Friday, 13 May 2016

Positive Lessons From Claudio Ranieri's Success

Leicester's success in the Premier League has hogged the limelight recently but for me more interesting lessons can be learned from the story of their manager, Claudio Ranieri.

He has achieved his biggest success at the ripe age of 64. And he won the title after registering his biggest failure managing the Greek national team, which resulted in his sacking.

Also known as the Tinkerman at Chelsea for constantly changing his lineup, he led his team to the trophy by generally sticking with the same players this time.

He likes to remind everyone that he is still the same person that got sacked by Greece.

And on the day the title was decided when Chelsea drew with Tottenham, he went to have lunch with his mother in Italy not expecting to watch the match, only for the team owner to the arrange a plane for him to come back.

Talk about knowing what (or who) is more important.
 
Ranieri could have easily not got the Leicester job if he had performed reasonably well with Greece. But who would have remembered him?

Nor would he have got the job if certain things did not happen during the off season last year, which led to the sacking of Leicester's previous manager

Now he has orchestrated the greatest upset in English football.

His success gives us hope. That you can achieve at any age. That your greatest victory can come even after your biggest failure. That giants can be slain. That you can win with less resources.

And that nice guys can sometimes finish first.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Life is Tough For Some

In this era of young people carrying iPhones and Samsungs, it would be easy to forget that life is still very difficult for some people.

Last week, there was a hockey tournament in Club Aman which both my daughters were involved. In the team where my eldest daughter played, there was a girl who came to the competition with very little.

Since this was not an official school tournament, no allowance was given. By the end of the day, her father had only RM10 in his pocket, which he used to buy food for them to share. 

To make matters worse, they were just evicted from their home and had to move to another place recently.

Fortunately the team won third place and there was some prize money which was divided among the players. It was just a small amount but enough for the girl to give to the father to buy petrol for his bike.

The whole thing puts hockey into perspective. It puts our worries about poor revenues and weak economy into perspective. It puts life into perspective.

Here I am, worrying about slightly less income and weak stock market with a full stomach for me and my kids when for some people, it is just so tough to make ends meet and bring up their children.

(Don't worry about this girl as she stays in the hostel and her friends takes care of her when she is in need)

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Saying No Seems To Be The Hardest

There's a song by Elton John called Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word but for me saying No is so much harder.

How do you say no when your daughter comes to you asking for a treat or snack that her mother disapproves or when they ask to go to Mr DIY or Daiso to buy something they don't need?

Its also so very difficult when people ask you to do projects or take some responsibility that you just can't take because you have no time. 

While some people have absolutely no problems saying no, I have to really think hard of precisely what excuse to give.

Sometimes by sheer persistence my kids will get a yes from me, and occasionally I end doing projects that I really don't have the time do.

For me its so much easier to say sorry than no.

But if you don't say no just to avoid disappointing people, you will not be able to focus on the things that you should actually be doing to move forward.

So I nowadays I just say ''really sorry, but no".

(This is of course with regard to projects. As for my kids, I still have major difficulties)

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Sometimes you simply can't squeeze more growth for your shareholders

There are many benefits of being a public listed company but there are some drawbacks too. One of them is the need to please shareholders and analysts to generate profit growth.

In some situations, you just can't squeeze any growth due to the economy.  Sometimes the market is saturated and in other cases, the market may be too competitive.

Clearly the recent furore over Maxis illustrates this point. I'm sure they are trying to generate growth, but in these times, in their market and the current mobile penetration rate, maybe it's not feasible.

What happened is that they tried to entice new customers with better deals but still tried to protect revenue from their old, loyal customers, leading to major dissatisfaction.

In the US, Valeant tried to grow revenue by increasing the price of drugs in an unreasonable manner, leading to action by the enforcement authorities.

When you try to set KPIs based on certain aggressive targets, you encourage short term behavior that may be detrimental in the long run.

In some cases, it may lead to permanent damage, while in others, cause negative growth, which is precisely the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.

