Many years ago, I attended a motivation course. My takeaway from the course is to be positive always. If someone ask, how are you... we should not say fine or good. The response should be, GREAT.
Fast forward with many more worldly exposures and experiences, I learned about pragmatism, hypocrisy and also it is okay to cry. Crying is a normal part of growing up and crying is supposed to make us stronger and more mature through our life span.
The above preamble leads me to the current state of our economy.
Less than two months ago, our prime minister said the "A-" rating for Malaysia with stable outlook, maintained by Fitch Ratings, is a reflection of the country's strong economic fundamentals. This is despite lower growth and shrinking trade numbers.
Even suppliers of moon-cakes, due to robust sales ahead of the mid-autumn festival is confident of a continued recovery in consumer sentiment.
However, economists say it is still weak and far below the optimal level. This is proven correct. A few days later, RHB Research Institute Sdn Bhd estimated Malaysia’s real gross domestic product (GDP) for 2016 to be at 3.9% (lower than the earlier forecast of 4 - 4.5%) and sustained at a subdued pace of 4% in 2017.
A week later, the latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Ranking report for 2016-2017 showed Malaysia slid down to 25thposition from 18th last year. Obviously, Singapore at 2nd spot is far ahead of us. The WEF looks at data on areas as varied as the soundness of banks to the sophistication of businesses in each country. Of the “12 pillars of competitiveness”, we declined in eight with only two improvements.
More surprises came about a week ago through HSBC Global Research in its Asian Economic Quarterly. It said, the government will not be able to afford any meaningful fiscal stimulus, with revenue lagging targets and expenditure having overshot. There is a deficit at a hefty 5.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) for the first half of 2016 and significant expenditure cuts will have to be made in the second half of the year to achieve the 3.1% deficit goal. There is likelihood of similar fiscal constraints in 2017.
The current account surplus has shrunk and is way below expectation and the budget deficit is under pressure. Further drop in oil prices will expose Malaysia to twin deficits – not a good sign in the current global uncertainty. The Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) showed contracting manufacturing activity and further reduction in employment for this sector. As of July 2016, exports fell for a 22ndconsecutive month and industrial production growth was disappointing.
One of the most worrying indicator is bank lending growth, which has decelerated sharply in recent months. And there is limited scope for rate cuts that will invite currency outflows.
Our forex reserves is the thinnest in Asia. As at 30th September, it is only 1.2 times the short-term external debt.
Our national debt as at end 2008 was RM236 billion and as at 2Q 2016, it ballooned to RM656 billion and guarantees around RM180 billion. This a RM420 billion increase in debt in just over seven years. The size of debt is not the issue here, but more to what it is spent on and the interest payments have a direct impact on the national budget.
Some people are of the view that the negativity surrounding 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), as well as the US Department of Justice’s (DoJ) kleptocracy case has already been priced into the market and investors have moved beyond that. We have to be cautious since there may be other jurisdictions coming forward on this issue.
Talking about economic fundamentals, it include such economic measures as the government’s budget deficit, monetary or fiscal policy, current account balance, unemployment, the level of domestic business confidence, the state of (and confidence in) the banking and wider financial sector and consumer confidence. There are also microeconomics fundamentals within smaller segments of the economy, such as a particular market or sector.
Generally the fundamentals means less debt, more growth, little or no inflation, more exports and less imports.
As for the rating, in 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis, rating agencies were accused of misrepresenting the risks associated with mortgage-related securities. They were found to have put profits ahead of principle. And also in 2011, who said, “Oooopppss, we made a $2 trillion mistake".
Given the above scenarios, can somebody help guide me to see whether our economic fundamentals are still strong. I may be in a position where I couldn't see the forest for the trees. Yes, I did a paper on economic analysis many many years ago but time and circumstances have changed.
I have learned through my worldly exposures and experiences, we have to be practical and it is okay to admit when some things are not that positive then to cry later.
‘Biar Kita Menangis Sekarang Daripada Menangis di Kemudian Hari’ (let us admit and take corrective actions now then to regret/cry later).
