Jumaat, 28 Oktober 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Million-dollar windfall for Indian office worker

Posted: 28 Oct 2011 04:49 PM PDT

MUMBAI, Oct 28 (Reuters) - An office worker too poor to own a television set has won an unprecedented $1 million in the Indian version of TV game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire".

Sushil Kumar's win this week drew comparisons with the plot of 2008 Oscar-winning film "Slumdog Millionaire" and, like its fictional protagonist Jamal, the 27-year-old also watched the TV show as an escape from penury.

This is the first time a contestant has won a million dollars on the popular TV show hosted by Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan. The episode will be broadcast next week and Kumar takes home 3.5 crore rupees (about $720,000) after tax.

Kumar, who watched the show at a neighbour's house because his family was too poor to afford a television set, said he had not made any grand plans for the money, a fortune in a country with a per capita income of $1,265. "I'm going to repair my house, fulfil a few basic needs and then move to Delhi to study for the civil service exams," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Kumar works as a computer operator in a government office in the impoverished eastern state of Bihar and earns 6,000 rupees (around $120) per month.

"Our house has almost broken down and we have a lot of loans that have to be repaid," he said.

"If it hadn't been for this money, I would have gotten old before I sorted out my life."

"I've been getting a lot of suggestions about what to do with the money, but right now I can only think about my dream of getting through the civil services exam," he said.

"Slumdog Millionaire", shot in the teeming slums of Mumbai, tells the story of a young orphan who wins the TV game show against all odds.

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Potential of public-private partnerships

Posted: 28 Oct 2011 04:50 PM PDT

Just how well is public-private partnership succeeding? To answer this question, StarBizWeek brought together Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Wan Abdul Aziz Wan Abdullah, Royal Selangor International managing director Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon, Mudajaya chairman Datuk Yusli Yusoff and SMI Association of Malaysia president Chua Tiam Wee to share their views. The roundtable was moderated by The Star managing editor P. Gunasegaram.

SBW: Where do you think are the major areas in which the private and public sector can participate and how do you see the evolution of this process from the time you've been in the civil service?

Sidek: When I joined the service 37-plus years ago in 1974, the mindset then among officials was on the principle of need-to-know. That means to say you only need information on the things you need to know. Other than that, you are not supposed to know. If I came from the international trade division I should concern myself only with international trade issues.

I don't need to hear about issues in the MOF (Finance Ministry), for example. Today that need-to-know mindset has taken on a new meaning, that is you need to know (about things outside your ministry), and if you don't know, you're in trouble.

Can you identify when this started to change?

Sidek: Miti (International Trade and Industry Ministry) started this long ago through its Miti dialogues, and so did MOF with the budget dialogue. The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry also did that.

The public sector must know what the private sector is doing, and likewise the private sector must know what the Government is doing. Beyond that, the public sector must know what it takes to move the country forward together with the private sector. And beyond the corporate sector is cooperation with NGOs, civil society and the rest.

Was that a big hindrance to the public private partnerships (PPP) at the time?

Sidek: Now, you should take care to keep abreast with various policies. You should know about all those things that you should know about, except for certain things you should not know.

Tell us a little about Pemudah and what were its achievements as a private sector participant?

Yong: Pemudah started in 2007, but even before the Feb 7 launch, Sidek, on his own accord sent invitations to a few people in the private sector to meet. We started informal discussions with the Prime Minister and after he announced it, we began officially. It was a talkfest at first. At the first meeting we were taken aback by the openness of the Chief Secretary and the top civil servants. We finalised the vision and values of Pemudah at the first meeting and it has become a guiding post for us.

Our vision is as follows: to achieve a globally benchmarked, customer-centric, innovative, entrepreneurial and proactive public and private sector delivery service in support of a vibrant, resilient and competitive economy and society, driven by the following values:

A sense of urgency;

Proactive public-private sector collaboration;

Facilitation, not hampering;

No more regulation than necessary; and

Zero tolerance for corruption.

Let's move to Chua now to get a sense of what the private sector thinks about the Government and how it can improve its processes.

Chua: First of all, we must say that Pemudah has done a lot in terms of increasing the efficiency of the government system. But some also feel we're at the tip of the iceberg, because we still have to change a lot of regulations. What is needed most is the attitudinal change of government servants. This is the most difficult part because a lot of the feedback is about how the Government is too bureaucratic, the "little Napoleons", lack of transparency, and in general things are not so business-friendly. These are the problems SMEs face, even at the local authority level.

With licence for example, they give us the run-around for many processes. What we need is for civil servants to change their attitude. It is not just government and private sector collaboration, but the whole nation needs to change. We need political will, and this has to start at the educational level. We need to build good work ethics.

Have you seen any improvements over the years? Which areas need more improvement?

Chua: We have seen improvements in licensing, e-government, passport renewals, but these are system-driven. Certain departmentss like the EPF are friendly because they provide frontline service, but the local authorities, we need more intervention from the Government.

Datuk Yusli, can you give your experience in terms of the big corporations?

Yusli: Generally, corporates will acknowledge that there has been significant improvement in the level of delivery in the public sector. As Sidek mentioned, it is really a question of the leadership within each organisation. You can get your passport done in a matter of hours. Not many countries can claim that.

Having said that, many corporates are always in a hurry. What we must acknowledge is that Malaysia is fairly unique in trying to implement this Malaysia Inc model, with such agencies as Pemandu and Pemudah. If we are compared with developing countries, then we are probably ahead. The issue is always execution. In this case our execution may be patchy, it is good in some areas, not so good in others. We have more bureaucracy than necessary. So, it's a continuous challenge for the public sector to deal with. And we are in this day and age where people can compare our standards with more developed nations. More people are travelling abroad and businessmen deal with government agencies in other countries. If you compare us with more efficient countries then we have room for improvement. If you compare us with less efficient countries, then we look good. Depending on which businessman you speak to, those who are doing business closer to home more or less think our public sector as relatively good, whereas those involved in the developed jurisdictions feel otherwise. A case in point is Mudajaya which does work in India and we face challenges there. We are trying to be a developed country, and we aspire to have a developed country level of service. So far, Pemandu has done a good job of getting us there.

Tan Sri Wan Aziz, as the head of one of the most powerful ministries in government, how do you deal with the private sector and what are you doing to improve the situation?

