Sunday 26 May 2013

The system works

When you are travelling the last thing that you want is to waste time waiting for your transport. In many cities around the world, public transportation system such as trains, buses and taxis are critical elements of integrated networks which serve their population. Reliability, safety and affordability would determine the quality of public transportation system.

Singapore, consistent with its image as an efficient city state, offers an integrated network of public transportation system which enables millions of people to find their ways around the city effectively. While the Metropolitant Transport System or MRT is comparable with many other cities, I find the taxi services to be very good. Just hail the taxi, hop into them, tell the where you want to go and you'll be charge a fare based on the meter. Sound very basic but you may not get such predictability in Kuala Lumpur.

The Marina Bay Sands in one of the tourist attractions which attracts thousands of visitors every day. Just imagine you are there on a Saturday evening after a laser and bubble show. Many will be queuing for taxis and, yes, the queue could be really long. This is when the magic happens. The queue moves slowly but surely, nobody tries to jump queue, there will be enough taxis for everybody and no haggling is necessary. Try that in Kuala Lumpur and your blood pressure may shoot up.

I always consider the quality of the taxi service as an indicator of the quality of the city. It reflects the values of the people, their maintenance culture, commitment towards a service culture and how the society values others who may not be familiar with the place. So, whatever we feel about if taxi service in Kuala Lumpur, it may be a reflection of ourselves.

We may want to argue that Singapore is a fine city, where people will be fined for any breach of laws or rules, but the system works.

P/S The school holidays start next week in Singapore and parents will bring their children abroad. To get the economy going, The Great Singapore Sales will kick in to bring Malaysian and Indonesian bargain hunters to the island ~ as told by one of the taxi drivers.

Friday 24 May 2013

Malay heritage in Singapore

When I was small I kept on hearing about Arab Street whenever my relatives were discussing about Singapore. Now I realised they were referring to many textile outlets located in the area. They were talking about shopping.

However, Arab Street is located within the Kampung Gelam, a heritage area associated with the Malays and their culture. This may not be exactly true as Malays and Islam, like in Malaysia, are used interchangeably. 

In fact I would say the influence of Muslims originating from the Middle East are stronger. Well, that is not the topic of this posting but this is an issue which could create perceptions and mis-perceptions in many other places when a particular group of people is blanketly associated with a particular believe or practice.

The Sultan Mosque is also located in Kampung Gelam, adjacent to the Kampung Gelam Malay Heritage Complex. Within that area, we could find many Halal eating outlets with variety of foods from many parts of the Islamic world. 

One of the famous outlets here is Zam Zam Restaurant where you could have among the best murtabak in the world in addition to the Beryani that it serves. One can have a choice of lamb, beef or deer murtabak. Many Malaysians bring back the murtabaks.

Coming back to the textile outlets, this is also a great place for shopping, especially for those who want to prepare early for Hari Raya! Oppss, my wife is with me and she could think the same as well.

Saturday 18 May 2013

I want to be a teacher

Honestly, that is what I believe what I really want to do right now.

My father was a teacher and so was his father. He started teaching in Machang, a district in Kelantan, in the 60's. I could not remember which year but I was born there in 1965. My mother was a dental staff nurse and we lived in the quarters allocated to her.

I believe my father served at Sekolah Rendah Hamzah, Machang, for more than twenty years before he was transferred back to Kota Bharu in the 80's. He last post there was the headmaster. In those days, being a headmaster is more than just that. To a certain extent, that position is looked up with respect by the society. When people ran out of cash, they will appear in front of the house with their land titles and hope my father could figure out some ways to address their problems. This was the reason why many teachers ended up in politics. When the fruit season came, there would be plenty of fruits for us to enjoy as people who appreciated what my father did would be very generous in bringing the fruits that they planted to our home.

In the early days in Malaysia, many smart people did not have the opportunity to explore many opportunities as we have nowadays. I am not sure whether my father went into teaching out of love for the profession but he was offered to further his studies in England. However, given that his brother went to England and ended up marrying Auntie Jackie, my grandparents were not that keen for my father to follow the foot steps of my uncle. So, my father ended up in Penang Teachers College and I suspect there was where he met my mother who went for her training in Penang as well.

I can't recall that much how my father performed as a head master but I could just mention his name, Cikgu Nik Soh, many people from Machang, especially the more senior ones, would share many nice stories about him, which makes me feel very proud. He was known to be a very strict teacher and there are many stroies of how he used the cane on his students. Surprisingly, many of them including their parents ended up thanking him, not going to the police or instituting legal actions as what many of us may do nowadays.

