Thursday, November 13, 2008



No amount of promotion, opening, and closing of pseudo-political gatherings, conferences, exhibitions, seminars, and workshops will make a significant dent to the economics of boosting rural development through agriculture for foods, fruits, vegetables, meats, and other perishables, unless there is an affirmative action by all agents of the Government to continue ensuring that the local produce make up significant portions of the daily menus of all Malaysians and other residents. Although old habits die hard, at least the menus for catering official functions reflect the fruits of local labour, blood, sweat, and tears. New recipes based on local produce and products need be developed and introduced as fast as the other fast food place. Facts, figures, pictures, and images on health and nutrition need be revised or re-edited to reflect the local contents. Pictorial news, advertorials, and the print-media should be sensitive to the need for the promotion of locally grown natural crops of the tropics.

The promotion of "kuih baulu", for instance, by an agriculture agency at an international chain of supermarket is short of the necessary sensitivity. Most of the ingredients including sugar, flour, butter, milk, and quite likely, the eggs, required to make the "kuih" are imported. At a State Expo, a picture of the State's EXCO for Agriculture pulling "teh tarik" was captured by a local newspaper. Again, almost all the ingredients for that so-called national drink are imported. A Ministry promoting "Family Health" in full coloured advertisement page chose to use the image of a glass bowl full of "green apples" presuamably all imported, but why not local bananas, guavas, papayas, and other tropica-exotica.

An affirmative action on BATIK has proven to be of help to many in such a cottage industry. Why not on a range of other local produce?

Should such an action is a hit, then there must be accompanied by a follow-through. Otherwise, whatever is produced will end-up either in the milky water or into the deep forest. Small and Medium producers, as individuals, will have difficulties in penetrating the existing well-established distribution networks and their retail-outlets. A lot of expectations is not what is on the table, but under. There are no buyers like MARDEC for rubber, FELDA for oil-palms, and BERNAS for padi. The thought of having "Sogashosa" as a major buyer and distributor need be re-visited. How about review the current procurement policies of the Armed Forces, and the boarding Schools, colleges, universities, and other Government-linked institutions? It would be a boost to the agro-based industry of Malaysia, as did the initial supply of Coca-Cola to the US Army and that of Pepsi-Cola to the US Schools. The rest ... were history for these two beverage Giants.

Thus, should all relevant agencies are serious about developing rural economy through agriculture and agro-based industry, as part and parcel of a strategy for rural-poverty eradication, there ought to be in place a nation-wide Policy on menu or procurement that calls for locally grown produce and locally processed products."

Dato' Ir Dr A. Bakar Jaafar,
Rural-Urban Business Incubator (RUBI)


"In the Summary of UNDP Human Development Report 2007/2008, Malaysia is not only ranked 26th in the top 30 of global CO2 emitters but most notably as the country with the highest rate of growth in CO2 emission, that is 221%. Over a period of almost 15 years, it emitted 177 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2 in 2004, compared to only 55 Mt in 1990. Thus, its per capita emission has increased from 3.0 tonnes in 1990 to 7.5 tonnes in 2004. If it were to be ranked on the basis of per capita emission, Malaysia would have been in the top 17, that is "ahead" of even France with an emission of 6.0 tonnes per capita only. By the way, the latter depends 75 per cent of its electricity supply from nuclear energy.

Short of relying, from now onwards or far into the future on virtually carbon-free nuclear energy, Malaysia should re-examine its current policy, legal and institutional framework, and organise itself with the following necessary lines of action by one and all:


1.1 On negotiating fronts at bilateral, regional, and international levels, Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Wisma Putra shall assume the leadership and co-ordinate Malaysia's position in matters relating to climate change with the support of a Steering Committee and its consultative group(s);

1.2 At national level, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MNRE) shall assume the leadership on the Assessment and Management aspects of Climate Change. The MMS Department of MOSTI should take the lead on the Assessment; and the Department of Environment (DOE) of NRE on the Management. However, the roles of other agencies should not be overlooked: Treasury on economic instruments and other fiscal measures; Economic Planning Unit (EPU) on economic development plans and programmes, including the pricing of energy; RISDA and Lembaga Getah on natural rubber double density planting; the Academy of Science Malaysia and Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) on R&D; Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER), and Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA) on Policy Research; Ministry of Energy, Water, and Communications (MEWC) on electricity generation, consumption, and tariff-structure; and Ministry of Housing and Local Government on town and country planning; Malaysia Energy Centre (PTM) on renewable energy; Petronas RSS on Energy-to-Materials; The ABC of Palm Oil (PO): MPOAssociation, MPOBoard, and MPOCouncil on sustainability of palm oil, and Department of Agriculture and Malaysia Agriculture Research and Development Institute (MARDI), Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), and Rubber Reseach Institute of Malaysia (RRIM) on Carbon Sequestration

1.3 There shall be a close co-ordination between Wisma Putra, MNRE, EPU, Treasury, and the Attorney-General Chambers; and these key agencies are jointly responsible to a Cabinet Committee on Climate Change.


2.1 Other than relying on the existing funding mechanisms that are available under the Kyoto Protocol and other voluntary mechanisms, National Carbon-Trading Mechanism should be introduced as much to promote the energy-efficiency of our industries and services, and thus, increase the level of national competitiveness, as to have greater leverage at international market place for better pricing of national carbon surplus.

2.2 "Carbon Emission Reduction" as well as "Carbon Sequestration" should be treated as tradable commodities by the Malaysian Commodity Exchange. For instance, the excessive carbon generated from Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) and Independent Power Producers' fossil-fuel plants should give credits to smallholders engaged in double-density planting and replanting of natural rubber, as carbon sinks, and thus, help utilize "idle" and "degraded" lands, and raise the income of rural households.

