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Friday, 31 July 2015

(The Star) No reclamation work at project site

MALACCA: Land reclamation work for the Malacca Gateway project has been halted.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron said work has stopped since February so that a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) report could be prepared to accompany earlier EIA reports.
“An in-depth macro Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is also needed to gauge aspects like the livelihood of fishermen, morphology, hydrology and marine water quality before work can continue,” he said in reply to Chin Choong Seong (DAP-Kesidang) at the state legislative assembly sitting here.
Malacca Gateway has an estimated gross developmental value (GDV) of RM40bil spanning 246ha including reclaimed land.
Once completed, the project would house the largest private marina in South-east Asia with 12 precincts, including residential, commercial, cultural, entertainment and lifestyle elements.
Meanwhile, the assembly learnt that the state Customs Department has collected RM112.6mil through the goods and services tax (GST) since the implementation on April 1.
Malacca Unity and Consumers Affairs committee chairman Datuk Lai Meng Chong said of the amount, RM74mil was collected in April and the remainder in May.
“We have yet to receive the amount collected in June and July,” he said in his reply to a question from Lai Keun Ban (DAP-Kota Laksamana).
The assembly was also told that enforcement officers from the Health Department issued 945 notices to those caught smoking in public areas from January to June this year.
State Health and Sport Development committee chairman Datuk Ab Rahaman Ab Karim said they were caught for lighting up in non-smoking zones in the historic city.
“A total of RM37,970 in fines were collected during the same period.
“The state has gazetted 21 areas within the historic city and other towns as smoke-free zones since June 15, 2011,” he said in his reply to Md Rawi Mahmud (Barisan Nasional-Tanjung Bidara).
State Agriculture and Entrepreneur Development committee chairman Datuk Hasan Rahman also said that 5,122 individuals affected by the June 7 flash floods in Malacca had received RM1mil in cash.
He said Melaka Tengah topped the list with 4,130 individuals and 982 in Jasin with each receiving RM200.
“In the long-term, flood eradication programmes such as the widening of irrigation and drainage systems have been planned,” he said in reply to Dr Md Khalid Kassim (PAS-Bukit Baru).
STORIES BY RSN MURALI AT THE MALACCA LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY MEETING

(The Star) Slowing PC sales in first half of the year

Asia Pacific PC shipments reached 24.2 million units in the second quarter of this year, a 2.9% decline from the same period last year says market research company Gartner Inc.
Both desk-based and mobile PC shipments declined from the second quarter of last year.
PC shipments in China are estimated to have declined 4% in the quarter as demand for consumer PCs remained weak.
Similarly, worldwide PC shipments totalled 68.4 million units in the second quarter of this year, a 9.5% decline from the second quarter of last year, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc.
This was the steepest PC shipment decline since the third quarter of 2013. PC shipments are projected to decline 4.4% this year.
There were many contributors to the decline of PC shipments in the second quarter of this year, and Gartner analysts highlighted three of the major reasons for the drop in shipments.
Analysts emphasised that these inhibitors are temporary events, and they are not changing the PC market’s structure.
Therefore, while the PC industry is going through a decline, the market is expected to go back to slow and steady growth next year.
“The price hike of PCs became more apparent in some regions due to a sharp appreciation of the U.S. dollar against local currencies,” Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.
“The price hike could hinder PC demand in these regions. Secondly, the worldwide PC market experienced unusually positive desk-based growth last year due to the end of Windows XP support.
“After the XP impact was phased out, there have not been any major growth drivers to stimulate a PC refresh.
Lastly, the Windows 10 launch has created self-regulated inventory control. PC vendors and the channels tried clearing inventory as much as possible before the Windows 10 launch.”
Lenovo maintained the top position in worldwide PC shipments in the second quarter of this year, but the company suffered a year-on-year shipment decline for the first time since the second quarter of 2013. Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Latin America and Japan were tough regions for Lenovo, as the company experienced double-digit shipment declines.
HP also experienced a shipment decline after five consecutive quarters of PC shipment growth.
HP showed a steep decline in EMEA, which was potentially due to the currency impact. The company was also impacted by tight inventory controls in the consumer market before the Windows 10 launch.
For the second consecutive quarter, Dell experienced a decline in PC shipments. Dell’s decline was relatively moderate in EMEA compared with Lenovo and HP.
Analysts said this could be partly attributed to Dell’s lower presence in the consumer market, which created less impact to Dell from the Windows 10 pre-launch inventory control.

