Thursday, 27 September 2007

A conference discovery and what does the pic depict?

It will be last day of a very memorable conference tomorrow and how I wish it will last longer. I have made some really good friends and we shared many of our experiences, which was really good. I have more tales to tell but I think what I have said over the last few days will suffice for now.

One thing I must share here though. Through the conversations I shared with my overseas colleagues, I somehow made a rather intriguing discovery. It appears that almost all of our South East Asia counterparts hate dislike
my boss. I will not go into the details but she certainly does not have a good reputation amongst her peers. Well… why am I not surprise?

Anyway… a story was told of a woman whose husband allowed her to take his car out for a girls’ night out. She returned home late that day. Just as her husband left for work the next day, he saw this on his car…


click to enlarge...

What do you think happened?

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Conference dinner tales

We took our overseas guests to a supposedly famous Malaysian restaurant which serves Malaysian food. Being a tourist hotspot, they even throw in some cultural dance. Of course, the charges for the performance have probably been factored into the food.

Tale 1: Not so friendly food menu

No, I am not talking about the taste of the food, though I do have something to say about the selection. But if this is a renounce Malaysian restaurant and is indeed a very famous tourist hotspot, all the cuisine should have been labelled… with English!

I spent quite some time going around explaining what is ‘nasi’, ‘daging’, ‘lembu’, ‘kambing’, ‘ayam’, ‘masak merah’, ‘rendang’ and all other words which tourists will most certainly not aware of. Were they trying to teach the tourists our national language? Or they think people visiting from Penang and Johore will pay them a visit too?

One thing though, their waiter’s English is commendable.

Tale 2: Malaysian cuisine and… international?

Based on the name of the restaurant, I have my doubt that it will serve Malaysian cuisine, though they claim they do…I was right. I don’t think I see anything that I can identify to. Fair enough, I don’t expect this restaurant to serve pork… but still!

And the best part, they also claim to have an international buffet… but the only non Malay-sian food I can find is… spaghetti. I am quite adventurous in food but I just couldn’t bring myself to try that.

Tale 3: Malaysian cultural dance

After a few traditional Malay dances, I was quite pleased to hear that a Chinese dance is up next. Yeah, pretty racist huh. Hey, they said Malaysian, obviously must have Chinese and Indian too right? As soon as the Chinese dancers came out…

“zewt, are those Chinese?”
“Hmmm… I am afraid, I don’t think so”
“Who are they?”
“Not Chinese”
“Is this a Chinese dance?”

The conversation went on with me trying to defend my race and trying not to tarnish the country’s image that much… quite a task I must say.

That was the only Chinese dance for the night. While I really don’t want to talk much about the dancers and the dance, I must comment on the costume. I think that restaurant needs to know that by putting on the almost same type of costume of the ‘earlier’ dance in red does not amount to Chinese costume.

I guess I will not blame the world if they perceive me in a certain manner.

More tales from the conference

As mentioned yesterday, I am at a global tax conference and had the chance to meet up with people from all over the world…

Tale 1: Perception is everything

I had a pretty long chat with the regional tax manager of east Africa during lunch. His name has got a peculiar spelling and it took me a while to know how to actually pronounce it. Sorry, I can't really disclose it here. He is based in Kenya and is of Kenyan origin and naturally, I asked…

“You must be a very good runner”
“Oh, not really,” he smiled.
“Sure? All the marathon winners and world record holder of long distance runners are from Kenya”
“Yes, that is true. But not all Kenyan are like that. In fact, I can't really run at all”

I found out from further conversation that only a very small tribe in Kenya are runners. The rest… well, let’s just say that they prefer to walk. So if you think that most Africans are natural long distance runners, you are wrong. But then again, perception is everything isn’t it? Just like how others perceived us as living on trees and how we are all of one religion.

Tale 2: Maximising time?

When my colleague was organising the conference, she had a tough time working with my boss. Yes,
it’s “that” boss. One main problem was the timing. The hotel only allows us to use the conference rooms until 5.30pm and we have to vacate the room thereafter. But our boss was very adamant that we have to extend our time to at least 6.30pm. Reason being…

“These people fly here from all over the world, surely they want to maximise their time here!”

So my poor colleague had to negotiate with the hotel about it. Oh, did I mention that our boss wanted us to start at 8am? Anyway, the negotiation with the hotel on the closure time failed, but we can commence our conference earlier. So our boss prepared agendas based on 8am – 5.30pm, and the boss was not pleased.

1 week before the conference, the big bosses from London sent over their agendas. And their timing… 9.15am – 5.15pm.

Well, I guess they do want to maximise time. But the question is… on what?... We Asians have much to learn.

Tale 3: An Asian Culture?

Following from tale 2… the first session yesterday was separated according to regions. There were 3 main regions namely… North East Asia covering China, Hong Kong and Taiwan… South East Asia covering Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia… the final region comprises of people from Africa, Middle East and the big bosses from Europe.

Our SEA head insisted that we start our session at 8am for a quick ‘ice breaker’. People from NEA came in at about 8.30am and the rest, at about 9am.

