Economy

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How much did Pemandu Associates Sdn Bhd earn from organizing the Global Transformation Forum 2017?

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang, on the 27th of March, 2017

How much did Pemandu Associates Sdn Bhd earn from organizing the Global Transformation Forum 2017?

Tony Robbins is a household name among those who follow management trends and self-help coaches. He has been a life coach to movie stars such as Hugh Jackman and world class athletes including Andre Agassi. For US$650, you can get nosebleed seats to a 3 day “Unleash the Power Within” Tony Robbins seminar in New York later this year. For US$2995, you can have a seat on the floor and access to the Premier Lounge.[1]

If Tony Robbins were to come to Malaysia, the private company which has to pay his appearance fee would have to charge very high ticket fees in order to cover their costs and to make a decent profit. It would be hard to imagine this private company getting any funding from the Malaysian government to organize such an event. Perhaps some private corporations may be inclined to sponsor such an event so that some of their management can have special access to the man himself. But the risks and the rewards of organizing such an event would be in private hands, with little or no government involvement.

Malaysia now has its equivalent of a Tony Robbins ‘make yourself feel good session’ in the form of the Global Transformation Forum (GTF). The first forum was held in 2015 and the headliners to this forum included Arnold ‘the Terminator’ Schwarzenegger and former Olympians Carl Lewis and Sebastian Coe. Fast forward to 2017 and this year’s headliners include businessman and philanthropist Richard Branson and 8-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt.[2]

For GTF 2015, ticket prices started at RM427 for a university student and went up to a maximum of RM1424 for a regular delegate (Figure 1). For GTF 2017, ticket prices were jacked up to a starting price of RM4,000 and went up to a maximum of RM10,000 (Figure 2).

If this were a purely private event organized by a private company, this Member of Parliament would have no beef with the ticket prices nor with the hosting of the event itself. But this is not a purely private event. Nor was it funded purely by ticket sales to individuals and the private sector.

Figure 1: Ticket prices for the Global Transformation Forum 2015

Figure 2: Ticket prices for the Global Transformation Forum 2017

The first issue I have with this event is that it involves taxpayers’ funds. The first GTF in 2015 was organized with a government subsidy of RM10 million (Figure 3). Despite the higher ticket prices in 2017, the government subsidy was increased to RM15 million (Figure 4).

Figure 3: Parliamentary Reply on the cost to the taxpayer for organizing GTF 2015

Figure 4: Parliamentary Reply on the cost to the taxpayer for organizing GTF 2017

Since this event is mostly accessible to those who are affluent, because of the high ticket prices, it does not make sense for the government to pour in millions of Ringgit to subsidize this event organized by the rich, for the rich and of the rich. It makes even less sense that the government subsidy increased by 50% from RM10 million in 2015 to RM15 million in 2017 when ticket prices in 2017 have been raised significant and there are no discounts for students and the less affluent.

The second issue I have with this event is that the revenue for GTF 2017 goes directly to a private company. GTF 2015 was organized by BFR Institute, a company which is 100% owned by PEMANDU Corp, which is a company limited by guarantee under the control of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated.[3] GTF 2017 is organized by PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd which is a private company that is co-owned by its CEO and President Dato Seri Idris Jala (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Ownership of PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd (downloaded from the Companies Commission of Malaysia / Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia website on the 26th of March, 2017)

Since the GTF is no longer organized by BFR Institute, which is a government owned and government controlled company, but by a private company, namely PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd, how much of the sponsorship of this event, including the RM15 million set aside by the Government of Malaysia, which is going into the pockets of this private company that is co-owned by Idris Jala?

The third issue I have with the GTF is that a private company, PEMANDU Associates, is using this publicly subsidized event to increase its own public profile, perhaps in the hope of selling its consultancy services to the government, Government Linked Companies (GLCs) and other companies.

PEMANDU Associates was set up on the 16th of December 2016 as part of the transition for PEMANDU Corp to hand over its responsibilities back to the civil service. According to PEMANDU’s website, “all staff in PEMANDU and BFR Institute will move to PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd, a private consultancy firm newly established by PEMANDU management and staff”. In addition, “under our agreement with the Government on 5th January 2017, PEMANDU Associates will be deploying 45 people to the National Transformation Program (NTP) work under the supervision of the Civil Service Delivery Unit in 2017. This number will reduce to 30 in 2018. The current employees not deployed to the NTP work will be doing business development work, as well as to provide consultancy services to public sectors abroad and business turnaround”.[4]

In other words, PEMANDU Associates will be paid by the Government of Malaysia in 2017 and 2018 for its consultancy services. This means that PEMANDU Associates will have access to the inner workings of various government ministries and agencies. As far as I know, Idris Jala, who was appointed as the Chairman of Heineken Malaysia as of the 1st of January, 2017[5], has not officially resigned from his position as CEO of PEMANDU Corporation or as chairman of the BFR Institute. What assurance is there that PEMANDU Associates will not abuse its position and knowledge of the civil service in order to sell its consultancy services to other government departments or private companies who want to have access to the civil service? The fact that Idris Jala has not clarified his position and role as the CEO and President of PEMANDU Associates Sdn Bhd, the CEO of PEMANDU Corporation, the Chairman of BFR Institute and the Chairman of Heineken Malaysia does not give any public assurance that conflicts of interest arising from the holding of these various positions will not arise.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

[1] https://www.tonyrobbins.com/events/unleash-the-power-within/new-york-area-07-20-2017/#pricing

[2] One of Usain Bolt’s relay gold medals was recently taken away because of a positive drug test for one of the relay runners (not Bolt).

