Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Money matters.

What made me stood up the other day was that I saw being advertised in the local press where just to see a show by a local popular female Malay singer of the day it would cost RM500.00 for the best seat, RM 400.00 the next best and RM 250.00 for common seats. At a hotel. So I suppose a dinner will be included. Mind you, USD1 = RM3.80. Now isn’t that a lot of money to pay to watch a show?

People may say why worry, its their money, but still I thought its a lot of money to spend like that. This is in view of other considerations and the earning powers of workers in Malaysia. I am not talking of those in Europe, USA or Japan where the earning powers and the spending pattern is different. I remember seeing shown on local TV about a group coming from overseas having a show in one of the biggest outdoor stadium in this country where youths (children more like it) pay RM100.00 a ticket to watch. And they said its worth it because the group was from overseas. Their reasoning? If they have to go overseas to watch the shows it would cost them more. Weird logic to me? But what was at the back of my mind was on how much do their parents earn? Or is the money their own, I mean the children’s? Or are these working children? Or are they young adults spending their hard earned cash? Or are they just spoilt brats?

Its a wonder to me how people in this country spend a lot of money just like that. In Kuala Lumpur for example the upper crust of the population shop at KLCC, or KL Plaza or some big shopping complexes and the lower crust at Chow Kit Road or Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. What they buy maybe something similar, the former branded and the latter not branded or sometimes counterfeit brands. But the quality of the products? I don’t know but from my naked eyes the difference is very small. After all most of the products are manufactured locally but branded differently. Perhaps I am wrong, so some one may correct me there.

What I can see is that in Malaysia, the earning power is not that strong but the spending power is very strong. I stand corrected here in my views, and the amount that I will quote but I am not far from what I shall quote and the figures that I shall mention. Lets see the wages. The PM earns about RM 20,000.00 per month and a normal MP about RM 6,000.00 - 7,000.00 per month, give and take. (But this is not a fair comparison as these politicians earn other money somewhere else. In this country people go into politic to be rich). And big corporate figures earn from RM50,000.00 to about RM100,000.00 per month, give and take. But the common man earns about RM300.00 per month, may be up to about RM2,000.00 per month, give and take, with overtime and other side business. And the majority of us Malaysians are these common men bracket. A new Graduate may earn from RM1,700.00 K to RM2,500.00 per month, depending on where he/she works and on the CGPA obtained. That is not a lot of money considering deductions like car loan (most have), house loan (if any). And cars and houses in this country are not cheap. A good car may cost as high as RM70,000.00, for local car like Proton or up to RM120,000.00 for a good imported car but assembled locally. And not within reach for them on imported foreign assembled cars, but may for those probably assembled in a SEA country. And interest rate varied from 2.8% per annum to 3.5% per annum for cars. Loans can be taken up to a period of 9 years. And house price are now all above RM 250,000.00, and loan can be taken up to a period of 25 years. And interest rate, I don’t know. Imagine the amount of money having to be forked out of the monthly salary.

Though cost of living in this country is still cheap, but with low earning powers it is felt by the wage earners. Not only the wage earners but even by private business men. House rent may vary from RM1000.00 to RM 5000.00 per month depending on the house type, locality and furnishing. Flats and apartments are as expensive especially those with all facilities provided. And cost of a meal depends on where you eat. A common man may eat at about RM10.00 per meal, in KFC or Mac, and for a good satisfying meal though you may pay as low as RM7.00 per meal including drink at a local food place. Or if you go to eat at stalls you may pay as low as RM5.00 per meal. But of course the condition may be different, hot and dusty and may not be so hygienic.

Medical facilities is very expensive for a man on the street unless he goes to a Government hospital, which are many. But even the Government is thinking of charging its patients when they enter a Government hospital. A private Doctors visit may cost you RM50.00 on average, per visit with medicines included. A major surgery may cost you up to RM40,000.00 per surgery, depending on what surgery is done on you. Thus, many Co. have medical benefits thrown in its employment conditions, but with all sorts of other conditions thrown in as well to discourage workers from seeking private medical treatment. Medical Insurance are unreliable, they do not pay fast enough when the patient need the money most.

