Thursday, January 31, 2008

Credit Card Craze

When I was doing my Master's in Penn State in the late seventies, I used to come across at the shopping Mall called Hillside near State College, PA a big writing on the signboard, " Credit Cards are Bad for Health" little realising the truth being driven home thirty years later. Recently I read a newsreport in a local daily that 40% of credit card holders in M'sia only managed to pay the minimum amount when the bill is due at the end of the month or whatever date that is fixed as the due date for settlement of the debt. It seemed that this habit of using the plastic card without the fiscal discipline by the majority of card holders is ever increasing and some have been sued by the banks for defaults leading to notice of bankruptcy. At the same time, the banks competition for customers have got to a level whereby the minimum annual income has gone very low as much as those who earned only RM 20,000 a year could obtain a credit card provided the applicant is above 18 years old, if I am not mistaken. This craze is becoming a really unhealthy thing happening in our beloved country. Before we did not have this disease of indebtedness for uncontrollable spending because we pay most purchases by cash, and you can't afford to spend more than what you have in the pocket. It's high time that Bank Negara should impose more stringent conditions for card issuers not to simply dish out the plastic cards to all and sundry. Banks seemed to capitalize on credit card business because it charges almost an annual interest of 20% on the unpaid balance which is lucrative for them. Malaysians, especially the younger generation should realize that they are being taken for a ride by the banks when they offer all kinds of incentives to lure them to a life of indebtedness. The recent study shows that you could get into a lot of trouble when the accumulated balance which is unpaid after four years. Due to my unpleasent experience recently about my supplementary card being "lifted" to purchase air tickets from a budget airline, Air Asia which came to several thousand ringgit, it was a great hassle to cancel the amounts shown on my statement of account for that particular card. Eventually since I have found that the trouble taken to get rid of such a fraudulent transaction is touching my raw nerve, I have decided to cancel them altogether. And today when the bank called why I wanted to cancel them, my reply to the caller is that it's unhealthy for me to retain them. So after thirty years of my encounter with that warning at Hills, I am using it as a reason when the bank asked why I wanted to cancel my card which is not expiring until November 2008. Enough is enough.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Driving in Klang Valley is a hassle

I thought after having been driving for no less than 30 years in Klang Valley, the motorists using our roads and highways are more courteous and civil which unfortunately is the opposite. The blatant violation of traffic rules seemed to be habitual by some people and when I began to drive in KL way back in the late sixties Policeman were almost at every junction especially during peak hours and their presence became an effective deterrence for traffic violators. It must have been the downsizing policy of the public service which started when we were facing stagflation in the eighties that we gradually began to see less of the men in uniform in the streets. This is obviously one of the unintended effects which came about of such a well thought out policy. One big lesson to be learnt from this shortsightedness is that before an important policy is implemented, public surveys if not a sort of a referendum should be carried out. I just can't help comparing the way things are done in S'pore compared to what's going on here. For important public interest proposals, there's a lot of publicity and the consultation which goes on for the good of all. It's high time we adopt this attitude and throw out the mentality that the govt knows best.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

PSC's Golden Jubilee at PICC

Last thursday on 24 January 2008, I woke very early as promised in order to leave the house by 6.40 am to drive to Jalan Cenderasari (Jalan Young) and catch the bus to PICC Putrajaya for the Opening Ceremony of Public Service Commission's Golden Jubilee. It was supposed to be held last September but had been put on hold and only materialised on 24 January. I had been looking forward to meet old friends who served as Members of the PSC from end of 2000 till end of 2005. Not all turned up, just the usual faces, but it was worth it because it ended up with a lunch of Briyani Gam. I just want to reminisce how I came to play a small part in making the 50th Year Celeberation a reality. While I was still a Member of the PSC, during one of the monday's meeting of the Commission, I proposed that the PSC should prepare for the celeberation of it's establishment which coincided with the Nation's 50th Anniversary. Actually it was my friend's idea that I threw at the meeting. His name is Dato' Shabudin Imam Mohamad, who once served as the PSC's Secretary for about slightly less than 2 years. Of course he had lot's of ideas on what to prepare but I left it to the good sense of the Chairman to follow through as what needed to be done. After I finished my term, whenever I had the opportunity to remind those who were still serving as Members as to what happened to the decision to have the 50th Anniversary Celeberation of the establishment of the PSC but the answer given was in the negative. So it must have been a sudden wake up call by the present Chairman as what has been done to implement that decision. To cut the story short, the slip shod preparation by the Secretariat was overruled by the Chairman and the postponement was inevitable. All the while I had briefed Dato' Shabudin who kept on asking me what happened to his idea. I replied it wasn't anymore my responsiblity to remind them as I am no more a serving Member. He might have taken the initiative to call the Chairman to convey his piece of mind and it rekindled the fire that almost been extinguished. Well, i was only too happy to attend the function where the Deputy PM officiated the Opening Ceremony. It was the first time I had been to PICC and it is a grand building sitting on top pf a hill overlooking the Putrajaya lake. Notwithstanding it's grand facade from the outside, what's more important is whether the place is being utilised fully or not. Since there's a rival Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre which is right in Kuala Lumpur City Centre, the significance of PICC is perhaps only confined to having Govt. functions only, and if nothing is done to optimize it's usage, than it will become another white elephamt. With all the splendour and grand trappings of the PICC, if it's underutilised and only assemblies which are also done every month by Ministries and Departments seemed to add it's utilisation so as not to make it look like a wastage, then it's a poor investment by Putrajaya Holdings, the main player who's developing the Nation's administrative capital. By the look of it, he money could be better spent in eradicating poverty of KL Urban population who are still living in deprived conditions and squalor. We must go back to the basics of what the role of govt, should be, that is to ensure social justice and bring happiness to a wide spectrum of the country's population.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday Morning Drive to KLIA