2.3 Carbon-levy should be imposed on purchase of fossil fuels, including petroleum and diesel, and the funds generated be utilized for improving public transport and the development of water-mode of transportation. (Note: In Physics, we learn that it would require less energy to transport goods and services by water than by land, roads, highways, bridges, and causeways).


3.1 Malaysia should promote its indigenous technologies, such as energy-efficient buildings developed by Lucas 'works Sdn Bhd using waste-rubber tyres(; methane-capture by anaerobic digestion of palm oil effluents (, and dehydration of foods, fruits, other agriculture crops and industrial products ( & Tech-Dry International Malaysia Sdn Bhd; vessels, boats, and other types watercraft. Perhaps, PROTON, even not in Joint Venture with Volkswagen, to develop amphibious vehicles: cars that can float. There shall be no worries, should we be caught in flash floods!

3.2 Malaysia should identify carbon-free technologies and enter into some-sort of arrangements and cooperation including joint-venture or acquisition, through Technology Assessment Programme of MOSTI and Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).


4.1 Sustainable Energy Development should be promoted through Energy Efficiency Programme, as a prerequisite to Renewable Energy Development, including development of Ocean Thermal Energy, in the Sabah Trough, off the island of Borneo!

4.2 Priority should be given to the development of renewable energy: solar, biogas, biomass, wind-wave, tidal, and ocean-thermal energy;

4.3 Any carbon generated from the utilization of any type of fossil fuel should be offset by carbon-sequestration, through agro-forestry and natural rubber re-planting, and by carbon reduction in other sectors of the economy.

4.5 There shall be systematic and progressive removal of every fiscal or economic barrier to carbon-free economy, and accelerated introduction of attractive fiscal and economic incentives to the development and application of carbon-free activities and measures.

4.6 The mode of transport to the public should be in the following order of availability or access: first, by walking, by walklators, by cycling, by boating, by boat, ferry, or vessel, by rail, by clean-fueled buses, by Trams-MonoRails-Light Rapid Transiit-Mass Rapid Transit, and last, by private vehicles and trucks.

4.7 The industries should opt for the most energy-efficient processes. The "dehydration" technology should be preferred over "refrigeration";

4.8 For residential and commercial buildings "smart and cool construction" should be promoted and widely used over the conventional method of construction that would demand excessive use of "energy-guzzling air-conditioning".


5.1 All textbooks, training materials, and syllabuses that are not sensitive to the cause for the environment should be withdrawn or re-edited;

5.2 There shall be a circular introduced that every group that goes for a meeting or negotiation shall comprise a team of three official-experts: the most senior for the wisdom, the senior one for the knowledge and information; and the junior one for the skills, data, and facts. (As they say "... age should be before the beauty ...". Of course, the "brain" and the "beauty" can be the same person.

5.3 There shall be a dedicated website for "Climate Change and Malaysia" for consultative- members and others to interact and to exchange notes or blogs on continuous basis, wherever and whenever it matters most.

5.4 Think-tanks such as ISIS, MIER, MIMA should be engaged in Policy Research on Climate Change; if not, a newly introduced Non-Private, Non-Profit Making Organisation for Climate Change(NP2OCC) should be launched by the Government with an initial grant and funded through some proceeds from Carbon-Levy.

5.5 There shall be a champion in every place, within any space or time, for Malaysia to "shine" again. (Note: If not, what we see around are "shining" examples only; those who are fast becoming bald-headed guys like me!")

Hoping the above recapitulation of the current affairs and expectations relating to the global commons would be of help in our joint endeavour toward a sustainable future."

A. Bakar Jaafar

Mobile: +60 12 320 7201
The global e-mail:

p/s May I suggest a mosaic of carbon-free economies by showing some photos: more on public and water-mode of transport; solar Photovoltaics, wind mills, Ocean waves and currents, hydroelectric, hydrogen-fueled vehicles, and rubber planting etc, biogas plant (

December 31, 2007


Dato’ Ir Dr A. Bakar Jaafar[1]

There has been a New Year Resolution that does not easily escape a global attention; the Government of China has announced that from June 1, 2008, all retail outlets including supermarkets and department stores shall charge customers for plastic bags (The Star, 19 January 2008, p. N43). Such a Policy has been contemplated in other parts of the world, but its effectiveness has yet to be fully realized. In Malaysia, as outlined since the 8th Malaysia Plan (2001-2005), “Polluters’-pay” Principle has been contemplated: the more one generates waste, the more one has to pay. This Principle has been successfully implemented in the management of toxic and hazardous waste, where should industrial waste generators find that it would no longer be economical to treat fully their own waste, they have a legal obligation under the Environmental Quality Act of 1974 and related Regulations made there under ( either to export their untreated or partially treated waste to approved facilities in developed countries, and not in other developing countries, or to treat them the fully at the only integrated waste treatment facilities for Peninsular Malaysia operated by Kuaiti Alam Sdn Bhd in Bukit Nenas, Negeri Sembilan.

However, this Principle has yet to be considered in the management of non-toxic and non-hazardous waste, namely, domestic and commercial waste. Even it were to be implemented for the domestic waste particularly, it would raise an equity issue, due to the fact that the poor generate as much, if not more, waste that is largely perishable than the rich do. It would tantamount to the poor would subsidise the rich in waste management. Thus, an innovative economic instrument that is sensitive to the question of equity especially in developing economy, like Malaysia, has to be explored.

