is hard to say that the world will be freer or fairer.

Are the trade rules established by WTO really unfair? The U.S. thinks that the standards involving environmental protection, intellectual property protection, and markets are too low. However, America should always bear in mind that it too encountered these problems during its industrialization. Progress was achieved only after a long period. If America remains reluctant to cooperate with other countries to define international rules, it might lose international respect and miss out on new opportunities for development.

The article is edited and translated from 《美国切莫制定短视规则(望海楼)》, source: People's Daily Overseas Edition, author: Shen Dingli, Vice Dean and professor of Institute of International Studies, Fudan University

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Friday, 23 January 2015

Don't worry about China slowdown !


Last evening, Beijing time, Premier Li gave the most anticipated speech at Davos. One day after China's GDP came in at 7.4 percent, Li assured the packed audience, of international business and government leaders, that China will avoid a hard landing, continue its ongoing reform and restructuring and ensure a prolonged period of sustainable future medium-to-fast growth.

Even before the release of the GDP numbers, a number of Western media and policy pundits were predicting a China stall. Issues with the real estate sector, local government debt, SOE intransience, shadow banking, over capacity and a weak global economy were cited as the factors which would continue to push growth rates lower in the future. But even amongst the hardened doubters, there were signs of dissension, with the Wall Street Journal grudgingly indicating respect for China's handling of its economic affairs.


Premier Li: Don't worry about a China slowdown

The 2014 results represented the slowest growth in 24 years and the first time the government has missed its target on the downside. But Li was in no way defensive, while acknowledging China's 10-trillion-dollar economy will continue to face downward pressures in 2015, Li indicated that the country will avoid systemic financial risks and will improve its quality of growth to ensure an "appropriate" pace of expansion. The rise in urban and rural employment numbers, rising real income levels, moderate inflation, a 50 percent individual savings rate, a 5 percent decrease in energy per unit of GDP, significant growth in China's tertiary industries/services and record numbers of new businesses, added meat to his assertions.

Li, in essence continued the line of thought he voiced at the Summer Davos in Tianjin, where he indicated China's actions are predicated on the realization that its economic growth pattern wasn't sustainable and that to avoid the "Middle Income Trap" China's economic engine needed to be restructured to be more efficient and competitive.

Highlights

"We will continue to pursue a proactive fiscal policy and a prudent monetary policy," Li said. "We will step up anticipatory adjustment and fine-tuning as well as targeted macro-regulation, in order to stabilize economic growth, upgrade its structure and achieve better quality and performance."

Li is clear that China does not regard the fiscal and monetary policy tools Western governments are limited to, as an effective means of transforming its economy.

"For the Chinese economy to maintain medium-to-high speed of growth and achieve medium-to-high level of development," Li said, "China must properly use the hand of the government and the hand of the market, and give full scope to both the traditional and new engines of growth."

This highlights a sharp contrast between China's "Big Hand" (government) over the "Invisible Hand" (market) approach, and Western democratic/capitalist models, which put the market on top and government as a kind of enabling and clean up mechanism.

"To foster a new engine of growth," Li said, "we need to encourage mass entrepreneurship and innovation, and mobilize the wisdom and power of the people."

The word innovation was repeated 33 times during Li's Summer Davos speech and it continues to be central to Li's vision of a more prosperous China. With 3 of the top 5 mobile phone manufactures and a host of other technological innovators like Alibaba and Tencent, there is a new sense of confidence within and outside about China's future.

"To transform the traditional engine of growth, we need to focus on increasing the supply of public goods and services, and strengthening the weak link of the economy," the premier said.

This references the need to make China's SOEs, government and financial sectors more efficient and responsive to the needs and pressures of the market.

China, he added, "will continue to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and open up its service sector, central and western regions as well as the capital market wider to the outside world."

This is a list of areas which China will be opening up to more investment internally and externally. The Shanghai FTZ has been used as a model and will be extended to Fujian, Tianjin and Guangzhou. They represent the cutting edge of a new kind of economic development platform which will be extended inland once the models have been proven.

