• Not all overseas universities are better, but many clearly are better

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 12th of March, 2015

    Not all overseas universities are better, but many clearly are better

    Bernama reported on the 7th of March that Minister of Education II, Dato’ Seri Idris Jusoh, had asked Malaysian students who do well in their public examinations not to be obsessed about going overseas, because not all overseas universities are better than our local public and private universities.[1]

    I concur with the Minister’s point that not all overseas universities are better than our local public and private universities. But he completely misses the point in that most high performing students want to go overseas not to study in a 3rd rate university, but at world class institutions which by most objective measures would give them a better educational experienced compared to local universities. Can one ask a high performing student to give up a place in a world class university such as Harvard, Cambridge or Oxford in favour of a local university?

    The recently released Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2015 indicates that there are many overseas universities which have a better reputation than our local universities.[2] Not surprisingly, universities from the United States (43) and the United Kingdom (12) dominated the Top 100 university rankings by reputation. Interestingly, 10 Asian universities made it to the Top 100 list including 5 in the top 50 – the University of Tokyo (12), the National University of Singapore (24), Tsinghua University (26), Kyoto University (27) and Peking University (32). No Malaysian university made it to this Top 100 ranking.

    The Minister may respond to these rankings by saying that our local universities cannot be compared to universities in the United States and Europe but among our peers in Asia. But in the Times Higher Education Top 100 Universities in Asia, not a single Malaysian university made it to this list.[3] NUS in Singapore was ranked No. 2 in this list and NTU, also in Singapore, was ranked No. 11. Two universities in Thailand – King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi (50) and Mahidol University (82) – made it to this list. 10 universities in India, 3 in Saudi Arabia and 3 in Iran were ranked in this top 100 list.

    The Minister may respond to these rankings by saying that most universities in Malaysia are relatively young and cannot compete with the older and more established universities. But the Times Higher Education Top 100 Universities under 50 years of age also does not feature a single Malaysian university.[4] 12 universities in Asia made it to this list including the Pohang University of Science and Technology (1) and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (3), the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (4), NTU (5), City University of Hong Kong (17), the Sharif University of Technology (27) in Iran and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (30).

    The Minister may respond to these rankings by saying that Malaysian universities may be better or world class in certain fields such as life sciences or engineering. But sadly, no Malaysian university made it to the Top 100 list of universities by subject ranking – Arts and the Humanities, Clinical & Health, Engineering & Technology, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Social Sciences – in the Times Higher Education subject ranking for 2014 & 2015.

    In fact, the only Malaysian university that featured in any Top 100 list in the Times Higher Education university rankings is Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) which ranked 93 among the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and Emerging Economies universities.[5]

    I have gone on record to say that we are sometimes too obsessed with university rankings.[6] I do not feel that Idris Jusoh needs to defend the absence of Malaysian universities in the Top 100 lists of the Times Higher Education world university rankings. He is rightly proud of the fact that our local universities have made strides in improving the quality of research and teaching in the recent years, as I am.[7] He is also right to applaud the international reputation which a few Malaysian academics in our public universities have achieved including Professor Dr Abdul Latif Ahmad (USM, School of Chemical Engineering) and Professor Dr Ishak Hashim (UKM, School of Mathematical Sciences). And he should highlight the successful efforts of many local universities in increasing the percentage of their lecturers with PhD qualifications.

    But he should not need university rankings to tell him that our local public and private universities are far from being world class, and that almost all top students prefer to study in world class universities overseas rather than stay in Malaysia. Perhaps that is the ultimate challenge for Idris Jusoh – to improve our local universities to the extent that high performing Malaysian students would prefer to stay home than to go abroad to pursue their university education.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://m.malaysiakini.com/news/291283

    [2] http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2015/reputation-ranking

    [3] http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2013-14/regional-ranking/region/asia

    [4] http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2014/one-hundred-under-fifty

    [5] http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2015/brics-and-emerging-economies

    [6] http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Online-Exclusive/Im-OK-man/Profile/Articles/2013/11/25/university-rankings/

    [7] http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/sideviews/article/what-it-means-to-be-world-class-idris-jusoh

  • Prime Minister Najib, as Finance Minister, needs to ensure that Pembinaan PFI Sdn Bhd does not turn into another 1MDB

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 11th of March, 2015

    Prime Minister Najib, as Finance Minister, needs to ensure that Pembinaan PFI Sdn Bhd does not turn into another 1MDB

    1MDB has dominated the headlines over the past week or so because of the shocking revelations by the Sarawak Report. At the same time, there is another little known company, Pembinaan PFI, which had accumulated debts of RM27.9 billion at the end of 2012 and could have reached RM47.4 billion in debt at the end of 2014 – much more quietly. Without accountability on how Pembinaan PFI is spending its borrowings and without transparency on how it is servicing its debts and without vigilance from the Minister of Finance, Prime Minister Najib, Pembinaan PFI could easily turn into another 1MDB.

