WHAT MCA, MIC AND GERAKAN SAY ABOUT MISSING RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLE IN OUR BUDGET DEBATES

 

Enough of rhetoric statements the game is over.Gerakan,MCA and MIC ghosts talks a lot You can shout louder but you will not be the signatory, those friends of yours in UMNO will decide how high you jump. If you believe you can contribute then leave and join the current party governing the state. Forget about loyalty.Gerakan,MCA and MIC is in ICU under life supporting machine. Its life depends on UMNO. It takes only UMNO to unpluck the machine, there goes GERAKAN buried 20 feet under ground Gerakan,MCA AND MIC is buried. Teng, so you indicated that you will be more assertive in your leadership style. The big questionable word is ‘WILL’. It is akin to asking the Penangites to give you a blank cheque for you to be assertive AFTER the GE13, assuming you will not be swept off by the Penangite electorate tidal wave. How about being assertive RIGHT NOW to show your mettle by telling those fake Malays in Penang to back off?? Talk is cheap, as ever. Even if you can summon up your courage and bravado to be seertive, I don’t think I will give you my vote – Lim Guan Eng looks much better and confident in all those photos taken in any international ocassions. I don’t think you look as good. So don’t embarrass us.How could you be MORE Assertive when you are INVITED as a Passenger? My friend always remind meL That beggers have no choice!
What they means is that he’ll be of more arse-service to Umno and therefore more appreciated by it!

PEMANDU seems to be delivering on its lofty promise to transform Malaysia into a high-income nation by 2020 with extraordinary efficiency. 113 EPPs (Entry Point Projects) worth RM177 billion of investment and creating nearly 390,000 jobs have been announced. 97 of these are already underway and 1 is up and running.

However, while gazes followed the celebratory fireworks, REFSA sniffed out some gritty truths. Some of these projects were already underway before the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) was created. What was PEMANDU’s contribution to these pre-existing projects? Were they cherry-picked to help PEMANDU show ‘quick-wins’?

PEMANDU might claim to have helped cut red-tape for these projects. The bigger picture is frightening if it did indeed do so. The project owners included huge multinationals, a government-linked corporation (GLC) and a prominent Malaysian businessman. If such big guns need PEMANDU’s help in navigating Malaysian government bureaucracy to bring their business ideas to life, what hope does a small fry with a really transformative idea have?

In Part 3 of our Critique of the ETP, REFSA peers behind the glitzy façade to shed some light on the tawdry execution of the programme.

Both Republicans and Democrats have a religion problem and it has nothing to do with same-sex marriage, abortion or religious liberty. Rather it is budgets, deficits, and debt ceiling deadlines that are their serious stumbling blocks.That’s right, in a city deeply divided between the political right and left, there is a growing consensus from religious leaders about getting our fiscal house in order and protecting low-income people at the same time. Together, many of us are saying that there is a fundamental religious principle missing in most of our political infighting: the protection of the ones about whom our scriptures say God is so concerned.

Indeed, the phrase “a budget is a moral document” originated in the faith community, and has entered the debate. But those always in most jeopardy during Washington’s debates and decisions are precisely the persons the Bible instructs us clearly to protect and care for –  the poorest and most vulnerable. They have virtually none of the lobbyists that all the other players do in these hugely important discussions about how public resources will be allocated.For us, this is definitely not a partisan issue, but a spiritual and biblical one that resides at the very heart of our faith. It is the singular issue which has brought together the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Salvation Army and the leaders of church denominations, congregations and faith-based organizations across the nation.

Here is the missing principle still absent in our current debate:We must agree not to reduce deficits in ways that further increase poverty and economic inequality by placing the heaviest burdens on those who are already suffering the most.Religious leaders do believe that massive deficits are moral issues, and that we must not saddle future generations with crippling debt. But we believe that how we resolve deficits also is a moral issue. And our society must not take more from those who already have so much less that the rest of us.We understand the politics of this debate. We know that Republicans will resist reforming the private sector, because that is where their core constituencies and money lie. We understand that Democrats will resist reforming the public sector because that is where their key constituencies and money are.We also understand that neither party wants to risk actually examining bloated Pentagon spending out of political fears that they might appear unconcerned about national defense or our military personnel. During elections, both Republicans and Democrats are almost entirely focused on middle-class voters and wealthy donors who all have special interests in the outcome of how government financing is determined.And then there are the pollsters who tell both parties that talking about “poor people” and “poverty” will not be popular.But we must agree with what a Catholic bishop told President Obama in a meeting we religious leaders had with him in the White House last year as the August debt crisis deal was being decided:

Mr. President, our scriptural mandate from Jesus does not say ‘As you have done to the middle class, you have done to me.’ It rather says, ‘As you have done to the least of these you have done to me.’

