On the UPU application process

Yet another bright student has failed to get a placement in a university and is now appealing the decision via Twitter to Dr Maszlee Malik. However, there are a few things to consider in this case.

Yes, she scored brilliantly in her Sijil Tinggi Peperiksaan Menengah (STPM) results. Had she already been in university, she would have made the Dean’s List award for sure, with a 3.92 CGPA. But there are a few things suspect.

According to the article published in SAYS:

“The brilliant student had six university choices in mind: Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia (UIA), Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA)”

Now let’s start with the most glaring problem here – UiTM and UIA enrolments are restricted. One by race, the other by religion.

Yes, that’s wrong, that’s unfair, that’s downright indecent, “let’s take to writing up a petition on Change.org”, throw a fit on Facebook and get it changed accordingly – or at least talk about it for another week and then just forget it.

But – if you know those university enrolments have been restricted for the past 40 years or maybe longer, would rational thought tell you to still list those universities on the UPU form?

At this point, we have to suspect whether she truly wants admission into a university, or she wants to challenge the entire system of enrolments altogether.

So if the student is in fact wanting to advocate social change, congratulations on your courage. But if that wasn’t the case at all, you should have really paid attention during the UPU briefing.

Moving on to the second problem with the UPU process. It does look at merit, but it also looks at your choice priority. This needs some elaboration.

For example, let us say you scored a 3.6 CGPA and put UM as your first choice, and yet someone with a 3.8 CGPA put UM as their third choice, which one of you would get the UM placement?

Well, you would get it for putting UM as your first priority. Thus, the UPU does not only take merit into account, but also your ranked priority of choices in all universities.

And yes, students are briefed on this in secondary school, contrary to the many cases of confused masses out there. If I, at 35, have to go back and remember a briefing given at the age of 17, more than half my lifetime away now, then you should be able to recall these details which just happened months ago.

So, how does the government move forward on this issue?

First off, there is a need to re look all universities and admission officers including the UPU to weed out corruption – primarily in the form of students attending interviews for placements being asked “do you have any contacts to reach out to, to get a placement?”.

Yes, this is still happening. Yes, it is widespread. And more importantly it raises the question – why is there already such a question if you’re still interviewing people for placements? Are there already reserved slots even before the interviews?

Secondly, students, this one is on you – please don’t expect your results being great to break glass ceilings everywhere with regards to race and religion.

More importantly, be sure of your priority ranking in the UPU form. Aim high, but be realistic – this is rather important and I know it’s rather awkward because at that age, many really have no clue what they want to do in their life or whether it suits them.

Now, to the general public, here’s something to think about. If we are to base solely on merit, we discredit passion and more importantly, the equal opportunities afforded to everyone. Just because someone got great results, they’re not treated to a red carpet treatment into a university even after making a silly choice.

That would be discriminating wisdom and shrewdness for lackadaisical intelligence. Of course, both traits should be celebrated, but not when there is such a system as the UPU which puts merit and a student’s choice on the same measure.

I do wonder where Dr Maszlee Malik stands on this matter, though. Would he open up UiTM and UIA, or would he review the UPU procedures to ensure merit is priority one over everything else?

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It’s not all that surprising

Seriously, there are a few things that need to be considered when we look at the performance of Pakatan Harapan as a government.

Primarily, there will be enormous teething problems that – while some are wildly optimistic – will not be settled within 100 days of them being in office.

And secondly, yes – they will have to rethink their promises as time moves forward for the sheer scale of what they promised was not thought up properly. Or to make it well known – their populist manifesto promises are going to bite them in the ass.

Thirdly, now that they are in power, expect all of them to have different thoughts on how well to move forward. True to their word, this isn’t the past Mahathir era where everything was done his way or build another highway.

Instead, what we have is pretty much sheer chaos until Wednesday when Cabinet meets and they come up with a collective decision. Well, at least they’re democratic in that sense.

Fourthly, don’t expect big changes so soon. However, there should be changes in the direction the country should be headed. And by that, I mean we should not have to subsidise yet another national car company with taxpayer ringgits.

But all in all, they do have their head in the game, even if I’m astounded they’re taking so long with the changing regulations regarding child marriages.

Domestic flight price ceiling? Glad someone is reading

On March 5, I wrote a column in The Sun Daily asking that the government consider lowering the price of air fare between Peninsular and Borneo.

