Monday, June 12, 2017

Revising the minimum wage levels in Malaysia


Imagine that you are the sole breadwinner in your family. You earn the current minimumwage of RM1,000 to feed a family of 4 living in Kuala Lumpur. How would you plan your daily expenditure and the expenditure of your family? You have only about RM8 per person per day to spend.

That was the underlying context for the “Poverty Line Challenge” organised by Suaram Penang for the past two consecutive years, which challenged participants to survive on only RM7.5 per day for five continuous days. This may be just a five day challenge to some, but in reality, 1.6% of households[1] (or about 106,800 households) in Malaysia had earned less than the minimum wage of RM900 per month in 2014. For the lowest expenditure class of households, on average they would spend 28% of their earnings on food and beverages, 30% on housing and utilities and another 9% on transport[2].

This begs the question of whether the minimum wage of RM1,000 is sufficient for a household living in an urban area.

According to the National Wages Consultative Council of Malaysia[3], the objectives of the minimum wages policy are to i) ensure basic needs of workers and their families are met ii) provide sufficient social protection to workers iii) encourage industry to move up the value chain by investing in higher technology and increase labour productivity and iv) reduce nation’s dependence on unskilled foreign labour.

Malaysia began implementing the minimum wage effective from January 1st 2013, where the monthly minimum wage in Peninsular Malaysia was RM900 and for East Malaysia, RM800. Effective since last year July, the monthly minimum wage was adjusted to RM1,000 and RM920, respectively. Under the minimum wage legislation, the minimum wage levels shall be reviewed every two years.

Critics blame this policy for harming the economy and forcing some businesses to close thus creating more unemployment. Some cast doubt because they feel that the labour productivity increases do not match up with the wage increment. On the other hand, others claim that the minimum wage is set too low and as such does not help the workers to cope with higher living cost in Malaysia. Proponents of a higher minimum wage, such as Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and opposition parties repeatedly urge the government to set it at RM1,500 .

Figures from the Labour Force Survey seem to show some of the benefits of the minimumwage policy. This policy may be partially responsible for the improvement in labour force participating rate (LFPR) from 65.6% in 2012 (pre-minimum wage policy) to 67.7% in 2016. The implementation of the minimum wage policy also coincided with an increase in women’s participation in the labour force, where female LFPR reached 54.3% in 2016, up from 49.5% in 2012. The number of employed persons in Malaysia also increased from 12.8million in 2012 to 14.2million in 2016. This clearly shows that employment opportunities and labour participation in Malaysia were not negatively affected by the minimum wage policy. While the minimum wage policy has brought more socioeconomic benefits than harm, the current system in Malaysia is still far from ideal. Allow me to illustrate further.

The current minimum wage rates are only applicable to West and East Malaysia, as 2 general territories. However, inter-state difference is wide. For instance, is it fair to have workers in the Klang Valley and in Kelantan both receive the same amount of minimum wage? Even within a state there is huge disparity in living expenses: taking Selangor as an example, residents in Bandar Utama (an affluent township located in Petaling Jaya district) and Sungai Besar (a rural township in Sabak Bernam district) would have vastly different levels of living costs.

It may be true that some firms might consider laying off its workers due to cost saving when minimum wage is implemented. However, if the firm knows that the minimum wage level for rural or semi-urban area is significantly lower, they might consider moving into and setting up the business there, thus more job opportunities could be brought to the area.

Another issue is the fact that the current system does not distinguish between workers’ age. Employers are often reluctant to pay inexperienced ‘freshman’ workers too highly. In this case, a lower but reasonable wage for young workers may be a good balance. This also allows for the setting of a higher minimum wage at a later age, when the workers are more likely to shoulder bigger financial responsibilities for family needs. In United Kingdom, the government gazettes the National Minimum Wage hourly rates of £5.6 (RM30.33) to £7.05 (RM38.19) for 18-20 to 21-24 years old employees, respectively. However, the National Living Wage is applied to employees of age 25 years old and above, set at hourly rate of £7.5 (RM40.62).  Even more impressive is the fact that the UK minimum wage rates are adjustable or reviewed every half year. Can Malaysia emulate the same “age-sensitive” model?

One may have reservations and might worry that this proposal would complicate matters for the authorities and employers. One needs to be reminded that some countries set the minimum wage rates even according to different demographics, such as India, which has more than 1,200 rates across the country. I do not propose that we wholly follow the case of India, but at the very least, rates should be refined down to state or district level.

Many countries set the minimum wage at 30-60% of the median wage of their country. Thus, if our government takes 60% of the median household income[4] (RM4,585) divided by average number of wage earners per household (1.8), the minimum wage should be RM1,528. If we take the UK standard at 44%, then it would be RM1,120.

The current national minimum wage in Malaysia is set too low. If the lowest grade of workers from the Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai have enjoyed a minimum basic salary (including fixed allowance) of RM1,350[5] since 2012, there is no reason why the federal government cannot adjust the national minimum wage to an acceptable and fair level.