"China will encourage its companies to explore the international market, and work for common development with other countries through greater openness towards each other," Li said.

Premier Li is signaling strong support for globalization and indicating a desire to work regionally and internationally to create better trade mechanisms. The New Silk Road, extension of transportation infrastructure into Southeast Asia, AIIB, BRICS Bank etc… are strong indicators of this desire which is essential to China's resources imports and finished goods exports.

So, what can we expect from China, the second largest economy in the world in 2015?

Some say the single biggest risk for the economy is still the interlinked and rising problems associated with shadow banking, local government and corporate debts and a stagnant real estate sector. But at about 54 percent of China's GDP, China's debt is far below most developed nations. The key will be how local governments are funded and regulated. This touches on the real estate sector as well which is badly in need of reform but because it represents 25 percent of the economy it must be handled carefully.

Continued increase in consumption. Consumption now accounts for 51.2 percent of GDP in China. Though it is still considerably lower than the 70 percent average for the developed countries, it continues to move in a positive direction. The services sector has now overtaken the industrial sector as the largest segment of the Chinese economy and seems to be following the government's playbook to re-balance the economy.

China is developing more confidence in its ability to innovate and lead cutting-edge FMCG markets and this trend will continue further balancing the public-investment and export-driven, forces which drove the economy in the past.

China has also taken some steps to solve its overcapacity issues. A two pronged approach which is shifting heavy industrial capacity in areas like transportation infrastructure to projects in neighboring areas and the world stage. For example the merging of China's major railroad companies and the projects they will being doing in the Mekong delta region. The second prong is the identification and closing of first and second generation industrial plants which is how China has been able to achieve a 5 percent increased efficiency in energy use per unit of GDP.

In the financial sector expect more pressure on the big banks to be more SME focused in exchange for more liberal controls of lending and deposit rates. An example: the lifting of the deposit rate ceiling, the deposit insurance draft plan being considered and the new property registration system will standardize the markets and provide new financial product opportunities. To make things more transparent the government has adopted new budgetary laws, local government debt regulations and encouraged state-owned enterprises to adopt mixed ownership structures.

It is clear though that fiscal and monetary policy will be part of the symphony not the main players. Premier Li was clear that he opposed another monetary stimulus to push growth rates and instead, would rely primarily on structural reforms. A thought which was expressed in Davos on Wednesday, by Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, who also expressed a willingness to sacrifice growth for stability.

"If China's economy slows down a bit, but meanwhile is more sustainable for the medium and long term, I think that's good news," he said.

China's growth cannot be delinked from the global context. As the main driver of the world's economy since the US mortgage crisis meltdown, China has taken on a new role. Just as importantly and expanding China needs access to raw materials if it intends to consume and export finished goods. A resurgent US will help China, but a stagnating EU will hurt it. These seem to be the dominant trends which WTO started and which will carry on for some years.

The premier said China will go full speed ahead with liberalizing interest rates, allowing markets to play a greater role in setting prices, in forging trade agreements and opening up its financial system.

"We will not be afraid of difficulties, and we will continue to move along the path of reform and restructuring," Li said.

All of this, he suggested, was not only in China's interests but also that of the global economy.

"China's reform and development will bring more opportunities for the world."

China Economic path firm, despite lower growth

Since China revealed its 2014 annual growth rate of 7.4 percent on Tuesday, there has been heated discussion worldwide. Some observers cited the figure, the lowest in China since 1990, as proof of the lost glory of the Chinese economy.

Several Western institutes predicted that China's economic growth would tumble to about 6.5 percent in 2015 and some even proclaimed that 2015 would be the last year that China would see growth figures above 6 percent. Last week, a column in the Financial Times said the Indian economy may outstrip China's this year.