    To recap, Pembinaan PFI, is a 99.9% Ministry of Finance incorporated company with the Federal Land Commission holding one share. According to the Attorney General’s report in 2013 (Series 3), Pembinaan PFI Sdn Bhd had the third highest liabilities among all government owned entities at the end of 2012. Its total liabilities were RM27.9 billion, behind two well-known companies with huge assets, revenues and profits namely Petronas (RM152 billion) and Khazanah (RM69 billion) (See below)

    But unlike Petronas and Khazanah, Pembinaan PFI does not have any operational income as shown by the same Auditor General’s report. (See below) Its RM1.94 million in revenue in 2012 was derived from interest income. This means that Pembinaan PFI cannot service its liabilities without help from somewhere else, namely the federal government.

    Even though the AG’s report also lists Pembinaan PFI as having the third most assets among all government owned companies (see below), its assets consists of land being leased to Pembinaan PFI by the Federal Lands Commission (FLC). This was part of a complicated deal where Pembinaan PFI then sub-leased the land back to the FLC in exchange for rent totally RM29 billion to be paid over 25 years.[1] In other words, unlike Petronas and Khazanah, which actually owns their own assets, Pembinaan PFI doesn’t really have any real assets of its own.

    Pembinaan PFI’s liabilities would almost certainly have gone up in 2013. Unfortunately, three months into 2015, Pembinaan PFI still has not filed its company accounts for 2013 at the time of writing.

    In addition, Pembinaan PFI also took out a Bai Muajjal Islamic Loan Facility with the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) on the 22nd of August, 2014 with a maximum amount of RM19.5 billion. The terms of this facility was not disclosed in Pembinaan PFI’s submission to the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM).

    This means that the total liabilities of Pembinaan PFI can potentially increase to RM47.4 billion (RM27.9 billion at the end of 2012 plus the RM19.5 billion Bai Muajjal Islamic Loan Facility with EPF in August 2014) at the end of 2014.

    Note that the spending of Pembinaan PFI does not appear anywhere in any of the federal government budget accounts which means that all expenditure are ‘off-budget’ items. Neither are the debts of Pembinaan PFI listed as part of the federal government’s contingent liabilities. One cannot help but raise the possibility that the lack of transparency on the part of Pembinaan PFI is to ‘hide’ government spending from the actual budget.

    For this parliamentary session, I have submitted a parliament question asking for the latest loan figures for Pembinaan PFI as well as the reason for the late submission of its company accounts. In the interest of transparency, Prime Minister Najib, as Finance Minister, must ensure transparency in the spending, borrowings and debt repayment involving Pembinaan PFI to avoid another 1MDB scandal from occurring.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://ongkianming.com/2014/11/18/press-statement-why-is-our-government-paying-rental-of-rm29-2-billion-on-land-which-it-already-owns/

  • SEDA should make the awarding of Feed in Tariff (FiT) Quotas for Solar PV >425kW to 1MW to be as transparent as the awarding of FiT Quotas for Solar PV <425kW

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 10th of March, 2015

    SEDA should make the awarding of Feed in Tariff (FiT) Quotas for Solar PV >425kW to 1MW to be as transparent as the awarding of FiT Quotas for Solar PV <425kW

    I congratulate the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) for successfully conducting their 2nd open ballot for the allocation of FiT quotas for Solar PVs <425kW for non-individuals yesterday, the 9th of March, 2015 at the Everly Hotel.[1] The balloting, which was conducted by Deputy Minister for Energy, Green Technology and Water, Dato’ Seri Mahdzir bin Khalid, and was audited by Deloitte Enterprise Risk Services Sdn Bhd with observors from the National Audit Department and the Malaysian Institute of Integrity. Many of the Solar PV companies which put in applications for the FiT quota were also present to witness the balloting process. A total of 20MW of FiT quotas were awarded, 16MW in Peninsular Malaysia and 4MW in Sabah.

