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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

(NST) 10.4pc export growth for fashion industry


MALAYSIA’s fashion industry has recorded an unprecedented 10.4 per cent growth in export, from RM17.5 billion as at end-2012 to RM19.3 billion last year, said the Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade).

This is mainly due to rising awareness and demand for Islamic fashion, said Matrade chairman Datuk Noraini Ahmad during the Sheikhahub World Islamic Fashion Forum (Swiff) recently.

“The industry encompasses contract manufacturing, footwear, textiles, apparel as well as Islamic fashion.

“It is currently contributing 10 per cent towards our entire export industry. The RM19.3 billion growth is unprecedented and we intend to keep the momentum going.”

To that end, Matrade will hold its first Intrade event specifically dedicated to lifestyle at its premises next month.

“We started conducting Intrades in 2007 but this is the first that it will be dedicated to the lifestyle industry. We are also very keen on introducing our Islamic fashion lines and designers to the Middle East, as there is demand for it.”

Earlier this month, Matrade called for more Malaysian firms to exploit the potentials of booming Middle East economies, such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.

“The Malaysian fashion industry is small right now but it is growing... with the right push, it could grow bigger,” said Noraini.

According to data provided by Matrade, the United States, Japan, China, Turkey and Indonesia were the top five export destinations for Malaysia’s textiles and clothing industry last year.

Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, the UAE and the United Kingdom were the top five major export destinations for Malaysia’s footwear in the same period.

The next Swiff series will begin in March and end in London in November next year.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

(The Star) Penalty for further delay

The company given the contract to rebuild the controversial car park at the foot of Penang Hill will be penalised RM5,000 a day if it fails to complete the job by Sept 25.

Penang Development Corporation (PDC) has given an ultimatum to Yuan Seng Building Trading Sdn Bhd, which was awarded the contract on Nov 26, 2012, to complete the RM11.5mil project by then or face liquidated and ascertain damages at a rate of RM5,000 a day as stipulated in the conditions of the contract.

PDC deputy general manager Hartini Ali (technical) said the project was originally scheduled for completion on Nov 25 last year but Yuan Seng was given an extension of time until May 31 and again till Aug 31 when it was still unable to complete the job.

She said the reasons for the delay included changes made to the building design and requirement imposed by the local authority.

“The contractor also had difficulties in progressing smoothly and was not able to provide full commitment to the project,” she said during a visit to the site in Air Itam yesterday.

Also present were Penang Development Corporation Consultancy (PDCC) Sdn Bhd director Soon Lip Chee and its chief operating officer Tan Choon Jin.

Hartini said should Yuan Seng still fail to complete the job by Oct 31, the company would have to vacate the site for another contractor to finish the job.

Yuan Seng also has to bear the cost for the next contractor. She said the eight-storey building was now 75% completed.

“The only things that are outstanding are mechanical and electrical works which include the installation of lifts, plastering, painting and drainage,” she added.

She said it might take three months to obtain the Certificate of Completion and Compliance after the project was completed. She said the car park could only be used after the certificate was obtained and hoped it could open to by Chinese New Year next year.

The original RM5mil car park, which was completed in March 2011, did not get a certificate of fitness for occupation as it drew criticism for poor design structure that included very steep ramps and parking bays said to be only suitable for Perodua Kancil cars.

The state had come under fire for the project which was implemented by the PDC although it was part of the RM73mil Penang Hill funicular train upgrading project by the Tourism Ministry.

Following an outcry, the state decided to demolish the building and build a new car park. It was reported that the new building would consist of six levels of car park, one level of office space and one level of commercial space.

(The Star) New building for Tamil school

An initiative by a contractor, who was merely supposed to repair leaky roofs at a school in Klang, has led to the construction of a new school building.

Thanks to ECL Management Sdn Bhd’s proactive action, 1,000 pupils from SJK (T) Batu Empat in Kampung Jawa, Klang will be able to learn in a conducive environment.

The pupils and teachers are set to move into the new two-storey building, which is currently getting its finishing touches, in several weeks.