We have no choice as to what our position will be in these upcoming debates. We are telling the leaders and legislators of both parties that they must form “a circle of protection” around the most effective and vital programs that help the lowest-income American families survive in such difficult economic times. With one clear voice we also are telling lawmakers that the global efforts, which literally mean life and death to the poorest around the world who are assailed by preventable hunger and diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, must be protected.

Some cuts kill. Others will destroy the small opportunities families have to lift themselves out of poverty.

We will be telling our legislators, for example, that if they really decide to take all of the proposed $36 billion in agricultural cuts from proven and successful nutritional “food stamp” programs that go mostly to families with children, while taking nothing from the rice, corn and sugar subsidies to rich agribusiness — they should expect to hear voices like Old Testament prophets standing outside their halls.

Or when they plan to cut poor children’s health care or the chance for students from poor families to go to college for the first time, but block any increased revenue from the wealthiest and keep corporate welfare checks flowing — they should anticipate having to listen for the faith community’s different priorities.

And if they cut “Meals on Wheels” feeding programs to our most vulnerable senior citizens, but keep paying for the wheels on outdated and useless weapons systems, they should expect to hear some words from the Scriptures.

How faith community leaders protected low-income entitlements in the sequestered automatic cuts agreed to in the August  2011 debt ceiling deal is an untold story in much of the media; and we will ask for those protections again.

Both Republicans and Democrats could agree to the principle of protecting the most vulnerable people — as many budget-cutting processes have in the past — and the Simpson-Bowles recommendations do even now. Then the parties could have their private-public sector debates and reach the compromises necessary to find fiscal integrity. But both party’s church leaders and pastors will be telling them to defend the ones for whom God commands us to give special care.

Everything else may be on the table, but the fate of the poor and vulnerable should not be.

