Insurance News

Floods set to hit insurers with RM100m in claims
5 March 2007, By Business Times

THE recent floods in December and January may cost insurance firms about RM100 million in claims, but the industry’s financial strength remains intact, players said. The overall economic damage from weeks of large-scale flooding is reported to cost the Government RM1.5 billion, but some estimates said it may go as high as RM2 billion. Although the damage costs for the floods amounted to billions of ringgit, insurers were not hit by huge claims because very few took protection against the natural calamity. The main reason is that flood damage does not form part of standard insurance cover. As a result, the insurance industry may only have to face less than 7 per cent of the total damages. ACE Insurance Malaysia Bhd chief executive officer Raj Nanra said claims were insignificant as the extent of damages and costs of restoration as a result of the recent floods were identified in a short period of time. Home-grown composite insurer MAA Assurance Bhd said its flood losses are estimated currently at RM5.73 million. MAA’s vice-president of general technical services, Ramakrishnan Nair, said the company has received 122 claims so far and the number is still rising. Meanwhile, Allianz General Insurance Malaysia Bhd and ACE Insurance have paid more than RM1 million and RM1.5 million respectively. Loss adjuster Maphilindo International Sdn Bhd said it has received more than 1,600 assignments for flood-related damages and the number is still rising. Flash floods hit the southern region of Malaysia twice: first on December 19 last year and then on January 10. Maphilindo executive chairman Richard Lee said that most, if not all, of the properties affected in the first incident were also affected in the second. A majority of the victims had purchased house owners’ insurance policies, while commercial premises owners had flood extension covers. In Malaysia, flood coverage is an extension with additional premiums to the standard fire policy covered under the house owner or householder package policy, said Jerneh Insurance Bhd chief executive officer Lim Sun. The penetration rate for flood extension cover is low, said to be around 5 per cent, in contrast to almost total insurance against fire. However, as flood coverage is tariff-rated here, insurers or re- insurers cannot raise premiums and industry players do not see the need to make flood coverage compulsory. Lim said that since the risk of floods is higher in certain areas and almost nil in others, coverage should be in accordance with the need of the insured property or person. “Generalising coverage as such is not advisable as a person will be paying premium for a cover he/she does not need,” he said.

One of four ‘masterminds’ behind car thefts arrested
5 March 2007, By New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: One of four men wanted for masterminding car thefts and exporting the vehicles overseas has been nabbed. The 42-year-old was picked up when he entered Malaysia from Thailand at Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah on Friday. “A Mercedes CLK crossed the border at 6.15pm and was stopped by police. Two men were inside the vehicle,” a source said. It is learnt that police seized three Toyota Fortuner car keys, a laptop, a thumb drive and a book containing details of vehicles sold in Thailand. “According to information retrieved, at least 10 mid-range vehicles including Toyota Avanza, Hilux and Harrier, were sold in Thailand,” the source said. Police are trying to ascertain if the vehicles were stolen in Malaysia before being exported to Thailand. The other suspect who was in the car with the “mastermind” was also arrested and police are checking if he has prior convictions or is involved in any illegal activity. “What is puzzling is that the Immigration Department has no record of the ‘mastermind’ leaving the country for Thailand.” The police are liaising with the Immigration Department to determine how he could have left the country without them having any records of it. Checks on the suspect’s passport revealed that he had been to Kenya, Dubai and Singapore in the past 12 months. Police suspect some of the stolen vehicles may have been shipped to those countries. Both men have been brought to Klang as police there are investigating a case involving eight stolen vehicles found in containers headed for Batam, Indonesia. Police believe the three other masterminds are overseas and have sought the help of Interpol to arrest them.

Mechanics Told To Improve Skills
27 February 2007, By BERNAMA

PETALING JAYA — Some 40,000 to 50,000 automobile mechanics in the country have been told to upgrade their skills to keep up with the ever-changing technology in the field. Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn, in making this call, said the present climate in the automobile industry, which was undergoing a rapid change in terms of technology, required mechanics to improve their repair skills continuously. “With more modern vehicles being rolled out, it is essential that mechanics too learn the new technologies…this is essential if they want to survive in their trade. “On the ministry’s part, we have the accreditation scheme which categorises mechanics based on their experience and expertise. Mechanics who do not have the accreditation should apply to the ministry, stating all their particulars, their experience and expertise and we would categorise them,” he told reporters after opening the newly upgraded Bosch Regional Training Centre for Automotive Aftermarket here today.

Ops Sikap XII Offenders To Pay Maximum Fine
26 February 2007, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Motorists issued summonses for traffic offences during the just-concluded Ops Sikap XII will have to pay the maximum fine of RM300, Federal Traffic Chief Datuk Nooryah Md Anvar said Monday. The traffic police will not entertain any appeal from the offenders to reduce the fine, she said. “Most of them were caught for five major offences, for which they have been slapped with the maximum fine. The offences are speeding, beating the traffic light, jumping queue, driving on the emergency lane and overtaking at the double line,” she told a press conference. Ops Sikap XII, carried out for 15 days until yesterday in conjunction with the Chinese New Year festive season, saw the issuing of 185,966 traffic summonses, much higher than the 159,870 issued during Ops Sikap X held last year. “The only way to punish them (offenders) is by forcing them to pay for the traffic offences they have committed. Then they know the pain of committing such offences,” she said. She said her men had come down harder on errant motorists this time, even when the offence committed was minor. Referring to the statistics of Ops Sikap XII, Nooryah said some progress had been achieved in reducing the number of fatalities this time, with only 207 deaths recorded compared to 226 during last year’s Chinese New Year celebration, an 8.4 per cent drop. She said the most number of deaths occurred among motorcyclists and their pillion riders, at 121 or 58 per cent of the total number of deaths. The traffic police findings also show that 32.1 per cent of the motorcyclists who were killed did not have a valid licence and 21.7 per cent did not wear helmets. “Although the number of deaths has dropped, the total number of accidents recorded nationwide increased, with 14,930 accidents compared to 13,153 in last year’s Chinese New Year operation. “But it’s a success for the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP) because for the first time in three years during the Chinese New Year, we managed to reduce the number of deaths by 19,” she said. The highest number of the deaths — 67 — occurred on federal roads, 61 on state roads, 32 on municipal roads, 28 on highways/expressways and six on other roads, she said. Nooryah said the main aim of the traffic operation was to reduce fatalities and the secondary priority was to reduce accidents. A total of 3,426 motorists underwent urine tests and 50 motorcyclists, 33 car drivers and two bus drivers tested positive for drugs, she said. The types of drugs used were ganja in 41 of the cases, methamphetamine in 23, syabu in 11 and morphine in 10. Nooryah said the deployment of police personnel on board express buses resulted in no accidents or deaths involving these vehicles and no summonses issued to their drivers, adding that this strategy would be used in the next festive season operation as well.

Extending House Defective Liability Period By Six Months
25 February 2007, By BERNAMA

GENTING HIGHLANDS — The guarantee period for the defective liability of purchased houses will be extended by six months to 24 months with an amendment to the housing development law that is to be implemented in April, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said today. He said the new regulation, which would form part of the new sale and purchase agreement (S&P), can provide better protection for property buyers and tighten housing policies. “Developers must give a better guarantee to house buyers. This is the house buyers’ hard-earned savings and once-in-a-lifetime purchase of a house, and it is only fair for developers to build quality houses,” he told reporters after attending the Genting Group’s Chinese New Year celebration here. The ministry is in the process of gazetting provisions in the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 which, among others, gives the right to house buyers to nullify their S&P if the housing project encounters problems. The amendment to the law, also known as Act 118, seeks to permit house buyers to take legal action against developers without the consent of the financial institution or the housing loan provider. Ong said the amendment also seeks to enhance the jurisdiction of the House Buyers Claims Tribunal to hear claims of not more than RM50,000. Currently, the tribunal can only hear claims of not more than RM25,000. “House buyers can file complaints with the tribunal to claim for late delivery or defect liability after the amended act is fully implemented and effective in April,” he said.

“Ops Sikap XII” Achieved Objective, Says Chan
25 February 2007, By BERNAMA

TAWAU — The “Ops Sikap XII” road safety campaign met its objective to reduce fatal accidents during the Chinese New Year festive period, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy. He said that as at midnight last night, 190 fatalities averaging 13.6 deaths daily were recorded during the two-week operation against a 17.2 daily death rate on normal days. “This shows that Ops Sikap XII is a success although the number of deaths is still high. However, it can be considered low if compared with the 100 to 200 per cent increase in the number of vehicles on the roads during festivals,” he told reporters at a Chinese New Year open house organised by Tawau MCA at the Sin On Hall here today. Chan attributed the success of the Ops Sikap XII to the close cooperation from the police, the Road Transport Department (RTD) and other agencies involved. Leave for 5,000 traffic policemen and 1,200 RTD officers was frozen during the duration of the Ops Sikap XII, he said. On the police focusing on motorcycle riders in the operation, Chan said the strategy was appropriate considering that 60 per cent of fatal road accidents involved motorcyclists and their pillion riders. He added that the operation was carried out in 80 districts nationwide and that that the ministry would conduct a post-mortem on the operation and rectify weaknesses, if any.

Cops: Companies lost RM833mil last year
24 February 2007, By The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: One in four local companies fell prey to commercial crimes over the past two years and, just last year alone, the amount lost to such crimes was more than RM833mil. And employees are the main culprits. Commercial Crime Investigations Department director Comm Datuk Ramli Yusuff said the bulk of the money was lost through cheating (RM400mil) and criminal breach of trust (RM280mil). “A survey conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers Global Economic Survey revealed that employees committed 70% of the crimes,” he added. “Employees are often lured wittingly or unwittingly into assisting or colluding with outsiders to commit crimes against their own companies as business grows and becomes more complex. “Malfeasances by management and non-employees to a large extent can be attributed to poor internal control,” he said in an interview. Last year’s losses from commercial crime was an increase from 2005 with losses standing at RM799mil – with cheating cases totalling RM419mil and criminal breach of trust RM358mil. “Records also showed that more than 1,000 people were arrested over the 6,000 cases reported.” Comm Ramli said two special teams have been set up within the commercial crimes department to handle the problem with each team under the command of an assistant commissioner. One team would be in charge of operations while the other would handle research, he said. He also said that the crimes happened largely due to poor corporate governance by company management. Comm Ramli said police were also concerned over the failure of companies to report incidences of commercial crimes. “If companies only think of their reputation and don’t report commercial crimes, it will not help the police to curb the menace. “By lodging reports, we believe companies actually stand to gain in terms of professional integrity,” he added. Comm Ramli said the police on their part have been enhancing cooperation with the private sector, especially through various tasks forces. “Business organisations are encouraged to improve their corporate governance, which include good internal control, comprehensive security measures, including pre-employment screening, and establishing a corporate code of conduct,” he said.

