Wednesday, September 25, 2013

..... and the CONmen Go Marching In (updated)

I want to share something I posted on my facebook wall late last night for the benefit of those who follow me exclusively on Demi Negara. I reproduce it at the end of this preamble. 
PM Najib is bleeding our national coffers via Khazanah, 1MDB, PEMANDU, TalentCorp and a multitude of unnecessary and unproductive supragovernmental agencies. These agencies are fed hand-to-mouth by super-expensive foreign-led CON-sultants. I christened these CON-sultants the Powerpoint Mafia as they are administratively untouchable and politically unaccountable. These supragovernmental agencies have become monstrous money pits answerable to no one ..... not even to Najib whose hands are tied by phoney threats of impending socio-economic calamity if Malaysia does not follow the various Transformation gobbledygook concocted by these thugs in Armani suits and Versace dresses now permanently encamped in and around the PM's department in Putrajaya.

In a nutshell, Najib has failed us.  And fail us big time as the foreign-led Powerpoint Mafia and their brash, arrogant 20- and 30-something local foot soldiers in the multitude of supragovernmental agencies hijacked our national socio-development agenda and nationbuilding blueprint.  Yes people, scary as it seem, Malaysia is now effectively ruled by proxy by the Powerpoint Mafia and their cocky young local henchmen and henchwomen.   
Our sovereign funds -- cash earned from our collective toil; our blood, sweat and tears; and from our finite natural resources -- are being squandered on extravagant ventures at exorbitant cost with no tangible deliverable beyond fuzzy pie-in-the-sky concepts concocted by the Powerpoint Mafia. 

And let's be frank here.  These multibillion ringgit programmes with fancy names and even fancier rationale plucked from thin air do not benefit the average rakyat.  Nothing trickles down to the urban poor or to the simple kampung folk or to the ubiquitous salaryman.  

The average rakyat feels the economic pain. Real pain. The arrogant Powerpoint Mafia and their local brown-ass party gurls in short skirts won't tell that to Najib. To them, these folks are just collateral damage, the inconsequential by-product of a grander scheme.

Najib is too busy anyway.  Jetsetting with his large entourage and hangers on into San Francisco, officiated an obscenely expensive office for Khazanah, dropped by at Twitter HQ and then rushing in a 20-vehicle motorcade down the 101 freeway to visit Facebook HQ and then off to New York city for some speeches and more merriment.  All on our tab of course.    
While Najib and spouse jet sets with the fashionable crowd, our common rakyat struggles with rising costs and the pains of rapid unbridled urbanisation and burgeoning social ills.  Of course the Powerpoint Mafia shields him from the real Malaysia, from the needs and concerns of the rakyat jelata.  Instead, he is fed a steady diet of CON-sultant jargon-laden strategic fairytales that seem to outdo one another in irrational grandiosity as time goes by. Suddenly Malaysia must be "competitive" against a whole bunch of phantom economic adversaries. Of course, after sitting in a series of these slick multimedia CON-sultant presentations, a sense of paranoia permeates one's soul, of being under siege and boxed in by "more competitive" others around us.  See?  Najib is pushed towards economic paranoia by these Powerpoint Mafia. They convinced him that he must spend hundreds of billions of ringgits of our money and our childrens' money in order to generate several tens of millions of ringgit of net incremental wealth.  Apa?  Like this how?  But financial disconnects are just minor detail irritants to Najib as, remember, he has been led to think in trillions of future ringgits in some future socio-economic utopia where young, happy merit-based highly productive people outcompete and outclass everyone else on this planet as the Malaysian economy takes-off into sub-orbital space of merriment and boundless prosperity.

Yeah sure.  

Minyak naik duaposen pun rakyat dah nak merusuh!  Harga ayam mahal dua kali lipat pun si menteri bangang dah tak tau apa nak buat! What transformasi you talking about? These menteris -- of the perdana and generic varieties -- cannot even transform themselves or manage their spouses.  You think they can transform us, the nation?  Pigidahh!

