Saturday, 31 October 2015

(NST) Free LRT rides at 4 new stations until Nov 30

PUCHONG: From tomorrow until November 30, commuters can enjoy free rides at Rapid KL new stations - Awan Besar, Muhibbah, Alam Sutera and Kinrara BK5. 

This is the courtesy of Prasarana Malaysia Bhd (Prasarana), the the asset owner and operator of the Ampang Line LRT, Kelana Jaya LRT, KL Monorail and Rapid KL bus services. 

Those commuting between Sri Petaling and the four new stations can ask for free single journey tokens from the Customer Service officers. 

For those traveling beyond Sri Petaling can purchase their tokens from the ticket vending machines (TVM) and select their exit destinations. The trip to Sri Petaling will be free of charge. 

Commuters traveling to the new stations using single journey tokens should purchase their tickets from the TVMs and select their final destination including any of the four new stations. The travel beyond Sri Petaling to any of the new stations will be free of charge. 

"We strongly recommend commuters to use the MyRapid Card for seamless travel. They can avoid the queue," said Prasarana Malaysia Berhad chairman Tan Sri Ismail Adam at the opening ceremony of the four new stations today. 

He also introduced "Amy1," first of the 50 new six-car trains.

(The Star) PanaHome to launch four projects in the Klang Valley

Smart town: Smart houses built by Panahome for the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town. Wakabayashi says the group could utilise the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town model to expand its housing business in the Asean region
Smart town: Smart houses built by Panahome for the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town. Wakabayashi says the group could utilise the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town model to expand its housing business in the Asean region

PANAHOME Corp aims to implement two condominium and two landed property projects in the Klang Valley with a gross construction cost of about RM344mil in 2016.

“The two condominium schemes are scheduled for ground-breaking in April and July 2016, and are targeted for completion in March and July 2019.

“The landed homes, scheduled for ground-breaking in 2016, are targeted for completion in November 2017 and August 2018,” PanaHome overseas business division director Nobuo Takahashi says.

“We plan to achieve 50bil yen (RM1.78bil) in sales for the financial year 2018 from the housing business in Asia.

He says Malaysia is expected to generate 15bil yen (RM540mil), while the Asean region another 10bil yen (RM360mil).

“The remaining 25bil yen (RM830mil) will come from Taiwan,” Takahashi added.

In Malaysia and the Asean region, PanaHome would build properties catering to middle income groups with an annual pay of US$30,000 (RM130,000) to US$45,000 (RM194,000) and to the high-end segment with an annual income of US$45,000 (RM194,000) to US$100,000 (RM430,000).

 Futuristic design: Smart condos planned for Shioashiya Smart City. The group had developed 80 detached houses and 83 condominiums for Shioashiya Smart City, scheduled for completion in 2021.
Futuristic design: Smart condos planned for Shioashiya Smart City. The group had developed 80 detached houses and 83 condominiums for Shioashiya Smart City, scheduled for completion in 2021.

“We will use the pre-cast concrete construction to meet the demand and specifications in the Asean region,” he says.

In Indonesia, Panahome plans to develop 1,720 units for two township projects.

“In one of the projects, scheduled for ground-breaking in June 2016, the plan is to build 320 unit,” he says.

For the other Indonesian project, the plan is to build up to a maximum of 1,400 units.

In Thailand, Panahome plans to launch high-rise projects, which will be completed in November 2017 and March 2019.

PanaHome had in April set up a wholly-owned subsidiary PanaHome Asia Pacific Pte Ltd, which will focus on the expansion of the housing business in the Asean region except Malaysia.

In Malaysia, PanaHome Malaysia will transfer the projects it has in the Asean region except Malaysia to PanaHome Asia Pacific, so that it could focus on the business in the country.

For the financial year ending March 2019, Panasonic Corporation is targeting 10 trillion yen (RM360bil) in revenue, of which two trillion (RM72bil) is expected to come from its housing business division, comprising solutions for solar panels, lighting, and wiring devices.

Of the two trillion yen, PanaHome aims to generate 500bil (RM17.8bil) yen, of which 50bil yen (RM1.78bil) is expected to be contributed from overseas.

Meanwhile, PanaHome Asia Pacific managing director Kohjiroh Wakabayashi says that the group could utilise the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (FSST) model to expand its housing business in the Asean region, collaborating with Panasonic Eco Solutions company.