Clothing are quite cheap in Malaysia, if you are willing to buy the local manufactured items. And these locally manufactured clothings are good, T-shirts for example may only cost you RM50.00 for a reasonably good quality ones. The normal T-shirt, no-collar, might just cost you RM30.00 each. Shoes, we have the local brand Bata, which is of reasonably good quality. You need not buy Reebok or Adidas or what ever fancy names you have in the market. Unless you want special shoes for specific functions or activities.

Newspapers are getting a bit expensive. It used to cost less than RM1.00 for a daily newspapers a year or so ago but it has since arisen to RM1.20 and some to RM1.50. But the news are basically the same, news is controlled in this country and so newspapers print similar news. You buy a newspapers you will know all the news for the day already. The only exceptions are the supplements in the newspapers, even these are also controlled, so you may not have similar supplement but you may see the same article in a different newspapers the next week or the next month. And magazines are expensive, and again you see one you see them all. Months in and months out. Except that the may change the faces of the models or the locations of the photographs taken.

Books are also expensive. Locally produced/published books are cheaper, say RM30.00 to RM50.00 each but the quality of the content may not be that high and the authors are not well known. Though I must admit some of the local books authored by local authors make very interesting readings. But these are also controlled in a sense, so nothing that is considered sensitive can be mentioned. Imported books are expensive, say RM70.00 to RM100.00 each or even over depending on the publishers and the pages of the book. This though cannot be avoided as the prices of these books are quoted in foreign currencies, BP1.00=RM7.50 on an average, and USD1.00=RM3.80. And the vendors/importers have to have their margin so they sell these at quite a high price, most beyond the pocket of the locals. Though I suppose in their home countries these books are cheap comparatively, in their own currencies. Bear in mind that the earning powers of these foreign people are much higher than the earning powers of Malaysians. Even if their cost of living is higher. They also have other advantages; like state welfare and tax rebates.

Raw food is quite cheap in this country. But even then with about RM1000 a month you can hardly buy anything luxurious, food wise. Fish is cheap during good seasons, say from RM15.00 to RM 25.00 a kilo, for normal fish, though good fish has now risen to between RM40.000 to RM50.00 a kilo. But fresh water fish is cheap, at the market close to large bodies of water, a river say, you can still get good river fish for an average RM35.00 a kilo, though the exotic ones may be up to RM80.00 to RM100.00 a kilo, especially those ones liked by the Chinese. And meat depending on whether its local or imported. Some local beef may cost as low as RM15.00 a kilo depending on what cut. Imported beef from India is cheap, frozen and come in bulk. But those beef and lamb from Australia and NZ are expensive, again depending on the cut. They may range from RM25.00 to RM50.00 a kilo.

I must admit though that I do not go shopping, my wife does all the shopping for food. I just follow sometimes. So what I write here may be challenged, but I am sure I am not too far off.

Education for children is expensive. Firstly at kindergarten level you pay a lot for facilities, though in the rural areas where such facilities may be semi-available they may be for free or for nominal sum. Bear in mind that in the rural areas the people are poor, if being charged beyond their means they will not send their children. But in town where both parents may be working children are mostly sent to kindergarten. I do not know what it costs nowadays but in my days when my children were small I used to pay up to RM100 each per month. Then children will be required to go for Primary education. This is made compulsory by the Government and Primary Schools are many, both in the rural areas and in the urban. In theory these are for free but in reality you have to fork out quite a tidy sum. The transport cost, miscellaneous school fees for school activities and then the text book fees and school stationery required. In addition the school uniform. All these when added can be quite expensive to parents with many children. And at Secondary Schools, which is also made compulsory by the Government, the cost tends to climb. The children have grown up and there is more needs for schools activities and the like. Next come the Colleges or Universities level when almost everything you have to pay for. It may cost you a couple of RM thousands at the start a close to that sum per semester. Some parents cannot afford this so many grown up children do not go to the Universities for reasons of economic. Many may get scholarships (Bumiputras especially) if they have good examination results for the University entry, and many also take loan, either from the Government revolving funds or from commercial banks. Scholarship you need not pay back unless you do not complete the course but loans you have to pay back. I know there are many who cannot pay back their loans either due to their own carelessness or just do not want to pay or cannot pay because of no job (which can be excused) or that they do not earn enough to live comfortably.