ECL managing director V.K. Regu said the company was initially awarded a contract worth RM500,000 to repair the leaking roofs at the school building.

However, Regu said their cost assessment revealed that a new building could be built with an additional RM300,000.

Since the building was too old and there was a dire need for a new school building, he said, ECL took the initiative of appealing to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for a bigger budget so that a new building could be built.

“I thank the Prime Minister for approving an additional RM300,000 for the school and allowing ECL to construct the new building.

“We have undertaken the project on a cost-to-cost basis as our intention was to offer a service to the community, especially for the benefit of the pupils and teachers,’’ he said.

Regu said the original school building was more than 50 years old and was in a deplorable state.

As a result, he said, the pupils had difficulty attending classes at the school.

“The school was prone to flash floods which distrupts classes,’’ he said.

Initially, Regu said the company faced a lot of challenges in laying the foundation for the building because of the soft soil condition.

However, he said ECL managed to rectify the situation and the construction went on smoothly since then.

“The school is being built under the Intelligent Building System (IBS) with the aid of pre-fabricated materials.

“The pre-fabricated materials, which is coated with concrete plastering, is very strong,” he said, adding that he was happy that the school would be ready soon.

(The Star) KL’s hip nightlife enclave

Changkat Bukit Bintang is bustling with activities at night with its streets filled with pubs, bistros, eateries and hotels.

With Jalan Alor offering visitors a dynamic range of food all along its 350m stretch, the place is definitely a catch for both locals and international tourists.

Located right in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, the saturated commercial area has limited space for parking.

Today’s guide to parking spots in Kuala Lumpur explores various options to weave your car through the busy streets of Changkat Bukit Bintang.

Parking spots are widely available during the weekends due to the absence of working crowd.

Council parking lots are scarce and will be easily taken up by diners who patronise nearby eateries.

Motorists might also find it difficult to park their cars during the night as parking spots will be filled with the crowd looking for a good meal or fun night out.

One might consider exploring Changkat Raja Chulan and Jalan Alor, which are connected to Changkat Bukit Bintang as there are several private parking lots available.

Visitors to Changkat Bukit Bintang can opt for public transport such as the LRT train or public buses to head to the area, if one does not mind a little bit of walk from respective stations.

The following list compiled highlights the parking spots at Changkat Bukit Bintang and other surrounding areas.

(The Star) PLUS to go cashless to help ease congestion on highway

Traffic congestion along the Federal Highway Route 2 (FHR2) will reduce when the cash lanes are removed from two toll collection points along the route beginning Sept 1.

This means only the Touch ’n Go card, SmartTAG and PLUS Miles card can be used at the two collection points, namely Sungai Rasau and Batu Tiga — with a rate of RM1 and RM1.10, respectively.

The introduction of the electronic toll collection (ETC) system at the tolls will lead to faster transactions and result in a smoother traffic flow on the highway stretch.

According to studies, the transaction time for cash payment is 15 seconds per vehicle, Touch ’n Go is six seconds, and SmartTAG only three seconds.

On average, the toll booth can only accommodate 400 vehicles per hour for cash lanes, 550 vehicles for Touch ’n Go, and 1,000 vehicles for SmartTAG lanes.

“We are doing this at the two toll collection points first because they have been identified as the most congested so far,” said PLUS Malaysia Bhd managing director Datuk Noorizah Abd Hamid.

She added that the other four most congested booths are the Plaza Ebor on the Elite Highway, Plaza Pantai Dalam (New Pantai Expressway), Plaza Keramat (KL-bound) (Akleh) and Plaza A (Penang Bridge).

All these toll booths have been earmarked by the Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA) to be converted to 100% ETC as soon as possible, starting with the two FHR2 tolls.

“We are confident that this move will be successful as the 100% ETC is already being implemented at five toll booths in Johor Baru,” she said.

In 2008, the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar toll plaza was the first to migrate to the 100% ETC system.

Noorizah assured motorists that the top-up counters would operate 24 hours, with at least two lanes open every day.