In setting minimum wage rates, the main consideration should be creating a social safety net that complements the existing social welfare system, which I believe is inadequate. The minimum wage should serve as a right for workers to avoid being exploited by the employers. Workers deserve sufficient wages to deal with basic living expenses, so they can live with assurance and dignity.


[1] Prices, Income and Expenditure Statistics Division, Department of Statistics Malaysia.[2] Household expenditure survey 2014, Department of Statistics Malaysia[3] T. Shanmugam, “Early effects and challenges of minimum wages in Malaysia: Sharing of pre & post economic and social indicators”, Presentation at the National Minimum Wage: Symposium & Policy Roundtable, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2-4 February 2016[4] Household Income And Basic Amenities Survey Report 2014, Department of Statistics Malaysia[5] “Dasar baru pro-pekerja 2012 MPSP, gaji minima RM1,350”, Bulletin Mutiara, 16 Nov 2011.https://www.buletinmutiara.com/dasar-baru-pro-pekerja-2012-mpsp-gaji-minima-rm1350/

Prudent, strategic planning required for medical housemanship programme

It is stereotypical of Asian parents to dream of the day when their child dons the white doctor’s coat or the green surgeon’s scrubs. In fact, there are plenty of opportunities for one aspiring to be a medical doctor in Malaysia.

Over the years, Malaysia has experienced a boom in the number of medical programmes offered by private higher education institutions in order to cater for this demand.  Parents typically invest a hefty sum into a child’s medical education, which would take 4 to 5 years to complete. From just one college (namely, the Penang Medical College) in 2001 to 11 private institutions in 2014, the number of medical graduates from private institutions entering the workforce is 26 times more than what it used to be in 2001. Those who did not enrol in local institutions may opt to study abroad in one of the 310 recognised foreign medical institutions, some of which have lower entry requirements than local institutions. The sharp surge in the numbers of medical graduates seeking housemanship positions has caused a glut in the public system. In 2015, Malaysian Medical Council provisionally registered 5,147 medical practitioners; only 4,121 housemen having completed and vacated the local positions in the same year.

In a recent interview, Deputy Health Minister Dr Hilmi Yahaya stated that out of a total of 10,835 housemen placed in 44 teaching hospitals and Royal Military Hospitals, only 48.6% medical graduates who went through Public Service Commission interview in 2016 obtained a place[1]. Meanwhile, the Health Minister Dr Subramaniam conceded that the waiting time forhousemanship placement was between 6 to 9 months.[2] This prolonged wait caused anxiety and stress to the housemen, as they were left with no means of income and risked losing touch with the knowledge and skills acquired during their years of study.

Since 2008, the duration of the housemanship programme has increased from one year to 2 years. Now, housemen are required to cover 6 disciplines for their postings, namely Internal Medicine, Paediatrics, Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Orthopaedics and Emergency Medicine (or 3 alternative choices of discipline). The total number and the turnover rate of house officer positions are determinants for a fresh houseman to secure a place in one of the training hospitals. On the other hand, the number of experienced specialists who are willing and able to supervise the house officers determines the quality of the housemanship programme.

Another difficulty lies in getting sufficient numbers of available specialists in each discipline. Within ‘Emergency Medicine’, MOH has only 139 specialists, and another 3 core discipline areas have less than 250 specialists each[3]. If one were to divide the aforementioned total number of housemen by 6 postings, there would be 1806 housemen on average seeking a placement in a certain discipline at any one point in time. Even if 100 specialists from a particular discipline enlisted as a mentor, he or she would have to supervise a group of 18 housemen on average. With such constrained resources, how could the training quality be good and sufficient under such circumstances? A study done in 2012 by the MOH further confirmed that in 48.4% of all cases, one mentor had to take on 6 mentees and above[4]. There were even cases of over 20 mentees to 1 mentor!

The ongoing ‘brain drain’ of specialists to the private sector and foreign countries is yet another issue contributing to the shortage of experienced specialists and consequently, poorer quality of training. It was found that between 2009 and 2013, about one-third of housemen reported to have extended their housemanship training at least once[5] ; 55% due to incompetence and the remaining 45% due to disciplinary issues. These “extensions” caused a bottleneck to the placement system within the training hospitals. Coupled with the large influx of incoming medical graduates over the recent decade, the training hospitals are becoming even more bloated and simply cannot catch up with the pace.

While the housemanship bottleneck issue cannot be solved overnight, policymakers should be more prudent in planning to anticipate the possible issues and prevent the situation from worsening. We recommend the following measures: Firstly, MOH should train more specialists and retain them in public sector. Besides that, MOH should also plan and design the housemanship programme better, especially to incentivise specialists to become mentors. In broader terms, the government should work with private sector hospitals, providing the latter with incentives to train housemen while sharing the cost burden of training. Finally, the MMC needs to have tighter regulations of local private and overseas medical education institutions to ensure medical graduates they produced are of desirable quality and not quantity.

