Thursday, October 27, 2016

China needs strong core leadership: media survey

‘Transitional period demands strong administration’

Chinese people believe that a strong central leadership is indispensable for the rise of the country, and highly anticipate further confirmation of the role of the core leadership by President Xi Jinping during this period of historic significance, according to a poll recently released by a magazine affiliated with the People's Daily.

The survey, conducted by the People's Tribune, a magazine affiliated with the newspaper, through questionnaires, face-to-face and telephone interviews, as well as online polls between April 15 and September 8, interviewed 15,596 people living in cities and rural areas. The survey results were released earlier this month.

The main findings were that a strong central leadership as well as a pioneering figure is especially critical for a rising world power, and that as president and general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Xi, with full leadership qualities, is supported whole-heartedly by a wide range of officials and people.

To the question of why a country in a transitional period needs a strong central leadership, most respondents strongly agreed that it is vital to safeguard a country's sovereignty and national security, putting the approval rate at 4.50, on a 5-point scale from disagree to complete approval, the survey found. This is followed by the number of respondents who think that core leadership is as important to "guide the nation toward a lofty goal" or that it was "particularly important for a populous and multi-ethnic country."

This year, the necessity for strong leadership has been a theme expounded by many media organizations.

The Guangming Daily on October 9 published a commentary by Fan Dezhi, a senior official at the Party History Research Center of the CPC Central Committee, which asserted that "A strong core leadership is needed more than ever before to achieve the great dream of the renewal of the Chinese nation."

To promote the core leadership of the Party, the priority is to "conform with the CPC Central Committee, with General Secretary Xi Jinping as well as with the Party's theories, guidelines, principles and policies," read a commentary in the Qiushi Journal in March, the flagship magazine of the CPC Central Committee.

Social and political stability, which can be realized by a potent government backed by public support, is the prerequisite for a smooth transition and reform of any country, said Zhi Zhenfeng, a legal expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"Both the rise of great Western powers and the rapid development of developing countries needed a strong core leadership and powerful government," Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Research Center for Government Integrity-Building at Peking University, told the Global Times.

Zhuang cited the examples of Otto von Bismarck who unified Germany in the 19th century and the strong Japanese government that carried out Meiji Restoration to bring about its modernization and Westernization.

China should unwaveringly uphold the CPC's leadership if it hopes to realize a stable and sustainable development, Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, said in March, adding that everyone should conform to the ideology and actions of the CPC Central Committee with Xi as general secretary.

"Since China faces complicated situations in different areas, coupled with a huge population, only a strong core leadership is able to coordinate the interests of different groups while taking full account of the majority of its nationals," Zhuang noted.

Zhi said a lack of consciousness of "the core" has made a few local officials and Party members fail to follow or strictly implement the policies issued by the CPC Central Committee.

Charismatic leadership

The People's Tribune poll found that the Chinese people are drawn to the charisma of Xi. The survey found that most respondents believe that Xi has leadership qualities, namely "strategic willpower with full confidence," "bravery to tackle problems head-on" and "intelligence to cure both the symptoms and root causes of problems." The list is rounded out by "top-level design with wisdom and philosophy" and "personal charisma to set an example for others."

When asked which trait is essential for a core leadership to give full play in reality, 79.13 percent of those surveyed said a "leader of integrity and ability."

In addition, the poll results showed that people from all walks of life highly anticipate the further confirmation of Xi's role as the core of the leadership.

Without releasing the specific data, the survey found that most respondents believe that officials that lacked "the consciousness of the core" would go astray and lose their sense of responsibility or discipline.

"Only by establishing authority in the CPC Central Committee can the Party and the nation be forceful. In this sense, firmly espousing Xi as the core is a matter of direction, principle and realistic needs," the magazine quoted anonymous officials who participated in the poll.

Therefore, we should further strengthen the consciousness of the core in the Party and across the country, improve intra-Party political life and the leadership system of the Party and the State, and further confirm Xi's core role in the critical rise of China, said the survey report. - Global Times.

The Express Tribune 
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bloated civil sevice in Malaysia must cut down the size and salaries

The Malaysian government can make further spending cuts if it reduces the size of its “bloated” civil service, an economist said. File picture shows Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi meeting civil servants during a Workers’ Day gathering in Penang. May 5, 2015. — Picture by KE Ooi:

Economist says there is need to cut down further on emoluments

<< Rosario: ‘The size of the Malaysian civil service is that there are five civil servants for every 100 people.’

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has to eventually deal with the issue of the bloated civil service to avoid repercussions later on, said Deutsche Bank’s economist Diana Rose del Rosario.

“Operating expenditure accounts for at least 80% of total expenditure (in the budget) and a big part of it comes from emoluments which account for 26% of total operating expenditure,” Rosario said at the Budgetary Priorities in a Challenging Economic Environment forum hereyesterday.

“The government has actually already tightened spending in this area: it used to grow around 10% year on year between 2010 and 2014. Growth here has since fallen to 5% year on year in 2016 to 2017.