When China's GDP growth was above 10 percent, many voices expounded that such a high rate would be harmful. However, just as China is committed to economic restructuring and a turn to the "new normal," there appears to be more catcalls and scary predictions for the future. We have to be unswerving in our commitment not to return to the GDP-oriented path.

GDP figures are so favored by the media as they are easy to grasp. But China has passed the era of GDP-fixation and Chinese people now harbor more expectations for economic development. Despite continued pursuit of wealth, we highly value safety, environmental protection, equal opportunity and explicit rules. With money, there should also be dignity.

Chinese economic and social development has entered an era of multiple targets, which will become more effective. But sometimes the effects are invisible. This makes it harder to measure than what GDP does.

It's different in India. Long overshadowed by China, it is keen to become the best in some aspects. It is in dire need of evidence to show that it is not inferior to China.

Even if the Indian economy does outstrip China's one day, the impact on the Chinese public will be far less than on its own people, since India has been waiting for the outcome for so long. The West seems to be also long expecting the day. Some Western media attach more significance to India's overtaking China than Chinese people do.

China's GDP growth is unlikely to always rank top of the global list and we won't modify our set direction in social and economic development.

The "new normal" in the Chinese economy doesn't mean stagnation nor recession, but a strategic adjustment toward quality and sustainable development. We have such a widespread capacity to push forward economic and social development and meet people's expectations for a better life.

China's growth of 7 percent maintained in the period of economic and social restructuring is no less significant than 10 percent in the past times of extensive development. While the Chinese government is capable of achieving higher growth, its choice of lowering the rate deserves more praise.

China has never been applauded by the West in its development since the end of the Cold War. We have grown used to this. We need to stay firm to achieve our target of deepening reform.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

West should end its hypocrisy on anti-terror war!

Chinese and Russian policemen attend a joint anti-terror drill in Manzhouli City, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Oct 20, 2014. [Photo/Xinhua]

Senior US leaders invited sharp criticism at home for not attending last week's solidarity rally in Paris against the terrorist attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in which 12 people were killed. As a result, US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Paris this week to make up for the mistake.

However, terrorist attacks on innocent civilians in Nigeria, where Boko Haram fighters killed hundreds of, if not more, ordinary people early this month, have not received the same attention in the US and the Western world as the Paris attack. Yet such double standards and hypocrisy of the Western world is nothing new.

Over the past few years, the US and some Western countries have not responded to the terrorist attacks against innocent civilians in Beijing, Kunming and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region the way they reacted to the Paris attack.

On several occasions, US State Department spokespersons have used the excuse that they need more information and investigation into the incidents in China to condemn them as terrorist attacks. But they did not ask any such question after the Paris attack.

Some Western news organizations have refused to describe the perpetrators at Kunming railway station in Yunnan province as terrorists, insisting on calling them "knife-wielding attackers". And on the rare occasions that they have used the word terrorist, they put it within quotation marks as if the ruthless killers in China were any different from those in Paris or elsewhere in the Western world. One CNN report even posed the question, "Terrorism or Cry of Desperation?", as if killing innocent civilians in China can be somehow justified.

Even though China and the US have common interests in fighting terrorism, some Americans still seem to believe that only those setting off bombs in New York are terrorists while those doing the same in Beijing or any other Chinese city demand a different description.

The West's double standards are not restricted to China and Nigeria. The decade-old wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, but the mainstream media outlets in the US have largely ignored the tragedies and focused on the loss of their own troops.

If the number of civilian casualties is a measure of the intensity of a terrorist attack, tragedies like the Sept 11, 2001, attacks have occurred multiple times in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Western media don't seem to care much about them.

Some Western observers have even found excuses for West's inadequate response to the terrorist attacks in Kunming on March 1 last year in which 31 were killed and 141 injured. But by failing to immediately condemn the attacks against innocent civilians in Kunming and Xinjiang, these people have by default condoned the action of the perpetrators.

It is true that terrorists in the eyes of some could be freedom fighters in the eyes of others. That is why Osama bin Laden was a freedom fighter to the US in the 1980s but a top terrorist in the 21st century. And Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela was still on the US terrorism watch list as late as 2008, years after stepping down as South Africa's president.