Given that housemanship training is the bedrock of good skills and professional development for medical officers, government has to ensure that medical graduates receive proper skills training and have an overall satisfying experience during their housemanship period. After all,housemanship training is an important quality safeguard of the provision of medical services to the general public.


[1] “More slots at training hospitals opening up for housemen”, The Star, 15 March 2017
[2] Hashini Kavishtri Kannan, “Med students told: Don't work illegally, wait for housemanpostings”, New Straits Times, 3 August 2016
[3] National Specialist Register, valid as of 24 Feb 2017
[4] Ang K.T. et al., “Mentoring Junior Doctors in Public Sector Hospitals, Malaysia”, Institute for Health Management, 2012

[5] Norrina J. et al., “Housemen Extension: The Concern of All”, Institute for Health Management, 2014

政策和公共知识份子的角色

如何鼓励人民多乘搭公共交通,从而解决塞车问题?消费税当初应该推行吗?推广医疗旅游会否损及本地人在私人医疗服务上的利益?哪个是永续发展的模式,以确保自然环境与人文精神可被维护及发扬光大?

以上的问题都牵涉到政策讨论:有些具有政治意识,有些则可放在非常技术的层面来探讨。政策影响可大可小,大至决定你在这片国土上的个人身份权利,主宰你的衣食住行;小则跟你没直接关系。无论是良策或下策,有些政策的影响深远至几代人的事,例如70年代的新经济政策;有些政策则会带来永久性不可逆转的改变,比方说允许油棕种植业开辟原始森林的土地政策。

在我国,政策的拟定一般惯性是由上而下产生的。有时候纯粹是政治人物的个人意愿或突发奇想,例如英文教数理政策。一旦政策没经过仔细研究和深思熟虑,没以数据事实和扎实理论为根据推算未来,该政策的失败风险机率颇大。那么最后由谁来收拾烂摊子,代价由谁来负责?当中的问责追究机制,人民除了可委托反对党,本身能不能亲自有效地监督政府的表现?

在一些民众的认知里,政策似乎归属于政治圈子内的话题和权力而已,他们觉得遥不可及,也无从改变结果。遥不可及或源自于有些政策的技术复杂度,导致某些人因无力全面解读而放弃参与讨论。再说,对国家政治制度已失去信心和希望的大有人在,他们甚至认为讨论政策无济于事因为上台的还会是同一集团的同一批人。

前联合国秘书长科菲安南曾说过:“知识就是力量,信息就是解放。教育是进步的前提,对每个社会和家庭都一样”。同样的道理若用在我国的政治和民主教育,有何不可?倘若人民能掌握议题、对政策了解得更多,就能更自觉本身的权利,不会轻易被忽悠受摆布。如此一来,众人更能组织起兴论力量来反对和抵挡不合理不正义的政策,这就是民主成熟、理智进步的社会象征。

政策的讨论虽可在咖啡店里口沫横飞道长短,或在豪华酒店的会议厅里滔滔不绝,到底最后结果怎样还是得回到重点看论政策的人有没做足功课,拿出专业精神实事求是,分析解说能不能信服大众。没错,政策研究是一门学问。我身为槟州州政府的智库和公共政策研究中心的政策分析员之一,除了要做好这门学问,更有责任把思想种子散播出去,以期能发扬新观点促使它影响或改变这社会,达到一定的功用。要取信于社会大众,除了要使用易懂的语言持续性地与公众沟通交流,更重要的是能坚持把住本身的客观专业,公正不阿、问心无愧地交代和捍卫本身的研究结果。

既然是由公费资助的政策研究,必然要有其公共利益,研究成果也理应与公众公开分享。换言之,我是纳税人的雇员,终须对公众负责。而我在其位谋其事就得尽其责,成为公共知识份子之一。那么,我唯有走出冷气房面向大众,才能有效地做到坐言起行。


如果政策是个大版图,围绕着这个大版图的策议者对于时局布阵,防守进攻略都必须拿捏清楚。细节可有错但不能全盘皆落,至少大方向没走错。就如刘备三顾茅庐拜访诸葛亮留下后来的《隆中对》,从此奠定了刘备的蜀国在三国天下定局的立足攻略基础。又称《隆中三策》,诸葛亮提出先取荆州为根基,再夺益州为鼎足补给后方,进而角逐中原的战略构想。若说槟城是我们发挥影响力的出发点根据地,角逐政府决策的中原是我们的理想。那么,我们该有什么政策攻略打造一个进步有希望的马来西亚?我的研究院同僚们将在接下来每逢周日与大家谈政策,叙说故事。


