Something about Sergeant Babu…


Written on 2/23/2009 12:20:00 pm by sikapitan

One business that is booming despite the recession is private security services. More and more streets around my neighborhood in USJ are turning into private roads manned by private security guards. I am still not convinced on the legality of this.

What if I still insist on passing through? Can the guard stop me? What if I refuse to identify myself? Can they force me? Would I be guilty of a crime if I don’t? Are they guilty of a crime when they force me to do things I have no obligation to do?

Anyway, this evening, there will be a community meeting for my street where I believe they will decide whether to hire mercenaries and guard our street. I am sure the answer would be a resounding yes. We cannot stop the tide. Soon, every community will be gated. Why?

Simple economics dictate that people act rationally to incentives and calculate cost-benefit subconsciously before arriving to decisions every day. In the case of privatized security, residents have increasingly accepted that the benefit of private security far outweigh the cost.

The cost of private security, in whatever form, has gone down dramatically. This is in part due to an increase in demand, leading to increase in recruitment of foreign guards. As the pool of quality guards (ex-police, gurkhas) decrease, more and more untrained guards are recruited from foreign countries, typically Nepal. These untrained guards are currently flooding our economy – cheaper price, lower quality.

Meanwhile, the cost of NOT having private security has increased dramatically. This is due to our population increasing at a rate far greater than the increase in the number of police officers. The “cost” for one resident to have police protection has increased simply because demand has outpaced supply. Less people can “afford” to have police protection; therefore more people are exposed to non-protection, leading to an increase in crime.

Criminals are also calculating the probability that they will get caught. As the police force spreads itself more thinly in the face of growing population, the probability decreases until the “benefit” of committing crime will outweigh the “cost” of getting caught.

Anyway, adept at we are at such calculations, I think we fail to realize the implication of this increase in demand for private security. Firstly, there will be an influx of foreign labor, not a problem in itself, but ironically this also increases the “cost” of police protection as the population increase.

Next, when we rely on private security from foreign workers to provide basic security in our community, we will further detach the police force from its responsibility. It creates a false impression of security, leading to the police not being able to forecast accurately the actual number of police needed to maintain peace and security.

All is well, but in the event of a mass exodus of these foreign workers, either through our own actions, or their own, there will be a sudden and massive breakdown in security. A breakdown that will not be anticipated simply because it was not forecasted.

Finally, there are the hidden social implications of a sudden and unnatural spike in foreign labor in Malaysia. The ratio of male-female will shift. The future composition of our society will also change in the future. More importantly, in the short term, there will be a problem of assimilation and acceptance. Without these, foreign workers will continue to be tied to their place of birth.

We are leaving the fate of our security ultimately in the hands of people who don’t have any affinity to our culture, people and nation. Is that worth the risk? Go figure…




Written on 2/18/2009 12:24:00 am by sikapitan

MCs = Necessary Evil

When you call in sick from work, you’re required to provide proof that you’re actually sick. This comes in the form of the ubiquitous MC. I don’t blame anyone for this, but it got me thinking what this requirement actually mean.

Employers start with the premise that you’re lying, because if it’s the opposite, they have to prove you’re not sick. And the reason why they start with that premise is because they assumed you don’t enjoy work enough to come up with a fake reason not to go to work. And the reason they assumed as such is because they believe you’re not doing something you like. This belief comes from the logic that all the work they have available is so bad that no one would actually want to do it honestly and enthusiastically.

So in conclusion, employers actually believe that they’re giving you a shitty job. Can’t they just solve this by not giving shitty jobs? Go figure.

Machiavellian Politics to the Fore

A lot has been going on in Malaysian politics that Buletin Utama has more drama than Samarinda (if you don’t get the reference, imagine Teri Hatcher in a nurse’s got nothing to do with that but at least you have a nice image).