“Success has been there in terms of tightening this area but there remains a great need to (further) cut down on emoluments,” she added.

Rosario said that the bloated size of the civil service in the country is much higher than the average in the Asean region.

“The size of the Malaysian civil service is that there are five civil servants for every 100 people. This is a lot higher than the average in the civil service of the rest of the region with an (average) of around two for every 100 people,” she said.

“There is an urgent need for this government if it continues in the path of fiscal consolidation to strive for a lean and efficient public service,” she added.

Rosario also said that there may be some “upward pressure” from debt service payments under the emoluments section of the expenditure as interest rates are poised to rise due to the stance taken by the US Federal Reserve.

Meanwhile, she also said that the retirement pension charges that are poised to rise by 15% next year should be looked at from a wider perspective.

“Although we are not worried that it is driven by a surge in retirees, but if you look at the pace of growth in the younger population the labour force as projected by the United Nations – the younger ones are expected to decelerate at a sustained deceleration in the next five years,” she said.

“This does not bode well for tax collection or domestic demand. There is a need then to boost wages through a boost in productivity to facilitate domestic demand and tax collections,” Rosario said.

At the same event, secretary-general of the Treasury Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar said contingent liabilities by the government are backed by sound assets and companies.

“There may be some pressure by contingent liabilities by the government but those entities that the government provides guarantees for are all strong and credible ones which can pay off their dues.

For example, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Prasarana and MRTcorp (have borrowed) for their big capital items,” he said.

“Although there is pressure but there is no worry in terms of default,” Irwan said.

Commenting also on the issue on jobless graduates and productivity, Irwan said that universities in Malaysia should supply manpower for what is needed for the industries in Malaysia.

“Some of the industries are too reliant on foreign workers.

“We can’t change this overnight and we need more technology here. We should not have universities which do not provide for certain industries that are in demand,” he said.

Source: The Star/Asia News Network

Bloated Malaysia Civil Service Presents Headache for Najib

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak. Photographer: Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images 

Public workforce large relative to other Asian peers

Civil servants indispensable support base for Najib’s party

Malaysian Nor Mohamad loved her job with a major Western tech company. But she gave it up after two years, tired of bickering with her parents who felt she’d be better off in the public service.

“It’s boring but stable,” said the master’s degree holder, who is in her thirties and asked not to be fully identified, citing government policy. “Even though I’m not so in love with the job, I’m thankful that in this economic situation there’s no bad impact to my career.”

Malaysia’s civil service employs 1.6 million people, or about 11 percent of the labor force. The jobs provide stability and security, including for ethnic Malays who are the majority of the population. Now the bloated bureaucracy presents a challenge to Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Najib, whose ruling coalition Barisan Nasional has been in power for nearly 60 years with the help of the Malay vote, has pledged to gradually narrow a budget deficit the country has been running since the Asian financial crisis. The commodity-driven $296-billion economy is expected to grow at the slowest pace in seven years in 2016, with lower oil prices eating into revenue.

But trimming the public workforce to improve the government’s coffers is difficult. While Najib has survived a year of political turmoil over funding scandals, he needs the support of Malays to win the next election due by 2018. His party, the United Malays National Organisation, has for decades propagated policies that provide favorable access to education, jobs and housing for Malays and indigenous people, known collectively as Bumiputeras.

“The civil service in Malaysia is intricately jived in with the ethnic policies” of the government, said Jayant Menon, an economist at the Asian Development Bank. “This is a form of ensuring not just employment, but relatively attractive employment.”

About 79 percent of the civil service was made up of Malays as of the end of 2014, with over 11 percent from indigenous Bumiputera groups, the official Bernama news agency reported in March 2015, citing a government minister. About 5.2 percent of public servants were Chinese and 4.1 percent were Indian.

Malaysia’s civil service relative to population is large, at more than double the average in the Asia-Pacific region by some measures, according to Menon. The cost of maintaining it is draining resources at a time government revenues are falling.

Salaries, pensions and gratuities account for about a third of the budget every year, the biggest expenditure item. The government doesn’t regularly publish data on the size of the public service.

Najib has weathered a year of graft allegations over hundreds of millions of dollars that appeared in his personal bank accounts before the last election in 2013, with the claims putting some pressure on his leadership. He denies wrongdoing and was cleared by the country’s attorney-general earlier this year.

Najib’s office didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the civil service. The office of the chief secretary to the government also did not reply to an e-mailed request for comment.

Malaysian officials have previously defended the size of the civil service, which includes teachers, doctors, soldiers and police. Idris Jala, then-minister in the Prime Minister’s office, said in 2014 that it wasn’t bloated even though it could be made more efficient to save the government money.

Najib’s government spent 1.1 billion ringgit ($275 million) to raise salaries for civil servants last month -- the biggest rise since 2013 -- and increased their minimum starting pay to 1,200 ringgit a month. Like in previous years, public employees received a 500 ringgit special allowance just before the Eid al-Fitr holidays in July, a celebration marking the end of the Muslim fasting month.