What say you....
When we were young, the most popular question posed to people of my generation, irrespective of race, color, religion or ancestry was, what is your ambition? We were oblivious to politics then.
When the prime minister (PM) spoke about Transformasi Nasional 50 (TN50), a new ‘vision’ for the nation, it brought back memories of what we wanted to be when we grow older. Some of us achieved our dreams, some had to change and some failed.
It is a jolly good thing to happen when we are at the last leg of Vision 2020 and focusing on our youths as the core to this new vision.
For that matter, it is our Youth and Sports Minister, En Khairy Jamaluddin who conceived TN50 and we can say it is his ‘baby’.
The PM said “…we are responsible citizens and forefathers, to leave behind the best and the greatest legacy to be inherited by future generations. Let the old legacy pass”. TN50 will seek to transform the country’s economy, citizen well-being, environment, technology, social interaction, governance and public administration.
He does not want the initiative to be politicised. “Our government today is a government which is willing to listen and uses the bottom-up approach. I believe our development must be balanced and development must be on the basis that no Malaysians will be left behind” he added. There should be a more just and equitable society.
The general goal for TN50 is for Malaysia to become a top 20 country in the world by the year 2050.
The responsible ministry said one of the key activities will be the discussion and networking groups. Other groups are also welcome to participate and share their thoughts. It will also be working with other government agencies, corporate bodies and NGOs.
While the various parties are working on the TN50, as a senior citizen, I feel compelled to lay down a few pointers as my personal input.
1. Leave behind the best and the greatest legacy.
It is good to leave behind the best and the greatest legacy in the form of TN50 to be inherited by future generations but, it must also be desired not to let the old legacy to just pass by.
2. Let the old legacy pass.
There is a popular adage that goes something like this, ‘Forget the past, don’t worry about the future, live in the present’. But, usually those who choose to simply forget the past miss out on its fullest potential. There are valuable lessons to be learned from it - the strengths and weaknesses. Also, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’
It is not so simple as to just let the old legacy pass. It is a heritage passed on by our predecessors and we should where possible jealously guard it.
3. TN50 will seek to transform the country’s economy, citizen well-being, environment, technology, social interaction, governance and public administration.
Compare it with Vision 2020 that calls for the nation to achieve a self-sufficient industrialized nation, encompassing all aspects of life, from economic prosperity, social well-being, educational worldclass, political stability, as well as psychological balance.
As I see it there is not much difference where TN50 emphasises environment and technology. Therefore, we should try to fulfil or complete what was envisioned in Vision 2020.
4. Finish what we started.
There were scant mention of Vision 2020 and how the ‘Way Forward’ paper will be fulfilled. Unfinished jobs/projects can be swept under the carpet but rarely would they pick themselves up and quietly leave by the back door. They never do. It is an unwelcome mark on one’s soul, mind, or spirit. Perhaps, convincing us that we just can’t stick with anything and would naturally produce negative vibes.
The chorus of the song “Finish What We Started” by Diamond Rio goes like this:
“And step by step and mile by mile… Taking each turn together… Following the signs that point to forever… And side by side… True and tenderhearted… We'll finish what we started”
We should together finish and touch the tape in 2020 and raise our hands in jubilation.
5. Respect for elders.
This has to do with how much the elders can help the youths working on this new vision and offer valuable lessons. It is also a sign of compassion and mannerism, traits that many cultures value.
“O’ you who have true faith! Do not let men make fun of other men – perhaps they may be better than the other (group of men)…” (Quran: Al-Hujurat 49:11)
6. Era of “the government knows best” is over.
It was reported that the TN50 town hall session is the clearest indication yet of the new paradigm that the era of “the government knows best” is over.
It was on April 4th in 2009, that the PM announced “The day and age where government knows all and knows best is so long over”. We do know in between the two dates, there were many instances where government still knows best. Be that as it may, I do hope that it will be a reality that actually exists henceforth.
7. It must be on the basis that no Malaysians will be left behind.
This is noble. But as in most things that we saw happening, it is easier said than done. As an example, the KVMRT project was for the well being of the people but quite a number have to suffer with the line or track passing virtually over the roof of their houses without any compensation.