Today another PKR rep has decided to resign. Eli Wong is a prominent activist turned politician now embroiled in a nude photo controversy. After the Perak debacle, Pakatan Rakyat again fall victim to politics that could best be described as Machiavellian in nature. Observers have pinned this down to Najib solidifying his support base before the UMNO election in March.

But I’ve got a sneaky feeling that behind this grand scheme (I might think it’s a bit dirty, but neutral observers could not help but feel a tinge of fascination how this game is being played out) is one true believer of Machiavellian politic in Malaysia – Tun Mahathir.

I was once told that Mahathir could “eat” not only Pak Lah (as he has done) but also Anwar, Khairy or whoever else he feels like having for breakfast. In any case, Anwar’s losing the plot, but isn’t he STILL only the “adviser” to PKR? Why so? Is there another sub-plot emerging? His silence thus far is deafening...

Shameful Breach of Privacy

On that note, I wish to express my utter disgust to the guy who secretly captured Eli Wong’s nude body while she was sleeping. Its one thing to record a consensual partner, but to do it this way is just plain shameful.

Chua Soi Lek is one of the few who managed to
escape a sex video scandal in Malaysia
with their reputation "enhanced"

Speaking of which, why do people consensually allow recording of their sexual activities? The increase in hand phone-made home videos have shown how disturbed young kids are nowadays. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them are Malays = Muslims. Go figure.


Something about Peeling Durian


Written on 2/13/2009 06:07:00 pm by sikapitan

We were just sitting around when a friend mentioned that his friend just came back from work at 5 am this morning and was up for work at 8.30 am. That’s crazy, but auditors usually are. Anyway, we got around to discussing on success measurement, on a more micro level.

My friend is a bit stressed out from his current job scope, understandably as he has around $20 million revenue target to meet and a whole lot of back-end mess to clean up. He’s staying on a bit too long every day, and he is seldom left alone on weekends.

The problem is that there’s no correlation at this moment with the work he’s doing and the amount he’s getting paid. Logic dictates that the harder you work, the more you should be paid, but management is seldom logical.

So we started calculating our effective wage, which means wage/number of hours working. We don’t care about your output, as no matter how productive you are, it doesn’t matter shit if you’re paid the same.

My friend got more depressed. Let’s say our effective monthly compensation is RM4000, and we work for 20 days. That means it’s RM200 a day. On this, we are both equal. But I spend an average of 6 hours a day at work, while he goes on close to 8 hours a day. So my effective pay is RM33 per hour while his is only RM25 per hour. I haven’t added in the complexity of his task yet…

There is a potential pay-off for all the hard-work, and that is called promotion. Promotion usually corresponds with a pay raise, though more often than not, a one-step promotion seldom result in more than 10% increase in wage. Isn’t that depressing?

But there is still another potential pay-off. The faster you get your promotion, the faster it is you get to another step for promotion. And the cycle goes on and on, until one fine day, because of your hard work, you managed to earn what you should be earning 3 promotions ago. Sad but true.

You want more sad news? Well, promotion depends on rating and assessment by your boss. Most of the time, through no fault of your assessor, you get rated the same as your colleagues. I know some of you would be saying, “You’re not effective” but trust me; sometimes it’s just the nature of the job.

Well, imagine that A and B were hired to cut and serve fruits. A was assigned to serve oranges, while B was assigned to serve durians. Customer demanded 10 oranges and 10 durians. A and B both served the customer’s demand on time and as requested. Both met their boss’ expectation, but we all know that peeling durian is harder than oranges.

And the boss can’t favor B simply because his job is harder and more complex. A can simply turn around and demand the same treatment because he’s doing what is being asked by the boss just as well as B. So the boss compromises by giving both the same ratings, or at most, give B a bit more than A.

Now, imagine that the durian portfolio is a messy one, filled with blunt tools and haphazard organization. My friend is handling the “durian” while I’m the one with “oranges” to take care of. Life’s not fair, and we BOTH know it.

