27 March 2012

Apabila Semua Gagal, Akhirnya ke Kasino


www.kopihangtuah.blogspot.com








Tajuk: Kasino
Penulis: Saifullizan Tahir
Genre: Fiksyen/Politik
ISBN: 978-967-10384-4-4
Penerbit: Buku Fixi
Tahun: 2011





"..... kesemuanya penuh dengan dosa dan maksiat. Namakan saja, semua ada: Arak, seks, pelacuran, perempuan simpanan, maki hamun, gangterism, pergaduhan, rasuah, penipuan, corruption, politik kotor, perceraian, pembaziran wang dan, kongruen dengan tajuk novel ini, semestinya perjudian bermaharajalela"

aifullizan Tahir, atau lebih dikenali sebagai Chep oleh rakan-rakan seperjuangannya di Australia, membuka mata pembaca novel Melayu. Novel ini bukan novel Melayu typical seperti buku-buku cinta dan romantis ataupun buku-buku serius seperti karyaan A. Samad Said dan sasterawan yang sewaktu dengannya. Novel ini adalah novel Melayu New Wave terbitan Buku Fixi. Banyak lagi buku-buku terbitan Buku Fixi yang seangkatan dengan Kasino tetapi buku ini menarik perhatian aku disebabkan oleh tajuknya, Kasino.

Aku tahu Chep, Arkitek Landskap yang berasal dari Segamat, Johor yang mendapat peluang belajar di Melbourne, Australia, mendapat ilham dari Crown Casino, sebuah kasino tersohor di Australia yang bertempat di tebing Sungai Yarra. Sememangnya penghalusan jalan cerita Kasino ini menonjolkan suasana yang familiar bagi Chep (dan juga aku) terutamanya bila memori diungkap dan nostalgia memberi senyuman di bibir. Diantara ungkapan yang releven adalah petikan di bawah di mana Chep pernah tinggal di rumah yang aku pernah tinggal (lihat foto di bawah):

"Rumah aku bersebelahan dengan kelab malam The Warehouse, happening, memang happening. Dengarnya kawasan itu sudah menjadi kawasan posh. Lagipun rumah lamaku yang terletak di Claremont Street itu hanya beberapa meter dari Chapel Street yang terkenal dengan deretan designer's boutique".



Sedutan cerita di atas sudah cukup untuk menggambarkan gaya bahasa yang digunakan. Memang buku ini di dalam Bahasa Malaysia tetapi di mana perlu, untuk mewujudkan rasa realist yang dekat di hati pembaca, perkataan-perkataan lucah (Contohnya p****k) dan Bahasa Inggeris yang selalu diguna pakai oleh orang Malaysia juga diselit. Ini bukan bermakna ianya bahasa pasar. Novel ini masih menggunakan Bahasa Malaysia yang standard. Alah! banyak novel-novel di Great Britain dan Amerika Syarikat yang menyelitkan Bahasa Perancis dan Sepanyol serta menggunakan bahasa lucah seperti f**k dan sebagainya. Laku juga buku-buku tu. Berkembang juga seni literature.

Oleh kerana perjalanan cerita Kasino ini berdasarkan kepada kata hati dan pemikiran seorang karakter, Dato' Mohd Narcissus Yussof, ianya perlu menerampilkan sifat-sifat yang logik bagi karakter tersebut seperti yang ditonjolkan oleh Chep di dalam penulisannya. Maka, tidak hairanlah cebisan Bahasa Inggeris digunakan untuk menyemarakkan lagi karakter Dato' ini yang kononnya juga berpelajaran tinggi dari Australia. Tambahan pula, perbualan diantara karakter-karakter di dalam Kasino banyak melibatkan perbualan yang biasa di dalam hidup orang Malaysia di masa kini. Lihat saja review aku ini. Penuh dengan selitan Bahasa Inggeris yang diitalickan di dalam lautan Bahasa Malaysia.