The lack of controls in fares which made flights to Sabah and Sarawak sometimes higher than flights overseas, was brought to my attention by a friend on Facebook.  Continue reading “Domestic flight price ceiling? Glad someone is reading”

Column – Why settle study loans

Why settle study loans

BEFORE we talk about the National Higher Education Fund Corp (PTPTN), let’s understand that it is primarily a rolling fund. This means it can only dish out money that it gets back.

Thus, if borrowers don’t pay or service their loans, it will reduce the amount available for the next batch of students. In other words, those paying their PTPTN loans are not just servicing a loan, they are also putting a freshman through college.

In March 2017, 660,000 Malaysians had not paid a single sen of their PTPTN loans. And by last November, PTPTN announced that 410,500 Malaysians had not paid a single sen, amounting to RM6.84 billion.

For last year until Sept 30, the amount collected was RM12.13 billion, instead of the full amount of RM18.97 billion. This means there will be less for students this year. Thus, with more student pursuing tertiary education with less funds for loans we will see more households bearing more costs.

This was made worse by announcement of a further extension for repayments to 12 months during the tabling of Budget 2018. Also announced was an extra RM200 million for the Bottom 40 (B40) group of households.

We were also informed of a tax exemption of up to RM6,000 for those saving in 1Malaysia Education Saving Scheme.

There was an announcement for discounts and rebates for people to pay back their loans. All of these will further erode the ability of PTPTN to cope with increased costs of students to eke out a living, perhaps even triggering another starving student (Mahasiswa Lapar) movement.

Pakatan Harapan manifesto has a promise to allow Malaysians to start servicing their student loans when they earn RM4,000 a month. This raises a few questions.

First, for the period between a student’s graduation and the time he gets a job and earns RM4,000, will the PTPTN loan be subject to compounded interest per annum?

Will there be an increase in minimum payments to cope with the increased amount in their loans?

What’s the duration for a working class borrower to start earning a RM4,000? I ask because that is how long we will be exempting more Malaysians from paying a single sen and reducing funds for students.

So a Pakatan Harapan government will delay PTPTN repayments and regularly inject funds into it to allow future batches of students to gain access to the loans.

If it is yet another government backed loan, injecting more funds will increase national debt, and while the compounded interest on the loans to students working to earn RM4,000 will also increase individual or household debt.

The manifesto will also allow Malaysians to buy a car without getting flagged by bad credit scores, get assistance from the government to buy a house, and fly overseas without being blacklisted.

Consider a few things that come to mind.

First, how do we view debt? Do we see it as something serious to the point that we consider it something that must be paid as a monthly cost, or do we see it as an elastic cost that should only be paid when you have disposable income?

Should debt be elastic without a time period, without penalties? After all, you can’t take back a graduate’s degree or diploma to make them repay their loans, can you?

What’s your stance on debt?

Now, if you have answered that question, I will put forward another?

Do we believe PTPTN should assist students who don’t have parents with high incomes – the middle and lower-income groups, at no added costs to manage the debts, payouts and paybacks, or even interest rates which will eventually allow the funding of future students?

Or, do we believe in the government pumping in more money to fund future students while allowing debtors to not have to pay their dues for three or four years?

Or, do we believe in writing off billions and let the government foot the bill and making tertiary education free?

Have a hard think.

Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

Regarding public transport and KL

Regarding public transport and KL

By Hafidz Baharom

Before we begin looking at what manifestos should promise, we need to know what is already in place for Kuala Lumpur and the Greater Klang Valley.

We have two Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines, and an additional line to link Bandar Utama to Klang by 2021 – the LRT3 Line currently in the initial stages of development.

We have the Mass Rail Transit (MRT) line from Sungai Buloh to Kajang, with two more lines already under construction connecting KL to Putrajaya – which will hopefully be cheaper than the Express Rail Line (ERL). Continue reading “Regarding public transport and KL”

Pakatan proves it isn’t ready for Putrajaya, yet

Pakatan proves it isn’t ready for Putrajaya, yet

By Hafidz Baharom

It seems that the pro-PH gang would go so far as libel and slander rather than actually contribute to intellectual discourse. At the end of February, things took a head when “someone” decided it was necessary to accuse me by name of taking funds from the Prime Minister’s Office, to join in the #UndiRosak campaign.

Wow.

While there have been accusations made of those telling people of the choice on Election Day to spoil their votes, these accusations have been generally nameless – because mostly, detractors would understand that naming someone would open themselves to lawsuits.

“Someone” didn’t get the memo. And so, defamation proceedings will proceed.