We the SEA people finished at 5.30pm, right before the hotel chase us out of the room. Upon exiting our room, we saw one guy from the NEA region came out for a toilet break and his remark was …

“Sigh… at least another 30 minutes more” (They had a small room which they don’t need to vacate by 5.30pm).

We the SEA people thought we did quite well, didn’t last as long as the NEA people. When we ask how are the Europeans and Africans are doing… They ended theirs at 4.30pm.

I know the thing about Asians being hardworking and all is a very well known culture. But I think if we were to look at it from a macro perspective… this Asian culture is slowly but surely… turning into an Asian curse.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Monday with 3 tales

Allow me to quickly share 3 tales with you today…

Tale No.1:

I am currently attending a global tax conference which will last for a week. Just as I got out from my car and into the lift lobby, I bumped into my boss.

“Zewt, my sister in law passed away last Saturday”
“Oh, so sorry. So how?”
“The funeral is tomorrow (Tuesday). With this conference, now I have problem”

One would have thought that the conference is the problem as my boss should be at the funeral. But as the conversation went on, I found out that the ‘problem’ was the funeral. She will not be attending the funeral tomorrow (Tuesday) as she ‘needs’ to be in the conference tomorrow. Apparently… no choice… does she?

I am beginning to seriously considering a change of job.

Tale No.2:

During lunch, I was sitting next to the regional manager of the South East Asia region, she is from Singapore.

“bla bla bla”
“ya ya bla bla”
“Hey zewt, are you going to have a traditional Chinese wedding?”
“No, will be having a church wedding”

At this time, she looked up gave me a rather perplexed look.

“Church wedding?”
“Yeah, what’s wrong with that?”
“Aren’t all Malaysians supposed to be…… Muslims?”

For some very strange reason, this Singaporean thinks that all Malaysians have to be Muslims. Her reason for having such understanding…

“That’s what I read in the news”

I really wonder what kind of message are we portraying to the world at large.

Tale No.3:

Someone pointed out to me about the list of crew members of the Expedition 16.
Expedition 16 comprises of:
Commander – Peggy Whitson
Flight Engineer – Yuri Malenchenko
Flight Engineer – Leopold Eyharts
Flight Engineer – Garrett Reisman
Flight Engineer – Dan Tani

Spaceflight participant – Sheikh Muzhaphar Shukor.

So our hero is a… spaceflight participant
according to NASA website. I am just glad they didn't call him space teh-tarik maker. I am so proud. Aren’t you proud?

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Today, I remember

It’s Friday tomorrow and I am supposed to feel jolly but I don’t feel quite that way. Tomorrow is the 21st of the month and every 21st of the month brings about a new milestone. Time passes by so fast that it has already been 6 months since my life took a huge turn.
I just finished reading all the entries I wrote about my Mom. Some may ask why should I re-visit the painful past. But then again, the sole reason I wrote those entries down are for me to read it again and again, because I don’t want to forget. It is very easy for us to be caught up with the pace of our daily lives and forget about the things we promise ourselves. I refuse to let that happen to me.

As I look at my life over the last 6 months, I can see more and more little things in my life where Mom played such an important role, all without me knowing it. For example… after a drink of Milo for supper, if I leave the cup unwashed, it will surely be clean when I return from work the day after. Now, the cup can be there for weeks and it will still remain unwashed.

I have this habit of chucking my ties aside when I return from work and when Mom was around, it will be nicely placed back to my drawer after a few days. Now, the ties are all stacked up like a mountain and no one seems to care. And when I want to wear a particular tie, I have to find it from the tie mountain.

On a more macro side, can food now forms a major part of my diet. I used to cook but as the demand of being a modern slave intensify, it is no longer possible. My aunt acts as the chef most of the times and as she is already quite old, can food make things easier. I actually asked her not to cook; we can settle our dinner ourselves. She answered…

“Your mom looked after me for so long, I want to cook for you all”

Even after her death, Mom left a legacy that actually benefits us. Isn’t it incredible?

Another that took place in the last 6 months is when I drive around or visit places, I thought of all the places I told Mom I will bring her. One of them is a vegetarian restaurant near KLCC, one that I drive pass every week. Each time I drive pass it, the words “I will bring you there one day” rings in my head. Of course, it never happen.

Ya’ know, if you screw up in a relationship, you will always say that you will not repeat your mistakes in your next relationship. Perhaps you want to treat your next partner better. But with mothers, we all don’t have such luxury. If you screw up, there is no second chance. So, don’t screw it up.

Today, I pause and remember the brave woman who decides to
hide her pain all to herself and silently prepare her departure without us knowing it, enduring all the suffering herself. Today I remember a woman who has lived a life not being able to talk to her children thinking she is not good enough. Today I remember a woman who wants to be remembered.

Today, I remember my Mother.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Choices and regrets

My boss is a workaholic, and that is an understatement. I remembered she cancelled her leave, one she took to take her mom to physiotherapy due to work commitments. I still remember her words…

“No choice”

She eventually re-scheduled the physio session.

