Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Personal : Air Asia

Now everyone can fly!!

Kagum sungguh bila tengok AirAsia dah terkenal di seluruh dunia. Bukan senang nak letak logo syarikat Malaysia dekat Jersi pasukan EPL!!

Tapi semua tu tak mustahil jika kita bercita-cita BESAR!! 
Tanpa pengalaman, dan modal, Tony Fernandes mengorak langkah dengan meletakkan jawatan  sebagai eksekutif syarikat Time Warner untuk menubuhkan AirAsia. Tony mendapat idea setelah melihat model syarikat penerbangan tambang murah yang berpotensi untuk dikembangkan di Asia. 

Pada 2 Disember 2001, Tony telah membeli Pelangi Air yang menghadapi masalah kewangan dari DRB-HICOM pada harga token RM1. Tahun berikutnya AirAsia mula mencatat keuntungan dan hari ini, AirAsia dikhabarkan untuk membeli 200 unit lagi pesawat AirBus yang berharga RM54 Billion sebagai tambahan kepada 100 unit pesawat yang telah dimilikinya. Sekiranya urus niaga ini menjadi kenyataan, AirAsia akan menjadi antara syarikat penerbangan tambang murah terbesar di Asia dan juga di dunia.

Syabas kepada AirAsia kerana menjadi jenama kepada Malaysia umumnya. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Personal : A letter from Swiss

"P. Gunasegaram's column was interesting. MAS has a serious positioning problem; it should not offer low-cost fare while positioning itself as best airline. Its well-paying passengers will get used to lower fares, and ultimately to the fact that these fares pay for such service. So, the airline will not be able to increase the fares on the segment in future anymore.
Looking back five years, one can deduce which concept failed in Europe and which succeeded. Swiss Airlines tried for years to get business share from low-cost carriers Easyjet and Germanwings. But is this really what it wanted low-paying passengers on expensive routes? It eventually radically stopped this practice and has now become one of the most successful airlines in Europe.
MAS should position itself along its many strengths good service, better flight-times and better airports. Most importantly, MAS is one of the safest airlines on the planet! They have better safety records than Singapore Airlines and Thai or Cathay. Yet no one knows about it. The best kept secret is probably their best asset.
When Europeans or Americans travel through Asia (to Australia or any other destination), they normally look at safety standards. “Safest airline track-record in Asia” would quite likely pull passengers to MAS at least from the destinations they serve (Amsterdam, Rome, Paris, London and Los Angeles.).
MAS should use hard facts. They have it. “Safest airline in the world”. Of course, it needs to back this up. This would work better than using votes from a travel magazine."
A Swiss living in KL

The article appeared in The Star on Saturday, 18th June 2011. 

"It is very heartening to read the letter which was written by a customer of Malaysia Airlines System (MAS) from foreign country. Nowadays, the airlines industry faces the challenging times, from rising oil prices to the competitions from the newbies. MAS is not either, facing the threat from low-cost airlines AirAsia Berhad in their home market.

MAS share price have been on the downwards for the wrong reasons. They post lost last quarter and have since received negative outlook from research houses. After so many skepticism from the analysts, at least this letter have shown that MAS is not bad at all. 

What I want to highlight here is that if we have special advantages, why not show to the others?  In this case, Christopher really like MAS because it is the safest among South East Asia airlines companies. This is a point that MAS should take note.

Foot Note: I like both MAS and AirAsia and still wondering where will be my next trip. =)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Personal: The curse of merger and acquisition

Sometimes, becoming a bigger entity is bad. It is now an open secret that Maybank and CIMB are fighting to be the biggest bank, not only in Malaysia but South East Asia generally. The takeover of RHBCap will catapult CIMB to be the biggest bank in Malaysia, with an asset base of RM405 billion (as at 31st March 2011) while the Maybank-RHBCap combined will solidify their status quo as the biggest bank in Malaysia and SEA (in term of market value). 

The tussle had heightened up to a new milestone when the current shareholder,Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) sold their 25 percent stakes to their parent company, Aabar Investment PJSC yestersday. With a price tag of RM5.9 billion, the stakes are valued at 2.25 times of their book price which stands at RM4.79. Although the valuations are on the high side when compared to the recent banking M&A (Hong Leong Bank and EONCap mergers at 1.42 times), it deserves such premium as RHBCap is much bigger entity and the stakes are hard to come by. At a price of  RM10.80 paid by Aabar Investment, it seems difficult for both CIMB and Maybank to match the price.