My friend is slowly turning into a Durian

Not only do I have a higher effective wage than him, and much less stress, but we are both on the same path towards promotion. He might get there sooner than me, by a few months, but with less stress and more free time, I will not get old as soon as him either!

Another way to measure wage is to calculate your profit. Another friend of mine, who is earning less than us in Maxis can afford to buy a new car with his own money. How?

Treat yourself as a company. Your total wage is your revenue. Minus all the work-related expenses (transportation, parking, food) and you get what you’d call your useable income. This is the true measurement of your profit, not total revenue. There’s no point earning RM4000 when you spend RM2000 every month for work while another person earns RM3000 but only spends RM800 for work.

Anyway, have sympathy for my intelligent, hard-working and all-around nice-guy friend at Maxis. Luck, as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in Outliers, plays a more important role than good old-fashioned effort in success.

Go figure.

Something about Perak


Written on 2/07/2009 12:21:00 am by sikapitan

My colleagues and I had a deal for the past few weeks not to talk about politics. Frankly, I’ve felt liberated since, as I am invariably asked to represent a certain political party, which gets tiring. The fact that I quite like Justin Timberlake does not mean I think he’s a great actor...if you catch my drift.

Anyway, it’s a bit hard not to say a few words regarding the situation in Perak. I had lunch with a friend of mine, who has become something of an Opposition fanatic. Sometimes, you can get a bit too attached to an ideal that you’ll lose your common sense and logic.

Of course, he was pissed with the cross-over in Perak. A few others were also moaning the fact that BN has taken over the state government. I’ve just got a few comments on this:


My principle, which I have stated before vocally and through my party channels, is that I am against elected representative changing or leaving their party without first stepping down as a rep. I don’t care if it’s called a defection, cross-over or hopping. All I know is that in Malaysia, we vote based on party line first (unfortunately), and it is not fair to the constituents to vote for one government, only to be ruled by another. It is undemocratic.


People can be so hypocritical that it becomes annoying, even causing me anger. Barisan leaders are hypocrites when they welcome these defectors, because they were SO into passing an “anti-hopping” law previously when there was a threat of mass defection to Pakatan. Pakatan leaders are also hypocrites for now condemning defections, as just 10 days ago they were smiling when a Barisan rep joined them in Perak. Same goes with all supporters.


Hypocrisy is one thing, but outright blatant disregard for respect is another. The Perak monarchy is noted for having two of the brightest Rulers in Malaysia. Everyone, including the Opposition, was so into Raja Nazrin, with some even claiming openly that HE should be leading this country. And yet, just when things don’t go their way, they turned around and say that these very same people are evil and against democracy. Think!


I find it funny when my friend claimed that Malaysiakini is not biased. I personally think, as objectively as possible, that Malaysiakini is as biased to the Opposition as the Star is biased to the Government. I won’t even mention Utusan because that’s a gone case. Not openly biased, but as you read you do get a feeling that both sets of editors have their own agenda. I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, I quite like it. But at least I realize and admit it, which many find hard to do.


My boss summarized the whole episode well. This is like a football game. It has its own set of rules, one which we might not wholly agree with, but we have decided to play it this way. One team lost, due to their own miscalculation or mistake and another team won, whether it’s because of their tactics and skills or they cheated the referee. And just like in football, decisions are made which decides the outcome of the game. If a person dived and got a penalty, it is still a valid goal.

This is not to say that cheating is encouraged or should be supported. It is just that players in the game must be aware of the rules and the loopholes. They should know NOT to stick a foot out when Ronaldo’s in the penalty box. In other words, they must be smart players with the right tactics to deal with opposition who would resort to these measures to win, if any.

In conclusion, here is a team that lost a game that they decided to play wholeheartedly. They tried their own version of cheating, and were then sucker punched when the other team was found to be better at it than them.

It sucks, of course, but being a loser always makes you feel that way, right?

