Fuel subsidy is the sugar that is sweet, but kills

An Electric Vehicle #EV is most efficient in slow moving & stop-go traffic, which makes it perfect for urban use. Driving an EV on highways (above 100km/h hour) is the most inefficient use of energy in an EV.

Compare this to a regular fossil-burning vehicle.

Urban traffic is where a fossil-fuel vehicle is most inefficient; the engine keep on running while in slow traffic, burning your money away for minimal travel. A fossil-fuel car on the other hand, is most efficient at highway speeds, where the RPM is low running on a single gear (4th or 5th).

Consider the fact that Malaysian Government is expected to spend ~RM47billion in fuel subsidy this year.

To give you a sense of the scale, the MRT3 construction cost is RM34 billion (the entire project including land acquisition & project management is RM50 billion).

EVERY year, we could have:

  • Built 1 more MRT3
  • Built 33 hospitals with 1000 beds
  • Funded healthcare for Ministry of Health 1.5 times on top of existing RM32bil budget for healthcare
  • Funded Education Ministry 1 time over existing budget
  • Funded Higher Education Ministry 4 times over existing budget

We are so rich that we can afford to burn so much money year after year. In another perspective, we are so fossil-fuel & car-dependent that we balk at ‘expensive’ public-transportation projects while no one bats an eye when our ANNUAL fuel subsidy is on par.

At prevailing fuel prices, it is not surprising to expect for every RM2.05 you spend per liter of fuel, the Malaysian Government (us really, the tax payers) is also spending another RM1.80-RM2.00 as fuel subsidy. This means, if you are refuelling for RM100 for a full tank, the government is also forking our RM100 for your tank.

Imagine how much of that subsidy is gone in mere traffic jams.

Yes, it is this fuel subsidy that helps Malaysia to have one of the lowest inflation GLOBALLY. It keep the fuel cost low for transportation, construction, food production and so many other industries.

Fuel subsidy indeed help keep our cost of living low compared to peers in the region.

However as for inflation, in my untrained mind, is not because of the subsidy per-se.

Our inflation is low because of us pegging the fuel price to RM2.05, which means we (the rakyat) are relatively cushioned against global events while the government faces the brunt of raising fuel prices.

The pegged fuel price allows businesses continue to operate with certainty that the cost will not shift drastically, hence limiting price adjustments month-over-month.

In other fuel-producing countries, the raise in global fuel price is a boon because fatter profit. However in Malaysia, it is a bane because the government has to spend more to subsidise.

What a conundrum.

Fuel subsidy is akin to sugar. It tastes sweet, people easily get hooked and wont let go of it.

Tomorrow is the celebration of Malaysia’s formation.

For our own future, let us support and vote for politicians who are brave enough to reduce our dependencies on fuel subsidies.

Arts, Culture and Patin Tempoyak

On weekends, I derive pleasure by introducing tourists to local restaurants in places off the beaten path.

Two weeks ago, I met Mario and Olivia of @travel_on_toast (in Youtube and Instagram). It was a fun driving them around KL and the suburbs.

We went to Rimbun Dahan to visit my friends art exhibition, showing them a reconstructed traditional Malay house there. We were super lucky to have also met Angela Hijjas, the owner of Rimbun Dahan and considered a prime mover in Malaysian art industry.

We discovered early that Mario and I are history buffs. This led us to some exciting chats on Sumerian/Indus/Aztec civilisations, and how the population of the Aztec was decimated by plagues introduced by explorers coming from the old world.

Knowing Mario is part-Lithuanian (Marius is a common Lithuanian name), I told him of the wonderful places in Vilnius I visited on business trips a few years ago. Of the castles, the churches, and warm shady parks during spring time.

His eyes sparkled 🤩

He later showed me his tattoos of old beliefs prior to Christianity in Lithuania, how paganism is still observed in some parts of the country.

I responded with examples of animism and remnants of Hinduism that permeates the Malaysian cultural fabric even after Islam landed on the shores in the region. Told him that in Kedah, archealogical evidence in Sungai Batu showed that the old state was smelting and exporting iron ores for over 2000 years.

We started to talk about superstitious beliefs.

Mario was intrigued to know that Malaysians are full-on, hardcore believer of the mystics.

One quick example is how number 4 and 14 are considered bad luck in fellow Chinese Malaysian culture, hence the designation of 3A and 13A instead of 4 and 14 in numbering floors.

Great company to have while sipping Patin tempoyak (silver catfish in fermented durian broth) watching planes landing and taking off.

Electric Vehicle sales doubling every 18 months

“No question about it. Internal combustion engine (ICE) is done.”, said my confidante and mentor when I shared to him this graph.

The current sales trend of Electric Vehicles (EV) paints a clear picture: The volume of EV sales doubles every 18 months…

In 2016, British Petroleum (BP) expected 71 million EVs on the road by 2035. Latest sales data shows that we will reach that volume by 2025. Full decade ahead of schedule.