“We are currently negotiating for smart property projects, such as condominiums and service apartments, to be developed in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar, which have a value of 14.6bil yen (RM520mil) ,” he says.

The 60bil yen (RM2.14bil) FSST project, which is being developed in the Kanagawa prefecture to serve a population of 3,000 people, is scheduled for completion in 2018.

PanaHome is also developing the Shioashiya Smart City project in the Hyogo Prefecture, comprising smart homes equipped with a solar cell, fuel cell, and a energy creation-storage linked system to become a net zero energy town, with virtually zero carbon emissions.

PanaHome Corporation development environment branch leader Yasuhiro Muraoka says the group has developed 80 detached houses and 83 condominiums for Shioashiya Smart City, scheduled for completion in 2021.

On the impact of depreciating Asean currencies, Panasonic Asia Pacific says in a statement that the currency depreciation itself would not affect expansion plans as mid-term growth plans had been put in place, focusing on five business areas of consumer electronics, housing, automotive, business to business (B2B) solutions and devices, with housing and automotive as growth drivers.

“From the regional perspective, the strategic regions comprising South-East Asia and Oceania are the growth drivers.

“Countries in the Asean region, like Myanmar especially, are seeing rising infrastructure developments and the consumers are hungry for goods and services that will improve their quality of life

“Panasonic sees the opportunity to provide business to consumers (B2C) and B2B products and solutions that will create a better life, a better world for people in these developing nations,” the statement says.

The statement says since 2012 Panasonic has adopted “locally autonomous management” with integrated capability of product development, manufacturing, and sales, so that it is able to provide products and services that really meet the needs of local customers.

On its fiscal year 2015 first quarter results, the statement says sales increased particularly in the automotive, industrial and solutions business.

“The business performance forecast for this year is expected to remain unchanged, with sales driving growth mainly in the B2B solutions, automotive and housing business.

“While consumer electronics (B2C) is a growth driver for Panasonic in this region, there is also a strong focus on developing the B2B sector to tap on the increasing infrastructure investments across the region and the rapid demand growth across different industries including mobility, business communication, entertainment, and public safety as the countries develop,” the statement says.

Source :

(The Star) ‘There’s relief for middle-class’

PETALING JAYA: Increases in reliefs under Budget 2016 can amount to significant tax savings for single-income middle-class families, says former Inland Revenue Board senior assistant director Yong Poh Chye (pic).

Interview with Yong Poh Chye, Tax Advisory and Management Services Sdn Bhd executive director on the Budget 2016, benefits to middle income groups. IZZRAFIQ ALIAS / The Star. October 27, 2015.
Yong said these increases – for a spouse who is not working (RM4,000, from RM3,000), child below 18 (RM2,000, from 1,000) and child above 18 in tertiary education (RM8,000, from 6,000) – totalled RM4,000.

He said an employee earning RM72,000 a year or RM6,000 a month could see his tax payable fall from RM2,100 (for 2015) to RM1,700 for (2016), translating to RM400 in savings (see chart).

“This means more disposable income for those entitled to these reliefs,” said Yong, who now runs a tax consultancy.

Many Malaysians in the middle-income group assume that they get little relief under Budget 2016 and will lose out in other ways due to higher costs.

But those increases in reliefs announced by the Government are targeted at the middle-income group.

Yong pointed out that these reliefs made no difference to lower-income families who would not be taxable.

However, those earning over RM3,000 a month, with children below 18 years old, will lose out on the RM100 schooling assistance.

From January 2016, this assistance will only be given to students from households with a monthly income of RM3,000 and below.

Yong said the RM100 direct financial assistance should have been maintained for all students.

“Students who get the money will be grateful to the Government and will realise why its important to pay their taxes when they grow up.”

The Government, however, has decided that the RM250 1Malaysia Book Voucher programme will continue. But to prevent misuse of redemption, it will only be allowed in designated bookshops.

The 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) for households with a monthly income of RM3,000 and below has also been raised from RM950 to RM1,000, while for households with a monthly income between RM3,001 and RM4,000, from RM750 to RM800.