Dato' Narcissus sememangnya jujur orangnya. Dia bercerita sepanjang-panjang novel ini penuh dengan keterangan yang teliti tanpa rasa segan dan silu walaupun kesemuanya penuh dengan dosa dan maksiat. Namakan saja, semua ada: Arak, seks, pelacuran, perempuan simpanan, maki hamun, gangterism, pergaduhan, rasuah, penipuan, corruption, politik kotor, perceraian, pembaziran wang dan, kongruen dengan tajuk novel ini, semestinya perjudian yang bermaharajalela. Kasino adalah cerita mengenai kesuntukan. Kesuntukan masa. Kesuntukan wang. Kesuntukan kedamaian. Segalanya penuh dengan suspense. Segalanya berlalu dengan pantas dan penuh dengan perhitungan terperinci dari satu babak ke satu babak. Setiap langkah perlu diambil kira - untung atau rugi - kerana apabila tiba masanya, Narcissus perlu bertemu kedamaian. Jika tidak, dia (Dato') ke penjara!

Sebagaimana ramai usahawan Bumiputera, Dato' Narcissus juga membuat wangnya yang bermillion itu melalui kontrak-kontrak kerajaan. Kerajaan, tahulah kerenah mereka. Kalau nakkan kerja dijalankan, ditekannya kontraktor. Tapi, bila tiba masa untuk membayarnya, bertahun-tahun penungguannya. Apa yang lebih rumit ialah, tiba-tiba, projek dibatalkan! Hancur! Berderai! Memang meruncing jantung dibuatnya. Itulah yang dirasakan Dato' ini. Tergamam beliau apabila RM3.8 million yang sudah dibelanjakan untuk satu projek kerajaan terpaksa dipulangkan kembali akibat penukaran fikiran ahli politik - Menteri Besar sebuah negeri yang kononnya diperintah oleh parti politik yang berbangkang kepada parti politik yang memerintah negara.

Di dalam kerumitan ini, Dato' Narcissus bergelut dengan pelbagai cabaran yang mendatang pada masa yang tidak sesuai ini. Pergaduhan dengan kedua-dua perempuan simpanannya, isu perceraian dengan Datinnya, kesuntukan wang dari projek-projeknya yang lain, aksi pergaduhannya dengan Mat Motor yang membelasahnya dan yang paling merumitkan ialah risiko pendedahannya dalam projek kerajaan yang banyak menimbulkan prasangka dan kebarangkalian tuduhan pecah amanah duit kerajaan negeri dan yayasan-yayasan non-profit organisation.

Apa yang pelik dengan Dato' ini ialah konsep agamanya. Dia Islam. Ya! tapi hidupnya penuh dengan maksiat dan dosa seperti yang telah diperincikan di atas. Namun begitu, beliau tetap tidak meninggalkan sembahyang. Walau jahat mana sekali pun perbuatannya, mesti dicari waktu untuk menunaikan Solat. Memang pelik orangnya. Di dalam satu babak, selepas beliau bersetubuh, beliau bersyukur dengan Tuhan akan nikmat yang dirasakannya itu. Pelik sungguh. Agaknya inilah konsep agama manusia-manusia moden dewasa kini. Dato' Narcissus juga tidak keberatan untuk menerangkan pengalaman silam beliau yang kononnya membentuk peribadinya kini, apabila Agama dipertikaikan. Simplifikasi sedutan cerita dari novel Kasino di bawah mungkin dapat memberi sedikit penggambaran ini:

"Di dalam syurga terdapat empat sungai yang mengalir dari sumber Kausar, sungai yang airnya tidak berubah rasa dan warna, sungai susu, sungai madu dan sungai air perahan anggur," terangnya (ustazah) dengan nada yang mendatar. Seorang murid bertanya, "Air perahan anggur tu apa?". Ustazah menjawab "Arak". Kemudian Narcissus bertanya, "Kalau susu dan madu boleh diminum, kenapa tidak arak?". "Arak tu kan haram", kata ustazah. "Tapi saya nak masuk syurga untuk minum arak", ujar Narcissus lagi. "Isshhh, arak tu kan memabukkan dan menyebabkan kemungkaran. Kenapa awak nak minum arak pulak?" tanya ustazah. Dengan selambanya Narcissus menjawab, "Habis tu, kenapa arak jadi minuman ahli syurga?"

Dengan terbentuknya kekurangan keyakinan Narcissus terhadap ustazah beliau, bermulalah satu pembentukan karakter yang tersendiri. Karakter yang logik tapi pelik. Memang aneh Dato' ini. Tetapi, kalau difikirkan adegan ustazah tadi, memang mana-mana anak pun akan keliru dan akhirnya menjadi disebalik apa yang sepatutnya pendidikan kecapi. Sungguh releven isu ini kerana pendidikan agama itu akan menyesatkan jika guru-gurunya tidak berdaya menguasai psychology anak-anak yang menyerap ilmu bagaikan sponge.