High Court allows appeal against RM8.75mil award
24 February 2007, By The Star

TEMERLOH: The High Court here has allowed a transport company’s appeal against an RM8.75mil accident claim award by a lower court to an American couple. Judicial Commissioner Abdul Halim Aman ordered the amount reduced to RM1.33mil and that liability for the accident be apportioned to lorry driver Saing Lammisi and his company Econolines (M) Sdn Bhd (70%) and taxi driver Lee Ah Kiw and his firm Genting Highlands Taxi Services Sdn Bhd (30%). The appeal, filed by Saing and Econolines, was against the liability and quantum awarded by Sessions Judge Sarimah Hashim on May 20 last year. In her judgment, Sarimah had awarded Tim Joel Gurtler and Jennifer Lynn Gurtler RM8.75mil for loss of earnings, reduction in future earnings and injuries suffered by them as a result of the accident in Raub in 1998. The couple were on their way to Kuala Lumpur on Aug 28 when a lorry rammed into their taxi at the Karak Highway. Sarimah found Saing and Econolines fully liable for the accident. Abdul Halim said it was unjustified to find Saing and Econolines fully liable for the accident as the taxi’s condition was questionable. “The threads of the tyres were said to have partially worn out while the brake system was not functioning well. “The safety of the taxi should have been taken into consideration,” he said. On the quantum, Abdul Halim said it was unreasonable to award the couple for loss of earnings for life when they were found to have started working on June 1, 1999. “They were only 35 and 34 at that time and they continued working after that,” he added. Abdul Halim said the lower court should not have accepted the couple’s income statements based on their performances in the United States as the standard of living was different from here. The court should have based the calculations on the couple’s earnings in Malaysia, he added.

High Court Reduces Damages For American Accident Victims
23 February 2007, By BERNAMA

TEMERLOH — The High Court here Friday reduced the amount of damages from RM8.75 million to RM1.33 million awarded to an American couple, who were involved in a road accident along the Karak Highway about nine years ago, following an appeal by Ecolines (M) Sdn Bhd. Judicial Commissioner Datuk Abdul Halim Aman allowed the appeal on grounds that the accident had not incapacitated the couple and caused them loss of income. In reducing the quantum of damages, he ordered that Genting Highlands Taxi Services Sdn Bhd, the company which owned the taxi involved in the crash, to pay 70 per cent of the damages. This, he said, was on grounds that the taxi also contributed to the accident because its front tyre was bald and the brake was faulty. Magician Tim Joel Gurtler and his wife, Jennifer Lynn Gurtler, were passengers in the taxi when it collided with a lorry owned by Ecolines (M) Sdn Bhd at Km16 of the Karak Highway on Aug 28, 1998. The couple was returning to Kuala Lumpur after a performance at Genting Highlands when the accident happened. Ecolines, represented by counsel Datuk Bastian Pius Vendargon and Reuben Netto, had appealed against a decision handed by Session Court judge Sarimah Hashim on May 19 last year in ordering both the defendants to pay damages of RM8.75 million to the couple.

Police closing in on car theft ring mastermind
23 February 2007, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR: Police are hot on the trail of a mastermind involved in car-theft rings and exporting them to be sold in his used-car shops abroad. The 43-year-old man has been identified and police have determined that he lives a life of luxury in a neighbouring country running his car, hotel and other businesses. Police have also obtained information on three of his partners, who are overseas, and hope to nab them. The main suspect buys stolen vehicles from local car thieves for between RM7,000 and RM30,000 before exporting the vehicles by shipping containers. It has been learnt that the suspect owns used-car shops in Thailand, Indonesia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and Myanmar. Once the stolen vehicles reach these countries, the engine and chassis numbers are tampered with before the cars are sold to unsuspecting customers. Police declined to name the suspect as it may spook him to flee but his initials are believed to be N.A.H. He also owns prime tracts of real estate and a yacht. His activities came to light recently when a raid by a Customs team at Port Klang last month discovered eight vehicles in eight containers marked as furniture about to be loaded on to a ship bound for Batam, Indonesia. Four people were arrested and details of the mastermind were revealed during questioning. A joint task force was formed by federal police headquarters and Selangor police to track the mastermind and his accomplices. The man, who began his “career” 20 years ago stealing cars, has several convictions and has served time in prison. Using his “experience on the ground”, he decided to co-ordinate the shipping of vehicles to foreign destinations and lived abroad to escape the arms of the local law. In 2003, he was picked up by police and banished to Perak but continued to run his “empire” with the aid of computers, mobile phones and the Internet before deciding to set up shop in the neighbouring country. Police have sought the help of Interpol and have informed them of the possible location of the mastermind and his three partners. In December, two car-theft syndicates were busted in Subang Jaya with the arrest of 10 suspects and the recovery of several stolen vehicles. Police also recovered RM340,000 from one of the suspects, believed to be used for payment of stolen vehicles delivered.

Customs seizes RM500,000 car
23 February 2007, By BERNAMA

KUCHING: The Customs Department seized a BMW M3 Coupe valued at half a million ringgit, believed to have been smuggled in from Kalimantan. Duties on the luxury car amounting to RM318,068.36 were not paid. Customs deputy Director-General (Prevention) Datuk Mohamed Khalid Yusuf said the car was seized on Jan 16. “We are trying to track down the owner because the car was not registered with the Road Transport Department,” he said, adding his department was working with the police to determine if the car was stolen and then smuggled into Sarawak. Khalid said those who provided information to the Customs Department on smuggling received lucrative payments. “The reward is substantial and depends on the value of seizures. “It can be as high as 30 per cent of the value of the smuggled goods. They could net a tidy sum and do the authorities a favour,” he said. Khalid credited informers for the seizure of a container of beer and stout at the Senari Port marked as “sardines in tomato sauce” on Feb 14.

Scan will stop this scam
18 February 2007, By New Straits Times

PORT KLANG: Eight containers said to be carrying furniture were about to be loaded onto a ship when a Customs team arrived. The documents were in order, carrying stamps of approval from the relevant authorities and the name of a renowned furniture manufacturer as the exporter. However, the Customs officers were not convinced and ordered the containers opened — and found a BMW X5 in one container and a Toyota Hilux in each of the other seven. Selangor Customs Department director Datuk Abdul Razak Yaacob said the falsified documents “looked very much like genuine” ones as the forgery was done by “experts”. Preliminary investigations by the Customs and police revealed that the cars were stolen in Malacca and Johor. They were loaded into the containers and brought to Westport and were about to be loaded onto a ship which was bound for Batam island in Indonesia after a transit stop in Singapore. Razak said that the group involved in the smuggling would have gotten away with it had the Customs not received a tip-off from an informer. Police took over the investigation since it involved stolen cars, but Selangor deputy police chief SAC I Mohd Noh Kandah refused to comment on the case. Razak expressed confidence that smuggling activities and false declaration of goods at ports would end when high-tech speed scanners were installed. The scanners, costing RM12 million each, will X-ray the contents of each and every container when they arrive and leave the port from next week. It takes 20 seconds to scan a container and verify its cargo with the declaration forms. At present, only 30 per cent of the 17,000 containers that are moved in and out of the port are scanned. Razak said since the beginning of the year, 35 cases of falsified documents had been detected at the port and five people have been charged under the Customs Act.

Four-day ban on heavy vehicles from roads begins Friday
15 February 2007, By The Star

PUTRAJAYA: The four-day ban on heavy vehicles from all roads in the country starts Friday. Except for cargo lorries carrying goods to and from ports and heavy vehicles transporting essential or permitted items, all other lorries must to stay off the roads Friday and Saturday (Feb 16 and Feb 17) and on Feb 24 and Feb 25. The annual ban on the movement of heavy vehicles is aimed at reducing traffic congestion and accidents during the festive period when over a million vehicles would be on the roads. The Road Transport Department (JPJ) said in a circular that all container or cargo lorries plying between sea and airports and those carrying electrical or electronic goods would be allowed to operate between 6am and 12 midnight during the ban. However, lorries carrying timber, construction materials and other heavy machinery would not be allowed on all four days. Those who need further information on the ban of heavy vehicles can contact the JPJ headquarters here by telephone (03-88866412) or visit its website. In another circular JPJ also said that all its state operations centres would be opened 24-hours during the festive enforcement operations period or Ops Sikap XII.

MCA Youth launch road safety campaign
15 February 2007, By The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: The MCA Youth has embarked on a six-month long nationwide Road Safety Campaign. Its chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the joint effort with Lonpac Insurance Berhad and the Road Safety Department (JKJR) will see programmes being carried out gradually in each state to promote road safety. Speaking during the campaign’s official launch at the Sungei Besi toll here on Thursday, Liow said the initiative was important to remind the public that road safety was a collective responsibility. He added that the campaign, themed “Use Signals for Safety” was introduced in conjunction with the Chinese New Year celebrations. He said that daily vehicle usage was expected to double for the festive season. “Effective safety measures must be taken in response to the increase in the number of vehicles on the road as the accident rate had become increasingly alarming. “In addition to this, the statistics revealed that 59% of death cases involved motorcyclists, many of whom suffered from serious head injuries,” he said. Shortly after handing out booklets on road safety, stickers and vests to motorists passing the toll gate, Liow reminded those present of the Government’s goal to reduce accident cases by 50% by the year 2010. “This will not become a reality without the support and involvement of all road users and the general public in striving to address issues that relate to road accidents. “In this matter, all road users must adhere to the 8 Golden Rules of Safety at all times. Displaying one’s vehicles’ signal is encompassed in the rules,” he said. A total of 500,000 road safety stickers will be distributed. There are five million car drivers in Malaysia. The six-month long campaign will also see various educational activities involving JKJR and Lonpac Insurance Berhad, in addition to attractive contests for the public. Road Transport Department enforcement unit chief Salim Parlan said 422 main offences had been detected by undercover agents since Ops Sikap XII began five days ago. The main offences included beating the traffic lights, jumping cue and using the emergency lane. He said that a total of 3,288 summonses had been issued as of midnight, Wednesday. Salim added that undercover operations on errant taxi drivers that were carried out recently had identified 160 cases of cabbies refusing to pickup passengers, overcharging and declining to use their taxi meters.