(The Star) Western dishes with an Asian touch

Although fusion cooking needs no introduction in Malaysia’s burgeoning culinary world, one restaurant has successfully mastered the fine line in fusing European and Asian flavours.
Skillet At 163 in Kuala Lumpur, a casual fine dining restaurant, is headed by chef and chocolatier Raymond Tham.
A man of many skills, Tham has worked at Bermuda’s Fairmont Southampton Resort and Surrey’s Wentworth Golf Club before returning to Malaysia.
Here, he taught Advanced Patisserie at KDU University College before setting up the restaurant.
As co-owner of the restaurant, Tham has applied his Asian roots to Western-style cooking techniques – resulting in a menu that is sure to excite.
The restaurant serves from two sets of menus for lunch and dinner.
While the lunch menu is catered to those looking for a quick but fulfilling bite, the dinner menu invites guests to linger and savour their unique dishes.
During a recent sampling of its dinner menu, we started off with the Scotch Egg with Asian Slaw (RM28), a traditional English dish. Tham said the dish reminded him of his time in England.
Consisting of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, it is then coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried.
What made this one of Tham’s signature dishes was his treatment of the sausage meat and accompanying salad.
“Originally, pork is used, but because we are a pork-free restaurant, I used chicken meat instead.
“I also added chilies and lemongrass to enhance the flavours,” he said.
With its bright yellow centre and resting on a salad bed of pickled bunga kantan, frisée and ulam raja, the dish was visually appetising and tasted even better.
The warm creamy yolk and hint of spiciness went well with the coolness of the salad.
Next came the Pan-Seared Hokkaido Scallops (RM44) with pineapple carpaccio, pink peppercorns and tarragon dressing.
At first glance, this dish looked simple and uncomplicated but its true test was in its taste.
Surprisingly, the sweetness of the pineapple did not overpower the perfectly seared scallops. The scallops had a delicate flavour but had a “bite” from the peppercorns and luscious dressing.
For mains, pasta lovers will enjoy the Signature Asian Aglio Olio (RM36).
Instead of the usual ingredients like garlic and parsley, Tham has rejuvenated the dish by adding dried shrimp and curry leaves. On top of this are four large tiger prawns that were lightly sauteed.
Another signature dish is the Braised Australian Brisket (RM39) with Belgian cocoa mass, glazed root vegetables and potato mash.
The beef was tender while the hint of chocolate added depth and denseness to the dish.
The mash was seasoned well and complemented with the crunchiness of the root vegetables.
For something truly unique, the Chicken Mille Feuille (RM39) was an exciting experience.
Traditionally, a mille-feuille is made up of layers of puff pastry and cream.
Inspired by this French dessert, Tham replaced these ingredients with chicken otak-otak, spring rolls, cashew crumbs, pickles and percik sauce.
He served the dish with fried risotto balls and seasonal vegetables.
Any visit to Skillet At 163 must end with one of Tham’s desserts.
The Texture of Chocolate and Liquid Nitrogen Sorbet (both priced at RM45 each) were a revelation.
The chocolate dessert was particularly memorable with its various components of chocolate sphere, white chocolate popcorn, roasted cocoa nibs and chocolate soil.
When served at your table, liquid nitrogen is poured into the sphere where it instantly freezes the white chocolate.
The sphere is then broken and its treasures uncovered – simply delectable.
Meanwhile, the Watermelon and Lychee Sorbet is sure to delight guests both visually and texturally as the mixture is light and flavoursome and prepared right before the diner.
SKILLET AT 163, Fraser Place, Lot 163, No 10, Jalan Perak, Kuala Lumpur, (Tel: 03-2181 2426). Business hours: 11am to 10.30pm. Closed on Sundays.
This is the writer’s personal observation and is not an endorsement by StarMetro.