Wan Aziz: Our partnership with the private sector has gone a long way. Every year we invite private sector participants to be involved in the formulation of the budget. We receive feedback from the private sector through focus groups where they share their experiences and provide suggestions and recommendations for us to consider. And, of course, the private sector is very forthcoming and willing to listen to us. Much more can be done to improve our cooperation with the private sector. We consider them our partner, but the main complaint is bureaucracy. We are good at planning, not so much at execution. So on that front, we really have to take steps to strengthen our execution, to make sure what we promise will be delivered.

Yong: This is true for both SMEs and big businesses. Right from the beginning, it used to take months to get a work permit. We need an attitudinal change. We need talent from all over the world. This was four years ago, before TalentCorp existed. We can't do things slowly, we need all the brains we can get. In the past, the Immigration Department met once a month, so if you miss that meeting it'll be one or two months later before anything gets done. Then they started meeting every week, and now everyday. That's why you get your work permit within seven days. These are some of the things, though small, that represents attitudinal change when you need the best talents.

It used to be that registering property used to take months. The Chief Secretary said 144 days is not good enough, 41 days is not good enough, and two days would not do either, now we got it down to one day. Now if you get your papers in order, you can register your property within one day.

The big companies grapple with FIC (Foreign Investor Committee) rules. Almost every foreign investor complains about this when they come for meetings. They say the FIC rules are so overbearing where it asks for a share of every company. We were quite pleased when we presented it to the PM, and he said give me until the end of the year and we'll solve it. So we removed it.

Bit by bit we chip away at it, even discussions with the judiciary about commercial courts. Nowhere in the world can you be promised a resolution to your commercial case within nine months. In the past it took six to eight years. All this I think will start to add to our world ranking (World Bank's Doing Business report). That is how we benchmark.

Problems still arise from the many different approvals required by different departments, i.e. local authorities. How much can you do in those areas and what have you done?

Sidek: I think the most lasting change we brought is that of mindset. I like to joke that I'm a very lazy person. This means we don't want to do things we don't have to do. There's no reason therefore to create unnecessary regulation. We ask ourselves: "Is it neccesary?" If it isn't, don't do it. And two, can we not simplify the existing regulation so that we, being lazy people, don't have to give ourselves unnecessary work.

Lastly, our customers who are also very lazy to come and see us don't have to.

That's why we announced that if you lose your MyKad, driver's licence, birth certificate, you no longer have to report it to the police. You relieve the police of the millions of reports they have to churn out.

At the same time it relieves our clients (the public) of having to see us. The two areas we can improve on is PBT (Pihak Berkuasa Tempatan) or local councils and the land office.

In terms of buildings there are a lot of complaints about the differing approvals needed.

Sidek: We try to address that using the one-stop centre launched in 2007. These are issues of implementation. They say there's an attitude problem, but tell me which PBTs are giving you trouble and we promise you that we'll deal with that person.

Chua: Civil servants have ways to go about that. Because when applications are submitted, it can only be complete when all of it is digitised. Sometimes documents go missing and they ask for it again - this is how they bide their time.

Sidek: Maybe its easier to change from the top. The issue is how we can drill this down to the 1.4 million civil servants. What we can say is that we promise you a certain thing and we will strive to keep it. For instance, our policy is to make payments in 14 days. How do you assure the over RM200bil announced during Budget 2012 is paid within 14 days? In the PM's department, I know because I monitor everything, and for the other ministries every month. If you don't get paid within 14 days, you let me know and within 24 hours we will pay you.

I want to say that we are proud of our service. Not only will we benchmark against Singapore, but in a few years, they will benchmark against us. And I do know, in some areas, for example passport registration and renewal, it is not only Singapore but also other countries that are benchmarking against us.

Chua, do you sometimes get the sense that delays in the civil service are deliberately done?

Chua: Sometimes, if you go to consultants things get done faster. One way to improve this situation could be to make the processes more transparent. The SME Corp grant for example was started in 2009, but the SMEs don't know why it is frozen. Is it because there are not enough staff, as the CEO says?

These are the things that get SMEs frustrated if there's no news for one year or so, and files go missing.

Could it be a situation where the policy is fine but there is a lack of understanding or opposition?

Wan Aziz: Perhaps those on the lower level are not on the same page. I don't know where it goes wrong, perhaps it is when it comes to translating the main policy decisions, there's a block there. When it comes to budget for ministries, MOF has given the mandate to all secretaries-general and controlling officers to decide on their own and manage the budget, to decide the priorities for the ministry.

And in the event there are problems, they come to MOF for advice. Now we believe managers should manage, and they don't always have to come to MOF. It may take a longer time, and time is of the essence here, but you are given that mandate to decide and manage the budget.

Sidek: I wish I'd known Chua longer and perhaps we should discuss it after this. I'm surprised when you say the loans and grants are slow and take over a year. For one, it is a long standing government position, at least since I became Chief Secretary, that you must always have a deadline.

I would expect to answer you within one day or thereabouts. If for any reason they can't do that, they must explain why and not keep people in limbo. If you're not being served, that's not right. I take it as a favour when you let us know. But obviously people are scared to complain. You shouldn't be. If you want us to change, then you yourself must always step up and make changes, and make your grouses known.

Is there a way for the Government to pass the message down the line?

Yong: Chua is alluding to corruption. But corruption is a matter of the times. So one of the important things is to speed up the time of the approval, if it is fast there's no need for runners and the middleman. I know there is one committee to half the number of licenses that exist in the country.

If there are fewer licences to apply for, the opportunities for corruption is greatly reduced.

Have the number of licences been reduced over the years?

Yong: Yes, there have been some preliminary announcements and I think there will be more announcements in due time. In some ministries, between 50% to 60% of licences have been reduced. This will lighten the load of people trying to apply for various licences.

Perhaps it is possible to remove the discretionary aspects of a licence. Are you moving in that direction?

Sidek: Even senior civil servants themselves don't want these licences. This is where it may be necessary to have a sunset clause, meaning to say after a certain period, this particular policy will come to an end.

The other thing that has come up in the PPP is the distributional goals in the New Economic Policy (NEP), particularly in the 30% ownership. How is that going? Is that a major hindrance going forward?