Like I mentioned before, life is all about making choices. From the beginning of the day when you have to choose to either wake up or continue to sleep till you choose whether to stay up and read blogs or sleep… it’s all about making choices, don’t you think? The day when you really have no choice, is the day you have ‘absolute rest’.

The reason why you think you have no choice is because you have not truly felt the need to choose the other option. Maybe the other option takes more time, maybe the other option causes you to miss out on something you like, maybe the other option causes you to lose an edge on your career… whatever that option may be, you just have not felt the need of it yet. Thus… you think you have no choice.

It could also be that you’re too engrossed on achieving something, that you truly believe that there is only one way of achieving it.

Amidst all that, it is interesting to know that regrets are often link to actions performed in a ‘no-choice’ situation, don’t you think? Let me share with you a story I heard 2 weeks ago…

One of the modern slaves in one of the big 4 slavery kingdom was clocking in high amount of overtime. It was the so called peak period. Well, I am not sure whether she thought she had no choice or perhaps she thought she was doing it for her future, and the future of her child… she was pregnant.

She “was” pregnant… and now, the husband is blaming it on company for the amount of over-time she had to work. Did she have no choice? Or did she choose not to exercise her right to choose.

If you’ve read AZAIG long enough, you will know a lot of people have dropped dead from over-working before. Death spells the end of everything, but when you’re alive to feel the effect of the “
once is enough” phenomena… the regrets can break you.

But then again, the word “regret” is often used when it’s too late. It’s existence itself probably means we will never learn our lesson… until it’s too late.

Do you think you have a choice not to experience regrets?

Once is enough: Version 2.0

My previous entry could not be anymore timely. Did you read the news today about a little girl who was killed after inhumanely assaulted? To be fair to her, perhaps she was a little too young to be vigilant enough. But for those of you can discern, sincerely hope you will not let the false sense of security blinds you.

Some commented that sometimes you are placed in a situation where you don’t really have a choice. A very wise man once told me that life is about making choices, the day you have no choice is the day you die. I don’t know about you but I find that very true. Ask yourself and I dare you to answer it honestly… do you seriously think you have no choice?

The it-has-never-happened-before mentality is not only limited to girls alone as what some of you have commented; guys can be oblivious too. While being naïve spells the downfall for girls, guys often land themselves in hot soup due to … over-confident a.k.a. ego.

A story was told of a guy who drove on this particular route almost everyday. Part of the route involved a downhill stretch, a pretty steep one too. During the early days, he will drive on the middle lane when approaching this stretch and he will try to keep his speed at a safe level. As he travelled on this stretch more and more, he grew more and more confident and he drove faster and faster. Soon, he was travelling at 90km/h on the outer land when going down this steep stretch everyday. To him, he has been doing that for years and he has been safe in doing it.

But it all changed one day when his car spun and he lost control of it. His car hit the divider and only came to a stop after sliding for another 100 metre. The car was totally smashed but God must have been smiling at him that day as he lived to tell the tale.

Some of you might have taken things for granted and lived to tell the tale. Unfortunately, not everyone has that privilege. And some of those who lived to tell the tale might have experienced something which have scarred them forever, I am sure you know what I mean.

The ‘once is enough’ phenomena can appear in any form. More often than not, it is something very obvious and appears right in front of us but yet, we least expect it. Ask yourself today of the things you repeatedly do thinking that you’re invincible… and then ask whether… “once is enough”.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Once is enough

I remember when I was in university, I argued a lot with girls who carry the it-has-never-happened-before mentality. I am referring to those who like to go out at night and come back alone or like to walk in dark alleys alone and think they are invincible. Are you one of such person?

There are some who are really paranoid and will want a chauffeur driven service for a 100 metres journey, which I think is ridiculous. Of course, most such souls are not really concern about their safety but rather over-pampered.

But there are also a few brave souls who will naively take the same old dark alleys everyday just because nothing has happened to them before. Worse, some have taken such routes for months; or years and hence, they think it’s virtually impossible to land themselves in a bad scenario.

Have you ever thought before that a bad scenario only needs to happen once… and your life will be scarred forever?
A story was told of this modern slave who worked late almost every night and she stayed alone in a condo. Some of her colleagues offered to accompany her to her unit but she will always refuse saying that it is very safe and yes… she has been living there for a few years now and she will give the “I have always walked up to my house alone and nothing has happened to me before”.

One night, just as she unlocked her gate, a person appeared from nowhere and like they say… the rest is history. All those years of safe journey to her house alone, one bad incident is enough to change her life forever.

I am not asking all of you to suddenly turn paranoia and ask for companion to go everywhere, though the current state of the country kind of suggest so. But the most important thing is to exercise discernment. I am sure you know which situation needs some extra security and which doesn’t.

Always remember… it doesn’t needs to happen a few times, once is enough to change your life. Be wise… today.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

When ARK seems impossible

First, ARK check… how many still remember what am I talking about here? I sincerely hope the Act of Random Kindness continues; and I will begin the week believing that my entry did create some chain of kindness in the last few days… can?