(The Star) Fresh produce from Taiwan

Plump mangoes and luscious grapes from Taiwan are all the rage at Tesco.
Encouraging home cooking and dining, the annual fresh produce fair features 11 types of high quality fruits and vegetables sourced from Changhua county in Taiwan.
Tesco Stores (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd commercial director Simon Ng said although 70% of Tesco’s fresh produce were sourced from local farmers, occasional produce fairs improve customer experience.
“It always excites our customers when we bring in seasonal imported produce.
“A lot of planning goes into making sure the supplies arrived on time.
“We also have a technical team at our distribution centre at Simpang Pulai to control the safety and quality of the products,” he said.
Although 70% of the produce at Tesco comes from local suppliers, Ng said future fairs at Tesco would include fresh produce from Australia and South Africa.
Partnering with Tesco since 2002, Euro Atlantic managing director Ebby Loo said imported fruits and vegetables supplied by the company were selected according to its season and popularity.
“We have been importing fresh produce from Taiwan on a large scale for five years now and this is our third fair.
“Changhua county in Taiwan is known for its good climate and that is why we import most of our fruits and vegetables from there.
“Based on previous fairs, the popular fruits are always the Kyoho Grapes and the mangoes which are currently in season.
“Our lowest-priced item is the Enoki mushrooms and our most expensive item is the Apple Mango which is about RM15 to RM20 per kg,” she said.
Loo added that the demand for Taiwan fresh produce had been increasing steadily and would continue to grow popular among local customers.
Changhua county government magistrate Wei Ming-ku was all smiles during the launch.
“Malaysia is one of our biggest customers and I hope we will continue our strong relationship,” he said, while handing out fruit skewers to the guests.
Taiwan Fresh Produce Fair 2015 at all Tesco stores in Malaysia is on until Aug 5.

(The Star) Prasarana: No objections to sharing routes with Bas Selangorku

Rapid Bus Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Zulkifli Mohd Yusoff has clarified in a statement that the company has never objected to having the Bas Selangorku free bus service plying its routes.
He said this in response to the article “End of the road for coupon parking system” inStarMetro yesterday, which had quoted Subang Jaya Municipal Council president Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan as saying that Rapid Bus, a subsidiary of Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, had objected to the routes as it would affect its business.
Zulkifli said Rapid Bus welcomed and supported the introduction of Bas Selangorku, adding that the routes were decided together with the relevant authorities.
“We took into account the new service and fine-tuned our existing routes to mitigate any overlaps.
“We are open to reviewing the alignment of the bus routes with the council and other relevant authorities as needed to provide better connectivity and mobility to commuters and the general public,” he added.

(The Star) Bank Negara stemming the decline of the ringgit

Dealers told StarBiz that the central bank had in a recent briefing with them reiterated its stand that the ringgit would not be pegged against the US dollar, and that its value would be determined largely by market forces. Bank Negara had, however, expressed its concern that the ringgit had weakened far beyond Malaysia’s economic fundamentals.
Dealers told StarBiz that the central bank had in a recent briefing with them reiterated its stand that the ringgit would not be pegged against the US dollar, and that its value would be determined largely by market forces. Bank Negara had, however, expressed its concern that the ringgit had weakened far beyond Malaysia’s economic fundamentals.

PETALING JAYA: As the downward pressure on the ringgit mounts, Bank Negara has adopted gentle suasion methods to stem the decline.

Senior executives of the central bank have had briefings with foreign exchange (forex) dealers from local and foreign financial institutions this week discouraging them from entering into transactions that result in selling the ringgit.

This comes as dealers get offers to enter into a “put” option for the ringgit at four to the US dollar over a period of between three and six months.

What this effectively means is that the counter party has taken the view that the ringgit will go to RM4 against the US dollar in three months and is prepared to take delivery from the dealer at that price when the time comes.

“If the ringgit hits RM4 against the US dollar, a lot of dealers stand to make a lot of money,” said a currency strategist.

The appeal by Bank Negara is part of a measure to defend the ringgit, which slid to fresh 17-year lows against the US dollar yesterday.

Dealers told StarBiz that the central bank had in a recent briefing with them reiterated its stand that the ringgit would not be pegged against the US dollar, and that its value would be determined largely by market forces. Bank Negara had, however, expressed its concern that the ringgit had weakened far beyond Malaysia’s economic fundamentals.