Something about the Economy


Written on 2/04/2009 12:21:00 am by sikapitan

A lot has been said about our economy and the problems we are facing. Datuk Nazir Razak today mentioned that throwing out race-based policies would help. I am particularly impressed by Tengku Razaleigh’s recent speech (published in The Edge and Off The Edge) where he clearly and specifically state what needs to be done.

There’s no such thing as a quick fix. I can see where this might be true. Some of the long-standing issues like accountability and transparency require fundamental changes in the system, which will not, I’m afraid, be quick. Most of the solutions given thus far will take 2-3 years of preparation, of political willingness, of public buy-in, before it could even be implemented.

But we NEED a quick fix, a band-aid solution that will stop the bleeding, and a bandage to hold up the ever-widening wound, before something gets infected so bad that we have to amputate it. Phew...that’s another way to describe our economic crisis.

That’s where the stimulus package comes in. 7 billion before, and another 10 billion declared today. Before people say that it’s not enough (and a lot of experts are), we have to remember the issues we have with execution. I was reliably informed that some of the mega corridor projects still has HUNDREDS of MILLION of allocated money not yet spent, so giving them more is not the answer.

A lot has been said about using the stimulus package for high-impact projects and hopefully, the market will efficiently distribute the wealth to as many people as possible. Somehow, though I’m a believer in the free market, I think it does have its weaknesses.

Think about it - companies and basically individuals in a free market want to earn profit. So the bigger the project is, the more likely it is to be awarded to a few companies only. These companies, in turn, are supposed to distribute the project to sub-contractors. However, they would have made their profit cut in the first instance, thus reducing the amount to be distributed when sub-contracting.

The bigger the project, the bigger the company, thus the more profit they need to reap in. Thus, although in theory giving a RM 1 billion project to a company seems like a great way to stimulate the economy, in reality, the wealth would only be distributed to a few companies and ultimately, a few individuals.

Not only that, the execution period of bigger projects is much longer, and what happens is that these companies would continue to receive money years after the economy has recovered. Is that fair and equal distribution of wealth?

I prefer using a substantial amount of whatever stimulus package we have to provide opportunity to as many people as possible. It might mean that no one earns profit in the millions, but it would definitely ensure a lot more people would survive and earn good income which hopefully they would spend on a lot of little things.

For example, giving a mega project would allow someone, who is already more than wealthy, to purchase another BMW or Merc. Identifying smaller, lower-cost, projects to be distributed over a larger base, would allow 10 people to buy Protons or even Peroduas.

Another quick-fix that I think would help is easy credit. It is an extension to my belief that economic stimulus must be distributed directly to as many people as possible. And we can start with just utilising RM1 billion of the stimulus package.

1 billion might not be a lot. I might be wrong, but if we were to given 25 million Malaysians a share of the pie, each would only get RM40. Clearly not enough to stimulate the economy. But if we talk about a RM100, 000 low-interest quick loans for small businesses like restaurants and services, then it will directly benefit 10,000 businesses. Split it further to RM 50,000 (enough perhaps for 10 months rental at RM 5000 a month), then you’d help 20,000 businesses.

Execution is a bane; therefore, leave it out of the hands of the government. Distribute it through conventional banks, and ensure it is distributed within a certain time frame. The banks will be in charge of vetting the requests, and doing their normal due diligence test, assign the necessary amount to the necessary people.

People say that it is difficult to ensure that these businesses will use the money for business sake or will they waste and spend it. In my mind, using the money to spend, although it is not ideal, is not the worst case scenario. Spending is ultimately what we want to achieve, either through the mega projects or my proposed “wide, direct distribution” model. So if these people waste the loans by buying a new bike or whatever, it still creates demand, thus driving up the whole economic cycle.

I mean, I could discuss this further, but I’m just a bit tired of writing., Jimmy Kimmel is on. I’ll explore this issue further, if I feel like it. Go figure.