All in all, it is pretty expensive to live in Malaysia, the cost of living may be lower than that of other countries as compared to those in Europe or the Americas but the earning power is less, except for small percentage of population in the society. There is a great gap from those who earn a lot to those who earn less. The Government is trying to bridge the gap, they have been successful in some ways, but with rising costs, and some contributed by natural inflation, making the gap seems to be stagnated. But even then living in Malaysia is not that unpleasant economic wise.

To Shout Back

Friday, April 15, 2005

There is no peace in Kuala Lumpur

There is no peace in Kuala Lumpur. If you live in a terrace house that is, in a housing estate where you have no large compound in the front of your house to call your own, the space for real privacy; unless you live in a big bungalow house with a compound of your own, in a piece of land of at least 10,000 sq. feet in area. But how many of us can afford those sort of houses in Kuala Lumpur nowadays.

Kuala Lumpur is polluted, maybe in a sense with environment pollution, which is also true, but with other form of pollution. Noise, man made mostly, nuisance disturbances, again man made, and disturbing the peace, which is unavoidable with the way of life that we lead.

Before you wake up in the morning, you hear the first pollution, if you can call it that. I am not trying to insult the Muslims in Kuala Lumpur, and I am a practicing Muslim, but I am just being true to the situation, The call for prayer starts at about 5.45 am (not always but near enough). Its loud, and it urges Muslims to wake up and come to the morning prayer (Subuh) at the mosques (large and small mosques). One of the sentences in the call that tells you " Its better (for you) to pray to Allah than to sleep". A good Muslim will heed that call, but there are very few good Muslims left nowadays. But to those who pray then I call them good Muslims.

Then nature will start calling, birds begin to chirp and crows cracking their voices in search for food. (If you live in the kampong you can hear cock crowing along with the call for prayers but in Kuala Lumpur you may just hear some faint distant cock morning crow if you are lucky). And bulbul will sound their knocking like sound as the sun rises, small birds flying about calling their mates with their special calls. Its always very pleasant to hear the nature’s morning call.

Then come the real pollution. First the bread man will come, honking on his motorcycle horn (the bread man is usually an Indian fellow) and adding to that with an air horn. Why they have to do that I do not know, as if we do not know that bread man has already arrived that morning. This is soon followed by the ‘puttu mayam’ man, honking on his horn as well, sometimes using air horn with slightly different tune from that of the bread man. ‘Puttu mayam’ are home made vermicelli, eaten with brown sugar and scraped coconut, these are also sold by those of Indian origin.

As the sun begins climbing up, another set of calls come. These are from those buying unwanted old newspapers, and old battery. "Old newspapers!" they would holler, blaring out from their lorries or vans loudspeakers. And its so loud and repeated many time that it becomes a nuisance, a pollution. In the early days they used to use loud hailers but nowadays these are recorded and amplified from their tape recorders or vide cassette players in their vans or lorries. I know they perform a service but I think they are more of disservice with their noise pollution. And in one day they may make many trips to your area or there may be others doing the same business. Imagine if they come to your area at every hour, you cannot get any peace.

Of course the fishmonger comes at about 9.00 o’clock, also honking his horns to attract attention to their customers. But the fish monger only comes once a day, and usually in the morning when the fish is still fresh. They do not contribute much to the noise pollution really.

And by late morning come the mattress men, in their lorries full of new mattresses, honking their horns also, announcing that they have arrived. They have their own special tune playing on the loudspeakers, you know well that they are selling mattresses. They sometimes exchange old mattresses with new ones, of course ripping off their customers with expensive mattresses and buying those old mattresses cheap. I suppose they make so much profit selling new mattresses that the old mattresses are just scraps to them. They may come to your area two or three times a day.

Then by early afternoon comes the ice cream man on his motorbike with a side car where they place the ice cream cold box, playing the music "Lollipop man", loud and long and probably staying around long enough to attract the children and at the same time to annoy you. They may also come three of four times a day.

I forgot to mention of the newspaper man who normally come early in the dark morning hours or early morning just about when the sun emerges. He does not make much noise really but if he uses a motor bike then you can hear him revving the engines going from house to house. And another motorbike riding guy that goes from house to house is the Postman. He also tends to rev the engines when making deliveries. Then off and on comes the courier man delivering the letters and goods but these are few and far in between. But if he comes, he tends to ring you doorbell unlike the Postman who delivers registered letters who tend to sound their horns shrilly to attract the house owner. He thinks that the house owners are dogs, responding to his shrill horns.