Chua: For the SMEs, it is sometimes a dis-incentive especially when they want to grow big, because that is where they face some of these conditions. With the rise of China for instance, now there are better incentives and less business regulations elsewhere. So the SMEs have a choice. We need to be more competitive so that more of our SMEs will want to invest further. In fact for some sectors, it is not even a 30% ownership. It is 50% before you can get in. So this are some of the things that they SMEs cannot understand. It is right there, but they cannot participate easily.

Wan Aziz: Under Budget 2012, one of the things mentioned was the liberalisation of 17 business sectors. This will be part of the further liberalisation happening in Malaysia.

Just maybe it is the bigger corporations that are benefiting from this. The smaller ones are not large enough to ask for approvals, and still have to go through the counter service and clerks. It could be an approval to set up a restaurant business to get all the necessary licences ... where sometimes you have to give the officers some sort of gratification before they allow you to set up your premise.

Sidek: We have a mindset change even in the PBT, which is under the state government. Zero tolerance in corruption should be practised by all. MACC should practise zero tolerance. Do not give.

If you ask me, I won't give. I would not ask, and I would not take.

We are moving now to where we don't need consultants. In Miti and Mida, where do we have consultants? With that grey book of regulations, you can do things yourself. The Government is trying to make things easy. And if there are people who ask (for inducement), then you don't give. And please report them.

Yusli: The reality is that we are very far from zero. What we hear is that things are getting worse. I am not sure what the reason is, but businessmen and entrepreneurs are always looking for an edge over competition. So, if they can get away with making their premises larger, putting more tables on the sidewalk, especially more than the restaurant next door, they will try to do that. The issue comes down to enforcement. Malaysia has enough rules. More rules than most places. So we don't need any more rules. Cutting down rules would perhaps be the best thing that could happen.

Having said that, whatever rules we have, we need to enforce. And this is the problem with Malaysia. This is where a lot of people complain a lot. This is because sometimes when you play by the rules, you are at a disadvantage. Your competitor may not be playing by the rules and getting away with it. The problem is both sides. On one side you have very competitive businessmen who want to get ahead of the competition and on the other side, we have lack of enforcement.

Yong: I would like to add to that. It is not only among businessmen that people break the rules. Even the man on the street. Only last month, Pemudah had an engagement with DBKL (KL City Hall). And there was a lot of discussion on the traffic situation in Kuala Lumpur. At around 4.30pm, gridlock starts in many corners of KL. They say that in many of these yellow box junctions, where you are not supposed to drive in, everybody tries to take advantage, and go into it, when it is turning red just to be ready to continue on that journey. So, it is a question then of enforcement. As you know, there are so many traffic junctions in KL.

The police do not have enough personnel to send around. However, DBKL has more than 2,000 enforcers in different forms. So, a decision was made at that meeting to empower some of these enforcers as yellow box wardens with the power to issue on the spot summonses. With decisions like this, the public must also be prepared, that if I am caught in that yellow box, then I must receive my summons. And the guy behind who sees that will think: Hey I better not do that.

So it is an all-round effort.

But sometimes, strangely it is the politicians who are the ones who are most opposed to this, for example the "saman ekor" thing.

Sidek: Can you please champion zero tolerance of corruption to everyone? Sometimes I like to play golf with Tan Sri Yong because I have known him for a very long time. But we take turns to pay for golf. You know why? I don't want people to think that he has the Chief Secretary in his pocket. I may not earn as much as he, but I have zero tolerance for corruption. When I retire, please take me to golf.

But don't you think that human reality is such that if you don't punish corruption, it will become a common?

Yusli: Probably the best way to do this is to get some big fish. Somehow we never have cases that are significant. That's why I say that Malaysia has a special system. People lower down will not be afraid unless they see something big happen.

Anecdotally speaking, a lot of people are still paying policemen so as not to get summonses. And actually, we have a system that does not need policemen to issue summonses. A person who commits an offence, you can photograph and send him the "saman ekor". What is the need for policemen to continually stop people and harass them?

Sidek: Actually, we are introducing the Automatic Summoning System.

Yusli: It is disturbing when your kids come home, and they say things like, "My friend says that it's OK to drive fast on our road because all you have to do is to pay the officer if you get caught". Kids talking like this. It's sad. What's happening?

A lot of small people still complain that it is difficult to get their approvals through. It can be for a small thing like housing, like an extension to the kitchen, and unless you employ a consultant who does it for you, its difficult to do it on your own.

When you hire the consultant, you don't see it and you're not part of it. That guy will get the approval for you. But the question is how does he get the approval for you. And why is it so difficult when you yourself want to do it? Sometimes it could just be the local authorities. So how do you get down to where the action actually happens?

Yusli: If you make things much more transparent and do things online, reduce the human interaction, then this will reduce the probability of these things happening. Little Napoleans will always be there. Tan Sri, you said we are all lazy people. If I can pay a consultant to stand in the line for me and get my approval, I will do it of course. So if we can automate, this will reduce those things happening. One day we may have robots, and hopefully robots won't be corruptible.

What is the Government trying to do to make the private sector the engine of growth? Right now the stimulus is largely from the Government.

Yusli: Now we have big GLCs in the market. The issue of crowding out has been discussed a lot in recent years. This country needs to strike a good balance. On one hand, we want a very facilitative government framework, and we also want a very dynamic private sector. The private sector needs to be encouraged and people need to feel there is a level playing field and not always feel that they will always be second best. Our entrepreneurs are not short of opportunities. Some of them may have made a lot of fortune here. When the going gets tougher here, they may say, "Why bother? I can build another empire in one of the neighbouring countries." We are already seeing some of that happening. So, the environment needs to be one that is very conducive. There has been a lot of questions as to why there is not so much reinvestment going on. Hopefully this is not because of the crowding-out effect.

Some of the wealth that has been made has been because of government largesse. Sometimes, it's because of government projects, or sometimes it's because of government allocating certain land to certain people. How much of true blue entrepreneurship is due to people really seeing opportunities in the market?

Yong: I think it is true that in the last so many years, the impact of GLCs is quite strong. It was only a month ago ... there was a dialogue on the provision of education services. They said they didn't mind liberalisation and didn't mind foreign players coming in, but it must be on a level playing field. They cannot just team up with a GLC which provides the land and, more importantly, the students for the school. Once it's opened up, the support must be there.