This column would advance such an instrument based on the newly proposed “Indifferent Consumers-pay” (ICP) Principle. The focus of this ICP Principle is primarily more on the consumers, like you and I, than on the industries, manufacturers and other producers of goods and services. Under this proposed enviro-economic instrument based on this newly introduced Principle, of mine, consumers have the options: either to recycle their own generated waste, to receive some credit points equivalent in monetary value to a levy, and to redeem these credit points when purchasing new goods; or if not, to pay a certain levy. The immediate effect of this instrument would be translated into a simple practice. One would have three waste bins: the first one for “recyclables”; the second one, for “perishables”; and the third one, for the waste that are “toxic and hazardous”. The “recyclables”can be transported and returned, from time to time, to recycling centres, and the recyclers be rewarded with “handsome” credit points equivalent to predetermined amount of levy. The “perishables” can either be taken away by the designated waste management concessionaire, such as Alam Flora Sdn Bhd, Southern Waste Management Sdn Bhd, or others, or be turned to composting materials, especially by those with landed property.

The success of this proposed Government Policy based on the economic instrument derived from this highly innovative ICP Principle would also depend on a set of other supporting Policy instruments derived from the following “key success” factors:
· firstly, the return by consumers of their own collection of toxic and hazardous waste to any recycling centre would be rewarded monetarily, by having made use of the levy collected or the net proceeds from the sales of such “materials”;
· secondly, the collected “recyclables” be traded in the Malaysia Commodity Exchange[2], and not in the backyards prone to floods and flash floods;
· thirdly, production of new goods must contain certain amount of “recyclables” as much to create demand for “recycables” as to produce cheaper or more competitive new goods containing “recyclables”;
· fourthly, special and higher tariff be given to electricity generated from “renewables”, including the waste that can no longer be economically or technically recycled; and
· last and not the least, in addition to the distinctive role and functions of the new Department of National Solid Waste Management, as a Regulator, and that of the proposed national solid waste corporation, as the “business” arm of the federal Government, there is a need to create another institution: “Blue” Foundation supported by a Non-Private Non-Profit Making Organization (NP2O), whose major function is to manage the collected levy.
The continuing search for an “organized programme” in the past and current 21st Century in tackling the garbage, considered as the long outstanding 18th Century issue, can not easily be dismissed. For instance, in the Malaysia Report to the UN Conference on Human Environment, Stockholm, June 1972 states that “Solid waste collection is satisfactory but the disposal system is largely by controlled tipping and burning. The disposal of solid waste is a problem like those in any countries and an organized programme in this direction is needed. The local authorities in many cases are hampered by lack of trained experienced personnel, financial resources, and knowledge of the effects of health.”

The time has come for Malaysia to face this ever growing problem squarely. “Garbage littered on city streets can be not only unhealthy but also politically hazardous” as currently faced by the City of Naples (The Economists, 12 January 2008, p. 40). Otherwise, it would be a need to establish another body: “Royal Solid Waste Commission”. In Bahasa Malaysia, it would sound very unpalatable, “Suruhanjaya Sampah DiRaja”.
A similar body, Royal Sewage Commission, was created by Queen Victoria in order to establish the cause of so many thousand deaths of Londoners in the 18th Century.

In short, with the proposed Policy in place, any litter in the streets or drains will be picked up by any “poor” soul and be recycled in return for the reward of valuable credit points. Should the value of the levy, and thus, the credit points, be reviewed annually and be increased, the credit points accumulated, if not redeemed would become another “tradable commodity” in the national economy. The only downside of the proposed Policy would be perhaps an increase in petty thefts. However, such a problem could be easily mitigated by having to scan and check the identity and authenticity of every “recycler”, or to limit the nature and extent of recycling among those with MyKad or passports.

As a private remark, I bet the proposed concept would work. When it does, please do not apply to yourself. When contemplating of having a new spouse, please do not think of returning the old one!

Monday, January 28, 2008
New York

[1] Former Director-General, Department of Environment, Malaysia (1990-95).
[2] The Chicago Board of Trade “set up the first electronic bulletin board — accessed by computer — that enables buyers and sellers of trash to find one another. The system lists buy and sell offers for most of the major goods that have recyclable value, including paper (office paper, computer printout paper, newspaper), glass (broken bottles, furnace-ready "cullet") and plastic (soda bottles, milk jugs). These goods meant big business in the year before the exchange opened — roughly $5 billion — according to Edgar Miller of the National Recycling Coalition. Miller was instrumental in creating the exchange.” Edward Field, who lives in Chicago, is a reporter in the Midwest bureau of The Economist. His previous article for Illinois Issues was about federal agriculture policy.
Illinois Issues February 1996 * 35


Dato’ Ir Dr A. Bakar Jaafar

The absence of any more mention of the oldest public health facility such as “hanging toilets” in the most recent Five-Year Malaysia proves that Malaysia has made further progress in the provision of modern sewerage services. By 2005, over 8 million people had direct access to such a facility, and thus, there would be no need to establish a “Royal Sewage Commission”; such a Commission was indeed established by the Queen Victoria in order to inquire into the deaths of thousand Londoners in the 18th Century due to unsafe well-water supply contaminated by untreated sewage.

As the country develops fast into the 21st Century, it can not help but face with widespread scene of private washing of clothing and undergarments being hanged in low and high rise apartments and in many housing areas, even in Putrajaya, that are so conspicuous in the eyes of the general public and passers-by. This observation is, nonetheless, not new. The former Prime Minister of Malaysia, YABhg Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, must have jotted it down in his pocket-size note book and shared his concern “humpteen” times over the hanging of moist “used textiles” with fellow Members of his Cabinet and with housing developers as well as with planners, architects, quantity surveyors, valuers, engineers and other professionals.

It is no doubt that any washing, dried under the direct Sun, is not only crisp but also fresh and free from any bugs. The ultraviolet radiation of the direct Sun rays would not only remove any moisture but also reduce the water content well below the critical “water activity” at which level no bug would survive. The use of washer-drier would not only cost additional capital expenditure but also increase household electricity bill.