However, the main objective that I would like to share is the effects to the customers. Could you imagine what will happen to man on the street if the M&A takes place? I believe that RHBCap should be left as an entity rather being merged with bigger banks. 

If you read articles by analyst, you will find words like "synergies, efficiency, higher profit and   potential expansion". But what happen to words like "duplication, interruption of service and monopoly" which will not be mentioned in the articles. As we could predict either CIMB-RHBCap or Maybank-RHBCap will have huge number of branch duplication. It is not economical to keep two branches side-by-side, resulted from the merging of the two banks. Therefore we will have less access to the bank branch. Besides that,  it is inevitable for staffs to be options to be retrenched as a part of rationalization of branches.

Combined banks will also have a bigger market share, which might give them a greater power to control the market by having less competition. I give you an analogy, let say you sell product A and your rival also sell the same product. Luckily, you manage to throw out your competitor and bought over their business. Therefore you can have greater market share and importantly control your product price, or even increase them since the competition is no more there. That is what I mean the effect to the customer.

The banks might be more selective to dish out loans, and chooses their customers. Since I am not analyst so I can see this clearly. Haha

Foot Note: This is just my humble opinion for our banking industry. I am not responsible to any damage that will be caused from my article . I would suggest that we should change to Islamic banking that have proved better compared to the conventional banking. =)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Personal: Priest.2011.XViD

Salam Alaik..
Tengok tajuk pun dah tau muvi kan. Memang entri kali ni nak cakap pasal muvi ni. Muvi memang dicipta untuk menyampaikan message dari dulu sampai sekarang. Ada pasal politik, ada pasal kisah hidup, ada jugak yang cerita pasal nilai-nilai murni. Tapi sememangnya muvi ada kesan terhadap penonton.

Tengok je cerita Hantu Kak Limah Balik Kampung. Sampai budak kecik pun terikut. Tu belum masuk cerita kongsi. Tapi kali ni cerita pasal Priest. Memang mengarut cerita ni, dan budak-budak kecik mesti dilarang tengok cerita ni.

Awal-awal cerita dah bagi tagline sampai empat kali. Ni tagline dia.

"And remember, to go against the Church, is to go against God."

Cerita ni message dia sama macam cerita Book of Eli. Sapa yang suka tengok muvi tu janganlah percaya sangat apa yang muvi tu cuba bawak. Fikir-fikirlah di luar skop muvi tu sendiri.

Nota Kaki: Muvi Setem best!! Banyak nilai-nilai murni =)

Personal : Pakar Matematik bertaraf dunia

UMURNYA baru 29 tahun tetapi pencapaian dalam bidang matematik sangat mengagumkan. Dengan penampilannya yang besederhana, pasti ramai yang tidak menyangka Mohd. Suhaimi Ramly ialah seorang pakar matematik bertaraf dunia.
Bermula sebagai wakil negara dalam Pertandingan Matematik Olimpiad Antarabangsa (IMO) di Romania ketika berusia 16 tahun, Suhaimi kini bergelar pakar matematik bertaraf dunia.
Walaupun penyertaan kali pertamanya pada tahun 1999 itu tidak membuahkan hasil, ia tetap dianggap pengalaman bernilai yang memacu minatnya untuk berusaha lebih gigih.
“Sebelum ke IMO, saya menyertai Olimpiad Matematik Kebangsaan (OMK) dan pernah meraih anugerah juara pada 1998 dan 2000.
“Ia keputusan yang tidak dijangka kerana saya memasuki OMK tanpa sebarang latihan. Selepas itu, barulah saya ditawarkan untuk berlatih bersama Prof. Abu Osman dari Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) untuk mewakili negara,” ujar bekas penuntut Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM) Jasin, Melaka ini.
Pingat pertama negara
Kerja kerasnya berbaloi apabila terpilih sekali lagi untuk mewakili negara dalam pertandingan sama pada tahun berikutnya. Kali ini, dewan besar di Korea Selatan menjadi medan perjuangan Suhaimi.
“Alhamdulillah, saya berjaya membawa pulang pingat gangsa untuk negara. Ia adalah pingat pertama untuk Malaysia sejak menyertai pertandingan berprestij tersebut sejak tahun 1995,” ujarnya ketika ditemui baru-baru ini di pejabatnya di Setapak, Kuala Lumpur.
Tahun berikutnya, dia sekali lagi dipilih mewakili negara ke pertandingan sama. Kali ini, Suhaimi dan enam orang rakan terbang ke Amerika Syarikat (AS) untuk menduduki peperiksaan IMO. Dengan mendapat satu jawapan betul, dia layak menerima Sijil Sanjungan Terhormat.
“IMO adalah satu pertandingan matematik bertaraf dunia untuk pelajar sekolah menengah. Lebih 100 negara mengambil bahagian dengan setiap negara menghantar enam orang wakil.
“Pertandingan ini tiada kategori. Lebih 500 pelajar pintar matematik dari seluruh dunia akan duduk dalam satu dewan besar untuk menjawab peperiksaan. Had umur yang ditetapkan ialah bawah 20 tahun dan belum memasuki universiti.
“Semua peserta tidak kira yang berusia 13 tahun hingga 20 tahun akan duduk dalam satu dewan dan menjawab soalan yang sama.