I think the best way for these businessman not to depend on these government largesse is the move that the Government is having now, which is to sign up more free trade agreements (FTAs). With the FTAs, you add a competitive edge for your businessmen to trade, invest and co-invest with your trading partners. This is especially so with the transpartnership agreement which is in the midst of negotiation. Every time a country signs an FTA, you will see a jump or a spike in investment and trade between the two countries. So, this is very important. However to do that, we must also put our house in order. They will insist on, for example, things like the Competition Act which we already have. They will also insist on access to government procurement. So, those steps to put our house in order are worth taking. This is another way to bring dynamism into the economy.

Chua: I agree that the current effect of the GLC-centric businesses has come to play. And this does not just happen in the distribution trade, but also in the hypermarket-centric way of doing things. Many of the SMEs are in the distribution and trade business, in fact 40% of them. With the advent of hypermarkets, this has changed the business scene in the country. The hypermarkets have become too dominant. Not only do they make money from consumers, but from suppliers as well. That is one of the challenges faced by the SMEs.

Some of the GLCs are competing not just with the private sector, but also with small businesses like travel agencies. Why do they need to run a travel agency?

With the advent of ICT and globalisation, the trend is not towards big companies. SMEs are the ones that can be located anywhere as long as they are more competitive. At the same time, they are more agile. Big companies are sometimes slower to react. I think the Government must take note of this in the Economic Transformation Programme.

The private sector made a huge leap after the 1985 recession. However, after 1998 that did not seem to happen. And it has not materialised until now. If you look at the ETP figures, it does show that the private sector is going to lead all this, but till now we haven't seen that.

Wan Aziz: Yes you are right. Post crisis, the Government needed to spearhead growth and provide financing as well. As part of the counter-cyclical measures that we introduced, the private sector has taken a back seat. However, recently under the ETP, the private sector has to resume its former role as the driver of growth by over 90%, which is unbelievable.

This is a massive role and a big challenge for the private sector to come in. Recently there have been many announcements of projects that are to be undertaken by the private sector, which will contribute to this growth.

There are a few things to consider for the private sector. First is on the research and development (R&D). The Government has put in so much money on R&D. The private sector needs to complement the Government in terms of expenditure for R&D. In this instance, the private sector can collaborate with the universities and research institutions to optimise some of the research findings that are ready to be commercialised.

Second is on training. The private sector should play a prominent role with the public sector. Training is an investment in human capital. Of course we can share our training facilities and equipment, as the Government has quite a lot.

Third is on wages. This is a bit tricky. Going forward, in becoming a high-income nation, we also hope the private sector will provide decent wages, taking into account the rising cost of living.

Sidek: May I add one last point there. When Tun Mahathir was prime minister, maybe he drove the industrialisation of the country based on cheap labour, cheap land, cheap everything. Two years ago I was moderating him. People could not understand him, so he gave a very simple example. He said that the French handbag made by expensive French hands are not only sold to high-income nations like France and Japan but also to countries like Malaysia. People queue up to buy the French handbag, not just in Paris, but also in Malaysia. You know why? Because people don't mind paying for that thing. Then he went on to say that the expensive German car, built by expensive German hands, is also sold in low-cost Malaysia. Now, why can't we use our little bit more expensive Malaysian hands to produce not so expensive Malaysian handbags? Or cars for that matter?

While Tun Mahathir is not agreeable to pay more, I think we need to pay more. The days where we pay RM150 for the Indonesian maid is over. The days where we pay someone RM150 to work in the estates are over. People need to earn a living.

However, isn't the issue also of productivity?

Sidek: That is the point that Tun Mahathir said. It doesn't matter because people are willing to pay for the expensive handbag.

Even though the German car is expensive, with their expensive labour and material, they produce it even cheaper there than when we produce it here. The Mercedes here is produced at a higher cost than it is there.

Sidek: That is why Datuk Seri Najib, during the budget, said the civil servants (who got so much during the budget) said that it's OK to give them more, but they must produce more than what we can get. That is called productivity driven. That is why you must have zero tolerance not just for corruption, but also for lousy work. When they don't give you what you are supposed to get, you demand from them.

We have come to the end of our discussion. Perhaps each person will have a minute to say what they think is the most important point during this discussion.

Yong: This process is never ending. I am glad we ended on that note of productivity because key to it is the education of our workforce and children. If we have the systems right and we teach them right, then they have the full capacity to earn more and compete with the world's best.

Yusli: I think we should be very proud that Malaysia has produced many good and big companies. I think the private sector and the public sector should work together to see how these companies can grow even bigger outside of Malaysia. The real opportunities are not just here. Its been a good starting point for many businesses. We have some big multinationals today that we can be proud of. The next frontier now is outside of Malaysia and I would like to see how this partnership can make it even better. There are many opportunities outside. And it would be good to see how Malaysia Inc can work with the private sector to get more market share out there.

Chua: I think that the key to Malaysia's success is how the policies are aligned both for the Government and the private sector, for example unity of purpose and vision and how to get there. I believe also that there must be movements on the ground right from school age to develop good habits and the right way of doing things. So that when this new batch of students enters the workforce, they will be highly productive. We must realise that other similar economies also have similar objectives. It is not just us saying we want to be a high income economy. Thus we need to compete. It is a race.

Yusli: The way for Malaysia to earn more money is to earn more money abroad. If the French handbag manufacturer only sold in France, how much money can they make? The market is now also with Japan and China which brings more profit to France, and hence France pays their people more money.

Wan Aziz: I totally agree. We are into this today. We have to work together as a team and be on the same page. There is only one Malaysia.

Sidek: When we started Pemudah, our objective was to improve the public service delivery and make our country competitive. As we move over the years, and now it's the fifth year, we realise that making the public service delivery improve alone is not enough. To make Malaysia competitive, everybody must come in. Pemudah is also looking at how the private sector can improve. The key thing is that we are all on this together and we are all on the same page.

Yusli: The key to achieving high levels of performance is to open up the competition. The more barriers we put up, the less competitive we will be. In some areas, Malaysia needs to move faster. For many reasons, we have put up barriers here and there. Not just to foreigners, but to Malaysians also. Thus, if we want to have our cake and eat it too, we really have to think hard on that.