刊登于《東方日報》東方文薈版2017年6月11日


Sunday, January 29, 2017

2016 'watched' list

Whenever time is appropriate and convenient, Xiao Hui and I would prefer to watch movie together in our home theatre (because watching movie from a video beamer is so cool  =D ).
Since the day Yee Chern came to the world, there will be some time until we can both go to cinema together once again.
Anyway, almost all movies I watched in 2016 I really enjoyed. Usually I am the one more picky about selecting good movie. I do not usually go by popular blockbusters. Generally I appreciate great storytelling and cinematography, usually search for deeper meaning and inspiration out of movie. To me, movie is not purely served as entertainment.
Among my 2016 list, the best highly recommended movies which impressed me the most are Spotlight (2015) , The Lobster, Nocturnal Animals and 心迷宫。Most entertaining is A Walk in the Woods (2015) ; most touching is My Love Don't Cross That River (2014) (Korean); Best Sci-Fi action movie is Train to Busan. All others I quite like, except 'Don't Breathe' I regret watching.

2016 'watched' list:
Ola Bola (watched in cinema)
我来自纽约 The Kid from the Big Apple (watched in cinema)
Suffragette (2015)
The Danish Girl (2015)
Brooklyn (2015)
山河故人
Train to Busan (Korean)
心迷宫
Me Before You
Spotlight (2015)
The Lobster
A Walk in the Woods (2015)
Right Now Wrong Then (2015) (Korean)
My Love Don't Cross That River (2014) (Korean)
Don't Breathe
Nocturnal Animals

2017 'watched' list - so far:
Your name
你的名字 (Japanese) (2016)
Between Us (2016)
Arrival

2017 Birthday statement

In the event of becoming one year older (and hopefully wiser), i want to write something about my recent self.
Last year 2016 was a dramatic year with lots of things happened to me and around me.
The biggest positive thing ever happened to me, my wife and our families is only one -- Yee Chern. He is loved and adored by so many people (even strangers), we are blessed to have him in our family. We feel lucky that he is such a good boy, far better we expected before he came to the world. Even there was a few tireless nights occasionally, we have forgotten about the incidents when he woke up with his best charming smile thereafter. On a trivial note, whenever YC was in his 'bad' days, I would usually get the brunt more from the stress he caused to his mama https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v7/f9f/1/16/1f61b.png:P Also to say, most of the times he really ‘performed’ well before our guests/friends, because we tried our best to fit best timing for him to meet you. This credit goes to YC mama. All normal and healthy babies do cry and have temper sometimes, especially when they are hungry or tired, ok?
I am glad that my wife Xiao Hui first made her decision to quit her job in Singapore moved in with me in Penang in her first trimester of pregnancy (which was then early 2016). Really want to thank her for the life-changing decision and the bold move. Life was relatively easy in Penang Island, where we lived in a comfortable and convenient area called Relau. We only moved back to the Klang Valley last October, so we spent at least 9 months in Penang living together, including a significant event and moment occurred on the 25th May https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v7/f4c/1/16/1f642.png=) So many beautiful memories I have collected in Penang for the wonderful 2.5 years living and working there. Therefore it is hard for me not talking about my Penang experience here.
Many northern Islanders very seldom passing by this place called Relau, some even regard it as a very ‘ulu’ ‘migrants haven’. Despite all the bad description which we do not agree, we really enjoyed staying there. All the major facilities are close to my old Penang place, ie. Bayan Baru market, Queensbay Mall, Airport, First & Second Penang Bridge, Tesco, etc. I appreciate the local Monday night market, where I made friends with a few vegetable vendors and a honest & chatty Kuih lapis baker from Balik Pulau. Also, the local Relau Agriculture Station and Relau Metropolitan Park I consider as the hidden gems of Relau worth visiting.
I don't think I can quite forget my balcony view ... the grand view of Bukit Jambul, I which certainly I would miss dearly in future. I had personal attachment to the hill. I was rather a frequent hiker to the 'Gazebo' peak of Bukit Jambul. I love the short hike, had even brought Yee Chern up once when he was just 4 months old. In fact, Penang hills are all in my eyes. I enjoy greenery, loathe any development that would destroy the hills.