Anyway, I understand that there are times when it is just very difficult, or sometimes, impossible for us to bring out the kind heart in us. These are the times when our patience is stretched to the fullest and we are on the verge of ‘bursting’, metaphorically speaking. How then can we do an ARK in such situation?

Try this… next time you land yourself in such situation… the best ARK you can do is to be kind… to yourself. Sometimes, we react to things rather easily. Instead, we should respond to the situation. Try not to let the dark side get the best of you. Refusing to let your blood pressure right and burst… is the best act of kindness you can do yourself. At least that’s what I think. No doubt, may not be applicable all the time.

Last but not least…
“whack” check… Many of you commented saying that you enjoyed the game. How many of you actually manage to get all 17 whacking tools? Some of my colleagues are stuck at 14 the last I heard. For those who has yet to reach 17… keep trying, but don’t let your boss catch you doing it…

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Whack it over the weekend

Terlebih dahulu, saya ingin mengucapkan Selama Berpuasa kepada semua pembaca AZAIG yang beragama Islam. Selamat menunaikan ibadat puasa dalam bulan Ramadhan ini. Salam…

ARK check… today I held the lift for someone. I could have easily frantically pressed ‘close’ just to have the lift for myself. I think that’s kind enough right? What about you? Did any ARK today?
Oh, I felt tremors at my workplace today at 11.35am. Would have blogged about it instantly like the one I had earlier but I couldn’t access blog from office so… have to give it a miss. As soon as it happened, the building management asked us to remain seated. It’s just so stupid, typical Malaysian attitude. Anyway, let’s not spoil our Friday.

As another act of kindness… may I present you with this online game… it’s called… “Whack the boss”. Ahhh… I can see a lot of you like it already.

The objective of the game is to successfully locate the 17 items in the screen to kill the boss. Yeah, it’s a bit violent but it’s all online, so it’s cool. Besides, I am sure many of you want to do that on a daily basis.

Referring to the screenshots below, move your mouse across the screen to locate the tools you need. It will appear in colour when you manage to locate it. You win when you manage to locate 17 different tools. Oh... best if enjoyed with sound...

And once you win… this is what you’ll see… a good night sleep…

Wait no more…
whack away here

See, I am so kind... Happy weekend!

P/S: The author will not be responsible for any violent behaviour arising from this blog and… good luck to all the bosses.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

A thought from an over-loaded brain

Firstly, for those who are unaware, the states of Perlis, Kedah, Perak and Penang are on tsunami alert after an earthquake measuring 8.2 on the Richter scale struck Sumatra. Let us all pray that effect of this catastrophic event will not too overwhelming.

Anyway, I was in church a while ago as there was a discussion about a very interesting topic… “end times”. For those who are not Christians, it means ‘the end of the world’, or more famously known as ‘Armageddon’.

It has been a long time since I attended such discussion gathering and I must admit, it was very refreshing indeed. I am not going to go into the discussion in details as it will most probably bore you if you’re not a Christian; and as for Christians, you would have heard them many times already.
Anyway, the discussion covered a number of things which flowed on to a number of other sub-discussions and suddenly, my brain was (and still is) filled with many thoughts. It made me look at many things from a very different perspective and to actually see 2 sides of the coin in many situations.

I was paired up with a guy named Eric and we were talking about the difference between hopeful and optimism and suddenly……amidst the multitude of thoughts, my mind was brought to the recent DVD I watched… “Evan Almighty”. Many of us have watched it and would have probably laughed our ass off most of the time. But my mind brought me to the very message behind the film…

The A.R.K…

…… An “Act of Random Kindness”… one which “God” said would change the world. We were talking about how we can make a difference if we choose to and this ARK thing came to mind. I know a lot of us are very frustrated with a lot of things which are happening around us today but… if we were to practise an ARK, perhaps we will make a difference? Who knows?

AZAIG has an average of about 400 unique visitors daily and assuming that half of you will actually choose to do an Act of Random Kindness tomorrow, there will be 200 ARKs. If half of that half choose to continue to do an ARK on Friday (because the other half has forgotten about it), then there will be another 100 ARKs. Let’s say the amount of people continues to drop by half all the way till Sunday… we will have 375 Acts of Random Kindness by the end of the week… which I think is quite cool.

I know I am being very naïve and perhaps… stupid… but I think I am going to do an ARK tomorrow. Assuming that all of us would have forgotten about this entry by Monday, at least 375 Acts of Random Kindness happened this week… I hope.

Anyone care to join the statistics?

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

A trip of co-incidences

A friend called and asked me about how much I spent when I travelled to Cambodia 3 years ago. My memory failed me, or maybe I didn’t bother to really keep track of how much I was spending then. After digging deep into my memory, I think I spent about USD400 excluding flight for the entire trip.

Though it has been already 2 years, I will never forget that trip for I will remember that trip as one which is filled with countless co-incidences. How many if you may ask…

Well, it all started when my German friend suggested that I join him for a trip to some Indo-China countries, we decided on Cambodia and Vietnam. Being 2 typical guys, the only preparation we made was to get our flight tickets. We had no itinerary, we didn’t even know where we were going to stay.