This aspect is very important. As teachers nurture our future talents, we need the best and the brightest to be in that role. I am quite concern when observing that it may not necessarily be the case nowadays. The last thing that we want is when people go into teaching when their qualification and performance would not allow then to do other jobs. If this is happening, we will have a situation where our budding talents are brought up by people who may not experience success and high performance. 

This is not an issue at schools only but at universities as well. If university lecturers could not understand or appreciate what is happening in the industry, they could be teaching our future graduates their personal world views, which may not coincide with the realities out there.

The closest for me to teaching is by being an adjunct professor at the Business and Accountancy School, University of Malaya. I love to share my experience with students and their lecturers. However, because universities are demanding lecturers to do more research, in areas where sometimes I myself may not appreciate, I am not able to spend time with them in as mush as what I was hoping for. 

Hopefully, I will be able to continue with the family tradition of being teachers. In my own ways, perhaps.

Happy Teachers Day to all my teachers whom I may not able to name each and every of them. I really appreciate the knowledge, wisdom and values imparted by them and I pray that Allah will place them in the best of positions.

Accountancy action plan will detail demand and supply, and how the profession should be regulated


PETALING JAYA: Malaysia's accountancy sector is expected to get a much-needed action plan by the year-end. The document will contain recommendations that mainly address the demand and supply of accountants in the country for the next several years, and how the profession should be regulated.
Led by the Securities Commission (SC), the multi-agency committee working on the project had recently agreed on the initiatives to pursue and the relevant timelines. The committee will next gather input from the many stakeholders in the public and private sectors.
The Committee to Strengthen the Accountancy Profession is chaired by SC executive director Nik Mohamed Hasyudeen Yusoff, who is also executive chairman of the Audit Oversight Board and a former president of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA).
The other members represent the Finance Ministry, Bank Negara, the Companies Commission of Malaysia, the Accountant General's Department and MIA.
Nik Hasyudeen told StarBiz that one of the committee's primary tasks was to assess the country's demand for accountants, particularly in light of the various developmental plans that had been launched in the past couple of years, such as the Capital Market Masterplan 2, the Financial Sector Blueprint 2011-2020 and the SME Masterplan (2012-2020).
In addition, the projects under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) are expected to boost the need for accounting services.
“There's a need to look at the demand for accountants as we head towards 2020, and the competencies required to sustain the development,” he added, pointing out that it was not just about the numbers.
“We must recognise that the skill-set and competencies demanded of accountants may change as the country progresses.” Nik Hasyudeen said.
After working out the projected demand, the committee would then focus on the supply of accountants, including reviewing the training and qualification framework in Malaysia.
On the regulatory aspects that the committee would examine, Nik Hasyudeen said the aim was to identify regulatory impediments that might affect the efforts to boost the profession in Malaysia.
“We expect to complete our work by the end of the year and we will come up with recommendations to the Government on what needs to be done,” he added.
The committee was set up in response to the World Bank's assessment of the accounting and auditing environment in Malaysia. According to Nik Hasyudeen, after the World Bank issued the report in February 2012, the SC proposed to the Finance Ministry that a committee be formed to follow up on the findings.
Among other things, the report said there should be an independent review of the MIA's governance structure so as to find ways to improve its structure and operations. The report also recommended a review of the local university accounting degree programmes.
The World Bank said the recommendations in the report offered “the groundwork for the preparation and implementation of a country action plan geared toward the further strengthening of the regulatory framework in what is already a strong and cohesive financial reporting and auditing system in Malaysia”.
In a media briefing on March 14, in conjunction with the release of the SC's Annual Report 2012chairman Datuk Ranjit Ajit Singh said that an implementation committee had been established “to formulate a country action plan on accounting and auditing”.
The regulator's website has a page providing information on the committee.
It says: “The Committee to Strengthen the Accountancy Profession has been set up to formulate and recommend strategies and measures to strengthen the accountancy profession and improve the contribution of the profession in enhancing the competitiveness of the country in line with the Government's transformation agenda.”
Of late, there has been concern within the accounting fraternity and among policymakers that Malaysia is not moving fast enough to expand the economic contribution of the accountancy sector, although the ETP roadmap talked about opportunities for Malaysia to export accountancy services.
In December 2008, the Singapore government set up the Committee to Develop the Singapore Accountancy Sector, which in April 2010 came up with an 82-page final report on how to transform Singapore into a leading global accountancy hub for the Asia-Pacific region by 2020.