Berbalik kepada RM3.8 million. Beliau perlu membayar kesemuanya balik kepada yayasan tertentu. Jika tidak, ia akan menjadi isu besar yang membabitkan beliau, Menteri Besar dan ramai lagi pegawai-pegawai kerajaan yang terjebak di dalam wang kotor projek politik yang kini perlu dihentikan serta-merta. Penat sudah Dato' ini mengorek wang dari simpanan beliau, dari orang-orang yang berhutang kepada beliau, daripada penjualan pelaburan-pelaburannya dan banyak lagi skim-skim yang dicubainya di dalam tempoh yang singkat. Tempoh yang sememangnya singkat - 15 hari!. Maka, apabila terdesak, bagi Dato' yang mempunyai pegangan agama yang aneh ini, semua benda haram jadi halal - "... bukan begitu di dalam peperangan?", kata beliau di dalam satu babak. Apabila semua gagal, akhirnya ke kasino.

Di kasino beliau beraksi. Oleh kerana tajuk novel ini pun dah Kasino, sememangnya puncak ahram ceritanya pun berlegar disekeliling aksi Dato' Narcissus dalam peperangannya mendapatkan RM3.8 million melalui perjudian. Apakah penghujung cerita Dato' yang aneh tapi mantap ini? Dipenjarakan ke? atau tidak? Haha! memang tidak adil jika aku berterus-terang di sini. Tidak adil kepada Chep dan Buku Fixi. Tidak adil kepada dunia kesusasteraan Bahasa Melayu moden. Tidak adil sebab anda perlu membaca Kasino secara keseluruhannya untuk mendapat nikmat yang dihasratkan oleh penulisnya. Ada banyak lagi subsidiari-subsidiari cerita sampingan di dalam Kasino ini yang memberi kesan yang lebih menyeluruh - sebagai contohnya, adegan-adegan seks beliau dan pelbagai aktiviti sampingan beliau yang menampakkan beliau sebagai seorang Dato' moden, kacak, bergaya, ada class! dan slick! - menjadi buruan wanita sana-sini. Bacalah! Memang mantap! Inilah dia novel Melayu moden yang ditunggu-tunggukan. Kontemporari, kontroversi dan sophisticated.



* kopihangtuah



| mcmlxxv:viii:xxix |

When the Clock Strikes 23:59:59, Humanity Faces Extinction?


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"Global warming is not only the number one environmental challenge we face today, but one of the most important issues facing all of humanity. We all have to do our part to raise awareness about global warming and the problems we as a people face in promoting a sustainable environmental future for our planet" - Leonardo DiCaprio

Title: The 11th Hour
Type: Documentary
Focus: Save the Planet
Year: 2007
Length: 1 hour 32 minutes
Host & Narrator: Leonardo DiCaprio
Producers: Leonardo DiCaprio
Association with: Warner Independence Pictures
Directors: Leila Conners Petersen & Nadia Conners

lobal warming is not only the number one environmental challenge we face today, but one of the most important issues facing all of humanity. We all have to do our part to raise awareness about global warming and the problems we as a people face in promoting a sustainable environmental future for our planet - that was the inspiring words of the producer of this documentary, Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor with clear conscience. Humans, with their technological advancement are destroying Earth. Destroying the World they live in. Destroying Nature. Eventually, they destroy mankind. They chart their own extinction. They dig their own grave. Inevitable? Not really. They have the power to undo the course of evolution. An evolution that is derived from the actions of Humans themselves. In their dreams, their future generations are screaming "What are you doing?" but they ignore. Ignorance in the name of money and wealth that are not sustainable.

We (Humans) used to only depend on current energy. What is current energy? Resources that derive life from the Sun. From the Sun, comes light. From light comes vegetation, water, animals and everything that are contained in this planet we call Earth. We used to consume resources only to the extent provided by the Sun. With technology, uncovered by Humans, we now consume energy far beyond that provided by the current Sun. We now consume energy from ancient energy from Sun billions of years ago trapped in a form of hydro-carbon fossil fuels. No wonder our (Humans) population is at 7 billion. If it was only energy from the current Sun, our population would have been maintained at less than 1 billion, a sustainable figure supportable by current energy.