2 weeks before the trip, I met a new friend while clubbing in what used to be my second home. Let’s call this new friend “NF”. I was on a long break then and when NF asked me what my plan was, I said that I will be making a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam. Co-incident number 1… NF was also heading for a trip of similar nature. No... NF is not Jules.

In the course of the next 2 weeks, we not only found out that we were heading to the same destination… we were actually leaving on the same date and… yup, you’re right… we were actually on the same flight! Co-incident number 2!

During the flight, me and my German friend found out that NF and friends have got the whole trip all researched and planned out. Yup, we asked maybe we can tag along NF’s group to which they agreed, if we can fit into their plans. There was supposed to be a van picking up NF’s group and upon checking with the driver, we found out that there were 2 more space in that van… just right for me and my friend. Co-incident number 3. They were actually very happy cos with me and my friend sharing that van, we all paid a lower fare.
The van brought us to a very nice bungalow type guest house and we were told all the rooms have been booked out. However, a last minute cancellation led to one room being available, one that has 2 single beds, just right for me and my friend. Looks like me and my friend didn’t really need to hunt for place to stay. Would you consider that a 4th co-incident?
We spent the next 4 or 5 days together visiting temples and the magnificent Angkor Wat. One thing I must say, if you like historical sights, Angkor Wat is something not to be missed. Anyway, we parted ways because me and my friend left for Vietnam a day earlier than them. Yes, they were also heading to Vietnam.

You know what is the 5th co-incident? Me and my friend just simply decide on a guest house upon arriving in Vietnam and a day after that… NF and friends arrived… they were also staying in the same guest house. Trust me, it was not planned.

Do you believe in co-incidences?

Oh, the trip is also very special in my heart cos the trip was the conversational topic that got me hooked up with Jules

Time to sleep now as I need to wake up at 7 a.m. tomorrow. Damn!

“Tax free” dividends?

If you hold shares in the stock market, or your father or mother or grandfather or grandmother hold shares in the stock market, the newly proposed single-tier tax system which results in tax exempt dividends in the hands of shareholders sure sounds like a good deal right?

I am sorry to burst your bubble but you might need to think again. In fact, I think it is detrimental for most of us. And before some of my friends in the industry think that I copy the analysis from anyone, it hit me 2 hours after the budget was announced. I have also made
a comment here on Saturday morning.

Why the exempt dividend arising from the single-tier tax system may not be a good move… hopefully I can explain it without using too many technical terms…

Currently, the full imputation tax system is in force where tax paid on profits at the company level will be distributed to the shareholders as dividends with a credit attached to it. This is why you will see the following breakdownin the dividend warrants based on the prevailing tax rate of 27%:

Gross dividend ------------------>100
Tax deducted at source ------->(27)
Net dividend ----------------------->73

As you may know by now, the actual cash received by you is only 73 because it is a taxable dividend. But you don’t need to pay additional tax because taxes have already been paid at the company level, thus “deducted at source”… deducted from the gross dividend. Hope I am making sense here.

So you will then report this dividend as your income in your annual headache a.k.a. tax return during tax filing season. Then you will need to pay tax based on your chargeable income as per the table shown below. Please note that having a chargeable income of RM12,000 does not mean your monthly salary is RM1,000. A lot of relieves are deducted from your annual salary before arriving in chargeable income, e.g. the newly proposed RM300 deduction for purchase of sports equipment.
As you can see, your will only be taxed at 27% for your chargeable income exceeding RM100,000, all the way till RM250,000 where anything beyond that will be taxed at 28%.

So, assuming that you are a slightly above average income earner of about RM7,500 a month (how many here?), you will then have an annual salary of RM90,000. After deducting all the insurance payments, EPF, medical expenses, fees, children allowances, sports equipment, books, etc… you then arrive at your chargeable income of say… RM68,000 (just an estimate). Based on the table, your highest tax rate is only 19%.

What exactly happens here? This simply means that the dividends which you received are to be taxed at 19%. But since tax has already been paid at 27% (as above), you will actually get a refund of 8% and this refund is being incorporated into your tax via the Section 110 set-off. Okay… it’s getting a bit technical here but let’s just say you will have a tax benefit. The lower your chargeable income, the higher the tax benefit.

Now, if you are a person who earns only RM2,500 a month; you will not be in a tax-payable position. If you; or your parents or grandparents are pensioners, you will then be totally exempted from paying tax. This simply means that when such persons receive dividend income, the “tax deducted at source” will be FULLY refunded. With reference to the calculation above, the company will pay you 73 and 27 will be refunded by the government.

Now… what happens now when the dividends under the single-tier tax system are exempt from tax? Referring to the calculation above again… you will receive a net dividend of 73 and it’s exempted from tax. And because it is tax free dividend, you don’t need to report it in your tax form and because you don’t need to report it, you will not get the refund in respect of taxes paid on the profits at company level.

It basically means that the government will tax companies at the prevailing corporate tax rate (27% for 2007) and if you happen to be a shareholder of that company, and so happened your tax bracket is lower than 27%... too bad, you’re screwed. If you’re a pensioner and hold a lot of shares, you’re wonderfully screwed.