In addition to that, the booths would also sell Touch ’n Go cards and the PLUS Miles cards.

Based on studies done by PLUS, the traffic congestion in the morning was after 9.30am.

By implementing the ETC, PLUS expected all toll booths at the toll plaza to be equally utilised, as there would no longer be a long line at the cash lane.

Also, a multi-class system for heavy vehicles, public transportation and taxis would be available at most ETC lanes.

“There will be someone sitting inside the toll booth counter to handle the multi-class payment, so they need not rely on the cash lanes like previously,” she said.

In addition, PLUS would have portable readers on standby for emergencies if the electronic system malfunctioned.

The portable readers would be able to read all ETC systems and PLUS staff would be on hand to assist at all lanes.

Another issue cited was unreadable SmartTAGs.

If a SmartTAG was unreadable or wrongly placed, the Touch ’n Go card reader at the lane would be activated for drivers to use.

“Instead of blocking the lane, they can now use their Touch ’n Go card to pass through,” she said.

Motorists who want receipts from the toll booths, could proceed to the two left-most lanes to get the receipts printed.

Motorists have also been advised to go online to print the transaction statements and receipts.

To date, there was a daily record of about 161,816 vehicles passing through the Batu Tiga toll and about 111,563 vehicles passing the Sungai Rasau toll.

Over 70% of these vehicles are already using the ETC system as of July.

“Our internal target is for at least 70% ETC usage at a certain toll booth before the 100% ETC migration can take place.

“For both Sungai Rasau and Batu Tiga, we have reached that target, therefore we are implementing the 100% ETC there,” said Noorizah.

To implement this, PLUS had allocated RM10mil to subsidise their PLUS Miles card.

With only RM5, motorists would be able to obtain a PLUS Miles card for free with a RM5 top-up value inside.

A PLUS Miles card operates on the Touch ’n Go platform but aims to reward PLUS highway users through rebates. Also, RM2.1mil had been allocated to subsidise the cost of the SmartTAG.

The original price is RM120 but the current promotional rate was RM99 with a condition that users have to top-up at least RM30.

A million PLUS Miles cards and 100,000 SmartTAGs have been allocated for this promotion, which available while stocks last.

SmartTAGs could be purchased from PLUS highway customer service centres near the FHR2 toll booths which would be open daily from 7am to 10pm.

The ETC is in line with MHA’s long-term goal of moving to cashless transactions.

“We are also hoping to get everyone on board to use the SmartTAG instead of the Touch ’n Go card,” said MHA director-general Datuk Ismail Md Salleh.

By 2009, MHA hoped to implement 100% ETC at all toll plazas nationwide.

By 2020, MHA planned to implement the Multi Lane Free Flow (MLFF) system, which did not require cars to stop at toll booths.

An overhead beam fitted with sensors would be used to sense tags placed in vehicles for motorists to drive through without stopping.

Friday, 29 August 2014

(The Star) Pilot project to assess safety of 100km of Kuching-Serian roads

KUCHING: The Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) is surveying 100km of roads between Kuching and Serian to assess their safety in a pilot project.

The survey is being done using the new Road Attribute Data Logger and Inspection System (Radis) developed by Miros in collaboration with Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM) and Recogine Technology Sdn Bhd.

“We are working together with the state Public Works Department (PWD) on the survey and we should be able to get it done this week,” Miros director-general Prof Dr Wong Shaw Voon told reporters after the system’s launch by Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister Datuk Seri Michael Manyin here on Wednesday.

He said the aim of the assessment was to rate the roads in terms of their safety and to identify areas for improvement, such as putting up guard rails and removing hazards.

“The assessment will help the authorities to make good use of available resources and make improvements. It is also important for road users to know the rating of the roads they are driving on so that they can be alert,” he added.

Radis, which comprises video recording and data processing systems, uses cameras mounted on the roof of a vehicle to capture high-resolution images of the road environment for assessment purposes.

It serves as a platform for Miros to promote road assessment as a proactive approach in identifying high-risk road sections and prioritising road safety investment plans.