Drive around our towns and kampungs and places in between.  Haul your butts out your comfy airconditioned cars and go have a cuppa coffee and the local kueh at the roadside kedai makan.  Observe the activities of the local folks.  I'm talking about places like Sekinchan and Juasseh and Paka and Bachok and Kodiang and Sarikei and Tuaran. You think Najib's grandiose schemes will ever benefit them?  How much of the hundreds of billions of ringgits spent thus far have trickled to them?  Almost nothing.  Nothing.  And I've not even talked about the urban poor, in my book the worse kind of poor.  They have no land to plant or raise food, have minimal extended family support structure and must pay for everything, even for a twig of karipulai or a bunch of serai. They have little cash in a cash-based economic ecosystem.

Hence, I was particularly appalled upon reading reports of Khazanah's new rep office in San Francisco.  I know the place like the back of my hand ..... the business climate, the people, the subtle nuances of that society.  And I believe Khazanah's foray there is just a waste of taxpayers' money as their objective is too fuzzy, too unclear to justify a strong presence in a socio-economic culture they know nothing about. The Powerpoint Mafia even helped them form a new entity to run the U.S. ops.  They called it Khazanah Americas, Inc. or KAI for short. Yup folks, with these KAI people spending our money, we might just go poKAI soon ...

This is the FB posting.  Feel free to share your thoughts.


...... and the CONmen go marching in. 

This time a lavish Khazanah Nasional rep office in one of the most expensive downtown office towers in very expensive San Francisco. Where the in-building parking (if you can find one) charges run at U$3 (RM10) per 15 minutes or US33 (RM110) per day. That would be RM3,300 per month for one car in a dingy basement -- the rental rate of a very comfortable KL apartment.

While being fawned head-over-heels by CONmen from Frost & Sullivan and likeminded parasites, PM Najib reportedly complimented the breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge and praised Mr. Non-Performer Royale, Azman Mokhtar for making "the great choice of sparkling office with a nice view." Yes indeed. A million dollar view that will captivate many a heart. But is Khazanah promoting Malaysia or Northern California?

NR: "Wow .... fantabulous view! The Golden Gate Bridge. I should move my office here. 
Far away from those pesky poor people back home. Whaddaya think?"

AM: "Hehe .... yes boss. Anything you say boss.  BTW, can I have the other office suite?"

NR: "Oh, you mean the one with the clear view of Alcatraz Prison? Sure why not. 
You may want to get used to the interior sights though, hahaha ... just joking." 

AM: "Hehe boss.  We will have adjoining cells .... err rooms ... there boss.  
Just joking also lah ....."

Who will staff this luxurious office? How many Malaysians? From where and based on what criteria? Another bunch of cocky 26-year olds "selected on merit" who will splash scenes of their wild parties and sinful weekend getaways -- this time in exciting SF -- on FB? Don't be surprised if some of the PEMANDU party animals get recycled and sent here to liven up the wild Bay Area LGBT nightlife.

So how much is the rakyat (yes, Malaysian taxpayers) paying these people? Let me guess ............ a lot. Yes, a lot because San Francisco is one of THE most expensive cities in the U.S., with rental rates three times the U.S. average. The median rent for a 1-BR, yes one bedroom apartment in this city is about US$3,300 (almost RM11,000) per month. In preferred neighbourhoods, 1-BR rentals -- if you can actually find one -- would be US$3,600-4,500. For 2-BRs? You're staring at US$5,000-8,000 per month. 3-BR? Don't ask. And we have not even looked at other costs in a city ranked in the top 3 most expensive in the U.S.

How I know all these? I have a SF rep office as well. You pay through your nose in rental, parking and staff costs but as long as you make money, lots of it, its fine. 

So will Azman Mokhtar and the merry-men and -women of Khazanah actually "make money" to cover this yet another splurge of the rakyat's hard earned ringgits? 


By bringing in investors? Isn't that job already done by the likes of Mida, Matrade and Miti? Seriously, what can Khazanah do that Mida and Matrade cannot do or has not already done? Mida has six offices across the U.S. -- Los Angeles, San Jose, New York, Boston, Chicago and Houston. Martrade has offices in Los Angeles, Miami and New York. And we have investment minister-counselors in our Washington, D.C. embassy and consulates general in New York and Los Angeles. Throw in Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines and you'll have a heck of a lot of "rep offices" offering the same thing again and again to confused Americans. 

