Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Interesting corp policy to encourage healthy living

From BusinessWeek:
Being Unhealthy Could Cost You -- Money
August 2

For employees at Clarian Health, feeling the burn of trying to lose weight will take on new meaning.

In late June, the Indianapolis-based hospital system announced that starting in 2009, it will fine employees $10 per paycheck if their body mass index (BMI, a ratio of height to weight that measures body fat) is over 30. If their cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose levels are too high, they'll be charged $5 for each standard they don't meet. Ditto if they smoke: Starting next year, they'll be charged another $5 in each check.

Clarian has been making headlines for its aggressive and unusual approach to covering escalating health-care costs. Rather than … (link to story)

I think this is an excellent policy because company health policies mainly benefit those who are unwilling or unable to take care of their health. For example, I do not smoke, my BMI is within normal range, I try to eat right, and I exercise quite regularly.

In my workplace, there a quite a few people who do none of the above. Not surprisingly, they tend to have more health problems and they fall sick more often than the other workers who try to stay healthy.

Ultimately, the healthier workers end up paying a lot more to subsidise the unhealthy lifestyles of these co-workers.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Don't forget the New Umno Anthem

Not sure what all the excitement with Negarakuku is about.

Don't forget there is also the New Umno Anthem (Lagu Baru UMNO) available on youtube:

According to the youtube page, it was uploaded more than one year ago and has been viewed more than 29,900 times. The caption below says, "This is a video response to Umno Youth protest at Asean Ministerial meeting". You can also scroll down a bit for the lyrics.

If the govt is going after Namewee, why not go after these guys too?

Update: Another blog called Hope for Malaysia has transcribed the full lyrics (BM) and also provides an English translation.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ministry is capricious, contradictory with 24-hour rulings

Now, I am no big fan of oil companies and petrol stations, but I feel the Ministry has overstepped its authority in this “must open 24 hours” issue.

Since these are private businesses (not owned by government), the Ministry has no authority to dictate their opening hours. If it can do this, what is to stop the Ministry from dictating the opening hours for any other businesses? For example, it may order all clinics to open 24 hours. For that matter, why not order all mechanics and car workshops to open 24 hours?

I watched the press conference on Tv3 news last night where Datuk Shafie threatened unspecified sanctions against the petrol dealers. When pressed by reporters for details, he only said something like “They know what will happen to them.”

This gives me the impression that the Ministry has no legal standing in this matter. Plus, Datuk Shafie comes off as capricious, and the Ministry appears to be making up rules as it goes along.

Worse, the Ministry’s stance on petrol stations staying open 24 hours is a direct contradiction to its stance on hypermarkets’ opening hours.

Recall that this is the same ministry (and the same minister) which, in 2004, barred hypermarkets from opening 24 hours. This, despite protests from consumers, and appeals from the hypermarkets who actually want to open 24 hours (unlike these petrol kiosk operators).

One excuse that the Ministry is using is that petrol is a “controlled item” or “essential item”. But aren’t there a lot more controlled items sold in hypermarkets? Don’t I have a right to buy sugar, flour and chicken at any time of the day or night? Isn’t food more of an essential item than petrol?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hypermarts should be allowed to open 24 hours then

If the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs says petrol kiosks in strategic locations must continue to operate 24 hours, why not allow hypermarts to open 24 hours too?
Since the Malaysian public tends to have a short memory, here's a reminder of the Ministry's stance on hypermarkets:

Publication Date: 08.04.2004
Publication: The Star
Section: Main
Page Title: Nation
Page: 24
Subject: Government
Keyword: Supermarkets

No more 24 hours for hypermarkets

KUALA LUMPUR: Hypermarkets are no longer allowed to operate 24 hours with immediate effect, said Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Mohd Shafie Apdal.

"The ruling is necessary to protect small industries, market traders and grocery shop owners who are losing out because of the 24-hour operation by hypermarkets.

"We have received complaints from the Entrepreneur Development and Co-operatives Ministry and small businesses regarding this," Shafie said at the post-Cabinet press conference in his office here yesterday.

Shafie said his ministry had monitored the situation and conducted studies since 2002 on the effect of hypermarkets on local traders before deciding on the regulation.

He said all hypermarkets would operate from 10am to 10pm on weekdays and from 10am to midnight or 1am on weekends.

"It's sufficient that they are already operating 365 days a year," he said.

Shafie said it was up to the local authorities to ensure that the hypermarkets adhered to the new ruling.


