My column for today is A proposal lacking a consensus. I’m going to dissect Senator Pimentel’s Federalism proposals on Inquirer Current once I get a complete copy of the Senate’s resolution, but my initial thoughts are that the proposal’s a messy one. My column today provides some initial thoughts along this line. See, also, my column Gerrymandering from August 5, 2007.
This is a mental image we really don’t need: Cabinet revamp striptease as Amando Doronila puts it. Actually, the time for a massive overhaul of the cabinet, as one former official told me, was in the wake of the May 2007 elections. Cabinet members like Ermita, Gonzales and Gonzalez, should have been axed with the dismal showing of Team Unity in the Senate.
Richard Spencer, blogging for The Telegraph from Beijing, says Here is China’s master plan concerning Tibet. A kind of small opening’s been offered for an accomodation with the Dalai Lama.
There are numerous reasons to explain this dramatic decline in support for the ruling BN. Firstly, like many parts of the world, Malaysia has been rocked by rising prices, especially for food, over the last year. The ringgit in the pocket has not been able to retain its value, and even in a country which likes to portray itself as a modern industrial nation, the many Malaysians who have not benefited from its rapid development have been hurt by the rising prices.
Then there is corruption. Malaysians feel particularly despondent about what they see as the broken promises of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi after his landslide 2004 election win, when he was re-elected promising to address corruption. Unlike other countries, what has been so upsetting to people is not the corrupt cop on the street corner but the seeming collusion within political and business circles that have seen lucrative contracts awarded to a small set of favored contractors in a closed tender process.
Furthermore, Malaysia’s judiciary was also rocked with the release of a secret tape-recording in early 2008, purportedly between a former Chief Justice and a politically well-connected lawyer in which the two were discussing the appointment of judges. This seeming interference in the judiciary, long-suspected but always denied, touched a raw nerve amongst the public.
Finally, there seems to have been an unraveling of the race politics that has for so long dominated Malaysian politics. After the riots of 1969 and the New Economic Policy (NEP) introduced in 1971 designed to boost the economic standing of the Malays in Malaysia, in late 2007 many in the Indian community took to the streets to protest their inferior economic position and the benefits heaped on the Malays through the NEP and follow-up programs. Meanwhile, the Chinese have continued to resent the ongoing pursuit of economic rebalancing which has supported the Malays in a way not commensurate with their contribution towards business development in Malaysia.
Because of this,
Inspired by the space created by the Internet for individuals to express themselves, the 2008 elections saw political control of news and information wrested away from the government for the first time, creating the conditions for a new political activism amongst ordinary Malaysian citizens to take root. Even the prime minister conceded “We thought that the newspapers, the print media, the television were more important, but young people were looking at text messages and blogs. We didn’t think it was important. It was a serious misjudgment” (New Straits Times, March 26, 2008).
Malaysian blogger SlowCatchUpKuan is amused by the wrangling of Malaysian deputies in parliament, at least ever since parliamentary proceedings started being broadcast live; and points out that Badawi’s old mentor and now nemesis, Mahathir, has weighed in by planting his flag in the blogosphere:
My Singapore News notes that Mahathir, who used to enjoy the advantages of having an iron grip on Malaysian media, and has established a presence in cyberspace out of necessity.
Hard-T explains where Mahathir’s online nom-de-plume came from and what it means (and that Mahathir’s daughter has been blogging for some years now):
C.H.E. Det, was Dr Mahathir’s pseudonym for his articles submitted to the Sunday Times between 1946-1950, which mainly touched on Malay economic and political predicaments then.
Simply Puteri writes,
I think now that he is no longer in the government he realizes that anything he has to say, carries as much weight as any other ordinary citizen. I may not always agree with what he has to say in his blog but he has as much right as any other blogger to voice his opinions.
There are signs already that the government is paying a lot more attention to the alternative media and bloggers. Other government higher ups, like the chief minister of Malacca and former MB of Selangor, are also jumping on the blogging bandwagon.
The results of the last elections have proven beyond a doubt the power that can be harnessed from cyberspace. If the present government wants to remain competitive in the information war, it has to get involved and pay attention to what is going on with the mood of the rakyat via the internet.
Malaysian blogger-parliamentarian Jeff Ooi (in his blog, Screenshots) visits Vietnam and points out that even as Malaysian worry that Vietnam will overtake them economically. Contrast what Ooi notes here:
What’s more, business registration processes had been expedited even in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai — investment licenses can now be issued within six days!
There must be some magic in Vietnam that helped pump-prime the country’s economy. So I decided to give it a closer look and landed on Ho Chi Minh City on Vietnam’s Liberation/Reunification Day (April 30 evening), and witnessed the celebration of Workers’ Day (May 1).
Doubtlessly, HCM City plays an important role in the country’s socio-economic development, accounting for 22% of GDP, one-third of the State’s budget and 40% of the country’s export turnover.
Yesterday, teamed with a group of Malaysian investors, I toured the Saigon Hi-Tech Park (SHTP) and Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP), and the Phu My Hung area in Saigon South.
The SHTP is where the new Intel mega-site is being developed, with US$1 billion investment for the company’s digital ASEAN (d-ASEAN) programme. Key tenants now are Jabil from USA and Allied Group from Singapore. It will need another five years or so to mature but most of the outsource services have virtually set up camps in Saigon to capitalise on Intel’s supply chain. Capturing Intel into Ho Chi Minh is a coup for Vietnam, and a severe threat to Penang as a base for the Electrical and Electronics industry.