 Every year, somewhere between US$200 billion and $1 trillion are spent in “mandatory” alms and voluntary charity across the Muslim world, Islamic financial analysts estimate.
At the low end of the estimate, this is 15 times more than global humanitarian aid contributions* in 2011.
With aid from traditional Western donors decreasing in the wake of a global recession, and with about a quarter of the Muslim world living on less than $1.25 a day, this represents a huge pool of potential in the world of aid funding.
But Islamic finance experts, researchers and development workers say much of the money spent in ‘zakat’ (mandatory alms) and ‘sadaqa’ (charity) is mismanaged, wasted or ineffective.
“Wealth is growing in the Muslim world. So is the poverty. Where have we gone wrong?” asks Tariq Cheema, president of the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists (WCMP), an organization which advises Muslim donors – including some of the thousands of millionaires living in the Gulf – on how to increase sustainability and accountability in their donations. Islam requires Muslims to give 2.5 percent of their wealth and assets to the poor every year. Much more is given in voluntary ‘sadaqa’. But that money is usually donated in small amounts at local levels to feed the poor, help orphans, or build mosques. Muslims say many of them give, almost without thinking, to fulfil a religious obligation. “Our rituals are there, but often they lack the spirit,” Cheema told IRIN. “We just give the money and forget.”
Very little of the money goes towards sustainable development.
“Billions of dollars worth of giving in ‘zakat’ and ‘sadaqa’ are unfortunately ineffective by and large,” he said. “Our giving shouldn’t be driven by our desire to prove that we are good people… Our giving should be smart and effective.
“We are here to bring that shift in the culture: the paradigm shift from conventional and generous giving to strategic giving… There is a lot of money around that needs to be channelled towards development.”
“We are here to bring that shift in the culture: the paradigm shift from conventional and generous giving to strategic giving… There is a lot of money around that needs to be channelled towards development.”
Huge potential
 In the early years of Islam, ‘zakat’, ‘sadaqa’ and ‘awqaf’( religious endowments) played a large role in society – not only in poverty alleviation, but in the building of infrastructure and provision of social services. In Ottoman times, some Turkish towns were almost entirely based on religious endowments – the real estate donated, with the rent going towards charitable or social ends: educational and health facilities, research institutes, even the lighting of streets. The endowments are credited as one of the reasons for the “Golden Age” of Islamic civilization from the eighth to the 13th centuries.But due to colonization, the stagnation of Muslim institutions, mismanagement of ‘awqaf’ and the inability of their laws to adapt to changing times, these charitable traditions lost their central place in the organization of society.Cheema said many Muslims today do not know how to calculate the amount of ‘zakat’ they should pay and do not have the channels through which to pay it. Governments collect a very small percentage of what they could.In 2004, economist Habib Ahmed calculated that if all potential ‘zakat’ were collected in Muslim countries, between a third and half of them could move their poor out of poverty.
“The potential is tremendous,” Ahmed, now chair in Islamic Law and Finance at the Institute of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Durham University, told IRIN. “But in most countries, it is not being used to the potential.”
Among the reasons, he said, are that people do not trust governments, who have a history of mismanagement, and prefer to give their money to people they know are in need.Syed Wafa is a former professor who headed a research group that advised the Malaysian government on distributing ‘zakat’ funds. He said even Malaysia – one of the most advanced countries in ‘zakat’ collection – is not strategic in its disbursement of funds.”The ‘zakat’ authority does not have a long-term investment plan,” he told IRIN. “They depend on the yearly collection… Their mindset is: We get the funds; we try to disburse them as fast as possible.”Wafa’s recommendation to the government that it disburse ‘zakat’ funds through loans or micro-credit financing was rejected based on the perception that ‘zakat’ should, according to religious edict, be owned by the poor, and thus given in the form of direct assistance. In the Malaysian state of Johor, however, the ‘zakat’ authority allows funds to be spent on student loans for tertiary education.Feeding the poor and helping orphans are encouraged repeatedly in the Koran and have thus become preferred forms of ‘zakat’. Building mosques has been a popular form of ‘sadaqa’, largely due to the Prophet Muhammad’s saying that he who helps build a mosque will have a castle built for him in heaven.Muslim NGOs have at times struggled to convince donors to support “intangible” activities like capacity-building or empowerment, over these more tangible causes, according to Marie Juul Peterson, a researcher in politics and development at the Danish Institute for International Studies, who wrote her PhD thesis about transnational Muslim NGOs.”One thing is clear,” said Cheema of WCMP. “Around the Muslim world, there is an increased awareness that if ‘zakat’ distribution and management is made effective, we can bring revolutions in terms of development – not only for the Muslims, but people around the world.”Role of governmentMany countries have entire ministries of ‘zakat’ and ‘awqaf’, but they are mistrusted, ineffective and badly managed, Ahmed said. But as they wake up to the potential of proper ‘zakat’ management, some governments are making efforts to centralize the process, either directly through government, through non-profit corporations created by the government; or through hybrid systems, where NGOs also play a role in collecting ‘zakat’.Malaysia has made great strides: in 2010 it collected 1.4 billion Malaysian ringgit (US$443 million) in ‘zakat’, up from about $95 million 10 years ago, said Wafa, now head of a Shariah-compliant financial institution called KOPSYA, which finances cooperatives through no-interest loans.Malaysians who give ‘zakat’ are given a tax credit. In Pakistan the government deducts ‘zakat’ on certain categories of assets, with bank account deductions on the first day of Ramadan every year directly deposited in the Central Zakat Fund maintained by the State Bank of Pakistan.
In 2010 the Egyptian government measured, for the first time, the amount of money Egyptians donate to charity, estimating it at about 4.5 billion Egyptian pounds ($745 million) in 2009. Others have made estimates two to four times higher. In strictly financial terms, this government estimate would be enough to pull nearly all of Egypt’s poor out of poverty.
 Donor culture built on religionOthers are also targeting the “charity mentality” at the state level – lobbying governments in the Muslim world, especially the Gulf, to be more strategic with their aid.”Our [Muslims’] whole donorship was built on religious charity,” said Ibrahim Osman, director of the Middle East and North Africa region for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “That has infiltrated even governments and public institutions… Most Muslim countries do handouts, even with international organizations.