How does the technology made consumption of ancient energy possible? With the discovery of fossil fuels, Humans are able to expand their activities further. They can travel farther with various types of transportation that live on fossil fuels. They can travel deep out in the ocean to catch more fish. They can produce more electricity from various power plants. They can grow more from agriculture activities. All of these lead to various other technological advancements such as biotech, medical, mass-production, mass distribution, news and information networking. All of which that made it possible for more Humans to survive causing a surge and exponential growth of the population from less than 1 billion to 7 billion in the last 100 years. The entire Human civilisation prosper until they become the leaders on Earth (perhaps at the expense of nature itself?). The fossil fuel industry is so wealthy that they become powerful, far powerful than the politicians rendering the peoples' voices (via politicians) unheard - those who love mother Earth gets ignored.

Global Warming as God's warning to Mankind. A warning that punishment awaits for those who have sinned. Who have sinned? Humanity have sinned. We have sinned,... to mother Earth

Such advancement in Human civilisation has its consequences. Global warming and climate change are the most apparent ones. After 200 years of industrial revolution, Human civilisation has magnified itself in the ecology. It is as if what we have now is Humans vs Nature. Temperature has risen quite dramatically. We have wildfires everywhere. The ice cap in the arctic are melting by the day. Floods destroying many lives. Tornados. Hurricanes like the one in New Orleans in 2005. Earthquakes. Tsunamis. With all these continuing, planet Earth may end up like its sister planet, Venus, with temperature of 250 Celsius and sulfur gas in the air which is not liveable by Humans.

Some choose not to believe in this fear called "Global Warming". The thing is, Global Warming is not a religion. It is not the question of whether one believes or not. It is a matter of facts that requires responsible actions by Humans. These facts (scientific evidence of Global Warming) are supportable by findings by many scientists. The United Nations conducted the World's biggest Global Warming research involving 1,300 scientists from various countries across the globe. All these scientists agree on a consensus that Global Warming is very real. Regardless of religion, Global Warming presents to us signals that we ought to open our eyes. If religion is indeed to be inserted into the equation, take Global Warming as God's warning to Mankind. A warning that punishment awaits for those who have sinned. Who have sinned? Humanity have sinned. We have sinned,... to mother Earth. No wonder God, via His prophets, forewarned armgeddon. Are we facing armageddon soon? We may, if we don't do anything.

The cost of putting back oxygen into the air is USD35 trillion per annum. That is the value of service trees and forests are giving Humanity free-of-charge! Sum of all the countries' Gross Domestic Product is only USD18 trillion. Indeed nature is 2 times more wealthy than Humans, in its capability to operate Earth

We (Humans) have taken too much, too frequent, too fast, too irresponsibly and we have not given anything back. In fact we have dumped too much, too frequent, too fast and too irresponsibly back to nature. We have polluted the sea, the air, the rivers and many more, some at huge proportions such as oil spills. Studies have showed that seafood now contains dangerous level of chemicals such as mercury to the extent that seafood becomes dangerous if consumed in large proportion. It is believed that it can cause cancer. We (Humans) continue to fish. We have so far consumed 90% of the ocean dwellers. Seafood will become extinct. Even if there are some left, it'll probably be dangerous to eat them.

At least 7 countries have already lost 100% of forests. The United States of America (US) has lost 90% of its forests. Forests are nature's way of managing water. Trees absorb gallons of water. purifies it and returns water back to Earth in a manageable manner in the aquifers. The water from aquifers flows naturally at manageable speed back into rivers and the sea. If you cut the trees, you are taking away this magnificent mechanics of nature for water management. With no trees, you have nothing to absorb water. The water are dirty with nothing to purify it. It returns back to the sea disasterously through floods that destroy lives and properties. Truly, industrial civilisation is taking away nature from us. The worse and worst thing that can happen is, we (Humans) are not doing anything. Scientists and economists have together estimated that the cost of putting back oxygen into the air is USD35 trillion per annum. That is the value of service trees and forests are giving Humanity free-of-charge! Sum of all the countries' Gross Domestic Product is only USD18 trillion. Indeed nature is 2 times more wealthy than Humans, in its capability to operate Earth. We cannot afford to replace nature, at least economically as proven.