The challenge before one and all concerned over this issue is quadro-fold:
Firstly, there must be in place local government policy and regulations that continuing display of washings visible from a distance to the public would be uncalled for. Secondly, all involved in the housing industry from developers, planners, architects, engineers, valuers, contractors and to real estate agents, must organize themselves to adapt or to introduce housing design and construction that address the issue. Thirdly, some sort of financial incentives be given to those pioneers introducing any measures that are public-sensitive and that save electricity from the burning of fossil fuels. And fourthly, any technology that is publicly-sensitive, innovative, and utilizes solar energy should be promoted.

This is just another small step that makes up a big leap forward toward the sustainable future of humankind!

Friday, February 29, 2008




Dato’ Ir Dr A. Bakar Jaafar

Could a developing country like Malaysia claim that she, not he, is already one step ahead of USA? Senator Barack Hussein Obama has been calling for a “Change we can believe in” in his current campaign leading to a Democratic Nomination for 2008 Presidential race. In Malaysia, a significant change has already taken place after the 12th General Election on March 8, 2008, where the Alternative Front, to the ruling National Front, has increased its control of State Governments, from only one to five, and has managed to reduce the two-third majority of seats held by the ruling coalition of the latter in Parliament for the first time in the history of the multi-ethnic economy since her independence 50 years ago.

The principal difference between the Alternative Front to the National Front rests with its respective “school of thought”; the former determines its sharing of power after the election, while the latter, prior to setting up of its coalition front. Another major difference is in the organization of its component Parties; the former is quite “parochial”, “personal”, but not yet diverse in multi-ethnic representation, while the former’s is largely organized along ethnic line: Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Melanau, Iban, Bidayuh, and other ethnic minorities.

The challenge before the country and thus, the ruling Fronts, is how best to manage the ever changing change in the face of intense global competition and globalization, and to continue the nation’s long standing major socio-economic Agenda: to reduce poverty irrespective of race; and to restructure society as such its economic function is no longer aligned to racial division. At the same time, the country has to continue to fight the biggest sin of all vices, that is, corruption at all levels of government, private sector, and the society at large.
To average Malaysians, what matters most to them are not quite the global affairs nor the national Agenda, but their local concerns and their socio-economic well being and family welfare. There are numerous local concerns that need to be attended to, and that would not require “rocket science” and “space technology” nor “heavy public investment and expenditure” to solve them.

After having spent much of my school holidays with my uncle and aunties in Singapore in the early Sixties, I can still recall well what Singapore Premier Mr Lee Kwan Yew has introduced in the City State once he gained a political power: “Clean up Singapore”; “Organize public transport”, and “Singaporeans, please be courteous, especially to your clients or customers”.
With good intention, closely supervised follow-up action, very focus, and “cakap seperti bikin” (carry through), Singapore has long become clean, well organized, and a fully developed country.

Across the causeway, over the Straits of Johor, the first-world infrastructure is already in place, with highways, freeways, and with all other ways and means, yet the 18th century problems, like sewage, garbage, soil erosion, dirts, silt and river siltation have yet to be solved satisfactorily.

There ought to be a strong co-operation between States and Federal Government, especially in matters relating to quality and quantity of water resources. In the case of the watercourses, streams and rivers, are being polluted by uncontrolled earthworks, soil erosion, and partially treated or untreated human (sewage) and animal waste, the responsibility does not rest solely on the Federal Government, but also with State Governments. It would be the role of the recently established National Commission on Water Managemen (Suruhanjaya Pengurusan Air Negara) to strike a balance between all interests: the consumers, the public, the Federal Government, and the States. Otherwise, “problems” would become federal, “benefits” only State; the consumers and the public at large would become the unnecessary victims.

On the question of garbage, especially littering of public places, is no longer a problem in Singapore, as enforcement is not only very strict in the City State but it has successfully built and operated a total of 5 incinerators since the first one been built in 1976 right in the very urbanized area of Ulu Pandan without any unnecessary public protest. But the solutions for Singapore were unfortunately “problematic” in Malaysia which has been suffering not only from the lack of enforcement but also the lack of political will and bureaucratic independence to push even for one such an incinerator. Thus, it would require a different approach and close co-ordination not only among the relevant federal Ministries and agencies but also between the relevant federal Agencies, Local Authorities, and State Governments. The approach has to be on the need for an innovative Policy based on very sound enviro-economic principle such as the “Indifferent Consumer-pay Principle (ICP)” which has introduced earlier in MILENIA Muslim, March 2008.

The subject of ‘waste” may sound so “low and unattractive” that it would not demand any degree of sophistication in thought-processes at the highest level of government and the industry alike. On the contrary, the fact that it has yet to be solved till this 21st Century proves itself as a complex subject matter that would require an effective coordination between the relevant Ministries and Agencies: the Ministry of Finance is to introduce the said Policy instrument enforced by the introduction of Levy for those consumers who do not recycle their no-longer used products or unwanted goods, and by rewarding those who do to be given some credit points; the Ministry in charge of the Industry has to promote the production of new goods or products containing some “recyclables”; the Ministry in charge of Trade or Finance is to introduce “recyclables” as a commodity in the Malaysia Commodity Exchange; those materials with high calorific values, if no longer recyclable, could be converted to energy and electricity, and the Ministry in charge of Energy has to set a very special tariff that is attractive to the necessary investment in waste-to-energy projects; the Local Authorities with their respective waste collection concessionaires, including Alam Flora Sdn Bhd and Southern Waste Management Sdn Bhd, have to introduce recycling centres with a difference: that is sorting of waste to different types of materials at source; and the Ministry in charge of the environment would reward those who collect or sort toxic and hazardous waste such as batteries and unwanted electrical goods from the normal waste.

