Monday, February 19, 2018

Reimagining Malaysia Part 15: Water Governance

Water is precious. However, just like air, people generally don’t spare it a thought until there is a shortage. This is probably the most boring topic of the book because it involves a lot of technical details but I want to dedicate this chapter to writing about the challenges of supplying water to Selangor and Kuala Lumpur as well as the ongoing water industry reform. This, I feel, will help the next generation to not take their water supply for granted. The same perspectives can also be applied to water management in other states.


Because of historical reasons, the water supply in Selangor is combined with that of Kuala Lumpur. (I’ll use Selangor water from now on for simplicity purposes but it should be understood that it stands for the water supply for Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.) Managing the Selangor water industry is far more challenging than it is in other states because it serves seven million users. That makes us the biggest water supplier in Malaysia with a water demand size almost triple that of the second largest water usage state (Johor) [1]. In fact, it is one of the biggest in the world.

In addition, there is rapid industrialisation along many rivers in Selangor, which leads to river pollution as well as the drying up of rivers. This poses a serious threat to the resilience of raw water supply to Selangor. At the time of writing, the water industry is still in the process of consolidation after being wrongly privatised for many years, resulting in a fragmented water industry.

The figure below shows the fragmented Selangor water industry before consolidation. All the private water companies, with the exception of SPLASH, have been taken over by the Selangor State Government and placed under Air Selangor since the end of 2015.

Reimagining Malaysia Part 14: Climate Change Madness


Have you heard about the term climate change madness?

It was popularized by the head of the Philippines delegation, Yeb Sano, who made international headlines with his emotional speech at the opening session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in November 2013[1]. At the time of his speech, Super Typhoon Haiyan had just hit the Philippines and caused catastrophic damage to the country. His speech brought tears to the eyes of many of the delegates and was met with a standing ovation.

However, emotions without actions mean little. At the end of 2016, 195 countries, including the US* and China, which are the two biggest carbon emitters, came together and signed the Paris Agreement. This was the first time in history that countries around the world had collectively agreed to undertake efforts to cut carbon emission to keep the global temperature increase below 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels [2].
While carbon emission reduction can slow the pace of global temperature increase, the earth will almost certainly become warmer[3]. Carbon emission reduction can only reduce the extent of temperature increase.

If carbon emissions were to reduce significantly, the rise in the global average surface temperature could be limited to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. This is what the Paris Agreement is trying to achieve.

In short, whatever we do now, global warming is bound to happen and it is going to negatively impact our lives, depending on the extent of the temperature increase.

Generally, there are two aspects to tackling climate change – adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation consists of taking steps to reduce the impact of climate change while mitigation is related to taking steps to reduce carbon emission, and hence the extent of global warming. 
I shall discuss these two aspects in the Malaysian context.

Reimagining Malaysia 13: Energy

Energy comes in the form of electricity and fuel. Energy security and affordability are important factors for a country’s survival and prosperity. Figure below shows the energy supply by type from 1978 to 2015 in Malaysia. We can see here that natural gas and crude oil combined make up a major part of our energy supply. Hence it is impossible to discuss energy in Malaysia without mentioning the oil and gas industry.

Energy Supply by Types 1978 – 2015

Source: Malaysia Energy Commission

Reimagining Malaysia Part 12: Rape

Occasionally, we see social media users expressing outrage over high profile rape cases, such as the Kelantan gang rape, which saw 38 men gang-raping a 15 year-old girl [1], or the heartless father in Chow Kit who repeatedly hit and raped his underage daughter who had just arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Sarawak in search of a better life only to have it turn into an unimaginable nightmare[2]. Despite such cases, only a few people recognise the severity of the rape culture problem in Malaysia.

On average, there are 3,000 rape cases reported yearly in Malaysia. What is even more astounding is that only two out of every 10 cases are reported. Even worse, two out of three rape victims are minors (under 16 years old)[3]. How do these numbers translate into real life?

Including the non-reported cases, it is estimated that there are as many as 15,000 rape cases in Malaysia every year. Hence, a rape takes place every 35 minutes – by the time you finish reading 2 articles of this series, one female would have been raped in some corner of Malaysia. And 80 percent of rape victims, many of whom are girls, suffer in silence.

Reimagining Malaysia Part 11: Women in Politics and Economy

In the previous part of this series, I’ve discussed that despite no apparent formal barrier, direct discrimination and a complex pattern of hidden barriers prevent women in Malaysia from achieving their full potential in the economic and political sphere. In this article, I will drill down further on the topic of gender equality for Malaysian women in politics and economy.

Politics should not be an “uncle-only” game 

When I first joined the DAP, I attended many party dinners and meetings. One of the first impressions I had of the party was that the majority of people involved in it were “uncles”. There were very few women and young people.

Now that I have been in politics for a while, I have discovered that this “uncles only” phenomenon isn’t confined to the DAP – it exists in all our political parties. In fact, low female representation in politics happens around the world, although in Malaysia, only a dismal 10 percent of parliamentarians are women compared to the world average of 22.8 percent in June 2016 [1].

The table below is the breakdown of female representation according to parliament and state assemblies (2013-2018 term). Except for the Selangor state assembly, with 27 percent female lawmakers, women’s representation in other legislatures is low.

Reimagining Malaysia 10: Leaders Who Wear Skirts

“The world will never realise 100 percent of its goals if 50 percent of its people cannot realise their full potential.” 
-Ban Ki Moon, former Secretary General of the United Nations- 

I’ll focus the next 3 articles on issues related to women. When we talk about women and gender equality, the first question we need to ask is why do we need gender equality?

I never thought I would champion gender equality issues until I stumbled across a number of charts in the Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2012. The charts indicated that countries with better gender equality are usually richer and more competitive, and are better countries to live in. The trend is consistent with increasing evidence that empowering women leads to a more efficient use of a country's human capital. Therefore, reducing the gender gap enhances economic growth and development. In short, when we empower women, the whole country benefits.

Aren’t we already equal?

When we talk about gender equality, women’s rights and women empowerment, many people, both men and women, often ask, “Aren’t we already equal now?” After all, boys and girls can go to schools and men and women can contest and vote in elections in Malaysia.

Let’s now have a look on how statistics say our gender equality in Malaysia.

Reimagining Malaysia Part 9: Thriving in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

“In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish.”  
- Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum-

The world that we are living in is changing so fast. General Electric’s Discussion Paper in 2014, “The Future of Work”, estimated that 65 percent of children entering primary education today will end up in new job types that don’t exist today[1]. McLeod, Scott and Karl Fisch estimated that with the current rate of technological change, nearly 50 percent of subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree could become outdated by the third year of study[2].

Reimagining Malaysia Part 8: Five Ways to Create an Economy that Works for the Youths

In Part 7 of this series, I discussed how Malaysia’s economy structure is failing our youths, resulting in the double whammy of youth unemployment and underemployment. We need to rethink and restructure the economy so to create more jobs for the youths, not only jobs, but good jobs – jobs that give them decent incomes, meet their aspirations and develop them to their full potentials.

Here are the five things the government should do to create an economy that works better for Malaysian youths.