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Keeping up with the consumers

Posted: 28 Oct 2011 04:48 PM PDT

AS an expert in the media industry, Mauricio Sabogal, president of world markets for Initiative and Universal McCann (UM), sums up his opinion of success by lending a famous quote made by the late Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder and former CEO: "Those people that are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that actually do."

"I totally believe that," the United States-based Sabogal tells StarBizWeek during a visit to Malaysia.

He says one of the biggest challenges that the media industry faces on a global scale is the need to be up-to-date with the latest technological changes and consumer habits.

"Day by day, you have more media platforms to deal with and you have a more complex business. Today, you have to know how to engage the consumer using the various types of platforms.

"You need to follow the consumers in their behaviours. If you find that there is a trend towards digital, then you need to be able to engage them on that platform."

Sabogal, a native of Colombia, has dedicated more than 25 years of his career to marketing research, especially in the field of media and developing media agency networks in Latin America. He started his career at Nielsen Colombia in 1990 as account executive in the area of stores audit and consumer's panel.

In 2009, he joined IPG as managing director worldwide of Initiative and president of Mediabrands Latin America, becoming the first Latin American to reach a global role at a media agency. Prior to joining IPG, Sabogal was chief executive officer of Omnicom Media Group for Latin America and president of the Worldwide Creative Council of OMD.

Under his leadership, OMD moved from number seven to be among the three most important agencies in the region. Mauricio led a rapid expansion from seven to 19 countries and the consolidation of clue markets as Mexico, Colombia and Chile.

OMD also gained 117 accounts globally, regionally and locally in just four years clients like J&J, Visa, Nokia, GSK, BDF, Danone, McDonald's, Cadbury Adams, and Exxon Mobil.

In 2011, under the new Mediabrands structure, Sabogal was appointed as president of world markets for Initiative and UM, being now responsible of the development of 52 reporting offices in 39 countries, in addition to other 50 affiliated offices across six continents.

Sabogal has been the recipient of several major industry recognition, including the Most Powerful Latino in media by Advertising Age in 2009. In 2010, he was named one of the 20 most influential Latin American advertising executives of the decade. He was the president of the jury at the LATAM Media Awards, and has twice been a jury member at Cannes.

Being based in the United States and having to oversee the group's global operations, he says one of the biggest challenges about monitoring the Asian side is that the continent is more isolated and not as easy to support as other regions, such as the Americas or even Europe.

"Offices nearer to our headquarters are easier to support. The distance and the Asian time zone makes it more challenging. That is why we need good executives that are independent and capable of handling the offices."

Sabogal believes that many media agencies within Asia were "too traditional" with their business and work approach.

"Asia is very traditional in the way it plans its media. It needs to invest more in talent and takes more risks.

Naturally, Sabogal says he is "very impressed" with the performance of the group's Malaysian operations, UM Malaysia (under the leadership of its chief executive officer Prashant Kumar).

"I came here to visit not just one of our best offices in the region, but also the world," he says of UM Malaysia.

"The office here has set a good example in terms of growth for our other offices around the world. They take risks but they also follow the rules of the group and use a local approach to their work."

UM Malaysia recently won the right to manage the media buying duties for fast-food brands KFC and Pizza Hut, beating out three other agencies namely Mindshare, Trapper MPG and Zenith Media.

According to a report based on Nielsen figures, both accounts are worth US$40mil (RM128mil), making it one of the biggest pitches in the local market.

Sabogal also says there is a constant need for media agencies to continuously train their staff to be able to stay ahead of the competition.

"There has to be continuous improvement programmes. That is the secret of this business. This industry changes so much that every couple of years, you're learning something different.

"We have to challenge our people to be up to date or we will be out of the market!"

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Posted: 28 Oct 2011 04:48 PM PDT

18 Minutes: Find your focus, master distraction and get the right things done

Author: Peter Bregman

Publisher: Business Plus

This is a collection of the author's column in Harvard Business Review. Peter Bregman shows how busy people can cut through all the daily clutter and distractions and find a way to focus on key items that are truly the top priorities in our lives. He works from the premise that the best way to combat constant and distracting interruptions is to create productive distractions of one's own. He mixes first-person insights with case studies, and provides pathways that help guide readers in 18 minutes or less.

An Idea a Day: 365 great business ideas for each day of the year

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Business

A simple but potentially powerful book for anyone seeking inspiration on a daily basis in the challenging and difficult world of business. The ideas are extracted from the world's best companies and managers. From marketing to public relations, presentations to time management, sales to writing that great copy, each idea is described and is followed by advice on how it can be applied to the reader's own business situation.

Business Reports for Busy People

Author: Greg Holden

Publisher: Advantage Quest

This is a wide-ranging guide offering a wide range of samples and templates that can be customised to produce professional-looking, clear and concise reports for virtually any need. Some of these include progress reports, time accounting reports, business plans, feasibility studies, expense reports and statistical samplings. Helping entrepreneurs communicate with numbers has been a focus for Greg Holden since he founded his own business in 1993.

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Cuba dominate Pan-American athletics with 18 gold medals

Posted: 28 Oct 2011 06:46 PM PDT

GUADALAJARA, Mexico, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Hurdler Dayron Robles and pole vaulter Lazaro Borges led Cuba to four Pan-American Games records to seal their athletics dominance on the final day of competition at the Telmex stadium on Friday.

Discus thrower Yarelys Barrios and Guillermo Martinez in the javelin also set Games records as the Cubans kept Brazil firmly in second place in the track and field medals table of the quadrennial event.

Cuba finished with 18 gold medals and 33 overall to Brazil's nine and 22 with the United States third (four and 16).

Olympic champion Robles retained his 110 metres hurdles title in 13.10 seconds, well short of his three-year-old world record of 12.87, but 0.07 seconds better than Cuban Anier Garcia's previous record set at Winnipeg in 1999.

"I had the idea of this record always in my mind," Robles told reporters after the final in which Colombian Paulo Cesar Villar was second in 13.27 and Cuban Orlando Ortega third in 13.30.

It was a satisfying finish to a troubled season for Robles after disqualification at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea where he came through first but was ruled to have made contact with Chinese rival Liu Xiang.