Before Xiao Hui moved to Penang, I was also a rather frequent user of RapidPenang bus services. I really did not mind a bit of walking (1 + 2 km) and waiting. I really want to thank my colleagues for occasional drop off at the Penang general hospital for my bus. I appreciate Xiao Hui sometimes came meeting me in my Penang office area by taking RapidPenang bus, with Yee Chern still inside her womb. Public transport mode in Penang is still catering only for minority, and the bus journey from Relau to Pulau Tikus is hilly with ups and downs, bumpy sometimes. Really have to praise Xiao Hui for this adventure.
I miss working with many good people in Penang, including my dear wonderful Penang Institute colleagues and friends (not all from PI though, I must stress). I had pleasant experience also working with great personals from some local Penang NGOs. Their professionalism, expertise, boundless energy and long-term commitment to good causes, really amazed me. I learned much from them. From musician, filmmaker, environmentalists to arts and cultural lovers, I share many sentiments and views with them. They truly concern and vocal about certain issues which are close to their heart. I wish to see Penang continues thriving in a sustainable development manner. The beauty of its natural heritage cannot be overstated, cannot be substituted by any mega project. Some said Penangites (read: Islanders) can easily get to hill or beach side within 10 mins car drive. I simple do not have that kind of privilege here in Klang Valley now. So Penangites should appreciate and value what they already have right now.
I really miss Penang.
The move back to Klang Valley was actually previously planned under the pipeline, just that I personally did not expect it to come that early. I saw the opportunity came knocking on my door when I could apply for a transfer back to the KL office due to timely vacancy. My wish to focus on my research works on the Malaysian healthcare policies, prompted me the move back to the heartbeat of the country where national policies are made. KL office suits me just that, with a very supportive General Manager Dr Ong Kian Ming (MP for Serdang). Finally I can make use of my research skills on issues that I am most passionate about. That will be good for my career development, as I would like to be recognised one day for policy research contribution in the health sector. In Penang, I wore too many hats, attended to many state government duties, and I had to become an all-rounder for many socioeconomic issues. Though I appreciate the experience I gained and I had met many experts from different fields along the way, unfortunately that could not be a long term goal for me.
What makes the transition back to the KL office goes so smoothly is my nice colleagues and friends in this tiny KL office. They are very accommodating and supportive. Just within 3 months, I have produced some research works and turned some into press statements. Definitely I feel more productive, positive and upbeat here in the KL office. Fortunate enough, I share many common interests with my new colleagues here, be it food, hiking and games. Furthermore, now we have a very interactive common collaborative workspace environment in Uppercase Bangsar, I really enjoy working here. I make it a habit of taking public transport to work whenever possible, ie. ride LRT, combine with cycling and walking.
My hope and resolution for this year: 
In terms of family, for sure I want to see Yee Chern growing up happily and healthily. I will do my best spending more meaningful time with him, learn to sing and play more new songs, develop new interesting acts & tricks that keep him amused, read more books to him, bring him out more to explore the world. 
For Xiao Hui, I will try to make use of available time at home to share the household duties burden, also wish to have more time to do things we enjoy doing together, eg. watching movie at home. Hopefully we can make it for a long trip together as a family of 3 to the Trumpland to find Uncle Macha this year.
In terms of work, I hope to complete some of my healthcare policy research projects, hopefully publish a few papers (in whatever format), and engage the public to share my findings and thoughts about the current status and future of our Malaysian healthcare.
I also wish to make a few work or leisure trips to Penang this year. I am sure my friends in Penang would be equally joyous to meet me and my family too. It is okay to indulge in reminiscence sometimes, for the time being Penang to me is my second home in Malaysia https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v7/f4c/1/16/1f642.png=) Don’t forget Yee Chern is a Penang Lang.
In terms of personal fitness, I have a target to keep my weight below 80kg (which I did last year), and reduce further 5kg if possible. Go for weekend badminton training consistently; hike more hills around the region; occasionally join the weekly yoga (free) session in my workplace; cycle more to LRT station for work, cycle to car ratio should go higher than 70:30.