8. The PM does not want the initiative to be politicised.
I fully agree but groups from the other side have to be included to contribute their two sen worth. Similarly, the present government should not take sole credit when the initiative is implemented and proven successful in future.
Let us make this a truly all-inclusive Malaysian effort for our future generation. We are the “legal guardian for future generations” and whatever decisions we make today will impact them.
Let us all be statesmen that think of not only for the next generation but for the well-being of future generations.
To achieve this, the government has to provide the leadership.
To be more meaningful, I would suggest for us to produce a longer term or more of a perpetual Vision to consciously guide us. More like a vision statement for the country along with mission statements. The successive 30-year visions can be included in the objectives.
What say you…
The Hudud Laws are clearly and brightly enshrined in the Holy Quran. In essence the Hudud Laws are collectively a code of fundamental laws providing for the parameters of and the legitimate punishments for every Muslim who commits offences in breach of Allah’s Commandments. The Hudud Laws are made in Heaven. They are willed by Allah. They are Divine justice from Allah, the Ultimate Law Giver.
The Hudud Laws are immutable and eternal laws, they ceremoniously bind all Muslims, prophets and followers, without any exception. They could not be fashioned and wilfully amended to accommodate the human changing psyche, material desires, social development and economic dominance more so to legitimise odd behaviours and inhuman excesses. The Hudud Laws are regal and supremely and divinely tailored by the Creator of the Universe to ensure that man would not loose his intellectual superiority, spiritual essence and dignity as a respectable human being.
Without the Hudud Laws, there are always the imminent danger that man would steer away and deviate from religious norms and good respectable humane moral conduct and hence to fall unwittingly into the bottomless pit of disgrace and inhumane misconducts and loose his spiritual enlightenment and superiority as Allah’s viceroy (Khalifah) on this blessed earth.
Let us look at ancient example of man unfortunate fall into unmitigated disgrace. The Holy Quran vividly tells the story of Prophet Lot’s community who arrogantly transgressed Allah’s moral parameters. They committed the highest sin of the flesh by indulging in homosexual intimacy between men and lesbianism between women beyond the walls of saintliness and Divine obedience. They immediately sparked the Wrath of Allah the Magnificient as even animals do not commit such outrageous excesses. Allah did wait long. Divine justice was swiftly meted out - they (the sinners) were violently rained with fiery blazing brimstones and they perished miserably and their entire cities were turned upside-down. A tremendous catastrophy indeed. No one survived except Lot’s family but his wife. Let it be known that this punishment is for later generations to ponder to not to repeat such act of wicked lewdness in the like footsteps of Lot’s community.
Now in the present century we have in our beloved country a Federal Government with a strong Muslim representations both in the Senate and the Dewan Rakyat. For almost sixty years after independence, the Federal Government had done virtually nothing of significance to resurrect the Hudud Laws in the Holy Quran to be the laws of the land for Muslims. Until today the Government continues to apply the English Laws (both criminal and civil) to every Muslim instead of the Hudud Laws from the Holy Quran. What is brazenly blasphemous is – not only that the Government had abandoned its duty and responsibility (to the Muslim community) by not implementing the Hudud Laws after wielding executive powers and ruling the country for more than half a century but they unashamedly resisted and blocked the “blessed journey” of the Hudud Laws into Parliament. This would tantamount to shaking the celestial Arasy (The Throne of Allah), that is, a phenomenon indicating a spectacular facet of the Divine Wrath to those who reject and block the implementation of Allah’s Commandments.
Let it be known that as citizens we love this country, we love the Government and above all we love Islam most. It is lamentable that the Government we put into power to rule us had never earnestly looked up to Heaven for guidance and spiritual strength in moulding the Muslim community in this beloved country. Had they done so, the Hudud laws would have been the laws of the land for the Muslims years ago. They had conveniently forsaken and renounced their intrinsic duty and the trust they hold for the spiritual salvation and grace of the Muslim community.
