Mannkal Economic Education Foundation

Mannkal Student Internship Blog

IDEAS Malaysia

Liz Powley – My Social Media Obsession Being Put to Use | Week 8

Liz Powley, 27 February 2017

This week IDEAS released their latest policy paper; “A Critical Review into the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010”.

Currently in Malaysia there are basic protections for those who wish to report corruption but unfortunately it is not enough. Only approximately 0.3% of cases seen by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission are reported by whistle-blowing, which is well below international standards as the United States was above 46%.

IDEAS has released this paper in the hope that, with their suggestions of reforming the Act of better protecting whistleblowers, the number of reported cases will increase and help fight against corruption in Malaysia.

Working on this release, I’ve been in charge of social media release. The site ‘hootsuite’ has become my new best friend as I use the site to schedule posts across all our social media platforms up to a month in advance. Being fond of social media use, it’s great to finally put this habit to good use in a working environment.

According to Shaza, my current line manager, I have become the new office pro at the site. So much so that on my final day in the office I did a mini-tutorial to everyone at IDEAS on how to use the greatest site that has ever happened for social media managers.

It was not the only presentation I did on my final day, as all interns are required to do a speech about their time at IDEAS. It was a great way to give feedback to the organisation and for them to do so in return. The presentation ended with TimTams and parting gifts of small Koala soft toys, which everyone seemed to love.

In my spare time I said goodbye to the city and everyone I’ve met throughout my stay. Saying goodbye to Iced Milos has been especially hard as I developed quite a taste for them. Apparently Milo in South-East Asia is different to the one produced in Australia, so I’m not sure how I will cope returning to the Australian brand (which I never thought I’d say).

These eight weeks at IDEAS have flown by and I would recommend to anyone considering a Mannkal scholarship to consider this amazing organisation.

Last group photo

At my internship presentation

Another photo from my internship presentation

Liz Powley – Figuring Out Career Paths | Week 7

Liz Powley, 20 February 2017

An unknown fact about myself, is that there is a very tiny part of me that has considered the possibility of becoming a website designer. After this week, I have realized that I definitely do not have the never-ending patience to ever go down a graphic designer field.

Until the end of my internship, my tasks in the Communication Department will be focused around making sure the website is ready to be launched shortly after my departure.

With hundreds of pages still needing to be transferred across, there’s definitely a lot to be done. One page in particular that is of major importance is the internship page, which is having a complete makeover. This is occurring as IDEAS is launching a new internship programme to make sure resources are being allocated more efficiently in the future.

It has been incredible to be in charge of designing the page, knowing that my work will be making an impact on IDEAS even beyond my stay.

I’ve also been doing work for the Research Department, as they are down an intern. The CEO is going to present at a conference in Brussels, so I’ve been asked to do some background research on the topic of ‘illicit trade’ to aide his own notes.

Focusing my research on tobacco, small arms and wildlife, I’ve been noting what other regions such as the EU have been doing to combat the issue and whether the policies can be transferred across to ASEAN.

It’s a difficult topic to bring up with ASEAN countries, as the UN did in 2001 with reference to small arms with only some success. It has been interesting to do my own research to figure out which policy would be most applicable for the ASEAN region. Overall though it’s been great to expand my knowledge, as it is a growing issue for the ASEAN region.

What had started as a joke of “come visit Malaysia” turned into reality when my friend Nick arrived in KL on Monday. It’s been a week full of laughter, debate on libertarianism and randomly having our photos photobombed by other tourists. Overall it’s been an amazing penultimate week and I can’t believe I am almost at the end of my internship!

Nick and my photo getting photobombed by other tourists at Pavillion

Nick and I being tourists

Finally went to the markets (ironically during the week I researched about illicit trade and informal economies)

Liz Powley – The Anniversary Dinner | Week 6

Liz Powley, 13 February 2017

Finally the big night arrived – the anniversary dinner!

It’s been a stressful and frantic week at IDEAS as the final countdown began but to be honest, I loved every moment of it. I started off the week by interviewing our final sponsor, a company who believes strongly in libertarian values.

After I interviewed the CEO, the tables turned and he began to question me on my thoughts regarding current affairs. It was incredible to be sitting discussing my thoughts on Brexit, Trump and the increasing popularity of One Nation in Australia with the CEO of a company in Malaysia.

On the day of the anniversary dinner, it went in typical fashion that everything that could go wrong – went wrong. The videos, which I spent all weekend and my nights working on to finish, decided that they were not going to cooperate.

It was a great learning curve for me, as it is the first time that I’ve had to deal with such things going wrong in a professional setting. I was recreating the videos up until half an hour before the event began. It was definitely a sigh of relief when I was finally able to hand the USB over just in time for final sound check.