State PWD director Zuraimi Sabki said the department was excited to work with Miros on the pilot survey.

“This will complement the work that we are doing on road maintenance. The system can identify in precise details which road attributes are not in compliance with safety.

“With that we can plan improvements and ensure that the critical ones are implemented,” he said.

(The Star) Baram in for a smoother drive

MIRI: The rural people of ulu Baram in northern Sarawak can look forward to better roads soon with the expected dispensing of RM240mil from the Federal Government for the upgrading of rural roads in the region.

Telang Usan state assemblyman Dennis Ngau told Sarawak Metro yesterday that Putrajaya was believed to be in the process of channeling the money to the Sarawak government to enable the upgrading of more stretches of rural roads in Baram to proceed.

“During the visit by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak to the Long Silat settlement during the Gawai Dayak celebrations two months ago (June 1), he promised that the money would be dispensed.

“The money is coming to Sarawak. That amount is part of a package of RM300mil promised by Putrajaya to help upgrade the rural roads in the Baram area.

“So far, the Federal Government had already given RM60mil to upgrade the rural roads from Baram to Bario.

“The balance of RM240mil still at the federal side will be channeled to Sarawak soon to enable the other areas in Baram to have their rural roads repaired and upgraded as well,” he said.

The RM240mil allocation from the Federal Government is meant to help improve the conditions of the rural road leading from interior Baram to Miri.

Most parts of the rural roads in Sarawak are still latrite and yet to be tar-sealed.

These roads built across the timber concessions areas are being used by the timber companies to ferry the logs they have harvested to sawmills for processing and to urban ports for exports to overseas.

Najib had also said that the federal authorities would also allocate another RM26mil to facilitate the upgrading of micro-dams in the Long Bangah settlement as requested by the folks there.

He expressed hope that the Baram folks would continue to render their undivided support to the ruling Barisan Nasional so that the BN would be able to win in the next state election.

Ngau said the state government was refocussing its strategies to focus on developing the rural areas so that within the next 15 years, the rural people would be able to enjoy the same level of social-economic progress as the urban population of the state.

(The Star) Interest in transport plan

More than 30 companies have expressed interest in being the Project Delivery Partner (PDP) for the RM27bil Penang Transport Master Plan (TMP), said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

He said to date, 27 local and foreign companies had bought the Request For Proposal (RFP) tender documents.

“Among the companies are Gamuda, IJM, Prasarana, Sunway, UEM, YTL and CHEC,” he told reporters after a briefing for interested bidders by Penang Traffic Management Unit chief engineer Lim Thean Heng in Komtar on Wednesday.

The RFP is based on the recommendation in the TMP Strategy for implementation from 2013 to 2030.

In his closing speech earlier at the briefing, Guan Eng said Penang was proceeding with the public transportation plan as it “refused to be choked by the traffic congestion to death” and could no longer wait for the Federal Government to undertake it.

He said the successful bidder was responsible for obtaining the respective licences from the Federal Government for the public transport.

To lessen the time pressure for interested bidders, Guan Eng also said the state would consider extending the closing date for the open tender by two months.

The tender opened on Aug 15 and was originally supposed to close on Dec 16.

However, after the briefing, a number of engineers during the question-and-answer (Q&A) session expressed concern about completing a quality study in these four months.

Guan Eng’s announcement of the two-month extension was met with applause but a check with several company representatives revealed that they were still worried about meeting the deadline.

Perunding Trafik Bakti Sdn Bhd engineer Lean Kok Woei said the additional two months was welcome news.

“We definitely need more time for analysis and to produce a good report, but we understand that the Penang Government is ambitious to initiate this project for the betterment of the state.

“A six-month duration is much better than four months. It makes a lot of difference,” he said.

State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow, who sat on the panel during the question and answer (Q&A) session, said the priority was the public transportation system, mainly the tram services and LRT.

Among the points brought up at the briefing were proposals drawn up by the state’s consultants for three Light Rail Transit (LRT) radial routes on the island, two Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) radial routes on the mainland, and tram services orbital loops in George Town.

