Thursday, May 31, 2007

MUSLIM NATIONS:ARE THEY READY TO TAKE ON THE WEST?

HANTU LAUT

At the 3rd World Islamic Forum, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang suggested Muslim nations to pool their wealth as a bargaining chip in exchange for knowledge, technology and innovation with the rest of the world.Are the Muslim nations ready? Do they have the resources to take on the rest of the world.

Let us look at some economic figures. In 2005 the combined GDP of G8 countries(formerly known as G7) was a whopping USD44 trillion while the combined GDP of OIC was a pathetic USD5.5 trillion which was slightly bigger than that of Japan. The G8 produced two thirds of the world economic output. The Muslim nations through OPEC controlled almost 40% of the world's oil production.With the exception of Angola and Venezuela all other members are from Islamic countries. With such immense resources at their disposal one would think they could bring the West to its knees.Unfortunately, that isn't the case anymore.OPEC ability to control the flow and price of oil has since the 1973 oil embargo diminished due to discovery of oil in other areas of the world.

The Arab nations used oil as a weapon to vent their anger at the West after being humiliated when they lost the Ramadan War against Israel, also known as the 1973 Arab-Israel War. The embargo triggered high inflation throughout the world.The western nations realizing the formidable power of oil embarked on massive exploration of oil elsewhere. Oil is no more an option that Muslim nations can use to smack bang the Western nations.

America, the ever thirsty monster, consumes almost 21 million barrels of oil per day.Saudi, the biggest single producer produces about 8.5 mil bbl/day.The current total OPEC production is around 30mil bbl/day and the US alone can consume 2/3 of OPEC daily production every day.

Hypothetically, if the US stopped buying oil for a few days the world oil price would crash to a disastrous level.If that's not enough, almost two thirds of world trade are denominated in US dollars.Almost all oil trades in OPEC are conducted in Petrodollar. Can the Muslim nations take on such behemoth.Do they have the clout to dictate terms?

Muslim leaders should wake up to reality and try find a solution how to better deal with the Western powers instead of making smart sounding speeches at forums and conferences.More often than not, they go back home, and forgot all about it.

Not a single Muslim nation is represented in G8. Only one Muslim nation, Turkey, is in OECD, and three in APEC, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. They are voices in the wilderness.The American are in all of the trade blocs including their own regional bloc, NAFTA.

The OIC, whose primary goals are to consolidate cooperation in social, cultural, scientific,economic and other fields of activity is not a trade bloc.It is more like a social club. They are not cohesive enough to be a force to be reckoned with. Not only they lack economic might they also lack political clout.The US invasion of Iraq was an example of the entrenched weakness in OIC.Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states supported the American for the destruction of Sadam Hussein and Iraq.They see him a threat to the region.

The Muslims fighting the war in Iraq against foreign invaders are called terrorists and not freedom fighters as the case would have been if America was on their side.The Contras in Nicaragua were rebels and terrorists in reality but with American supports they are given a clean image.

The Mughal in India, the Safavids in Persia, and the Ottoman in Asia Minor.Once, a powerhouse, Islam saw the final decline of it's power and influence at the end of the 1st World War with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It has not recovered ever since and is free-falling into the abyss of devolution.

Innovation and technology does not come cheap and nobody is going to hand it over to you for free. Almost all innovations and technologies came from the west.

During the Middle Ages, Europe was a far cry from being civilised and the European Renaissance would not have come about without the help of Islamic civilisation then. The European learned science, mathematics, astronomy and philosophy from Muslim scholars.The Europeans have since then managed a sustained growth and advancement of their sciences and technologies. With new found technology they have colonised many nations, including Muslim nations.They have put men on the moon and sent them to the deepest depth of the ocean. The guns and bombs Muslims used to kill each other were made by them. The nuclear energy and weapon that some Muslim nation hungers for are their invention and now becoming their monopoly.The West consider Muslim nations as rogue states, dangerous, irresponsible and should not possess nuclear weapon.

While Westerns innovations and technologies advanced by leaps and bounds the Islamic nations have stagnated and are fully dependent on the West for survival.Why are Muslims left so far behind?

Majority of Muslims are fearful of their religion.They put more emphasis and effort on the afterlife than the necessities of their worldly existence.For some Muslims spirituality has become a fear factor.Many Muslim nations used Islam to subjugate their citizens.

Many Muslim nations cannot separate religion from politics. Even in a secular system religion is an unwritten factor. A case in point is the recent judgement passed in Malaysia by the country highest court on the Lina Joy case.She converted from Islam to Christianity and wanted Islam to be removed from her identity card but was rejected by the government.She has now exhausted all legal avenues.She either leaves the country or be arrested for apostasy. Can she be forced to stay in a religion that she has no more faith in?

About 200 Muslim protesters were outside the court waiting for the verdict.Fear of a backlash from the Islamists has probably influenced the decision. One judge out of the three, a Christian, dissented.

