Friday, March 23, 2012

HTTB Cycling and Rice Donation in Cambodia, February 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Note from me: Many of his views and speeches can be controversial and he, Dr Mahathir was the longest serving PM of Malaysia. When the financial crisis in 97 & 98 hit our region hard, he did not turn to IMF for financial help but did it his way. Some may agree with him, some not but Malaysia managed to keep afloat though barely then.

Many a time, I disagree with him but this article below, titled "Money" posted by him on his blog,, I have to concur with him.

1. I wrote recently on the financial problems of Europe at the invitation of the Financial Times. Of course it is not erudite as would those who studied economics and finance would write. Strangely some people agreed with my views.

2. During the financial crisis of 1997-1998 I was forced to read up on the subject. Today I know a bit more about money and finance. But the most important thing about money which everyone of us knows without need to be an economist or financial expert is that if you spend more money than you have you will be in trouble. Simply put, if you have one hundred Ringgit but you spend one hundred and ten Ringgit, you will be in debt to the amount of ten Ringgit. But if you have 100 RM and spend 90 RM you will not face trouble.

3. No big deal. But when you have a million or a billion, your 10% overspending will put you in debt to a level which you may not be able to pay and the person you owe money to may not be so ready to forgive.

4. Greece is now bankrupt. The reason is simple enough, Greece overspent. It borrowed more money than it is able to pay. The sums are big, running into billions of Euro. The creditors cannot forgive.

5. Why did Greece borrow beyond what it could pay. Well, Greece is a member of the European Union, a collection of developed countries. So it must live by the standards of the European Union. It must practice the welfare state principles of the European countries.

6. The revenue of the Greek Government was not enough to support the high standards of living, the high pay, pension and other benefits of the Europeans. So the Government borrowed money to cover the high salaries, short working hours and days, early pensions, unemployment benefits and other perks that European Governments offered their workers.

7. The private sector had to follow the Government, which results in raising the cost of production until the products of their labour are no longer competitive and either they earn less profits or became unsaleable altogether.

8. Loans unfortunately have to be paid when matured. When the loans amounting to hundreds of billions cannot be paid, the Greek Government, the borrower, must be made bankrupt.

9. Somewhere in the story of Greece, there is a lesson for other countries. The lesson as I pointed out earlier is very simple. When you spend more than the money you have, you will become a debtor. And when you cannot pay your debt you will become bankrupt.

10. Once upon a time when I was Prime Minister I had the responsibility of approving the budget before it was presented to Parliament.

11. Roughly I knew I had to make provision for operation, for debt servicing and for development. Despite allegedly being profligate, I managed not to overspend. In fact the reason why we did not go down during the financial crisis was because we had no big debts to pay.

12. Of the three elements of the Government budget, only development spending can be reduced. Debt servicing and operations (salaries, pensions and other statutory expenditure must be paid on time if we are not going to default). If we increase salaries too much, and we have more than a million Government employees, there is a likelihood that we will not have enough for even minimal development.

13. We may announce a big development budget but there will simply be not enough money to implement them.

14. We may borrow. But there is a limit to borrowing. When you borrow the debt servicing charges will increase. A point will be reached when we will not be able to service debts or pay the lender when the loans become mature.

15. All these elementary things must be known to the Government. So we will not become like Greece. But people do not seem to know about this. Demands for pay increases, for higher non-taxable pensions, for abolition of tolls ( the Government has to make up for the loss of revenue by toll concessionairs), more holidays, more subsidies etc will continue to be made.

16. The opposition, wishing to become popular and win elections will always support these demands. Not having to be responsible for the overspending and the possible bankruptcy of the nation, it is easy for them to support. I hope the people will see through their lack of a sense of responsibility to the nation.

17. The incumbent Governments cannot be irresponsible and try to be popular always. The people must understand this.

18. When a demand is made the Government has to examine the implication not only to the Government in terms of its capacity to meet the demand, it must also consider the effect on the whole nation. If the Government cannot approve the demand it must be because it does not want to bankrupt the nation.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Good Hike Up Gunung Nuang, Selangor

It is my second climb to Gunung Nuang and my first, as organiser. I organished this climb for my Mount Kinabalu team in mind, preparing them well as trekking in Gunung Nuang is in fact more challenging than Mt Kinabalu though the former measures 1,495 metres in height as opposed to the latter's 4,095 metres. In the end, 14 including me from the Mt Kinabalu team confirmed their participation and the balance 6 slots were filled by members of HTTB. The 20 of us are: SP, Jac, Dora, Jacky, May, Julie, Kwan, Hui Chin, Junko, Edmund, Tommy, Angella, Jon, Johan, Rene, Audrey, CK, Yosuke, Karen and me.

On 16 Feb, Friday all of us except for Tommy who was waiting at Woodlands checkpoint assembled at Causeway Point and at about 11.15pm we were ready to set off for Malaysia. I have chartered a 21-seater mini coach which should give us little more comfort than any 10-seater combi, given that we will be sleeping on the coach enroute.

