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Monday, April 30, 2007

Ipoh A Space Tourism Hub?? Oh Please!

An artist concept drawing of the suborbital space plane, Ascender. Can't bring myself to imagine that this sleek and sexy thing would zoom out from Ipoh, Perak Darul Ridzuan. Boleh ke yeop?

If you need a good laugh, check out page 6 of The Sun newspaper today. The title of the news story is "Ipoh Proposed As Space Tourism Airport." My first reaction - kah! kah! kah! kah!

Either something is really wrong with the brain of the space tourism consultant, Dr. Patrick Collins when making that proposal or the already desperate and pathetic Perak state government bribed him to the max to make such statements.

I actually sympathize with the Perak state government. For the benefit of foreign readers out there, Ipoh is the state capital of Perak, located about 200 km up north of Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Perak was once famous for being the world's largest tin producer through its tin mines sprawled all over the Kinta Valley in the heart of the state. Now unfortunately, the state of Perak has nothing great to offer, except for one or two tourist atractions which to me personally, are nothing much to shout about in this day and time.

That's why I can understand the desperation of the Perak Menteri Besar (State Chief Minister), Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali in securing some sort of deal with Space Future Consulting, the so-called space tourism consultants, to turn the underutilized Sultan Azlan Shah (LTSAS) airport into a "space-bound" airport. How pathethic.

For your info, Space Future Consulting (SFC) is an international UK-based consultancy group that provides advice and analysis to the space, tourism, and media industries. As part of their operations, they maintain the informational web site, the foremost source of information on space tourism, power, and vehicles on the Internet. SFC was the first in the world to carry out market research into the field of space tourism, and its work has been endorsed extensively by others, including NASA in its recently published report, "General Public Space Transport and Tourism". SFC's head, Dr Patrick Collins, is the leading researcher in this field and has published papers on the subject for over 15 years.

Here's why Dr. Collins feel that the LTSAS is good for the project. He says that the Ipoh airport is strategically located at the centre of West Malaysia and supported by good transportation network. More importantly, the airport has low airline traffic unlike the KL International Airport (KLIA). Hmmm. What do you think?

My personal view is that this should be a national effort, not just the Perak state government's effort. It seems now that SFC is dealing direct with Perak rather than with the federal government. To me, the day Malaysia Airlines cancelled its flights from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh due to low load factor, was the day Ipoh aiport was laid to rest. The airport is now dead and not worth saving at all. We might as well make KLIA the space tourism hub, don't you think? At least, it'll place KLIA prominently once again on the world's airports map, and help it's current struggle to attract the world's major airlines to land there.

Anyway, back to this space tourism thingy, Collins said the initial cost was estimated at RM100 million and it includes plans to conduct 100 test flights using the Ascender suborbital spaceplane which can carry space tourists, astronauts and facilitate scientific experiments.

Some background on the Ascender : It will be manufactured by UK-based Bristol Spaceplanes Limited and takes off like a normal passenger jetliner from a normal runaway. It does not require a full-fledged launch pad like the space shuttle or rockets launched by NASA or the Russian Space Agency. The Ascender is still in concept development phase and God knows when it will actually be produced.

Dear Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli, I suggest you use the RM100 to eradicate poverty among Perak's hardcore poor. How does that sound? We've already wasted so much money sending two poster boys who think they're so good looking to go to space performing kiddy experiments while their Russian cosmonauts counterparts perform the serious experiments for the good of mankind. Sudah-sudah lah tu. Tak ada maknanya!!!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Was MMEA Necessary In The First Place?

The New Straits Times carried a story today about the predicament faced by the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN). The story quoted RMN Chief, Admiral Ramlan Mohamed Ali as saying that the RMN was facing a serious shortage of men and ships following the handing over of 1,300 commissioned officers and enlisted men, and 17 vessels to the newly-formed Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) last year.
Hmm, what has happened? A year ago, everyone was so excited when Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak launched the MMEA which was regarded as Malaysia's very own Coast Guard.