Given the prevailing global economic conditions, the central bank argued that the “fair value” of the ringgit should be around 3.65 against the US dollar, according to dealers who had attended the briefing with Bank Negara.

The ringgit hit a fresh 17-year low of 3.8288 against the US dollar in intra-day trade yesterday before settling at 3.8190 against the greenback at the close. That represented a depreciation of about 0.23% from the closing value of 3.8103 on Wednesday.

Year-to-date, the ringgit has lost about 8.4% against the US dollar, making it the worst-performing currency in Asia.

But there are other currencies such as the Australian and New Zealand dollars that have depreciated by 11% and 15%, respectively, against the US dollar since January this year.

Bank Negara is seen to have been intervening in the forex market to stem the decline of the ringgit in recent months based on the significant decline in the country’s forex reserves.

As of July 15, Malaysia’s international reserves, that comprise the forex reserves, standard drawing rights and gold reserves, stood at a five-year low of US$100.5bil (RM384.3bil), down from US$105.5bil as at end-June.

The forex reserves are now at US$92bil versus US$120.3bil a year ago. Then, the international reserves were at US$131.9bil.

With Malaysia’s forex reserves on a declining trend, currency strategists said it was not surprising that Bank Negara would resort to other measures such as appealing to dealers to support the ringgit.

“The significant decline in foreign reserves has put a constraint on Bank Negara’s initiative to defend the ringgit, hence the central bank will have to adopt other means to double up the effort,” Saktiandi Supaat, head of forex research at Malayan Banking Bhd in Singapore, said over the phone.

Saktiandi said he forecast the lowest the ringgit could go would be 3.85 against the US dollar.

“But we still think the ringgit’s exchange rate would average at 3.82 against the greenback in the current quarter, before strengthening to 3.78 in the fourth quarter of the year,” he said.

The downward pressure on the ringgit remained strong due to a combination of external and domestic uncertainties. Externally, the impending US interest rate hike has been causing massive capital outflows from emerging economies, including Malaysia.

The pressure on the ringgit is compounded by Malaysia’s exposure to weak commodity prices such as that for crude oil, liquefied natural gas and crude palm oil, as well as renewed domestic political uncertainties and the scandal involving state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

So far, in Malaysia, foreign capital outflow has been more prevalent in the equities market, while foreign holdings in domestic bonds have been relatively steady.

“The key to watch now is the potential outflow from ringgit-denominated bonds,” Andy Ji, a currency strategist at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Singapore, said.

Ji noted that there could be a significant negative impact on the ringgit if outflows happened in the local currency bond market due to the high foreign shareholdings in Malaysian Government Securities.

Reuters recently quoted Chua Hak Bin, Singapore-based head of emerging Asia economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, as saying that the ringgit could weaken to 3.86 by end-2015 and 4.05 by end-2016 against the dollar.

“You can try to stabilise the ringgit, but ultimately, I don’t think it can stand the correction. They will have to adjust to whatever new equilibrium,” Chua had told the newswire.