There is no doubt that the US and its allies have failed miserably in their "war on terror" despite the more than 1,000 air strikes launched against the Islamic State group. In spite of the heavy bombardments, we have seen terrorists gaining strength and spreading their tentacles to more areas across the world.

And the Western world responds to this deadly threat with double standards.

By Chen Weihua China Daily/Asia News Network

The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA. chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com

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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Malaysia revised budget 2015: cuts RM5.5 bil, deficit target 3.2%, focus on manufactured goods

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak delivers his speech on the revision of the Budget 2015 at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre today. He said a slew of cuts amounting to RM5.5 billion will take place as part of Putrajaya’s proactive measures. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, January 20, 2015.



Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today announced a slew of budget cuts amounting to RM5.5 billion as part of Putrajaya’s “proactive measures” to align itself with plunging global oil prices and revised world economic growth projections.

The cuts would come from the Budget 2015’s operational expenditures that were initially set at RM223.4 billion, while the RM48.5 billion for development would remain untouched, Najib said in his speech today at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre.

Also, the fiscal deficit target of 3% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the year has been revised to 3.2%.

Najib said this was still lower than 2014’s fiscal deficit of 3.5%. The "proactive measures" to achieve the RM5.5 billion savings are:

“(The government will) optimise outlays on supplies and services, especially overseas travel, events and functions and use of professional services. This will result in savings of RM1.6 billion.

“Second, defer the 2015 Program Latihan Khidmat Negara (National Service) to enable the programme to be reviewed and enhanced, with savings expected at RM400 million.

“Third, review transfers and grants to statutory bodies, GLCs, Government Trust Funds, particularly those with a steady revenue stream and high reserves. This measure will result in savings of RM3.2 billion.

“Fourth, reschedule the purchase of non-critical assets, especially office equipment, software and vehicles, with an expected savings of RM300 million.”

Najib said Putrajaya’s revenue would be enhanced by encouraging companies to register with the Royal Malaysian Customs to enable them to charge and collect the goods and services tax (GST).

He estimated that broadening the tax base would contribute an additional RM1 billion.

Putrajaya would also realise additional dividends from GLCs and GLICs as well as other government entities amounting to RM400 million, said Najib.

He added that the revisions to the budget were necessary as Putrajaya would otherwise face a revenue shortfall of RM8.3 billion due to falling crude oil prices, despite savings of RM10.7 billion after doing away with fuel subsidies.

“Without any fiscal measures, the deficit will increase to 3.9% of GDP against the target of 4% for 2015.

“This requires the government to take measures to reduce the deficit, in line with the government’s commitment towards fiscal consolidation.”

Najib said the GDP growth target between 5% and 6% had been revised to between 4.5% to 5.5%.

To ensure economic growth remained strong, he said Putrajaya would boost exports of goods and services, enhance private consumption, and accelerate private investment.

Among its strategies are postponing the scheduled electricity tariff and gas price hike, and increasing nationwide mega sales.

Meanwhile, Najib announced an initial allocation of RM800 million for the repair and construction of basic infrastructures affected by the recent floods, and another RM893 million for flood mitigation projects.

These included building eight-foot high stilt houses for those who have land and whose homes were damaged by the floods, and handing over 1,000 units of low-cost homes in Gua Musang, Kelantan.

As he concluded his speech, he told Malaysians the country was not in a financial crisis or recession, but simply taking pre-emptive measures.

“We are neither in recession nor a crisis as experienced in 1997, 1998 and 2009, which warranted stimulus packages.

“The strategies announced by the government are proactive initiatives to make the necessary adjustments following the challenging external developments which are beyond our control.

“This is a reality check following, among others, declining global crude oil prices,” he added. – January 20, 2015.

