Monday, September 15, 2008

Across Planet : No appetite for business during Ramadhan

Been long time, about a decade that I have not been to Bazar Ramadan in Kelana Jaya, as well as buka puasa at the hotels. Interestingly, only few years back, hotels in Dubai offer buffet for 'iftar'.
The price is unbelievably high and it is better to dine with family at home. Or with friends.
Here in Dubai, Malaysian expats have their own version of Ramadan Bazaar. The response is overwhelming and a lot of entreprenuers came forward to sell their delicacies.

There are about 6,000 Malaysian expats (and growing daily) residing in the UAE with residency visa, excluding those who are working without valid visa (mostly from Malaysian companies which are trying to cut cost). The total number could be reaching 10,000 any time soon with our current depressing economy situation. Why not join us, visit kerjadubai blog for information.

A newspaper in Dubai published this article.

No appetite for business (from 7Days)

Last Updated : Monday 15 Sep, 2008 -
Inflation and higher food prices are taking their toll on traders across Asia and the Middle East during the holy month of Ramadan, as Muslims are cutting back on treats and delicacies and fewer can afford the usual lavish evening buffets.

At five-star hotels and government functions across the Islamic world, sumptuous spreads are still on offer but higher food costs are affecting pricing and strategy.

"Business is quite slow this year compared to last year, at least 20 to 30 per cent less," said Rosihan Anuar Ahmad, sales director at Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur's glitzy JW Marriott where the buffet is half what it costs at other hotels.

"We are pricing our buffet strategically to attract customers to come and dine here and we are banking on big companies to treat their staff to a Ramadan dinner," he said.

The number of guests for the Ritz-Carlton in Dubai has not been reduced, according to executive chef Marcus Dudley, but food prices have jumped, which is part of the reason that prices for the Iftar and Sohour have increased.

"There have been extremely noticeable increases in commercial food prices when compared to the same period last year. The price of fresh fruit and vegetables has increased by an average of 18 per cent, with an even bigger increase of 26 per cent when looking at the costs of meat and fish," he said.

Dudley added that food prices had gone up in the supermarkets and stores as well as for the hotels, and this price-hike across the board is something hotels have to respond to:
"Inflation and ever-increasing prices do force us to price all dishes correctly, order due to business demands on a daily basis, and design seasonal menus, making use of what is fresh in season at that time, which is more cost effective."

In markets and bazaars, the mood is sombre as traders complain they have few customers for their traditional Ramadan fare.

"Our business strategy this year is just to stay afloat," said Azahari Wahab as he prepared 'ikan bakar' -barbequed fish over a wood fire - ata Ramadan street market in Kuala Lumpur.

"I have been trading in bazaars for the past 20 years and this is the worst year for me. We usually prepare about 100 kilogrammes of fish a day but this time it is down to 30 to 40kg," he said.

As well as the lack of customers, he said the price of his ingredients had risen "more than 100 per cent".

In Afghanistan, one of the world's poorest countries, the markets are packed with festive foods but the price of wheat alone has doubled over the past year and few can afford the pickles, sweets and special breads.

Food prices traditionally spike during Ramadan in Bangladesh, but this year the government set up 7,500 special markets in the lead-up to the holy month, selling subsidised rice and other staples as the country grapples with 45.5 per cent jump from a year ago.

"We've tried not to put up prices of common items so that poor people will still come," stallholder Mohammad Shukkor Miah said at Chawkbazar in the old quarter of the capital Dhaka.

"We have about half as many customers and our profits are lower. We have had to put up the price of specialty items and fewer people are buying those."

While national leaders and newspaper editorials recommend the faithful hold more simple celebrations this year, some feel that financial constraints should be put aside during the holy season.

"What is Eid without the food, cookies and clothes" asked Raina Samat, a sales assistant in Kuala Lumpur.

UMNO dying birds have come to roost

"Everybody has a life span and when the time comes, everybody must exit gracefully. Umno is no longer a safe port, having been worn out by abuses, corruption and money politics. It's a case of the birds have come to roost, and what you sow may be what you reap," Navaratnam said in Malaysiakini.

A friend, a local businessman here called to get the latest updates on Malaysia's political situation. He is one of millions others waiting for possibility of September 16 crossover be happening to change the landscape of our nation, for now and future.

He is not a Malaysian but very much part of our circle of friends. He has some investments in KL and loves to be a Malaysian citizen. He has high hopes for new government for business reasons. Like others who follow our political saga, he has enough of our current weak and directionless leadership.

Few days earlier, a colleague whom I had never discussed about any political matters came to me and said, "Mabruk (Congratulations)!!"