    However, SEDA did not announce the allocation of FiT quotas for Solar PVs >425kW to 1MW for non-individuals at yesterday’s open ballot. Last year, SEDA had told industry players that applications for the FiT quota >425kW to 1MW would be evaluated by SEDA using a merit point system.[2] In the same presentation last year, SEDA also said that if there were any ties in the number of points scored by the applicants, a similar open ballot would be conducted yesterday for the FiT quotas above 425kW (See Appendix 1 below). But sadly, no such ballot was conducted yesterday.

    In an earlier statement, I had asked SEDA to keep to its promise to the industry players to publish the merit points of all 146 applicants for the FiT quotas >425kW to 1MW.[3] I reiterate this call so that SEDA’s hard won reputation for transparency via its open ballot practice will not be jeopardized. The need to be transparent is even more necessary in light of the press statement issued by my colleague, Jimmy Wong, MP for Kota Kinabalu where he stated that a whistle-blower had told him of pressure being exerted on Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) to provide a favourable power system study (PSS) score on a well-connected solar PV company.[4] To show that it has nothing to hide, SEDA must release all the merit point scores of all 146 applicants for the Fit quotas >425kW to 1MW when it announces the successful applicants.[5]

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://www.seda.gov.my/?omaneg=00010100000001010101000100001000000000000000000000&y=45&s=4602

    [2] http://www.seda.gov.my/?omaneg=00010100000001010101000100001000000000000000000000&s=27

    [3] http://ongkianming.com/2015/02/10/press-statement-seda-must-continue-to-uphold-the-highest-standards-of-transparency-in-the-allocation-of-the-feed-in-tariff-fit/

    [4] http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news.cfm?NewsID=97759

    [5] http://www.seda.gov.my//?omaneg=00010100000001010101000100001000000000000000000000&y=45&s=4502

  • The Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA), the Energy Commission and the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) should introduce net metering for solar power in residential and commercial areas to increase electricity generation & reduce our carbon footprint

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 7th of March, 2015

    The Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA), the Energy Commission and the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) should introduce net metering for solar power in residential and commercial areas to increase electricity generation & reduce our carbon footprint

    According to the Energy Commission, electricity peak demand is expected to increase from 17,697 MW in 2015 to 22,938 MW in 2025, a 30% increase. In order to meet this increase in electricity demand, a number of contracts to build large scale coal and gas fired power plants have been awarded by the Energy Commission. This includes the controversial Project 3B to build a 2000MW coal fired plant that was awarded to 1MDB, which has been delayed because of 1MDB’s inability to raise the necessary finance to construct the plant.[1] In light of these problems, the Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA), the Energy Commission and SEDA should seriously consider using net metering as an alternative to meet the rising energy demand in Malaysia.

    Net Metering allows anyone with a connection to the electricity grid to sell back self-generated electricity (usually via solar power) to the grid and to claim back credits on their electricity bill. At the end of the day, these consumers only have to pay the difference between the electricity they have consumed and the electricity they have sold back to the grid – hence the term ‘net’ metering.[2] Net metering is different from the current Feed-In-Tariff system since it allows anyone who can generate electricity to sell it back to the grid, rather than having to bid for a Feed in Tariff quota in order to be eligible to sell back electricity to the grid.

    There are many advantages to net metering. Firstly, it can allow many more residential and commercial property owners to participate in the production and distribution of renewable energy (RE). According to SEDA’s 2013 annual report, only 2448 individuals and 252 non-individuals have managed to obtained the FiT approval at the end of 2013 for Solar PV (cumulative since the start of the FiT). The Solar PV quotas for individuals and non-individuals are always oversubscribed by many times and many individual house owners have been disappointed that they were not able to obtain the FiT approvals because of the high demand. Having net metering would solve this problem and expand the benefits of RE to many more people.

    Secondly, introducing net metering can help smooth out the demand for electricity during peak periods. Peak periods are usually during working hours when offices are running their air conditioning units at full blast and when factories are operating at full capacity. This is also the time when the solar power generating potential is at its highest. Having more solar PVs connected to the grid would decrease the burden of generating electricity in existing power plants. For example, even though installed capacity in Malaysia was 21,060MW in 2014 and peak demand was only 17,152MW, there were times when TNB had to burn more expensive oil distillate in their gas fired plants to generate more electricity during peak periods[3] because some of the coal fired plants had broken down and were not operational.[4]

    Thirdly, introducing net metering does not require new land to be acquired for the building of power plants which may prove to the unpopular to local residents. The RM1.3 billion coal-fired plant in Lahad Datu was cancelled as a result of protests by residents and environmentalists.[5] Solar PVs for residential and commercial units would utilize the rooftops of existing buildings rather than requiring new land. Since residential and commercial units are already connected to the grid, the connection costs for net metering would be minimal which would not be the case for power plants and other power generating sources that are far removed from population centers and hence, the electricity grid.