Yesterday I just had to go out early even though it's sunday because I persisted in wanting to get on the new highway from KL direct to Putrajaya. This time I had the benefit of downloading the map from the concession company's website and also the directions when I phoned the company last week as how to gain access to the Putrajaya Highway from Shah Alam using Kesas Highway. So with my wife and daughter in the car to acompany me, we exited the LDP highway into Kesas highway after the Sunway Toll plaza and this time managed to get on it. The funny part is why on earth the information given is somewhat amateurish unlike a highway concession company like PLUS or KESAS does. Instead of telling people that to access the KL-Putrajaya highway at Carrefour and take a U-turn coming from Shah Alam along Kesas, all you should do is to take the exit going to Bukit Jalil Stadium and take a right turn at the traffic lights at the underpass leading to the Stadium as if you are going back to Shah Alam and Kelang. That would have made the direction giving instructions much easier and understood by road users.No wonder the name of the concession company itself is rather clownish, " Konsortium Lapangan Terjaya Sdn Bhd ". So it was a pleasent drive all the way to Putrajaya link and I took the exit after the Putrajaya Toll plaza heading to KLIA. My wife wanted very much to see where the LCC Terminal is because neither she nor me had been there even though my daughter had used the LCC Terminal when she went to S'wak with Haliza her close friend to attend the World Ethnic Musi Festival last year. The LCC Terminal is really quite far from the road which I took the exit after the passing the toll plaza leading to KLIA. No wonder Air Asia is begging the Govt. to allow them to use Subang Airport also. After seeing off my nephew and niece who were flying to the UK to join their parents who are now in Cambridge, we drove back straight to Pasar Taman Tun and after buying what we needed we went home. It was a Sunday well spent except I had interrupted sleep in the middle of the night by messages on my mobile phone from my brother telling me they had safely arrived at London Heathrow and were on their way to Cambridge. By then it was 2.00 am in the morning of 21 January 2008.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Blogging Bug

I seemed to have been bitten by the blogging bug, thanks to my dear friend whose blog name is "Pokku" but I prefer to address him as "Tengku" because the word "Pok" though in Trengganu speak means "Pak" but it rhymes with that place where in kampungs where padi is kept called "kepok" thus my reluctance to use it for Tengku Ali Bustaman. I should relate a story about how one day when Tengku and I went to Pulau Sentosa in S'pore and while I went into the place where the diorama about the history of S'pore is shown from Stamford Raffles to the Fall of S'pore to the Japanese in World War Two, I realised that my friend was not with me as we were together seeing the other scenario in the Museum. When I emerged from the museum I saw Tengku sitting at the bench dreaming away and I asked him why he left halfway. He related to me the reason why and he was visibly upset. He said he could not bear to see the scene where the ceremony of handing over the island to Stamford Raffles by Sultan Hussein whereby there was a boy wearing the regal attire sitting next to the Sultan was somewhat related to him. Then I began to understand his sadness of that episode in the past where he somehow is linked with it. That's why the Terengganu royalty still have relatives who at one time were the occupants of Istana Kampong Gelam, which is now turned into a museum. It looked like the Malays in S'pore would sadly become museum pieces and good only to serve as S'pore's past history as the Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew once in arrogance said that the history of the Malays is the history of Piracy.I do hope one day the light at the end of the tunnel will be fianlly shining bright in the face of the Senior Minister when the reclamation work which is going on to enlarge the tiny dot in the Asean region will be joined with mainland peninsula by a tsunami of their people who opt to merge with us once more. Today 20 January I am going to find the access to the Putrajaya highway from Kesas Highway coming from the direction of Shah Alam. On New Year's day I managed to go up the highway but infortunately it was in a different direction instead, so I had to exit the NPE and made a turnaround back to Federal highwat Route 2 on the way to KLIA to send my brother off on his flight to UK. I wasted about 30 mins in the merry go round and this time I have the directions printed out so that I could find my way through. Let's hope this time I would be able to hit the highway in the right direction, ie. to Putrajaya, InshaAllah.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Frustrating Week that was