At a loss – 55 dead after just 3 days of Ops Sikap
15 February 2007, By New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: Despite all the road safety campaigns and other efforts to reduce the death toll on the nation’s roads, people are still dying. The Road Transport Department is at a loss to explain why. It is surprised by the high number of deaths during the first three days of Ops Sikap XII. On the third day, 15 people died in 1,117 accidents all over the country, bringing the total number of victims to 55 since the Chinese New Year road safety operation began on Sunday. RTD director-general Ahmad Mustapha said his department and the RSD will review some of their road safety strategies. “It’s frustrating. It’s sad. Our manpower are operating round the clock. We have put in so much time and money to reduce fatalities but the death toll during the first two days of the operation is not satisfactory,” he said, adding that last year, there were 35 deaths in the first three days. A total of 1,200 RTD personnel are on the ground. Road Safety Department director-general Datuk Suret Singh said road users should make safety their main priority. “A lot of Malaysian drivers don’t focus on safety. A festive season should be celebrated with joy and not with bad news. A lot of drivers are still not following some of the most basic rules. They are not difficult. They are there to save lives,” he said. He advised the 1.3 million people who will take to the roads during the festive season to follow the speed limit, not to overtake on double lines and not to weave through the traffic. He said every year there are about 6,000 traffic deaths and 60 per cent are motorcyclists. Of these, more than half were not wearing helmets. Bukit Aman said in a statement yesterday that three of Tuesday’s deaths occurred on expressways, four on federal roads, seven on state roads and one on a municipal road. Nine of the victims were motorcyclists, three were car drivers, two were pedestrians and one was on a bicycle. Ops Sikap XII ends on Feb 25.

Traffic Chief Dismayed At 25 Deaths On 1st Day Of Ops Sikap
12 February 2007, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Ops Sikap XII started on a sour note when 25 deaths were recorded out of the 921 road accidents throughout the country when the operation kicked off Sunday. Federal traffic police chief Datuk Nooryah Md Anvar said she was utterly disappointed as she was praying hard to see less accidents on the first day of the traffic operation. “I can’t believe it when my officer briefed me (on the statistics) for the first day of Ops Sikap 12 this morning. I’m really shocked with 25 deaths nationwide due to road accidents. “Despite our tireless effort and constant campaigns to reduce road accidents, there is still a high number of accidents recorded. I want to find out what went wrong (in the traffic operations). My heart sank in sadness early in the morning,” she told Bernama. Nooryah said out of the 25 deaths, eight occurred on municipal roads, seven on state roads, five on federal roads, four on highways and one on another road. During Ops Sikap X launched in conjunction with the Chinese New Year celebration in January last year, only 14 deaths were recorded on the first day of the operation, she said. “Once again, motorcyclists top the list with 17 deaths, followed by car drivers (4), pedestrians (2), one car passenger and one cyclist. “I am strictly warning all road users again, please follow the traffic rules and don’t mess with us (traffic police). Enough is enough, I can’t tolerate the high number of accidents and deaths anymore,” she added. However, Nooryah was happy that the presence of uniformed traffic police in express buses to monitor the drivers’ attitude during the traffic operation had proven its effectiveness when all the express buses which carried police personnel reached their destinations safely. “At least this news has provided some relief. We will try our best to reduce road accidents and I really mean it,” she added. The first day of Ops Sikap XII saw 455 accidents occurring on municipal roads, 213 on federal roads, 141 on state roads, 79 on highways and 33 on other roads. Meanwhile, 10,627 summonses were issued for various traffic offences. Ops Sikap XII will end on Feb 25, and 5,475 police personnel are involved in this operation nationwide in a move to reduce road accidents.

Car theft rings back in action
7 February 2007, By New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: Luxury cars stolen in Malaysia are certainly landing up in the far corners of the world. Even as a task force headed by Selangor deputy CID chief Assistant Commissioner Chee Weng Wan is spearheading a crackdown on car theft-cum- smuggling activities at Klang ports, a vessel with at least 30 cars in its container hold is making its way across the Persian Gulf bound for Dubai. It is understood that enforcement authorities at the UAE port city are awaiting its arrival after being alerted to its cargo. Once seizures there are formalised, police here will announce that they have crippled a luxury car theft- cum-smuggling ring with international links. The latest activity has given rise to the believe that an international car theft-cum-smuggling ring exposed several years ago has resumed business, and police believe the same players are behind the multi-million-ringgit racket. From initially making its way across land to neighbouring Asean countries, the stolen loot then found itself landing on the shores of Hong Kong, Batam, New Zealand, Australia and even South Africa. The activities of this syndicate came to light following an anonymous tip off about late night loading activities at Klang’s Northport recently. Several arrests were executed and following interrogation, police learnt that several stolen cars had been loaded onto containers and shipped from the port. Once the shipment is seized in Dubai, engine and chassis numbers of the stolen vehicles will be provided to authorities here to ascertain where and when they were stolen. These activities affirm police suspicions that car theft and smuggling activities are still rampant here, with Malaysian ports as exit points. In November 2003, police uncovered a car theft-cum- smuggling syndicate which “exported” more than 300 luxury cars via Port Klang in containers. However, the brains behind the syndicate’s activities gave police the slip and since he still remains at large, police have not ruled out the possibility of him spearheading this operation.

CNY Road Safety Drive To Kick Off On Feb 10
6 February 2007, By BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA — A road safety campaign in conjunction with the Chinese New Year will be in force from Feb 11 to 25 to reduce road accidents during the festive period. Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said the two-week integrated campaign involving the government, private sector and non-governmental organisations would be launched at the Jalan Duta bus terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 10. Some 5,000 traffic policemen and 1,200 Road Transport Department officers would be deployed for the Ops Sikap X11 massive operation to book traffic offenders during the period, he told reporters Tuesday. Chan said commercial vehicles would be barred from plying the road on Feb 16 and 17 and on Feb 24 and 25 to ease traffic congestion during the peak period. As was enforced during Ops Sikap X1, he said, the speed limit for federal and state roads would be reduced by 10 kilometres, bringing it to 80kph during the campaign duration. The Public Works Department would carry out road repairs only for critical jobs during the festive period, he said. Sixteen special teams for emergencies would be on standby, he added.

IRB Decision Causing Patients To Lose Out, MMA Says
4 February 2007, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Many patients in the country will lose out following an Inland Revenue Board (IRB) decision in December not to give tax exemptions on professional indemnity insurance paid by private doctors. Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin told reporters this. He said the decision meant that patients, especially those with poor background, would be denied access to compensation should a malpractice occur. “The IRB has refused to allow private doctors to claim payments for indemnity insurance as a legitimate expense probably because they are not compulsory,” he said. Professional indemnity insurance is compulsory for high-end hospitals but not for low-end hospitals or clinics. Speaking after chairing the MMA council meeting here, Dr Teoh said insurance premiums should be considered as a legitimate expense because they were meant to protect patients. If premiums paid were not exempted from taxes, many doctors would shy away from getting the insurance, hence giving less choices for patients from poor background who had to seek treatment at low-end hospitals, he said. He said indemnity insurance was also not compulsory for private doctors in other countries but their governments gave tax exemptions to those who got themselves covered. Adding salt to the wound, he said, the Medical Protection Society which runs the indemnity insurance scheme, recently raised its premium by at least 16 per cent. “According to the latest information from London, the rate has been increased for Malaysia. For some disciplines, it has been raised by as much as 18 per cent. “For high risk occupations such as obstetric care, it has gone up to between RM32,000 and RM36,000 per annum. This is high for doctors and patients in Malaysia,” he said. Dr Teoh said the cost of acquiring an indemnity insurance had gone up by 20 to 35 per cent for most doctors following the IRB decision and premium hike. With doctors shying away from getting themselves covered, the MMA was concerned that it would hamper efforts to make Malaysia as a health tourism destination. This was because people would not seek treatment here if they were not protected, Dr Teoh said. “What MMA is keen to do now is to intervene and lobby the government so that such premiums are considered as a legitimate expense to merit a tax exemption by the IRB,” said Dr Teoh.

Some 800 Flood-affected Businessmen Apply For Special Funds
3 February 2007, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Some 800 businessmen affected by the recent floods in Johor and Melaka have applied for the Special Relief Guarantee Facility, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen said. Early last month, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced that the government has allocated the RM500 million facility to help businesses affected by the widespread flooding in several parts of Malaysia. The fund comes with zero collateral and lending rate below market rates. “We have given the commercial banks a maximum of two weeks to process the applications and when it comes to Bank Negara, we will process at our level.” “But the whole system should take not more than three weeks as the affected need to revive their businesses as soon as possible,” she said. The fund is available at any commercial and Islamic Bank, Bank Perusahaan Kecil dan Sederhana Malaysia Bhd, Bank Kerjasama Rakyat Malaysia Bhd and Bank Pertanian Malaysia. Ng said initially, there was very little response from those affected until after a roadshow, organised by Bank Negara and the participating banks, was conducted recently in Johor and Melaka. “The roadshow is very important as it provides information to the affected victims,” she told reporters after launching the SME Seminar cum launch of the Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KLSICCI) Directory here today.

KTMB Suffered Losses Amounting To RM22.7 Million In Recent Floods
2 February 2007, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) announced that it recorded losses amounting to RM22.7 million in therecent floods that hit several states in the country. Its managing director Datuk Mohd Salleh Abdullah said that repairs on damaged facilities formed the bulk of the figure amounting to RM21.9 million, while operational losses including ticket refunds, transhipments and refreshments for passengers during the first and second wave of the disaster totalled RM800,000. He said although the government had agreed to bear RM8.3 million of the losses, “we still have a lot to cover”. Mohd Salleh said currently all the train services to the south were back to normal as KTMB had rectified damaged tracks and landslides that hit them during the floods. He also said that the recent floods in Johor, Melaka and Negeri Sembilan revealed that KTMB needed to change the tracks as they had reached 100 years old. “There is also the need to raise the height of the tracks to withstand future floods,” he said, adding that KTMB was recommending double-tracking, realignment of tracks and strengthening of bridges and other railway infrastructure as preventive measures. Mohd Salleh rationalised the need to go for double-tracking as KTMB’s railway tracks needed to be improved, adding: “In my opinion, this should have been done three or four year ago. “Double-tracking was approved sometime in 2003 but then deferred. The government does have plans to implement it but it is a question of when.” He said although some of the existing infrastructure, which were over a 100 years old were working fine, like the railway bridge in Gemas, “they require a lot of effort, time and money to be mantained”.