KURANG mendapat latihan semasa zamannya mewakili negara, kini Suhaimi nekad membantu para peserta dengan melatih mereka secara intensif.

“Ia berlangsung selama dua hari. Untuk hari pertama, peserta akan diberikan tiga soalan dan perlu menyelesaikannya dalam tempoh empat jam setengah. Rutin yang sama juga ditempuh untuk hari kedua.
“Mungkin ramai yang pelik, kenapa hanya tiga soalan dan mengapa ia perlu mengambil masa hingga empat jam setengah.
“Berdasarkan pengalaman terdahulu, masa yang diberikan itu tidak cukup kerana soalan-soalan yang diberikan amat sukar.
“Soalan itu sebenarnya direka oleh pakar-pakar matematik dan profesor dalam bidang ini dari seluruh dunia,” ujar graduan matematik dari Massachusetts Institute Of Technology (MIT) ini.
Mengimbau pengalamannya bertanding di peringkat dunia, Suhaimi akui dia tidak dapat lari daripada perasaan gugup dan gementar terutamanya ketika kali pertama dia mewakili negara.
“Saya masih ingat lagi bila saya mendapat kertas soalan, saya hanya pandang soalan berjam-jam lamanya. Soalannya terlalu sukar sehinggakan saya tidak tahu dari mana saya harus mula menjawab.
“Sedar-sedar masa sudah tinggal setengah jam dan dalam masa yang terlalu singkat itu tidak banyak yang mampu saya lakukan,” kenangnya yang suka mengisi masa lapang dengan menyelesaikan soalan matematik.
Katanya lagi, minat terhadap subjek kira-kira itu bercambah ketika belajar di tingkatan tiga di Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Seri Gombak, Suhaimi sangat berterima kasih kepada guru matematiknya ketika itu, Cikgu Chiu Kam Choon.
“Beliau adalah insan yang membuatkan saya jatuh cinta pada matematik. Bagi saya, pengajarannya sangat berkesan dan sejak itu saya tidak lagi menganggap subjek mengira ini susah,” ujarnya yang kini menjadi Ketua Jurulatih Negara untuk IMO.
Julai depan, Suhaimi akan mengetuai pasukan negara bersama enam orang peserta untuk mengikuti IMO di Amsterdam, Belanda. Kali ini, dua peserta berusia 15 tahun turut terpilih mewakili negara ke pertandingan tersebut.
Selain dibiayai oleh Kementerian Pelajaran, badan korporat ExxonMobil turut sama menaja kumpulan Malaysia ke IMO.
“Para peserta perlu menjalani latihan intensif selama sekurang-kurangnya 250 jam sebelum layak memasuki IMO. Walaupun yang mendaftar itu semunya sering mendapat markah tertinggi dalam subjek ini, mereka perlu kuat berusaha dan berlatih sekurang-kurangnya empat jam sehari.