The event itself went without a hitch. I was in charge of ushering, so I was able to meet an array of guests. I am entirely grateful to Sofie’s advice at having business cards, as I was asked a couple of times during the night if I had one and they were all rather impressed when I was able to hand one over.

It was definitely a personal highlight when the videos were played to over 200 guests. Having worked hard on them for the past week, it was great to see a final product that could be shown for all.

Clean up lasted until midnight but in a fate like way, Thursday was a public holiday and so I was able to catch up on the sleep that I had been missing out on.

With my focus having been on work, I didn’t leave my apartment over the weekend to explore more of the city but the success of the anniversary dinner made it all worth it.

Video being shown at the anniversary dinner

IDEAS' CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan on stage at the Anniversary Dinner

Vivian and I showing the difference in cultures simply in how one poses for a photo.

Liz Powley – The Week of Public Holidays | Week 5

Liz Powley, 6 February 2017

This week has been public holiday galore, with them falling on both the Monday and Wednesday. It’s been a crazy week but thankfully I’ve managed to not come in on the wrong day (or forgotten to come in for that matter!).

On the days that I have been in, I’ve spent it working on the launch of the IDEAS membership videos. It’s a project that will be shown at the anniversary dinner, which will show guests why they should join as members of the IDEAS Club. It is framed from the perspective of those who are already members.

I was in charge of travelling around KL, packed with a recorder and camera (which YouTube taught me how to use) to interview some of our influential members. It has been a highlight interviewing these members as I get to discuss why they’ve gotten involved with IDEAS and why they want to see a change in Malaysia, a country they love so much.

Back in the office I transformed these six minute interviews into twenty second soundbites. Having not used audio editing software since back in year eight music class, this has been a fun experience that has taught me a lot. When the audio is completed, I can start designing the photo which will accompany the audio on a screen at the dinner.

Everything is still far from being perfect for the night, but the project is moving along well. I’m excited to see my own work being shown to the public. I didn’t expect to have my creative side explored on an internship at a democratic think tank in Malaysia but I guess it goes to show to expect the unexpected.

In my spare time – which I had a lot of during the public holidays this week – I went exploring in some of the parks around Kuala Lumpur. My friend Hannah made a detour on her way to Singapore and joined me in my adventures. We found some amazing spots for some Instagram photos and I look forward to going back there soon.

Having fun in the sunken gardens

With my friend Hannah at the Lake Gardens

Liz Powley – My Dream to Sell One Table | Week 4

Liz Powley, 30 January 2017

There is one career path that I have always said I would never, in any circumstances, follow into and that is sales. So of course this week at IDEAS, I spent majority of it a sales role.

With the anniversary dinner soon approaching and tables still yet to be purchased, I was approached to see whether I would be interested to call firms and universities to see if they would join us in our celebrations. With my mindset in this internship being “never say no”, how could I possibly reject such an offer? Putting my fears of language barriers, my poor pronunciation skills and my general lack of sales skills aside – I have so far managed to sell a total number of zero tables.

However, I like to believe that it is the thought that counts and the fact that IDEAS are still asking me to come down and make phone calls every day indicates that they must have some faith in my sales capabilities. So if anyone is in Malaysia on the 8th of February and is interested, please let me know.

We also hosted an event this week “Supporting the MACC in fighting corruption in Malaysia”. The public support was tremendous and turnout was higher than expected. Being in charge of registration was overwhelming but thrilling as the line queued all the way back to the elevator doors while we tried to sign everyone in on time for the forum to start.

Having been researching the topic since the beginning of my internship I was quite familiar with the content. It was still interesting however, to hear the public’s opinion during the Q&A, who had differing thoughts to how MACC should be reformed compared to IDEAS and fellow think tanks.

I was able to explore the city further this week, walking around KLCC taking photos for the Mannkal snapchat. Something I learnt, which I’m surprised I didn’t notice earlier, was that even at traffic lights pedestrians still don’t seem to have right of way here in Malaysia. It’s an interesting contrast to Australia’s road rules which Vivian, fellow intern at IDEAS, and I discussed when back in the office the following Monday.

At the KLCC park

At the public forum about MACC reform

Liz Powley – A week of events and tall buildings | Week 3

Liz Powley, 23 January 2017

In Malaysia a for-profit corporation can be labelled as an NGO with not-for-profit status due to an application system that is unregulated and flawed. This has lead to several problems, including the government having distrust of NGOs in general due to a lack of transparency and a misunderstanding of what NGOs can be. For once IDEAS believes that government intervention is the only way  to solve this issue and has presented a solution to both sides of government in an attempt to have it implemented within the next one to three years. IDEAS has also discussed their thoughts to define and regulate the NGO not-for-profit application process with foreign ambassadors – a meeting I was fortunate enough to sit in on this week. With a dream of one day working for DFAT, it was incredible to be sitting in the same room as the Australian High Commissioner and hearing their thoughts on the matter at hand.