This year 2017 is highly likely to be a general election year. Though I know it is highly improbable event for the opposition coalition to win, given the current sociopolitical climate and circumstances. Still, I hope to see the fall of UMNO-BN as the ruling party for the Federal government. I do not want to just see the change of hands in government but reform agenda must take place to strengthen our institutions, liberate our society and make Malaysia a progressive, just and fair country for all.

2017生日聲明

就趁人生經歷與歲月+1之際,總結去年的自己。2016年是多事之秋的一年很多事情發生未必是壞事,壞事也未必發生在我身上。
對我,曉慧和家人來說,去年最大亮點就只有一個:林禹丞。他實在太討人歡喜乃至大街上好多陌生人都主動大獻殷勤。他的出現,讓我們一家帶來歡樂,真好。我們也有點慶幸他基本上是個乖乖仔。即使偶有幾個疲憊夜晚,只要他一早醒來後使出他的招牌天真無牙笑臉,我們又忘卻了昨晚的勞苦。順便一提,一旦禹丞不合作鬧情緒,基本上我就遭殃了因為媽媽會被他弄得精神緊張而連累到我,呵呵。還有啊,他在我們的親朋戚友前表現良好,功勞都歸他媽盡力準備安排較好的時間讓你們見到他。在不對的時間點遇到餓和累的baby,他會哭鬧是正常的,ok? 所以,你們看到的是真相,但不是真相的全部!
我很慶幸曉慧去年初決定辭退在新加坡的工作搬過來檳城與我同住。那時是她懷孕的首三月。感激她作出勇敢的重大決定。我們在檳島上的生活其實還蠻輕鬆寫意的。我們就住在一個舒適方便的山腳下地區叫湖內(RELAU)。直到去年十月我們才舉家搬回巴生谷,我們一起在檳城住了至少9個月。其中一個生命中最重大的時刻就發生在525日的早晨。如此多的美好記憶,我享受過去在檳城2年半的生活和工作經驗。所以,在此我很難不分享我的檳城體驗,呵呵。
其實很多北部(檳)島人極少取道來到湖內這個美麗的地方。有些人存偏見,覺得這是個相當偏僻的外勞天堂。這些標籤我們都不太認同,我們挺喜歡那裡的喲。連那裡的外勞都友善親切、衛生過本地人。主要的設施都蠻靠近我的舊檳城住址,其中包括峇央峇魯菜市場、皇后灣商場、國際機場、第一和第二檳威大橋,特易購商場等。我最愛的是每週一的道地夜市場。與我打交道慣了的菜販和來自浮羅山背的蛋糕師傅,我們都見面歡交了朋友。還有,道地的湖內農業公園(Relau Agriculture Station)和城市公園(Relau Metropolitan Park)是值得一去窺探拜訪的湖內景點休閒處。
其中一個讓我難以忘懷的是陽台景色--武吉詹姆的壯麗山景。我對武吉詹姆有情感。我曾是該山的登山常客,愛爬上頂峰的瞭望台站。在禹丞大約4月大左右,我們已把他帶上去過了。其實,檳城的山林景色盡入我眼,特別珍惜和享受綠蔥蔥的山林,所以對任何山丘發展帶來的破壞會特別反感厭惡難容忍。
在曉慧未搬來檳城之前,我也曾是快捷檳城(RapidPenang)巴士的常戶。我并不介意費些腳力走一小段路程(1+2公里)然後等候巴士。我感謝我的好心同事們偶爾送我一程到檳城大醫院的巴士站等車。我也感激曉慧偶爾專程搭乘巴士來到我的辦事處,當時禹丞還在媽媽的肚裡。公共交通在檳城還是少數人的交通選擇。從湖內到浮羅池滑的巴士路途一路崎嶇,偶爾有坑洞高低不平。
說真的,我想念與好多人在檳城一起共事的日子,包括我棒棒噠的檳城研究院同事朋友們(但不是每一個人啦,在此聲明)。我也曾與一些道地的檳城非政府組織成員合作。他們的專業精神、歷練、無窮的精力和長期的認真投入堅持他們的信念,真的讓我大開眼界、欽佩不已。這些社運活躍份子從音樂人、畫家、紀錄片攝影人、環保份子至藝術和文化愛好份子,在很多課題的立場我們都有共識。他們由衷熱切關心一些課題,願意為他們的立場挺身而出仗義執言。我希望看到的檳城是可持續性發展的地方。檳城大自然遺產的美,非筆墨可形容,更不可被任何的大型基建計劃替代。有人說檳島人很幸運,可以用大約10分鐘的車程就能到山林或海邊,非常方便。現在在巴生谷的我,沒此待遇。檳城人得珍惜。
我真的很想念檳城。
搬回來巴生谷這事其實本已有所計劃,只是本身沒想到居然比預期地提早落實了。機會來到我的門前,我就趕緊捉住申請調職到吉隆坡分院,因為當時發現到恰好有空缺。一直以來我期望能更集中地研究我國的公共衛生醫護政策,調職回來這裡正合我意,因為國家政策都是由中央制定的,而吉隆坡是全國的心臟地帶。
最重要的是我有個挺我、支持我的研究方向的總經理王建民博士(他是沙登區國會議員)。終於我可以把我的研究技巧運用在我熱衷的課題上,這有助於我的事業發展。有天我也想被人認可我在公共衛生方面的貢獻建樹。在檳城我身兼多份大大小小的任務,無形中被要求成為各個社會經濟課題的通才。縱然這些累積的經驗和我有幸碰面見識的各領域專才對我來說是可貴的,但這不可能是我長期的事業目標。
讓我回巢感到最順心的是我的這個小小辦公室的好同事朋友們。他們都待我很好,常幫助和支持我。在短短的三個月內,我已完成了一些研究工作,有些還寫成文告向外發表了。我覺得搬回來後我更有生產力和正面的動力。奧妙的是,我與新同事友人都很搭得上,擁有共同興趣愛好譬如說食物鑒賞,登山運動和益智遊戲等。再說,目前我們的辦公室已遷移至孟沙的Uppercase。那是個以共享活動空間環境概念建設的辦公室,設施一流。我真的享受目前在這裡的工作生活。此外,我漸漸習慣搭乘公共交通工具去上班,通常結合腳車和步行。
總的來說,今年我的展望如下:
家庭而言,我當然希望看到禹丞快樂健康地成長。我盡量挪出時間來陪伴他成長:學多一些新歌彈唱給他、想出一些新穎的點子/樂子來逗他開心、對他朗讀更多的繪本,帶他去探索外面的世界。
給我老婆曉慧,我會確保在家的時間幫忙你分擔家務,同時花多點時間相處做我們共同喜愛的事,比如說在家一起看電影。期待今年我們可以全家三口一起出遊到Trumpland去找Macha叔叔。
公事上,我期望在今年可以完成一些主要的公共衛生政策研究計劃,然後發表研究心得與公眾分享。
我希望今年可以回去檳城多幾趟,無論是為了工作或休閒敘舊。我的朋友們一定樂見其成(我們到時相約見面!)。讓我偶爾懷舊一下總ok吧,我已把檳城當成是我在國內的第二個家。別忘了禹丞是檳城人。=D
個人健康方面,我最低目標是維持體重在80公斤以下(去年做到了),如果能夠減多5公斤就太好了。週末我要持續地訓練羽球;在本區域內攀行更多山強身健體;偶爾參與辦公室每週免費舉辦的瑜伽課程;多騎腳車(去輕快鐵站)上班,對比開車到站的頻率應高於70:30