Insurance Firm Ordered To Pay RM30 Million In Insurance Claim
2 February 2007, By BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA — An insurance company will have to pay over RM30 million in insurance claims to Asean Security Paper Mills Sdn Bhd (ASPM) for its property destroyed in a warehouse fire more than 10 years ago, the Federal Court ruled Friday. Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Richard Malanjum and Federal Court judges Datuk Nik Hashim Nik Ab. Rahman and Datuk Hashim Yusoff, who made the decision, held that the decision of the Court of Appeal to reverse the High Court ruling to award insurance claim to ASPM, is wholly unjustified. The Court of Appeal in its decision on Feb 15 last year ruled that the fire which had destroyed the godown was the result of arson and that ASPM’s claim for insurance was fraudulent. The Court of Appeal also held that the warehouse was intentionally set fire by two workers of the company who were acting on the instructions of its chairman N.Balasingham. The Federal Court judges also unanimously agreed that this is a proper case for the court to interfere as the Court of Appeal erred when it totally disregarded the evidence of two chemists that did not rule out that the fire could be caused by spontaneous combustion, resulting in a serious and substantial miscarriage of justice. In his 33-page judgment, Nik Hashim said the Court of Appeal was wrong to hold that ASPM was bound by N. Balasingham’s act in the destruction of the godown. He said it (the federal court) failed to see how the Court of Appeal could conclude that Balasingham was acting on behalf of ASPM as there was no cogent evidence adduced by CGU Insurance Bhd to show the scope, ambit and the extent of the authority conferred on Balasingham. He said “In the absence of such evidence, the wrongful acts of Balasingham cannot be taken into consideration for attributing legal liability to ASPM, especially so in a criminal offence. “It is unthinkable to suggest that the shareholders of ASPM from the various Asean countries, India and England had connived with Balasingham to burn the warehouse,” Nik Hashim said. Nik Hashim said the court agreed with the High Court judge that CGU Insurance had failed to prove fraud against ASPM beyond reasonable doubt. He said, at the most the insurance company succeeded in creating a suspicion in the cause of the fire by arson but suspicion, however great, was insufficient to prove fraud which needed to prove beyond reasonable doubt. Nik Hashim said Balasingham was only a minor shareholder holding a mere 5.28 per cent of the shares in ASPM and there was no evidence to support CGU Insurance’s claim that Balasingham was holding a substantial financial interest in ASPM. “In the absence of evidence of absolute management and control of ASPM by Balasingham, the acts of Balasingham cannot become the acts of ASPM. Consequently, ASPM cannot be barred from claiming the sum insured,” he said. On May 12, 2000, the High Court ordered CGU Insurance formerly known as Commercial Union Assurance (M) Bhd to pay RM16,124,500 in fire insurance claims to Asean Security Paper Mills for property destroyed in a godown fire in 1989. The High Court had also ordered CGU Insurance to pay ASPM interest at 8 per cent from the date of the filing of the writ on Sept 11, 1990. The fire at the godown of the paper mill at Kampung Acheh Industrial Estate, Sitiawan, Perak, on Sept 11, 1989 destroyed property worth RM32 million.

Public Bank, Lonpac Insurance Set Up Fund To Help Flood Victims
30 January 2007, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Public Bank Bhd and Lonpac Insurance Bhd have set up a RM1 million special relief fund to ease the burden of the flood victims. In a statement here Tuesday, Public Bank managing director, Datuk Sri Tay Ah Lek, said the fund would be used for relief payments to lighten the burden of our housing loan customers whose residential properties have been badly damaged by the floods. “The payment will be made to our housing loan customers with fire insurance policies issued by Lonpac,” he said. On the specific amount or quantum of payment to the affected customers, he said the bank and Lonpac would decide on a case-to-case basis. Affected customers who require assistance are advised to go to the Public Bank branch where they maintain their housing loans.

BNM To Introduce Capital Risk Framework For Insurance Company
30 January 2007, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) will introduce a risk-based regulatory regime which includes a new risk based capital framework for insurance companies in Malaysia, deputy governor Datuk Mohd Razif Abd Kadir said Tuesday. “Under the framework, insurance companies that have good risk management system will be rewarded. This would further strengthen the incentives for improved risk management practices of insurance companies,” he said when launching the AXA AFFIN Life Insurance Bhd here. “There is a need for a comprehensive risk management system for insurance companies in Malaysia now,” he said. Mohd Razif said the new requirement would also facilitate more efficient capital structures that are more reflective of the different risk profiles of individual institutions, whilst providing greater investment flexibility to insurers without compromising on prudential standards. Under the risk-based regulatory regime, he said the responsibility for the implementation of sound risk management and market conduct governance, as well as assessment of risk and management of the financial condition of an insurer, will rest with the board of directors and senior management of the insurer. “This approach is also a move towards a differentiated regulatory and supervisory approach whereby companies that demonstrate strong corporate governance standards and risk management practices will be accorded ‘lighter regulatory touch’ which implies that they will be given greater regulatory flexibility,” he said. Mohd Razif also said that the insurance industry is expected to continue its positive growth momentum in the near term.

Agriculture Sector Suffers RM70 Million Losses In Recent Floods
30 January 2007, By BERNAMA

MARANG — The recent floods in several states, especially Johor, has cost the agriculture sector RM70 million, Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said Tuesday. He said it was an initial estimate as some areas were still inundated, adding that he tabled a report to the Special Cabinet Committee on Crisis and Natural Disaster Management chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday on the need for rebuilding. “The losses are in the farming, livestock, aquaculture, agro-based industry and small enterprises industries, and do not include agricultural facilities and infrastructure,” he told reporters after visiting the Green Earth Campaign programme in Kampung Medan Jaya, here. He was accompanied by Deputy Human Resource Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Bakar, who is the Marang Member of Parliament, and Terengganu Agriculture and Regional Development Committee Chairman Datuk Mohd Jidin Shafee. Muhyiddin said the government had approved almost RM7.4 million as benevolent aid to farmers and livestock breeders, which would be distributed soon. Najib Monday announced the types and quantum of agricultural benevolent aid, which included RM573 a hectare for padi replanting and RM700 for a cow up to a maximum of 10 cows. On the Green Earth Campaign, Muhyiddin said the campaign launched last year had received overwhelming support from the people and was moving in the right direction. He said the government would continue to encourage the people to take part in the campaign to help reduce their domestic expenditure and, in the process, reduce the country’s import of fruits and vegetables. “Our target is getting 500,000 families to get involved in the campaign as we can save RM500 million in terms of vegetable and fruit imports yearly,” he said, adding that there was no time frame for the campaign.

TNB Makes RM18 Million Losses From Flood In Johor
29 January 2007, By BERNAMA

PENANG — Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) has estimated a loss of about RM18 million due to infrastructure and equipment damages caused by the flood in Johor two months ago. Its president and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohamad Noh said the damaged infrastructure and equipment were being replaced in stages, and in accordance to the flood situation. In the first wave of the flood in the state, TNB suffered about RM7 million in losses, and the second flood caused the company RM9 million, he said. He said the utility company had also spent RM2 million to rent generators to ensure power supply at certain areas in Johor. “To replace the damaged equipment, we have to postpone several projects to ensure that Johor has continuous electricity supply,” he told reporters after launching TNB Smart Programme at Sekolah Kebangsaan Bayan Lepas, here Monday. Che Khalib said the estimated losses excluded the cost of labour and the additional manpower in Johor to assist in the restoration of power supply there. He said TNB could not determine the exact amount of losses due to the flood, and that several power disruptions were anticipated to happen from time to time in the flood-hit areas. “We will repair the damaged parts after we detected them,” he said. On the Smart Programme, TNB has adopted Sekolah Kebangsaan Bayan Lepas and Sekolah Kebangsaan Bertam Indah in Kepala Batas to be the recipients of the programme. Under the programme, TNB will provide infrastructural support, computers, office equipment and English instructors to the schools to improve their pupils’ academic performance. TNB will also contribute RM50,000 a year for three years to the two schools so they could organise various programmes for their pupils.

Sarawak To Discuss With Brunei On Entry Of Its Commercial Vehicles
29 January 2007, By BERNAMA

SIBU — Sarawak is to discuss further with Brunei for its commercial vehicles to be allowed to pass through or enter the oil rich sultanate. Chairman of Sarawak Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLP) Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said he had just returned from a three-day official visit to Brunei to hold discussions on the matter with its Land Communication Minister and ministry officials. “We are still trying to get Brunei’s nod for our buses and taxis to be allowed to enter right until Bandar Seri Begawan.” “At the same time, we also hope for our trailers to be allowed to enter the country on their way to or from Limbang or Lawas towns.” At present, he said from Miri (Sarawak)’s side, they all could only go as far as Kuala Belait while from Limbang or Lawas only at Temburong. He said as a matter of fact, it had been basically agreed to and in compliance with Asean protocol that vehicles from member countries could enter or drive through each other. Wan Junaidi said Brunei commercial vehicle operators were just as enthusiastic in being allowed to enter the state through Miri or Limbang. He said the Brunei minister had promised to hold bilateral discussions on the matter with Malaysia’s Transport Ministry soon. On the same matter, Wan Junaidi said he would meet his Sabah counterpart next month for Sarawak taxis, buses and hired vans to be allowed to enter Sabah and vice versa. “Now, our commercial vehicle licenses are only valid within our respective borders. But I am optimistic of resolving this issue as this is a domestic matter.” He said if it could be amicably settled, it would augur well for national integration and trade between the two states. “Of course this will be good for business. We ought to have healthy regulated competition in order to develop further.”