Thursday, 30 July 2015

(The Star) Positive steps should be taken to stop depreciation of ringgit

JOHOR BARU: More effort is needed to reverse the sliding of the ringgit as the depreciation of the currency will hurt the country’s economy in the long term.
Johor MCA Government Affairs Liaison bureau head Michael Tay said that a weak currency would lead to the Government to forking out more to pay off the country’s external debts, which was in US dollars.
“Bank Negara needs to carry our more measures to boost our currency including looking at the possibility of increasing the interest rate by half a point,” the businessman who studied finance and economics said.
Tay added that the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the present uncertainty due to the country’s political problems had caused foreign investors to be cautious about investing in the country.
“By increasing the interest rate, more money will be parked in the country. People who used to get low interest rates in Singapore will move their money to our local banks.
“All this will be good for our economy.
“I do not think increasing the interest rate by a little, will have a big impact on public spending,” he said in an interview.
He added that the Government should pursue mid and long-term measures instead of worrying too much about “hot money” coming or leaving the country.
The current average fixed deposit rate is about 3.2%
Tay added that Singapore had made sure its currency remained strong as it uses it currency as a buffer against inflation and for better buying power when it comes to imports.
“In the past, the currency of Malaysia and Singapore was the same.
“Now for each SGD$1 is almost RM2.80,” he said.
Tay said this meant the Government would have to work harder to find more money to pay off its debts as the currency weakens. One way to combat the problem was to impose more taxes, he said.
“Those doing import businesses are the worst hit.
“The prices of imported products will go up and this will further burden the people especially the middle class,” he said.
Tay added that there was also a lot of talk that more people were starting to open bank accounts in Singapore or accumulate more foreign currency as they expect the ringgit to slide further.
Tay added that the lure of better pay would result in Malaysia losing its talents to other countries especially Singapore.
“We want to be a developed country in the next 10 years. How are we going to achieve this if we continue to lose our talents overseas?” he questioned.
Meanwhile Johor Indian Business Association chairman P. Sivakumar said that the sliding of the ringgit would continue to hurt consumers especially the middle-income and low income earners.
“We are yet to be a fully self-sustaining economy. A lot of our consumer products especially dairy, meat, vegetables and fruits are imported.
“Surely with a weak currency, the importers will raise prices.
“The public is already facing price increases following the implementation of GST,” he said, adding that another round of price increase would burden the people.
Sivakumar added that the Government needed to bring back investor confidence by addressing the political and economical problems in the country.

(The Star) Plans to introduce coupon system will generate revenue for MPJBT

JOHOR BARU: The Johor Baru Central Municipal Council (MPJBT) has plans to introduce a paid parking coupon system in Gelang Patah and Bukit Indah to prevent those working in Singapore from hogging the parking bays.
The parking lots in these areas have not been gazetted yet and MPJBT has plans to manage the parking there.
MPJBT president Salehuddin Hassan said the council had received numerous complaints about the lack of parking space as those travelling through the Second Link across the border for work, daily, would take up the lots for the whole day.
“There was a slight problem during the fasting month as the cars were parked there until late evening and this caused a problem for the Ramadan bazaar traders when they wanted to open their stalls,” he said adding that the public parking lots in Bukit Indah and Gelang Patah were currently free of charge.
He was speaking to reporters after hosting MPJBT’s Hari Raya open house, which was also attended by Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin.
Salehuddin added that the parking zones in Gelang Patah and Bukit Indah were under Zone B.
The management for parking had beenoutsourced to Fajar-Able Parking (Johor) Sdn Bhd and Metro Parking who oversee the parking system in the state.
“The Mentri Besar asked if the council preferred to handle the parking system at Gelang Patah and Bukit Indah and I agreed as this means that 100% of the compounds and revenue will come directly to MPJBT,” he said.
He also said that the council currently gets about RM80,000 monthly in revenue from the 40,000 parking spaces within its jurisdiction.
Separately, MPJBT will soon also move its headquarters to a new location in view of its plan to upgrade to a city status soon.
”We are discussions with the relevant authorities on the move as the existing RM16mil building in Skudai is getting too cramped to accommodate the growing number of taxpayers,” he said.
He said they were looking to get a piece of 8.09ha land from UEM Sunrise to build the headquarters in Nusajaya.