In short, if there is no such an expected co-ordination and organization in place, there is not any solution to such a complex problem, even how simple it seems to the majority of the population. One might recall vividly a recollection of a very significant event over 40 years ago, a lunar-marked interview with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore, by an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) TV correspondent, immediately after US Astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man, landed on the moon in 1969. Posed by the correspondent to the Prime Minister: “… the Americans with their great technology have managed to put their man, first on the moon! What do you think?”

“Not really. It takes a great organization, not technology … to achieve such a feat of the century!” quipped the Prime Minister, as usual, with his carefully chosen and concise words, to reflect his astute observation.

The late Walter Cronkite of CBS summarized the most earthly event in the last century with his most unforgettable remark: “… one step forward of such a man is another giant leap toward humankind”.

But certainly, is it not to mankind!

New York
March 30, 2008


Dato’ Ir Dr A. Bakar Jaafar

Basic to human survival, other than its total dependency on the continuous supply of virtually “free” clean air and relatively “cheap” safe drinking water, is its affordability and accessibility to ever increasingly costly and essential food items. The current food crisis, like any other man-made crises, can be attributed to numerous, accountable and unaccountable, factors. Those obvious ones include population growth and growing consumption, and the “creeping” climate change that cause increasingly more frequent and extreme events of devastating weather; if not floods, are long droughts, and thus, the scarcity of water, all of which have direct adverse impact on food production.

In the medium term, however, the increase in food prices could stimulate food production, should the gardeners, farmers, food crop growers, or planters do get “fair price” among others engaged in the whole scheme of food-supply chain from the lands to retailers. The chain essentially involves food production, post-harvesting and handling, storage and inventory, other forms of logistics and transportation, distribution, retailing, food preparation, and final consumption.

Another obvious factor is the current escalation of oil prices which have driven up the costs of every facet of the food supply chain: farm inputs such as expensive inorganic chemical fertilizers and costly fuel for farm machinery, and in post-harvesting, for drying of grains; high tariff of electricity for food refrigeration; high fuel prices at the pumps for the transportation and distribution of goods and services, and in the kitchens for food preparation and cooking.

Even with “fair price” and with good price stimulation, there exist long outstanding barriers to food-agriculture and to growing of food crops, unlike the non-perennial plantation of the established commodity such as rubber, cocoa, pepper, or palm oil. The available land for rice planting, for instance, has been increasingly converted to other land-uses: roads, highways, and other permanent structures for housing and industries. Further conversion of existing natural wetlands would not be economically feasible nor environmentally sustainable. Whatever little land left available, unlike their counterparts in Thailand and Vietnam, the total number of padi land smallholders in Malaysia have yet to produce the expected surplus, and thus, Malaysia continues to import rice from these two and other neighbouring countries.

In the long-term, it would be wise to consider the alternatives or the substitutes of rice, as “nasi”, which has long been the main portion of the bulk of the daily diet of our past and present generations. Furthermore, rice has been distributed, not like in the past, in highly “polished” form that is no longer with its original nutritional values which are priceless!

The fact that not the majority of the residents of Malaysia are fit and healthy could be attributed to the large portion of their daily diet is “nasi’, “nasi lemak”, and “nasi campur”. Not many in Malaysia are even close to the fitness and the good health of Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan, for example, the rare Olympian from Malaysia and very well known as the “flying doctor” whose sprint records have been equaled but yet to be broken after almost 25 years, since the Olympics of 1964 in Tokyo!

According to our beloved Doctor, “it is not what we eat … but the order we eat that matters!” “What do you mean, Doc …?” “I eat what I do not like first; what I like, last!”

Thus, “nice campur is fine, then!?” “Not quite, finish the vegetables, first; follow by eating all the proteins: meat, fish, “tempeh”, or “tahu” (“ratah lauk lah!”), and by the time it is for rice …and “teh tarik”, the stomach is almost full.” Time is up for “syukran” to the Al-Mighty.

It is highly advisable to begin any meal with a “Doa”, liquid water, fruit juice, or even fruits, like banana, guava (jambu air or batu”), papaya, pineapple, or other non-perennial tropical fruits.

Yet to be accounted for, as the underlying factor in the current food crisis, is whether or not the global food crisis could be attributed to the shift of the world capital and global capitalism from investing and speculating in“precious metals”, “capital market”, “subprime loans and mortgages” to the “trading of futures” of essential commodities, including oil, staple foods and grains.

As a matter of Policy, to address the issues relating the Food Crisis and other socio-economic and environmental problems, “what ought to be in the Menu, and thus, on the table, but not under …” that matters. The “Menu Negara”, like “Rukun Negara”, “Negara Ku” and not short of a Directive like “putting on Batik Shirt on every working Thursday”, should be introduced and promoted:
1. Locally grown tropical fruits and fruit juice as a starter;
2. Mixed Ulam dressed with mechanically pressed after low-temperature dehydration of virgin olive-like palm oil;
3. Choice of Locally produced cut of meat, fish, or shellfish; or its vege-equivalence;
4. Unpolished rice, preferred; if not ubi kayu rebus, keledek, and locally grown potatoes or other tubers!
5. Favourite dessert: pisang-salai DiRaja, “Buah Melaka”, “Cendol”, or “Sago with Coconut Milk and Gula Nibong”, and
6. Choice of Local Coffee or Tea: “Kopi Hang Tuah”, “Kopitiam”, “Boh Tea”, or “Sabah Tea”.

Those with landed properties ought to mix their garden landscaping with some fruit trees: such as guavas, ciku, bananas, and papayas; and some creepers or otherwise: such as ‘kacang botol”, “ulam raja”, and “daun kadok”.

In short, we eat to live; but certainly not, live to eat!

Our Vietnamese neighbours are not only hard at work, but also very fit, slim, and trim! It must have been something to do with not only their commitment, dedication, and national pride, but also their very healthy diet.