The driver was not sure of the way but phew, with Kwan's help who have been to Gunung Nuang on many occasions, we managed to find our destination in Hulu Langat. It was still dark, I reckon it was around 6.30pm and we then started our preparation for the climb. First light broke out at about 7.15am and by then, after a quick briefing by Kwan and me, we were already to make the climb. Kwan will be leading whereas, I'll cover the back. Safety is always my primary concern as my last trip to Gunung Nuang did give me one valuable lesson. I have always stressed time and again that everyone should bring a torch along and at 1.00pm or about, the last person who could not make it to the summit must turn back - The message was relayed to all, loud and clear.

I was at the back with Audrey and very quickly, we lost sight of everyone in front. It was a easy walk, about 5km which we like to call it, 'the never ending road' before we hit the first stream. That stretch alone, took us 1 and a half hour to reach. Audrey does not walk fast but she was steady throughout. As there is no clear sign, we crossed the first stream thinking it is the route to the summit. There were three guys who followed us too. It was a mistake. A lady at the opposite end was shouting at us but I couldn't hear what she was trying to tell us. In fact, she was trying to inform us that we should not cross over unless we wanted to pitch camp there. When we realised our mistake, we had to cross back. Some precious time was wasted. The three guys quickly moved ahead of us. We had to cross three streams before we reached 'Kem Lolo', the first campsite.

Our group was way ahead of us. Audrey, though she was not fast, was trying hard to keep pace. I can sense she was feeling the burden of the load on her back. I offered to carry a 1.5L bottled water for her to ease her load. I did not carry many items, had with me two small 100 Plus drinks & one 1.5L 100 Plus drink and 10 Mars chocolate bars, among others. Sometimes, I wonder why some still want to carry so many non-essential things with them, only to give me added load.

The path looks intimidating, it is up and up, all the way. The weather was fine, luckily and it was not slippery unlike the last time. Audrey was struggling abit and I know at this pace, she is definitely not able to make it to the summit. She felt bad that I have to keep her company but I assured her everything was alright. I have to make sure everyone is safe, that's all.

We reached 'Kem Pacat', another campsite at about 11.00am but it is still a long way to the summit but good enough for now. Audrey wanted to take a longer breather but the bees was buzzing around us. We then decided to move a little further up. We stopped and climbed again for another 1 and half an hour, very slowly but steady before we saw Johan who was making his way down. He said he had to give up reaching for the summit as his knees were giving him some pain. A sensible decision, I must say. I then asked him to accompany Audrey on the way down. We had by then, by my reckoning reached 1,200 metres height.

After leaving them, I set off alone to try to meet up the rest of the group. I was pushing hard and my heart was pounding fast. The push to the false summit was very challenging, indeed. Some parts, I had to go on four. On reaching the false summit, it was down slope all way way. Ouch, I knocked on a hard rock while crossing over it and I can see a white patch just below my left knee cap. Soon after, blood ozzed out. I ignored the pain and pressed on. It was still going down and I cannot see any summit ahead of me. I thought I must be on the wrong track and not taking any chance, I back-tracked for at least a good 10 minutes. When I managed to see a group of climbers, I asked them whether it is correct that the path is all the way down before it goes up all the way to the summit. They confirmed that I was on the right path. I then turned back, and made full speed ahead. The pain on the left knee was bothering abit but I ignored it completely. I told myself, I must reach the summit by hook or crook. The drop was some 100 metres and then up again. Despite the regular training from my running and cycling, I can feel the strain on both of my legs. This is really testing my stamina and endurance.

I can see the summit now and quicken my pace as it was nearing 2.00pm. I saw Tommy and Angella who were making their descent. Not long later, Jacky and May too. Jacky quickly cleansed my wound and without wasting time, I pushed ahead again. Soon after, I saw Yosuke and Junko and then, the rest of the group. I was very near the summit and I told them I will re-group with them on the way down later. I finally reached the summit at about 1.45pm. Stayed for 15 minutes at the summit, had my drink and ate a bar of Mars chocolate before heading down. Wow, 18 of us made it to the summit - 90% success rate!

Soon after, I met up with Kwan, Dora, CK and few others on the way down and I stayed with them throughout. While climbing up is challenging, going down is equally challenging and the rain which came later made it even more challenging. It was a slow descent. I was behind Dora most of the time, helped to steady her on slippery ground as leeches aside, she is always afraid of falling down. I cannot remember how many times I have landed on my bum, another landing is just norm for me.

It was getting darker and darker, we must reach the 'never ending road' before last light, otherwise, we will be stranded in the jungle. The rest of us, Kwan, CK, Dora, Jac, Hui Chin, Edmund, Julie and me stayed close together. We reached the 'never ending road' at about 6.30pm. It was another long 5km walk under slippery condition. Last light finally broke out at 7.30pm, we had yet to reach our destination and we had to switch on our torches. CK and I were walking in the front, providing the light ahead but little did we know Dora was falling further behind. When we waited for her and rest at some point, she was already not happy being left to walk alone in the dark. Finally, we reached the base at 8.00pm and everyone was well and safe. It was a very successful trip for all of us and the overall fitness was superb. We had a good wash up and then headed to KL for a good dinner and a good sleep.

We reached Singapore today, at about 4.00pm. Hip, hip, hip, hooray!