Borges, the silver medal winner in Daegu, enthralled the crowd with his win at 5.80 metres, a Games record, after securing the gold medal at 5.70 when silver medallist Jeremy Scott of the U.S. failed.


The bar was raised to 5.76, one centimetre higher than the record set by American Patrick Manson in Mar de Plata, Argentina in 1995. It took Borges three attempts to surpass that height but only one, to massive applause, when the bar was then raised to 5.80.

Barrios, Olympic runner-up in 2008, retained her Pan-Am title with her first throw, a personal best 66.40.

That mark was superior to her bronze medal finish in Daegu of 65.73 metres and the 65.58 record set by compatriot Maritza Marten in Indianapolis in 1987.

Martinez, third at the world championships, hurled the javelin for a personal best of 87.20 metres with his first throw, 6.52 metres further than compatriot Emeterio Gonzalez's 2003 record.

Cyrus Hoestetler of the U.S. was second with 82.24 and Argentine 18-year-old Braian Toledo, the Olympic Youth champion, third with a personal best 79.53.

Cubans were pushed into second and third place in the women's triple jump won by world bronze medallist Catherine Ibarguen of Colombia with a Games record leap of 14.92 metres.

It was 12 centimetres better than the previous record set four years ago in Rio de Janeiro by Cuba's Yargeris Savigne, who won silver, with Mabel Gay taking bronze.

There were also Cuban gold medals in the men's 800 metres for Andy Gonzalez and both 4x400 metres relay teams but the islanders had to settle for fourth place in both 4x100.

The Brazilians took the sprint relays, winning the women's in a national record time before the men equalled the 12-year-old Games record of 38.15 seconds set by a Brazil quartet in 1999.

Jamaica, relay world record holders and champions with Usain Bolt in their line-up in 37.04 seconds in Daegu, were not even represented in the men's race after their second string quartet was disqualified in Thursday's semi-finals for a late baton change.

Sara Marie Hall won the women's steeplechase in a rare athletics gold medal for a United States development team in a slow time of 10 minutes 3.16 seconds, while Venezuelan Jose Pena won the men's race in 8:48.19.

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Olympic champion Robles breaks Pan-Am high hurdles record

Posted: 28 Oct 2011 04:56 PM PDT

GUADALAJARA, Mexico, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Cuban hurdler Dayron Robles won the Pan-American Games gold medal on Friday to end a turbulent season on a high note.

The Olympic champion and world record holder led all the way to win the 110 metres final in a time of 13.10 seconds. Colombian Paulo Cesar Villar was second in 13.27 and Cuban Orlando Ortega third in 13.30.

Robles, who successfully defended the Pan-Am title he won in Rio de Janeiro four years ago, also set a championship record for the event, slashing 0.07 off the previous mark of 13.17 set by fellow Cuban Anier Garcia at Winnipeg in 1999.

"I had the idea of this record always in my mind," Robles told reporters.

The bespectacled Robles was a long way off his 2008 world record of 12.87 but the gold medal at least provided some consolation for the 24-year-old after he was disqualified at this year's world championships in South Korea.

Robles won the race but was disqualified for making contact with China's Liu Xiang, who was leading at the time. The pair are due to meet again at next year's London Olympics.

"Now I'm going to have a holiday before getting down to thinking about 2012," said Robles.

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Tennis: Stosur thrashes Li, Radwanska misses out

Posted: 28 Oct 2011 04:55 PM PDT

ISTANBUL, Oct 28 (Reuters) - U.S. Open winner Samantha Stosur destroyed China's Li Na 6-1 6-0 on Friday to reach the semi-finals of the season-ending WTA Championships for the second consecutive year.

Their last White Group round-robin clash was effectively a decider to see which of the year's first-time grand slam champions would progress along with Victoria Azarenka of Belarus but it proved embarrassingly one-sided and was over in 66 minutes.

Australian Stosur will face Petra Kvitova in the last four on Saturday after the Czech recovered from 5-1 down in the first set against Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska to triumph 7-6 6-3 and claim top spot in the Red Group with a 100 percent record.

Radwanska only needed to win one set to reach the semi-finals but her capitulation against the world number three meant Russia's Vera Zvonareva advanced despite winning just one of her three matches.

Zvonareva, who squeezed through via a better games percentage than Radwanska and world number one Caroline Wozniacki after they all recorded one win, will play Azarenka on Saturday.

Azarenka will need to shrug off a costly 5-7 6-4 6-4 defeat late on Friday against France's Marion Bartoli who only stepped in as an alternate when Maria Sharapova pulled out injured earlier this week.

Although Azarenka was already safely through to the semis the loss to Bartoli robbed her of a tilt at a $1.75 million jackpot for anyone going through the tournament unbeaten.


World number seven Stosur has, by her own admission, struggled to refocus since beating Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final at Flushing Meadows last month but she looked back in the groove against Li.

Her topspin serve proved deadly effective and she also displayed some meaty groundstrokes to overpower her listless 29-year-old rival in front of another large crowd at the cavernous Sinan Erdem Arena.

"I'm really pleased with the way I played tonight," said Stosur who lost to Kim Clijsters in the 2010 semis when the event was in its last year in Doha.

"It was a very solid match for me," she told reporters. "I felt really good out there again and hit lots of winners and moved well.

"It was a really good turnaround from the match two nights ago (against Azarenka)."

Having ended a nine-match run against Maria Sharapova without a win earlier in the week, Stosur will be required to do the same against left-hander Kvitova although they have only met twice before.

"I haven't been able to get over the winning line yet against her," Stosur said. "I think she's one of those exciting players to watch because she can pretty much do anything."

Li's crushing defeat was her sixth in six against Stosur as the French Open champion's memorable season ended on a flat note.

"My legs just felt really heavy," said the Chinese who did not even bother calling her husband and coach Jiang Shan on to court - a feature of the WTA Tour these days.

"Today was just not my day."

Wimbledon champion Kvitova produced a series of unforced errors against the tenacious Radwanska, going 5-1 down before stirring into life and rallying to 5-5.

The Pole then edged to within a game of the semi-finals but once the tiebreak began the momentum was with the Czech.

Radwanska faded away in the second set but was not too downhearted.