Ho Chi Minh City
May 1, 2008



Dato’ Ir Dr A. Bakar Jaafar

The time that has been worrying the few in the know, since the energy crisis due to the Arab Oil Embargo in the mid-Seventies, has finally come like a subtropical cyclone, “NARGIS”, and it would not go away like a lamb. It has hit hard particularly the “poor” masses, being the popular majority in many developing economies including Malaysia, whose votes count.

The vagaries of “global capitalism” are well known over the last three centuries. Perhaps, it could be traced back to the South Sea Bubble of 1720, the New York Exchange crash of 1987, to the most recent events. In 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels predicted that capitalism would spread to the entire world. By the end of the twentieth century, that prediction was confirmed: capitalism had indeed become global. A range of “free market” instruments had been introduced, used, and “abused”: from trading of “precious metals” including tin, “stock market exchange”, “foreign currency exchange rates”, “sub-prime loan mortgages”, to “future trading of commodities” that led to the current crisis of escalating prices of oil, energy and food items. Again, it is the invisible work and shift of focus and target of the global capitalists.

Not only the capital market has been globalised, so are virtually every capital equipment, machinery, electrical, electronic goods, services, fast-foods, and other essential oil and food items, no longer confined locally and insulated by Governments from international market forces. No amount of subsidies would help cushion the tsunamic-onslaught of the global market instruments moved by merely touching softly and swiftly across the computer keyboards in the towering offices of the financial capitals throughout the world, not only from 8 to 5, nor from 7 to 11, but throughout the day and night, around the clock. The City of New York is one such a place that “it never sleeps”!

The “mid-summer” removal of fuel subsidies in Malaysia is inevitable, but that leaves the average citizens and residents alike with little choice or with hardly any option. Some personal sacrifice and adjustments painfully could be made, but such a measure would not last, and would not make Malaysia any longer that competitive.

To continue to be competitive, there ought to be a structural alignment between economic policy, programme-implementation, social response and responsibility toward sustainability. Basic to such a change is the need to link income to productivity, and thus, the need to raise the level of minimum income to at least RM 3000 per month:

· by releasing the “8-to-5” workforce to open market, to do “odd” jobs, and to help reduce the country’s dependency on cheap foreign labour and thus, the loss of foreign exchange through overseas remittance;
· by recognizing human capital, that is also “recyclable”, with multi-tasking capability to be highly mobile not only from place to place, but also from one sector to another;
· by opening up places of work, offices, factories, and all service centres 24 hours a day, as such these physical assets are fully utilized throughout the day, week, month, and year;
· by making payment made based on specific task performed within a specified time period;
· by outsourcing the non-critical services of the Government to those otherwise “underutilized” workforce such as drivers, clerical, ICT and other office staff, and
· by reviewing and expanding the nature and extent of products and services procured by the Government and its Government-linked companies, a form of affirmative action, in order to create internal demand of local produce and locally-produced products, until it generates the surplus in order to penetrate the highly competitive global market which demands not only reliable product, good quality, low price, timely delivery but also big volume, for which no single small and middle enterprise could easily meet.

In the meantime, the various relevant authorities, at both Federal and State level, should look into other structural problems, particularly those relating to public transport, public convenience, energy, and the environment, namely, the question of “sustainable mobility” which calls for the re-design of township, housing areas, sports, recreational facilities, and public access to open areas, and the overall urban plans. Instead of having the “road system-led” development, there ought be a development that is led by the need for public convenience and easy accessibility by having the following order of priority in personal choices: by walking, cycling, by river-boat, by bus, by ferry, by commuter-train by ERL-LRTs and hopefully in the immediate future by overcraft, by hovercraft, by river and coastal transport, and by MRT. The most important of all in the words of YB Dato’ Shahrir Abdul Samad, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister, is “the need for connectivity”. Why not also link all the high rise buildings in the City through the “15-foot” walkways, either solar-airconditioned or well-ventilated”, and thus, create another layer of valuable commercial spaces for the building owners?

Also in the words of Tan Sri Datuk G. Gnanalingam, his staff is the most critical capital he has to reckon with: “the staff is the King; customer is only the Queen. Only the King knows how to take care of his Queen!”

In short, honest job must precede and commensurate with fair remuneration, and “the sovereign is charged with the responsibility of actualizing justice”, as suggested by Ibn Khaldun to a ruler in the 14th Century (8th Century Hijri).

Kuala Terengganu
8 June 2008
(World Ocean Day)



Dato’ Ir Dr A. Bakar Jaafar

The ultimate crises of all, beyond the current crises of food and energy, would be the deterioration of air quality and the scarcity of water for all its beneficial uses, directly and indirectly. Should there be no supply of air within two (2) minutes, every form of life on the surface of this planet Earth would cease to exist. No human being, without having access to a drop of fresh drinking water, would live beyond 14 days; and perhaps, 30 days without food. But humankind would continue to exist without having to depend on a drop of fossil fuel!

One particular upside of the present energy crisis, due to the escalation and speculation of fossil-fuel price by future traders and global capitalists, is the expected decline in the consumption of the very polluting energy source, and thus, an improvement in the quality of air in the world’s cities and towns that are otherwise congested with heavy vehicular traffic. Another upside would be an expected improvement in the provision of multimodal transport for the public in the following order of connectivity: from the first available option of pedestrian walking path, that is accessible too by bicycles, (or by boat through canals, waterways, streams and rivers), by bus, by trams, by Light Rapid Transit (LRT), by Mass Rapid Transit, by rail, (or across by ferries and other watercraft) and to coastal waterways, and last by road and highways.