Until to-date, besides making some inroads into Islamic banking and finance practices, the Government limits the practice of Islamic Laws only to solemnisation of marriages, divorce and distribution of “harta pusaka” and such other trifling matters of life. Generally the Syariah Courts’ judicial powers are much to be desired – far from what Allah had ordained and enshrined in the Holy Quran. The Government is bereft of the political will to see that the entire Laws in the Holy Quran be planted as the thriving laws for the Muslims. This laikadaisical attitude is most regrettable and all the Muslim Federal Ministers and those voters who supported and put them into power would be answerable to Allah for their long inordinate delay and dismal failure to find ways and the paths that would usher the Hudud Laws see the light of day.
The Holy Quran in many brilliant and sparkling verses stirringly urge “the Muslims to trek on with Jihad by way of their wealth and lives in the cause of Allah”. In our beloved country the imminence of Jihad now is to apply the entire Allah Laws in the Holy Quran to the Muslims. I believe the huge majority of Muslims in this country are now impatiently waiting for Allah Laws to be applied to their lives. But alas the bulwark is the Muslim Cabinet ministers who nonchalantly and conveniently consider the Hudud Laws as an insignificant facet of life. For about sixty years they steered the country’s administration eversince independence they did not lift a finger to assist in making the Hudud Laws the laws of the Muslims. In Akhirat Allah would definitely ask them “why did they reject Allah’s Laws? And be mindful…Allah the Magnificient requires an answer.
In reflection this is precisely what Jihad is all about now in this beloved country. Don’t they (the Muslim Federal Ministers) see it that it is their duty to Allah and the Muslims that with the power they wield, they are in a position to apply the Hudud Laws on the Muslims. But they coveniently do not. Their priority of life has been awkwardly inverted. Their secular ways tops the pyramid, Allah is placed on the second tier and the Sunnah of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad Bpuh lies on the third tier. It appears that the Government may fall under the category of the doomed creature as stated in the Holy Quran as “having eyes but they do not see, having ears but they do not hear and having heart but they could not feel the Divine presence”. And in dramatic eloquence…the Holy Quran concludes “they are worse than animals”.
This is indeed true as wee see in our own eyes that the Muslims are herded like domesticated cows by the Government to live under the unblessed man-made laws (the English Laws) instead of the Hudud Laws. Unfortunately too, the Muftis, the majority of ulama’ both in the Government sector and in the higher learning institutions have not made a consistent formidable campaign to urge the Government to implement the Hudud Laws among Muslims. The Muslim masses continue to meekly slumber in submitting to the chaotic man-made laws. The apathy continues….until Hudud Laws replace the present man-made laws, there would be no peace of mind (sakinah), blessing (barakah) and true and complete Divine love (rahmah) for the Muslim community.
When in Akhirat those who are condemned to Hellfires see the punishing fury and terror of Hellfires, they revolted tumultuously accusing their leaders thus - “It is you who caused us to be condemned to Hell” and they make a frantic call to the Almighty “Oh Allah because they (our leaders) have vilely misled our lives, increase two-fold the punishment of Hellfires upon them” and “if not for them, O Allah, we would have become the blessed dwellers of Jannah (Paradise)”. The leaders promptly reply “ O Allah, it is not us who misled them, it is they who have wronged themselves”. Allah in His glory replied “Do not argue in My presence, both of you would get the fiery punishments for what you have done, that is, leading your lives not in accordance with the Holy Quran and the Sunnah”. The message here is crystal clear – follow not and support not anyone in life blindly, just lead you own entire life strictly in accordance with the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW.
The Holy Quran eloquently warns the Muslims in Surah An Nisa verse 60 thus “Have you not seen those who claimed to have believed in what was revealed to you (Muhammad), and what was revealed before you. They wish to refer legislation (laws and regulations) to Thagut, while, in fact, they are commanded to reject it; and Satan wishes to lead them far astray”. This verse is truly a reflection of our wicked miserable position now, that is, while we categorically claim ourselves to be true Muslims (beriman) but oddly we do not submit to the criminal laws as enshrined in the Holy Quran instead we meekly bow our souls to the man-made English (Thagut) criminal laws. Ponder a moment in the silent ambience of our soul. Are we not sinners deserving the fury of the Hellfires for casting away the Hudud Laws in our lives?”.