KONGSI rahsia. Pesara ini optimis teknik ciptaannya dapat membantu pelajar sekolah menguasai matematik dengan lebih mudah.

“Di bawah Persatuan Sains Matematik Malaysia (Persama), kami juga mempunyai sekumpulan jurulatih yang terdiri daripada pensyarah dan profesor matematik tempatan, diketuai oleh Pengerusi Jawatankuasa IMO Malaysia yang juga Timbalan Presiden Persama, Prof. Dr. Arsmah Ibrahim dari Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM).
“Daripada sesi latihan dan ujian berperingkat yang dijalankan selama setahun, baru kita dapat kenal pasti enam peserta terbaik untuk mewakili negara.
“Asas pemilihan juga tidak bergantung sepenuhnya kepada kebijakan mereka menjawab soalan tetapi turut meliputi pemikiran kritis dan kreativiti mereka menyelesaikan masalah yang diberikan,” katanya yang turut menulis buku khas mengenai asas matematik bagi pertandingan Olimpiad bertujuan memudahkan guru dan pelajar membuat rujukan. Antara topik yang telah diterbitkan ialah Algebra, Kombinatoriks, Teori Nombor dan Geometri.
Selain bertanggungjawab menjadi ketua kontinjen negara, Suhaimi juga merupakan juri antarabangsa termuda yang turut serta menyediakan soalan dan menanda kertas peperiksaan pada pertandingan matematik bertaraf dunia itu.
“Tahun lepas Malaysia telah memenangi pingat perak di IMO. Kalau boleh, tahun ini kita mahu pingat emas,” ungkapnya.
Jika bakat Suhaimi digilap menerusi pertandingan IMO, lain pula ceritanya dengan Jaludin Meran, 67.
Minat yang mendalam terhadap mata pelajaran Matematik sejak di bangku sekolah telah mendorong pesara ini mencipta cara mudah untuk menguasai matematik.
Menariknya, dia mencipta kejayaan itu semasa menderita penyakit angin ahmar pada 2008.
“Semasa sakit, saya cuba mencari jalan bagaimana untuk menyelesaikan masalah pengiraan dan menguasai asas nombor kerana saya percaya ia dapat membantu saya pulih," katanya yang pernah berkhidmat sebagai Pengawal Trafik Udara, Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia selama 12 tahun.
Mengambil masa setahun setengah untuk mencipta cara mudah menguasai matematik, Jaludin banyak menggunakan kiraan dari sebelah kiri selain menghafal menggunakan kod abjad.
“Jika kaedah ini dipraktikkan, saya boleh jamin, pelajar tingkatan lima boleh mendapat A dalam subjek Matematik. Selain pengiraan lebih mudah, pelajar hanya perlu mengunakan jalan mudah untuk menyelesaikan soalan walaupun melibatkan angka yang besar,” katanya yang turut merangkumkan kaedah mudah tersebut menerusi penulisannya dalam buku setebal 110 halaman yang bertajuk Be A Math Genius In 10 Days.
Jaludin juga mencipta kaedah unik untuk mengingati kalendar.
“Dengan kaedah ini saya boleh ingat tarikh dan hari dengan tepat untuk tempoh 300 tahun,” katanya.
nota kaki: diambil dari laman web kosmo online bertarikh12 Jun 2011. Teringat waktu sekolah menengah dulu Pertandingan Olimpiad Matematik Kebangsaan. Diberi bebrapa soalan yang memang budak universiti pun belum tentu boleh jawab. Tapi yang bestnya ada lecturer UKM yang taja kami dulu. =)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The JPA scholarship conundrum

The main protagonists in the ongoing Public Service Department’s (JPA) scholarship controversy are not seeing the forest for the trees. While the reports of civil servants not following a Cabinet directive to grant JPA scholarships to those scoring  eight A+ and above in the SPM are worrying, the bigger question which we as taxpayers and voters should be asking our politicians is whether the returns we are getting from our expenditure on these scholarships can be justified.

If the answer to this question is negative, then even if the JPA somehow manages to “perfect” the application process, these scholarships will still be a waste of taxpayers’ funds. Rather than getting worked up over the JPA scholarship allocation process, we should take a step back and ask two fundamental questions. 

