October 25, 2007

Country has the money, but don't waste it

Malaysians should be happy to hear that the PM has said that we have the money, and the millions spent on the spaceman programme should not affect other projects and programmes in the country, as reported in The Star on Oct 23.

However, it is ironic that on the same day and in the same newspaper, it was also reported that the MCA president has said that there are still many Chinese primary schools that needed financial aid for classrooms, facilities, books and important activities. He said this at a cheque presentation ceremony where a private foundation has donated RM50,000 to each of the 12 selected schools.

Lets get this straight. More than RM100 million can be spent on sending a Malaysian space tourist to the International Space Station (ISS) while some schools have to rely on private organisations to fund their basic facilities? What in the world is this country coming to? To rub it in, there are now proposals to send a second Malaysian into space costing another RM100 million or more!

Some would suggest that we didn't pay a single cent for the first space trip as it is an offset agreement for the purchase of 18 fighter jets from Russia. Well, if that is the case we can concede that we didn't pay RM100 million directly for the trip to the ISS. But we are paying RM 3.2 billion for 18 Sukhoi fighter jets plus one trip to the ISS! Malaysians are not so naive. No matter how you want to slice and dice it, we are still paying for the trip to the ISS.

Meanwhile, after welcoming home the Malaysian spaceman in Russia, the DPM and his spouse flew to France to attend the launching of the first Scorpene submarine which Malaysia has purchased. You see, we have also bought submarines - 2 new Scorpene submarines reportedly costing about RM 4.0 billion.

Closer to home, the PSC-Naval Dockyard was contracted to build six patrol boats for the Malaysian Navy with the first to be delivered in 2004. However, only two problem-ridden boats have been delivered so far. The original cost of RM5.35 billion has now increased to RM6.75 billion.

If you add those figures together we are looking at an astronomical sum of RM 14 billion spent on these purchases of military hardware. Mind you, we are talking about not 100 million, not 1,000 million but 14,000 million!

Yes, the country certainly have a lot of money. But the government of the day has no right to waste any of it. It is after all taxpayers' money. The Auditor-General must continue his good work to verify that every single ringgit is accounted for and there is no abuse of public funds in the government agencies involved.

This is especially so as the money can be put to much better use such as providing decent facilities for the education of all students. No schools should ever need to rely on donations from the private sector.

October 16, 2007

Outer space delusions

While Malaysians are still reeling from the revelations of enormous wastage of taxpayers' money contained in the Auditor-General reports, the Port Klang Free Zone fiasco and the naval boat scandal, we now have the Minister of Science, Innovation and Technology pushing to send another Malaysian "space participant" skywards in 2008 or 2009 in a space programme with dubious benefits to the country.

Although the cost of sending a Malaysian into space, estimated to be about RM 100 million, is not comparable to the astronomical billons involved in the failed PKFZ and naval boat projects, it is still a lot of money. I am sure many Malaysian educationists, academics and scientists will be able to suggest much better down-to-earth alternatives for advancing science, innovation and technology in the country with that kind of money.

The Minister of Science, Innovation and Technology said that the second "cosmonaut" or whatever he wants to call him will be doing more challenging tasks which "could involve him doing a space walk or conducting repairs to the spacecraft". If this is the Minister's idea of technological advancement in the country then Malaysians will have no hope that we will ever make real progress in this area.

Malaysians are tired of the hype being spun around the "Angkasawan" program. We do not have delusions that by sending someone into space in a Russian spacecraft is in any way an achievement for the country - scientific, innovative, technological, or otherwise. Some very rich individuals such as the Iranian-American woman Anousheh Ansari have paid US$20 million of their own money and have undergone similar training and went into space to visit the same International Space Station. Lets call a spade a spade. They are space tourists and so is our Malaysian spaceman.

To send another Malaysian space tourist on a similar trip is an unnecessary waste of taxpayers' money and is an extravagance which even more technologically-advance and richer countries do not indulge in. Don't try to make us believe that it is any different even if the Russians have agreed to call Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor a "cosmonaut" and even if he has brought along with him some experiments to conduct in space.

In a Bernama news report on Oct 13, the DPM has said that there will be a post-mortem on the first space programme before deciding on sending the second person to space. Please do that and please put an end to this wasteful programme which is clearly dead from the very start.

8 March 2008

A New And Better Malaysia

Has Emerged