• SPAD should ensure a level-playing field between taxi and ehailing drivers and provide these drivers with proper protections and safeguards

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang and Liew Chin Tong, MP for Kluang on the 6th of July, 2017

    SPAD should ensure a level-playing field between taxi and ehailing drivers and provide these drivers with proper protections and safeguards

    With an estimated 37,000 taxi drivers and an estimated 60,000 Uber and Grab drivers in the Klang Valley, this form of public transportation not only provides a crucial service to consumers but also an important source of employment for the drivers themselves. As more and more Malaysians are joining the ranks of e-hailing drivers (GRAB and UBER), either on a part time or on a full-time basis, it is crucial for the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) to ensure that there is a level playing field between the regular taxi drivers and the e-hailing drivers and also to ensure that the taxi and e-hailing drivers themselves are given proper protections and safeguards.

    In a web-based survey conducted in BM and in Chinese by the DAP Research team where we obtained close to 300 replies, we found that 40% of UBER and GRAB drivers are driving their vehicles on a full-time basis and another 53% are driving on a part time basis not as a hobby but as a job. In other words, most UBER and GRAB drivers surveyed depend greatly on their income as drivers. A significant proportion of the drivers surveyed – 64% – have at least a diploma which indicates that many with tertiary qualifications look at e-hailing as a viable form of employment. Furthermore, our survey found that 34% or about one-third of e-hailing drivers are based outside the Klang Valley. This number is likely to grow as UBER and GRAB expand to the cities and smaller towns outside KL and Selangor.

    The average monthly wages for full time drivers were estimated to be approximately RM3200. While this may seem like a decent amount of earnings, it does not take into account the maintenance cost of the vehicles which can average more than RM1000 a month. While e-hailing companies provides personal accident insurance for drivers and passengers, the car insurance and repairs cost are totally borne by the drivers themselves.

    75% of the drivers surveyed feel that the 20-25% commission rate charged by UBER / GRAB are unfair and more than 60% of drivers want the government to regulate the amount of commission which the e-hailing companies can charge. In addition, some drivers also feel that they have no avenues of appeal if they are suspended or banned by UBER / GRAB because of unreasonable complaints by customers. The cases of unfair suspensions will become more serious as the number of full time UBER / GRAB drivers increases, including those who have bought new vehicles for the purpose of becoming full time e-hailing drivers.

    While the proposed amendments to the Land Public Transport Act 2010 and the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board Act 1987 are a step in the right direction, much more needs to be done including:

    (i)               Increasing the awareness of e-hailing drivers on the details of the amendments

    (ii)              Ensuring that the e-hailing market does not become a monopoly / oligopoly to the detriment of drivers and passengers

    (iii)            Regulating the commission rates which e-hailing companies can charge the drivers

    (iv)            Setting up a Tribunal to hear the appeals of e-hailing drivers who feel they have been unfairly banned / suspended by the e-hailing companies

    (v)              Ensuring that there is a level playing field between the taxi drivers and e-hailing drivers in terms of fares and wages.

    The end goal should be a market whereby taxi drivers as well as e-hailing drivers are properly compensated and the taxi companies and e-hailing companies cannot abuse their oligopolistic / monopolistic positions to mistreat the drivers and give passengers a bad service experience.

    Document: Self-Employed E-Hailing Services Drivers (SEEDs) Survey Findings (5 July 2017)

  • Open data and policy-making in Malaysia

    (This article can also be read at the Penang Institute in KL Column in the Malaysian Insight, 26th June 2017)

    EARLIER this month, at the launch of the June issue of the World Bank’s Malaysian Economic Monitor, country director for Southeast Asia Ulrich Zachau called for more data to be disclosed to be used for better policy-making. He gave the example of how GRAB, an e-hailing service provider, was sharing its data with the government in order to find ways to better manage traffic flows.

    With the advent of big data coupled with behavioural economics, “nudge” units have been set up by governments around the world with the specific aim of using policy incentives to change behaviour and using data drive approaches to analyse the effectiveness of these policies. Cass Sunstein, co-author of the best-selling book “Nudge” was recruited by President Obama to run a nudge unit under his administration and is probably the best-known advocate of this policy approach.

    While “Big data” is often used as a buzzword by policy makers and politicians, many do not know what big data is and how it can be utilised. In fact, many of these policy makers don’t realise that the data ecosystem in Malaysia, especially when it comes to data analytics, is very under-developed.