Floods Cost Government RM1.5 Billion In Losses
29 January 2007, By BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA — A staggering RM1.5 billion in losses. That is the damage the floods in the last two months cost the government, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said here Monday. The Deputy Prime Minister said the losses incurred were from the government account and not including personal and commercial losses. The losses estimated were based on government spending to repair infrastructure damaged by the floods and aid for the victims, he told reporters after chairing the Aid Management and Disaster Committee meeting here. Of the RM1.5 billion, some RM350 million is set aside for the Public Works Department to repair bridges and roads, RM137 million for the Rural Development Ministry to repair village roads and RM102 million for the Education Ministry to repair schools and equipment. Some 148,000 people were evacuated during the floods that started on Dec 18 and 134,000 during the second wave of floods on Jan 12. Johor was the worst affected state. Victims of the first round of floods will each receive RM200 while those affected by the second wave of floods will receive another RM200 other than the RM500 to repair their damaged home. The aid comes from the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development fund. Najib said the flood victims would also receive a maximum RM3,000 to repair their damaged home depending on the cost, whichever is lower. As for the 45 families whose houses were totally destroyed by the floods, he said Syarikat Perumahan Negara would undertake to build them new houses on the original sites. “Syarikat Perumahan Negara will be using the money donated by the public and corporations,” he added. An allocation from the government account will also be used to aid the affected students, whereby secondary school students will each receive RM200 and those in primary school, RM100 each. Najib said all aid for the flood victims would be coordinated by the respective District Offices. “All the money donated by the public will be used for the benefit of the flood victims. The government is transparent about this,” he added. As for the agriculture sector, he said the government would provide aid of RM573 per hectare for padi replanting. For cash crops and vegetables, the cash aid is RM2,000 per hectare (maximum one hectare), and fruits at RM1,000 per hectare (maximum one hectare). Those who have orchards which are less than one hectare will be given RM500 each in aid. Najib said livestock breeders would also be given cash aid of RM700 per head of cattle (maximum 10), RM600 per head of buffalo (maximum 10), RM150 per head of goat (maximum 20) and RM5 for each chicken/duck (maximum 100). For aquaculture, the cash aid is RM1,500 per hectare for large farms (maximum two hectares), RM1,500 per hectare for smaller farms (maximum one hectare) and RM200 per compartment for caged-fish rearing (maximum 12 compartments). An allocation from the government account will also be given to the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) for projects to improve the rivers and drains but the amount has yet to be decided. Najib said the DID would also be conducting a study to come out with medium- and long-term plans to alleviate the flood problem in the country. Asked about damage to the communication and electrical infrastructure, he said it would be borne by the respective companies and operators.

RTD Admits Weaknesses In Demerit Point System
29 January 2007, By BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA — The Road Transport Department (RTD) Monday admitted weaknesses in the demerit point system for traffic offences. RTD director-general Ahmad Mustapha Abdul Rashid said the main weakness was in locating the traffic offenders and another was offenders ignoring the notices. Based on records, generally about 30 per cent of the show-cause notices were returned by Pos Malaysia because the addressees could not be located and another 30 per cent were ignored by the driving licence holders, he told reporters at his office, here. “Driving licence holders who ignore the show-cause notices are blacklisted under the SIKAP JPJ system under Section 29 of the Road Transport Act 1987,” he said. He also said that for notices returned because the addressees could not be located, the RTD would work with other agencies such as the National Registration Department and Employees Provident Fund, and look into the existing legal provisions to decide on what could be done. He said the Legal Drafting Committee on the Automatic Enforcement System (AES) set up by the RTD would study the implementation of the AES from the legal aspect. The police, who are also involved in the AES, had recently asked the RTD to revive the demerit point system to help curb the number of fatal road accidents that had reached 6,000 annually. “In reference to what the police raised recently, we admit that there are weaknesses in the system, such as in getting the correct addresses of the traffic offenders. “We have to discuss this with the relevant agencies, including the police, to come up with the best way to do this because we want the system to be effective. “If we are unable to send the show-cause notices or the traffic offenders choosing to ignore the notices, it means the system is ineffective,” Ahmad Mustapha said. He said the study on the legal aspect was necessary because the AES, which involved the installation of cameras at strategic and dark spots nationwide from the middle of this year, would provide direct input to the demerit point system. He also said that the demerit point system had never been terminated since it was launched in 1997. The suspension and invalidation of driving licences of traffic offenders, based on 18 types of offences, were ongoing and the demerit points were taken into account, he said. Ahmad Mustapha said that between 2004 and 2006, some 29,985 show-cause notices were issued to Competence Driving Licence (CDL) holders and 12,033 (40 per cent) of them were issued with suspension notices. During the period, 10,368 show-cause notices were issued to Probationary Driving Licence (P) holders and 883 of these licences were invalidated, he added.

10-second scans to curb smuggling
29 January 2007, By New Straits Times

PUTRAJAYA: If you think you can hide a Ferrari among the boxes in your shipping container, or duck the duty on liquor by packing it in VCD boxes, forget it. The Customs and Excise Department has just bought hi-tech scanners that will spot your dodge in seconds. The scanners, which cost RM12 million each, can “see” what’s inside the boxes. And each one can scan over 300 consignments a day. Two scanners have been installed in Port Klang. Over time, more will be acquired and installed in major ports, including in Johor, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak. Customs deputy director-general (preventive) Datuk Mohamed Khalid Yusuf said the equipment might be pricey, but they could recoup the cost within a year. “Let’s just talk about one seizure a month. That’s worth a million in duty. We would recover the cost of one machine in a year. “There are 17,000 containers a day moving through Port Klang alone. We cannot possibly scan each container but with effective risk management and these new scanners, we should be able to at least treble the number we are checking now,” he said. The Vehicle and Cargo Inspection (scanning) system now takes three minutes to scan a container. The new system takes only 10 seconds. The department has already spent RM138 million on 29 scanners of various kinds — mobile, portable and fast scanners — which are in use at most major ports. But he was realistic about the chances of completely stamping out smuggling. Even with all the latest technology, smugglers will still try to beat the system. “As long as there are duties and taxes, people will try to evade them.” But, he said, the various scanning systems have proved to be extremely effective. Nearly half the smuggled goods seized by Customs were detected by the scanners. “We expect an improvement in our performance and even exceed last year’s target,” he told the New Straits Times. Last year, over RM150 million worth of smuggled goods were seized, involving duties and taxes of about RM180 million. Nearly 6,000 investigation papers were opened and 200 people were hauled to court. The department collected RM11.9 million in compounds from 5,000 cases. The bulk of the seizures involved high-duty items like liquor, cigarettes, cars and ceramic tiles.

Motor players expect sector to remain flat
26 January 2007, By The Star

PETALING JAYA: Industry players expect the auto industry to remain flat for 2007 with an unusually “quiet” start to the year. Edaran Tan Chong Motor Sdn Bhd executive director Datuk Dr Ang Bon Beng said the Malaysian Automotive Association’s (MAA) 2007 forecast of 500,000 units indicated that the industry “would be flat” for the year. “It is a surprise to us that even at the start of the year, there is no excitement in terms of auto sales,” he told reporters after MAA’s press briefing yesterday. He said it was quieter now compared with the start of 2006 as the period before Chinese New Year had historically seen booming sales. “Perhaps this is a ‘hangover’ from last year as many players were giving big discounts and incentives to lure sales. Consumers could be holding back for bigger price cuts,” he added. Dr Ang said some players could capitalise on the Chinese New Year season by offering more discounts, which would encourage customer to adopt a “wait and see” approach. However, he expected the situation to improve slightly in the second half of the year, adding that his company would be bringing in two new models then. Edaran Otomobil Nasional Bhd managing director Datuk Syed Hisham Syed Wazir concurred that the industry outlook was flat for this year, but expressed hope that consumer confidence would pick up in the second half. He expects sentiments to turn more positive more projects from the Ninth Malaysia Plan were unveiled. “We do expect that consumers will slowly accept the reality of used car values and hopefully have more confidence in the market by then,” he said.

Vehicle sales forecast to grow 1.9% this year
26 January 2007, By The Star

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s total vehicle sales are expected to grow 1.9% this year to 500,000 units after a 11% decline to 490,768 units last year, according to Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) president Datuk Aishah Ahmad. MAA had earlier forecast 2007 total industry volume at 520,000 units but revised the figure, prompted by poor values in the used car market and difficulties in securing hire purchase loans, However, MAA expected the situation to improve in the second half of the year. “New models will be launched and we expect the players to come up with competitive pricing,” she told a press briefing on MAA’s Market Review for 2006 and 2007 Outlook yesterday. For last year, Proton Holdings Bhd’s market share declined to 32% while Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd’s (Perodua) car sales improved, raising its market share to 42%. Datuk Aishah Ahmad Aishah also said 2006’s vehicle sales were not the lowest recorded in the last five years as sales totalled 487,605 units in 2004. Aishah said despite 2006 being a “trying year” for industry players, the decline was also felt in neighbouring markets such as Indonesia and Thailand. Indonesia faced the largest drop, with vehicle sales declining 43%, while sales in Thailand dropped 4%. She said in other markets, MAA found similar reasons driving the decline in auto sales. “These markets also experienced difficulty in getting hire purchase financing and sales were also impacted by higher fuel prices. “People are more cautious and hold back from buying new vehicles. Even their respective economic climates were affecting auto sales,” she said. Aishah said the motor industry had always been cyclical and improvement was expected after some six to seven years. “Also, we find that the government initiates small efforts in reducing road tax and excise tax to help encourage sales,” she added. Asked if there were proposals from MAA to the Government to improve sales, she said MAA expected more fuel efficient cars to be introduced in line with the new types of engines introduced in the market to improve vehicle performance.

Vehicle sales to improve slightly in 2007, says MAA
26 January 2007, By The Edge Daily

Motor vehicle sales this year are expected to recover with a projected, albeit slight, growth of 1.9% after a sharp contraction of 11.1% in 2006, said Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA). MAA said total industry volume (TIV) should reach 500,000 units this year from 490,768 units in 2006, with better sales mainly to come in the second half of the year. TIV fell sharply to 490,768 units last year from 552,316 units in 2005, while the total production volume fell 10.7% to 503,048 units from 563,510 units. The industry body projected a slightly better growth of 2.2% for passenger car sales this year to 409,000 units from 400,297 units. The passenger car sales figures now include four-wheel-drives (4X4). Inclusive of 4X4, passenger car sales fell 12% from 454,496 units in 2005. Commercial vehicle sales are expected to grow 0.6% to 91,000 units from 90,471 units in 2006, against a 7.5% decline last year from 97,820 units in 2005. MAA president Datuk Aishah Ahmad said it expected car sales to improve moving into the second half of the year, with new launches at competitive pricing. “We hope people will begin to accept the resale value of used cars and start buying new vehicles. The government has also strived to help by reducing a little bit on the road tax and excise duties. “The motor industry has always been cyclical. For the second half, easily the industry will improve. We forecast there will be a slight improvement in 2007,” she said at a media briefing in Petaling Jaya on Jan 25 on the 2006 sales data. Aishah said the 2006 TIV was lower than its projected 520,000 units mainly because of the difficulty in securing hire-purchase loans, and the extremely weak trade-in value of used cars. Excluding sales of 4X4, national cars accounted for 78% or 285,807 units of passenger car sales of 366,738 units last year. In the 4X4 segment, sales dropped 11.2% to 33,559 units from 37,804 units. Regionally, motor vehicle sales in the Philippines grew by 3% to 99,541 units, while Singapore’s sales rose 6% to 137,564 units in 2006. As at end-November 2006, sales in Indonesia fell 43% to 287,970 units, while sales in Thailand dropped 4% to 597,640 units.