今年2017年極可能是大選年。我明白依目前的政治局勢,反對陣線聯盟能贏得大選的機會微乎其微。可是我仍期待看到國陣-巫統的崩盤,替換掉聯邦政府。我不希望看到換了人屁股坐上去政府後,腦袋還是一樣。所以對我來說,改革制度必須優先:加強我們的制度機構,鬆綁/自由化我們的社會枷鎖,勢必要把馬來西亞推向一個(思想)進步(progressive),全民公正的國家。

Saturday, December 24, 2016

第4份信:寫在7個滿月前夕的平安夜

禹丞,
為了配合你的7個滿月生日和即將來臨你的首個聖誕節,這是粑粑寫給你的第四封信。(事實上,粑粑因忙碌而錯過寫給你半歲生日的祝賀)。
你的可愛吸睛魅力和受歡迎度,不用我多說,從大家對你的興趣和讚美已足矣。幾乎所有粑粑麻麻的親戚朋友們都愛提起你、想見你、抱你和斗你玩。你在他們面前一般都表現得很不錯,開朗笑容有加,深得他們的心。或許你見到新人而充滿好奇和新鮮感,對嗎?你的惡魔那一面通常都只留給粑粑麻麻,尤其是近來你的作息方式和時間讓粑粑麻麻操勞了(其實更多時候在深夜里都是麻麻在撐住,粑粑早就不行了)。比較棘手的是,最近發覺你是淺睡者,任何外面的風吹草動聲音都會干擾或驚動已入睡的你。所以,粑粑麻麻要進房間時都不得躡手躡腳步步為營,開關燈或門都得小心翼翼,深怕一不小心就吵醒了你。
目前是你快速成長的時期,我才發現不過短短的幾個月,你又變了樣!我昨天才抵達你麻麻的新加坡老家,被告知你已可以獨立無需支撐地自己坐著了。哇,才5天不見,你的功力又升級了,粑粑為你感到驕傲!還有啊,你那天跟麻麻首次飛行,全程除了喃喃自語以外你竟然沒有哭鬧,這個記錄真的很了不起!
由於你是稍微早產兒,你的體型體重比起同齡生偏輕。粑粑麻麻從沒擔心過,因為你至今都很健康和精靈。麻麻在你接近半歲大時就讓你試吃固體食物,你還真的很嘴饞貪吃!幾乎什麼都吃目前你最愛吃的有梨、蘋果,鱷梨果和魚粥。金瓜、紅蘿蔔、莧菜、香蕉、木瓜等,你都吃了。為了方便麻麻為你的食物準備,粑粑特地買了一台食物處理機,麻麻說很有用哦!這樣你就可以盡情地吃了,然後快高長大!
我很開心你特別愛跟粑粑玩。可能因為粑粑比較癲,動作聲音比較誇張和幼稚,所以適合你口味,呵呵(即使再誇張幼稚,我也是蠻創意的,ok?)。粑粑的拿手把戲是唱兒歌比手語。粑粑也開始給你接觸書本啦 給你摸和玩兒童硬皮繪本。那天緒莊叔叔才跟粑粑講解了很多有關兒童繪本的知識。
九月尾時,粑粑麻麻忙著打包收拾搬家,從檳城搬回梳邦。我們真的很感激你的全程配合。那個過程基本上還算蠻順利。隨後,你也得跟隨粑粑麻麻物色添購家具和用品。跑了幾圈,花了不少錢,最後終於家也開始像個家,差不多該有的都有了。我們一開始還擔心你不能適應,其實還好啦。你應該不會懷念檳城舊家的陽台外景吧?粑粑其實還有點想念,雖然梳邦新家的外景也還可以至少還有點綠。
別擔心粑粑平時騎腳車上班,粑粑會小心的。同時粑粑也得鍛煉身體保持健康,以後才有精力配合漸漸長大(變重)的你,把你抱上抱下陪你玩。年紀漸大的粑粑,若不趁現在保持或改變身形,以後就更難控制了。
好啦,粑粑就寫到這裡。我們一家三口也祝大家聖誕節快樂!(你的叔叔和阿嫲還在泰國蘇梅島玩樂慶祝呢 xD