Now, how many here are going to say hallelujah to tax free dividends?

Disclaimer: This is purely a personal opinion and does not constitute tax advice. Please consult your own tax advisor for a clearer picture.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Budget for you, spending for them

Warning: Rather long and boring entry ahead.

Some call it an exciting budget… some call it a ‘poor’ budget… some even call it the people’s budget… most call it an election budget. No matter how we call it, what does the budget means to you and me? How exactly does it impact a regular Malaysian?

I do not claim to be an expert but I think these are a few budget proposals which a regular Malaysian like you and me should know about…

For those who have purchased property before, you will know that there is a tax in the form of ‘stamp duty’ which needs to be paid. Yes, it’s a tax which the buyer needs to pay. For a property worth RM250,000, you will probably needs to pay stamp duty of about RM4,000 (this is an estimate only). The budget proposed that a 50% reduction of stamp duty for property worth not more than RM250,000 so our pocket can save about RM2,000 we purchase a property worth not more than RM250,000. Not a bad move.

Better if you are transferring properties between husband and wife. Stamp duty will be fully exempted from such transactions. Whether there will be any restrictions on the value of property transferred, yet to be known.
Next, the widely discussed abolishment of school fees and free text books for all. It seems that many claimed that the savings from this proposal is too minimal to be felt and is widely regarded as an election proposal. Indeed, this proposal will not benefit urban folks much but it does means a lot to the non-urban population. Vote winning formula? Perhaps… but then again, shouldn’t schools be totally free to begin with?

The proposal which was supposed to make us all feel very good is that EPF contributors will be allowed to withdraw balances from Account 2 to pay monthly housing instalments. Sounds like a good idea. But if you were to think properly… the government is basically allowing us… to use our own money… to pay for our own house. And we are supposed to feel thankful about it? You tell me…

For those of us who have children, there may be good news for you. Scholarships offered by the government via JPA will be increased from 5,000 to 10,000 with significant increase in allowances given to overseas students. There are a couple of JPA sponsored students who read AZAIG, but there were also a lot of AZAIG readers who failed to get a JPA scholarship recently (you know who you are). Will this really benefits your children and mine? I shall leave that to you.

I read in a blog saying that one does not need to worry about fees anymore because one of the budget proposal was a tax relief for education fees to all post-graduate studies of up to RM3,000. To put things into a better perspective… you will probably only be able to actually get a tax benefit if you earn a monthly income of perhaps… RM5,000. Even that… your savings from this relief is probably about… RM400. Again, this is an estimate. So… do you really don’t need to worry about your fees? Okay… better than nothing right?

On top of that, there is also a tax relief for purchases of sports equipment of up to RM300. The tax savings for that, assuming you are earning RM3,000 a month, will probably be about RM24. If you earn lower… then the savings will be lower lor…

One very peculiar proposals stood up amongst the rest… beginning 2008, public listed companies will be required to disclose their employment composition race and gender, as well as programmes undertaken to develop domestic and Bumiputera vendors. I wonder why.

Those were the few things which I think you should know. There was a single-tier tax system being proposed but it will be too technical to discuss here. Also,
I said that there will be reduction of individual tax rate but it didn’t happen. Instead, there was a reduction of corporate tax rate which I am sure it will not affect anyone of us here. If the reduction of corporate tax benefits you, I am sure you don’t be reading blogs. As expected, GST was not announced.

The other parts of the budget are mostly about how the government is going to spend our their money.

On a related note, the
mainstream newspaper gave a very brief picture about how the government ministries spend their money. Apparently, our government is a generous one, always paying premium… extra premium for stuff. To be really honest with you, I am really surprise the mainstream actually reported this.

Pictures courtesy of TheStar.

Among some of them which deserves to be highlighted was RM5,741 for a car jack worth RM50. I think I want to sell car jacks to the government. Maybe I should sell books too cause the government also purchased technical book sets worth RM417 for a whooping RM10,700. And not just 1 set… 10 sets bought! Makes us wonder how much the government will spend to buy those text books for students, don’t you think?

Friday, 7 September 2007

Parole?... Oh no...

I usually don’t blog on Friday night but reading about the news of the imminent parole system warrants a break of tradition…
If there is a piece of news to be included in the Guinness Book of Records, this has gotta be it. Parole system for… Ma-lay-sia? You gotta be kidding me. Don’t get me wrong, I have got nothing against the parole system, it’s just that I refuse to believe it can be effectively implemented in a country which can’t even patch up our ceilings of the parliament and court properly.

“… prisoners released under the system will be required to report to a parole centre daily or weekly…”

Allow me to make a prophecy on this…

3 years down the road…
“Bus crashed into ravine, driver appears to be a parole inmate”

3 years and 2 days down the road…
“Driver of bus tragedy has not reported to parole centre for 1 year”

3 years and 3 days down the road…
“Nationwide hunt for drivers who are non-reporting parole inmates”

3 years and 6 days down the road…
“Business as usual for Malaysians”

Very funny isn’t it? Did you laugh?