Sometimes there is just no growth to be had and the top management and shareholders may just have to accept the reality.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The Quran: From the Outside Looking In

The Quran has been quoted or misquoted by countless people, but many have never actually read it in its entirety.

A large number of Muslims recite it, without actually reading to understand. Many Islamophobes (mis)quote it without actually knowing the context, or finishing the whole Book.

In the TED talk below, Lesley Hazleton, an author whose work focuses on politics, religion and history, describes her experience trying to understand the Quran as an outsider.

It's amazing that what she sees is almost what I see in my own attempt at understanding the Book.

Unfortunately, both extremists and Islamophobes derive the same conclusions from the Quran, which I think has led to the major issues we have now between Muslims and non-Muslims.

But she sees something else, and so do I. Her talk, delivered in 2011, is fascinating and well worth your ten minutes.


Friday, 24 July 2015

Thank God It's Not A Flying Cockroach

Yesterday, while returning to my desk after a short break, I was surprised to find an uninvited guest sitting on my in-tray, with its head on one of the documents I was working on.

The Green Guest

It's not the first time that this type of green snake visited my work area. The last time it came (could be the same snake), the creature slithered across my leg and we managed to chase it away outside.

This time it looked rather comfortable in my in tray, and was not too agitated by my presence. That gave me and my wife some time to think of a solution.

The last resort would be to summon my specialist terminator called Dusty, who loves to catch and terminate all sorts of reptiles. But I prefer to capture and release.

Dusty with his catch some time back

At first I tried to chase it away towards the door or window but that did not work. It seemed comfortable in my tray. Then we decided to trap it in a covered basket.

I managed to hook the snake with a stick and dropped it into the basket. We then dragged the basked outside the compound to release it.

Before releasing the visitor 

We flipped the cover to release the snake and it slowly climbed up the tree and went on its way. Hopefully, it would not return for the third time.

Going back home

My mom, who helped me chase the snake the first time it came (she was not around this time) wondered why the snake chose to come to my desk again. I really don't know. But if it returns for the third time, then it must surely be attracted to me.

I always try to look for positives in any situation. The only positive thing I can think of is that it was just a green, rather small, non-venomous (I think) snake.

It could have been much worse, like a flying cockroach. That would have been a major emergency requiring full evacuation and running for cover behind my wife's skirt. (You won't hear about that in this blog)

Note: I am thinking of adding snake charming to my list of skills in Linkedin. Maybe I'll wait for one more encounter to confirm the ability...:)


Razali is a financial writer and investment advisor. Email razali@laburniaga.com to ask about his services. He also runs a Malay writing and translation business. Visit www.translate2malay.com for more information. He has written 4 books about stock and unit trust investments in Malay and has a Malay investment blog called Risalah Labur Niaga.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Why the financial leadership is so disappointing even after discounting yet to be proven allegations

Malaysians are clearly not happy with the financial leadership in Malaysia and have probably reached breaking point. 1MDB, Mara, GST and subsidy rationalisation are among the major points of dissatisfaction.

Right now people are hotly debating about personal misappropriation, tampered emails, blackmail and many other things which are difficult to verify unless further evidence is shown. So, I do think that we should reserve judgement until a clearer picture emerges.

However, even with the current information already available, there is so much to be disappointed about. While I generally think that subsidy rationalization is necessary and GST may be positive (although difficult for the rakyat), you cannot ask the people to bear the burden of saving the country without the leadership being financially responsible themselves.