By ANISAH SHUKRY The Malaysian Insider

Focus on Malaysian-manufactured goods




PETALING JAYA: The impact of the reduction in global oil prices from US$100 to US$40 per barrel can be offset by a rise in demand for Malaysian-manufactured goods, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (pic) on Tuesday.

Najib, who announced revisions to the 2015 Budget which was tabled in October 2014, said that this could be done as crude oil only makes up 4.5% of the nation's total exports.

"The reduction in the price of crude oil will indirectly increase demand in Malaysia-made products. We will actively promote 'import-substitution' to reduce our dependency on external sources to obtain goods and services," said Najib.

He added that the Government initiatives would be created to increase the use of the private sector.

"We will give priority to local Class G1 (Class F), G2 (Class E) and G3 (Class D) contractors registered with the Construction Industry Development Board to carry out recovery works in their local areas affected by the east coast flood," said Najib.

He added that the Government would intensify promotions encouraging the public to buy made-in-Malaysia products.

"We will increase the frequency and duration of mega sales throughout the nation, and intensify domestic tourism promotions by offering competitive airfares," said Najib.

He also said that the Government would encourage the private sector to reap opportunities created by the Asean Economic Community.

"We will also intensify programmes to boost exports of Malaysian goods in 46 nations across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and America," said Najib.

In his speech, Najib said the adjustment to the 2015 Budget was necessary to "ensure our economy continues to attain respectable and reasonable growth, and development for the nation and rakyat continues" as the 2015 Budget was based on the price of crude oil remaining at US$100 per barrel.

"Based on a crude oil price of US$100 per barrel and taking government saving measures and retail price controls into account, the Government was expected to have a fiscal profit of RM3.7bil. However, with the current price of oil at US$55 a barrel, the government will lose RM13.8bil in income," said Najib.

By Tan Ti Liang The Star/Asia News Network

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Sunday, 18 January 2015

Malaysian worked as janitor is a serious innovator

TV star: Dr Walter showing the company’s big LED television.

From Janitor to serious innovator

MALACCA: As a university student, he worked as a janitor to earn some pocket money.

Dr Gabriel Walter, 37, who studied electrical engineering at an American university, now holds about 100 patents in electronic and electrical innovations.

The Kelabit boy from Bario, Sarawak, wants to break the monopoly of foreign brands selling their products at exorbitant prices.

For example, he has introduced a big screen light emitting diode (LED) television, which includes all connecting gadgets, and priced at about RM6,000 compared to popular foreign brands that can cost almost RM20,000.

There is also a smartphone application, costing just a few hundred ringgit, that can integrate home appliances with just a cyberspace connectivity.

“I am determined to make available quality, feature-perfect appliances that can communicate with any other devices in an ad hoc network with a single connectivity.

“All these wonders are packaged and assembled here and sold at affordable prices. It is a Malaysian invention,” he said in an interview.

Dr Walter, who was a Mara scholar, studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he earned a doctorate.

He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor from 2003 to 2009 at the university, where he was also once a senior research scientist.

Despite his long list of achievements, Dr Walter has not forgotten his humble beginnings where his father used to live in a longhouse.

At a tender age, he started selling groundnuts to help supplement the family income.

“Life was hard then. I used to work as a janitor when I was studying in the United States as the scholarship was only adequate to cover my education,” he said.

Several months ago, Dr Walter returned to Malaysia for good after receiving a government grant of RM2mil for research and development before setting up his own manufacturing plant in Batu Berendam.

“I must thank former Chief Minister Tan Sri Ali Rustam who was persistent that I should set up a plant in Malacca when he first met me in 2006 during a bio-tech conference in the United States,” he said.

Dr Walter established Quantum Electro Opto Systems Sdn Bhd (QEOS) and launched its first commercial product based on its patented high-speed light-emitting technology known as tilted charge dynamics in 2013.

QEOS is based here with an office in the Silicon Valley, California, where Dr Walter is the chief executive officer.

His university mentors – professors Nick Holonyak Jr and Milton Feng – are part of his team.