(The Star) Relief for mall occupants as rentals likely to fall

KUCHING: Occupancy rates for shopping malls here are expected to drop further as more retail spaces from new projects are coming into the market.
According to CH Williams Talhar & Wong (WTW), several new malls currently being built would add some 1.74 million sq ft of retail space to the market when these are completed this year and in 2016.
Due for completion in the current quarter is Viva City Mega Mall along Jalan Wan Alwi, which would offer a net lettable area (NLA) of 1.3 million sq ft. The Matang Mall and Moyan Square shopping mall projects along Jalan Matang would each provide NLA of 150,000 sq ft when completed this year.
The Emporium project along Tun Jugah, which was originally planned to offer a NLA of 132,460 sq ft, had its number of retail units scaled down and to be sold on strata title basis following the revision of its building plans, said WTW in its 2015 Property Market Report released recently.
“After an active year of retail additions in 2013, there was a lull in 2014 with only Emart Hypermarket (150,000 sq ft) at Jalan Batu Kawa completed and opened in July.
“There is fear of saturation in the retail sector as occupancy rates for shopping malls have decreased somewhat compared with the previous year and is expected to decrease further,” said the leading real estate services firm.
“Due to the increased supply of retail space in the market, rental rates have had to stay competitive with rates of not more than RM20 psf in order to secure new tenants and maintain old ones.
“Retail prices have also not gone up much as seen from recent launched retail units at not more than RM2,000 psf which is on par or even less than the rates commanded a few years ago.”
On the hotel sector, WTW said two new hotels – 360 Waterfront Hotel and Majestic Tower Hotel – were expected to be completed this year.
The eight-storey 360 Waterfront Hotel, which is built on top of Plaza Merdeka, is a business/boutique hotel offering 290 rooms.
The proposed Majestic Tower Hotel was revived from an abandoned hotel project adjoining the existing Riverside Majestic Hotel owned by the Sarawak State Economic Development Corporation in the city’s golden triangle. Both hotel projects, according to WTWY, were making good progress in construction.
“Another significant development is the proposed Tabung Haji Hotel sited along Jalan Airport, which will offer 182 rooms, housed in anine-storey building with halal certificatioon.
“Construction is currently under way and slated to be completed by 2016. It will also include a convention centre and office podium,” said the report.
Last year saw the completion of the 325-room Imperial Hotel Kuching, which is annexed to the Boulevard Shopping Centre along the thriving suburbs of Jalan Datuk Tawi Sli.
Several new budget hotels, most of them either converted from existing shophouses or office buildings, also opened for business. These include the Padungan Hotel (36 rooms), Kemena View Hotel (39 rooms), Nova Hotel and Lot 10 Boutique (58 rooms). Except for Kemena View Hotel which is a five-storey purpose built hotel, the rest are mainly budget/boutique hotels.
“Hotel room rates continued to increase slightly for 2014, between 5% and 10%, whilst recording a higher occupancy rate with rooms fully booked during the Rainforest World Music Festival held every mid-year, the most celebrated event in the Sarawak tourist calender which draws close to 2,000 participants annually.
“Playing host to Visit Sarawak Year 2014, Kuching witnessed increased occupancy rates for its hotels,” said WTW.
It expects the hotel sector to remain positive this year with continued promotion of Kuching as the must-visit city in Sarawak.

(The Star) Google Street View for Sarawak and Sabah goes live

KUCHING: Google Street View for Sarawak and Sabah has gone live, with 80% of all public roads in the two states mapped.
Google said it now considered its mapping service for Malaysia complete, although new roads were still constantly being recorded while modified routes were refreshed periodically.
For Peninsular Malaysia, about 90% of public roads are available in Street View.
Google Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines & Emerging Markets managing director Sajith Si­va­­­­nan­dan said the availability of Street View in Sabah and Sarawak for the first time made Google Maps more useful, comprehensive and enjoyable for those interested in discovering the two states.
“Covering east Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) took roughly six months with cars packed with cameras, lasers and GPS devices.
“For trekkers mounted on hikers and climbers, each unit contained 15 lenses at the top of a mast and weighed almost 20kg,” he said during the launch yesterday.
Sivanandan said its services helped businesses get discovered.
“Roughly one in five desktop searches is about location. For mobile services, it is even higher at one in three.
“In Malaysia, where mobile Internet penetration is so high, it is safe to assume that the majority of users enjoy using Google Maps,” he added.
For Sarawak, Google has also uploaded panoramic views of the state’s Mulu National Park, a Unesco world heritage site.
Google considers its Mulu Street View as part of its Malaysian Special Collection, which includes Taman Negara, Pangkor and Langkawi.
Sarawak’s Assistant Tourism Minister Datuk Gramong Juna said he was excited to see how technology could change people’s lives.