I was a wee bit astosnished. He is an Arab.

"For what?"

He smiled and gave a pat, "Anwar Ibrahim!"

Today after iftar (break fast), I had a chance to listen to part of Anwar's speech live from Kelana Jaya. According to Malaysiakini, Anwar Ibrahim told a 25,000-strong rally tonight in Kelana Jaya stadium that he had the numbers to form a new government tomorrow.
"Tonight on the eve of Malaysia Day, we are ready to form the government tomorrow," he said to loud cheers from the jubilant crowd.

Yes, we are ready for a new government!

Abdullah under siege to quit
Wong Choon Mei Sep 15, 08 1:21pm
Embattled Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is not expected to last out the year in office after a shock crackdown intended to shore up his political standing boomeranged back.

The spate of ISA arrests gave rivals from within his Umno party further ground to press for his resignation while brightening the chances of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Experts interviewed by Malaysiakini said they did not discount the possibility that Abdullah could be pressured to step down immediately, but believed it was more likely the 68-year-old career civil servant would push to stay on until party elections in December.
"It appears some people in Umno have made up their minds they are not going to wait, but there is no need for unruly haste. It might be better for the party to wait until December and settle it there and then," said Ramon Navaratnam, chairman of Center for Public Policy Studies.
"Any transition now will disrupt Umno and weaken their defence against Anwar's Pakatan Rakyat," said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng.
"Therefore stepping down for Abdullah and his supporters is not an option. Moreover, Najib is not the clear-cut frontrunner now. There are Tengku Razaleigh (Hamzah) and Muhyiddin (Yassin).


Do these 3 Alleged Involvements Require ISA?

I read media statement by the Police on ISA arrest, most interesting parts are:-
In the case of Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Teresa Kok, the police need time to investigate further on their alleged involvement in acts that can be considered as prejudicial to the security of the country.
We have 60 days under the ISA to investigate. As soon as we can establish that we have no firm grounds to substantiate our believes that they pose a threat to national security, we will release those persons.
The question is, is it necessary to put RPK and Kok under ISA detention and cut them off from real world?
As per Kok, I do not see these three alleged involvements warrant the Police to abuse ISA at all.
ISA must go as well as those UMNO goons especially the kepala ikan busuk himself!
Teresa Kok Parents... Kok Kim Tong with his wife ascorted byLim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng being mobbed by journalist after meetingwith Teresa Kok at Police HQ Bukit Aman.

Father: Teresa being probed on three offences

by Charles Ramendran
KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 15, 2008): Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, who was detained under the Internal Security Act on Friday, is being investigated for allegedly committing three offences deemed "racially sensitive", according to her parents who met her today at the Bukit Aman federal police headquarters.
Her father Kok Kim Tong, 74, told reporters that he was told by Teresa that she was being probed for alleged involvement in the "Azan" issue, road signages with Jawi script and another matter regarding the Selangor Religious Department (JAIS).
Kok and his wife, Poh Seh Kwan, 71, who brought along their four-year-old grandaughter Kok En Qi and accompanied by Teresa's personal assistant Mandy Ooi, stepped into Bukit Aman at 1.45pm today.
A group of supporters mainly from the DAP, including party veteran Lim Kit Siang, his son Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng and other MPs gathered at the entrance.
Two hours later, Teresa's parents who appeared in high spirits, her niece and personal assistant emerged from the headquarters.
"I am happy to see her in good health although she looked pale and had suffered diarrhoea due to the food served to her," said Kok.
"A doctor who examined her had told her that her blood pressure was low. The bad news is the police have told her that she will be held for another 28 days at least," said Kok.
Under the ISA, police are empowered to detain her for up to 60 days.
He said their meeting was held in a room in the presence of 13 police personnel.
He said he gave his daughter some herbal and chicken essence soup, her books, a bible and clothes.
Kok also said his daughter was being held at an undisclosed location in the city and was driven to and from that place with a hood over her head.
According to Mandy, Teresa was clad in the same clothes she wore when she was picked up but at other times during her detention she used clothes provided by the police.
She said Teresa managed to do some paperwork during the meeting and was delighted to see her niece.
She said police will allow Teresa's lawyers to meet her on Wednesday to provide legal advice.
Teresa's mother urged the authorities to release her daughter whom she said was kept in a room which has a partially open door and her pillows are hard, causing her neck pain.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said he was shocked by the arrest and treatment given to Teresa.
"She must be given better food and on Wednesday, the police must allow a priest to meet Teresa as she is Catholic and must be allowed to receive Holy Communinion."

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