Even after discounting various yet to be proven allegations, the hugely questionable developments below are difficult to take:
  • Overpaying for the purchase of energy assets. I understand the need to pay a premium but I've not seen anyone, except 1MDB, who agreed that they paid a reasonable price.
  • Getting a so called CSR donation from the company from which the asset is purchased.
  • Not knowing the difference between cash and units. I don't think it is possible for anyone at any level to make such a mistake let alone at the top levels of the corporate world and government.
  • Not being able to say what the units represent. Even people will little financial knowledge know what fund they are buying and will know how to call their agent to find out the value of their investments.
  • Paying too much to Goldman Sachs for a debt offering. No satisfactory answer was given.
  • Overpaying for some coal asset in some faraway land and see its value dwindle.
  • 1MDB getting TRX land cheaply thereby underpaying the Government, which means less money for the rakyat. 
  • 1MDB using government guarantees to get loans. If you want to go into business and get a loan, it should be commercially viable. A normal viable project should be able to obtain a loan without a government guarantee. A government guarantee effectively means guaranteed by the rakyat.
  • There is no need for 1MDB involvement in property projects such as TRX and Bandar Malaysia. Why not use existing property companies and deal directly with them and extract maximum value.
  • Getting involved with Petrosaudi and certain individuals. We don't know whose version of the story about the emails is the truth but they are definitely involved. 
  • Why deal with people who are principally skilled  in deal-making, rather than those who build and operate real businesses?
  • How can you get a business into trouble during a period (2009 - 2014) of good business conditions conducive to growth and increasing asset prices?    
  • The case of Mara overpaying for properties in Australia.
  • We only found out because a contractor got fleeced and foreign news portal ran the story.
  • Which begs the question how many more transactions like this have occurred? These types of deals are almost impossible to detect when the players are not so greedy and the kickback is small.
  • The failure by anybody from the administration to explain subsidy rationalization and GST properly and in a coherent manner.
  • Instead of telling that it will be better for them, you need to tell people honestly that they will feel the effect temporarily and explain why they are needed. No need to sugarcoat, just tell the truth.  
The problem right now is that you cannot expect the rakyat to bear the burden of saving the country when your track record in financial management of the resources of this country is poor. You cannot cut the budget here and there and then waste so much money at the top level. People will not understand.

There are many reasons why subsidy cuts are necessary and GST can be positive for the country, but I think its a waste of time arguing on behalf of the people in charge of the finances of Malaysia.

Recently Fitch Ratings maintained their ratings on Malaysia with an upgraded outlook and they were quick to claim credit. Yes, they can claim credit for the upgraded outlook which avoided a lot of trouble for the country but ultimately it was the rakyat who saved Malaysia.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Global and Malaysian Stock Market Outlook By Mr Ooi Kok Hwa

I attended an interesting talk today on the Global and Malaysian Stock Market Outlook by Mr Ooi Kok Hwa. He is the Managing Partner of MRR Consult, which deals in Business Appraisals, Investments & Financial Training. He is also a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Licensed Investment Advisor.

Mr Ooi, who used to have a column in The Star, was one of the keynote speakers at the InvestFair seminar held at the MidValley Exhibition Centre this weekend.

Mr Ooi gave convincing reasons for his outlook, based on in-depth data and the conclusions he made were very interesting. For the global economy, the following points were put forward:
  • Economic growth is well underway in the US and Europe
  • Risk of inflation is rising.
  • US will need to raise interest rates soon.
  • Bond markets are already affected due to this expectation.
  • China's economic growth is moderating.
  • The authorities will let their currency to float lower due to slower growth.
  • China stock markets are too high and will consolidate.
  • Oil prices will stagnate for the next few years.
  • Gold too may not perform well.
  • However other commodities like copper & CPO may have begun turning around.