Then there is another group of people who are nuisance in your lives. These do not create noise pollution but they create other forms of ‘pollution’. These are people, salesmen, beggars and donation seekers. Salesmen come knocking on your gate or ringing your house-bells, and if you come out they tend to start their sales talk. Really these people waste a lot of your time. These sales people can be from selling gas-fittings to selling some cheap books, and this last class are sometime some sort of syndicate from some foreign countries. And beggars, there are quite a number of them, but they do not necessarily beg but they disguise their begging with something like selling odds and ends. And the other group are the donation seekers; they tend to pretend that they care collecting some donations for some mosques (the Muslim tends to go to Muslim house) or church donations (who do not approach the Muslim houses) or some building funds for some buildings used for religious purposes. But these people are very specific in that they do not really approach people of different religion when asking for donations. At least there is certain respect, but for me those asking donation to build mosques I am not so sure about. I end up thinking that some are cheat. These people are mostly from Kelantan, Kedah and Pattani. One newspaper reported that these people can squeezed from the public up to about RM300.00 a day each, and no one can vouch where the money goes to.
Come late afternoon, your street becomes the playground for the neighbourhood children. And the noise they make sometimes can be overbearing. But what can you do about it, the housing estate does not provide enough space for children to play football or any other game in. Malaysia has got this bad habit of putting up houses in every conceivable open space, be it in town or in a housing estate. Somehow nobody really think about the children needs for an open space or a playing ground (or even for adults), space to free their mind and body and to run around in.

You can shut your gate or even have your gate locked or latched or you do not open your doors but the noise pollution (and the other unclassified pollution borne on you) still persist and you cannot take a rest even in your home in the morning or a peaceful nap in the afternoon.

The noise does not stop until about 10 at night, even then you may still get some noise from cars which loose their way in your street or those who come home late.

Malaysia really is a noisy country, and nobody has ever attempted to control such disturbing town noise pollution (and other unrelated and unclassified pollution).

Some have resolved that problem themselves by living in condominium where sales men and these noisy vans and vehicle do not get to. But the solution is expensive, condominiums are expensive to rent or even to maintain. Is that the price to pay to rid yourself of noise (and other unclassified) pollution in Kuala Lumpur?

To Shout Back

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Age of Internet

The age of Internet is upon us. I have web sites. But most of them are connected to my

I have always wanted to have a web site, when I heard that there are such a thing, but I do not want to pay for them, both for design and server usage. I wanted to design my own and I want to use free servers. I was told that there are free servers available.

I was very fascinated earlier in life with gadgets, computers (when I saw them in College in UK) and Internet (when it came into being). I first met computers at Brighton Tech. It was hefty, a room full, in panels and all wired up by hard wires. And we used that to resolve some difficult simultaneous equations, and the result was only shown in graphic form on a small CRT. And then we have to interpret those graphs by physical measurements. Very basic but I thought then it was great. Then on TV we had the Man from UNCLE. I was fascinated by the watch-wrist phone. Of course Dr. Who came into being and the rest of it, in earlier years Flash Gordon. And when I was in a trading company, one of the activities then was the sales of computers. I was not involved but I got wind on how interesting the job was.
A PC was provided for me when I was already in my senior years. I have watched all the young guys/gals using PCs, and I was fascinated, even though they only use them for word processing and creating tables purposes then. When one day I found a PC on my desk at the office I did not know what to do. I asked my boss, an Englishman, what a PC was doing on my desk. He turned around to me and said, "Use it". An instruction I thought. It was. And I began to learn various word processing and table making programmes, and I managed to use the PC in the end even though it only, like others, I used it for word processing.. When I was transferred to KL office, we slowly began to reduce staff, no more typist, no more Secretaries, no more Office Boy, no more Filing Clerk and each individual had to do everything. We have to manage the office, to keep our job. And we managed.