The past and present urban development have been dictated more by road and highway network for private vehicles than by the hierarchal need of personal mobility and accessibility to multimodal transportation network and system. The net proceeds from the road tax, highway tolls, and petrol excise and taxes could also have been utilized and invested in the development of the highly demanded system of multimodal transport for the people, general goods, and essential services.

Greater emphasis ought to be given to the development of transport by water more than by land. As guided by the Archimedes Principle, it would require much less energy to transport goods and services by water than by land, as the weight of the load of goods and their carrier is supported by the equivalent volume of water displaced by the submerged part of the carrier; the only little energy required is to overcome very small water resistance for the carrier with its laden goods to move forwards. Whereas on land, much more energy would be wasted first in order to overcome the Newtons’s friction in proportion to the total weight of the vehicle and its load. Thus, the natural order of things is to make full use of the country’s waterways and river-system. These natural resources ought to be treated as the nation’s front yards, and not as backyards.

Also in the natural order of things is to appreciate the beneficial uses of water in the following order of hierarchy as an invaluable source of fresh drinking water, for fisheries, agriculture-irrigation, hydropower, transportation and navigation, sports, recreation, nature conservancy, and last but not the least for its carrying capacity in the assimilation of all types waste from all forms of contamination and waterborne diseases. Alas, it might be safe to drink fully treated and recyclable water, but it might not be wise; the question of safety is determined by one’s best knowledge. But one has no knowledge of the unknown. It is claimed that there are at least 13 million viruses have yet to be identified. Thus, Nature knows best. Only Allah, the Almighty, knows all the Creations!

Another ongoing threat to such a precious resource is the depletion of nature reserve, especially in areas which have already been designated as “water catchments”. The value of water and its richness are beyond “dollars and cents”. Once disturbed, it shall not recover to its pristine existence. Certainly, flora or fauna eventually will die; it is part and parcel of the total ecological cycle. If it were to be removed from the area just prior to its death, the local ecosystem would be deprived of the much needed minerals and nutrients, from the dead, for its sustainability. In other words, either “life” or “death” has its purpose and function. Thus, it is not the natural order of things to remove any part of natural forest ecosystem for whatever economic reason or treason!

Should by Order it would be disturbed, the river system would show its true colour: “reddish muddy look”. The silts it carries would be deposited at the bottom of the dam sites, and over time, the siltation would reduce not only the “hydraulic head” of the manmade waterbody but also the capacity of the catchment. Some suspended sediments would be released throughout the river system that cause further siltation and soil erosion downstream. Any intake of raw water for drinking water supply would have to be fully treated physically and chemically.

The sediments would also change the characteristics of the river water from its pristine form to “contaminated” one that can longer support some exotic flora and fauna.

In East Germany they once said: one could virtually process a film in the river, because it was full of chemicals. But about most rivers in Malaysia, one could still say that if a brunette were to jump into those rivers, she would surface up as a blonde! Most rivers in the tropics are muddy and reddish, largely due to soil erosion and uncontrolled earthworks!

Indeed soil erosion and river siltation from the earthworks could be easily prevented and controlled. But unfortunately, the existing Schedule of Works and the corresponding Schedule of Payment under the Building, Street, Drainage by Law have yet to be revised, after all these years, in the following Order: Payment should only be released, after the drainage, crusher-run road surfacing and turfing are in place, immediately after earthworks, prior to piling and putting up building structure. It is not in the natural order of things if these erosion control measures are taken at the end of construction, two years or more down the road.

It is also not in order, should buildings continue to be designed and constructed facing a road, and not a river or a waterbody, for transport and other amenities.

Simply by Order (Yang Menurut Perintah) should no longer be an excuse to put things in order. Otherwise, our beloved country, Malaysia, would have more lose; she has already lost, on that fateful day 23 May 2008, once her invaluable heritage: “Batu Putih” or “Pedra Branca”.

Ipoh, Perak
4 July 2008


Dato’ Ir Dr A. Bakar Jaafar

There are numerous schools of thought how to get things done in general, but there are very few that really work in a developing economy like Malaysia. Categorically, there are essentially two schools of thought on this subject matter: one relates to “people”, and another, “system”. But in reality, neither one works well; and thus, the need for both.

In “management”, there are four essential elements, such as the standard “4 Ms”: “Man”, “Method”, “Money”, and “Materials”. But in Malaysia we needed another “M”, none other than YAB Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, (now, Tun), especially during the period 1981-2002, under his exemplary leadership of our beloved country, Malaysia. During his days, to get things done fast, not few but many had to be to be reminded of by him personally. The Premier would normally have flipped his small pocket-size notebook, over 11.2 times on average, before things really moved on the ground.

But to move the whole country, it would take essentially four major instruments, called “LIFT”, to be in place: Legal-Policy Framework, Institutional Arrangement, Finance, and Technology. There has been a general tendency to “jump” into “technology” as the first solution to a problem. At the end, it has to be “scrapped”. For instance, the first option was thought of to be the solution to the long standing solid waste problem was the introduction of the controversial “incineration” technology. But the solution to the problem really rests with the need for a legal-policy framework to be in place first! It has been argued in the past series of this column, an enviro-economic Policy based on the proposed Indifferent Consumers-pay Principle (ICP) has to be placed. The follow-up strategy in order to implement such a Policy is to promote to every resident in Malaysia to segregate one’s waste at source, at least into three “bins” for three different categories of waste: “dry”, “perishable”, and “toxic and hazardous”. Some forms of incentives, such as credit points, ought to be given to participating residents or consumers who carry out such a practice and return the sorted materials to “reuse” or “recycle” centres. Those who do not participate in such a routine would have to pay some form of levy when they buy new goods or items targeted for recycling. One of the positive impacts of this proposed Policy would be “no more rubbish or litter in the streets, drains, and other public places,” since such so-called waste would have value when it is picked up by poor souls and gets re-used or recycled. It would also save the local taxpayers the cost of cleaning up the mess.

