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.

Reimagining Malaysia Part 7: Young Graduates Sell Nasi Lemak and Drive Uber

Recently Tun Mahathir's comments on young graduates selling nasi lemak and driving Uber have invited negative criticims. Of course, young graduates can choose to sell nasi lemak and driver Uber. But the question that we need to ask is, are selling nasi lemak and driving Uber indeed their interests and dreams or were they forced to do it because they could not get other decent-salaried jobs in the fields they were trained in? Below the surface of nasi-lemak selling dan Uber-driving young graduates, lies two big structural problems faced by Malaysian youths today.

Reimagining Malaysia Part 6: Improving Public Schools

I’ve discussed in Part 5 of the series on how while public education is free, good education is no longer free. We urgently need to reform our public education system. In this article, I’ll discuss two aspects of educational reform that I believe are important, firstly, to maximise student outcome for every taxpayer ringgit; and secondly, to reinvent human resources development in education.

I shall elaborate further.

Maximising Student Outcome For Every Ringgit Spent

Both education blueprints - Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (Preschool to Post-secondary Educations)[1] and Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (Higher Education)[2] - pointed out that there is a low return on investment in education in Malaysia in term of student outcome compared to other countries.

According to World Bank data, Malaysia’s government expenditure on basic education – from preschool to secondary school – as a percentage of GDP is one of the highest among ASEAN countries and Asian Tiger countries, the latter being South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and China. See figure below.

Basic Education Spending as a Percentage of GDP

Source: World Bank

Reimagining Malaysia Part 5: Education Will Change Your Life

"Education is the most power weapon you can use to change the world."
-Nelson Mandela- 

When I was young, I asked my dad on many occasions why we didn’t have the good life as other children had. My father’s reply was always this, “Study hard, Bee Yin, education will change your life.”

Indeed, it has. It not only changed my life but the lives of my siblings and childhood friends. Education opened up possibilities we would never have imagined as children from a small town. Although we may not be rich, many of us are better off than our parents’ generation. Education changes and improves lives, sometimes above and beyond what we could imagine.

Education is not only important at the individual level – it is also a factor that leads to the success of a country. Education prepares the next generation who will drive the country’s wheel of economy and development. A free, democratic, developed and prosperous country needs an educated workforce as well as equally educated and dynamic leaders.


The world is not fair. By accident of birth, some people enjoy better starting points than others. The sons of traditional fishermen in Tanjung Karang do not get the same family upbringing as the sons of engineers and lawyers in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. The daughters of blue-collared workers, who stay in low-cost flats in the cities, do not get the same learning environment as the daughters of white-collared professionals, who stay in condominiums, terrace houses and big bungalows in the cities.

A good public education is a great equaliser as it provides an equal opportunity for children of the haves and the have-nots. Public education makes the unfair world fairer.

Reimagining Malaysia Part 4: Government-Linked-Companies (GLCs) Governance

When it comes to the topic of governance and management of public funds, many people think only about government agencies and departments. However in Malaysia, government-linked companies (GLCs) (and some statutory bodies*) as well as government-linked investment companies (GLICs) also handle significant amounts of public wealth. Therefore, attention must also be focussed on their governance and performance to protect and maximise the people’s interest. 

GLCs as Political Vehicles

According to studies conducted by Universiti Malaya’s Prof Edmund Terence Gomez, seven federal GLICs – Minister of Finance Inc (MoF Inc), Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Permodalan Nasional Bhd, the Employees Provident Fund, Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera, Lembaga Tabung Haji and Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (KWAP) – control 35 of the top 100 listed companies in Malaysia, and have a combined market capitalisation of 42 percent of the total market capitalisation of the companies listed on Bursa Malaysia.

Ten levels down, these GLICs have exposure to 6,342 companies by way of shareholding of their listed companies, subsidiaries and associates. The figure below shows the web of control of the GLICs with respect to the government agencies[1].

From this chart, it isn’t difficult to see that the prime minister, who’s also the finance minister, now has large control not only in the political world but also in the corporate world. There is a dangerous concentration of power in just one person – the Prime Minister. 

The concentration of political and corporate power combined with the weak institutions has made the ground fertile for the birth of the biggest scandal in the history of Malaysia.

Reimagining Malaysia Part 3: Legislative Reform in Selangor the Future of Parliament

Many people may not aware, since the change of state government in 2008, the Selangor Legislative Assembly has undergone a series of legislative reforms. I will share some of the important checks and balances mechanisms that have been put in place in Selangor to strengthen the legislature and how Parliament can be reformed in the future for national-level legislative oversights.