(The Star) Visit Sibu Year moved to 2017

SIBU: Visit Sibu Year, which was originally proposed for next year, has been postponed to 2017.
The reasons, according Sibu Municipal Council deputy chairman Datuk Andrew Wong, were because the facilities and the AirAsia Sibu-Kota Kinabalu air connectivity were not ready yet.
The council had since the beginning of this year started to make preparations for the Visit Sibu Year 2016. This included having three mural paintings done in the town centre, improvement of roads condition and sprucing up the central market.
Wong said it could only renovate the town square after the Chinese New Year 2016, which falls on Feb 8 and 9.
“The town square has been heavily booked for activities until the Chinese New Year. During this time, we cannot renovate the facility there,” he told a press conference yesterday.
On the Sibu-KK flight, he said it was very much needed to bring in foreign tourists for the Visit Sibu Year. The Transport Ministry, he said, had yet to give its approval for AirAsia to commence this sector.
“To make Visit Sibu Year successful, the most important thing is to have (better) air connectivity, not only with one but two transit points,” he said.
Wong said at present Sibu-KK was served by MasWings only. Moreover, MasWings’ smaller aircraft could not carry many passengers at a one time and there was limited frequency.
He said it would need at least six months prior to the event for promotional activities.
“We can’t implement the flight in January as we need at least six months to do a lot of promotions for the flight so that tourists can get a cheaper airfare. At this moment, the ministry has yet to approve our application,” he said.
Sibu is currently served by domestic flights from Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Kuching, Miri, Bintulu besides Sibu-KK by MasWings.
Wong said despite the postponement of the event to 2017, it would officially launch it in January next year.

(The Star) Proposed structure to include an underground carpark

The Ipoh City Council plans to meet with all stakeholders to get their views on the plan to redevelop the Pasir Pinji wet market.
“We are planning to meet with all stakeholders, including traders and market-goers somewhere in August, before Hari Merdeka.
“Meanwhile, we are also trying to get allocation for redeveloping the market,” Ipoh City Council secretary Mohd Zakuan Zakaria said during a briefing on the redevelopment plan at the Pasir Pinji community hall on Tuesday.
Also present at the briefing was city councillor Chew Junn Weng, Pasir Pinji village chief Lau Yeow Him and Pasir Pinji assemblyman Howard Lee.
The redevelopment plan, which is estimated to cost about RM9mil, consists of the main market area and an underground carpark with 75 parking bays.
Mohd Zakuan (second from left), Lee and other council members being briefed on the redevelopment plan.
Mohd Zakuan (second from left), Lee and other council members being briefed on the redevelopment plan.
In the proposed plan, the market would have a high ceiling for better ventilation and each stall would be slightly bigger than the ones in the current market.
The elderly and traders would find the new market more convenient and practical than the old structure.
With the redevelopment period taking about two years, traders are expected to be temporarily relocated to an empty land near the Kelab Kilat field.
Mohd Zakuan said the market has been there for about 40 years and needs to be redeveloped.
“A lot has happened in 40 years. Refurbishment of the market could not go on forever.
“We have spent about RM34,102 on maintenance and repair works of the market,” he said.
In response to a suggestion from Chew, Mohd Zakuan also said that all existing traders in the current market would get their stalls in the redeveloped market.
Lee said he too hoped that the market could be redeveloped.
The present Pasir Pinji wet market needs an upgrade.
The present Pasir Pinji wet market needs an upgrade.
“However, it’s just my personal opinion. It’s the views of the stakeholders that are important.
“My service team has conducted a brief survey with the traders and a majority of them are not keen to redevelop the market,” he said.
“Only a small handful of traders want to see the place redeveloped,” he added.
Lee also suggested the city council look into the possibility of providing mini bus service within the area to ease traffic congestion near the market.
“Parking is an issue there, even with the underground carpark in the plan.
“With the mini bus servicing the people within a specific radius, it could reduce the number of people driving to the market,’ he said.

(The Star) New museum displaying works by 10 local artists

The newly opened Tai He Xuan Art Museum is holding its premier exhibition called the Malaysia Chinese Culture and Art Exchange Exhibition 2015.
Located at Level Two of Wisma Jelutong in Jelutong Road (above Maybank), Penang, the exhibition features 80 different paintings from various themes and styles.
Gallery advisor Lau Seong Leng said the 8,000sq ft gallery would be an art hub for artists to showcase their work.
“The paintings by 10 local artists are up for sale.
“The exhibition will go on for a month,” he said when met after the launching on Sunday.
The gallery is open on weekdays from 10am to 6pm.
“However, an appointment is required before your visit,” Lau said.
Also present was Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s political secretary Wong Hon Wai.
For details, call Lau at 012-5357992.