    Fourthly, giving a boost to renewable energy via net metering would help Malaysia reduce its carbon emissions. At the 2009 Copenhagen climate change summit, Prime Minister Najib made a commitment to reduce Malaysia’s carbon emissions by 40% by 2020[6], a promise which he re-iterated at the United Nations in September 2014.[7] Net Metering would be an important step in helping Malaysia achieve this promise.

    The focus of net metering should be for residential and commercial units rather than for large scale RE generation such as solar farms. This is ensure that the benefits of RE generation are felt by small scale producers rather than being captured by large companies.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming

    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://klse.i3investor.com/blogs/amresearch/70131.jsp

    [2] http://www.seia.org/policy/distributed-solar/net-metering

    [3] http://dspace.uniten.edu.my/xmlui/bitstream/handle/123456789/6570/0519%20The%20heavy%20cost%20of%20coal-fired%20plant%20outages–%20The%20Edge.pdf?sequence=1

    [4] http://themalaysianreserve.com/main/news/corporate-malaysia/5539-malakoffs-proposed-listing-may-be-deferred-again

    [5] http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/sabah-cancels-lahad-datu-coal-power-plant

    [6] http://www.thestar.com.my/story/?file=%2F2009%2F12%2F18%2Fnation%2F20091218134734&sec=nation

    [7] http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2014/09/24/Najib-New-York-Climate-change/

  • Has Jho Low been dictating Malaysia’s foreign policy in Saudi Arabia?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 4th of March, 2015

    Has Jho Low been dictating Malaysia’s foreign policy in Saudi Arabia?

    1MBD and Prime Minister, Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak has much to answer for in the wake of the recent expose by Sarawak Report[1] on the links between 1MDB, Jho Low and Najib himself. One of the many questions which require answering is whether Jho Low was allowed to use his influence to dictate Malaysia’s foreign policy in Saudi Arabia.

    Prime Minister Najib made his first official visit to Saudi Arabia as PM in January 2010 (originally scheduled for December 2009) and the Sarawak Report alleges that Jho Low and his associates were working hard to ‘prepare’ for this visit.

    Firstly, a close associate of Jho Low, Li Lin Seet, was alleged to have prepared a draft of a letter to be sent by Najib to then King of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah (Appendix 1).

    Secondly, Tarek Obaid, the founder of Petro Saudi, was alleged to have sent Jho Low an email on the 13th of November 2009 asking the Malaysian Prime Minister to support Saudi Arabia’s military action in Northern Yemen against a rebel group known as the Houthis (Appendix 2). A draft statement was even prepared by Mr Obaid. On the 19th of November, PM Najib issued a statement condemning the Houthis and supporting Saudi Arabia’s right to defend itself.[2]

    Thirdly, Jho Low was alleged to have made arrangements for PM Najib to be interviewed by a Jamal Kashoggi (most likely the General Manager of the Al Arabiya News Channel[3]) during his official trip to Saudi Arabia. In the email shown in Sarawak Report, Wan Ahmad Shihab, a special officer to the PM, emailed Jalam Kashoggi and CCed Jho Low in order to “begin communicating with each other on preparations for the interview with the Prime Minister scheduled for December 14th, 2009.” (Appendix 3) (The trip was later changed to January 2010)

    Malaysia’s foreign policy must be dictated by the best interests of Malaysian citizens. The fact that an individual or a small group of individuals can dictate the foreign policy interests of Malaysia for their own personal gain, as alleged by the Sarawak Report expose, is highly disturbing. I call upon Prime Minister Najib to give an account of these allegations as well as the other allegations raised in the Sarawak Report expose on the 28th of February, 2015.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Appendix 1: Draft of Letter Prepared by Seet Li Lin on behalf of Prime Minister Najib to be sent to King Abdullah prior to the PM’s visit in Jan 2010

    His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud
    The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
    Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

    Your Majesty,

    I have the honour to convey to Your Majesty the gratitude and appreciation of the Government and people of Malaysia to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for the services extended to the Guests of Allah from Malaysia who travelled to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform the Haj and Umrah. Despite the public health challenges posed by the H1N1 flu situation, Your Majesty increased the Malaysian pilgrims Haj quota for the 1430H haj season by 10,000 to 38,000 pilgrims.