Source :

(The Star) Two new routes to scale summit

KOTA KINABALU: Those trekking up to the summit of Mount Kinabalu can now choose between two equally challenging routes from the Laban Rata resthouse area, state Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun said.
He added the first trail called the Ranau route was scheduled to be opened by Dec 1 and takes an easterly course from Laban Rata located at an altitude of 3,270m.
Hikers would be able to see parts of the scenic Ranau valley before reaching the Sayat Sayat hut area at 3,668m.
The second trail called the Kota Belud route would take a westerly course from Laban Rata, also ending at Sayat Sayat.
“Hikers would then trek from Sayat Sayat to Low’s Peak like before,” he said after launching Google Maps Street View for Sabah here.
He said the new routes which replace the old summit trail that had become impassable following the June 5 Mount Kinabalu earthquake were more challenging but did not require climbers have special mountaineering skills such as abseiling.
“We were fortunate to have mountaineering experts from Japan and Canada help carve out the new trails,” Masidi added.
He said not more than 100 climbers would initially be allowed up the summit when the Ranau trail opens.
“We will look at the situation and take into account the mountain’s carrying capacity which is 192 people,” Masidi added.
The June 5 magnitude 6 earthquake resulted in avalanches that killed 18 people including four mountain guides.
Sabah Parks had closed the mountain trail following the quake and carried out extensive repairs including to accommodation facilities at Laban Rata.
Among the Google Maps Street View images of Sabah was of the trail to Mount Kinabalu prior to the earthquake.
Google Street View Operations Lead Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand Nhazlisham Hamdan said they intended to update the images of the mountain.
Street View began recording images around the main roads of Sabah including scenic locations like the islands of Kapalai, Mabul and Mantanani.
The availability of Street View for Sabah’s beautiful natural attractions for the first time makes Google Maps more useful, comprehensive and enjoyable for anyone interested in discovering more about the state’s natural heritage, he said.
Nhazlisham said Street View now covers 80% of Sabah and Sarawak as well as 90% of the peninsula’s public roads.

(The Star) Malaysia and Czech Republic to expand trade

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia and the Czech Republic hope to further boost trade in education, defence and tourism.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman who met with his Czech counterpart Lubomir Zaoralek, said the two countries were working towards expanding current trade and investment links.
He said over the last ten years, bilateral trade had grown by 25% to US$410mil in 2014 with the balance of trade favouring Malaysia.
Anifah said that they agreed to expand cooperation in the education sector as there are 227 Malaysians currently pursuing medical studies in the country with 241 having already graduated.
Another area for potential cooperation was in tourism, he said in explaining that nearly 10,000 Czech citizens had visited Malaysia in 2014.
Zaoralek, meanwhile, said that his country offered a lot of opportunities to Malaysians to pursue various technical courses as well as Czech-manufactured radar systems and trucks.
He said he would bring this to the attention of Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein during his meeting with him in Kuala Lumpur.
In extending his condolences to Malaysia on the two air tragedies of MH370 and MH17, Zaoralek said the Czech Republic wants the perpetrators responsible for shooting down MH17 over Ukraine to face the law.