We forget the power of love. If we apply love appropriately, we can save the Earth. Save the Planet, and we will save Humanity. We will save Ourselves.

50,000 species of animals extinct every year. Since Humans are at the top of the food chain, when we extinct, majority of animals would probably have extinct. What a shame that will be given that we (Humans) are an infant species. We must act now! Energy is the key solution. We have to find ways for sustainable development. As mentioned earlier, our capability to harvest ancient energy is the cause of Global Warming. Hence, that very action ought to be where the solution is. Scientists have come out with many methods of sustainable energy generation - Renewable Energy! - e.g. wind, hydro and solar. At this 11th hour, we face our own extinction? or do we save ourselves from extinction? Not only we are at the 11th hour, we are at the 11th hour 59th minute 59th second. We need to change. We are capable to change. We forget the power of love. If we apply love appropriately, we can save the Earth. Save the Planet, and we will save Humanity. We will save Ourselves.




* kopihangtuah



| mcmlxxv:viii:xxix |

19 March 2012

Crappy Business


www.kopihangtuah.blogspot.com



.... bloody shopping centres love to charge us for a simple basic human nature of crappy business, don't they? Bloody 20 Sen to take a piss or a dump? Shit! Bullshit! Making money out of other people's dump!


ou think computers are the greatest invention? What about excel spreadsheets? What about cars? washing machines? microwave ovens? televisions? DVDs? telephones? light bulbs? trains? rockets? aeroplanes? submarines? air conditioners? The list can go on and on but never in your mind you'd give credit to toilets! Please give toilets its due recognition. Toilets should be close to your hearts! In fact, instead of spending thousands of Ringgits on a BMW 3-Series or iPhones, you should spend well on toilets. Have it full blown automated, confortable and user friendly. Hell!, put some aesthetic value to it. Have it covered with jewels and what not. Bottom line is, you wouldn't know where your crap would appropriately be deposited if it wasn't for the existence of a toilet. Sure you can take a dump anywhere by the road side or the river bank; but that'll just give humanity a bad name. You might as well regress back to monkeys (if bloody Darwin has any truth in his theory). So go learn about toilets. Here are some of my thoughts and findings on toilets:

Who invented the modern flush toilets?

Many thought Thomas Crapper was the inventor of the modern day toilets. I certainly thought so until today when I Googled his name. Thomas Crapper was a plumber who founded Thomas Crapper & Co in London. Contrary to widespread misconceptions, Crapper did not invent the flush toilet. He did, however, do much to increase the popularity of the toilet, and developed some important related inventions, such as the ballcock. It was Sir John Harington of Kelston (picture) who designed the modern flush toilets in 1596. Harington's first flushing toilet is called the Ajax (i.e. "a jakes"; jakes being an old slang word for toilet), installed at his manor in Kelston, and which was reputed to have been current with the Queen Elizabeth herself. In 1596, Harington wrote a book called A New Discourse upon a Stale Subject: The Metamorphosis of Ajax about his invention. The book made political allusions to the Earl of Leicester that angered the Queen, and he was banished from the court.

Did toilets exist before the modern flush toilets?

Before Harington, there are no historical records of who specifically invented toilets. However, ancient civilizations used toilets attached to simple flowing water sewage systems included those of the Indus Valley Civilization, e.g., Harappa and Mohenjo-daro which are located in present day India and Pakistan and also the Romans and Egyptians. The modern flush toilet system designed by Harington only come into widespread use in the late nineteenth century. This is when Crapper contributed, i.e. widespread popularisation. Nevertheless, the idea of toilet, as mentioned earlier, was already an idea being implemented as old as human civilisation itself. The picture here shows the remainings of the ancient toilets. Many gauge human civilisation progression by measuring it to technological advancement of areas such as transportation, telecommunication, medical, agriculture and literature. Looking at how advance toilets were in the ancient times mentioned earlier, I vote toilets to be the epitome benchmark for human civilisation progression.

