MP for Kluang • Political Education Director, Democratic Action Party

The Black Swan

Nassim Taleb’s bestseller “The Black Swan” talks about a world shaped by highly improbable events. He argues that most of what that we take for granted after the event was considered impossible before the event.

We know swans are white and that acquired common sense often stops us from realising that there are black swans too. We are not given to being counter-intuitive.

As we reflect upon world politics towards the end of 2011, we see that the landscape now has changed beyond recognition when compared to how it was in the beginning of the year. And those changes are permanent, irreversible and will continue to redefine the world in the years to come.

No one expected an Arab Spring to happen. Likewise, the electoral swing to the opposition in Singapore, the riots on the streets of London, the Anna Hazare anti-corruption campaign in India, the Camila Vallejo school fees protest that shocked the Chilean establishment and now the Occupy Wall Street movement were not anticipated at the beginning of the year.

In the years to come, the world will remember 2011 as it does 1968 and 1989. The year 1968 saw the climax of the anti-Vietnam War protest which sparked worldwide anti-establishment movements. In 1989, the collapse of the communist bloc was perhaps the most unexpected spectacle of the century.

As in 1968 and 1989, the existing world political and economic orders are crumbling in 2011, but as yet, no new balance has been found.

While we can’t tell whether a black swan will soon visit Malaysia or not, the country is exhibiting huge and glaring economic, political and demographic contradictions.

Economically, 60 per cent of the population earns a household income of less than RM3,000 per month. The bottom 40 per cent live on a household income of less than RM1,500 per month, with the supposedly favoured Bumiputeras constituting as much as two-thirds of this category.

It is no doubt true that low-income groups can survive in silence if and when the economic pie is steadily growing. But when inflation suddenly kicks in just when growth slows, then the uneasy equilibrium cannot be maintained.

In a rural setting, as long as the weather permits, many live on a semi-subsistent existence by growing food and rearing livestock. But urban dwellers from low -and middle-income families have nowhere to go when times are bad.

This is a serious challenge in a country where growth is slowing and state capacity is weak. The urban proportion of the population in Malaysia was estimated by the World Bank at 70.36 per cent in 2008, up from 35 per cent in 1980.

This eats into the credibility of the ruling parties. For urban dwellers, who now have access to Facebook and other social media, sources of information are multiple and not easily controlled by the government. And daily encounters with establishment cronies flaunting their wealth further erode Umno’s claim to being Malay champions.

Umno continues to survive electorally thanks to blatant gerrymandering and massive mal-apportionment of constituencies. Sixty-five per cent of the seats are in rural areas. For instance, the seat of Kapar now reports a voting population of 122,011 (Q1, 2011; 104,185 in the 2008 general election) while Umno seats have an average of 49,429 voters (in the 2008 general election).

Through manipulating the electoral system, Umno has amplified the significance of its “fixed deposit” voter groups, including Umno members, civil servants, police, military personnel, Felda settlers and Bumiputeras from Sabah and Sarawak.

In essence, Umno is a narrowly-based vested interest party. In the 2008 general election, 10.6 million were registered to vote, of whom close to 2.45 million did not bother to turn up to vote. Barisan Nasional received 51.4 per cent of the popular votes while the opposition as a whole garnered 48.6 per cent of the votes.

According to the Election Commission, as of August 2011 Malaysia has 15.98 million citizens above the age of 21 but, as of June 2011, those who have registered are only 12.27 million. Twenty-three per cent or some 3.7 million have as yet not claimed their right to vote.

The black swan may come in the form of the two million first-time voters in the next general election — 130,000 (estimated), 276,621(Election Commission figure) and 851,260 (Election Commission figure) were registered in 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively. Another 900,000 new voters are estimated to be registered in 2011.

Admittedly, the number of problematic registrations among the new voters, such as the ongoing foreign-worker-turned-citizen-turned-voter scam, may be substantial and if they are concentrated in Pakatan marginal seats, the balance may tip in Barisan Nasional’s favour. The PAS’s experience in Terengganu in 2004 is a case in point.

Nevertheless, genuine voters will probably still far outweigh phantom voters.

Typically new voters are urban-based and young, with slightly more being Malays than non-Malays. Fifty per cent of Malaysia’s population are below 25 years of age while nearly 70 per cent are below 40. This is characteristically an Arab Spring-type demography.

It is clear that Budget 2012 did not address the economic gap and provides no plan for those below 40 years of age. Politically, the proposed tweaking of security laws lags far behind an ever-rising expectation for a more democratic society.

These economic, political and demographic contradictions hold the potential of springing a black swan on Malaysia.

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified)

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    Liew Chin Tong
    Facebook IconNovember 26, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Liew Chin Tong shared Pusat Komuniti Pakatan Rakyat Kluang's status update.

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    Pusat Komuniti Pakatan Rakyat Kluang

    Pagi ini, kami telah menghubungi Unit Perkhidmatan Pelanggan Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) untuk bertanya tentang permulaan laluan perjalanan antara JB Sentral-Woodlands, Singapura yang dijadualkan pada 1 Disember.

    Melalui perbualan tersebut, kami dapat berkongsi maklumat di bawah untuk rujukan anda semua:

    1. Terdapat dua jenis tiket keretapi iaitu pas bulanan dan tiket harian. Bagi tiket harian, tiket sehala dan tiket ulang-alik ditetapkan pada kadar RM 5 dan RM 10 masing-masing. Terdapat sedikit kekeliruan maklumat tentang harga pas bulanan, di mana pihak KTM memberitahu bahawa harga pas ditetapkan pada RM240 manakala pihak stesen JB Sentral menjual pas pada harga RM 244.