In the early days, even after MERDEKA, the roads, the earth-drains, and the grass were well kept by the Public Works Department because of the “spill-over” of the British Administration or that of the best practices sustained by the European plantation management, through the introduction of the famous “Mandor System”. By definition, “Mandor” refers to “the supervisor or leader of a group, especially of workmen” (Ref: Should anything go wrong, the “Mandor” is the one who gets screwed by the boss, and not the workers! Thus, the boss is always perceived by the workers as the “good one”! Of course, the only job of a Mandor is to “screw” any nutty worker who does not live up to his expected duty or performance.

For sometime now, the important role of the “mandor” has diminished or rather ceases to exist in Malaysia! In place of such a traditional system is the introduction a series of ISO standards, including ISO 9000 (Quality of Products or Services), ISO 14000 (Environmental Management System), ISO 18000 (Occupational Safety and Health), and ISO 22000 (Food Safety).
However, in the absence of good work-culture or discipline, the introduction of such a series of excellent management systems would remain on paper or “hanged” on the wall for “show only” or for the sake of self-glorification.

Perhaps to complement the lack of good practices expected by all stakeholders from the introduction of such series of ISO standards is to fall back to the work of the first two Technical Committees (TCs) established by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) are: TC 1 (Screw threads) and TC 2 (Fasteners). Essentially, the subject is relating to “Screws and Nuts” ( In the absence of the traditional “mandor system”, and in order to get things done properly, perhaps, it would be wise to apply the “screws and nuts” standards: Those who miserably fail to perform should be “screwed”; otherwise, they would become “nuts”. Those already known as “nuts” need to be “screwed”.
Nonetheless, there is one exception, though! While one is eating nuts, he or she can not be called “what one eats!”
In essence, one may wish to be guided by the philosophy of a behavioural scientist, Mason Haire: “What gets measured, get done!”

Kuala Lumpur
08 August 2008
08:00 Hours



Dato’ Ir Dr A. Bakar Jaafar

An engineer by training, and not as a social-scientist, the writer nonetheless has been an observer of numerous socio-politico-economic phenomena in general, and the relations among humankinds in particular. As a parent, he has been observing how all his five children, who happened to have been registered and educated in Catholic-run schools the like of the Assunta and La Salle, have grown nicely into adulthood. The youngest in particular has a number of close friends, about two-thirds of them are non-Malays, with names like Zher Peen, Christine, Lee Sha, Su Ying, Elaine, Melissa, Kesh, Valerie and Vicky. Such a close friendship and relationship among them is partly made possible by the fact that the first word out of one another’s mouth, more often than not, is in English. The ability to communicate effectively in a common language helps reduce any mistrust, misgivings and misunderstandings brought upon by differences in one’s religion, race, creed and colour.

On reflection, over the last 51 years since Independence, race relations in Malaysia have not fundamentally changed. Really! The writer, for instance, was first enrolled in 1957 in a rural Malay school, and despite having scored Grade “A” in the examination to enter a secondary school, ended up by choice, not in an English-stream all-Malay residential school in Ipoh, but in the nearest Malay-medium secondary school within the premise of an English-medium secondary in Melaka, and later in the full-fledged Malay-medium residential school in Kuala Lumpur. The writer’s school mates were not all Malays: they were Anthony s/o Michael, Echot (a Siamese), A. Kulasingam, Tey Boon Hwa, and many others. These non-Malays had been enrolled into the full residential school because of their meritocracy in all subjects in Bahasa Malaysia equal to, if not more than, others. They happened to have come from Malay-medium lower secondary schools in the fringe of rural-urban areas. The lingua-franca of the said residential school is none other than “Bahasa Malaysia”. English is nonetheless taught, but as a subject.

Thus, the only difference between the two generations is the language used for the first word out of one’s mouth!

The logical extension of such a life-time experience and perhaps of others too, is that it is high time for Malaysia to re-visit its general Policies, particularly those relating to national unity, nation-building, national education, and communication. The writer too is looking forward to the introduction of (1+3) language formula to all schools, irrespective of its type or its geographical setting: 1. Bahasa Malaysia (Melayu); 2. English; 3. Mandarin; and 4. Either Arabic, Tamil, Hindi, or any other language of the United Nations (other than Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin) and English, that is French, Russian, or Spanish).

Irrespective of the type of school, one goes to, the present and future generations of Malaysia will master not only the first two languages: one is basic for nation-building, and another for economic-competitiveness and general affairs, but also shall be able to communicate among them quite easily in Mandarin, or in Arabic among fellow Muslims, for instance, when it comes to their own religious matters and family affairs.

The lack of knowledge and skills in Arabic has been “troubling” Malay-Muslims in particular, especially those who did not have the benefits of special tuitions in Arabic or opportunities to have been enrolled in religious schools. Their appreciation of Islam and Islamic Fundamentalism has been limited by their access to limited secondary sources, even in Bahasa Malaysia; and whatever could be gathered by having attended or listening to regular “ceramah” and “takzirah”.

The introduction of multi-lingualism in schools would “democratize” the access of all young Malaysians to the important languages of the world. Otherwise, the privileged few would continue to command not only their own mother-tongue, but the “tongues” and “ears” of others.

Could a parallel be drawn between this pressing need and that of President John Kennedy’s vision to put the first man on the Moon, one might recall the commentary made by CBS TV anchor, the late Walter Cronkite, when the US Astronaut Neil Alden Armstrong (said to be a fellow Muslim?) set foot on the Moon from the lunar module Eagle of Appollo 11 on 20 July 1969:

“That’s one small step forward for a man, another giant leap of mankind.” Not any mankind, but humankind!

The question is whether to be, not to be, humane.


Subang Jaya
10 October 2008