For Malaysia, he made the following observations:
  • Ratings agencies are considering downgrading ratings for Malaysia.
  • If ratings go down, bonds and high dividend stocks may be affected.
  • Yields may reach 5%..
  • These issues are not too big but there will be some effects.
  • 1MDB too, while admittedly a risk, is not a huge risk.
  • However, what has been revealed is just the tip and there will be a lot more to come.
  • RM expected to weaken further but will eventually enhance exports and save Malaysia.
  • Oil prices are going to affect the country's revenue.
  • Nevertheless, it is somewhat balanced by takings from GST.
  • GST is going to affect consumer sentiment and GDP growth in the short term.
  • He predicted a difficult period of around 6 - 12 months.
  • People may start to feel the pinch after Raya.
  • Individual defaults may increase slightly and bank stocks may be affected.
  • Difficulties in the current environment may start to show in the Q2 results this year.
  • Therefore July and August could potentially be difficult months.
  • Property prices may possibly go south early next year.
  • He appears to be willing to buy properties next year in anticipation of a price fall.
  • Export sector is doing very well and will anchor the country.
  • Next support levels for FBM KLCI is 1680, 1,600 and IF breached, finally 1,300.
  • However in the long run, the situation is not so negative.
  • The export sector will support Malaysia in the recovery.

What I gather from his talk is that he is expecting short term pain in the next 6 - 12 months but does not expect a serious recession and that the country will recover nicely led by exports. 1MDB meanwhile will be a major issue for the same period but will be a thing of the past after that.

Please note that it is not easy to provide an outlook and sometimes the forecaster misses the mark but the data supporting his analysis is sound. It is important for investors to also get data, information and opinion from other credible sources to formulate sound investment strategies.

Mr Ooi conducts courses for the investing public and you can email mktg.my@shareinvestor.com for more information.

Razali is a financial writer and investment advisor. Email razali@laburniaga.com to ask about his services. He also runs a Malay writing and translation business. Visit www.translate2malay.com for more information. He has written three 4 books about stock and unit trust investments in Malay and has a Malay investment blog called Risalah Labur Niaga.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Robert Shiller's Irrational Exuberance Returns, Just in Time

When Robert Shiller, a Nobel Laureate and Professor of Economics at Yale University, first wrote and published Irrational Exuberance in 2000, he warned about the dot com bubble. The bubble burst one year later.

In the second edition in 2005, he warned that a housing bubble was forming and a bust duly occurred in 2008 causing a deep recession in America.

Now. for the third edition in 2015, he added a section on the bond market, and right on cue, we are currently seeing turmoil in the bond markets. He also touches on the high valuations of the US stock market but he says he has no idea when a correction would occur.



The book explains forces that move all markets up and down. It shows how investor euphoria can drive asset prices up to dizzying and unsustainable heights, and how, at other times, investor discouragement can push prices down to very low levels.

Applying his wisdom and looking at the current situation in equity markets, the Chinese markets appear to fit his description of irrational exuberance, after recently climbing steeply and reaching very high valuations. Shenzen and Shanghai has rocketed upwards, driven by buying on margin.

Coupled with the moderating growth and the not so scientific skyscraper theory, which states that a recession would occur after the construction of very tall skyscrapers (read a Business Insider article on this), there is a growing concern that irrational exuberance may eventually cause massive pain to investors.

Look at the trajectory of the Shanghai and Shenzen markets below




Apart from the Chinese market, the global bond market is facing huge pressure due to the predicted interest rate up cycle which the Fed must eventually start. This unfortunately may also potentially hurt equity markets in Asia.

Meanwhile, there is also a property boom in many countries in the world driven by liquidity due to ultra low rates set by central banks throughout the world, and this may also be a potential risk factor when rates start to go up.

Closer to home though, only the real estate market remain high with other assets starting to deflate last year. Commodities have raced to the bottom, and while no crash occurred so far in the stock market, it has been dragged by mediocre profit performance of many companies.

Although the underlying economy is still strong and we are nowhere near the situation during the Asian financial crisis in 1998, unfortunately any shocks in the global market will still affect Malaysia. The best we can hope for is an orderly reduction of prices in markets where bubbles exists rather than shock and panic.

Note: You can also read my posting last year about this topic - Asset Prices Can For Up For a Very Long Time But Can't Go Up Forever

Razali is a financial writer and investment advisor. Email razali@laburniaga.com to ask about his services. He also runs a Malay writing and translation business. Visit www.translate2malay.com for more information. He has written three 4 books about stock and unit trust investments in Malay and has a Malay investment blog called Risalah Labur Niaga.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

A Different Measure of Success

Success is not about trophies and medals, but about the difference you make and how people remember you

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal coach, was asked in an interview by Martin Keown about where he keeps the medals he won throughout his coaching career. Wenger insisted he will judge his own career on a different criteria to many of his critics.