So what exactly is Khazanah's role in SF? To attract investments? Again, that's Mida and Miti's job. To expand trade? That's Matrade's job. To secure tourist dollars? That's Tourism Malaysia's job. To play a hand in diplomacy? That's the foreign office's job via the embassy and consulates. 

Oh, I forgot ..... Khazanah is supposed to SPEND money, NOT make money. While part of the fat budget has been blown on expensive office rental and staff costs, there must be quite a chunk left for a Silicon Valley spending spree. Najib reportedly said in SF, "Malaysia [is] keen to invest in exciting high-value areas such as life sciences, green technology and cutting-edge innovation that could help Malaysia's transformation efforts." 


What exactly do all those Powerpoint jargons mean? 

I'm sure Mr. Kool wannabe here would throw in "value proposition" and "value chain" and "leading edge" and "next-gen" and "ears and eyeballs" and other so-very-90s-lah CON-sultant bullsh*t somewhere in his speech. 

And the Powerpoint Mafia never cease to amaze.
  CON-sultant supreme, Frost & Sullivan (here represented by their smooth talkin' Chairman, David Frigstad), actually concocted a make-believe, one-off award to be presented to Khazanah.  
They called it the Global Award for Visionary Innovation Leadership.  
Say what?  Global Visionary what? And gullible Najib beams over the "honour." 
Haiya .... this is too easy lah people. Too easy!  
You wanna bet they won't get new fat CON-tracts to do something there?

As for stopping the spending spree, its too late lah people. The depleting chequebook's out. Khazanah must be seen to spend on something somewhere to justify their SF office adventure. You see, their No.1 KPI is "to spend money, lots of it" and No.2 KPI is "to lose money, most of it" and No.3 KPI is "blame others, all of them." 

I'm just waiting for some announcement of a "strategic investment" in some "new economy" scam involving solar powered green-coloured multiheaded dildos or something like that run by a couple of Taiwanese H-1B visa abusers out of a Sunnyvale garage repackaged, of course, into some sustainable eco-friendly healthy green technology gizmo that purportedly will yield a financial windfall for Khazanah and propel Malaysia to new heights of economic ecstasy ..... blah, blah, blah. Sounds familiar? A sucker born every minute? Remember InventQjaya? Remember E-Village in the Dengkil boondocks? And don't let me get into cow farms and such. Just finished a late dinner meeting with some old ex-ministers and the possibility of regurgitating the horrendous raw sturgeon wrapped in salty seaweed and boiled cabbage is very real indeed.

Oh, ..... saw in the newsfeed that Najib had just committed the rakyat's money into yet another new fund management company, Putra Eco Ventures Inc. The report said: "The company will channel the investments and provide business consultancy services to green technology companies." Now, that's a triple whammy of oxymoronia. "Channel the investments"? "Provide business consultancy services"? These types of phrases have scam and leakage and abuse and misadventure written all over them. Throw in "green technology" and you are looking at a financial trainwreck in the making.

So people, another little chapter of the follies of GLC Malaysia unfolds away from the public radar. While the rakyat bicker over twenty sen fuel price hikes and lack of decent affordable housing, the jet-setting chimps-in-suits of Khazanah (... and soon PEMANDU and TalentCorp and 1MDB and other disasters) throw our tax money into bottomless pits in faraway America.

My problem with Najib is that every time he launches or announces or officiates something somewhere, I get an overpowering sense of mindless, needless wastage of the rakyat's money. And this Khazanah rep office in San Francisco is no different. Again, I just don't understand the logic. To attract investments, Mida, Martrade and Miti and our embassy and consulates have already done that for umpteen years. No need expensive, lavish office overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge in SF. On the other hand, if you just want to throw money at American companies, to invest in their business schemes or scams, they couldn't care less about your office. They just want your money, lots of it. Heck, they wouldn't give a hoot even if you work out of a Motel 6 by the 101 freeway .... as long as you give them money.

So again, what's this "great choice of sparkling office with a nice view" in San Francisco really about? Is this a necessary strategic move to oversee the deployment of our sovereign funds -- our children's money -- in foreign-based ventures crucial to our economic competitiveness, ....... or is this yet another expensive stupid out of control ego trip by some chimps-in-suits condoned by a weak, gullible Prime Minister easily fooled by meaningless CONsultant jargons liberally dished out in slick Powerpoint presentations?