    On the issue of Yemeni Houthis rebels and their attacks on the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Government of Malaysia firmly condemns such violations. We unreservedly support the tough actions taken by Your Majesty in ensuring the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the GCC against such despicable acts of violence.

    I will also like to congratulate Your Majesty on the inauguration of King Abdullah Science and Technology University. The unparalleled facilities and world-class faculty assembled will no doubt provide intellectual fruits and technological advancements to benefit all mankind in generations to come.

    Also, Your Majesty’s pro-business development policies have greatly benefitted both the public and private sectors of Malaysia. 1MDB, a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund has formed a joint-venture with PetroSaudi International to capitalize on global investment opportunities for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. MMC Corporation Berhad, a Malaysian company, has the privilege of partnering the Saudi Binladin Group to jointly develop and manage the new Jazan Economic City. These are just some examples of the ever-improving bilateral relationships and trade ties between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.

    Malaysia is currently developing several economic zones such as the Iskandar Development Region in Johor and the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy and it will be interesting if I can have an audience with Your Majesty to share your wisdom on various economic policies, such as the conception of the King Abdullah Economic City, and political issues during my visit to the GCC in early next year. I can also take the opportunity to update Your Majesty on various developments that I am undertaking in Malaysia.

    May Allah the Almighty continues to bestow upon Your Majesty His guidance and blessings for Your Majesty’s leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in particular and the Islamic world in general.

    With Respect and Best Wishes.
    Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin tun Abdul Razak

    Appendix 2: Email from Tarek Obaid to Jho Low asking the Malaysian Prime Minister to support Saudi Arabia in its military operations against the Houthis in Northern Yemen

    From: “Tarek Obaid” <Tarek.Obaid@Petrosaudi.com> Subject: Saudi Announcement To: Low, Jho (Personal) Date: Fri, 13 Nov 2009 21:03:00 +0000

    Dear Joe :-

    Further to our discussion today, it would be highly appreciated if Malaysia could issue a strong statement of support to Saudi Arabia and it’s recent military operations and categorically condemn the incursions into Saudi territory of the Northern Yemeni rebel group known as the Houthis.

    Please find below a draft statement that the Malaysian Prime Minister should issue in this regard.

    Respectfully, Tarek

    Malaysia strongly condemns the criminal acts carried out by armed men from the Houthi rebel group in North Yemen who recently crossed and infiltrated the Jizan region in Saudi Arabian territory. Malaysia firmly supports the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s actions and categorically rejects any attack against any part of Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom has the full right to defend its territories and safeguard the safety of it’s citizens. Saudi Arabia under the wise leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has a special standing in the Middle East and the wider Muslim world and it’s stability is of critical global importance.

    Appendix 3: Wan Ahmad Shihab, Special Officer to PM Najib, arranging for an interview with a Jamal Kashoggi, introduced via Jho Low

    Dear Sheikh Tarek, From: Wan Shihab <wanshihab@gmail.com> Date: Wed, 25 Nov 2009 21:34:50 +0800 To: <jamal@khashoggi.com> Cc: Low, Jho (Personal)<jho.low@gmail.com>

    Subject: Greetings and Introduction

    Dear Mr. Jamal Kashoggi,

    My name is Wan Ahmad Shihab and I am the Special Officer to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Hon. Mr. Najib Razak.

    I was given your e-mail by Mr. Jho Low, so that we may begin communicating with each other on preparations for the interview with the Prime Minister scheduled for December 14th, 2009.

    I am currently travelling with the Prime Minister and will return to Malaysia by December 1st, but please do not hesitate to contact me for any assistance which you may require leading up to the interview, and we will be happy assist you in whatever way we can.

    Please find below all of my contact details should you need to reach me at any time.

    I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

    — Wan Ahmad Shihab Ismail Special Officer to the Prime Minister Level 4, Prime Minister’s Office Perdana Putra 62502 Putrajaya Malaysia

    Office: +603 8888 1433 Mobile 1: +6019 2633 488 Mobile 2: :+60193137047

    Official e-mail: wanshihab@pmo.gov.my

    [1] All the emails referenced to in this press statement can be found here: http://www.sarawakreport.org/2015/02/managing-the-media-and-then-foreign-policy-how-jho-low-took-over/

    [2] http://www.pmo.gov.my/home.php?menu=news&news_id=782&news_cat=4&page=1729&sort_year=2009&sort_month=

    [3] http://english.alarabiya.net/authors/Jamal-Khashoggi.html

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