Here were some of the letters from consumers protesting the ruling:

Publication Date: 11.04.2004
Publication: Sunday Star
Edition: Final
Section: Main
Page Title: Comment
Page: 34
Column: Mail

Ridiculous to restrict opening hours of hypermarkets

I AM extremely disappointed that hypermarkets are no longer allowed to operate 24 hours, "No more 24 hours for hypermarkets" (The Star, April 8).

I agree that hypermarkets do pose strong competition to small traders and grocers, but depriving consumers the freedom to choose where and when to go shopping is simply ridiculous.

Are we absolutely certain that by restricting opening hours of hypermarkets, small traders and grocery shops can breathe a sigh of relief? Most of these businesses close early, so where can we go if we need to do some shopping after midnight?

Believe me, there are some people whose daily routines are different from others.

Must I now knock on the nearest corner shop, wake the owner up and remind him that if he refuses my business, he is losing out?

Businessmen should be given the right to open and close for business according to their ability.

Many European countries have hypermarkets both in the urban centres and suburban areas opening for 24 hours and yet people still go and shop at the grocery stores near their homes.

Small traders there are wise enough to keep up with the times by striving to provide better service, a wide range of quality products and equally competitive prices.

Kuala Lumpur

Publication Date: 13.04.2004
Publication: The Star
Edition: Final
Section: Main
Page Title: Comment
Page: 29
Subject: Shopping
Keyword: Hypermarkets, Operating Hours
Column: Mail

Unfair to restrict opening hours of hypermarts

I REFER to the letter, "Ridiculous to restrict opening hours of hypermarkets", (Sunday Star, April 11).

It is extremely unfair to restrict the operating hours of hypermarkets because they pose strong competition to grocers and small traders.

This decision was passed not too long after the first 24-hour hypermarket started operations. I believe no investigation was conducted to prove that it had actually affected the smaller players in the industry.

I suppose the only way to find out the truth is to do a comparison of balance sheets of the affected traders.

However, this method is understandably tedious and impractical. The next best thing would be to do a survey on consumers.

Find out what they really want and, most importantly, whether they are really ignoring neighbourhood grocery shops.

Are the small traders really affected or are the hypermarkets being denied their right to profit from their niche market?

Kuala Lumpur.
(via e-mail)

Saturday, August 11, 2007


I read with interest Star's Jun 9 front page story about the beef import cartel under the headline Cartel broken.

However, the story is a little scant about how exactly the cartel was “broken” and how it came about in the first place.

It also raises other questions. For example, are there competition laws or anti-cartel (i.e. antitrust) laws in Malaysia? Is their behaviour even illegal (from the Malaysian legal standpoint) in the first place? How do we ensure this situation doesn’t arise again?

Since the Government is portraying itself as cartel-busters, how about looking at the book and magazine suppliers in Malaysia, who seem to engaging in cartel-like behaviour?

If you’re interested in some good examples of anti-cartel laws take a look at:

United States Antitrust Law or European Community Competition Law.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Heading off Skycar hype

We're starting to hear from Moller International again about its skycar, which is variously billed as a flying saucer, flying car, or flying vehicle.

This time around, there seem to be photos and videos of the product, plus you get the inevitable Jetsons references. Now this kind of story always gets writers and editors excited; just search Google News for "skycar" and you'll get a bunch of stories, with more probably on the way.

The problem is, Moller Int'l has tried to sell this concept before and was later revealed to be quite a dodgy company.

So much so that the SEC (The Securities and Exchange Commission, a U.S. regulatory body) filed a lawsuit against Moller Int and Paul Moller in 2003. The details are available on the SEC website at: http://www.sec.gov/litigation/complaints/comp17987.htm

In fact, just google "Moller International" and the SEC page is the third link, just below Moller's own website.

In the introduction to the suit, the SEC said:
"This matter involves a fraudulent, unregistered offering and the filing of a fraudulent Form 10-SB by Moller International, Inc. ("MI" or "the company"), a California company engaged in the development of a personal aircraft known as "the Skycar."

Under the heading, "False and Misleading Statements and Omissions", the SEC said:
>>19. The promotional material used in this solicitation campaign contained materially false and misleading information.
20. For example, the Skycar, according to Moller, would allow any person to travel at speeds over 400 miles-per-hour in the uncluttered airspace above the roadways for about the same price as a luxury automobile. In MI investor newsletters, Moller projected that 10,000 Skycars would be sold by the end of 2002.
21. In reality, the Skycar was and still is a very early developmental-stage prototype that has no meaningful flight testing, proof of aeronautical feasibility, or proven commercial viability. <<

Maybe things have changed since then, but I feel this is really a case of caveat emptor, and the media should not get overly excited over this “flying saucer” until more tests are conducted.