(The Star) Second swiftlet eco park to open in Mukah Division

KUCHING: Sarawak is to develop a second swiftlet eco park to produce edible bird’s nest for the export market.
Sarawak State Economic Development Corporation (SSEDC),which has been tasked by the state government to spearhead the development of swiftlet farming, will partner a private company to undertake the planned multi-million ringgit swiftlet eco park project in Mukah Division.
Agro-food division acting head Anas Nasir said the SSEDC board approved the collaboration with Mukah Swiftlet Eco Park Sdn Bhd (MSEP) on the joint-venture project in Beruan between Igan and Kuala Matu a month ago.
“The project on 20ha will involve the construction of 28 units of two-storey buildings for swiftlet farming. Construction work will commence upon the signing of a joint venture agreement,” he told Metro Sarawak. The project will be located in a mangrove swamp.
MSEP, which is an experienced swiftlet farm operator, will have a 70% stake in the joint-venture project with SSEDC taking up the rest.
The price of unprocessed bird’s nest soared to around RM4,500 per kg during the good times five years ago. The price then plunged to a low of around RM1,300 per kg after China imposed a ban on the import of cleaned bird’s nest from Malaysia in 2011.
The ban was lifted in December 2013 with eight Malaysian companies given permission to export to China.
According to a major swiftlet farm owner in Mukah Division, local unprocessed bird’s nest prices have recovered gradually to between RM1,650 and RM1,800 per kg depending.
Most farms sell their raw bird’s nest to local processors or middlemen. The market price of processed bird’s nest has recovered to between RM2,600 and RM2,800 per kg.
There was a sharp rise in the number of new bird houses five or six years ago. A conservative estimate then put the number of swiftlet houses at some 5,000 statewide.
Sarawak also produces bird’s nest from its many caves,the most popular one is Miri’s Niah Cave famed for its superior quality birds’ nest.
Anas said SSEDC’s pioneer swiftlet eco park project in Daro, Mukah Division would be fully operational soon. Four of the 10 units of double-storey buildings have been completed while the other six are under construction.
In 2010, SSEDC and Peninsular Malaysia-based Borneo Resources Synergy Sdn Bhd inked a RM40mil joint venture agreement to develop Sarawak’s first swiftlet eco park in Balingian, Mukah.The project, however, did not take off.
Anas said SSEDC was seeking more investors to jointly open up four more areas where it had secured state land for the development of swiftlet eco parks. Three of the areas are in Balingian and cover about 4ha,20ha and 23ha respectively while the fourth identified site is a 25.5ha mangrove swamp in Matu.
He said a study had revealed that Mukah, Daro and Matu in the lower Rejang basin were found to be most ideal for swiftlet farming.
Agriculture and Agro-based Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Malaysia exported 145 tonnes of edible bird’s nest worth close to RM2bil last year. Before China banned imports, Malaysia was exporting some 250 tonnes of the delicacy to the mainland.
The Malaysian Federation of Bird’s Nest Traders Association has put the number of swiftlet houses nationwide at some 60,000 a year go.

(The Star) A helping hand for the forests

A flora and fauna education centre has been launched at Pulau Banding, Gerik.
Named the Belum Discovery Centre (BDC), the facility was co-established by Pulau Banding Foundation (PBF) and Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) to educate visitors, both foreign and local, about the natural eco-system and biodiversity of the 130 million-year-old Belum-Temenggor tropical rainforest complex.
The RM1.8mil centre aims to promote research and eco-tourism through the sustainable development of the rainforest eco-system.
PBF adviser Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal Abu Bakar said the BDC will provide experiential education about the environment and biodiversity for the public.
The centre aims to reach out especially to students, from pre-school to university level.
“It is more than just a museum. BDC is a hands-on learning centre that encourages touching, feeling, picking up and handling the exhibits,” Mustapha Kamal said during the launch of the centre last Saturday.
The launching of the BDC was conducted by Mustapha Kamal and YSD governing council member Caroline Christine Russell.
Russell and Mustapha Kamal releasing freshwater fish into the centre’s pond to mark the centre’s official opening.
Russell and Mustapha Kamal releasing freshwater fish into the centre’s pond to mark the centre’s official opening.
PBF chief executive officer Datuk Dr Abdul Rashid Ab Malik said the centre also offers an open and interactive exhibit area where visitors can learn more about flora and fauna and rainforest eco-systems in an actual rainforest complex.
“The centre will act as a focal point in promoting the existing ecotourism in this region.
“We would like to ultimately position BDC as a national resource centre for Malaysian rainforests where researchers, conservationists, academicians, scientists or anyone interested can utilise our collated data and collective expertise, instead of going through the challenges of setting up separate interpretative centres when BDC is already available as a key depository,” Abdul Rashid said.
The BDC is located along the East-West Highway next to the Pulau Banding Rainforest Research Centre.
It is open to the public from 9am to 6pm daily.