The QEOS website stated that Prof Nick Holonyak Jr is widely regarded as the inventor of LED.

The company, it said, wanted to “pioneer the commercial development of high speed, low-cost and power efficient fiber optics communication solutions”.

By R.S. N. Murali The Star/ANN

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Thursday, 15 January 2015

Chinese women's marriage criteria,logical search for a mate

72% of women consider housing as a key requirement for a marriage partner, says the latest report of the Chinese Marriage Status Survey 2014, issued by China’s leading marriage service provider Baihe.com on Jan.11, 2015.

Researchers collected the results of 73,215 online questionnaires and held in-depth off-line interviews with 200 single men and women from 34 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.

Why still single?

The report shows that 63% of single men and women spend an average of more than six hours alone on their rest days; and 32% spend more than 10 hours alone. Surfing the internet, hanging out with friends, and just “quietly” staying at home have become the top three activities for single people.

32% of single women follow TV dramas while 67% of men scan websites, killing their private time at home.

The report concludes that the main reasons for remaining single is too much time spent alone - too few social contacts is the top obstacle to meeting the right person. 80% of single women report this.

Gender differences in marriage requirements

Nowadays, love is no longer the only passport for two people to enter marriage. The report says that more than 40% of single men and women are only willing to get married with a person in a suitable situation. People are becoming ever more rational and realistic when choosing their spouses.

The top three concerns for single men are appearance, physical health, and emotional experience. Single women attach more importance to a partner’s financial situation, physical health, and career.

33% of single men and 27% of single women have experienced interference from parents in their relationships.

Focus on housing

The report shows that 71% of women view housing as a key requirement for a potential marriage partner. 18% of women counted car ownership as one of the basic requirements, a rise of 9% compared with 2012. Both men and women said that a stable income and some savings were important factors.

Nearly 60 percent of women do not intend to have a second child, according to the report, although China has relaxed its birth control policy to allow couples to have a second child if either parent is an only child.

The report also shows that 33% of women think that Chinese men do not deserve Chinese women, in terms of "self-accomplishments and ability to care for themselves." - (People's Daily Online)

The logical search for a mate

‘Love’ takes a back seat when seeking prospective life partners

LOVE is not the only criterion for marriage in China. A recent survey shows that more than 40% of Chinese look to marry someone who suits them in appearance, educational background, social status, income and other characteristics.

Baihe.com, a major dating portal in China, released its 2014 Chinese Marriage Status Survey Report on Sunday.

The site has tracked marriage trends in the country since 2007.

The latest results show that 44.4% of male and 49.7% of female respondents said the reasons for their choice of a marriage partner include their prospective mate’s coming from a family of equal social rank.

“This means people are much more rational when it comes to the marriage decision,” the report said.

“They would like to match each other under every single standard. Love is no longer the only pass.”

The report also said that more than 70% of female respondents said they would consider marriage only if the male partner owns property.

And more than 70% of the women hoped their future husband’s income would be double their own.

Zhou Xiaopeng, the chief marriage consultant at Baihe.com, characterised the phenomenon as “supermarket marriage”, where people come with “money in hand” and want to select the best “products” after shopping around.

Tu Ying, a researcher at the portal, said that seeking a partner with quantifiable requirements is efficient.

“In everyday life, it is more and more difficult to find the right person and get to know him or her – not to mention the cost it comes with,” Tu said. “If people start with quantifiable standards, and then develop their relationship based on that, it is more likely to be a stable relationship.

“Starting marriage with money cannot guarantee stability from the beginning.

“Every relationship needs cultivation from each side.”

Zhou Xiaozheng, a professor of sociology at Renmin University of China, attributes the new approach to marriage choices to changes in society.

“Chinese people’s view of choosing a mate has undergone many changes,” Zhou said.

“In the past, marriage was arranged by parents, which reflected the will of family or country. Then it became a personal choice, or socalled love choice. And now it is more related to material standards, or what we call materialism in marriage.”