That being said, I know why people are doing this – it is simply out of fear. And that fear is that Pakatan Harapan will not win the next general election. The reason for this fear, is the lawmakers in Pakatan themselves making non-sensical statements that trigger this reaction.

There have been accusations that the country will go “bankrupt” if Pakatan loses, that this is the “last election”, that “corruption will be so bad that we will never recover”, and even going so far as to say “we will become Zimbabwe”!

I love that last one, mostly because if you look at the latest press freedom index by Reporters Without Borders in 2017, Zimbabwe (ranked 128) is already ahead of Malaysia (ranked 144) in the ranking. Yet, we are still better than Singapore (ranked 151).

I’ll say it again – PH is cultivating a culture of fear. And while fear works wonders in terms of political propaganda, there is a huge problem when you ask them a very, very pointed question. And that question is this:

What exactly will PH do to fix these issues?

Now, watch the embolism pops as no forthcoming answer appears. Then, all you have to do is keep asking for more details.

How long would these changes take? 100 days? A year? One term in office? Two terms? 60 plus years, equal to BN rule?

And this is where PH just sinks like an undone soufflé.

There is a very visible reason why they cannot even suggest solutions jointly as one entity being Pakatan Harapan. And that is because, they really have no idea. And they have no idea, because they have no unity.

A recent survey showed that Pakatan Harapan supporter were better educated than those supporting Barisan Nasional. So, why would their side, being one of more brainpower than the other, have a problem with solutions?

It’s simple – while they all have the brains, they don’t have the trust among themselves to actually put one person in charge of policies for a certain sector or lead a team. Or in the case of any legit two party system, to even propose members of a Shadow Cabinet to do so.

Thus, the reason PH politicians use culture of fear, rather than try to instil hope in Malaysians of actually having better policies, be able to project unity, and even be able to give hope that they will “save Malaysia” – all of the above without bothering with the details – is because this is the only card they can play.

And while dogmatic faith in political parties are not new among their supporters akin to brand loyalty, the newer trend in politics among the youth is that policies must be inspirational, out of the box, achievable and relevant.

Thus, when you suggest policies in your Shadow Budget riddled with immature name calling of “MO1” and saying you want to control BR1M to exclude cigarettes and alcohol, or even wanting to tax capital gains without excluding the EPF which will impact everyone’s retirement fund – did you really think the youth and even adults were stupid enough to just kowtow and accept it?

Subsequently, when you promise to deport migrant workers, without acknowledging tax breaks for technological innovation in automating processes to reduce dependence on foreign labour in lieu of local vocational school graduates, obviously you didn’t think far enough.

Rather sad when you think about just how many non-government organisations and research institutions they have in their midst, as well as professionals from all fields as their candidates in the next general election who could have seen through some of their own policy shortfalls, but decided to remain mum.

Thus, when their manifesto with “60 promises” was announced as delayed by Dr Mahathir Mohamed due to fear that “the government would have spent more” to the point that a PH government would be unable to keep their promises, it just goes to show that their proposals were unrealistic to begin with.

For myself personally, there was one opportunity that they failed to take advantage of on Monday, on the first day of the Dewan Rakyat – they could have shown unity and trust among themselves by actually forming a Shadow Cabinet.

Their failure to even achieve that when it costs nothing, a symbolic gesture of trust and unity, on the last session for this term, just goes to show one thing – Pakatan Harapan is not ready to govern Malaysia.

But that being said, they’ve announced that their manifesto will be launched on March 8, titled as “10 Promises, 100 Days”. Catchy, but if any of the idiotic proposals from their last shadow budget and youth manifesto turn up yet again, it’ll be really depressing.

But I’ll read through anyway. And I’ll still back them even if I spoil my vote for this upcoming General Election.

Even if it takes them 5 years or a decade to mature and come together to actually be a viable government in waiting, so be it. I will wait.

From plastic bags to quinoa, is #undirosak still the immature and brain damaged ones?

From plastic bags to quinoa, is #undirosak still the immature and brain damaged ones?

By Hafidz Baharom

In the last two weeks, this has been the campaigns leading up to the 14th General Election. It was initially to call us using the #undirosak hashtag as “immature, brain damaged, treasonous” and even going so far as “committing suicide”.

Since then, we have learned that our largest apolitical critic being the chief of the Coalition of Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) is joining politics under the PKR banner and allegedly offered a “safe seat”.

Thus, the clean is now clearly about to get muddy.

Continue reading “From plastic bags to quinoa, is #undirosak still the immature and brain damaged ones?”