    While the various government agencies do collect a lot of data and information, not all of it is published. A study by the World Bank shows Malaysia underperforming in relation to its GDP when it comes to our open data ranking. The same World Bank study also shows a correlation between a country’s open data score and its publication and citation ratios. The higher the open data score, the higher the number of academic publications (See Figure 4 below).

    This corresponds to the experience which many academics in Malaysia have in terms of accessing data especially at the more granular level. For example, even though the Department of Statistics (DOS) has individual level data in its Household and Income Surveys, it does not release this information to the public so that academics can study the figures in more detail and publish their findings. Concerns about the privacy of individual level data being released can be easily overcome by anonymising the data.

    Even in cases where some of this data can be released to the public, it is often costly to purchase. In contrast, the individualised data for the decennial census in the US is released publicly and is a very useful tool for social scientists to use in their academic writings and analysis.

    There have been some recent steps to improve the data ecosystem in Malaysia. The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is on the vanguard in pushing for the use of big data especially in the private sector. The Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) is spearheading an initiative to consolidate the publication of government data in one location (www.data.gov.my). At the recent World Bank Event, the Minister in charge of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), Rahman Dahlan, has called for the collection of data at a more refined and localised level including by parliamentary district.

    The Penang state government is doing its part by releasing detailed information at the state level in the data.gov.my including a list of all 201 nasi kandar outlets in the state! The Penang GIS center (PEGIS) was also established to make GIS and mapping more accessible to users including businesses who want to ‘tag’ their location on PEGIS maps and cycling enthusiasts who want to ‘tag’ their favourite cycling trails.

    In addition to data accessibility, Malaysia is also behind the curve in terms of knowledge workers who can adequately understand and analyse big data. Analysis by the World Bank shows that only 13.4% of the statistical workforce is at the ‘managerial’ level in Malaysia compared to 67.5% in advanced economies (See graph below).

    To build a more conducive data ecosystem, one not only needs more data but also more people who can put the data to good use and to make better policies. For example, a team of data scientists, academics and social workers can work together to evaluate the effectiveness of BR1M payments over the past five years and to see how it can be improved. The local government can make use of information provided by WAZE so that it can repair potholes in a more timely manner.

    So the next time a politician or policy-maker talks about big data, ask him or her how this data can be analysed and used to improve public policies. – June 26, 2017.

    * Dr Ong Kian Ming is the Member of Parliament for Serdang, Selangor and is also the General Manager of Penang Institute in Kuala Lumpur. He holds a PhD in Political Science from Duke University, an MPhil in Economics from the University of Cambridge and a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics.

  • Why hasn’t Prime Minister Najib spoken up against President Trump’s announcement to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 3rd of June, 2017

    Why hasn’t Prime Minister Najib spoken up against President Trump’s announcement to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement?

    President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, signed by 195 countries in 2015, on Thursday, 1st of June, 2017. Immediately, a number of world leaders responded by criticizing Trump’s decision as well as to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris Agreement. Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron chimed in on the US decision[1] while China[2] and Russia[3] reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement.

    I commend and agree with the statement made by the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, when he said that “Malaysia would like to express its profound regret and deep concern at the latest action by the United States of America”.[4]

    But the silence, till now, from our Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, is deafening. While Malaysia was one of 30 countries which was part of the joint communique issued at the end of the Old Belt One Road Conference in China in May this year, where the commitment of the Paris Climate Change Agreement was reaffirmed, the recent declaration from Trump necessitates a response from the leader of our government, who is our Prime Minister.

    Is Prime Minister Najib staying quiet on this issue as part of a larger strategy not to offend President Trump so as to get the Department of Justice to drop the 1MDB kleptocracy case and not to pursue the individuals involved, including Jho Low? Let us wait to see how long Najib maintains his deafening silence on this issue.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/world/europe/paris-agreement-merkel-trump-macron.html?_r=0

    [2] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/world/europe/climate-paris-agreement-trump-china.html

    [3] http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/russia-paris-agreement-climate-change-donald-trump-us-decision-global-warming-moscow-putin-a7766481.html

    [4] https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/4203/

  • Is the Election Commission (EC) trying to add voters via the ‘back door’ to help the BN win the next General Election?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 31st of May, 2017

    Is the Election Commission (EC) trying to add voters via the ‘back door’ to help the BN win the next General Election?

