Sunday, April 14, 2019

ECRL is up and running again

ECRL is up and running again

It is confirmed – Malaysia has managed to bring down the construction cost of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project by RM21.5bil, which is almost a third of the original cost.

The new price is set at RM44bil now, down 32.8% from the previous RM66bil.

Tun Daim Zainuddin, who led the negotiations with China, said the latest cost estimate was far more manageable for the government.

“It will also require a smaller loan from Exim Bank, which will further reduce the interest to be paid,” he told Malaysian journalists at the Malaysian Embassy here yesterday.

Earlier yesterday, Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd and China Communications Construction Company Ltd signed a supplementary agreement to pave the way for the resumption of the suspended project.

The agreement also saw slight changes to the route from Kota Baru in Kelantan to Port Klang in Selangor, with the length cut by 40km to 648km.

“It will still be double-tracking,” said Daim, who is the Special Envoy of the Prime Minister.

The realigned route will see the rail track diverted to Negri Sembilan from Mentakab in Pahang, bypassing Bentong in Pahang and Gombak in Selangor as planned earlier.

“It will start in Kota Baru, then to Mentakab, Jelebu and Kuala Klawang in Negri Sembilan, continue on to Bangi, Kajang, Putrajaya and end in Port Klang,” he said, without elaborating on the changes.

He said construction would commerce as soon as possible with the new date of completion reset to 2026, a two-year delay from the project planned originally.

Daim, who is also chairman of the Council of Eminent Persons, added that it had been agreed that 40% of the sub-contractors for the project would be Malaysians.

Negotiations on the loan and interest rate were still ongoing, he said.

“Now that the cost is lower, the loan will also be lower,” he said.

Daim declined to reveal more details, saying that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will address a press conference on the ECRL on Monday.

China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said his government was glad to see the issue being settled through friendly negotiation.

He said China and Malaysia were good neighbours and partners, which viewed each other’s friendship with importance.

Lu Kang said China hoped to see the project recommence soon.

In Putrajaya, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) confirmed the latest details involving the ECRL.

“The signing was achieved after months of negotiations between the companies involved as well as the governments of Malaysia and China.

“This reduction (in cost) will surely benefit Malaysia and lighten the burden of the country’s financial position,” it said in a statement yesterday.

The PMO said the supplementary agreement covered the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning aspects of the ECRL.

It confirmed that Dr Mahathir would address the media at 11am on Monday.

The original 688km ECRL proposal comprised Phase 1, stretching from the Klang Valley to Kuantan.

Phase 2 is from Kuantan to Kuala Terengganu and Phase 3 connecting Kuala Terengganu to Kota Baru and Tumpat.

The Pakatan Harapan government suspended the ECRL project after winning the general election last year.

~News courtesy of The Star~

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Malaysia, Indonesia tie for top spot among Muslim-friendly travel destinations

Malaysia, Indonesia tie for top spot among Muslim-friendly travel destinations

Malaysia has taken the top spot in the MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) for the ninth year in a row, but for the first time it is sharing that position with Indonesia.

The GMTI 2019 report, which includes 130 destinations globally, gave both countries a score of 78.

In a joint statement today, MasterCard and CrescentRating said Indonesia had climbed from second place to the top spot through sustained efforts by the country’s Tourism Ministry to invest in its tourism and travel industry, and develop Muslim-tourist friendly infrastructure.

The rest of the top 10 countries are Turkey (score of 75), Saudi Arabia (72), United Arab Emirates (71), Qatar (68), Morocco (67), Bahrain (66), Oman (66) and Brunei (65).

In a joint statement today, MasterCard and CrescentRating said Indonesia had climbed from second place to the top spot through sustained efforts by the country’s Tourism Ministry to invest in its tourism and travel industry, and develop Muslim-tourist friendly infrastructure.

Last year, Malaysia received a score of 80.6 while Indonesia tied with the United Arab Emirates with a score of 72.8.

Singapore remains the premier Muslim-friendly travel destination among non-Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) destinations this year, followed by Thailand, the United Kingdom, Japan and Taiwan.

The index tracks the health and growth of Muslim-friendly travel destinations in four strategic areas – access, communications, environment and services. — BERNAMA

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Be prepared to pay a departure levy

Flying out of the country? Be prepared to pay a departure levy

Anyone flying out the country will have to pay a fee when the Departure Levy Bill 2019 is passed in Parliament.

