Monday, May 30, 2011

Volume 3 Issue 21: Intelligent Investing

The One Sen Man

Just a week or so ago, when I read this, I almost fell from my chair. The government is thinking about bringing the one sen back?

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin proposed that the coin be reintroduced to reduce the expenses of the public.
There have been complaints that some retailers purposedly priced their goods at figures such as RM1.98 or RM1.99 for the items to be rounded up to RM2.
Perhaps Tune Hotel is trying to cheat us?

I really don't know where he gets his complaints from. There have also been complaints about corruption, but are you doing anything about it?  I can't imagine how people are complaining about a 1 sen difference from RM2, which is actually 0.5% difference. I'd hate to carry a one sen coin. I will insist on not carrying it. In fact, if I do have to carry it ever again, I am going to collect enough to buy a car with it. And document the whole process just to show how long it will take, proving the insignificance of one sen.

In fact, anyone with half a brain can tell you that if the retailer prices his goods at RM1.98, then you just buy TWO of those goods, making the total RM3.96, which will be rounded DOWN to RM3.95. And you gain one sen!!!!! That's how you beat the retailer no? If the good is priced at RM1.99, even better. Then you should buy THREE, giving you a total of RM5.97, which would be rounded DOWN to RM5.95, a TWO SEN GAIN!!!!! That has got to be huge!!!!

Muhyiddin, please use your brain. The reason the goods are price at RM1.99 are because the retailers are being kind. They are offering an RM2.00 item a 5 sen discount when you purchase five of those items. It's a reward system for buying in bulk, not a penalty system for buying small quantities. Isn't that business?

Wow, you should really spend more time improving the education system. But I guess we all know the real reason why the one sen coin is probably making a comeback. Seigniorage anyone?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Volume 3 Issue 22: Two-Cent Economics

Malaysian Alcoholics?

According to this lousy newspaper, Malaysia is the world's 10th largest consumer of alcohol. Intuitively, any Malaysian with half a brain would know that can't be true. I quote the highly inconsistent and poor newspaper:

Malaysia has been named by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the world’s 10th largest consumer of alcohol despite its small population and size.

Statistics by the international body this year also showed that Malaysians spent over US$500mil (RM1.5bil) on alcohol with a per capita consumption of seven liters.

Beer consumption in Malaysia is 11 liters per capita.

Did any of you just did a double take? Surely you must have read it wrong. Perhaps you are drunk? If Malaysia's per capita consumption of ALCOHOL is SEVEN litres, how can BEER consumption per capita be MORE THAN SEVEN litres? Like I said, anyone with half a brain would have realized that something must have been amiss. Last I checked, beer was still alcohol. Perhaps they included the statistics for Ginger Beer and Root Beer?

So, I dug further and went to look for the WHO report which is entitled "Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health" (pdf file). Guess what I found? Here:

Alcohol consumption in liters per capita (2005)

Yes, I cut out a portion of the data. For those of you who doubt the integrity of the data, click on the pdf link above and go to page 61 of the pdf file. In the quoted WHO report, which has up to 2005 figures only, we see CLEARLY that Malaysia's alcohol consumption per capita is at a paltry 0.82 liters. So where did the seven or eleven liters come from? Whoever this Christina Tan is that is reporting for the Star should probably be sacked.

Better still, just stop subscribing to the Star. I have time and again found unreliable news in the Star and it is getting very frustrating. Reading the Star is probably no better than reading a Women's magazine: toilet reading at best.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Volume 3 Issue 21: Two-Cent Economics

Wish It Was Me

If I wasn't that busy, I would have written a post that is not too different from this one. Although it seems like the author was ranting, but he brings in very true and insightful points. It is very seldom I let someone else do the talking for me, but in this case, there really isn't too much more I can add to it.

Basically, I think he more or less addresses the pertinent issues that Malaysia is facing and has been facing for the past 40 years. He talks about the problems of over-subsidizing, the Malaysian education system, and the "brain drain" problem, among others. If I had to pick a year, I would probably pinpoint 1970 as the beginning of the end.

