Sunday, January 30, 2005

Title: Mahdi Te Heu Heu

Wed 19 Jan – I met Mahdi Te Heu Heu at the library today. He hasn’t changed much for the past 6 years, I often met him at city library or on the road in town, always wore black; pants, T-shirt, vest and cap – trolley bag on tow. He wore his hair long and loose – almost 80% grey.
For those of you who have not the slightest inkling who he is, or was – he was the earliest Maori who converted to Islam back in the 80’s – I don’t remember the year, but it was probably 86 or 87. He was close to us Malay students back then and often joined us for Friday prayer.
Being in our social network, got him interested in education, and he started on lifelong journey by tackling 7th Form Mathematics back then, if I am not mistaken. Today, he told me that he just need to finish 24 points at Lincoln University (6 papers) to finish B.Com majoring in Economics and International Business. Bravo.
A lifelong passion even if takes years – you will get there one step at a time. There I found subjects that interest him – education and economics. And he never fails to enquire about our circle of friends back in the 80’s – Abd Rashid, Wak Golo, Amir, Abd Rahim, Mahmud, Roslan and the rest.
He lives in a one bedroom flat on Salisbury St in town, on his own. His wife and two children divorced him years ago. His bad experience in life probably started years ago when his daughter ran away from home. What happened? Soon after he converted to Islam, he found out that Muslim women have to cover their hair, so he made his daughter to wear scarf to school. His daughter rebelled and ran away.
Now that you read the story – what next?

Title: A Letter to the Minister of Finance; to unpeg the ringgit or not.

Let’s stop arguing whether it was the right call to peg the ringgit in the first place. Stop comparing the performances of he economies of countries similarly affected by the Asian Meltdown 97; South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong.
Keep in mind that in the long run prices and income adjust to equilibrium. Everyone wants to avoid unnecessary short term painful adjustment. The macroeconomic fundamentals are and have been robust, and continue at the same rate for the foreseeable future, barring any mishap. Current account surplus at record levels 6 years in arrow.
In a free floating exchange rate, current account will be balanced on average, any surplus or deficit in current account will result in depreciation or appreciation of exchange rate, ceteris paribus. Prices and income remains the same; in local currency.
By fixing the exchange rate to an arbitrary value, in this case the USD, at a rate that is either above or below equilibrium, we run the risk of undergoing short term adjustment. Finding an equilibrium level of exchange rate is like shooting at a moving target, however bright is the light and your perfect 20/20 eyesight, you still miss them sometimes.
Remember Hong Kong 97? Prices fall, businesses incurring losses, unemployment rises (because of sticky prices and wages) and total income falls. That’s adjustment for fixing exchange rate above equilibrium. Prices and income moves back to equilibrium levels. Never mind what is the exchange rate to the USD, because USA has its own macroeconomic fundamentals too.
By fixing below equilibrium, you will get asset price inflation, bottleneck in production and runaway demand. Look at China now. In both instances, the weakest and most vulnerable members of society bear the brunt and suffer, and they are the ones who can’t speak out and do much about their lot. Losing jobs in the economic slowdown and cannot keep up with rising prices in a runaway inflation.
It is without doubt that current growth rates and current account surpluses afford the government the increase wealth and income, lower interest rates (fiscal and monetary expansion).
Lets be honest, there ha been a lot of benefits that we enjoyed from good economic times – new housing are more affordable and available, more needed infrastructure projects are coming on stream; water, electricity (yeah some glitches) and road.
One thing the current team has been successful to hide so far – support of the inefficient firms (pointless for me to elaborate here, you know the firms better than I do) and farming of government jobs and contracts as a reward for support and patronage at highly margins.
Meaning cronyism; support your friends in thick and thin, enrich them – enrich yourself. Let the masses suffer, a couple rounds of vote buying will return your team to Putrajaya.
If you must keep the peg, please remember the poor, it is time to take care of the poor, the sick and those who are unable to provide for themselves food, clothing and shelter. A universal welfare system and fairer more equitable wealth distribution in the society – the Islam Hadhari as you call it (please not just slogan, but the spirit and the practice as well) – will return your team into Putrajaya in the next election.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Indonesia Beef Rendang and Layer cake


 600g beef, cubed
 6 cups water
 1 thumb-sized piece old ginger, smashed
 1 thumb-sized piece galangal, smashed
 1/2 a piece fresh turmeric leaf, shredded and knotted
 1 stalk lemon grass, smashed
 2 kaffir lime leaves, torn
 1 tomato, halved
 1 fresh red chilli, halved and seeded
 1 lime, squeezed for juice
 4 tbsp oil Ground ingredients (combined)
 14–15 dried chillies, soaked and seeded
 10 shallots
 6 cloves garlic
 1½ cm piece ginger
 5 candlenuts
 1 star anise
 3 cloves
 3cm cinnamon stick Seasoning
 1 tsp sugar or to taste
 1/2 tsp salt
 1 tbsp fish sauce
MethodPut beef in a heavy-based saucepan. Add ginger and water. Bring to a low simmering boil, then cook over a gentle heat until meat is cooked. Heat oil in a wok and fry ground ingredients, star anise, cloves and cinnamon stick until oil rises. Add tomato, chilli, galangal and lemon grass. Fry until fragrant. Pour cooked sauce ingredients into beef. Add turmeric leaf and continue to cook, stirring frequently until sauce thickens. Squeeze in lime juice and add seasoning and kaffir lime leaves. Bring to a boil and dish out and serve.