[3] https://www.pemandu.gov.my/media-room-idris-jala-holds-no-shares-bfr/

[4] https://www.pemandu.gov.my/pemandu-begins-transition/

[5] http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2016/12/01/idris-jala-to-become-heineken-malaysia-chairman/

Why is the government of Malaysia spending RM15 million to subsidize an event for affluent Malaysians and big corporate organizations organized by a private company?

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 23rd of March, 2017

Why is the government of Malaysia spending RM15 million to subsidize an event for affluent Malaysians and big corporate organizations organized by a private company?

The Global Transformation Forum 2017, featuring internationally renowned speakers and celebrities such as Sir Richard Branson, Jack Ma and Usain Bolt, is currently taking place at the KL Convention Center from the 22nd to the 23rd of March, 2017.[1] It has a number of corporate sponsors including Tenaga, Hong Leong Bank, YTL, MMC Gamuda, KL Kepong and many others. The cost of entrance for this forum starts at RM4,000 for a basic package (“Club Pass”) and going up to RM10,000 for the most expensive package (“Signature Pass”). As of today, tickets for the Circle Pass (RM6,000) and the Signature Pass (RM10,000) has been sold out and only a limited number of Club Passes (“RM4,000) are left (See Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: Cost and Benefits of the Club Pass, Circle Pass and Signature Pass packages for the Global Transformation Forum 2017

If this was a purely private affair, organized by the private sector for the private sector, it would be no business of mine as a Member of Parliament (MP) to question the costs of organizing such an event. But a similar forum had previously been organized in 2015 at a cost of RM10 million to the taxpayer.

In the parliamentary reply given to me today, the cost to the taxpayer for organizing this event has escalated to RM15 million! (See Appendix 1)

When government funding to our universities and our hospitals are being cut left, right and center, and government subsidies for essentials such as sugar and cooking oil are being cut, why is the government subsidizing an event that will be almost exclusively attended by affluent and well-connected Malaysians? So that the Prime Minister will have more opportunities to take selfies with celebrities? This is a slap in the face of Malaysians who are suffering because of increases in the cost of living and cuts in government expenditure. The organizers of the event should be ashamed of themselves for asking the government for RM15 million to organize this forum for the rich, of the rich and by the rich.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

[1] http://globaltransformation.com/

Appendix 1: Answer to my Parliament Question of the Government Allocation for the Global Transformation Forum 2017

Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg should show proof that the North Korean workers who were and are still in Sarawak are specialist workers

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 10th of March, 2017

Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg should show proof that the North Korean workers who were and are still in Sarawak are specialist workers

On the 8th of March, 2017, Chief Minister of Sarawak, Datuk Amar Johari Tun Openg was reported to have said that the North Koreans who are working in Sarawak are “mostly specialist workers in coal mining, bridge and hydroelectric dam projects”. [1] I received a parliamentary reply on the 17th of June, 2015 to my question on the number of North Korean workers who was then working in Malaysia. The reply stated that all of the North Korean workers in Malaysia were working in the construction and mining industries (See Figure 1 below)

Figure 1: Parliamentary Reply received on the 17th of June, 2015

I visited the Selantik coal mine in the Sri Aman district on the 25th of September, 2015. I did not speak to the North Korean coal miners because of concerns of safety and the language barrier. I did see that the living conditions of these workers were very basic. I also saw a woman who looked Korean coming out from one of the run-down accommodations at the mine to wash some plates. My guess at that time was that she was a cook for the North Korean workers. (See Pictures below)

I also asked the villagers living near the coal mine and they all said that they had very little interaction with the workers there. I find it hard to believe that ‘specialist’ coal miners from North Korea would be willing to live in such basic and inhospitable living conditions which I saw at the mine. There is also nothing from my parliamentary reply to indicate that these coal miners were ‘specialist’ workers.

Chief Minister Amar Johari can convince the public that these were indeed specialist workers by releasing information about the background, qualifications and work experience of these specialist workers as well as proof that the company employing them had advertised for these positions and were unable to fill them with Sarawakian workers.

At a time when relations between Malaysia and North Korea is at an all-time low and with the global media’s attention focused on Malaysia because of the recent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, it is imperative that we demonstrate to the global community that proper operating procedures were followed in the employment of the North Koreans in Sarawak. Failure to do so would put Malaysia in a negative light and may even cause the downgrade in Malaysia’s position in the US state department’s Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

Picture 1: Coal Mining operations in Selantik, Sri Aman in Sarawak

Picture 2: One of the accommodation housing the North Korean workers in Selantik, Sri Aman in Sarawak

Picture 3: One of the accommodation housing the North Korean workers in Selantik, Sri Aman in Sarawak

Picture 4: One of the accommodation housing the North Korean workers in Selantik, Sri Aman in Sarawak

Picture 5: A Korean looking woman coming out of one of the accommodation at the Selantik coal mine in Sri Aman to wash some dishes

[1] http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/03/08/north-koreans-in-no-rush-to-go-home/#4grlAk1YbeqsO6oV.99