粑粑

24.12.2016 (平安夜)

Friday, November 11, 2016

US Presidential Election and Pakatan Harapan

The US presidential result you already know, many
analyses you might have already came across, so I waste no time here.
What I find relevant is the observation of low voter turnout on the US polling day… 46.9% reported not voting.
This trend of lower voter turnout is actually also a current issue plaguing our opposition coalition here in Malaysia for the past 2 years.
In the last General Election, Malaysia had achieved the record highest turnout rate: 84.8%. Due to malapportionment and Gerrymandering flaw practices by EC in our electoral system, BN managed to hang on their governance seats in Putrajaya, despite losing popular votes for the second time in history (first in 1969).
Following by-elections held after Teluk Intan (including the most recent twin-by elections in Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar), PR/PH’s electoral performance had been marred by lower voter turnout and less enthusiastic supporters' sentiment. Even the combined number of votes for the opposition parties still could not overcome BN's.
What caused more than 10% depressed voters decided not going to poll stations in the recent twin by-elections? Maybe the same question is also for Hillary in US -- what happened to the 5% voters missing from the poll, and another 2-3% more voters rather voting for unelectable third party candidates?
If the Democratic Party’s main campaign was to go against Trump, portrayed how bad the Republican candidate is and hope this would work to pull more people voting for their party candidate Hillary Clinton, then they know how wrong it was. Michael Moore’s pre-poll prediction is correct, the Hillary problem and depressed voters would give way to President Trump. The difference between Obama and Clinton is that, the former represented hope and vision. That actually gave impetus and reasons for voters to vote FOR him because they believe in him, rather than they voted for him because they were so disgusted with another candidate. Some might have even volunteered and campaigned for Obama. We could see less number for Clinton this time round.
Same here for Pakatan… if they do not go to ground (in rural and mixed areas) collect sufficient feedback from the middle-lower and lower-income households, find and devise good policy solutions to the general (and specific area) problems, then I imagine it would be difficult for Pakatan parties to urge fence-sitting voters coming out to vote for them (don’t even mention to convert BN supporters). Banging BN probably will be same old tunes to many voters' ears, that would not be enough to deliver the crucial winning votes.
Many would want to hear more fresh and coherent ideas from Pakatan, and how Pakatan's vision and policies could be different. Whether or not Pakatan wants to admit it… in the last GE, their manifesto was populist and their policy proposals were too-urban centric (eg. abolish tolls, lower car price). As far as I understood, there was also no serious policy research done before drafting out the manifesto and policy framework… will Pakatan Harapan be any different next time? I worry.

BN always hold two sets of strong cards in ‘racial’ and ‘religious’ identity, does Pakatan have good, consistent, coherent and clear counter-arguments that could win hearts and minds for all (if not most) Malaysians, or at least stop the lingering doubts about Pakatan's stand? Vagueness would not instill confidence for many voters.
On socioeconomic, sustainable development and environmental issues, can Pakatan distinguish themselves from BN policies? The current two PH-governed states have to show good examples so to convince voters that their actions are actually consistent with what they promised before.
With the Bersih 5 rally date approaching, the general public enthusiasm is still quite dampening at this time point. This signifies the change of public sentiment and it is very telling even for civil society.
Will our opposition coalition also suffer from the ‘Hillary problem’ – too much political baggage, lack vision and direction (besides united to defeat BN in one-on-one fights – most voters wouldn't even care), too elitist until stay out of touch with grassroots’ daily life concerns?
With the next general election will likely be called within 2 years, Pakatan Harapan must present and sell ‘HOPE’ to general masses, as much as they claim themselves representing ‘Harapan’. No use just talking about power-grabbing and seat-arrangement strategies. Lower voter turnout will dent their hope in Putrajaya even further. If that is the case, poor Anwar would have to suffer in the jail for longer period.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Goodbye O'shirts and pants

Finally, I have to sort out my closet, since I tend to have the inertia not to throw or donate away my old shirts and pants mostly due to nostalgia reason and denial syndrome that one day I can still fit in those clothes...
Well, seems like I cannot afford to be too sentimental, 'cause space is limited.
In the end, rationality took place... with my wife's critical comments added weight, I have to do what is necessary...decided to throw away many with wrong size, wrong fashion/style, too old, etc.
Dear O'shirts and pants, if you are 'I am a shirt/ pair of pants' in the typical primary school Karangan , please do not write too harsh on me...