As the pace of energy transition hastens, so does the gap between countries/regions that adopt EVs early versus those who are laggards.

Early adopters are ahead of the curve; these countries/regions tend to gain experience and matures fast.

Top of my head the benefits are:

  1. Experimentation of public policies in balancing the interest of greener future against existing interests in fossil fuels (For example Norway)
  2. Introduction of new supporting services & business models around EVs; enabling budding entrepreneurs to try out new ideas. For example EV leasing to battery recycling to introduction of new digital services. Or perhaps someone would buy up all the parking spaces and convert them to EV charging space.
  3. Smoother transition when these countries/regions finally decide to cut off fossil fuel entirely (at least on the use of fossil fuel for personal mobility).
  4. It is smoother since they are at the forefront of EV adoptions, they have full control on the pace of change (for example, deciding on policy level how many EVs should be manufactured by certain year).
  5. Compare this to laggards (countries that adopt EVs late) – These laggards will be literally choked with old inefficient ICE cars > more dependence on fossil fuels > high susceptibility to global fuel fluctuations. Current Ukraine War has only sped up European Unions effort to ditch Russian oil.
  6. As global car manufacturers switch to EVs, one can expect countries/regions yet to adopt EVs to be the dumping ground of inefficient ICE cars. Again, the same cycle persists > more dependence on fossil fuels > spending more on healthcare and little control over public expenditure.

What are your thoughts? How can Malaysia transition to be an adopter of EV while balancing its interest in the lucrative oil resource?


Two interns reported for duty today.

One is Zhen Yang, a UTAR student and an aspiring data scientist. Hailing from Ipoh, he rented a house near to our office for the next few months as he goes through our rather rigorous, industry-driven internship.

Zheng Yang will be looking at massive vehicle-sensor data available on the KATSANA Platform under the guidance of Engineering Head. We don’t allocate enough manpower to data science due to other priorities, thus having new talents in this area is very much welcomed.

Another intern is Aiman, a tall 18-year old post-high school student, whose drive and conviction to be a software engineer led me to write a rather popular LinkedIn post last week.

Aiman has no formal education in Software Engineering, yet has the drive to soak up knowledge that I haven’t seen in graduates much older than him. He made the calculated risky decision to let go of university education for a few years to be trained in an actual tech company much early on. This young man is brave.

This means we carry a huge responsibility to make sure they become good scientists & engineers. Beyond technical competency, we aim to imbue in them, good communication skills and managerial capabilities.

Wish us luck.

Valuing the independence of thought

I have been trying my darndest to reduce exposure to Facebook. I’m doing this because I find myself slowly becoming part of an echo chamber.

If you have not known this by now, Facebook designs its algorithm to encourage higher engagement & higher retention on the platform. More time on Facebook = more eyeballs for its advertisements.

A direct result of this behavioral engineering is the polarisation of your news feed. You will likely be more engaged with those who share the same opinions, or on the other spectrum, you will be stalking those who don’t.

You will end up preaching to the choir and might start alienating others.

You will develop narcissistic tendencies. You are groomed to be one.

I feel that this is dangerous to my well-being.

We do not have to be reactive to every news or posting on the platform.

We should not need to have an opinion for everything.

I want to be free. To be able to understand different narratives, to be able to put myself in a different pair of shoes, and to be able to develop empathy.

Looking back, I have written and shared things in the past that I’m now regretting. I don’t want to delete those posts, for it was my past; they’ll serve as a reminder. If you were in any way feel slighted by me, I ask for your forgiveness.

Lets put effort into bringing knowledge and joy to people around us.


Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram are secretly listening to your conversations

Its a devilish feature that hides in plain sight. A feature so flagrant and egregious in its abuses of privacy. A feature that is used to actively push advertisement content based on your daily conversations in the public, and private.

Im talking about ‘Access to Microphone’ permission requests whenever you install a social app. A request most apparent in Facebook-related suite of apps, which are Facebook app itself, Whatsapp, and Instagram.

People would just succumb to provide this permission without second thoughts. We would never have thought that these apps might record us while we are not using them.

Have you noticed that somehow Facebook cunningly push Ads about things that you have spoken just moments ago?

It happened so many times that I hate this will become a new normal in advertising. Brilliant? Yes. Creepy? Indeed.

I once mentioned in other FB post of a peculiar incident. I was dissing Trump (pretty verbose) and impact of his reckless tariff war, and to my surprise, ads for Harley-Davidson appeared soon in my social timelines. I have no interest in Harley, would never search for Harley, and had only spoken about Harley when I talked about Trump.

It happened again today. I was on the lookout for landed properties. I went to a property exhibition, and conversed with sales agents. Guess what? Advertisements on properties appeared on my timelines soon after. My Insta feed and FB feeds are now littered with property ads.