I won't spoil the fun. Here is the link again.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Age-Old Scholarship Problems AGAIN

When we read this, some of us will react in resignation, saying, "What's new? We have heard this a million times." Like I said in the previous post, I don't like to write with emotion, but one can't help but feel angry when one reads this article about how top scoring students were overlooked in scholarship awards... again.

You don't like it when I'm angry

Here are some extracts:

One of the students facing this problem is Chan Shu Ren from SMK Chung Ching in Raub, who obtained 11A+ in the SPM examination.

Shu Ren, who was present at the press conference with her father Chan Ah Kau, was offered an open scholarship for the government matriculation programme.

“I have friends from the same school who only obtained 8A+ and 9A+ but received PSD scholarships to study in countries like France and India,” Shu Ren said.

Students Lo Chia Hwee from SMK St Teresa, who obtained 10A+, said it was disheartening when she was only offered an open scholarship.

She had worked hard hoping to get a scholarship to study medicine overseas.

Another student, Chai Sheng Min from SMK St Joseph in Kuching, who also obtained 10A+, said he only got a scholarship to study engineering at Universiti Teknologi Petronas while his friends who got 4A+ and 5A+ were awarded scholarships to do Pure Science in the United States.

The ridiculousness of the matter has been out of hand for a long time. I am sure the reason that the government officials are going to release will have something to do with, the students are not judged based solely on academic results or something to that extent. Its same ol' same ol' while here we are, worrying about the brain drain. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Volume 3 Issue 20: Intelligent Investing

Fuel Prices

Price per liter of fuel
Can't help but to post this as I saw it on Facebook. For those of you non-Malay speakers/readers, the above chart shows the price of one liter of petrol in the respective countries. All we hear is lament and complaints about how expensive the price of petrol is. Are those complaints warranted? Perhaps.

The funny thing about the list above is that, if you were to change the title to "Countries facing political uprisings", most of the countries would still be there. No prizes for guessing which. The problem is not so much in the prices of fuel, but the amount of budget deficit we are in and how distorted the demand for fuel has become. I would bet anyone a nickel that most of the countries in the list above do not even come close to having a persistent budget deficit like that of Malaysia.

Granted, the real problem is where the deficit came from to begin with, but that is another issue altogether. But just a heads up to you Main Streeters, the era of subsidized petrol is more or less over. If you guys don't think that some particular races are entitled to any "free" gifts, you should be more than willing to taste your own medicine. We are resourceful people. We will find ways to figure out this additional burden, just like how we have always figured out to solve any other problem.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Volume 3 Issue 20: Two-Cent Economics

Crazy Talk

Sometimes, I wonder if or when I become that old, I will say some stupid nonsense like this.

“Chinese are looking to Penang, they want power; that’s why their judgment is different from Malays,” he said.

Dr Mahathir then insisted BN had already provided the Chinese community abundantly.

“BN has given a lot to the Chinese. Look at Kuala Lumpur; if not for Khazanah, what do Malays have? We are not asking a lot, we just want our small share,” he added.

I hate sounding emotional. I guess the first question that popped into my head was, what has BN given to the Chinese? I think no one wants anything that is actually "given" from anyone. We all want to be able to earn what we deserve under fair circumstances and opportunities. I think most of all, the Chinese community were not provided for and most definitely not abundantly.

Second of all, everyone who wants their share, should be willing to work for it. Why is it that he thinks people deserve their share without doing any work?

Last but most definitely not least, why is race an issue? Why shouldn't any "provision" be given to those who absolutely need it, and not be appropriated according to race? I guess what I am saying here is pretty obvious to some, but sometimes, old people are oblivious to crazy talk.

Volume 3 Issue 19: Intelligent Investing

How Inflation Swindles the Equity Investor

Here is a link of Warren Buffett talking about inflation. It is a very long article, and I highly encourage it for those of you who are interested. Those of you who can't get through the reading, well, this is how you tell, investing is not for you. Research involves a lot of reading and there are no two ways about it.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Volume 3 Issue 19: Two-Cent Economics

More Brain Drain?