"Martin, I don't even know where they are. That tells you that I don't look back. Maybe one day I will regret this, but I would like to look back on my career and think more about the human side of it rather than the medals. You would like to think when I meet the former players I remember more what kind of people they were than what I won with them."


If my wife read this (which she will now), she will point the finger straight at me. She thinks I'm (slightly) crazy constantly encouraging my kids to bring me back medals, whether academic, sports or other extracurricular activities.

I'll tell them since your father cannot win any more medals, it's your turn to fill the trophy cabinet. In fact their grandmother sponsored two more cabinets to fill up with trophies. 

And whenever they come home with silverware, I give them immunity from admonishment or nagging for one or two days.

Seriously though, I am really not medal crazy. I don't really keep my medals properly, and I may not even remember exactly what I've won. It counts for nothing. What is important though is the memories.

At the end of the day, people won't care whether you won something, but they will remember how you treated them, your behaviour, your effort, your class and your sincerity.  Nobody cares about your trophy cabinet.

So why do I ask my kids to bring home trophies? Just that I think that by striving to succeed in something, you learn something valuable. You learn to cultivate a good work ethic and discipline. 

The medals and trophies are a bonus. Makes the father proud but the benefit is in the process of striving to achieve or win...not in actually winning, and definitely not in receiving the medals.

My wife may not believe what I just wrote, but its true...:)

Photo from bbc.com

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Giving People A Chance

Many Arsenal fans are constantly unhappy with Arsene Wenger for not buying ready made superstars. Clearly he prefers to develop young talent and give them a chance. This is his reason:


“You need the talent, but also you need to meet someone who believes in you and gives you a chance. Plenty of people have talent in life but they do not meet someone who gives them a chance.

"For example, can you name one Formula One driver from an African country, apart from South Africa? And can you really imagine that there is not one guy in Africa with the talent to be a Formula One driver? Why are they not there? Because no one has given them a chance. I like to be the guy who believes in people, and stands up for them.”

According to Jeremy Wilson, in an article in the Telegraph, Arsene Wenger said this to a group of businessmen in Malaysia during Arsenal's 2011 Asian Tour about the importance of developing talent. He got a standing ovation at the end of the talk.

I remember people who stood up for me when I was developing and I know some excellent individuals who constantly open doors for young people, giving them a chance, just like Wenger. 

Sometimes we are so obsessed with the quick fix and instant results that we don't open doors for people, forgetting that others gave us a chance a long time ago when we were still raw and unpolished.

Note: Photo from squawka.com.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Bloom Where You're Planted



My mother has a garden with nice flowers and trees. However this particular one is not hers. The plant just grew in between the tiles and the stones.

I on the other hand prefer cats to plants. But the blooming plant in the picture is mine. I've adopted it.

I first came across the phrase Bloom Where You're Planted in an old Dale Carnegie book that I found from my late father's library. Probably means to thrive wherever you are, in whatever situation you find yourself in.

Glad to see it first hand in my house. Many plants can grow in difficult circumstances. But not many actually bloom like this one. 

I suppose it applies to humans too. Many can survive, but to bloom in the face of adversity is precious.

Selamat Hari Merdeka!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Smelling a Rat: Tell-Tale Signs of Fradulent Schemes

A recent story in The Star highlighting 'the future richest man in the world' setting up shop in Malaysia is just the latest example of people getting excited by schemes promising easy money without risks. These schemes keep cropping up even though investors keep getting burned.

Maybe the people and investors involved are different but the same type of schemes never fail to attract participants, not only in Malaysia. It just shows that many people still think that there is a way to get rich without hard work or being extremely lucky.