First, do our top SPM scorers have an inalienable right to pursue an overseas education at the taxpayers’ expense? Second, do these JPA scholars “pay back” sufficient “returns” to justify the billions of ringgit spent on them? My response would be a resounding “No” to both these questions.

Sadly, Malaysians have been brought up in a paternalistic state with the expectation that it is almost a birthright for top performing students to obtain government funding to pursue their university education overseas. In most other developing countries, bright students either find private funding to study overseas or are given places, perhaps with scholarships, to study in local, mostly public universities. 

This way, the academic standards in local universities can be raised and precious taxpayer money can be spent on  physical infrastructure development which can increase economic activity, or other more worthwhile social expenditure that can be spread across a larger pool of citizens. 

The right to study abroad at the taxpayers’ expense should not be seen as something akin to a constitutional right. Even the argument that government scholarships should be given to those who get into top institutions such as Harvard or Stanford in the US or Cambridge or Oxford in the UK have weaknesses in the Malaysian context since JPA scholarships are given out post-SPM and the means-tested component in the allocation of these scholarships is very small. 

In other words, there is no guarantee that these top students can get a place in one of these top universities, and for those who do the filter to ensure that only those who cannot afford to attend these universities on their own is very weak.

Even if one can make the case that the country as a whole can benefit from the experience and expertise these JPA scholars will have as a result of their overseas education, the fact is that many JPA scholars do not return to Malaysia to work upon completion of their studies and most of those who do return never get the opportunity to pay back their scholarship bonds by working in the civil service.

Ask any JPA overseas scholar who did not pursue a medical degree and the story will go something like this. They will report back to the JPA on completion of their studies and sit around for a few months waiting for the JPA to contact them. Many of them would seek employment, mostly in the private sector, during this waiting period. Upon the expiry of this waiting period, the JPA would either “lose” their file or send a letter to them stating that a suitable place of employment could not be found, thereby releasing these scholars from their bond. It would not surprise me to find that fewer than 5% of JPA overseas scholars actually fulfil the terms of their bond by working for the civil service.

The arguments over who is entitled to these scholarships will be never ending, even if the application process is fully transparent. There are simply not enough JPA scholarships for all the top academic achievers in Malaysia. This has of course been exacerbated by the government’s promise that those who obtain  eight A+ and above in the SPM would be automatically given JPA scholarships (which includes scholarships to local universities). 

Not many people are aware of the cost of funding the JPA overseas scholarships. For a single cohort of 1,500 to 2,100 scholarship holders, the cost can be as high as RM2 billion. At a time when subsidies are being cut, the notion of expanding the number of overseas JPA scholarships, especially when many of these scholars do not return to serve the country, seems fiscally and socially irresponsible.

Hence, instead of arguing about who should be entitled to these scholarships, we should pressure our politicians to be held accountable for the larger policy question — whether our taxes are being spent wisely, regardless of who gets the scholarships. If the government still insists on funding these scholarships, we should ask for a more systematic approach to ensure that the experience and education of these scholars are put to good use in the civil service, by putting them in the Administrative and Diplomatic Services (PTD) class of civil service officers, for example.

If restructuring the civil service to accommodate JPA scholars is too difficult, administratively and politically, then other proposals should be examined. I am strongly in favour of severely limiting the number of JPA scholarships given at the undergraduate level because of the low level of returns to the country. 

I believe that a better use of these funds would be to channel them to postgraduate students, either at the Master’s or PhD level, with the stipulation that these scholarship holders must return to Malaysia and apply to work in a local public or private university, so the academic and research capacity of our institutions of higher education can be bolstered.

These are the policy discussions we should be having, given their longer term economic impact, rather than focusing on the nitty-gritty of who gets the JPA scholarship. Unfortunately, we, as voters and taxpayers, are not sending a clear enough signal to our politicians, who are leading the charge in “not seeing the forest for the trees”.

Ong Kian Ming holds a PhD in political science from Duke University. He is currently pioneering a Masters in Public Policy (MPP) programme at UCSI University.

Note: Thanks to the author Ong Kian Ming for sharing his greatest thought. I wonder if his article can come out in the forum every year because there are a lot of noise annually after the scholarship recepients is announced..