Japan warned China on Tuesday that ties were deteriorating over disputed East China Sea islets, and China's envoy in Tokyo reiterated Beijing's stance that the specks of land were its territory and called for talks to resolve the dispute.
The diplomatic tussle comes amid simmering tension as China builds on outposts in the contested South China Sea, including what appear to be reinforced aircraft hangars, according to new satellite images.
Ties between Asia's two largest economies have been strained in recent days since Japan saw a growing number of Chinese coastguard and other government ships sailing near the East China Sea islets, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
Read the full story here
"I had never really had anything to do with Muslims because where I come from there aren't very many and I didn't know about Islam, I was a little bit ignorant and a little bit, probably afraid, as well until I went over to Egypt and I met Muslims for the first time."
Ruth's holiday didn't go according to plan, and she found herself sick in hospital for most of the time. The people who took care of her made a real impression on her.
"They just seemed to have a real inner peace within them and a happiness, and a willingness to share and care about people."
Ruth - who has always believed in God and was brought up an Anglican - was tempted to stay on in Egypt but had to come home. She tried to put her experience to the back of her mind but years later, decided to quench her curiosity and look deeper into Islam.
Connecting through the internet
She says she found the internet - including Facebook groups for people interested in converting - a helpful source of information and assistance and she actually ending up converting to Islam over Skype.
"I made a friend who was from Algeria and he was teaching me a little bit of Arabic and teaching me more about Islam over the internet.
"One evening when we were chatting he was saying, 'well, come on come on, do you want to be a Muslim? Let's do it now, don't wait, so just repeat after me'. I repeated the words of the shahadah (declaration of faith) in Arabic back to him, which felt very uncomfortable to me and awkward.
"At the end of that he said, 'now you're a Muslim', and he was very happy for me. I felt very daunted, also glad but I didn't know really what was going to happen from there."
Ruth made her declaration again in a more formal environment in front of a sheikh and other witnesses about a year ago.
She says despite the common Western perception that Islam is disrespectful towards women, most of the other converts she's met in Melbourne are women.
"When you look into it and find out from the actual sources of the Qur'an and the words of the prophet Mohammed - peace be upon him - you realise that it's actually quite the opposite.
"In general, it's very empowering and very respectful, women are held up in high esteem and really valued."
Since her conversion to Islam, Ruth has had to make some practical changes. For example, she's had to take down all photos and images of people and animals in her home.
But the most visible change was in the way she dressed.
"When I first started to wear the hijab (headscarf), and more modest clothing, going out like that was quite nerve-wracking. I was really worried that I was going to be hassled and abused and things like that.
"But actually I was quite pleasantly surprised that most people are pretty good about it. You might get the occasional odd look or a bit of a glare but normally people don't even blink, they just look at you and you are who you are. That's been really good."
Ruth says while her parents and siblings have accepted her conversion - or reversion as it's considered in Islam - her teenage son has found it more difficult to deal with.
"He's very worried about how people are going to see him, which is natural. So I don't dress the same when I'm with him, I cover my hair but with a hat or something like that because he doesn't want attention drawn to himself, and he feels that people are going to feel negatively towards him because he's with me.
"So that's something that I don't know how long it will take him to get used to, but it's something that we're working on."
Ruth says giving up alcohol has been slightly more difficult.
"In a way it was very easy to stop but then, especially in summer, there'd be some days when I'd walk into the supermarket past the bottleshop and I'd think, 'oh I really feel like just one drink', forgetting that I don't drink anymore."
One year on
A year after her conversion, Ruth says she feels good about her decision.
"I still feel that I have very much to learn, I would never say that I'm an expert. I think I'll always be a beginner, especially when it comes to the Arabic language.
"I think I'm a lot closer to having that special peace and happiness that I saw in them (the women in Egypt) than what I was before."