People generally want  high returns without any risk. That is why Bernard Madoff was so successful in the US until his scheme unravelled. He offered fixed returns to his investors. Apart from that, investors also tend to gravitate towards investments that are currently hot.

Realising this human weakness, fraudulent schemers will always tailor their offerings according to what people want. For example when gold was riding high, there was a number of gold based schemes, which have collapsed spectacularly. 

A few years ago in Malaysia, there was an IPO based scheme that managed to lure many prominent people. It ended with the operator absconding with the money and still not caught till now. Then,  palm oil based schemes cropped up and recently property based investments.

While gold, stocks, palm oil and property are legitimate investments, they are subject to volatility and nobody can guarantee that you can make money all the time from these investments. These get rich quick schemes offer good returns without volatility.

The MLM business is also a legitimate business, but in a normal MLM business, you really need to work hard and promote and deliver products to customers to make money. Just like any other business.

The first thing that we need to realise is that there is no such thing as a free money. In order to make higher returns, you will have to take some risks and accept volatility over a period of time.

In the wake of the Bernard Madoff and Allen Stanford cases in the US, Ken Fisher, a famed investment manager and writer, wrote a book called How to Smell A Rat.  He basically underlined five signs of financial fraud.


It contains valuable information. Unfortunately, this is the type of book which is read by people who are already careful with their money, but those who actually need it the most will not.

It's not that difficult to spot a get rich quick scheme (apart from a huge self promotional billboards).  Here are the five signs given by Fisher and a few others I gathered from other sources.

1.  Your advisor/scheme has custody over your assets.
If you provide the money to the organiser to invest and the person has custody over the assets, then serious problems could arise. In a unit trust scheme for example, the party who has custody over the assets is the trustee, and the job of the management company is to make investment decisions. If the organiser of an investment scheme also holds you money, there is a risk that you may not see your money again.

2.  Returns are high and consistent.
It is simply not possible to provide high returns of investment in a consistent basis (for example by providing fixed returns). You can get high returns over time but you have to accept volatility, meaning that you may lose money for a few years, generate high returns in some years and get no return in other years.

3.  You don't understand the investment strategy.
Not understanding the investment strategy is one thing but when the promoter of the scheme also don't really understand and cannot explain it properly, then stay far away. An investment and its returns, such as stocks, property and business, should be easily explained and understood. Once people start using fancy and complicated terms, there may be rats around.

4.  Benefits of exclusivity and membership, which does not affect investment results.
Some schemes will say that the membership is limited and only open to certain people only. So they will tell you that you are lucky to be selected. Basically this has got nothing to do with the investment results. Don't get distracted.

5.  Investors don't do their own due diligence but instead trust an intermediary.
Instead of finding out and researching about the scheme, investors are asked to trust the person promoting or recommending the scheme to them. Investors should always check and research and investment and if they cannot understand it, get the advice of an expert.

 6.  You have to recruit down-lines to obtain stipulated returns.
You should never have to recruit anybody in an investment scheme.  You invest money, accept the risk and either obtain profits or losses. Down-lines are only for an MLM type business. Beware of the money schemes posing as a genuine MLM business.   

7.  No approval from the authorities.
Many of the suspect financial schemes don't have approval from BNM to collect money from customers while some MLM based schemes just don't have the licence to conduct an MLM business. A simple check on whether they have the necessary approvals would save you a lot of trouble

8.  Difficult to contact the main organisers of the scheme.
While you can easily contact the agents, intermediaries, promoters or purported branches, you find it difficult to nail down who is actually running the scheme. Branches can close down in an instant and some of the intermediaries might not even know that they are collaborating in the fraud.

Investing in a business or instrument should be simple to explain and understand. You invest money at a certain level of risk for the probability of obtaining returns. The keyword here is probability. There are no such things as guaranteed high returns or shares that will always go up. When you hear the word guaranteed or fixed and high in the same sentence, then you can be sure that there are rats around.