“Reduce maintenance cost” they said… I wonder how much money will be spent to “set up courses to help them assimilate into society”… I wonder if they will purchase high tech gadgets to track all these parole inmates. And of course… there is a question of who is going to… I need not say further.

There are many things this nation would like to embark on, and many a times, they are things which are too big for our plate. We can build mega-structures and they fail… it’s fine, just money wasted. We can launch a Free Zone and it fails to take off… it’s fine, just money wasted. We can send a hero to space to play ‘batu seremban’… it’s fine, just money wasted. But to release criminals on parole in a country where enforcement level is (I do not need to say further)… we are treading on dangerous grounds… very dangerous grounds. This is something too big for our plate.

Complaining without giving any suggestion is futile. So, if I may suggest… this parole system is only eligible to those who were convicted with civil offence, not for those convicted with criminal offence such as rapists and robbers, don’t you think? But then again, even if they take this suggestion, we might just have headlines with the same flavour 3 years down the road… I am sure you can make up what it is.

P/S: Don’t worry, no matter what, I am sure
the food still taste as good here.

Of budget and 2 awards

Warning: This is not a Friday Frolics entry.

For those of you who are not aware, our PM will be announcing the National Budget 2008 tomorrow at about 4pm. Does it sound extraterrestrial to you? Well, it is something that you probably do not know because you think you don’t need to know but in actual fact, you need to know at least a little because it affects you… you know?

You know those high prices you pay for booze and ciggies? It’s all because of sales tax imposed on such products. And you know what? The National Budget is the time when an increase will be announced or otherwise. Increase in sales tax for booze and ciggies is an annual affair but with the erection election anticipated… who knows? You might just be able to drown your sorrow with booze or smoke your life away without having to pay more.

Speaking about the speculated imminent election, it is also anticipated that there will be a lot of goodies for you and I, which can effectively translate to dollar and cents. One of the goodies that I can think of is reduction of individual income tax. Doesn’t concern you because you don’t pay tax? Well… how about… further reduction in driving licence fees or maybe reduction in passport renewal. Of course, there will be the usual… “improvement in civil service” and maybe some announcement of more mega projects.

Back to reduction of individual income tax which you think it will not affect you as you may not be in the tax paying bracket… well, how about staying in that non-tax paying bracket for a longer period of time? Now… doesn’t that sound attractive?

But hold your horse… the reason why individual tax rate may be reduced, besides trying to win votes… is that GST may be implemented soon.
I have talked about GST before here. For those who didn’t read it or choose not to read it… basically, it is a tax imposed on almost every product. You know how you are paying a 5% tax when you eat in McD or KFC… imagine paying tax when you buy things ranging from gadgets to clothes to condoms. Sucks eh? But don’t worry… many experts do not think GST will be implemented until after the “E”.

Of course, we can also expect things like “there-will-not-be-any-petrol-price-increase-for-the-time-being”… but what will entails tomorrow? Let us wait and see if what I said will materialise. More importantly, the National Budget is something that affects us all, directly or indirectly. If we claim to be Malaysians, we should at least know a little about it.

Last but not least, many thanks to
hcfoo for giving me the ‘Nice Matters Award’. It’s good to know that I am considered as one who care about others and I am a positive influence. It’s indeed very heart warming to receive it. Appreciate it.

Also (I know, this is beginning to feel about some self gratification but…what the heck)… a big thank you to
cibol for awarding me the ‘Thoughtful Blogger Award’. Consider that cibol only award me and choose not to award ‘the other bloggers’… really made me feel as though I am getting an oscar! I am honoured and truly appreciate such award.

Have a brilliant weekend ahead!

Thursday, 6 September 2007

You might need a new reason

When Malaysians state that food is one of the main reasons for not leaving this country, it makes me wonder what kinda food you are talking about. I said ‘you’ cos I ain’t staying simply becos I like the food.

Anyway, if you’re referring to “bak kut teh”, “char siew”, “siew yuk” and even “char kuey teow”, you might need to think again. Did you read about the news from TheStar below?

Check out the 2nd last paragraph, the FRU and the police were involved in… culling of pigs? Makes me ponder for a while but it only hit me until I hop-on to What A Lulu’s blog who happened to have the other side of the story regarding culling of pigs. Those pictures in Lulu’s blog revealed why the FRU and police were involved. Please note her source of information is MalaysiaKini a.k.a. “a source of lies” so maybe we should believe TheStar instead… don’t you agree?

Coming back to our point of discussion and with reference from the article from TheStar a.k.a. the-source-of-information-we-should-trust-because-the-govt-said-so… they will reduce the population of pigs from 148,000 to 48,000 by September 21. I dunno about you but that’s a lot of pork going to waste. Imagine how many “char siew” and “siew yuk” you and I could feast on!
Jokes aside… let’s be honest with ourselves… it is no secret that pork is not welcomed in this country. I remember during the J.E. outbreak many years ago, there was a call by a certain group asking for complete ban of pork. It wasn’t sanctioned then. However, slowly but surely… I believe pork is slowly being phased out at every opportunity. With this country claiming to be an Islamic State and all… I will not be surprise if pork is completely phased out in the future.