“The Arab world has to change from a charity culture to a humanitarian action business,” he told IRIN. “This is what is missing. It’s always charity.”
 But observers say that apart from a few notable exceptions, major reform at the government level is unlikely.Billions of dollars worth of giving in ‘zakat’ and ‘sadaqa’ are unfortunately ineffective by and large…we are here to bring the paradigm shift from conventional and generous giving to strategic giving.”We academics talk about the role of ‘zakat’, but ultimately, if there is no political will at the level of the government, there will not be a structural change which can bring this about,” Habib said.
 ”It needs a different mindset,” Wafa added. “The ideas have to come from the public.”Increasingly, it is civil society filling the gap. See IRIN’s list of efforts to make Muslim aid more effective.The role of NGOsIn Egypt, a start-up social business called Madad is trying to shift the billions of pounds spent in Egypt every year in donations and charity by highlighting those NGOs working towards sustainable development.”As Muslims, we are raised that you have to pay ‘zakat’,” said Sameh Awad, head of Madad. “People just go to the poor people and give them money and they feel that they’re fulfilled.”We are trying to change the culture of giving among the donors,” he told IRIN, encouraging them to take more interest in how the money they give is spent and whether it creates any lasting change.Muslim NGOs, some of whom get up to 80 percent of their funding from ‘zakat’ and ‘sadaqa’, are increasingly turning to sustainable development projects like Islamic (interest-free) micro-finance and livelihood support.Instead of giving money to individual orphans, some NGOs have tried to support them in more strategic ways, introducing human rights, empowerment and “mainstream aid activities”, Juul Peterson, the researcher, said. Other projects have included developing sermons for imams on children’s rights or training them in disaster preparedness.”You have these new ideas of how good aid should be,” she told IRIN.In Egypt, a non-profit organization called Misr al-Kheir, led by the Grand Mufti of Egypt, the highest religious authority in the country, and funded by ‘zakat’ and ‘sadaqa’, has been a pioneer in the use of ‘zakat’ for sustainable ends. Leading by example, the Mufti has made it religiously acceptable to invest ‘zakat’ in Islamic micro-finance projects and scientific research aimed at improving human development.Al-Rajhi Bank and Yousef Abdullatif Jameel Co. in Saudi Arabia and Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM) are Muslim lending institutions which have attempted to replicate the successes of Grameen bank in Bangladesh.Several people are also trying to involve the $1 trillion Islamic finance industry in the financing of development, by encouraging Islamic financial institutions to transfer a percentage of their capital towards sustainable livelihoods for the poor, or using Islamic capital market instruments to create ‘awqaf’.Sustainable forms of Muslim aid
 Historically, ‘awaqf’ have contributed to sustainable development much more than ‘zakat’; and Muslims are increasing finding innovative and modern versions of the old tradition, including collective and corporate religious endowments.In 2009, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation’s Fikh Academy, charged with setting religious laws, passed a resolution evolving the rules around ‘awaqf’ to make them more flexible, allowing temporary ‘awaqf’, corporate ‘awaqf’ (through shares of a company) and ‘awaqf’ in cash – but regulation is still up to the government in most countries.NGOs have lobbied Muslim scholars to issue fatwas making it easier for Muslims to give their faith-based charity in non-traditional ways, expanding the forms of acceptable religious charity, reducing waste and increasing sustainability and impact.In 2007, Egypt’s Grand Mufti pronounced that contributions to a civil society campaign – including fundraising by text message – to open a new children’s cancer hospital would constitute legitimate ‘zakat’. The hospital, financed completely through donations, is now the second largest in the world dedicated to paediatric cancer care.Muslim scholars have also allowed ‘zakat’ to be given towards relief operations, which has made a big difference in responding to humanitarian disasters.
Making the most of Eid
 One source of waste, historically, has been during the Eid al-Adha holiday, in which Muslims are encouraged to slaughter an animal and donate the meat to the poor – another industry worth millions, if not billions, of dollars. As a result, millions of sheep are estimated to be slaughtered every year in a span of a few days. On such a scale, the meat cannot always be distributed quickly and efficiently enough.In 2011, well-known Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi approved the canning of meat for distribution abroad at a later point.Other NGOs, like Muslim Aid and Awqaf New Zealand, are combining the ritual, known as ‘qurbani’ or ‘udheya’, with livelihood activities, in which poor farmers rear the animals and sell them to the NGOs during Eid or use other parts of the animal to create revenue.”We maximize the donation for the best interest of the poor,” said Husain Benyounis, secretary-general of Awqaf New Zealand. “We turn something out of everything they throw away.”The Koran says the one of the ways in which you can continue being rewarded for your good deeds after you die is by leaving a form of continuous ‘sadaqa’, a gift that keeps giving. In a Muslim version of “teaching someone how to fish”, the Prophet Muhammad is said to have helped a beggar find a sustainable income, instead of giving him money.”You find very different interpretations of ‘zakat’ and ‘sadaqa’,” Peterson said. “[But] people are increasingly using Islamic discourses to argue for sustainability.”Still, though the Arab Spring may speed up the process, most observers say it will be years before there is any significant shift.Awad, the young Egyptian social entrepreneur, believes Egypt’s revolution needs to spread to the civil society sector.”We need a revolution in all the sectors,” he said. “We need a revolution, not only in leaders, but in the mindset itself.”But many continue to have hope in the potential offered through ‘zakat’, ‘sadaqa’, ‘awqaf’ and ‘qurbani’, especially as social media helps raise awareness and change the feedback loop. Sami Yusuf, a Muslim musician whose involvement in the LiveFeed campaign helped raise funds for the World Food Programme, says people just need the right channels to give.”I think we’re going to be really surprised in the years to come in this part of the world.”
Alan Newman. NZ Submitted on 2012/06/08 at 1:50 pm Am too far in NZ. Please could someone start a website and an int’l call for impeachment. The truth is more than enough for an impeachmt. Condoning & sheltering of multi-billion corruption & losses. Submarines & murder. Int’l bodies’ call for the arrest of Sarawak’s CM of … Read more

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