    2. Anda boleh membeli pas bulanan di stesen Woodlands di Singapura dengar kadar harga $SGD240, iaitu matawang Singapore Dollar. Harganya lebih mahal berbanding jika dibeli di Malaysia.

    3. Pas bulanan boleh didapati mulai pada 27 November, kaunter akan dibuka dari jam 8:30 pagi hingga 9 malam. Walau bagaimanapun, kami diberitahu oleh staf JB Sentral bahawa penjualan tiket hanya bermula pada 28 November. Sila hubungi pejabat JB Sentral untuk mengesahkan tarikh dan masa pembelian sebenar (07-2234727).

    4. Pas bulanan hanya boleh didapati di JB Sentral dan tidak boleh didapati di stesen keretapi lain ataupun atas talian.

    5. Tempat duduk adalah atas dasar "free-seating" (bebas memilih). Anda mungkin terpaksa berdiri sepanjang perjalanan.

    Untuk maklumat lanjut, sila layari, hubungi talian KTMB 1300-88-5862 ataupun JB Sentral

    Harap maklumat tersebut boleh dapat membantu anda semua

    Liew Chin Tong
    Facebook IconNovember 25, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Walaupun mengalu-alukan kemungkinan penurunan harga minyak RON95 dan diesel, DAP mengambil sikap berhati-hati dan menggesa kerajaan membentangkan mekanisme kaedah ‘pengapungan terkawal’ yang akan digunakan.

    Ahli Parlimen Kluang Liew Chin Tong berkata, kerajaan perlu merangka langkah yang akan diambil bagi meringankan beban rakyat sekiranya harga minyak mentah global kembali meningkat.

    “Harga minyak mentah global sememangnya sudah turun lebih murah daripada harga RON95 (RM2.30) dan diesel (RM2.20).

    “Seperti yang disebut berulang kali, sejak 31 Oktober lalu rakyat telah pun seperti membayar ‘cukai minyak’. Maka kami mengalu-alukan, walaupun tetap berhati-hati, kemungkinannya turunnya harga minyak dan diesel.

    “Kami menggesa kerajaan mendedahkan kaedah dan formula sistem ‘pengapungan terkawal’ – atau dipanggil ‘apungan kotor’ oleh pemain industri – yang akan digunakan untuk menjaga ketelusan,” kata Chin Tong dalam satu kenyataan.

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    Dedah mekanisme harga minyak segera |

    Berita Dedah mekanisme harga minyak segera 21 November 2014 KUALA LUMPUR, 21 NOV: Walaupun mengalu-alukan kemungkinan penurunan harga minyak RON95 dan diesel, DAP mengambil sikap berhati-hati dan menggesa kerajaan membentangkan mekanisme kaedah ‘pengapungan terkawal’ yang akan digunakan. Ahli Parlim…

    Liew Chin Tong
    November 24, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Left a meeting at Mid-Valley at 530p.m, drove to every directions, all congested. Reached Kajang at 830p.m.

    Najib told Parliament when presenting Budget 2015 that "this is due to the increase in number of vehicles from 13.6 million units in 2008 to 23.7 million units in 2013."

    There is no way that we can build enough highways to cater for such a huge rise in newly registered vehicles.

    Public transport is the only way out. However, when BN governments thought about public transport, it is MRT, LRT - essentially big contracts for the cronies.

    We should go back to the basics: build an efficiently functioning bus based system.

    Liew Chin Tong
    Facebook IconNovember 24, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Nasib Najib dan ekonomi

    Berapa lama lagi Datuk Seri Najib Razak mampu mengekalkan jawatan Perdana Menteri? Apa cabaran yang dihadapi Malaysia dan apakah masa depan UMNO?

    Selain daripada Tunku Abdul Rahman dan Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Najib menjadi Perdana Menteri yang paling lama berkuasa kerana Tun Abdul Razak hanya memegang jawatan untuk tempoh 5 tahun 4 bulan; sementara Tun Hussein Onn 5 tahun 6 bulan; Tun Abdullah Badawi 5 tahun 5 bulan dan Najib kini sudah menjangkau 5 tahun 7 bulan.

    Sokongan terhadap Najib di kalangan masyarakat Melayu telah menjunam ke tahap yang tidak lagi memuaskan. Satu-satunya sagu hati yang mampu merawat luka Najib adalah popularitinya masih lebih tinggi berbanding kerajaan Barisan Nasional secara keseluruhannya.

    Baca selanjutnya:

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    Liew Chin Tong
    Facebook IconNovember 21, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    Disclose fuel price mechanism now

    The DAP cautiously welcomes the potential reduction of RON95 and diesel pump prices and calls on the Barisan Nasional Government to disclose the new managed float system immediately.

    First, the DAP cautiously welcomes the potential savings for consumers as the global crude oil price has already fallen below the current pump price of RM2.30 for RON95 and RM2.20 for diesel. As repeatedly highlighted by DAP and Pakatan Rakyat since 31st October 2014, Malaysians are indeed already paying a “fuel tax” without one being imposed.

    Second, the Government must disclose the formula for the managed float, which industrial players call “dirty float”, for greater transparency.

    Third, the Government must also draw up a plan of what it would do in the event that the petrol price rises again to ease the burden of the people.

    Fourth, in the long run, the Government must invest a lot more to create an efficient and affordable public transportation system so that the Malaysian public will rely less on private vehicles, hence end our dependence on petroleum.

    In hindsight, the criticism against the recent October 2014 petrol hike by the Opposition is proven right that the Government was raising pump prices at a time when global crude oil prices were falling. After the ensuing panic arising from the chain effect of the price hike, the government is now forced to make a u-turn.

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