Corruption is another stumbling block to progress. Many Muslim nations have corrupt leaders who put self interest ahead of the nation's interest. Some run the country like their own private fiefdom with complete disregard of their fiduciary duties. Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and most Arab countries are modalities of systematic corruption.Malaysia, amongst the most progressive and developed of the whole lot was slightly lower on the corruption index.

Malaysia introduced the NEP after the May 13 racial riot in 1969 to help the Malays uplift their standards of living, to have equitable share of the country's economic pie and to be at par with the non-Malays especially the Chinese who held the greatest share of the economy.

During the last two terms of his rule, Mahathir Muhammad, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia discreetly smoldered the NEP to appease the non Malays. His new social and economic policies heighten the business confidence among the non-Malays and brought tremendous growth and development to a country that was once a tropical backwater. The GDP profile changed from agro-based to industrial and service orientated industries. The industrial and service sector now contribute 91% of GDP.However, the past two decades, also saw the NEP losing its noble objective and used mainly as a gravy train. Big business deals and massive government contracts were given to relatives, party supporters, friends and anyone who can pay.Although, Mahathir himself has not been implicated in any corruption his failure to control it among his men has brought disrepute to himself.

Another factor that is pulling down some Muslim nations is the poor emphasis on education. Many has poor literacy rate. Pakistan has about 49% literacy rate.In tribal areas the rate could go down as low as 20% and girls are normally not allowed to go to school. Such areas also confined education to madrassas where they only study the Islamic religion.These madrasses had become hotbeds for terrorism.

Pakistan may have nuclear capability but it is incapable of raising the level of literacy. Wrong priority and corruption have made the country not only physically poor but also mentally poor. Afghanistan fared even worse at 36%. Egypt, another big Islamic country has about 58% literacy. Iraq, currently a war zone, has only 40% and Bangladesh 43 %.

With all of the above weaknesses can Muslim nations take on the mighty West?

I doubt.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

ARE WE VICTIMS OF GOVERNMENT SPONSORED CHEATS?

HANTU LAUT

Have you ever felt cheated or worse still cheated by your own government. Have you ever wanted to hit back but realized you wouldn't have a chance and you would just be hitting your head against a brick wall.

Many of us don't even know that we are being "rip-off", and worse still, sponsored by our very own government.Most of the culprits in the scams are so called GLC(Government Linked Companies) run by Managers with civil servant mentalities.These are half baked executives promoted to a level of incompetence and dread to hear the word "competition".Why compete if the government can give you the rights to monopolize, price fixing, short changing and the rights to screw your customers as and when you wish.

Let us start with the biggest crook of the lots, TMNet.How many of you are happy with your Streamyx? Are you getting what you are paying for? Can you play your streaming videos without the damned thing buffering all the time. I bought a package that should give me a speed of 1Mbps which should be more than enough to browse the net comfortably and faster download and upload.What did I get? A pain in the neck and fucking useless piece of crap.

I called TMNet and complained and they sent two technicians, looked as if they just came out of Gua Musang, to carry out inspection.One joker hooked up his machine which looked like a laptop and press some keys.He than called me "Abang, ini speed OK lah, you tengok sini"

He showed me some metering device on the laptop which, to my surprise, actually showed the correct speed.I called him to come over to my computer and open a page from"YouTube" and played a video and without fail the video failed to play properly.I questioned him why he said ok and he said he only said so because the machine said so. Great, how can you argue, machines don't make mistake, only humans do.I have called TMNet not less than three times and they were still unable to fix the problem.

I have now resigned to the fact that I have been cheated and there was nothing I could do other than to terminate the service which again was a problem because of my contractual obligation to use it for minimum of one year.You see what I mean they really know how to screw you, and screw you hard.What puzzled me was the type of equipment they used to measure the speed.Was it adjusted to show a false reading?

This country have only one fixed line operator.The monopoly have made Telecom Malaysia complacent, arrogant and slow to upgrade the facilities and services.Just drive over the causeway and see the type of broadband they have.

Most GLCs are run by people who took no pride in their job. Lack of competition, government protection and to certain extent, the NEP, have made the companies totally inefficient.They make huge profits every year at the expense of the Malaysian consumers.

The other day I read in the newspaper that there are 15 millions cellular phones users in the country.Amazing, even the most developed country don't have that kind of ratio.This is another area where costumers get "rip-off".Make a phone call and there was no response from the other party and you get charged for it.Line engaged you get charged.Mysterious phone calls from you to you friend which you have never made, you get charged.

About three months ago my wife got a "Mesra Card" from Petronas which we used to purchase fuel for our cars and get bonus points. You would never imagine that even thing like this some people are prepared to cheat.One day we checked our bonus point using the Mesra website and we found, to our disgust, some of our bigger purchases of RM50-100 were not registered even though we have given the card to the cashiers to swipe.Two emails to Petronas to complain received no reply.A friend told me that some cashiers at some of Petronas kiosks are stealing bonus points from customers by swiping their own and their friends' cards instead of the customers.Would you believe this? So, if this is true, next time you fill up, watch them closely.

There were many instances where government knowingly allowed GLCs and other private businesses to conduct their business unscrupulously. Our consumers associations are too lame to make an impact and influent any changes.