Specot (Indonesian Layer Cake)
 450g butter (use good quality butter)
 275g fine castor sugar
 1 tsp vanilla essence
 1 tbsp brandy
 20 egg yolks
 10 egg whites
 85g fine castor sugar
 225g Superfine flour
 1/2 tsp baking powder
 2 1/2 tsp mixed spices
MethodLine and grease the base of a 23cm (square) loose-bottomed tin. Preheat oven to 180°C.Sift flour, baking powder and mixed spices into a bowl then divide into three equal portions.Beat egg yolks until creamy with a hand-held electric mixer.Cream butter, sugar and vanilla essence until light. Add brandy and continue to cream until fluffy. Blend in creamy egg yolk mixture slowly and gradually.Fold in sifted dry ingredients in three batches, one-third portion at a time. Mix well with a metal spoon.Whisk egg whites with sugar until stiff. Fold meringue into the creamed mixture until well-combined.Spoon 4 tablespoons mixture into prepared tin and spread evenly. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes or till golden brown. Remove cake tin from oven and turn off the oven. Heat up the grill.Brush each layer of the cake with a little melted butter. Use a skewer to prick the bubbles on the surface of the cake then press lightly with the flat bottom of a glass container. Continue in this manner until all the batter is used up.Spoon 3 tablespoons of mixture over the first layer and spread evenly. Grill at 220 °c for 2 to 3 minutes or till brown. Repeat layer after layer till all the mixture is used up.For the final layer, preheat oven at 150 °c and bake the entire cake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.Leave cake in tin for a while before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Cut the cake only when it is completely cooled.
NoteThis cake will turn out beautifully only in an oven with two elements -- a bottom heating element and a grill element. The flavour of the cake will be further enhanced after a day or two; it keeps well in an air-tight container for up to a week.

wahai anak ku...

Sebahagian daripada nasihat Rasulullah s.a.w. kepada umatnya:

Ertinya: “ Adalah dkira sebagai tanda berpalingnya Allah Taala daripada seseorang hamba apabila ia selalu mengerjakan perkara yang tidak berfaedah. Dan seandainya ada satu saat sahaja daripada umurnya yang telah digunakannya pada barang yang bukan merupakan tujuan hidupnya (iaitu beribadat kepada Allah) maka layaklah bahawa akan panjang penyesalannya (pada hari kiamat nanti) dan siapa yang umurnya lebih daripada empat puluh tahun sedangkan kebaikannya masih belum dapat melebihi kejahatannya maka layaklah ia mempersiapkan dirinya untuk memasuki api neraka”.
Petikan daripada buku Ayyuhal Walad (Wahai Anakku Yang Tercinta), karangan Al Imam Hujjatul Islam Abu Hamid Muhammad bin Muhammad Al Ghazali.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

mum and dad, maslina, ati, masngot, kak sal,fauziah...everybody Posted by Hello

tsunami Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Give them away.

At times like this, whenever there is a natural disaster; be it flood, earthquake or tsunami, when the televisions and newspapers show graphic pictures of destruction, poverty, death and hunger, we readily gives money away to charities, whatever extra and small changes that we have. Some of us even look into our wardrobe and start picking whatever piece of clothing that we don’t need; last year’s baju raya, those pants that’s too loose (lost weight in the past month) and kids clothing that doesn’t fit anymore and start thinking “I could give those away.”

In the economics viewpoint, these act of charity of giving away money and material goods distribute goods and services within a society, resources are distributed to those who need and increase society’s utility value. It also reduces deadweight loss; that loose pants (or is it tight?) in your wardrobe wouldn’t be of any use to you. Someone else might value your old pant more than you do.

If citizens of a country like Malaysia who is largely unaffected by the disaster collectively donate excess and old stock of goods, clothing, drugs, medical equipments and building materials to disaster zones, it would be good for world community and for Malaysia’s economy. Why? You might ask. By donating excess inventories (or in our case, excess clothing in the wardrobe) we are reducing stock of goods in the economy. Firms on realising that inventories are low, will work to maximum capacity to meet demand to replenish stock (or in our case, we have an excuse to buy that Dockers pants that cost a day’s wages, and work overtime to make up for it). Prices in the economy will remain high, (there won’t be “end of season sale” or “old model discount”) and the economy would keep humming at above expectation growth rate. Everybody would be happy.
Would somebody donate their van for use as ambulance in Acheh? Just kidding.

When the tide has subsided.

Billions of dollars has been pledged and collected for the victims of tsunami from around the world. The small fraction that will eventually reach those people to rebuild their lives would be used to buy basic necessities: food, shelter and clothing. Then whatever is left over would be used to provide for care, education and infrastructure of those communities. They will need boats for fishing, seeds and fertilizers for their gardens and rice fields and whatever else necessary to earn a living. Donated money and clothing will eventually run out.
Remember Afghanistan, Bam earthquake and recent Darfur tragedy? We almost forget about them already. What about Ethiopia? What Ethiopia you might ask. 20 years on, the people are still as vulnerable as they were back then.

Those badly affected countries need massive investment; they need new roads and bridges, housing, and income generating businesses. Property prices will arguably be cheaper compared to other places that are unaffected by natural disaster. There are also signs that the political situations are on the mend, the first cardinal rule in investing; country risk. Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tigers set aside their differences and stop shooting each other for the time being, no fresh killings in Southern Thailand and Indonesian government lifted sanctions on journalists visiting Acheh.

Eventually, those people in the disaster area need jobs, and jobs don’t come by without investment. If you have a spare million or two, or even less, you could probably buy a beachfront property in Galle, Phuket or Banda Acheh at a fraction of the price a month ago to develop into tourist resort, factories or houses for tourist and locals to rent. I can also predict that cement and building materials will be in short supply for months to come. If you are in building business, this is probably the best time for you to scout for new opportunities. Some of those billions that have been pledged would be used to build new infrastructure. Predictably the economic growth in Sri Lanka and Indonesia would be high for the medium term. New debt moratorium is in place, which makes capital cheaper and stokes economic growth. Ceteris paribus.