‘Support Base’

“The civil service forms an important support base for the government and can usually be counted upon to show up and vote for the ruling party during elections,” said Chia Shuhui, an Asia analyst at BMI Research in Singapore. “The government is not going to cut benefits to their support base, and therefore it is unlikely to make significant changes in terms of its expenditure on the civil service.”

The government has been taking steps to streamline the civil service and improve the efficiency of the public sector as part of its long-term efforts, Chia said.

Given that nothing much could be done to the civil service because of political and ethnic sensitivities, the government should focus on cutting its business exposure through the government-linked corporation divestment program to increase revenue, the ADB’s Menon said.

While UMNO has worked to retain Malay voters, the opposition has also sought to support the bureaucracy. The opposition-controlled Selangor state government pledged a 1.5 month bonus to its civil servants to mark Eid.

In neighboring Thailand, the ruling junta gave the nation’s two million civil servants and soldiers a four percent salary increase in December 2014 at an expected cost of 22.9 billion baht ($659 million). Many civil servants took part in anti-government protests that led to the May 2014 military coup and the junta has since emphasized the need to give bureaucrats greater power over elected officials.

“Civil servants are indeed an indispensable support base for Barisan Nasional in general and UMNO specifically,” said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “Hence the need to constantly improve their welfare.”

By Pooi Koon Chong Bloomberg  

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Supporting women entrepreneurs

One in five SMEs are owned by women, but many tend to be micro-enterprises with limited capital. Extending a helping hand to ensure their success is important because not only would it contribute to economic growth, it would also ensure the well-being of family.

FOLLOWING the talk on women entrepreneurship at our SME Club last May, we joined force with the Secretariat for Advancement of Malaysian Entrepreneurs (SAME), of the Prime Minister’s Department, to launch the Women Talentship Workshop on Oct 6 with the aim of encouraging women to participate in entrepreneurship.

The idea is to equip women with the necessary knowledge and skills in order for them to create and run successful businesses.

The workshop was well received. We had about 300 women participating.

Encouragement and support for women in entrepreneurial activties is important. Based on the latest statistics available (Economic Census 2011), nearly one in five SMEs (19.7%) are owned by women. About 92% of these SMEs are involved in the service sector.

Many of these businesses are likely to be unregistered micro-enterprises operating in the home or on temporary premises, with fewer or no employees and limited capital for expansion.

There are several common challenges faced by these small-scale, women-owned businesses. First of all, the women entrepreneurs constantly struggle with finding a balanced role between career and home.

Women are expected to shoulder the burden of being a mother and a homemaker, apart from being a breadwinner or business woman. And this is a challenging task.

Our workshop was intended to encourage women to participate in entrepreneurship while embracing well-balanced roles through three levels of strategy planning and development, i.e. personal discipline, communication discipline, and business discipline.

SAME’s advisor, Grace Chia, who is an advocator and practitioner of entrepreneurship, says the three disciplines are practised by many successful businesswomen.

By personal discipline, one means the ability to identify, acknowledge and understand your own strengths and weaknesses as the first step to finding your niche in business.

We should focus on leveraging on our strengths and finding peers with skills that we lack.

When we talk about communication discipline, we emphasise the ability to communicate in order to achieve a win-win outcome among family members, business partners and customers. You must be able to persuade your team to share your vision, in order to be able to tap the resulting synergy and move towards common goals.

By business discipline, we are refering to the bankability and marketability of your business. Often, many businesses fail to get financing because they lack solid fundamentals in finance and accounting, and consequently the bookkeeping for the company.

Also, the lack of a workable marketing plan may deter the access to financing as well as opportunities for success.

We must be able to prepare a bankable business plan when we want to obtain financing from a third party. A good bankable business plan would include an attractive and convincing business idea, what problems it can solve, how it fits with market needs, what effective and feasible marketing strategies you have, and what the ROI or return on investment is likely to be.

Also, it is essential to show entrepreneurial elements in the business plan when one is applying for financing. This is to help you to differentiate yourself from the usual business plans. More importantly, the entrepreneurial elements suggest that you are serious and have in mind a long-term endeavour rather than just a profit-making plan.

Equally important is to know your products well.

Who are your target groups? How are you going to promote the products to them? We may have good products, but there may not be a market for the products.

We recognise the importance of promoting women entrepreneurship for the reason that the success of women entrepreneurs will contribute to economic growth as well as the well-being of families. There is no reason for us to neglect the talents and capabilities of women, which form half of the population in Malaysia.

Women entrepreneurs should fully utilise government programmes that promote entrepreneurship among women. Some of the government agencies and programmes that aim to assist women entrepreneurship include SAME’s women talentship initiative, SME Corporation’s Skills Upgrading Programme, and Matrade’s Women Exporters Development Programme.

By Michael Kang, who is the national president of the SME Association of Malaysia.

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