Note: There are people I know who go to great lengths to expose these types of schemes. I admire their courage. I don't have time to do this. I tried once some time ago but people usually don't listen and you will end up making enemies. If people ask I will give my opinion. This article is just an indirect way of doing my part. 

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Malaysia Is Still Beautiful In My Eyes

I've been reading a lot about how the country has turned ugly with hatred, racism and bigotry raising its collective ugly heads. Maybe it's true, but I feel that these people and their views have been around for quite some time, a very long time, and they will continue to have their say in the future.

The reason we feel their threat now is that their voices have been amplified by social media and the Internet, with issues going viral fast. Those who read have the impression that they represent more people than they actually do.

There is another, equally damaging school of thought trying to convince people that the country is falling apart. This is far from the truth. Malaysia has its fair share of problems, but we are not falling apart. Other countries also have their problems, some way bigger than us.

The economy is growing reasonably well and asset prices have been rising steadily. Yes, it's heading towards bubble territory but this is true in other growing Asian cities as well. Long term rising asset prices is not a feature of a country falling apart.

Some people have been squeezed by rising prices, but this is not a country specific phenomenon. The main cause is the quantitative easing and loose monetary policy advocated by the US Federal Reserve. We need to be careful in trying to stem this, because the wrong move could cause recession and/or deflation, which is worse than rising prices.

Many people have been complaining about public services. Again there are weaknesses and surely a lot can improve. While bad examples are plenty, there are also areas where services are good, and many which are just plain average. But falling apart it isn't.

I've been using the public health system for the last few years, after exclusively using private healthcare for so long, and find it quite satisfactory. There will always be issues and complaints but you can say the same for private healthcare (which is why I started using certain public services in the first place).

My kids go to public school and believe it or not they are doing ok. There are so many areas that can be improved in education, mainly due to bad policy and flip-flopping but the situation is not hopeless. There are still good teachers and if you are willing to learn you can easily do well.

Furthermore, in terms of social work, there are a lot of good young volunteers helping other people, in the city streets, in the shelters and in the rural areas. One minister saying that we should stop helping does not represent the country, he only represents himself  (and maybe DBKL).

We have many, many good people, far more than the shrill voices. People from different backgrounds interact with each other and help each other every day, just that these things are not newsworthy and don't get highlighted.

While it is sometimes good to highlight the bad news about the country, I don't pay attention people who post exclusively negative things and have nothing positive to highlight. Sometimes they don't realise it but that is exactly what they do and there are many of them around. 

We have been in worse situations before, and will continue to face this challenge of uniting the nation in the future. We are different, and have different beliefs and ways of doing things, so differences will surely arise. But we can always engage each other on certain principles we share.

I love this country and have set my roots here. My ancestors came from diverse places. Only one branch is from the Peninsula, two families came from Punjab and one from Java. My wife's came from China. Me and my family identify this country as our homeland.

Many people I know and interact with are good people who contribute to the nation. There are so many positive things that they do. However as I mentioned previously, these are ordinary things which are not newsworthy. 

To me our politicians are a source of endless frustration. However, politicians are a very small minority of the people, and when you combine them with all the zealots, bigots, racists and other extremists, you will find that they still make up a small portion of society. 

Unfortunately some of them have influence and their voices are given airtime and news space, so it gives the impression that the country is full of extreme views.

For me, it's just a waste of time to give too much attention to these people. Even those who are too negative should not be entertained. Focus on the good people and we can always do our part on the ground, in our daily interaction with people. This is much better than spreading the negativity and feeding the spiral of hate.

The country will see good times and bad times, and face many challenges in the future. We will also always have many people who unite and some people who divide. Which category are you? 

Whatever happens, Malaysia is still beautiful in my eyes. We can always make it better. May peace be upon us. 

Note: I want us to change for the better and voted for change, but will not undermine the country to achieve it and will not feed overly negative impressions. I feel that a sense of balance in our judgement is very important.