Nor Mohamed: Car Industry To Turn Around In 2007
25 January 2007, By BERNAMA

SHAH ALAM — Malaysia’s motor vehicle industry is expected to turn around this year after suffering lower sales in 2006, with a myriad of favourable factors to offer a helping hand. Second Finance Minister, Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, said the sector was expected to do better this year, especially in the second half. “Although last year was not a good year due to adverse circumstances, including international factors, there were also other countries in the region that suffered worst than Malaysia,” he told reporters after launching UMW Gallery here Thursday. He, however, said the National Automotive Policy was not a major factor for the sagging car sales last year. “We are confident the worst is behind us. This year will be better, particularly the second half and we will do much better,” he said. Motor vehicle sales declined 11 percent to 490,768 units in 2006 against 552,316 units the previous year. He said Malaysia was likely to achieve or exceed the target 5.8 percent economic growth rate in 2006. “We expect six percent growth this year while inflation is expected to be between two and three percent,” he said. Nor Mohamed said the government would continue to take necessary measures to boost consumer confidence and come up with supportive motor vehicle policies. He said the government has asked banks to provide adequate financing for car buyers. “The banks have assured us they will do whatever they can to play their part to provide financing to car buyers,” he said. On whether “national pride” would be an influential factor in deciding the partner for Proton Bhd, Nor Mohamed said this element was important for the national car firm’s survival and prosperity. “It (national pride) has nothing to do with getting foreign investors to come and play an important role. “In fact, it is the other way round because we have national pride, we want Proton to survive and do well. It may be useful to get that expertise we need, so it will be symbiotic relationship for us to move to higher level given the changing international environment,” he said. Three foreign carmakers, General Motors, Volkswagen and PSA Peugeot Citroen and two local companies, DRB-HICOM Bhd and the Naza Group, have expressed interests in Proton.

Highest Level Warning On Possibility Of Recurrence Of Bird Flu
24 January 2007, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — The Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry Wednesday issued the highest level of warning on the possibility of a recurrence of bird flu in the country following the outbreak of the disease in several countries in the region. Its minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said Malaysia was still free from the disease and the monitoring carried out had yet to find symptoms of the disease in the country. Malaysia was declared free from bird flu or Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) on June 22 2006 after an outbreak in February and March 2006. “Several preventive measures have been taken including banning the import of chicken, ducks and birds from countries actively and mildly affected by bird flu,” he said in a statement Wednesday. Muhyiddin said tight security had been imposed at the border checkpoints where chicken, ducks and birds as well as their products brought in illegally would be seized and destroyed. The Veterinary Services Department headquarters in Putrajaya and the states have been activated since Monday on the possibility of the recurrence of bird flu while Fast Action Squad at veterinary laboratories are in a state of readiness. Muhyiddin asked farmers and breeders to report as soon as possible on suspected HPAI or abnormal cases of chicken deaths to enable quick action to be taken. Early inspection and sampling at poultry farms, pet shops, wet markets and slaughter and processing houses will be carried out. Muhyiddin advised the people visiting countries affected by bird flu not to bring home chicken or ducks.

Floods In S’gor Receding, Johor & Sabah Little Change
22 January 2007, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — The flood situation in Batang Berjuntai, Kuala Selangor, is improving as Sungai Selangor no longer overflows its banks. However, 32 families from two villages there who have been evacuated, have been told not to return to their homes just yet. Batang Berjuntai fire and rescue operations officer Rashid Sahak said: “What worries us is water from Hulu Selangor is flowing here and may cause the river to rise again.” He also said that several roads that were closed this morning, could now be used by heavy vehicles. In JOHOR, a total of 51,477 people were still taking shelter at 116 evacuation centres as at 8pm. A spokesman of state police’s flood operations room, said most of them were in Batu Pahat while in Kota Tinggi, only 36 people had not returned home. Relief centres in other districts had been closed. In SABAH, the situation also had not changed much with the number of evacuees in Kinabatangan remaining at 67. In PAHANG, 925 people from 214 families were still placed at 22 relief centres as at 9pm. A police spokesman said 481 of them were in Raub, 241 in Rompin, 195 in Kuala Lipis and eight in Temerloh.

Actual Losses In Floods Yet To Be Determined
22 January 2007, By BERNAMA

PETALING JAYA — The actual economic losses resulting from the floods in the southern parts of the peninsula since last month have yet to be determined, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Monday. He said the total could only be confirmed after a federal meeting on the disaster. “Following a decision at the last Cabinet meeting, all ministries and agencies have been directed to assess their losses and the allocation they will need to repair and restore basic facilities and infrastructure damaged by the floods,” he told reporters after sending-off the Malaysia contingent for the United Nations Interim Force mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL) at the Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Subang. Najib, who is also Defence Minister, said the government had formed a central committee to assess damage caused by the floods and determine actions to be taken to restore the situation. He said studies were also carried out to find out why the flood waters rose so fast but were slow to recede, especially in Johor. “It has to do with the local conditions. Some are low-lying areas and (have) narrow channels which slow down the water from flowing out. We also have to study what should be done. As a short-term measure, we can buy new high-powered pumps (to drain out the water) or we can deepen the drains and rivers to clear them of sediment and waste. “As a medium and long-term measure, we will have to invest in a flood mitigation scheme,” he added. Najib said the government would also study the economic and social impact of climatic changes on the country. He said several countries had carried out such a study and it was crucial for Malaysia to also do it so that appropriate action could be taken. “This is a reality which we should accept that there is climatic change, not only in our country, but also in other parts of the world due to global warming,” he added.

MITI To Submit Report On Losses Caused By Floods To Industries
21 January 2007, By BERNAMA

BATU PAHAT — The International Trade and Industry Ministry will submit a report to the government on losses suffered by industries during the floods in Johor for aid purposes. Its Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said that the report would be submitted once complete and accurate data on the losses was gathered after the floods in the state truly ended. “The report will be reviewed by a special committee that will be responsible for deploying aid to the affected industries. “We know that some companies and factories are in need of support as they became totally crippled because their machinery and equipment were damaged in the floods,” she told reporters after leading a Wanita Umno delegation to visit flood victims at the Sri Medan relief centre here. Rafidah, who is also Wanita Umno chief, said that the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers and the Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry had been asked to compile data on the losses suffered by their members as a result of the floods in Johor. Currently, they had completed preliminary assessments of losses suffered by their member during the first wave of the floods that hit the state in December, she said. “The ministry is collaborating with these agencies to gather more information, particularly for the worst-hit Batu Pahat area, where a lot of industries are located,” she said.

Police Want Demerit Point System For Drivers Revived
19 January 2007, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — The traffic police, in their latest move to reduce road accidents nationwide, want the demerit point system to be reviewed since it had been in the backburner over the last nine years. Federal Traffic Police Chief Datuk Nooryah Md Anvar said the demerit system had proven to be effective, especially in developed countries, in reducing road accidents, including fatal accidents. “We have the point system but it has not been used as we have to link up with the Road Transport Department (RTD) to make it work,” she told Bernama in an interview here. She said the traffic police had a meeting with RTD officers two days ago and more meetings would be held in the next few days to find ways to implement the system effectively. Under the demerit point system, a driver will lose points if he or she causes an accident, and a continuous reduction in the points would result in the driver having his or her licence suspended or even revoked in extreme cases. The government had included the Motor Vehicles (Demerit Points) Rules 1997, into the Road Transport Act 1987 but the lack of enforcement resulted in the system being put in the backburner. Another factor hampering the implementation of the system was the lack of close collaboration between the traffic police and the RTD which is the agency responsible in issuing driving licences. Besides losing his or her driving licence under the demerit point system, a driver can also be fined and even jailed for the offence committed. The Motor Vehicles (Demerit Point) Rules state 18 offences that can result in demerit points being imposed to drivers depending on the types of offences he or she commits. Among the top offences which warrant a 15 demerit-point were drunk driving, dangerous driving, careless or inconsiderate driving, competing or racing and failing to give specimen of breath, blood or urine when required by the police to do so. Failing to follow traffic lights would result in 10 demerit points, exceeding speed limit (10 points), offences relating to overtaking and obstruction (8 points), failing to give way to emergency vehicles like ambulances (8 points) and failing to stop at an intersection (8 points). “I will be happy if this method is used. Last November, I went to France to meet my counterpart there and we found that one of the methods they had implemented to reduce accidents was through the demerit point system and it works,” she said. Nooryah said currently the police and the RTD were trying to iron out details on the implementation of the system seriously, adding that she expected the system to kick-off by end of this year. “We have several problems on the strategies of implementing the system. We also have to make several minor amendments to the Demerit Point Rules, pertaining to the duties of the RTD. “Our aim is not to make life difficult for licence holders but to create awareness on safety. Last year we recorded 6,287 deaths due to road accidents. Something must be done immediately…if you don’t do any wrong on the roads, then you have nothing to worry about,” she added.