    I was shocked when I received a photo yesterday of the display of new voters for the First Quarter, 2017 at the offices of the Selangor Election Commission in Shah Alam. In the picture, it was stated that the list of voters displayed were “Pameran Senarai Tuntutuan” or Display of List Based on Claims (See Figure 1 below).

    Figure 1: Display of List based on Claims at the Selangor Election Commission office in Shah Alam

    As far as I know, this is the first time where I have seen a display of a list of voters based on ‘tuntutan’ or claims. Unlike the display of the quarterly “Rang Daftar Pemilih Tambahan (RDPT)”, the Election Commission did not make any media statement to notify the public that these additional names to be added into the electoral roll were on display nor did the Election Commission display these names in locations in each of the parliamentary areas in Selangor.

    The EC is making use of a little used and little known section of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002 – Section 14 – which states the following:

    Section 14 of the Regulations is supposed to address the problem of genuine mistakes by the Election Commission, for example, in the case where an EC staff forget to input a name into the latest RDPT or for some reason, the information of a voter who registers at a post office fails to be included in the latest RDPT.

    However, according to data collected by PEMUDA AMANAH, a total of 28416 voters were added using Section 14 of the Regulations in this most recent display including 1,170 voters in Selangor (See Figure 2 below). Does the EC expected us to believe that it somehow ‘forgot’ to include over 28,000 voters in the RDPT for Quarter 1, 2017? In addition, why is there a big rush on the part of the EC to add these voters now rather than to wait until the public display of the RDPT for Quarter 2, 2017? Is it because the EC wants to make sure that these voters are on the electoral roll if the General Elections were to be called in September?

    Figure 2: Number of voters added using Section 14 of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002
    Source: PEMUDA AMANAH

    An analysis of the voters added in Selangor shows that all of the voters added are based in military camps and / or are military voters and their spouses (See sample in Figure 3 below). Let me clearly state that I am not objecting to the addition of army voters into the electoral roll. Rather, I am questioning the procedure by which they have been added.

    I have written to the Director of the Selangor Election Commission to explain the addition of these voters and why they were not added during the public display of the first quarter, 2017, of the RDPT. The failure of the EC to provide an adequate explanation will jeopardise public trust in the integrity of the electoral roll.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Figure 3: Sample of Military voters added via Section 14 of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002

  • Malaysians are voting with their feet by moving to Selangor and Penang

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 30th of May, 2017

    Malaysians are voting with their feet by moving to Selangor and Penang

    In the Migration Report 2016, which was released on the 26th of May, 2017, it was reported that the two states with the highest net migration was Selangor followed by Penang. In the period of 2015-2016, Selangor experienced a net migration of 19,400 persons while Penang experienced a net migration of 12,000 persons (See Chart 4 below).
    Source: Migration Report 2016

    The willingness of people to move to Selangor and Penang is not a short-term phenomenon. According to the data from the 2011 to the 2016 Migration Reports, the net migration for Selangor and Penang were 125,400 and 49,800 respectively making Selangor and Penang the top two states in terms of net migration (See Chart below)

    Source: Migration Reports 2011 to 2016

    The figures from the Migration Reports clearly shows that Malaysians are voting with their feet by moving in large numbers to Selangor and Penang. This is a clear indication that Malaysians have confidence in the state governments of Selangor and Penang under Pakatan Harapan (PH).

    The achievement of Penang is even more remarkable when one considers that it is only the 8th most populous state in Malaysia and yet, it is able to attract the 2nd highest number of net migrants in the entire Malaysia. According to the 2016 Migration Report, “for the period of 2015-2016, Pulau Pinang registered the highest positive effectiveness ratio of migration at 58.4 per cent. This means that the people of Pulau Pinang will be increased by 58 persons for every 100 of inter-state migrants that migrate in and out of the state”.

    On the other hand, the two states with the largest outflow of population are Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur and Perak with a net outflow of 163,400 and 40,000 respectively from 2009 to 2016. The reasons for these migration patterns were not given in the Migration Report. But it is likely that the state of Perak is losing population because of better job prospects in places like Selangor and Penang. For Kuala Lumpur, it is likely that it is losing population because of high housing prices and possibly, the more attractive policies offered by the Selangor state government.

    According to the 2016 Migration Report, 61% of out-migrants from Kuala Lumpur moved to Selangor in the period from 2015-2016 while 62% of out-migrants from KL moved to Selangor in the period from 2014-2015 (See Chart 6 below).

    If these trends continue, Kuala Lumpur will soon be a city comprising of mostly rich Malaysians and expatriates and also poor migrant workers.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

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