For those of us who don't know, the CEO of Malaysia's Talent Corporation is this guy, Johan Mahmood Merican. He comes with a long list of laurels, among which, is graduating from the University of Cambridge. Before you become impressed, I just wanted to share this article, which I had to read more than once because I can't believe what he just said:

Merican added that there was “no point” trying to tackle the structural causes of Malaysia’s massive brain drain at this point in time as that would likely lead to inaction.

“If you start having that conversation then you’ll end up just doing nothing,” he said.

He stressed that it was more effective to focus on small steps that could be taken now to help achieve the long-term goals of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s economic reform agenda.

Can you believe this guy?  Here I thought that the whole point of the Talent Corp was to address the structural problems and bring back the talent. What was the point of the whole World Bank report on Brain Drain? Seriously, two out of ten Malaysian graduates have left the country in the past ten years. Does he sincerely believe any short term measures are going to bring any of the talent back without addressing structural weaknesses? Does he think that the smart people of Malaysia left the country without any thought and will be drawn back with a bunch of candy treats? I shudder to think what will happen if this Merican guy is kept in charge of this whole talent business. Good luck with that, Malaysia.

Volume 3 Issue 18: Intelligent Investing

Sound Investments

Just a reminder to us all that sound investments are hard to come by.

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Chocolate Dilemma

Mr Health Minister,

We already discussed this a little bit the other day. Did you not see this coming? Did you think you can just ban a list of food without repercussions? It doesn't take a genius to know that chocolate is not always unhealthy. Neither is alcohol for that matter.

The problem is not in the food itself, but in the education. Perhaps you should consult your colleague, the Education Minister, who is supposedly in charge of the curriculum in schools. I recall learning about "balanced diets" in my PJK (Physical and Health Education) classes. If that is not enough, I believe this is also covered in the PMR examinations for Science. Even before that, if I am not mistaken, it is also covered in the UPSR examinations as well. So regardless of whether you teach this in English or in BM, the message failed.

So, after such incessant drumming about eating healthy food, why has it failed? The fact that you have to ban "unhealthy" food in school shows that the curriculum has failed to teach the students what it is meant to teach. Does anyone else see this?

Malaysia (Customs) Boleh?

This picture below says it all. It was taken at the Malaysian customs, heading towards Singapore.

Perhaps he was watching the El Classico match between Barcelona and Real Madrid the previous night.

Picture Source

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Muhyiddin's Objectives of Learning History?

I have always wondered why we had to learn history. After many years of falling down and climbing back up again, it has become obvious that we are meant to learn from history and our past mistakes. After all, Einstein said:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

Nonetheless, the purpose of learning history in Malaysia is very different, according to our Minister of Education:

In a statement, the ministry said the committee was set up to help look into the content of secondary school's History curriculum and textbooks to ensure they were able to nurture patriotism and loyalty to the country among students and strengthen their identity as Malaysians.

Yes, you read it right. The content of secondary school's History curriculum must be able to nurture patriotism and loyalty. What an euphemism for "propaganda". There is no emphasis on the truth or learning from mistakes. The emphasis is on nurturing patriotism and loyalty. More reasons for the brain drain?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Volume 3 Issue 18: Two-Cent Economics

Paul Krugman

I have never been a big fan of Paul Krugman, but to dismiss his intelligence and creativity would be a fatal error. Nonetheless, cutting to the chase, Krugman is a Nobel Laureate for Economics and this usually means that he contributed something revolutionary to the field, and in this case, international trade theory.

Below are the links of a recent article in the New York Magazine that I thought would give a pretty insightful picture on the life of one of today's more creative thinkers, all SEVEN pages in total.

Page 1: Paul Krugman’s lonely crusade
Page 2: Why he is comfortable with his solitude
Page 3: How he relishes in being right
Page 4: The source of his academic reputation
Page 5: Why he has always been alert to the possibility of the extreme
Page 6: Next: What has always troubled him about Obama
Page 7: Next: His own political Eden