(The Star) New name for centre

Starting off as a community project in some shoplots in Old Klang Road back in 1990, Kojadi Institute now has come of age.
Currently known as VTAR Institute after a rebranding and transformation exercise, it is setting its sights on taking in more students and offering more diversified vocational courses to benefit school leavers and youths.
MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the rebranding of the institute marked an important milestone for MCA and the Chinese community.
He said beyond a name change, the efforts also signified MCA’s push towards the transformation of its vocational education arm in line with Malaysia’s transformation and the demands of the global economy.
“It is truly a proud moment for our community as we witness the rebranding and transformation of VTAR Institute.
“This completes the cycle in our quest to provide affordable and quality education from childhood to university level,” he said, citing other educational institutions set up by MCA namely Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (Taruc) and Institute of Childhood Education Studies and Community Education.
Liow was speaking during the recent launch of the rebranding ceremony in Taruc campus in Setapak and the presentation of the National Dual Training System (SLDN) training centre certification by the Human Resources Ministry.
VTAR will occupy a four-storey building within the campus and its students will enjoy facilities such as a swimming pool, gymnasium and basketball court, among others.
Accompanying Liow at the function were MCA vice-presidents Datuk Lee Chee Leong, Datuk Dr Hou Kok Chung and Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, MCA Youth chief Senator Chong Sin Woon and state MCA leaders Datuk Seri Dr Lim Chin Fui, Datuk Hoh Khai Mun, Datuk Koh Chin Han and Datuk Ng Fook Heng.
Also present were Skills Development Department director-general Datuk Dr Pang Chau Leong, Taruc president Datuk Dr Tan Chik Heok, VTAR chairman Tan Sri Kuan Peng Soon, VTAR chief executive officer Tan Cheng Liang and other dignitaries.
Liow also said that it was timely to rebrand and transform VTAR to help train and produce a more innovative and skilled workforce to meet industry demands.
“To meet this demand, 50,000 additional places in vocational education needs to be created each year.
“VTAR is poised to capitalise on the opportunity provided by this gap,” he said, adding that MCA was confident VTAR could achieve this as it has the commitment, capabilities and capacity.
Liow added that VTAR was in the process of establishing collaborations with several industrial associations such as furniture, and small-and-medium enter-prises.
He said captains of industry were also very keen on VTAR graduates to help fill the talent gap and transform their production model.
Citing an example, Liow said one of VTAR’s innovative electronics students produced a prototype robot and 3D printer and saw a company offering him a job even before he graduated.
“I was told this happens often at our institutions where private firms are keen to hire our graduates. This is something to be proud of and should be maintained in future,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hoh, who is also a director of VTAR, said the institute will continue to re-engineer itself to be relevant to the needs of students and the employment market.
Currently, VTAR focuses primarily on skills programmes that have good employment and income potential, he added.
“Through existing and new courses as well as foreign collaborations, VTAR hopes to assist school-leavers and youths to lead a rewarding career,” he said.
In her speech, Tan said it was Liow’s vision to assist school dropouts as statistics showed that about 30% were from the Chinese community. She said Liow wanted them to be provided with skills training so that they too could contribute to nation-building.
“MCA has always emphasised the importance of education,” she added.
Courses offered at VTAR now included electrical installation and maintenance, beauty therapy, hairdressing and bakery, while courses on automotive and wireman as well as diploma in electronics will start next year.
VTAR is open for registration in January, June and October every year. The institute is located in Taman Bunga Raya, Off Jalan Malinja, Kuala Lumpur (via Gate 4 of Taruc campus). For more information, call 03-4149 8211.