“This is simply because people live in a materialistic world: A couple needs an apartment to live in, which costs a lot; the couple needs to find a good school for their children, which costs a lot; the couple who live far away from their parents need to find a way to support them, which also costs a lot,” Zhou said. “It is a vicious circle.”

Zhou said to reverse the materialistic trend, the country needs to continue its anti-corruption campaign and improve social welfare, and young people need to know that money is not the solution to everything. - China Daily/Asia News Network

Will shale oil survive the price fall?

American shale oil enterprise WBH Energy filed for bankruptcy on January 4, 2015. This could be the beginning of a shakeout of shale oil enterprises. Since 2010, the debt of America's energy enterprises has increased 55 percent; meanwhile, the energy sector of S&P 1500 index has dropped rapidly. The shale oil revolution has not only been stricken by the low oil price, but also "abandoned" by investors. As liquidity runs short, small and medium-sized shale oil enterprises will either go bankrupt or be taken over if they survive the oil price crisis.


The reason for the oil price slump is becoming clearer: oversupply. However, since oil producers will not reduce output, the downward trend continues. Canadian heavy crude has dropped below 35 USD, a new low since February 2009. In the past six months, the price has fallen by 60 percent. We can say that the shale oil revolution is being blocked by the low oil price - in other words, it is being hindered by OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), principally represented by Saudi Arabia. When the oil price dropped below 50 USD, OPEC had a meeting seeking consensus on maintaining oil output. The average production cost of OPEC is about 40 USD, while the cost of shale oil is above 60 USD. As long as the price is above 40 USD, OPEC can still make profit, but the shale oil enterprises will be squeezed out.

At the end of 2014, in order to exploit the market for US oil producers, the US Department of Commerce lifted the ban on the export of condensate oil. The US has ended its 40-year oil export ban to join in competition with the other oil producers, which means that on the one hand the US has become an international oil producer, while on the other hand shale oil has had a huge impact on the world energy structure, and the world oil market has excess production capacity. For the US, shale oil has provided a new economic growth point and provided additional chips when competing with other oil producing countries. Therefore, the US government will offer necessary supports to shale oil enterprises. However, the market cannot be easily manipulated by one or two countries. The US wanted a moderate drop in the oil price, which would stimulate its economy as well as "fix" those insubordinate oil producing countries. But the downward trend of the oil price has been irresistible, and now threatens the survival of the American shale oil industry.

Faced with the falling oil price, shale oil enterprises, with their relatively high production costs, have entered a crucial phase of life and death. Unless all the oil producing countries join hands to limit production and achieve a rebalancing of supply and demand, the oil price will not rebound in the short term. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries blame the oil price crisis on the irresponsible behavior of non-OPEC oil producing countries, which in fact targets the shale oil producers.

TThe new energy industry is suffering under the impact of the falling oil price too. The stock price of electric vehicle producer Tesla is also in a slump. But for the shale oil enterprises, this is an issue of life or death. - (People's Daily Online)

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Thursday, 8 January 2015

Success factors: higher education, right skills and knowledge


Young people are aware that career success is only possible if they pursue higher studies and are armed with the right skills and knowledge.

AS the demand for highly skilled and knowledgeable workers intensifies in the knowledge-based economy, so does the demand for higher education.

Indeed, higher education plays an increasingly significant role in this dynamic and integrated world economy.

There is much evidence in research literature that show the positive correlation between higher education and economic development.

In addition, pursuing higher education is seen as an important pathway to career success. However, as tertiary studies become more accessible to the masses, there are concerns on the value of higher education.

Based on the classification of the Education Ministry, the higher education sector in Malaysia consists primarily of universities, university colleges, colleges, polytechnics and community colleges.

An online survey was conducted recently where 298 respondents participated. More than 80% of the respondents were students in public and private higher education institutions in Malaysia while the rest were random respondents.