Ini le masalahnya dengan kita ni. Orang ada Coast Guard, kita pun nak ada Coast Guard. Itu lah mengada-ngada namanya. This is the problem with us. Just because other people have Coast Guards, we must also have Coast Guards. And now the number one sailor in the country is complaining that he's facing a serious shortage of naval personnel in the Navy which is supposed to be our first line of defence should enemies attack from the sea.

I think we should give Admiral Ramlan's statement a serious thought. Which is more important? The Navy or the Coast Guard? I say the former. You see, Malaysia is not as big as the United States. The US requires a full-fledged Coast Guard because their coastline is so vast and long, the US Navy can't possibly be entrusted with the responsibility to safeguard the US territorial waters full time. But here in Malaysia, did we really need the MMEA in the first place? What good would it do if the creation of the agency would result in the Navy's personnel and assets being shrinked to expand the personnel and assets of MMEA?

This is further proof of really, really lousy planning by the government. The MMEA's fleet and personnel expansion should have been done at it's own expenses, not the Navy's. And of course, to further add to all this gobbledygook, it make no sense at all that MMEA personnel are considered civil servants rather than military. Now what crap is that? For your information, the MMEA is placed under direct jurisdiction of the Prime Minister's Department. It would only be placed under the Malaysian Armed Forces command during war or emergency/crisis times. Well, I guess this is further proof that MMEA is a copy cat of the US Coast Guard. The USCG is placed under the Department of Homeland Security during peace time and under the US Navy during war time. But please bear in mind that the USCG is actually a mirror-image of the US Navy where the rank structure is exactly the same as the Navy. That's why they are still regarded as a military outfit. But our MMEA is actually a concoction (rojak in Malay) of seconded personnel from the RMN, Marine Police, Customs, Fisheries Department, Administrative and Diplomatic Service, Judicial and Legal Service and a whole load of other government services under the Public Services Commission. Now that kind of mixture I tell ya, is a recipe for disaster.

I personally feel that MMEA is redundant to the roles and function of the Navy. I say let our sailors do the job of defending Malaysia's territorial waters. Unless of course, the government is willing to spend huge sums of money to ensure that both entities expand side by side, and not at the expense of either one. To our sailors, hold your head up high and do us proud. Let's hear it for the Royal Malaysian Navy....

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Income Tax Woes

It's that time of the year again dreaded by everyone in the working world. Yep, it's income tax time. For Malaysians, we have another 5 days left to submit our Income Tax BE Form (declaration of income for the tax assessment year of 2006) before the April 30th deadline. We have to submit the form to the Lembaga Hasil Dalam Negeri or Inland Revenue Board (IRB) which the equivalent of the IRS in the States.

To be honest, I'm still struggling to do mine, hehehe. Not that it's difficult but because I kept delaying and delaying until the last possible moment. Well, I'm like that - last minute kind of guy. And when I say it's not difficult, I'm not kidding. You don't need to know rocket science to calculate your taxes here in Malaysia because the process has been simplified by the IRB. Unlike in the States where you have to keep all your receipts for expenses incurred during the previous assessment year and also requiring a tax agent or consultant to actually do it for you. Here in Malaysia, individuals who "makan gaji" or earn their salaries through employment, do their taxes on their own. Only businessmen engage the services of a tax agent.
I'm proud to say that I've always submitted my tax returns on time and paid all the required amount. It also helps that I have "Potongan Cukai Berjadual" or "Scheduled Tax Deduction" from my monthly salary which is automatically credited to the IRB by my employer. The good thing about this is that you don't really feel the pinch of paying your annual income tax because most of the time, the amount which has been deducted during the previous year would already cover the required tax amount. You only need to pay the difference.
But for the past two years, I've been feeling the pinch actually, eversince joining my current employer. Eventhough I earn more here, I have to pay more in taxes. That's the bitter irony of it all. The higher your pay, the higher your taxes. Now is that cruel of what?