Toilets as contributor to economics

Come to think of it, toilets contributed quite significantly to the economy. First you need manufacturers of ceramics and porcelain. They make tonnes of money. Then you need construction companies to put together those toilets into useable condition. They make money. The housing developers wouldn't be able to sell houses if those houses don't have toilets. Then you have the cleaners, the plumbers and of course, bloody shopping centres love to charge us for a simple basic human nature of crappy business, don't they? Bloody 20 Sen to take a piss or a dump? Shit! Bullshit! Making money out of other people's dump! If those toilets are clean, at least there's something to shout about. No! bloody filthy, dirty, disgusting toilets everywhere in the public areas. What is worse is that they usually come without any toilet papers and no bloody water host. What the CRAP! is going on? Just a minute ago I happily stated that toilets can be the epitome gauging element of human civilisation. Now what? You know what? If the political parties desperately need credits for the next General Elections, they ought to include "proper maintenance" for public toilets in their manifesto. Damn! we can spend loads of money for a submarine but we have no allocation from the budget to upgrade public toilets? (I may be wrong. For all you know, all local governments have such budgets, which was probably reallocated for the procurement of orkids to accompany all light poles in the city/town).

Toilets from the perspective of a great leader, Mahatma Gandhi

I Googled the net to look for famous quotations on toilets. Could not find any. However, I came across an interesting write up concerning toilets from the perspective of a great leader, Mahatma Gandhi, as follows:

Mahatma Gandhi, India's greatest leader, had, in the words of a biographer, a "Tolstoyian preoccupation with sanitation and cleaning of toilets". Once he inspected toilets in the city of Rajkot in Gujarat. He reported that they were "dark and stinking and reeking with filth and worms" in the homes of the wealthy and in a temple. Some homes simply had no toilets. "Latrines are for you big people," a poor man once told Gandhi. Many years later when Gandhi began encouraging his disciples to work as sanitation officers and scavengers in villages in India, his diligent secretary and diarist Madhav Desai noted the attitudes of villagers. "They don't have any feeling at all," he wrote. "It will not be surprising if within a few days they start believing that we are their scavengers."

The irony of this is that, the ancient toilets were first found in the ancient civilisation of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro which are located in present day India. Go figure that one out!






* kopihangtuah



| mcmlxxv:viii:xxix |

11 March 2012

We Don't Need the IMF


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"We are not living in conventional times, and it may be useful to use all the ammunitions available to us (Malaysians) in our fight against the manipulators (Currency Speculators), even if such measures are not normally considered conventional. As they say, everything is fair in love and war!" - Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop's note to the Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir, dated 21 August 1998


Title: Notes to the Prime Minister : the Untold Story of How Malaysia Beat the Currency Speculators
Editor: Wong Sulong
Author: Nor Mohamed Yakcop (Tan Sri)
Genre: Economics/Politics/History
ISBN: 978-967-5997-42-6
Publisher: MPH Group Publishing
Year: 2011


or Mohamed Yakcop (Tan Sri) is a name that Malaysians should never forget, alongside Tun Daim. Why? Well, if it was'nt for him, Malaysia would have bow down to the super economic powers that invade the third world countries via economic tools such as those blogged in blogpost Beware of the Economic Hitman. Malaysia would have enslaved herself to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to resolve her economic recession. Tun Mahathir, Malaysia's Prime Minister (back then) had Tan Sri as his core advisor to battle against economic turmoil (just like what Tun Daim was in the 1986 recession). His (Tan Sri) speciality was in the arena of Currency Speculation after costing Malaysia billions of Ringgit in currency dealings which put him out of job in the early 1990's. His expertise, despite the huge losses, was now needed to fix the recession, caused predominantly by Currency Speculators who attacked the Malaysian Ringgit in 1997. This book tells it all.

So what is the story? In a nut shell, a bunch of Currency Speculators played around with the trading of Malaysian Ringgit in huge volumes causing distortions in the supply and demand of the currency. That caused ripple effect, a negative one, to the fundamental users of the currency, mostly businesses and bankers. The book is very highly technical even a Chartered Accountant like me took quite a while to digest and understand. For a lay man, simple illustrations of a real life example is needed. Tan Sri, in his notes to Tun Mahathir, attempted such illustrations. Even that, I find it quite a challenge. Tun is truly a brilliant man, to have understood what Tan Sri wrote in his notes. To demonstrate Tun's level of understanding, the below is his (Tun's) lay man explanation when interviewed at Perdana Leadership Foundation on 3 January 2011:

What happened is that we have moved away from real business onto speculative business on things that don't really exists. You can speculate on the price of sugar, but in the end you have sugar to deliver. But when you speculate on currency, in itself it doesn't have a value. Sugar has a value, gold has a value, but currency in itself does not have value. What is worse was that the speculators were not trading in real cash but they were trading figures recorded in their books. There was nothing to back their figures. Real business is about producing things and selling things. But they make so much money from speculation. Then you have the hedge funds which are able to leverage up to 30 times their funds. They are not dealing with real things, but speculating on figures. They take a bet. That's gambling. They may win or they may lose. But they structured it in such a way that they make money. Once in a while they make a loss. Because of their ability to leverage, the profits made by hedge funds are multiplied. Trade in currency is USD4 trillion a day. That's the total trade of Germany in one year. How can you do that?

There are examples of many countries that bow to the international money lenders with high hope of saving those countries:

INDONESIA

President Suharto of Indonesia had to face a painful downfall when on 15 January 1998, before the world's television cameras, he was forced to sign the terms of the IMF bailout package. It was an image of national humiliation by Indonesians. The week before, the Rupiah had broken 10,000 level against USD, and riots had broken out in Jakarta. In May of the same year, Indonesia had to follow one of IMF's demands as a condition for the release of funds, which was, a sharp increase in fuel prices and closure of 16 Indonesian Banks. God knows who benefited from those terms (at the expense of Indonesia destroying what was already destroyed quite severely).

THAILAND

Speculative bubble was fast building up in Thailand. Thai businessmen would borrow heavily in foreign currencies, often short-term, and invest either in stock market or property developments. They were leveraging on the interest rates differential. The foreign currency loans attracted much lower interest rates than Thai interest rates. As Japanese banks started withdrawing their loans and Japanese investors unloading their assets, liquidity began to dry up in Southeast Asia. Thailand was particularly badly hit as the majority of its loans were provided by Japanese. The overheated Thai market began to deflate and those speculative businessmen were caught in a bind. They were forced to sell thier assets to repay the loans and a ripple effect caused the collapse of the stock market. By July 1997, Thailand had to accept a rescue package from the IMF that demanded the opening up of Thailand's economy especially the financial sector.

MEXICO

Earlier in 1994, Mexico suffered similar fate as Indonesia. Currency Speculators laid seige to the Mexican Peso and by 1995, the Mexican Government had to accept a USD50 billion rescue package from the World Bank, the United States (US) and Western commercial banks. The peso was devalued by a massive 50%. Mexico is a major Latin America country just South of the United States; so how could the US Government and the IMF have been so negligent and unaware of the economic problems that were building in Mexico? Perhaps it was intentionally ignored in view of penning down a rescue package that made Mexicans sell their country?

JAPAN

The Americans also pursuaded Japan to their terms which they succeeded: To appreciate the Yen. For that, the Japanese exporters were under pressure for cost cutting warranting them to move production to cheaper countries. Less employment opportunities were available to Japanese as a result of that. With such high Yen appreciation, Japan had to boost its economy by lowering down interest rates which hit 0.5% in the mids-1990's, close to zero. This overextended period of interest rates led to creation of asset bubble in Japan. Immediately the Yen depreciated which caused Japanese banks to liquidate monies from abroad (Asian) back into Japan. Asia could not withstand a liquidity shock of that scale.

Despite Malaysia's sound economic fundamentals, its economy was not without vulnerabilities: i.e. (i) The local economy was overheating, (ii) asset bubbles were fast emerging, fuelled by the influx of foreign "hot money" and (iii) a large, persistent current account deficits. Malaysian corporations were taking a lot of debt. The economy was growing at 8.5% and loans grew at 18%. Then in July 1997, the Currency Speculators attacked Malaysian Ringgit. This is when Tun Mahathir launched a blistering attack on Currency Speculators identifying George Soros as the principal culprit.

The Ringgit fell dramatically to 3.89 to the USD, followed by the share prices on Kuala Lumpur Stocks Exchange (KLSE) resulting in Composite Index to a low level of 594 causing losses in the market capitalisation of around RM500 billion. Many Malaysians suffered as the value of their USD or Yen loans expanded beyond affordability. Many loans were categorised as Non-Performing Loans (NPL). Foreign investors used NPLs as a measure but of course it was unfair given that Malaysian definition of NPLs are more stringent (i.e. 3 months as opposed to Thai's 12 months).