(The Star) A place to focus on creativity

Nikon Malaysia has once again captured the hearts of shutterbugs with its new Nikon centre in Federal Arcade, Kuala Lumpur.
Taking over from the existing centre at Berjaya Times Square, which will cease operations at the end of October, this new facility 295 sq m boasts a photo gallery, exhibition space, service centre, seminar room and a showroom.
The Nikon centre aims to provide a unique and creative space for photographers to share their love for photography, while exchanging ideas and network in a friendly, stimulating and inspiring atmosphere.
(From left) Ng, Yamaguchi, and Lai launching the new Nikon centre at Federal Arcade Kuala Lumpur.
((From left) Ng, Yamaguchi, and Lai launching the new Nikon centre at Federal Arcade Kuala Lumpur.)
It will also play host to Nikon Club Malaysia members.
Nikon Malaysia and Nikon Singapore managing director Noriaki Yamaguchi said the Nikon centre would be a venue that cultivates passion and enthusiasm for photography.
“Given its spaciousness and brand new facilities, we are confident that the Nikon centre is well-equipped for photography enthusiasts to explore their passion.
“We will also continue to deliver state-of-the-art products and unrivalled experiences to users,” Yamaguchi said.
Also present at the launch was Futuromic Photo AV Sdn Bhd group managing director Francis Lai, who explained that visitors can get hands-on experience of Nikon’s latest products and receive assistance from the well-trained staff so they can make informed decisions before purchasing Nikon products.
Futuromic Photo AV is a master distributor of Nikon in Malaysia.
Nikon launches new Nikon Centre.
(A lion dance troupe blessing the new Nikon centre’s photo gallery.)
“This new Nikon home is positioned on a more prominent and convenient location so there is higher visibility for the Nikon brand name. We believe this new home will attract even more photo enthusiasts and tourists. Plus, it is the only such centre in Malaysia,” Lai said.
The launch also saw the Nikon centre photo gallery profiling its first photo exhibition by photographers and teachers from Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris Dr Zaffwan Idris and Syed Osman Syed Yussof; photographer and Multimedia University lecturer Che’ Ahmad Azhar; commercial photographer Sailor Salleh; and photographer, visual artist and film producer Mustaffa Ahmad (Tapa Otai).
Set to be a one-stop destination for camera and photography lovers, the new Nikon centre welcomes visitors with any level of experience in photography to practise, learn, discover inspiration and admire works of art from local and international photographers.
Yamaguchi signing a plaque at the launch of the new Nikon centre.
(Yamaguchi signing a plaque at the launch of the new Nikon centre.)
“It has been Nikon’s direction to promote the love of photography for more than 10 years now. I believe it’s also a healthy hobby that anyone can take up.
“With this centre, we hope we can help fuel the passion or inspire people to take photographs,” Nikon Malaysia Sdn Bhd director David Ng, who was also present at the launch, said.
The Nikon centre opens daily from 11am to 8pm.

(The Star) A rail answer to Penang traffic woes

Slow-moving traffic has become the daily bane of road users on Penang Island and has recently gotten worse.
With a population of 752,800 people, the island had 1.03 million private car registrations in 2014 – a staggering increase of 32.9% in seven years from 2008.
Road users commute for various reasons and the most common is out of necessity. The existing roads have failed to keep up with the increasing number of vehicles and this has increased traffic snarls.
Daily congestion
Nur Ruzzana Md Hashim, 29, a customer service executive who works in a logistics company in the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone (FIZ), battles traffic congestion daily.
“I spend an average of two hours daily on the road as there are bottlenecks in the FIZ area during peak hours, compared to only 15 to 20 minutes in the past.
“It is worse when it rains. I will need to leave home earlier in order to reach the office on time after dropping off my children to school,” she said.
Besides being wearied by the long commute and lack of rest, she lamented the impact of the time spent on the road.
“The long hours spent on the road leaves little time for me to have quality time with my family.
“Besides that, living expenses have gone up and so has my fuel consumption with the traffic congestion. I spend more than RM50 a week on fuel for a one-way distance of 6km.”
Those who have to endure the long commute from the mainland to the island for work or leisure are also feeling the impact.
While congestion and scarce parking are interrelated, insurance manager Gobal Narayanasamy, 42, finds this situation going from bad to worse.
“Coming from Bukit Mertajam, the daily traffic congestion is causing me delays in going to work.
“When I’m on the island, it’s very challenging to look for parking spots in town and at shopping malls. During the festive seasons, parking is a nightmare altogether,” he said.
Another mainland resident, Sher Ibrahim, 43, was not impressed with the current road conditions with not many alternative routes available.
“Road construction will not solve this issue in the long run, even the second Penang Bridge does not divert much traffic from the first bridge and in my opinion, is not the faster and cheaper route to the island,” he explained.
New infrastructure needed
The current traffic congestion calls for finding an immediatesolution besides strengthening the existing roads.
To the relief of Penangites, the state government recently unveiled the RM27bil Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) which is aimed at tackling the traffic congestion by 2030 and ensuring Penang’s prosperity beyond 2050.
Postgraduate student of Universiti Sains Malaysia, Nur Fatinah Abu Hassan, 24, resides on campus and relies heavily on public transport to get around the island during class-free days.
When asked about the state’s current public transport situation, she said it lagged behind other developing cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam, which has the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit Line 1 and 2, and the Klang Valley LRT Line 3, LRT Kelana Jaya Line, LRT Ampang Line, KL Monorail and KTM Komuter.
“I find the service of the local bus service operator Rapid Penang nowhere near satisfactory.
“The waiting time to go from Sungai Dua to the Sungai Nibong Terminal (approximately 2.3km) is around 30 minutes to one hour and the buses don’t really run according to schedule although it is one of the most used bus routes in Penang,” she said.
“The buses in Kuala Lumpur are much more frequent and on time.”
However, she welcomed the idea of the PTMP as a way to improve Penang’s transport system.
“It is good news for commuters like me when our government is taking measures to address the traffic issues while working towards making public transport more efficient as an alternative travel mode, especially with the proposed Light Rail Transit (LRT) and monorail,” she said.
Sustainable solution
To many Penangites, it is high time the state has a new form of land public transport besides buses and taxis.
Besides curbing traffic congestion, the rail-based public transport proposed by the government will be more reliable than other forms of public transport and reducereliance on private vehicles.
Mohd Yunus Yoon, 62, is concerned about the current state of congestion.
“It wasn’t like this 20 to 30 years ago. Traffic congestion started to worsen year by year about five years ago. How long more do we and the next generation have to endure before this gets worse?”
Mohd Yunus is looking forward to rail-based public transport on the island that is more environmental-friendly and provides good accessibility.
“I feel that this cost-efficient transport option will be a step in the right direction in changing the public transport scene in Penang.
“It will also reduce pollution caused by the many private vehicles on the road.
“It would be great if it covers major areas on the island such as George Town all the way to Bayan Baru. It is something people can look into,” he concluded.
Rashid Ismail, 42, who works in one of Penang’s well-known hotels, gave his thumbs up to the PTMP.
“It is timely for the government to introduce transport infrastructure that can cater for generations to come. They should go all out for it as it will benefit us all. It is a win-win situation for the residents and travellers as well.
“This will open up new opportunities for Meetings, Incentives, Conference and Events (MICE) tourism and leisure market for Penang.” he said.
Narayanasamy and Sher Ibrahim are also positive that the introduction of LRT will translate into shorter travelling time and also be cost-effective as they would not need to rely so much on their own private vehicles.
Addressing the traffic congestion could also mean a vast improvement in the quality of life.
“With an efficient public transport, I will be able to get to my destination quickly and without worrying about traffic congestion,” concluded Nur Fatinah.
Ending congestion in Penang is no longer an option and it is time for Penangites to live in a city where travelling between destinations become more convenient, accessible and stress-free.