So what kinda food that are keeping you here? “bak kut teh”, “char siew”, “siew yuk”, “char kuey teow” or roti canai, chapatti, tandoori? Oh… by the way… a lot of food taste yummylicious because there is lard in it. You know what lard is? It’s pig’s fat… so without pig pigs… a lot of food might taste… very different.

One thing for sure, with so many pigs being culled, the price of pork will definitely increase so… be prepared to pay through your ass to eat pork. But then again… eat while there’s still pork… you’ll never know…

So… 10 years down the road… will ‘food’ still be the reason to stay behind? You might need a new reason…

Updated: Check out bensiu’s experience working as an hotelier abroad in relation to the definition of “Malaysian food”.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

The reason evolution

40 years ago…
“This is the place to be. We are going to make it big. There are plenty of opportunities. The rest are not as smart as us and will all end up working for us. We can all be big bosses.”

20 years ago…
“Yeah, the businesses we built have been “taken over” directly or indirectly but we still have the brains and with hard work, we will be able to make it big again. No need to move away, this is the place to be.”

10 years ago…

“I can't do business because I am not connected, but it’s still ok. I just need to study well, get a degree and you get a decent job. Get myself a proton and a small condo and I will still be able to put food on the table.”

“I like the food and my friends are all here.”

10 years down the road…
“I like the food.”

20 years down the road…
“I must like the food.”

Grass thoughts

Much has been said about moving to greener grass and that things might not be as rosy as it seems. Two things I would like to correct… it is not greener grass… it’s just grass, for there isn’t any here.

Secondly, I never said things are all rosy over on grassy lands. You will certainly have to struggle to survive. But rest assured, you will be on level playing field and no favours will be given. Even if there is some bias treatment… you’re a migrant after all. It’s much easier to stomach compared to being born in a land that blatantly treats you otherwise. I need to say further…

Anyway… amidst the struggle and the near-regrets feeling of moving overseas, I have observed one trend nonetheless. Please correct me if I am wrong but… all those who have migrated… they complain… they struggle… they wish they didn’t make that bold move… but… but… do they make an effort to return? Or do they choose to bite the bullet and soldier on, knowing that it is still better to struggle there, than to live comfortably here? Of course, living comfortably is defined differently.

So, is migrating really that tough and scary and many people actually regret doing it? Or… is it just our natural human tendency to complain about almost anything. I have thought about this… and I have asked around… Yes, I have heard a few who thought they made a mistake. However, most if not all of them decide to live with that mistake, than to make a return ‘home’. Perhaps they realise that making a trip home will really be … a mistake…

Think about it.

And I leave you with another video from the infamous composer…

I have also put up the video of the terrorist-wannabe in my previous entry since many said they are lazy to go youtube to view it. You can now view the video in my previous entry.

P/S: Have you all voted at the poll yet? I am closing it this week.

Monday, 3 September 2007

A new look, a new hope

First and foremost, a very big thank you to Criz who was kind enough to make a new banner for me free of charge. Unfortunately for him, he found out that I was quite a pain in the ass… it’s done free and I have the guts to ask for modification here and there. Thanks Criz for putting up to all my shit… haha!

Anyway… this is probably the last time I will be talking this country’s affairs. I have given up hope… entirely. And since I see no colour of hope last Friday, I reckon I am not the only one. Tingtitlei said that the colour of hope is not exactly a movement for a change, but rather a sign that we actually give a shit. He is absolutely right… and it’s very obvious that we all don’t give a shit.

Moving on… I find it really incredible that the blogs over the last few days have all been rather “patriotic”. I think one out of 3 blogs which I read over the last few days have got heavy dose of ‘merdeka’ in it. Ironically though, the meaning of ‘merdeka’ according to these blogs paint a very different picture as compared to our comics mainstream newspaper.

While some of us are PhD holders in Afraidology, my spirits are lifted, albeit only a little, by the willingness of some bloggers to voice out their true feelings about our recent celebration. One entry I would like to particularly point out is a brilliant entry written by an 18-year-old girl about what exactly is ‘merdeka celebration’ to her. Check out her level of awareness, absolutely incredible. Such entry puts a lot of us to shame, particularly those PhD holders in Afraidology. Can't blame them though, most such PhD holders have gone through the module called I-now-have-a-family.

By the way, have you all seen the video done by these terrorists-wannabe? Go have a peep...

So… why new hope for me then? Well… I now look at the new horizon with great hope. A new horizon that sets upon a land filled with grass… away from the stench of mud, for I know this land will remain muddy for a long time to come. I have always wanted to stay and cultivate the land, but it seems that the mud is getting softer and softer for us to even stand on it… how then are we to live? I will do all that I can to ensure that quest for grassy pastures will only breed success! That’s my new hope.

Once again… thanks Criz for a brand new look for AZAIG. What do you all think?

Have a blue-less Monday… try…

P/S: A big thank you to Kenny Mah as well… for the previous banner is his work of art.