The VSIP, near Song Be area, is about 14 years old, set up in March 1994 during the time when Vo Van Kiet and Goh Chok Tong were both Prime Ministers of the respective countries. It now houses full occupancy of tenants with manufacturing as a strong base. I could see earthwork for Phase II being carried out. It has the signature of Singapore-conceived facilities, clean, systematic and natural vegetation-friendly.
Phu My Hung is basically a Taiwanese investment when Kuomintang ran the economy before Chen Shui-Bian came around. Having endured the Asian Financial Crisis, the far-sightedness of the Taiwanese investors had finally paid off, and Phu My Hung, a former swampy area that needed massive earth-fills, is the jewel of the crown for Saigon South. Land prices now fetch US$4,500 per square-metre! Hip names in retail sector are now located here, including the sleek HQ for Unilever.
Searching around the blogosphere, an Intel employee recounts in his LiveJournal blog that the “official” statement for the planned closure is:
“[Intel Philippines needs to] find another building so that structural abnormalities in CV1 [Cavite Plant 1] can be remedied else Intel will cease all future Manufacturing operations in the Philippines…”
If this is true, and I think it is (Numonyx officially became a company last March 31, 2008 making the timing extremely uncanny), it is a sad day for the Philippines as an investment site. Intel started its operations in the Philippines in 1974, a mere six years after Intel itself was founded, and after 34 years Intel will likely cease operations here having moved to places like Vietnam and China, which are apparently more manufacturing-friendly.
Back to Jeff Ooi, this is interesting (once again, from his entry, Vietnam is hungry):
Despite the glittering outlook, some of the old hands among Malaysian expatriates I met up with expressed their concern that Vietnam’s economy may be headed for a bubble burst by August. That’s the date when the financial sector’s monetary credit squeeze policy comes into full effect and speculators in the real estate industry may be the first to burn their fingers, and domino effect see in.
According to media reports, State-owned corporations, which had invested 37% (US$8 billion) of their capital into real estate, banking and the stock market, are now trying hard to maintain solvency.
At last month’s meeting with officials from the national government, Viet Nam News said representatives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) told State-owned corporations and groups need to focus on their major businesses, and warned that the local financial market is being hurt by small banks.
It is said that State-owned corporations active in the coal, electricity and petroleum industries have made huge profits in telecommunications, finance and banking, but are facing sharp reductions in their own productivity. This could have major repercussions for the national economy and security.
Blogger Gulf Stream Blues looks at that horrifying story of an Austrian father who imprisoned his daughter, and the question Austrians have been forced to confront: how did the man get away with it for so long?
The punditocracy provokes the blogosphere: veteran journalist Luis Teodoro, as quoted in Journalists urged to blog, set examples online and gets shrieked at by Philippine Commentary (seconded by stuart-santiago) and Journal of the Jester-in-Exile. A sober analysis is provided by The Warrior Lawyer in FilipinoVoices.com. As does Abe Margallo, also in FilipinoVoices.com.
Jeff Jarvis, the New and Old Media observer, points out a couple of interesting things. First (see More writers than readers), a Pew study showed that as of 2004, in the USA, 53 million Americans published online while only 50 million bought daily papers: the writers, Jarvis pointed out, quite possibly now outnumber actual readers. Second, in Newspapers: a minus-sum game, he argues that newspapers won’t regain the advertising revenues they’ve lost; and they stand to lose even more revenue as online advertising gets even more specialized, because the microniche marketing that works online is unsuited to the way newspapers work.
On the other hand, Jeremiah Owyang asks (and answers his own question), Who do people trust? (It ain’t bloggers): he points to research that suggests people trust people they know, but that bloggers shouldn’t think that as a category of writers, they enjoy a particularly high level of trust.
There is also, as I told the Jester-in-Exile, a generation-derived element at work here, and this is true even among journalists. The Blue Pencil Chronicles well, chronicles a typically intense debate going on between professors in the UP School of Journalism, for example.
Let me weigh in. Personally (in answer to Philippine Commentary’s question), I am more comfortable with the classification “Opinion Writer,” because that’s really all I’ve ever done; a journalist to my mind, is someone with experience in reporting the news, like John Nery. A columnist really has to make a minimal adjustment to blogging, whether in terms of so-called ethics and without the overarching need for whatever “objectivity” is. A journalist with background as a reporter or full-time editor, on the other hand, who’s used to subsuming his or her personal identity to the report he or she is tasked to write, will probably have a difficult time adjusting.
This is a debate then close to my heart, because I’m basically self-taught and am brazen enough to write on subjects (and be in a profession) for which I lack the academic credentials (and therefore have my own biases: history is more an art, a branch of literature, than a “social science” though it benefits from the handling of facts according to widely-accepted standards).
An analogy I suggested to Jester-in-Exile was the Protestant Reformation, a revolt against the dogmas and established hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
The dividing line is, to my mind, institutional affiliation, and that includes professional affiliation. The difference between a profession and an avocation, though both subscribe to the view that what they are doing is more than work, it’s a calling, a vocation. Another analogy? It is the clash between medical doctors and healers; of subscribing to the Hippocratic Oath as a licensed professional, and subscribing to the norms of that oath but as someone outside the fraternity of medical professionals.
This is a distinction that, to my mind, will disappear -or become obsolete- when we have professional, full-time, bloggers who only cover and comment on, current events (particularly politics) and derive a livelihood from it. In the Philippine context, blogging on political and current events as an exclusive, full-time occupation is still on the horizon, though it’s become possible when it comes to other topics.