Formation of Select Committees in Selangor

Since 2008, the Selangor Legislative Assembly has formed six select committees and and four special select committees. These committees meet when the state assembly is not in session and help to provide legislative scrutiny on executive administration.

Select Committee

i. Public Account Committee (PAC) or Jawantankuasa Kira-Kira Wang Kerajaan

ii. Select Committee of District and Land Office or Jawatankuasa Pilihan Pejabat Daerah dan Tanah (JP-PADAT)

iii. Select Committee of Local Authority or Jawatankuasa Pilihan Pihak Berkuasa Tempatan (JP-PBT)

iv. Select Committee of Agency, Statutory Body and Subsidiary Company or Jawatankuasa Pilihan Agensi, Badan Berkanun dan Anak Syarikat (JP-ABAS)

v. Standing Orders Committee or Jawatankuasa Peraturan Tetap

vi. Rights and Privileges Committee or Jawatankuasa Hak dan Kebebasan
Special Select Committee

i. Selangor Competency, Accountability and Transparency Committee (SELCAT) or Jawatankuasa Pilihan Khas Mengenai Keupayaan, Kebertanggungjawaban dan Ketelusan Selangor

ii. Special Select Committee on Poverty Eradication or Jawatankuasa Pilihan Khas Pembasmian Kemiskinan

iii. Special Select Committee of Management of the Assembly or Jawatankuasa Pilihan Khas Pengurusan Dewan

iv. Special Select Committee of Water Resources Management of the State of Selangor (JPK-SAS) or Jawatankuasa Pilihan Khas Pengurusan Sumber Air Negeri Selangor

Reimagining Malaysia Part 2: Don’t Trust Politicians, Trust Institutions

If there is only one thing you could change in this country, what would it be? Because of my upbringing, my answer used to be education.

Six years in politics has made me realise that the most important aspect of any government is governance. Strong governance is the prerequisite to a good economy, education, social welfare and everything else. When the government is clean, taxpayer money is put to good use; when the government is accountable, its performance can be monitored and subsequently improved.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. People do change, more so politicians, who are placed in high places. To quote Abraham Lincoln, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Throughout the years in politics, I have come to the realisation that even the most convicted and passionate politicians are sinners that are trying to do the right things for the country. Temptation will come in many forms and if left unchecked, even the most saintly politician will fall.

This is why we need a strong checks and balances system to safeguard the interests of the people against those in power. If you forget everything I am going to say, please remember this: Good leaders come and go, only good institutions remain. 

Reimagining Malaysia Part 1: Introduction

I entered into politics 6 years ago with a deep belief that “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is good man do nothing.”

I was elected in the 13th General Election as the State Assemblywoman for Damansara Utama on 5 May 2013.

Photo credit: Brandon

Our country has gone through a lot of challenges since then.

Friday, February 2, 2018

青年就业(三): 在第四次工业改革世代发光发热

“在新世界里,并不是大鱼去吃小鱼,而是快鱼去吃慢鱼。” -世界经济论坛创办人兼执行主席克劳斯·施瓦布(Klaus Schwab)-

我们身处的世界瞬息万变。美国通用电气公司在2014年的咨询报告书《未来就业》(The Future of Work)中估计,今天进小学的孩子,有65%会在未来从事今天还不存在的新工作。[1] 以一支短片讲述世界未来趋势而激起全球讨论的《你知道吗?》(Did You Know?)制作者McLeod, Scott及Karl Fisch则估计,以现有的科技变化速度来看,在四年制的理工学士课程中,学生在第一年所学到的约50%学科知识,在第三年的时候就已经过时。[2]

人类正在进入第四次工业革命时代。人工智能(Artificial Intelligence, 简称AI)、机器学习、大数据、物联网(Internet-of-Things, 简称IoT)、立体打印(3D printing)、纳米科技和其他新科技,将会在我们不久的将来带来革命性的改变。科技正以前所未见的方式取代工作。

青年就业(二): 怎样解决马来西亚青年的失业及低度就业现象?

我在青年就业(一)文章里讨论了在贩卖椰浆饭和当优步司机的年轻毕业生背后,潜藏着马来西亚经济所面对的深层次结构性问题, 以致青年面对失业和就业不足(低薪金)的双重打击。我们需要重新思考和调整整个经济结构,为青年创造更多就业机会,不仅是就业机会,而且还是能够提供可观收入,发挥潜能及施展愿景的良好的就业机会。