The Bill tabled by Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah (pic) for its first reading on Monday (April 8) seeks the implementation of a new levy on any person leaving Malaysia.

However, the amount of the proposed levy was not mentioned in the Bill.

In Budget 2019, the government had proposed a departure levy of RM20 for Asean countries and RM40 for non-Asean countries.

The Bill also proposes hefty punishments for those who avoid paying the levy.

Any registered person who makes an incorrect return or information can face a fine not exceeding RM500,000, a three-year jail term or both, upon sentencing.

According to the Bill, a registered person means any operator or agent of foreign operators.

The Bill also states that anyone with the intent to evade or assist another to avoid the departure levy will also be liable to a fine not exceeding RM1mil, a five-year jail sentence or both upon sentencing.

The proposed Act also states that any person who in any way assaults, obstructs, hinders, threatens or molests a Customs officer in the discharge of his function or fails to give reasonable assistance to any Customs offer will also be liable to a maximum three-year jail term, a fine not exceeding RM500,000 or both if found guilty.

~News courtesy of The Star~

Monday, April 8, 2019

TripAdvisor to aid tourism

TripAdvisor to aid tourism



The Tourism Ministry will be working with all the industry players and international travel website TripAdvisor to improve the review ratings for the country.

Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik said they would visit every state, starting with Penang after Hari Raya in June.

“In tourism, it is all about the reviews. We want to bring all the industry players and stakeholders together and share the knowledge on how to obtain a higher rating.

“If you are lowly rated, tourists will not visit.

“If people leave bad reviews about the food or the hotel being noisy, the ratings will be low.

“There are many unknown attractions and service providers that are highly-rated although we may not know about them,”  he said after handing over certificates to five Malaysia Tourism Quality Assurance 2019 (MyTQA) recipients at Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm in Teluk Bahang on Saturday.

Muhammad Bakhtiar said Gurney Drive last year received low ratings probably due to land reclamation.

“It is rated by the people who went there and for obvious reasons, perhaps after the reclamation, sometimes people were disappointed as they wanted to see the sea.

“TripAdvisor is providing us with big data on why people visit Malaysia so we can figure out a strategy.

“There will be representatives from TripAdvisor joining us to advise the industry players.

Taiping was listed by Green Destinations (GD) as one of its 100 sustainable cities in the world last year.

“This shows that Malaysia has the potential.

“We, however, need to improve our service culture and Malaysian front-liners have to learn how to greet people and give it a personal touch.

“Other countries where English is not their first language have found a way to greet people in a welcoming way,” he said.

~News courtesy of The Star~

Sunday, February 17, 2019

32nd Fraser's Hill International Bird Race 2019

32nd Fraser's Hill International Bird Race 2019
22 - 23 June 2019



Fraser’s Hill is home to over 250 species of birds which provides a cool temperature climate due to its elevation on a mountainous area. Over three decades, thousands of bird watchers from all over the world have visited Fraser’s Hill to spot some of the amazing birds.

For more info: http://www.pahangtourism.org.my/birding/

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Hot and dry days to last until April

Hot and dry days to last until April

It is searing hot and dry, with five areas in the country already placed on heatwave alert.

And there’s more “hot” news – Malaysians have to put up with this weather until April, at least.

The tail-end of the north-east monsoon next month will see less rain in most parts of the country.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia), in a report on the country’s weather outlook from February to July, stated that most international climate models predicted a 65% possibility of the El Nino weather phenomenon occurring until May.

In the peninsula, Sik (Kedah), north Seberang Perai (Penang), Kinta and Kuala Kangsar (Perak) and Alor Gajah (Melaka) recorded temperatures of between 35°C and 37°C for three days in a row.

Throughout this month, the Department of Environment said most areas in the peninsula were likely to experience dry weather with less than 150mm rainfall.

It said Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negri Sembilan, Melaka, Johor, Perlis, south Terengganu and Pahang will get slightly less average rainfall compared with the long-term average figure.

Kuching and Samarahan in Sara­wak are expected to get more rain than average, while Miri is likely to be drier.

In Sabah, most parts of the state are forecast to receive less than average rainfall.

One level up from Category 1 (heatwave alert) is Category 2, which is when temperatures rise above 37°C for three consecutive days.