A couple of my close friends shared the same experience that I doubt this is a mere coincidence.

I already uninstalled FB app about a year ago, and relying only on its web app.

Next, I am disabling Microphone access to all FB-owned apps (Whatsapp, and Instagram). These apps will not be able to use the phone mic without my expressed permission and only when I need them.

If you are on iOS, go to Settings > Privacy > Microphone.

If you are on Android, go to Settings > Apps > (select each app) > turn off Microphone access.

Dont let this invasion of privacy become a new normal.

Apple iPhone X and Samsung Note 8 – A review after two weeks of use

After using iPhone X and Note 8 for about two weeks:

iPhone X wins in these areas:
– FaceID. Faster unlock and more reliable than Note 8’s Facial Recognition. Note 8 Facial Recognition tend to fail at night or when conditions are not optimum for capturing your face. I can feel the split-second delay to unlock Note 8 using Facial Recognition compared to iPhone X’s FaceID. That could potentially be caused by different type of implementations (iPhone X is using hardware, while Note 8 is using software for Facial ID). At the end, I had to rely on Note 8’s fingerprint more than its Facial Recognition.
– Ease of use. I would think that having no Home button is going to make me gone bonkers. Nope, after a day of use, the flow is pretty natural and easy to adapt.
– The notch at the top of the phone is not much as an issue that people bitch about.

Samsung Note 8 wins in these areas:
– Stylus. The stylus/pen that defined Samsung Note is a god-send if you value productivity. I find myself using it more and more to do work on-the-go. I once filled up a 60+ page tender document (PDF) in mere 5 mins without opening it on laptop, or printing it at all. Talk about efficiency. Top of my head; iPhone is a toy, Note 8 is a workhorse.
– Pictures. Photos taken using Note 8 tend to be more dramatic and consistently more impressive than iPhone X. This is subjective because some people tend to prefer iPhone’s natural tone.
– Android in general is cloud friendly, with machine learning and AI behind it leaving iOS in the dust. I can feel Google’s integration of its services is more wholesome which can be a bit scary at times. Apple’s cloud services are plain rubbish.

They are draw in these areas:
– Build quality.
– Screen. Although Note 8 has a slight edge due to its always-on capability.
– Battery. Both phones can easily go through a day of use, and can last 2 days for regular use.

I have no comments on these:
– Voice assistants (Apple Siri vs Samsung Bixby vs Google Assistant). I dont like these services, thus Ive turned off on all my phones.

USA and China, in the eye of the developing world

It has become apparent that USA and China switch places nowadays in all kind of areas:

a. Political – USA is now the laughing stock of the developed world, fallen from grace while China is picking up admiration for its push for global recognition. Democracy is now a popularity contest on who has the loudest voice for the lowest common denominator, while the harsh communist ideology seemed a perfect fit for capitalism.

b. Innovation – USA being a country that was built by migrants is now closing its doors for fear of job-stealing Mexicans and Indians (or bluntly, any non-whites), while China is steaming ahead with innovative products and services, churning out startups and companies that beat those in Silicon Valley.

c. Internal turmoil – Who could have expected that the victor of WWII now has budding Nazis in its own turf, championing white purity. This is simply madness. China on the other hand, has grown by leaps and bounds. Not so many years ago, she openly murdered hundreds of students in an open square, yet nowadays seem to put the people above all else (quality education, growing middle income, stronger government that put harsh penalty on corruption with emphasis on merit for political positions).

d. Green energy – China has already surpassed its 2020 renewable energy target while USA withdrew itself from Paris accord for ‘being unfair to the citizens of USA’, while conveniently forgetting that for the last 100 years, USA is the worst polluter in the world.

I believe China is at an inflection point in its civilization. Once they were perceived to be the barbaric far-east country that lacked norms and etiquettes that makes a civilization well, civil. Recent advances in technology, political will for global domination, its affection for renewable energy have helped China to jump a few steps forward.

One day, in the same way Japan leapfrogged the western world soon after WWII, I am expecting and sincerely hoping to see China and its population to be the beacon of civilized world.

13 October 2017

Project Management Basics: What is a project?

It has been a long while since I last wrote on this blog.

Project management is one of the most critical elements in running a business. I have decided to put effort into mastering this subject. As I go along, I will be sharing tidbits here for all to benefit from.

I decided to write this down in a blog simply because writing helps me firm up understanding of the subject. If I cant summarise Project Management in writing, then probably the subject hasnt been mastered yet.

What is a project, really?

In my own definition, a project is simply tasks that need to be completed within a certain duration of time. Thus by definition, a project has

  • Beginning
  • Middle
  • End

Examples of projects can be development of a new application, new sales/marketing campaign, integration with new vendors, to building a new house (or demolishing it), or construction of highways.

Continue reading “Project Management Basics: What is a project?”