"To be honest even at 5-1 I didn't feel close to winning the set," the Pole explained. "She then started to play unbelievable."

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The Star Online: Nation

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Tourism Ministry reviews strategy on crisis-hit countries

Posted: 28 Oct 2011 08:03 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Tourism Ministry is reviewing its strategy to overcome the reduced number of tourist arrivals from crisis-hit countries.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said this involved monitoring the situation globally, via a 24-hour crisis management centre.

She said the centre would, among others, advise Malaysia's tour operators on how to overcome the problem.

The centre, established in 2009 during the Influenza A (H1N1) outbreak in the country, is headed by the ministry's secretary-general, Datuk Dr Ong Hong Peng.

"We don't snatch the tourists (from flood-hit countries) but instead, manage their arrival to Malaysia and advise them on other countries in the region," she told reporters after launching the 5th International Art Expo Malaysia 2011 at the Matrade Exhibition and Convention Centre here today.

Dr Ng said tourist arrivals from Europe, United Kingdom, United States, Japan, Syria and Egypt had reduced this year due to the political and economic crises, as well as disasters affecting those countries.

However, the ministry is focusing on attracting tourists from China, India, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Russia and other Middle East countries.

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16,000 Cup tickets on sale at stadium from 9am Saturday

Posted: 28 Oct 2011 07:22 AM PDT

Published: Friday October 28, 2011 MYT 10:18:00 PM
Updated: Friday October 28, 2011 MYT 10:22:49 PM

SHAH ALAM: A total of 16,000 remaining tickets for the Malaysia Cup final between Negeri Sembilan and Terengganu will be sold at Shah Alam Stadium from 9am Saturday.

FAM secretary-general Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad said the price of the ticket remained at RM50.

He said that out of 70,000 tickets printed by FAM, 54,000 had been sold to supporters of the Negeri Sembilan and Terengganu teams in the respective states.

He said the issue on the ticket price being too high did not arise as it had been agreed to by the football associations of both states.

Azzudin urged fans and supporters of the "Turtle" and "Deer" squads to exercise discipline while at the stadium to avoid action by the authorities.

On the FAM official website being hacked, he said, he would lodge a police report on it today.

Last Wednesday, the FAM building at Kelana Jaya was splashed with paint. BERNAMA

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PM: More discussions on commissioner for human rights at CHOGM

Posted: 28 Oct 2011 07:03 AM PDT

Published: Friday October 28, 2011 MYT 10:03:00 PM

PERTH: The Eminent Persons Group's (EPG) recommendation for the setting up of the Commissioner for Human Rights presented at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) here will be put on the table again on Saturday.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said quite a number of leaders have strong reservations about it.

He said a few countries wanted it but quite a number had certain strong reservations on the need to have a commission for human rights.

"We will try to resolve it tomorrow. If it cannot be resolved, it will be discussed by the foreign ministers," he told Malaysian journalists here after the meeting.

Najib said that during the meeting, there were differences of opinion "around the table".

"The idea (of the commission) is good but the question is to try to get consensus among the Commonwealth countries," said the prime minister, who is leading the Malaysian delegation to the three-day CHOGM and other related meetings.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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Loving local comics

Posted: 28 Oct 2011 01:08 AM PDT

COMIC shop Earth 638 is having an "open house" event called Comics Are Cool (4pm onwards) tomorrow at its premises in Kelana Mall, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Prominent comic publishers, creative talents and artists from the homegrown scene like Tan Eng Huat, Alan Quah, Sheldon Goh, Lefty Kam, alongside Gilamon Studios and Pekomik's finest will be part of the independently organised event.

Activities include book signings, meet-the-fans, live sketching and basically, a networking session to get to know the good people in the local comics scene. Loads of merchandise and local/mainstream comics on sale.

For more info, call 03-7804 8380 or e-mail: earth638@yahoo.com. Visit their Facebook page or check out the event trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5iq3SVhojU

Earth 638 is located at the 2nd Floor, Kelana Mall, Jalan SS6/12, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

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First impressions

Posted: 28 Oct 2011 01:07 AM PDT

The DC 52 event's second issues event have hit the racks but I am still playing catch up with my pile of # 1s from the last few weeks. Better late than never, this week offers a quick run down of a few premiere issues ... at least before the hype dries up.

Action Comics # 1 (US$3.99)
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Rags Morales

Grant Morrison is no stranger to the idea of remodelling the Man of Steel. He did turn Kal-El into a nerd during his All Star Superman stint (with Frank Quitely).

As expected, Morrison ups the ante here by ditching everything familiar with the Man of Steel, starting with the red undies! Shockingly, that's not the main deviation. It's Superman's attitude change that hogs the limelight.

Forget the holier than thou persona. No more Mr Nice Guy! Now we have a hero who is grittier than the Dark Knight.

The changes are distinct with this Superman rarely flying and he has no qualms about tormenting his victims.

The timeline here is set during Clark's early Metropolis days as he adopts a more direct approach against the city's "Rats".

Lois and Jimmy also assume bit part roles in their "debuts".

All said, I like the new version of Lex Luthor, whose newfound ruthlessness makes him a joy to follow. A promising revamp and I am looking forward to the upcoming escapades.

Batgirl # 1 (US$2.99)
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Adrian Syaf

FOR me, the most anticipated DC 52 revelation takes place here, with Barbara "Babs" Gordon resuming her crime-fighting career!

Despite being crippled waist down by the Joker (in the classic Killing Joke) two decades ago, Babs remained a prominent figure in the Bat-family, courtesy of her Oracle-role and Birds of Prey influence.

However, Jason Todd's return from the grave further fuels the outcry to accelerate Babs' "healing process," more so when the Joker has survived uncountable near death experiences.

The controversy ends with this issue as Babs gets her long-awaited "miracle" and resumes her Batgirl role.

While it would have been poetic justice for her first mission to be against the Joker, we are left shortchanged as the Clown Prince of Crime only does cameos and Babs ends up freezing against a B-grade "villain" named the Mirror (!).

Bearing no connection to the Flash's Mirror Master, what we have here is a crazy vigilante who is hell bent on balancing the scales.

Fingers-crossed that writer Gail Simone's long association with Babs will result in sturdier story arcs ahead.