When this happens, the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry is empowered to officially declare a heatwave in that location.

This is to enable the relevant authorities to take follow-up action such as closing schools.

When an area hits Category 3 (when the temperature hits above 40°C three days in a row, which is considered the “emergency level”), the National Disaster Management Agency will be notified and the Prime Minister can declare an emergency.

According to the MetMalaysia report, the country’s weather until July will be influenced by three weather patterns – the north-east monsoon which ends in March, intermonsoon in April and south-west monsoon, which begins in May.

The start of the intermonsoon period is expected to see more thunderstorms in the west coast and interior of the peninsula, east coast of Sabah and central Sara­wak.

In the meantime, the Fire and Rescue Department is on alert for more forest fires following a recent incident in Baling, Kedah.

~News courtesy of The Star~

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Travellers against departure levy

Travellers against departure levy

AS the feud intensifies between Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) and AirAsia, so too the voices from air travellers against the imposition of a departure levy, as well as increase in passenger service charge (PSC).

Malaysians, however, said they were determined to continue travelling.

The New Straits Times’ travel pullout, JOM!, inasurvey conducted on its Facebook page to identify the travel trends of Malaysians, found the majority objecting to both charges.

Of the 663 respondents, 73.2 per cent did not agree that klia2 and other Malaysian international airports should charge the same PSC as the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

The survey, which comprises eight questions, ran for 11 days.

Effective Jan 1 last year, PSC for those travelling beyond Asean was increased from RM50 to RM73.

It has more than doubled since 2017 for passengers using klia2.

Passengers were charged RM32 before 2017 for travelling beyond Asean via klia2, and it increased to RM50 in 2017.

Since the increase, AirAsia Group Bhd and AirAsia X Bhd have refused to collect the additional RM23, with the justification that the facilities in klia2 were inferior compared with a full-service carrier terminal.

On Dec 11 last year, Malaysia Airports (Sepang) Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of MAHB, served a writ of summons on AirAsia Group’s unit, AirAsia Bhd (AAB), for RM9.4 million in PSC that AAB had not and refused to collect from travelling passengers.

Malaysians said the departure levy would not encourage domestic tourism as envisaged. Travellers said they would continue to travel, with 4.3 per cent of respondents saying they would travel within the country, 71.6 per cent within Asean and 24.1 per cent beyond that.

The departure levy proposed in the 2019 Budget for air travellers leaving the country is set to roll out in full force in June.

It is set at RM20 to Asean countries and RM40 for non-Asean countries.

The levy was to raise revenue allowing the government to collect a few hundred million ringgit annually, Transport Minister Anthony Loke had said.

DEPARTURE LEVY FRUSTRATION

Shamala Raj, 27, a frequent traveller, said the departure levy would not stop her excursions.

“I understand that the government wants to encourage domestic tourism, but if I have visited all the places that I want to visit in Malaysia, I will still travel abroad for my holidays.

“I believe the idea of introducing a departure levy to encourage people to travel within Malaysia is not effective as some may prefer to travel out of the country, despite the charges.”

She said the government should relook the departure levy as it would deter foreign tourists since the charges were more compared with other Asean countries.

“There are many other ways to collect the revenue, but the government should study this well before implementing it as it may have an adverse effect on Malaysia.”

Mohd Syukri Salleh, 34, who travels to London at least three or four times a year on business, said the extra RM40 would make him look for other options.

“Yes, the RM40 may not sound a lot, however, for a frequent traveller like me, it is an extra cost.

“I will fly as usual, but will look for a cheaper option when the departure levy comes into effect in June.”

Besides travelling on business, Syukri travels regularly for holidays and he did not agree with the increase in the passenger service charge, mainly for klia2.

“I understand the frustration that is brought up by the management of AirAsia. klia2 is a low-cost carrier terminal and it does not have the same facilities as KLIA. So, how can they expect the passengers to pay the same amount?”

The effectiveness of the departure levy, introduced to improve domestic tourism, was debatable, said Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) economist Adli Amirullah.

“Some might say they prefer to travel domestically using land transport, hence a higher departure levy will not affect such consumers.”

He said the departure levy might affect international tourists and deter them from choosing Malaysia as their Southeast Asian destination, compared with neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.

“IDEAS’ study has shown that Malaysians are already paying one to three per cent more tax on full-service flight tickets to nearby destinations, compared with other Asean nations.