All these, in the minds of our (Malaysian) leaders, cannot continue in Malaysia. Or else, Malaysia would share the same fate as its neighbours, bowing down to the IMF. Hence, unorthodox measures were taken, masterminded by Tun and Tan Sri. What did these 2 gentlemen do? They did just the below:

1. The ban for Malaysian stocks to trade on Central Limit Order Book (CLOB), a Singaporean based exchange for Malaysian stocks, where continuous selling and short selling of Malaysian stocks, coupled with Currency Speculators' borrowing of Malaysian shares were getting out of control. This had to be stopped. Or else, Malaysian Government cannot put in efforts that can positively repair the stock market conditions. How did we do this? Disallowed CLOB and foreign brokers from Singapore from having Central Depository System (CDS) account in Malaysia.

2. Reduction of interest rates as oppose to increasing interest rates. Increasing interest rates would collapse the stock market further and the in flow of "hot money" for short term depositors are uncertain. It appears that such a suggestion (i.e. increase interest rates) is a tool for foreign funds to dampen Malaysian stock market further and worsen the Ringgit value further so that they can buy (stocks or Ringgit) cheap. In addition, this will cause many projects that were relying on loans to cease and many companies will go into bankrupcy. Such recessional spiral would only put Malaysia into its own grave and never to recover. The Bank Negara had also reduced Base Lending Rate (BLR) from 4% to 2.5%.

3. Rejection of USD12 billion rescue package from a number of countries. Accepting rescue package is obviously the last thing Tun Mahathir and Tan Sri would do given the humiliation suffered by the neighbouring Thailand and Indonesia. IMF would have imposed "opening up" of economy which meant abolishment of certain mechanism in Malaysia such as protection of certain industries (such as automobile) and the Bumiputera economic schemes.

4. Pegging the Ringgit to USD at optimal rate of 3.8 to minimise the effects of external disturbances, to maintain stability of the value of Ringgit, to reduce impact of imported inflation and to allow greater flexibility in monetary policy.

5. Ceasing foreign currency placements by Bank Negara in Europe and the United States and rechannelling those funds to placements in Labuan. Monies that gets deposited in Europe and the United States post restriction to availability of funds to Malaysian companies as European and American banks would rate Malaysia on a higher risk factor.

6. Allowing Malaysian exporters to sell forward export proceeds for 3 months worth of export proceeds (i.e. Selling USD) in order to create demand for Malaysian Ringgit.

7. Loosening of liquidity requirements by Bank Negara via Monetary Policies will make funds easily available for the important sectors of the economy to bring about quick turnaround. Bank Negara had reduced the Liquidity Ratio for banks from 17% to 10% allowing extra RM28 billion extra funds into the system made available for businesses. There was no need for high Liquidity Ratio because Bank Negara was no longer required to be the "captive buyer" of Government Bonds following Malaysia's privatisation exercises as well as the abundance of funds at Employee Provident Funds (EPF) should there be a need for Government Bonds buyers. Bank Negara had also reduced Statutory Reserves Ratio from 8% to 4% releasing RM12 billion funds available for banks to loan out. Bank Negara had also instructed banks to achieve minimal loan growth of 8% by end of 1998.

8. Setting up of "Reconstruction Corporations" backed by Government Bonds will help companies that were under severe problems as a result of the recession. This may include restructuring of NPLs. The Government, under the Ministry of Finance, had set up various "Restructuring Corporations" namely Danaharta, Danamodal and Credit & Debt Restructuring Committee (CDRC) to undertake asset restructuring exercise of bad assets to allow banks and corporations to refocus their efforts to their fundamental business activities. This will allow the rebuilding of corporate Malaysia, hence boost economy.

In all the seriousness of critically managing the economy of the country, Tun Mahathir, a figure known to be thorough, hillariously made a blunder worth sharing with fellow Malaysians as follows:

1 September 1998: It was classic Tun Mahathir. When under seige, he was brilliant. Under the scorching television lights; his explanation about why Malaysia had to impose the unorthodox measures was exceptional in its logic and clarity. Tun asked Tan Sri immediately after the TV announcement "Did I explain it well?" "Sir," Tan Sri replied "you did extremely well but you forgot to peg the Ringgit!"



* kopihangtuah



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