After what’s been happening in Egypt, I thought I would draft a memo to dictators and authoritarian leaders around the world to give them some free and unsolicited advice. Dear Mr Dictator/Authoritarian Leader Recent events in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and elsewhere must be giving you sleepless nights or making you feel terribly uneasy. May I offer a few tips so that you don’t see similar eruptions in your own countries: Do not suppress dissent Allow your people sufficient avenues and outlets to express their frustrations, anger, complaints and criticism. You don’t want their anger and frustration to be pent up. Think of these avenues as built-in safety valves. In this respect, free media and a functioning Parliament have a big role to play. Don’t forget to free up the state-run media as well. Get rid of all repressive laws, especially detention without trial, and bring back democracy quickly before it’s [Read more]
By now, we are gradually becoming familiar with the poverty, unemployment (especially among youth) and income inequality in Egypt that seems to be fuelling the protests. But what is less well known is that Egypt, like Tunisia, had only recently been viewed as an ‘economic miracle’ after it wholeheartedly pursued standard IMF/World Bank ideas. (Follow the ‘one million-strong’ gathering in Cairo ‘live’ over Aljazeera here.) It’s funny that Hillary Clinton now says that Egypt has to”‘reform”. Only in August 2010, the Wall Street Journal reported that Egypt had become Washington’s economic favourite. And last year, the World Bank, in its ‘Doing Business 2010′ report gushingly (and embarrassingly) applauded Colombia and Egypt as the “top global reformers in four of the past seven years”. I kid you not. How wrong can you get? Unless they meant reforms to profit a small minority of the business elite. Such IMF/World Bank ‘structural adjustment’ [Read more]
While we celebrate the New Year, spare a thought for Yong Vui Kong, a young Malaysian convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in Singapore. Pray for a miracle, that he be given a second chance.
There are two opposite extremes in Sarawak that are worlds apart. First, an example of the harsh reality that faces the marginalised: Hishamuddin’s aide falls into Sarawakian marsh November 21, 2010 KUCHING, Nov 21 — Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein was today shocked to see his special officer Datuk Firdaus Ismail fall into a marsh when a wooden bridge leading to the dilapidated home of an elderly villager in Kampung Gersik, here, collapsed. (From a Bernama report in Malaysian Insider)
The Penang Water Authority (PBAPP), the most efficient water authority in the country, has decided to impose a ‘conservation’ surcharge of 24 sen per 1,000 liters on domestic consumers using more than 35,000 litres of water per month. First let me say, the publicly owned PBA has done a brilliant job in keeping non-revenue water low at around 19 per cent. Its efficient management has put private water utility firms elsewhere in the country to shame. Despite low water tariffs, its efficiency has allowed it to make a profit before tax of RM16 million for 2009 (RM28 million in 2008) on the back of RM185 million (RM188 million in 2008). And yes, there is a pressing need to conserve water as consumption per capita in Penang is higher than acceptable. The surcharge-free 35,000-litre threshold is based on the basic needs of a household of five. This move could curb wastage [Read more]