It all began with quite a startling discovery on the 03 of January 2008 that someone had used my supplementary credit card held in the name of my daughter to make unauthorized transactions to purchase plane tickets online on four occasion.So the bank immediately blocked the card when I made the report and faxed to me a disputed transaction form to be filled by my daughter. So the next day I faxed back the form duly completed and phoned the Bank to find out whether the fax was received or not and was told that it would take more than 24 hours to find out. That was rather inefficient considering that it's a foreign localised multinational well known entity. So I laid the matter to rest waiting for the 24 hour gestation period to lapse. But what followed after that was somewhat like the one-time popular series that was shown on RTM about twenty years ago, entitled the "Forsythe Saga".What I had to go through was like a "Saga" too, except it's not a product which most likely is going to be hot on the market soon to be launched. On the 09 Jan I called again and the guy from the Bank said that it had been received. To my surprise I received a short message that the fax had not been received and that was the beginning of the frustration for the week. I called the bank again on the 13 Jan and was told that I had to send again another fax because it wasn't clear enough. I wondered whether it was true because the message said clearly that I had not sent the form back to the Bank. So I sent another fax again but the lady on the other end said she could not receive it perhaps due to a technical problem on her fax machine. She asked me to fax again to another number and she could only check whether it was received on the next working day. Since it was a sunday, so she rang me up on tuesday to tell me that since there's no trace of the form, another fax is necessary. I flatly refused and told her off that what a rotten service the Bank had come to and put the phone down. On second thoughts I asked my daughter to fax the same form again from her office the next day. In my pique, I called again the Bank the next day to check and this person asked me to send another fax, again I said I am not going to but asked for the procedure on lodging a complaint to the Bank. She got to me again after a long pause because she had to consult her manager on my query. I was told to write officially to the Service Recovery Unit and they would investigate my complaint. So I wrote a long hand written complaint giving the chronolgy of events that had taken place from the 03 January on discovering the false transactions.Yesterday 17 January, I received a call saying that my new fax had been received without telling me which date and which number it was sent from and she quickly put the phone down before I could give her another shelling. So I am waiting for the outcome of the investigation which I had been given the understanding that it would take them 45 days to know the final outcome of the false transaction. Anyway I had emailed the Bank that I would like to terminate all my credit cards with the Bank to which I am still waiting for a reply. In my more than 30 years of having an account with the Bank which includes about more than 18 years of using their credit cards, this is the first time I had to face this blardy hassle and I am thinking of closing my account with it altogether once the matter has been resolved. I thought the public sector are laggards where service is concerned but this is a well known mutinational Bank which is opening up more branches and the CEO is an expatriate. It was much better when it was headed by a local guy. The moral of the story is, when you rest on your laurels, inevitably the way is a downward slide. The Brand name might not last long after all.

Monday, January 14, 2008

My friend Pokku

It was my former colleague when I was with the Implementation and Coordination Unit of the PM's Dept. who arranged a lunch appointment on the last friday of 2007 at Restoran Negori in Amcorp Mall to meet the author of the bestseller on MPH booklist for the month entitled " Growing Up in Trengganu" who goes by the pen name of Awang Goneng. His real name is Wan A. Hulaimi and he was once the BERNAMA man who opened it's branch office in London and he had stayed back ever since he was posted, but now a free-lance writer. Pokku that's my friend blogger's name and his blog is entitled "Dibawah Rang Ikang Kering". As a Trengganu guy, he's of course busy promoting the book as well, and he was kind enough to arrange for me to meet Awang Goneng and get his autograph. He also invited my two former office colleagues, Sabihin and Azman. But these two had no idea at all about who is Awang Goneng, because they only keep up with golf but no more books, I suppose. It's my friend Pokku, whose real name is Tengku Ali Bustaman that I want to write about. For those who still remember Tengku Elida of TV3, this man is her father. Being from RTM he was my communications head of division which was under my supervision. Though I had served in Ministry of Information for a brief 9 months, but I only met him when I was in ICU of the PM's Dept. He's really an interesting fellow and I enjoy reading his blog. For those who have the time can google it and visit his website, it's very entertaining, to me at least. See you next ramblings.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A long Hibernation

Since April 2006 I have not been posting anything on my blog, and I am really apalled by my long hibernation. What really took place? Now I know why, even if that's not an excuse. It was a phase which saw me again going through another bout of sleeplessness. Probably it's due again to my undue worry about an event which my family association BERKAT of Rasah chapter organising Hari Raya gathering, this time only confined to the waris from Rasah only. It was the collection which I feared would not be sufficient to cover the cost. Fortunately with the untiring effort of waris Rasah we managed to pull it off with about three hundred ringgit deficit which was bailed out by BERKAT funds. Another unforgettable incident was the passing away of my father-in-law in mid-2006, and before that he had exhibited a failing memory to the extent that he was talking to himself and imagining that he was talking to the Sultan of Kelantan himself! His memory slide took place for more than a year, and he had to be attended to by a Home nurse who comes to monitor his condition regularly. ALLAH is most Great because Yakob Abdul Rahman Scholer was such a helpful person in taking Ayah to the mosque on fridays even though he just went and came back before the prayers itself. From what he went through, it was a big lesson to all that when a person falls into a condition termed as dementia, it puts a lot of stress to the caregivers. May ALLAH prevent all of us from experiencing such a problem when we reach our golden years. I hope to continue to write this blog for the year 2008.