Thean Heng said the LRT proposal was from Weld Quay to the floating mosque in Tanjung Bungah in the north (13.3km), to Paya Terubong in the west (12.5km) and to the airport in Bayan Lepas in the south (12.4km). The BRT proposal was from Penang Sentral to Machang Bubok in Bukit Mertajam in the eastern corridor (18.7km) and to Simpang Ampat in Nibong Tebal in the Southern Corridor (23km).

As for the tram services, he said there was a proposed heritage site loop covering 6.1km, a Komtar to Penang Times Square 6.4km loop, and an 18.7km outer George Town loop, and the trams’ speed would be about 40km/h.

(The Star) Traffic lights installed for users’ safety

Traffic lights have been installed at the junction of Persiaran Subang Mewah and Jalan USJ 1/1 for the safety of road users.

Grandville Residents Association secretary Veronica Au, who has been living in the area for five years, is pleased as she feels safer using the junction now.

“It is difficult to get in and out our neighbourhood, especially during peak hours,” she said.

Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh said residents had been requesting for traffic lights to be put in place at the junction.

The issue was raised during a dialogue on Dec 10 last year.

“Hopefully, all local councils have traffic dispersal plans,” she said.

The cost of RM100,000 to install the traffic lights was borne by developers Mammoth Empire Holding Sdn Bhd, as required by the Subang Jaya Municipal Council.

The company also forked out approximately RM10,000 to repair the streetlights in the vicinity as well as another RM500,000 to build a pedestrian bridge near SJK(C) Chee Wen, along Persiaran Subang Mewah.

The developer will also construct an interchange to connect the Kesas Highway and USJ 1, at a cost of RM90mil.

Yeoh said, “We are committed to improving traffic in the municipality.

“The interchange near Summit USJ has been turned from a four-phase to a three-phase system and it has shortened the waiting time.

“Plans to change it to a two-phase system are still in discussion,” she added.

(The Star) Frustrated residents still waiting for new housing

Scores of residents of Taman Permata, Dengkil, are still living in tents more than a year after being forced to evacuate their flats when a sinkhole appeared in the vicinity.

The residents have put up a white board marking the number of days — 443 — they have been living outdoors since the incident happened in June last year.

Taman Permata Residents Association secretary K. Ramadass pointed out that it had been 15 months and their situation was unchanged.

Despite talk of a new housing project in the pipeline, he said the affected residents had not seen anything tangible.

He said the Federal Government, via the National Housing Department, had earlier written to the residents stating that the 12ha site proposed by the state government was suitable to build 400 low-cost houses.

“A meeting was held between the Federal and state governments to expedite the matter so that the project could take off.

“We were told the state was in the process of converting the status of the land from agriculture to residential and that the process is ongoing,” he said.

However, he added that the residents were left in the lurch now because of the ongoing problems within the Pakatan Rakyat-led state government.

“State executive councillor V. Ganabatirau, who chaired the Plantation Workers, Poverty and Caring Government Committee, was the person who was representing the state to resolve the Taman Permata issue.

“We have been in the dark about the project status since the ongoing political turmoil in Selangor started, and it has left us in a worse situation,” he said.

On June 22 last year, StarMetro reported that 80 families had to put up tents in the carpark of Taman Permata low-cost flats after Sepang Municipal Council (MPSepang) declared their homes unsafe for occupation.

The residents had complained that the units had cracks all over, with wall tiles falling off and the ceilings on the verge of collapsing.

Although MPSepang has since declared Block 5 safe but they are unwilling to return to their homes, citing safety concerns.

Some have been housed at a hall nearby.

S. Muthaiah, 64, a former worker at Prang Besar Estate, described his living conditions now as being much worse than estate life.

“We used to have housing and medical benefits provided while our children’s education needs were also taken care of,” he said.

Residents in Taman Permata were relocated from four estates — Prang Besar, Galloway, Sedgeley and Medengley -- in 1999.