Friday 29 November 2013

Cambodia: Poor Education Could Cripple Business Growth

By - November 29, 2013 (The Cambodia Daily)

Low-quality education is jeopardizing business growth in Cambodia, and local graduates will not be employable in skilled jobs if the government does not quickly implement educational reforms, business executives warned Thursday at the Cambodian Market Intel 2013 seminar in Phnom Penh.

During an hourlong panel discussion among five foreign business executives and the secretary-general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), the businessmen said Cambodia would struggle to attract foreign investment without improving the quality of secondary and university education.

Martin McCarthy, managing director and country representative of oil and gas conglomerate Total, said his organization has trouble finding local engineers capable of working on its projects.

“Total has its own university and courses at local universities, because university is too late. We must start reforms at ages 14 or 15with math, physics and chemistry,” Mr. McCarthy said.
“We tend to find that students spend the first two years in university finishing what they learned in high school, and then once they graduate, we have to train them again,” he said.
“We then wait another two years before sending them out on a project because they are not prepared,” he added.

An International Labor Organization (ILO) report released Thursday shows that less than half of Cambodia’s 7.2 million workers had completed primary school, while 35.5 percent had completed secondary education and just 3.8 percent had a university degree.

“The speed the country is growing at with the gross domestic product, and a middle class that needs better products and servicesis challenging,” said Rami Sharaf, CEO of RMA Cambodia, an international trade firm that brought brands such as Ford, Jaguar, Dairy Queen and Costa Coffee to Cambodia.

“With this growth, the pool of applicants and workers cannot keep up,” he said.
Mr. Sharaf said that Cambodia would struggle to compete within the Asean Economic Community, which is set to create a single market among the 10 Asean nations by 2015, if it does not take steps to make its workers more employable through high-quality education.

“We need to focus on the universities to help guide students and invest in applied sciences. What is needed here is to build the right task force within ministriesso we can have a proper roadmap to see what workers are needed. Currently, there is no proactive approach,” he said.
Sok Chenda, CDC secretary-general, said that the private sector also had a responsibility to ensure that workers are qualified.

“I’ve talked with the prime minister about this…. We take it very seriously. But education and vocational training is not a government affair alone,” Mr. Chenda said.

In response to Mr. McCarthy’s comment regarding the lack of qualified workers for Total, Mr. Chenda said there needs to be more confidence that jobs in the oil and gas sector will be available.
“How can we from the government side or parents from their side think about engineers yetwhen, for example, we don’t have enough oil and gas to provide jobs in that sector. You need to show there is more confidence in that sector first,” he said.

Mr. Chenda also said the government is drafting a new investment law, which he would make sure includes a provision requiring investors to train their employees.
“Investors must provide proper training to do something for vocational training. We will add it to the new law,” he said.

Grant Knuckey, CEO of ANZ Royal bank, who moderated the panel discussion, said jobs in the banking sector have increased 20 percent in the past year, and to keep up, he is leading an initiative with the Association of Banks in Cambodia to train future bank staff.
“People are coming into the sector without vocational skillsfinancial analysis, risk analysis…. We aim to recreate an efficient body to provide fundamental-level training for entry-level bankers,” he said.

Gordon Peters, managing partner of Emerging Markets Consulting and another panelist at the discussion, said his company has been working with the ILO to conduct a regional study on employers’ views of their staff.

Mr. Peters said that a majority of employers said that recent college graduates were not equipped with the skills they needed for employment.

“Preliminary data in Cambodia show 20 to 30 percent of firms are reporting college graduates don’t have the necessary skills to meet their needs,” Mr. Peters said.

Cambodia: ILO: women still lag behind in education

Despite making some gains, Cambodian women continue to fall well short of their male counterparts when it comes to education and position in the labour market, a study released yesterday by the International Labor Organization reports.

Men account for just five per cent more of Cambodia’s approximately 7.4 million-person workforce, but earn about $25 per month more than women, the study says.

That disparity is likely linked to inequality in education received, said Ros Sopheap, executive director of NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia.

“There are some changes if you compare to 10 years before, but the changes have not come as far as we want,” Sopheap said yesterday. “In Cambodia, they believe men have an important role in the family to study higher education.… Girls are encouraged to stop studying, to contribute to the household income.”

The ILO’s Labour Force Report, which surveyed Cambodia’s labour market and child labour last year, says that more than 1.14 million women reported never having attended school. That figure is more than double that of men surveyed.

Reasons the women provided to surveyors for never attending school fall closely in line with Sopheap’s hypothesis: 12.7 per cent said their parents would not allow it, the study reported. Other reasons included the inability to pay for schooling and living too far from a school.

Although more women than men have completed primary school (by a margin of more than 525,000), they account for only 43 per cent of the Kingdom’s secondary school graduates and 32 per cent of those who completed university.

A decreasing ratio of women to men attending school from primary education to higher levels places them in a more vulnerable position when they enter the workforce, Sopheap said.
“When you get higher education, you’re not subject to exploitation,” Sopheap said. Cambodia’s garment industry provides an example of women’s precarious position in the labour market, she added.

More than 80 per cent of Cambodia’s unionised garment workers are women, according to ILO’s report. But factories are known country-wide to offer poor working conditions where fainting is endemic and the $75 per month minimum salary falls well below the Asia Floor Wage Alliance of $281 per month.