(The Star) Surf while you eat

Internet access is now available at food courts in Petaling Jaya in Section 8, Section 14 and Section 52 which are managed by Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ).
The Section 8 food court is located near the Petaling Jaya Traffic Police Station while the Section 14 and Section 52 ones are located below the Digital Mall and inside Komplex C respectively.
The move is a state government initiative and about 2,500 WiFi spots are estimated to be available in Selangor by the end of the year, said Bukit Gasing assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran.
“Each constituency is allocated three locations to install the free WiFi. I picked the food courts.
“I hope with the free WiFi more will support the small-scale traders such as foodcourt operators.
“It will make these food courts more appealing, just like how people are attracted to the coffee chains for free Internet access,” he said.
He hopes the free Internet access will help the disadvantaged group.
“The public can now have their breakfast, lunch or dinner at these popular food courts with free access to Internet,” he said.
The free WiFi project was first launched in 2012 and it is now in its second phase.
In the first phase, free Internet was made available in Section 17 near the PKNS flats as well as in Section 5 in Gasing Indah.
“These two areas are among the low-cost areas in the Bukit Gasing constituency. Hence they were provided with free Internet in the first phase,” he said.
The free WiFi will enable about 30 people to be connected for 30 minutes within 100m from the modem located inside some of the food stalls.
Rajiv said his future plan was to provide free WiFi at the Taman Jaya public park.

Friday, 30 October 2015

(NST) Malaysia needs one million affordable homes: DPMM

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malay Chamber of Commerce Malaysia (DPMM) estimates that one million houses are needed throughout Malaysia to meet the needs of the middle income group. 

Of this number, 300,000 such houses are needed in the Klang Valley alone, said its president, Datuk Syed Ali Alattas. 

He told reporters this after a Post-Budget 2016 Forum here today, while expressing the hope that the government can create a housing bank to assist developers and house purchasers. 