When Internet came to Malaysia (I think about 10 years ago) I was one of the first few to have the connection. I had my e-mail account made and I learnt to use a browser, it was only Netscape available over here then and I used that. Then came IE and now the others. I was also fascinated by some home pages which some of my friends have, and I did not have the knowledge how to get one for me. I have always thought that and I have been told also that I have to pay to have a home page made, and I did not want to pay. A nephew came back from the UK and showed me his home page he made at his University and it was for free. So I thought there must be free sites where I can have home page made.
When I retired about 3 1/2 years ago (time does fly), I began searching for sites where I can make myself my home page for free. I found Geocities and I made a home page. They have the facilities and they guided me all the way. I was very pleased with myself. And at the same time there were discussion groups all over the Internet and I joined some of these discussion groups, on all sorts of subjects from technical to computers, from race to religion to politic. And I participated. I learned a lot from these discussion groups. And I also started some discussion groups. Then came chatting but I thought this wasted a lot of time. And time mean money, then there was no broadband in Malaysia, there was only connection made by modem. At first Telekom Malaysia charged only as local calls for connections made by modem but later they time these connections and charge according to time usage. But even then, slow as it was, I managed to roam and create few sites, and participated in some discussion groups. When broadband was introduced about less that 1 year ago, I got connections made about 6 months later and I began to make more web pages. I also was introduced into blogging. I found out that there were so many blog sponsors and I joined some. Where I have to pay I dropped them one by one, and some are also very stingy with server capacities. I pick and choose which are the ones that meet my requirements. I found that a few of them, two of the most friendly are ‘blogspot' and 'motime'. And now I found that multiply is also reliable, and more challenging. They give you very small space to design your page and that to me is challenge of my skills. I have by now learned about html, css and java. Not that I am good in them, and I have some very basic understanding of them. So I use that basic understanding to redesign my pages. I thought that I have now done good job of it all.

My basic sites are,,, There are other sites which I have made and these are mostly linked to the above 4 sites, and some I have dropped because I loose interest in them.

To Shout Back

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Unemployed Graduates.

I do not know if the title of my article is correct. Or can I say unemployable Graduates?

By my standard Graduates are those who have gone to a University and have got a Degree. But I may also include those who have Diploma in any form. I stand corrected.
To me Graduates are just products. If the product is useful then there will be demand but if the product is just an everyday stuff, people only use them occasionally, then demand will decline. And of course products depends on the manufacturing process, the market and the costings which may also include maintenance (in a sense if they are to be retrained to be useful or of further use). And what about market research before the product is manufactured and then marketed. Its a complete product cycle really, and when the product is no longer useful or have no use for them or the shelf life expires then they can be discarded or even disposed of.

Malaysia used to have very few Universities and Colleges and so Malaysians were made to go overseas for further studies. And Graduates then were rare breeds but as the country progresses the demand for Graduates were on the increase and so every Graduate had jobs (I mean jobs - with a ‘s’) waiting for them. As time goes on, more Malaysian Graduates are produced by these overseas Universities and Colleges, and at the same time Malaysia started to build its own Universities and Colleges. To date I do not know how many Universities and Colleges are here in Malaysia exist, perhaps a search on the Internet will reveal the total number. And in addition there are private Institutions doing twinning Degree courses with some foreign Universities or even some students taking off-campus Degrees. So as a result Graduates flood the job market.

And Graduates come in all sorts of colour and sizes, and sex, and they studied various subjects relating to their final qualifications and interests and their expectations and perceptions of the job market. Many of them just plunged into their subjects of studies without considering even what will they be when out of the Universities or Colleges, and also not knowing what the outside job market is like. These Graduates have been studying subjects which may have no job skills other than the skills to pass their acquired knowledge to others, or skills that may find no market or that the market is already saturated with that sort of skills. I don’t want to mention what these Degrees are like, but enough to say that some of these Degrees are of no use to society at large, other than probably in very restricted job positions. Thus these Graduates are left hanging with their Degree papers with no job in sight; too high for low paying jobs, low for high paying jobs, and no position available in the open job market.