The big clean-up
19 January 2007, By New Straits Times

JOHOR BARU: The state is rolling up its sleeves to clean up the multi-billion-ringgit mess left by the floods. Manpower and equipment are being mobilised in all flood-hit districts to clear the debris, repair damaged infrastructure, reconstruct homes and get flood victims back on their feet. Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman said after almost three weeks of rescue and relief effort, attention would now switch to rebuilding the lives of the 100,000 people displaced by the deluge since Dec 19. About 12,000 have been able to return home. The number of evacuees has been reduced to 62,970 at 163 relief centres across the state. Batu Pahat still topped the list with 47,525 evacuees, followed by Kota Tinggi (10,790) and Mersing (1,779). The state government hopes to complete its task within three months. “We must quickly get over this calamity and move on with our development priorities. I believe we can do it, Insya Allah (God willing),” he said. Spearheading the clean-up work are local authorities and government agencies, such as the Public Works Department (PWD), whose immediate task is to sweep the streets of everything from building materials and abandoned cars to clothes and plastics. Speed is of the essence because the debris has not only become an environmental hazard but also a danger to public health. Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said the PWD would maximise its resources to repair damaged roads as quickly as possible. He has directed district engineers to assess the damage and organise remedial works at once. Southern Waste Management (SWM), the waste concessionaire for the southern region, has sent 2,500 workers to target areas for clean-up work. The work began in Kota Tinggi yesterday “with the focus on critical areas and affected housing estates”, general manager Ahamad Kamil Ismail said. He said the task ahead was enormous judging by the 5,000 tonnes of rubbish SWM removed after the first flooding on Dec 19. The army, voluntary groups and non-governmental organisations have also been enlisted to rebuild houses and equip them with basic necessities so that victims could resume normal life. Abdul Ghani said cash handouts promised by the federal government would be dispersed speedily. This includes RM200 for victims of the Dec 19 flooding, another RM200 for the second wave of floods and RM500 for families which lost their household goods. NGOs and corporate houses are also giving out aid in cash and kind. Taking the cue from the government, the business community has started a big clean-up of premises so that they can reopen. Said Malaysian Small and Medium Industries Association vice-president Teh Kee Sin: “We have not only suffered huge personal losses but have also missed out on sales for the year-end period and the pre-Lunar New Year shopping season. The businesses of many of our members have been totally washed out by the floods. We appeal to the government to provide easy loans to help us pull through this difficult period.” He, however, said typical of Chinese businessmen, many were determined to resume their trade. “They have started cleaning up and are ready for business.” Cendol seller S. Suppiaya, 53, is ready to return to his house in Kampung Kiri near Kangkar Tebrau after spending several days in a relief centre. “Luckily, I have my three grown-up sons to help me start all over again,” he said, adding that he would use the government cash handouts to buy equipment to restart his cendol business. Food-stall owner, Faridah Ismail, 47, is also looking on the bright side after the traumatic experience of the floods which wrecked her house in Jalan Nipah, Kangkar Tebrau. “I know it is going to be tough. But I have the strength to carry on and make it in my business again,” she said.

Life Returning To Normal In Flood Stricken Johor, Pahang
19 January 2007, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — The situation in the flood-affected areas in Johor and Pahang is returning to normal with more victims going home as floodwaters receded and aid pouring in from caring Malaysians. Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah visited flood victims sheltered at Batu Pahat and Yong Peng in Johor Thursday afternoon. The Raja Perempuan Kelantan Tengku Anis Tengku Abdul Hamid had also handed her donation of clothes, food and basic essentials worth about RM150,000 to flood victims in Johor. The private sector too chipped in with YTL Corporation Bhd donating RM3 million to a flood relief fund set up by the New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd, the biggest donor so far to the fund. Bernama Systems & Solution Advisor Sdn Bhd (BESSAR), a subsidiary of the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) donated essential goods worth about RM50,000 to flood victims in Kahang, Kluang, Johor. CNI Enterprise (M) Sdn Bhd also contributed food and essential items worth about RM50,000 in Johor. The Meteorological Department Thursday raised a orange-level alert on the possibility of stormy weather and heavy rain in Johor, Pahang and Terengganu. In JOHOR, the number of flood victims declined to 61,819 at 158 relief centres Thursday night compared with 66,544 Thursday afternoon. A spokesman at the Johor Police Headquarters Flood Operations Room said relief centres at Batu Pahat housed 47,007 people, Kota Tinggi (10,464), Kluang (1,788), Mersing (1,779), Muar (439), Johor Baharu Selatan (90) and Segamat (252). Flood relief centres in Johor Baharu Utara and Pontian have been closed. Kota Tinggi town is returning to normal and all roads leading to the town are now open to traffic. However in Kluang district, some roads are still closed namely Jalan Kluang-Yong Peng, Jalan Ladang Sungai Tawing-Paloh, Jalan Ladang Selai and Jalan Kahang-Taman Negara. In Batu Pahat district, Jalan Parit Raja, Jalan Yong Peng-Parit Sulong, Jalan Kangkar Baru-Paloh, Jalan Sengkuang-Seri Bengkal, Jalan Yong Peng-Labis and Jalan Batu Pahat-Kluang are still inaccessible. Jalan Mersing-Felda Nitar and Km23 Jalan Felda Nitar-Kluang in Mersing district and Jalan Chaah-Yong Peng in Segamat district are closed. In the Rompin district, Pahang, life is returning to normal as only 577 people from Kampung Kurnia, Ladang Yayasan and Kampung Denai remained at relief centres, said Pahang Police Contingent Flood Operations Room spokesman.

47 Road Locations In Johor Still Impassable To Traffic
18 January 2007, By BERNAMA

JOHOR BAHARU — A total of 47 road locations in Johor are still impassable to traffic as of this evening due to the flood in the state, says Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu. He said 15 other locations of the affected roads however were opened to heavy vehicles, while 87 locations of other roads in the state had been opened to all traffic. “The flood this time has cut off the networks of federal and state roads in Johor. They are badly affected with damages to the pavements, bridge structure and slopes,” he told reporters after visiting the Integrated Southern Gateway project here Thursday. He said that during the flood, 86 locations of the federal roads and 63 locations of the state roads were covered with water. Among them were Jalan Johor Baharu-Batu Pahat, Jalan Johor Baharu-Mersing, Jalan Johor Baharu-Pontian, Jalan Batu Pahat Air Hitam and Jalan Kota Tinggi-Kulai. Samy Vellu said in addition, six roads or bridges suffered erosion and were cut off from the main network by water. They included KM57, Jalan Kota Tinggi-Kluang, Sungai Semberong Bridge, Sungai Redong Bridge, Jalan Tenggaroh, Kampung Kudung Bridge and KM84-85 of Jalan Kluang-Mersing. He also said there were six locations of slopes and banks that were damaged and suffered structural failure. These are KM121 of Jalan Jemaluang-Kahang, KM106 of Jalan Jemaluang-Kahang, KM162 of Jalan Endau-Mersing, KM26 of Jalan Johor Baharu-Kota Tinggi, Jalan Sri Perani-Sungai Aping and Jalan Masuk Felda Kahang Barat. He said the Public Works Department (PWD), with the support of road management concessionaires, had carried out cleaning works to ensure these roads could be used by traffic. The long term repair works via slope stabilisation will be implemented after assessments and studies on the damages are completed, he said. Samy Vellu said the PWD had done the emergency works at several critical locations due to factors including collapse of pavements, slopes, banks and culverts. “Repair works to a total of 10 locations that involved damages to the connecting roads, culverts, road shoulders and banks erosion have finished,” he said. The minister has also directed the Kota Tinggi PWD to enlarge the size of the district’s drains, which were damaged by the flood, from 15 inches to 24 inches in diameters. Speaking to reporters after attending a flood situation briefing at the Diamond Jubilee Hall in Kota Tinggi, Samy Vellu said he had directed the department to submit an estimated cost for the works so that allocations can be disbursed immediately. The district PWD was also told to inspect the roads and bridges that were flooded, particularly those in the villages to determine whether their structural soundness had been compromised. A report on the inspection would be submitted in two days so that it can be presented to the Rural Development Ministry, he said. The minister also presented aid worth RM100,000 contributed by Gerbang Perdana Sdn Bhd, to victims at relief centres in Sekolah Menengah Kota Jaya and Sekolah Menengah New Kota in Kota Tinggi.

No Law To Prohibit Entry Of S’pore Off-peak Cars Into M’sia
18 January 2007, By BERNAMA

SINGAPORE — The Malaysian High Commission in Singapore has reiterated that Singapore off-peak cars (OPCs) are free to enter Malaysia at any time on any day, provided they are fully covered by insurance. “Presently, there is no law or regulation in Malaysia that prohibits the entry into Malaysia of Singapore OPCs,” the High Commission said in a statement. The regulations relating to the use of OPCs in Singapore apply only within Singapore, it said, adding that “they do not apply in Malaysia”. OPCs with red number plates can only be driven in Singapore from 7pm to 7am on weekdays, from 3pm on Saturdays and the whole day on Sundays and public holidays. If the owner wants to drive an OPC car during the restricted hours, he or she will have to purchase and display a supplementary licence costing S$20 a day. The OPC scheme, introduced in October 1994, offers new and existing car owners the option to save on car registration and road tax in return for reduced usage of the car. Recently, though, there were reports about the regulations being enforced by the authorities in Johor Baharu with some motorists claiming that they were issued tickets for driving such cars into Malaysia. The High Commission also invites Singaporeans to visit Malaysia and enjoy the programmes being organised in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

RM100m spent to replace stolen parts
18 January 2007, By New Straits Times

PUTRAJAYA: Over RM100 million and counting. This is what Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB), Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) and Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Bhd (Syabas) have forked out since January last year to replace stolen cables, manhole covers and steel plates. Despite efforts to stop the thieving, losses had jumped tremendously since 2005, said Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik. TM was the main target, with losses of RM57.7 million last year, while TNB lost RM36.4 million and Syabas RM4.2 million. Dr Lim said with the copper price at RM24 per kg, efforts to prevent theft must be stepped up. He said the Second-hand Dealers Act 1946 must be tightened so that the industry could be closely monitored. And the trade in scrap metal should be licensed. The ministry has roped in the police to conduct spot checks on second-hand goods dealers, and to keep close watch on their suppliers. “If we can’t catch the thieves, we’ll catch those who accept the stolen items, in this case the second-hand dealers,” Dr Lim said. He was launching a campaign to increase public awareness of the theft of parts from public utility companies. He said people should call the police if they witnessed such thefts. Federal CID director Datuk Christopher Wan said police had arrested 1,036 people last year, compared to 87 in 2005, for stealing parts from public utilities. TNB chief executive officer Datuk Seri Khalid Mohamad Noh said cable thefts had caused the deaths of people who depended on life-support systems which ran on electricity. “This is not vandalism. This is a crime and the culprits must be stopped,” he said.

Floods may cost Johor economy billions
18 January 2007, By New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: The worst floods in 30 years is likely to cost Johor’s economy billions of ringgit, in lost productivity, financial losses and damaged infrastructure. One private sector estimate put Johor’s economic loss at RM2.4 billion, while the Works Ministry put repairs to infrastructure alone at about RM150 million. And repairs to damaged infrastructure in the other four affected states are expected to cost RM200 million, Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said yesterday. The last three weeks of flooding has likely caused just short of RM2 billion worth of economic losses, according to a report by Alliance Research, the Alliance banking group’s research arm. After including reconstruction costs, the total bill may hit about RM2.4 billion, it said, releasing probably the earliest private sector estimate. It said the total is close to 0.5 per cent of Malaysia’s GDP at current prices, assuming there is no spill-over effect on other states. The floods have already caused Peninsular Malaysia’s crude palm oil production to drop by 30 per cent from November. Household incomes, which averaged about RM3,000 a month in 2004, may take a hit of between 10 and 15 per cent, and consumer spending is expected to slow. Johor accounts for about 13 per cent of Malaysia’s GDP, and its economy is second in size only to Selangor at more than RM110 billion in 2005, according to Khazanah Nasional Berhad. The initial forecast that recovery would take three months may also be too optimistic. Taking into account the damage caused in the second wave of floods, a full recovery could take two years, an official said. The Alliance Research report was less pessimistic, forecasting a recovery by March next year, influenced by government spending.