“This institution is important as the cost of building 300,000 units of homes costing RM200,000 needs financing of about RM60 billion,” he added. 

According to Syed Ali, the developers association in Melaka reportedly failed to sell 50,000 low cost houses as banks refused to provide loans to buyers. 

Commenting on the Budget 2016, Syed Ali said there were still issues that had not been overcome, namely the financial allocation for ensuring the success of the Bumiputera agenda in the microfinancing business which was increasing. 

“Only 3.5 per cent of the budget allocation of RM260 billion was for this sector. In the current uncertain economic situation, the microfinancing business sector has been somewhat affected.” 

He said during the 1997-1998 economic crisis, DPMM had received more than RM500 million to assist half its members who were affected by it. “At that time, DPMM had less than 10,000 members. 

At present, we have more than 500,000 Bumiputera entrepreneurs registered with us, and who need assistance towards continuing their businesses,” Syed Ali added. --Bernama

(The Star) Positive views on MRCB’s triple job win

PETALING JAYA: Shares in Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB) jumped to a five-month high after analysts raised the counter’s target price, buoyed by recent contract wins and expectation of new awards next year.

The stock surged 7 sen, or 5.9% yesterday to close at RM1.27.

CIMB Research, in a report yesterday, said MRCB’s order book growth story remained intact with more potential contract wins in 2016, adding that the subdued property sentiment in the medium term would be mitigated by the new major strategic land deals, which should emerge as longer-term positive.

The research house raised its target price to RM1.40 from RM1.19 as it rolled it over to end-2016, still pegged to a 30% revalued net asset valuation discount.

“These wins are rerating catalysts with potentially more construction-driven catalysts ahead. More restructuring and asset divestment moves are likely catalysts too,” CIMB Research said.

MRCB on Wednesday announced that it had secured a RM1.6bil land swap deal to refurbish and transform the Bukit Jalil National Sports Complex (NSC) into an integrated development with a gross development value of RM14.6bil over 16 years from 2018.

MRCB had also entered into a RM270mil joint-venture agreement to acquire 53.3 acres to be transformed into a mixed development, which will be known as Cyberjaya City Centre, with a potential gross development value of RM5.3bil over the next seven years.

The upcoming city centre sits on a 141-acre freehold land parcel with an estimated gross development value (GDV) of RM8bil-RM10bil. The project would be developed over the next 15 years.

The group has also secured a project management and engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning (EPCC) contract for the development of 29.8 acres within the Kwasa Township in Sungai Buloh.

“This is largely a construction contract that substantially increases its order book by more than four times to RM3.9bil, although execution is over a 12-year period from 2016,” CIMB Research.

But beyond that, the job would require minimal funding by MRCB as the bulk of the cost would be borne by the project owner.

Meanwhile, HLIB Research said although the management contract with Kwasa Utama was sizeable at RM3.1bil, the impact to earnings in the near term was unlikely to be profound as its duration was spread across 12 years.

“That said, we are positive on this contract win as it would provide MRCB a steady stream of work flow for over a decade. Assuming work is conducted equally across its targeted duration, the contract would feed MRCB with RM262mil worth of jobs per annum from 2016 to 2027,” said HLIB Research, who recommended a “buy” rating on the company with a target price of RM1.36 based on the sum-of-parts method implying 31.3 times FY15 price earnings.

Kenanga Research, however, said MRCB’s landbanking ambitions and construction contracts’ being paid in kind would further tax the group’s cashflow.

It said the company’s “already high net gearing” of 1.12 times in the second quarter of 2015 would be further weakened to 2.27 times assuming full-debt funding of these deals. The probability of a cash call had increased while returns from these projects would take quite a while to materialise, it added.

“While we laud management’s capabilities in securing such attractive deals such as landbank and construction orderbook replenishments in such short span of time, we are re-iterating our concerns on its balance sheet whereby its net gearing stands at 1.12 times as of the second quarter, which is already relatively high compared with its peers that ranges between 0.30 times-0.40 times,” Kenanga Research said.

Based on simple extrapolation, MRCB would have to fork out a whopping RM2.65bil to fund its landbank replenishment ambitions, it said.

Currently, the research house said the company was “under review” while pending clarification from the developer’s management as to how it would finance its landbanking ambitions. Its previous rating was “market perform” with a target price of RM1.10.

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