The data from this survey was collected through the UTAR (Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman) Opinion Poll (http://poll.utar.edu.my/), an online platform developed by the varsity to collect public opinion on current issues, particularly issues faced by youth in the country.


Seeking jobs

The survey revealed that the two reason for pursuing a university or college education were to get a decent job and earn a higher salary.

The value of higher education in providing access to improved jobs, better earnings and career prospects is an important driving force for people to invest in higher education.

Other important values of higher education as highlighted in the survey include promoting social mobility and gaining self-fulfilment.

In the survey, when respondents were asked about what kind of knowledge should be emphasised and delivered by higher education, students and non-student respondents gave somewhat different feedback.

Student respondents placed great emphasis on the provision of professional knowledge that would prepare them with the information and knowledge required for a professional career while career-related knowledge came in second.

For non-student respondents (consisting of respondents working in different professions and 67% of them have a degree), they are of the opinion that higher education should firstly prepare students for good citizenship and to be well-versed in general knowledge.

This was then followed by the preparation for a professional career and a job.

The survey also revealed that vocational or technical knowledge to prepare students with technical skills has not been seen as a priority for higher education.

Due to the burgeoning number of higher education institutions, particularly private higher education institutions in the country since the introduction of the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act in 1996, higher education has changed from a social institution to an industry and is increasingly perceived as a profit-making industry.

About 75% of the respondents felt that higher education was becoming “commercialised” and profit-oriented, thus creating the varying standards of higher education institutions, and the programmes offered in the country.

The diverse quality has somehow contributed to the diminishing value of a higher education degree.

It has also led to the distorting job market signalling effect of an academic degree in the employment market.

Hence, more efforts in screening and filtering are required during recruitment to help employers hire the right candidate with the relevant requirements.

In order to ensure the quality of higher education in the country, it is crucial for the authorities to develop a reliable and effective mechanism to closely monitor and assess the quality of teaching and learning in higher education institutions in Malaysia.

“Too-examination oriented” is the general perception of the respondents (78.3%t) on the current higher education system in Malaysia.

This is associated with the feedback that higher education institutions should provide more practical training opportunities and industry exposure to students.

The curriculum design should consider incorporating innovative teaching and learning methods. This would include problem-based learning, project-based assignments, case studies or experiential learning, rather than the traditional lecture-based method.

Internship is found to be an effective way for students to gain hands-on learning experience.

Non-student respondents were asked to give comments and their perception on the performance of students in the higher education institutions.

The majority of them (80.6%) felt that our students are lacking in international exposure.

It would be a disadvantage if we are not preparing our students and equipping them with global competence skills to compete in the global economy.

International internships.

Many universities around the world, particularly universities in Europe and North America, have incorporated into their curriculum at least one semester of study abroad or international internships.

Compared to these universities, we are lagging behind in this aspect.

Higher education institutions in Malaysia should participate more actively in internationalisation initiatives, particularly international student exchange programmes to provide students the opportunity to acquire global experience during their studies.

Another major comment is related to students’ lack of good communication skills.

In fact, this is not a new finding. We often read reports or hear comments about the inadequacies of our students in communication skills.

It is not so much of a language barrier, but more related to the capability to express and deliver one’s idea and messages clearly and correctly.

Interestingly, when student respondents were asked to reveal what skills they acquired in university or college, communication skills topped the list as the skills most acquired.

This is something that needs further investigation.

The higher education system is undergoing dramatic changes due to many underlying factors, particularly technology innovation, emergence of knowledge economy, shifting demographics and globalisation.

The role and value of higher education has somehow changed as well.

It is important for us to review the best practices to prepare students to succeed in the increasingly dynamic world and to produce the “right” knowledge workers for society.

This article sheds light on some of the issues in Malaysian higher education as perceived by students and general respondents.

By Prof Cheng Ming Yu The Star/Asia News Network

The writer is a Professor at the Department of Economics, Faculty of Accountancy and Management at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman. This is the final article in a series of STEM for life-themed articles published in our pullout.

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