“This pressures the Malaysian aviation market and possibly limits the growth of tourism, as other nearby countries are cheaper to visit.”

He said although Malaysian tourism growth looked prosperous with the travel sector contributing 13.4 per cent to total gross domestic product and 11.8 per cent to the total employment in 2017, statistics had stated that there had been a three per cent reduction in tourism arrivals in Malaysia.

“It shows that Malaysia tourism is growing but at a much slower rate.

“With the number of arrivals turning negative and expected to be adjusted downwards, the losses of the tourism industry may be magnified by the departure levy.”

~New Straits Times~

Happy Chinese New Year 新年快乐


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Welcome to Pahang 欢迎到彭亨


Jomo: No need for ECRL, just take a flight

Jomo: No need for ECRL, just take a flight

The rationale given that the East Coast Railaway Link (ECRL) would speed up the connection between the West Coast and East Coast is merely a ruse by those interested in enriching themselves with such “fake projects”, says economist Professor Jomo Kwame Sundram.

“I understand the government needs space to solve and minimise the losses (from the cancellation of ECRL).

"There will definitely be losses from the cancellation of ECRL. The question is how do we minimise that loss?

“Those who are for it say that it is to develop the East Coast. Actually no. This project does not develop East Coast.

"There are other problems in the East Coast, such as the water problems in Kelantan, lack of sanitation and the issue of flooding, which must be given more attention,” said Jomo.

He also said the excuse that ECRL, once built, would speed up the connection between the West Coast and East Coast did not hold water.

“There are those who say we are ignoring the East Coast. This is a mere ruse by those who want to save such fake projects.

"It is not as if there is no rail line to the East Coast.

"It may be slower but what is it we want to speed up for the East Coast. Apparently, they want to use high-speed trains.

"Who is it that is in such a hurry to come from there? If you are in a hurry, why don’t you just take a flight?” asked Jomo.

He was speaking to the media after a dialogue at the Malaysian Press Institute.

Jomo has been at the forefront in asking for the ECRL be scrapped, saying that it is a burden to a country already deep in debt due to mismanagement by the previous government.

He was part of the Council of Eminent Persons, an advisory council set up by the Pakatan Harapan government in its early days to discuss the state of the nation inherited from the previous Barisan government.

~Courtesy of The Star~

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

‘Wait for ECRL announcement’

‘Wait for ECRL announcement’

The ball is now in Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s (pic) court to state Malaysia’s official stance on the future of the controversial East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has called for patience in the matter, and said the government’s decision on the project would be announced by Lim.

“Has Lim Guan Eng made a astatement on this? No? So we wait for him lah. Be patient,” said Dr Mahathir to reporters when asked to clear the confusion on the status of ECRL.

Dr Mahathir acknowledged that there had been contradictory statements coming from members of his Cabinet, but he said mistakes are to be expected from a new government.

“The number of mistakes we make are little, but people notice it more.

“Just wait for Guan Eng to make the announcement, be patient lah,” Dr Mahathir said at a press conference after a meeting with top executives of statutory bodies here.

On a letter bearing Lim’s signature being widely circulated – indicating the cancellation of the ECRL – Dr Mahathir refuted its authenticity.

“It has a government letterhead? Anyone could draft a letter and cut out a government letterhead to make it look real. That is not official,” he said.

On Sunday, Lim said the official announcement on ECRL would be made in a written statement and issued this week.

It has been reported that the government is looking for a new contractor after terminating the contract awarded to China Communi­cations Construction Company Ltd to build the RM81bil mega rail project.

Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia will stick to its decision on banning Israeli athletes, despite the stripping of Malaysia’s right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships.

“We stand by our principles that Israel is a criminal nation.

“It has been breaking international laws without people saying anything about it.

“We have a right to voice our own feelings and to have our own policies,” he said.

When asked if the stripping of the rights to host the event would affect Malaysia’s future in hosting other games, Dr Mahathir was unperturbed.

“They want to cancel it, then cancel it. I do not understand why the world must follow Israel. The world has the power, but they choose to obey Israel. We do not obey.

“If we cannot organise this sporting event, we can organise other ones,” said Dr Mahathir.

On Pakatan Harapan’s defeat in the Cameron Highlands by-election, Dr Mahathir said he accepted it as the will of the people, and added that the government must address the cost of living issue affecting the rural folk.