Bus driver fined RM7,500 for fatal crash near Genting Highlands
18 January 2007, By The Star

KUALA KUBU BARU: The driver of the double-decker bus that crashed along the Batang Kali-Genting Highlands road here, killing three Thailand Provincial Electricity Authority (TPEA) employees, was fined RM7,500 yesterday after he pleaded guilty to careless and inconsiderate driving. A magistrate’s court here fined 22-year-old Anithep Duangrueang, from Amper Songkhla, Thailand, after he admitted that he was careless in controlling the bus and causing the accident at Km13 Jalan Batang Kali-Genting Highlands at 10.20am on Nov 19 last year. The offence carries a maximum fine of RM10,000 or a year’s jail under Section 43 (1) of the Road Transport Act 1987. According to the facts, the Thai national lost control of the bus while negotiating a turn at a slope while heading towards Batang Kali from Genting Highlands. As a result, the bus swerved and crashed, landing on its right side. The bus was carrying 47 Thai passengers and one Malaysian at that time. Twenty-one passengers were severely injured. Among those reported dead were TPEA managing director Decha Nilmanee, 59. Anithep, who was not represented, had earlier asked the court through a Thai interpreter to impose a minimal fine on him as his monthly income was only about RM1,000. However, prosecuting officer Insp Syamsul Bahrin Ahmad pressed for the maximum sentence, saying the case was of public interest and involved Thai nationals. “The sentence must serve as a lesson not just to the accused but also to other bus drivers so that they would be more careful,” he said. Magistrate Aminuddin Mustaffa ordered Anithep to either pay the RM7,500 fine or serve a seven-month jail sentence. The bus driver paid the fine.

Floods: Almost 110,000 evacuated
15 January 2007, By The Star

JOHOR BARU: The number of flood victims in Johor Baru and Pontian has dipped slightly, but the figures in other districts continued to climb as more people left their homes and moved into relief centres across the state. As of 10am, some 109,831 people have been evacuated to 344 flood evacuation centres statewide. Those affected are from Batu Pahat (39,089), Johor Baru (16,417), Kluang (16,024), Kota Tinggi (13,189), Mersing (8,239), Segamat (6,593), Muar (5,611)and Pontian (4,669). Kota Tinggi, Bandar Tenggara, Mersing and Kluang remain cut off. Access to Mersing is only through Rompin, Pahang, as access from Johor Baru has been cut off due to floods and landslides. Some 36 roads state-wide have been closed. Among the major ones are: 1. Kota Tinggi – Mersing 2. Kota Tinggi – Sedeli 3. Kota Tinggi – Kluang 4. Labis – Yong Peng 5. Yong Peng – Parit Sulong 6. Yong Peng – Chaah 7. Kota Tinggi – Kulai 8. Muar – Labis, Muar – Lenga (heavy vehicles only)

Outlook bright for insurers
12 January 2007, By Business Times

THE insurance sector is expected to continue outperforming Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in terms of growth this year, as new business expands by between 10 and 15 per cent. The primary catalyst is implementation of the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), which insurers said will make available new business potentials for the industry. The Life Insurance Association of Malaysia (Liam) said the 9MP would have a positive impact on the economy, which in turn would improve the living standards of the people. Better living standards would, among other things, translate into more disposable income and more opportunities for life insurance companies to sell their products. Likewise, the General Insurance Association of Malaysia (Piam) expects a stable outlook for the general insurance sector this year, in tandem with the economic growth of the country, barring any unforeseen adverse impacts on the regional and global economies. As implementation of the 9MP gathers momentum, demand for property and liability insurance is expected to pick up, Piam said. Liam noted that the life insurance industry’s penetration rate of 38.7 per cent was still low, and that the potential was enormous. “We expect the penetration rate to increase by 1 to 1.5 per cent each year. This has been the pattern over the past 10 years,” it said. Local market penetration is measured in terms of total number of policies in force against total population. Insurers expect more awareness of the value of insurance as disposable income increases and people start to accumulate personal assets. To boost the industry and further increase the penetration rate, Liam suggested that the 8 per cent tax rate on policyholders’ funds be removed. At present, life insurers’ investment income, for example dividends, realised capital gains, coupons and bonds, are subject to an 8 per cent tax, unlike unit trusts that are exempted from tax on income derived from gains and investment returns. Liam is also hoping that the Government will expedite the introduction of private pensions in Malaysia, which had been envisioned in both the Capital Market Masterplan and the Financial Sector Masterplan issued in 2001. Liam expects growth this year to come mainly from single premium investment products, in particular structured products. Both associations anticipate medical and health insurance to continue recording strong growth, driven by growing consumer awareness and increasing need for protection arising from concern over the escalating costs of medical and healthcare services. Piam is optimistic the automotive sector will stabilise this year and provide the stimulus for further growth in the motor insurance sector. In the first half of last year, motor insurance continued to account for the largest share of the general insurance division at 43 per cent, but recorded nominal growth of 0.8 per cent compared with 15.7 per cent in 2005. It also said that there was scope for insurers to develop growth strategies in providing insurance and risk management solutions targeted at small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in view of the private sector’s focus on this segment. “Some key areas of growth linked to the SMEs would be in the provision of property and liability insurance, marine, aviation and cargo-in-transit covers, as well as product liability insurance and corporate governance-related protection for directors and officers of SMEs. It added that the Government’s emphasis on the agro-based and biotechnology sectors should provide additional scope for general insurers to venture into these areas to promote insurance services and products. Liam expects liberalisation of the financial sector to continue this year. Last year saw a number of corporate exercises in the life insurance industry with the entry of foreign partners. “For 2007, we expect to see this trend continued. Overall, this will lift the standards of the market, and we expect consumers to ultimately benefit from it,” it said.

Malaysia’s takaful sector set for another dazzling year
12 January 2007, By Business Times

MALAYSIA’S takaful industry will once again outperform its conventional insurance counterparts this year, thanks to the growing demand for Islamic financial instruments in the country and globally. Backed by government initiatives to position Malaysia as the global hub for Islamic finance, takaful is expected to grow 20 per cent this year, said Md Azmi Abu Bakar, president of the Malaysian Takaful Association (MTA) The industry is forecast to record an improvement from the RM1.3 billion net contribution for both family (life) and general business combined in 2005 to RM1.7 billion in 2006. Azmi noted that growth will be spurred when the four new takaful players start operations proper this year, as well as from the spillover effect of the Ninth Malaysia Plan’s implementation. “These and the government role in strengthening the takaful industry’s infrastructure and regulatory measures, and new initiatives such as the Malaysia International Islamic Finance Centre will all come into play to make the industry continue to experience robust growth in the near future,” said Azmi, who is also the chief executive officer of Syarikat Takaful Malaysia Bhd. MTA said the penetration rate of takaful was still low at 6 per cent in 2006. It believes there is tremendous potential for the family business segment to grow further. Traditionally, family business represents 70 per cent of the net contribution, with the rest coming from general business. Azmi expects favourable growth in the Islamic private debt securities market to continue this year and to boost growth in total assets in the takaful industry. “We forecast for the period 2006, and at a conservative growth rate of 16 per cent for both funds, that assets should be in the region of RM7 billion for the combined family and general takaful funds,” he said. For 2005, total assets of the family takaful fund stood at RM5 billion and of the general takaful fund, at RM830 million. Malaysia is the world’s largest issuer of Islamic debt, accounting for US$32 billion (RM113 billion), or 60 per cent of the global Islamic debt outstanding. To improve the industry’s assets and investment portfolio, MTA proposes that takaful operators go for a wider spread of quality investment instruments that are syariah compliant as well as venture abroad. In 2005, a major part of the takaful funds were invested in Islamic private debt securities and equities instruments, followed by investment accounts and Islamic money market, and government Islamic papers, representing an average of more than 46 per cent, 25 per cent and 12 per cent respectively of the combined assets of the family and general takaful funds invested in these instruments. In overcoming challenges this year, heading the list would be to have adequate retakaful capacity to back takaful operators in the course of handling more complex and larger risks, said Azmi. He also noted that it was timely that Bank Negara Malaysia recently awarded two retakaful licences, which could help reduce the “leakage” which arose when takaful operators relied on conventional reinsurance companies for support. Another challenge would be the shortage of skilled labour, he said.

JPJ To Introduce E-plate To Beat Vehicle Smuggling
9 January 2007, By BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA — The Road Transport Department (JPJ) will introduce in stages from the end of this year the “e-plate”, a chip-embedded vehicle registration number plate containing data on the chassis number, engine number and type of vehicle, to ward off smuggling and falsifying of registration numbers. Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said the implementation would be carried out in stages, with new vehicles required to be fixed with the e-plate initially while those registered earlier would be given a grace period of between three and five years to comply. The e-plate will be made a price-controlled item and can be issued only by authorised workshops, he told reporters, here Tuesday. “With the e-plate, enforcement officers can verify the data of vehicles passing through border checkpoints. Now, it is difficult to determine whether their registration numbers are genuine or false,” he said. The ministry has received 13 proposals from companies interested in producing the e-plate, he said, adding that the JPJ was still studying the technology to be used in the system. Stressing that the price of the e-plate would be nominal, he said enforcement agencies would be equipped with scanners to read the data from the chip in the e-plate. JPJ Deputy Director-General Solah Mat Hassan said the falsifying of vehicle registration numbers would no longer be easy because the department would be able to detect if the chips had been tampered with as the data would be missing. “When the data disappears, it is an indication that there were attempts to tamper with the data in the plate,” he said, adding that the JPJ had yet to decide on the material of the e-plate. Earlier, the Malaysian Advertising Alliance Association expressed its concern over loss of revenue among its members with the introduction of the e-plate, at its meeting with Chan. However, Chan assured the association that some of its members would be commissioned to issue the e-plate under the supervision of the JPJ.