I finally got down to doing my taxes today. And I felt sick to my stomach when I found out how much I have to pay this time around. Damn. Even the scheduled tax deduction couldn't cover the amount. Hmm, maybe some creative accounting will do the trick....

Another Campaign At The Expense Of Taxpayers

A typical polluted river in Malaysia. This one is Sungai Juru
or Juru River up north in the state of Penang (the PM's state)

I shook my head in disbelief when I saw the news on tv last night. The story was about Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Minister, Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid aka Mr. Normala Samsudin. In his press conference after a function in Johor, he openly admitted that the 14-year old "Cintai Sungai Kita" or "Love Our Rivers" campaign was a failure and will be replaced with a more comprehensive one in June. In fact, the government was going to spend an additional RM7 million to rebrand the campaign. And of course, dear old Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will relaunch it. Isk, isk, so typical Malaysian way of doing it. I mean, what the hell?!! What is wrong with our leaders, anyway? Doesn't the minister know that even if you spent a billion ringgit in campaigns, it won't change anything as long as the typical Malaysian mentality remains the same.

Well, he's right about one thing though. The campaign is a failure. Just look at the rivers in Malaysia - filled with all sorts of unimaginable elements, objects, things which I don't even want to discuss. Azmi said that of the 186 riverine systems, 17 were so badly polluted they could not sustain any form of life.

Here's a little background dugged from Bernama : The "Love Our Rivers" campaign was launched by the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) way back in 1993 to educate the public on the importance of rivers, while highlighting the critical state of pollution faced by Malaysia's rivers. The country has about 150 major river basins, of which 100 are in the peninsula. The campaign, mainly involves marshalling individuals, communities, schools, corporate bodies and the public sector to carry out projects like river cleaning, river beautification, pollution rehabilitation, river adoption and education programmes.

You see what the problem is here? We in Malaysia are so good at making things look good on paper. Here in Malaysia, everything looks good on paper, to a point that sometimes it's almost flawless. But then comes the question of implementation. This is where we suck. We really, really suck when it comes to doing it.

I think the government should just channel the RM7 million to rehabilitate the most polluted rivers in the country in a sort of panic-mode like manner. Treat the usage of that RM7 million as emergency funds to save rivers. At least we'll know for sure whether the rivers could be still be saved or not. Once we manage to rehabilitate a few rivers, then we'll already have the required momentum and all that is left to do is continue to duplicate what has been done earlier to those few experimental rivers to other rivers nationwide. Makes more sense, right?

Sudah-sudah lah tu with all this rebranding and relaunching crap. Enough is enough with all this rebranding shit which is just a waste of money. Money that we don't have actually. And if the government is really serious in saving our rivers from being further polluted, why don't we rope in the armies of "mat rempits" to help out do the cleaning and rehabilitating. If they can successfully parachute from a plane onto the bleak and frigid North Pole at ultra sub-zero temperatures, I'm sure they can also successfully clean our rivers under a heavenly equatorial climate. What say you Putera Umno? Are you game for it? Nah, I thought so....

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A New Beginning...

Dear Friends and Readers,

Don't be alarmed. Yes, yes, my previous blog "Oh For Crying Out Loud" has been deleted. Well, to be more exact, accidently deleted. Errm, well, intentionally deleted. Hehehe.

You see, what happened was, I wanted to enhance the blog with some photos (if you noticed, my previous blog was purely text). So, I asked a friend to help me out because she's supposed to be the blog expert. But to my dismay, in her attempt to assist me, she accidently caused my chatbox to be deleted which was a result of changing to a new template in Something like that.

Anyway, I kinda lost my mood and interest and decided to delete the blog, which was almost celebrating its first anniversary in a few more months.

No worries. I'm not angry with my friend because I love her to death. But she's gonna help me build this new blog until it's happening again.

So bear with me, I'm working on it. It'll still be the same concept - current affairs and views on a range of issues. No lovey dovey kissy smoochey crap.

I hope to get my chatbox back in this blog later today.

In the meantime, welcome to Fox One, Fox Two, Fox Three.

I promise, you won't regret reading it. Watch this space!