“We must find ways to reduce cost of living as well as help them earn better income,” he said.

~News courtesy of The Star~

Monday, January 28, 2019

Sup Kambing



Sup Kambing or Sop Kambing is a mutton soup commonly found in Indonesian cuisine and Malaysian cuisine. It is prepared with goat meat, tomato, celery, spring onion, ginger, candlenut and lime leaf, its broth is yellowish in color.

~wikipedia~

Friday, January 25, 2019

Putrajaya to terminate ECRL project

Putrajaya to terminate ECRL project, says Chinese daily

Putrajaya has decided to terminate the 688km East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) project, a Chinese daily reported.

On Thursday (Jan 24), Sin Chew quoted a cabinet source as saying that this had been determined during Wednesday's (Jan 23) Cabinet meeting.

However, Cabinet did not discuss the issue of compensation with the contractor, China Communications and Construction Company (CCCC), the sourse said.

It is understood that the government is still in discussion with CCCC on the compensation amount.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir reportedly denied knowledge of the termination.

The report came a day after Singapore's The Straits Times reported that Malaysia was seeking a new contractor to build the ECRL, after terminating the original contract awarded to CCCC on Tuesday (Jan 22).

The report said Putrajaya was seeking to halve the estimated project cost of RM81bil to RM40bil.

In response, Gerakan vice-president Datuk Dr Dominic Lau Hoe Chai said Putrajaya owed an explanation to the people of Pahang, Terengganu, and Kelantan for cancelling the project

~The Star~

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Kopitiam



A kopitiam or kopi tiam is a traditional coffee shop patronised for meals and beverages, predominantly operated by Chinese proprietors and especially members of the Hainanese community. The word kopi is a Malay/Hokkien term for coffee and tiam is the Hokkien and Hakka term for shop (Chinese : 店). 

A common sight in Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore, menus often feature offerings like nasi lemak, boiled eggs, roti bakar, noodle dishes, bread and kuih. The owners of some kopitiam establishments may lease premise space to independent stallholders, who sometimes offer more specialised dishes beyond standard Chinese kopitiam fare. 

Typical beverages include Milo, a malted chocolate drink considered iconic to Malaysians of all ages, as well as coffee (kopi) and tea (teh). Diners would use slang terms specific to kopitiam culture to order and customise drinks to their taste.

~wikipedia~

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Visa exemption for China tourists extended to Dec 2019

Visa exemption for China tourists extended to Dec 2019

The 15-day visa exemption for tourists from China has been extended from Jan 1 to Dec 31 this year, a piece of good news for local tourism industry players.

With many Chinese nationals going on holiday during the Chinese New Year next month and China’s National Day Golden Week break in October, Malaysia’s tourism association is hopeful that the exemption will boost arrivals.

Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Jan 2 made three separate orders to grant visa exemptions for Chinese and Indian tourists.

The orders granting the exemption under the Passports Act 1966 were published on Jan 3 in the Federal Government Gazette.

The three are: Passports (Exemption of Visa to Tourist Who is Citizen of The People’s Republic Of China) Order 2019; Passports (Exemption of Visa to Tourist Who is Citizen of India) Order 2019; and Passports (Exemption of Visa to Expatriate Who is Citizen of India) Order 2019.

Chinese tourists were first granted the 15-day visa exemptions on Oct 1, 2015, while Indian citizens including expatriates who visit Malaysia as tourists were first given exemptions on April 1, 2017.

The exemptions for both countries were extended every year since.

The exemption for tourists who are citizens of China comes with a number of conditions.

According to the orders, applicants must register with an electronic travel registration and information system provided by the Immigration Department.

They must have a return ticket and must produce on arrival, proof of sufficient pocket money, credit card or bank card with the UnionPay, AliPay or eWallet logo.

They must also produce their itinerary in Malaysia upon arrival.

The orders stated that the 15-day exemption could not be extended, and upon leaving Malaysia, the tourist was only allowed to re-register for exemption again after three months. 

The exemption for tourists who are citizens of India has almost similar conditions while the exemption of Indian expatriates applies to all citizens of India working as expatriates outside India in all countries except Singapore.

They are granted the exemption when travelling to Malaysia as tourists.

~News courtesy of The Star~