The Fury of Firestorm – The Nuclear Men # 1 (US$2.99)
Writers: Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone
Artist: Yildiray Cinar

The cover is a bombshell and the interiors are equally explosive. Deviating from the usual "two-hosts-to-one-hero" concept, this Gail Simone/Ethan Van Sciver repackaging has Ronnie and Jason assuming the lead roles (once again) with Professor Stein in tow.

What remains unchanged is Ronnie and Jason's hatred for each other and the saving grace is that they both become individual Firestorms with the option of "merging" as Fury (of Firestorms).

Permutations aside, this is an interesting revamp of the Nuclear M(e)n, especially with the post-Brightest Day animosity.

The chemistry between Ronnie and Jason drives the plot and it's also what makes the new Firestorms an interesting read. My only gripe here is Van Sciver not handling the illustration duties, but Yildiray Cinar delivers a decent job – bearing shades of 1980s Firestorm artist, Paul Kupperberg.

Suicide Squad # 1 (US$2.99)
Writer: Adam Glass
Artist: Federico Dallocchio

Sticking to its original concept of convicts-turned-covert agents, the reformation process is a painful and bloody one as evident by the individual torture programme tailor made for each Suicide Squad member.

While a roll call comprising Deadshot, El Diablo, King Shark, Savant, Voltaic and Harley Quinn wouldn't make many heads turn, their personal reasons for being part of the team and their contribution towards team dynamics are what makes this book tick.

Strong contender for DC 52's flagship team book.

Justice League International (US$2.99)
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Aaron Lopresti

THIS United Nations' sanctioned Justice League team falls short on humour and imagination. It's more like an excuse to cater for the masses, with Booster Gold leading a team of foreign heroes. Yes, the Dark Knight is also the unofficial advisor.

Dan Jurgens may have done wonders to Booster's solo career but team books are a different ball game and with the absence of the "Blue and Gold," Maxwell Lord's sarcasm, Kevin Maguire's facial expressions and Power Girl's ugly cat, this spells disaster! Batman should have stayed in Gotham.

Batman # 1 (US$3.99)
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

After the Justice League, this book comes in a close second on the hype-o-meter and it certainly lives up to the hype.

With Scott Snyder a steady and proven hand in scribing the Dark Knight's exploits, the inclusion of Greg (Spawn) Capullo's pencils makes this a formidable Batman creative team since Frank Miller-David Mazzuchelli.

This flagship Bat-title has all the right ingredients as Bruce Wayne re-establishes his role as the Bat-alumni head honcho, Arkham's looniest and there is even a swipe at the Joker. The cliffhanger ending is enough to make you bug your local comic shop on the next issue's arrival.

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Really big family

Posted: 27 Oct 2011 11:41 PM PDT

Love Times Three

Author: Joe, Alina, Vicki and Valerie Darger

Publisher: HarperOne, 294 pages

ON the outside, they look like a regular family: he runs his own business and coaches baseball. She drives a minivan and can't live without her Blackberry. The kids attend public schools and take music lessons. The thing is, the adults are polygamists. Joe, Alina and Vicki were married on the same day; Valerie, Vicki's twin sister, joined the family later. They have 24 kids between them. This is a riveting memoir in which the Dargers explain why they chose this path and why they believe it should be an accepted lifestyle.


Author: Sonia Ricotti

Publisher: Advantage Quest, 192 pages

What do you do when life knocks you down? How do you achieve serenity in the midst of chaos? How do you turn obstacles into opportunities? This book provides tips and strategies on how to survive a tough world. It discusses how to transform your way of thinking, take action and grab the bull by the horns, live the way you've always wanted to and create a new and exciting future.

Blue Nights

Author: Joan Didion

Publisher: Fourth Estate, 188 pages

After her husband of almost 40 years died suddenly of a heart attack in 2003, novelist and literary journalist Joan Didion wrote about the loss in The Year Of Magical Thinking, which became a bestseller in 2005 – and in that same year, Didion lost her only daughter, Quintana Roo, aged just 39, to septic shock. In this, the sixth year since that tragedy, Didion once again turns to words to try to express her pain. Blue Nights is an account not only of Quintana's life and death, but also Didion's experience of loss and ageing.

50 Ways To Feel Great Today

Author: David B. Biebel, James E. Dill, Bobbie Dill

Publisher: Advantage Quest, 222 pages

There is no such thing as a happy pill, but there are things you can do to make yourself happier. Changing how we feel often begins with something small: you can lift your spirits by listening to your favourite songs, painting a picture, playing in the rain or watching the sunset. This manual shows you how to deal with the unexpected curveballs that life throws your way, beat stress, ward off worries, and banish the blues.

God Is Red

Author: Liao Yiwu

Publisher: HarperOne, 225 pages

A critic of the Chinese regime, much of this author's writings are banned in China. His works have landed him in jail before. From his time spent with a vibrant Christian community in secular China, Liao documents the untold stories of believers and their struggle against a totalitarian government. It includes the tale of a surgeon who gave up a lucrative post to treat villagers for free, and a 100-year-old nun who was beaten, starved and has done decades of physical labour. This book is translated by translator-writer Wenguang Huang.

Every Day Counts

Author: Mark McKeon

Publisher: Advantage Quest, 259 pages

How do you do it all – raise a family, spend time with friends, manage a company, develop your mind and be fit, healthy and balanced, all at the same time? This is a practical guide to a lifestyle change. The system includes scoring points for different categories, so you can chart and change the way you lead your life. Before you know it, a pattern of sensible eating habits, exercise and relaxation will become part of you.

I'm Feeling Lucky

Author: Douglas Edwards

Publisher: Allen Lane, 401 pages

When the author, the first director of consumer marketing and brand management at Google, turned up for a job interview, little did he imagine that he was going to spend the next few years in an unconventional workplace. The early signs were there: he was interviewed by a young man dressed in roller hockey gear and bouncing on a white ball. This book captures what it's like to be part of the company as it grew from a handful of employees to tens of thousands.


Author: John Tschohl

Publisher: Advantage Quest, 135 pages

Are rules really meant to be broken?

According to this author, the correct way is to learn how to bend the rules, not break them. The most valuable asset of an organisation is its people.

And these employees should be taught how to act fast, make quick decisions in favour of customers, and bend rules to keep them happy.

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