But despite the numbers, women who never attend or drop out of school are largely aware that education begets more opportunities, and want to further their education, Sopheap said.
A rising literacy rate among working-age (15 years or older) Cambodians, may reflect this desire. The Kingdom saw a two per cent increase of literate workers according to the report, but the largest increase in this category came from rural women.

Malaysia: Federal Court Dismisses Ex-USM Student's Application For Leave To Appeal (University and Political Rights)

Source: BERNAMA (National News Agency of Malaysia)

PUTRAJAYA, Nov 28 (Bernama) -- It's the end of the road for a former Universiti Sains Malaysia student to pursue her legal challenge on the constitutionality of a section in the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA), in a bid to clear her school record of disciplinary misconduct.

This is because Soh Sook Hwa, 31, Thursday failed in her attempt to obtain leave from the Federal Court here to appeal against the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal which were not in her favour.

Soh, a former communications student, was given a reprimand and fined RM200 by the university's disciplinary board who found her guilty on Dec 2, 2004 of breaching the UUCA for allegedly campaigning for Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) during the 2004 general election.

A five-member Federal Court panel chaired by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum unanimously rejected her application to be given the nod to appeal.

In his decision, Malanjum said leave could not be granted to Soh to appeal as she failed to satisfy the threshold requirement of Section 96 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964.

Also presiding on the panel were Federal Court judges Tan Sri Abdull Hamid Embong, Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar, Datin Paduka Zaleha Zahari and Datuk Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha.

Soh, currently a personal assistant to Sungai Siput Member of Parliament Dr Michael Jeyakumar, filed a judicial review application on Aug 16, 2005 to challenge Section 15 of the UUCA which bars students from being affiliated with political parties and associations.

She also sought for a mandamus order to quash the higher education minister's decision in disallowing her appeal to set aside the university's disciplinary board's decision to reprimand and fine her.

She named the higher education minister as respondent in her judicial review application.

On June 4, 2010, the high court in Kuala Lumpur dismissed Soh's judicial review application after ruling that she did not have grounds to challenge Section 15 of the act as it had since been amended in 2009.

Soh lost her appeal at the Court of Appeal on April 19, this year which ruled that her appeal was academic because Section 15 had been amended.

Section 15 was subsequently, repealed last year and replaced with a new Section 15.

Soh graduated in 2005 and is currently the deputy treasurer of Parti Sosialis Malaysia.

She was represented by lawyer Ang Hean Leng while Senior Federal Counsel Noor Hisham Ismail acted for the minister.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Big Brother is watching closely

The United States taps the telephones and monitors the emails of everyone in this region.
No one is immune: not you, not me, not Prime Minister Hun Sen or opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
We know it because of the revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, now in exile in Moscow.

As The New York Times noted this month: “The NSA has operated on the principle that any eavesdropping that can be done on a foreign target of any conceivable interest, now or in the future, should be done.”

It called the NSA “an electronic omnivore of staggering capabilities, hacking its way around the world to strip governments and other targets of their secrets”.

In this way, Washington monitors not only communications from dodgy regimes like Myanmar and Vietnam, but also from treaty allies like the Philippines and Thailand.

In Phnom Penh, the NSA’s Special Collection Service operates out of locked rooms in the massive US Embassy near Wat Phnom, where it snags all Cambodian messages and those from Laos and Vietnam.

Perhaps it’s not unexpected nor anything to fret about.

As Peter Galbraith, a former US ambassador, wrote in The Guardian: “How serious is the invasion of privacy? The NSA can vacuum up huge quantities of data, but that does not mean it is useful.”

He added: “Most of us lead lives that are of no interest to any intelligence agency and, even for people of interest, most conversations and email are of no intelligence value.”

Well, maybe, but let us pause a moment and appreciate that while what Galbraith said has some validity, it is also undeniable that many people do lead lives of great interest.

Recently, the Bangkok Post pondered the probability that Washington listens to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s phone conversations.

It concluded that US President Barack Obama could well “have received details of confidential conversations before his trip to Thailand last year”.

Big deal, you may say; but think again and forget the boring political policy talk and consider more portentous personal issues.

For instance, after eavesdropping on Hun Sen and his ministers and election officials, as well as on Sam Rainsy and his men, the US will know for sure whether the July election result was fixed.
It will also know whether Foreign Minister Hor Namhong really did show a draft of the final ASEAN Ministerial Meeting communiqué to the Chinese for approval last July.

Likewise, the US spy agency will be aware of just how involved the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was with the beautiful Mongolian model Altantuya Shaaribuu, who was subsequently murdered.

In fact, they will hold the answer to many rumours, such as whether the alleged flirtation of Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi with the young MP-elect David Hla Myint did cause the revered party strategist Kyi Maung to quit.

And they will know for sure if the 2010 assassination of the renegade Thai General “Seh Daeng”, who backed anti-government Red Shirt protests, was the work of army snipers based in the Dusit Thani Hotel.

Such information is invaluable to a foreign power. It is the ultimate deterrent and the ultimate enforcer: Do what I say or be prepared for unsavory revelations.

An example of how it works is now unfolding in the Philippines, where the NSA has long had the dope on every political figure, including the veteran leader of the Senate, Juan Ponce Enrile.

Right now, Washington is keen to station troops once again in the country; but while President Benigno Aquino backs the idea, Enrile does not.

Suddenly, there are revelations that Enrile has stolen public funds and he is charged with plunder. Where did the information come from?

And will the charges be dropped if he stops objecting to US troops coming back?
It’s a potent reminder to all leaders that someone is watching, and if they do something naughty, it may be revealed. And that’s no bad thing.


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