Its easy to say that there are no positions available in the job market. But bear in mind that some of these Graduates do not want some of these jobs; they get to be choosy about jobs. Maybe the job is too low below their so called ‘status’ as Graduates, maybe because these jobs are low paying according to their perceptions, low compared to their expectations or these jobs are menial, not a Lobourers job but labourious enough for them. I mean being just out of the ivory tower they expect that in the outside world they are still be treated as if they are still in the ivory owe, and the world owes them a living. And in a society like in Malaysia where Graduates used to have certain value, and now these new Graduates find themselves at almost zero value, its too much for them to take. Bear in mind also that when they enter the University of Colleges their parents, friends and relatives expect them to have high paying jobs, and now suddenly they are offered jobs as if they have not been into a University or Colleges (like in the old days); its a question of loosing face to all, worst still to other Graduates and the parents. And sometimes the parents have to bear all financial burden to educate their children up to University level and now after graduation have zero return on their investment. And also loosing face as when the children first was accepted into a University or a College, everyone would know about it and their reputation had been up. Now after graduation, the children finding no job making their reputation going to the dogs. Many will talk about why so and so who have graduated from a University or Colleges cannot get jobs. Worst still, some may even suspect that so and so have not managed to get to be called Graduate. A further loss of face.

Its really again a question of unemployed Graduates or Graduates who are not employable. I find that in the press, almost everyday there are vacant jobs being advertised, vacancies at various level. But sadly though I must admit that the employers are not being fair, in the sense that they want experienced person/s. From the point of view of the Graduate if they have not been given employment how can they have the experience but from the point of view of the employer experienced personnel are expected to have quick return. Its a chicken and egg situation.

I must go again into unemployable Graduates. Many Graduates are unemployable. They do not have the expected potential, they cannot converse in the language mainly used in the market places, which unfortunately happens to be English and these Graduates have graduated in Malay medium Universities or Colleges. Some have no personality for the job at all, they just studied their subjects without even considering what is expected in the outside world. Some thinking that a Degree is good enough, forgetting such traits as personality, potential and relationships. Some do not even have network where they can seek help in getting jobs. Networking may be difficult if the parents have no network, like those just emerging from the rural into the urban.

At least the Graduates themselves should have attempted to search for contacts in order for them to easily glide into a job on graduation. In the old days the employer goes to the University in search for good Graduate material but nowadays the Graduates themselves, or even those about to be called Graduates, would need to look outside the University environment for potential employer. Maybe they do, I do not know, but I have not seen such effort in may cases. Even the Universities themselves may have neglected this aspect of getting jobs for their Graduates. If they do then, I would say "Hurray" for them.
Looking outside the University is really a market research effort. In fact job market research should have been done by the potential Graduate itself even before going to the University. At school they have the Career Teachers who are trained to be in the know about the job market and who can advice their students accordingly. Young people being idealistic would try to choose a University course that may look glamorous without thinking about them getting jobs when they graduate. Some may even choose a course which are beyond their academic capabilities, they get filtered out even in the first year at the University, and they do not Graduate. But those who proceed on and be lucky enough to graduate may find that they are misfits, thus cannot find employment or even unemployable.

On a average, Graduates in Malaysia will try to look for secured jobs, and these are available in the Government services. But Government services are saturated. And jobs outside the Government services are ‘unsecured’ jobs, in a sense that they can be made unemployed at almost any time. In reality it is not that bad but that is the impression that Graduates used to think in those days. Now Graduates may have changed in their thinking and will accept jobs outside the Government services. In fact if the Graduate have enough intelligence and initiative they can very well make their career outside the Government services very successfully. And the pay will commiserate likewise. But outside sector is more choosy, the unemployed Graduates may be more likely to be unemployable.

Being Graduates in Malaysia today is not an easy life. We Malaysians used to say that in India even the bus conductors are Graduates. It won’t be long that situation will happen in Malaysia. Graduates are produced by the thousands every year, and the rate of production to employment opportunity do not commiserate with the production of these Graduates. And in addition thousands of other Graduates are also flooding the market, they being Malaysians who are returning to Malaysia from the Universities overseas.
What of the future? Privately I would say that employment opportunity for Graduates in Malaysia will be bleak. It is up to these Graduates to consider what they want to do with their lives. After all that piece of paper called a Degree is just a ticket, and the ticket is only a mean of opening doors into the job market, job generally speaking either being employed by others or you employ yourself. In the self employment sector the opportunities are still wide open in Malaysia.

To Shout Back