As if one event wasn’t enough this week, I also attended the Asia Public Policy Forum “Improving Education Access and Quality in Asia”. The facts and figures that were brought up in the discussion astounded me and it was clear as to why there was a need for such a forum. Educators, economists and policy makers from across South Asia and America attended the event, and whilst there was still a lot of focus on ‘what should the government do to fix this’, I picked up a lot of skills and information relevant to the subjects presented.

Back in the office, I find myself now in the Communications Department due to there being a greater need for intern help. With this never being an area I’ve considered entering into, it’s been a fun and interesting experience.

Over the weekend I explored Kuala Lumpur with Mannkal alumni, Wei Tien Sng. Climbing the steps of the Batu Caves was exhausting but the sights at the top definitely made it all worth the while.

The sights from the 84th story of the Petronas Towers were incredible. We were able to point out the Batu caves we had been to the day before and several other sights we had been to in between. It was a great place to take a thousand and one photos which I have since bombarded my friends and family with.

Overall it’s been a busy week, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

View from the Petronas Towers

In a meeting with foreign ambassadors

Liz Powley – Happiness, Humidity and Higher Education | Week 1

Liz Powley, 9 January 2017

In some senses, Kuala Lumpur is a libertarian haven full of consumer choices from the moment one steps off the plane. On the taxi ride into the KLCC advertisement boards of cars, holiday destinations and higher education bombarded me.

There was even a sign promoting the fact KL now had their first Android vending machine! If not for the fact that I was going to a think tank called Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) whose main goal is to promote democracy in a country full of corruption – you would think I had reached a capitalistic utopia.

This first week has flown past. I’ve been placed in Research alongside another intern Vivian who has thankfully taken me under her wing to teach me basic Malay. I’ve spent the week editing a draft about higher education called “University Autonomy in Malaysia” which is to be discussed at a round table discussion next week.

I was delegated the role of creating this year’s “annual and medical leave” spreadsheet which put my basic IT knowledge to the test. With three new vaping legislation proposals about to be presented in parliament, I was asked to research media releases from the Ministry of Health and any other sources to predict what the new government regulations may be.

I find myself learning the most about Malaysian politics, economics and culture when talking to the staff and interns at IDEAS. Every conversation I have leaves with a new perspective which I thank Mannkal for giving me the opportunity to experience.

I spend my free time wandering around the city, often in amazement that shopping centres are open until 10pm on weeknights, that I spend only $1.50 on meals and wished I had checked ahead at how much chocolate costs in Malaysia (because it costs a lot).

Overall, it’s been a great first week and I can’t wait for the weeks to follow.

IDEAS' Higher Education Books

IDEAS' Higher Education Books. Useful when learning about university autonomy.

Outside the Petronas Towers

Outside the Petronas Towers

Julian Coleman – Week 11

Julian Coleman, 15 February 2016

When I first arrived in Kuala Lumpur, I read an article by a contributor to the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) about conversations he had been having with Uber drivers. He pointed out that unlike cabbies whose occupation is mostly driving, most Uber drivers drive part-time. He had been driven by engineers, civil servants, doctorate students and advertising agents. He described how that occupational diversity makes conversation during an Uber ride much more interesting than that of a typical taxi journey.

In the early days of my time here I attempted to use public transport. However a nine minute Uber drive turned out to be a two hour monorail-train-bus and finally Uber ride anyway which cost about as much as the regular Uber ride did. The story of my journey was of course was met with laughter from my unsurprised Malaysian colleagues. I have since taken Ubers everyday and shared a similar experience as the IDEAS contributor. Across the board regardless of education and background, my Uber drivers have, without prompting, expressed anger and frustration with a culture of corruption and cronyism in Malaysia. How this anger and frustration will play out in the lead up to the next election will be very interesting.

Joel O’Mara – Week 10

Joel OMara, 8 February 2016

This week IDEAS has been largely focused on organising the Asia Liberty Forum, that will be held on the 18th till the 20th of February. The ALF is a gathering of the best and brightest in Asia to discuss ideas and solutions to promote free markets in Asia. There are a variety of highlights I am excited for, including speed networking which is structured in a similar manner to ”speed dating”, training workshops for marketing and social media skills as well as IDEAS’ 6th Anniversary Celebration.

The TPP agreement has recently been ratified by the Malaysian parliament, which is good news for the world economy as well as Malaysian businesses and consumers. It is commendable that the government has taken the initiative to pursue negotiations through this agreement despite fear-mongering from opponents of free trade. Due to significant opposition from anti-free traders, Malaysia secured a range of carve-outs in the agreement to keep it more palatable. These include retainment of affirmative action measures for the ethnic Malaysian population, and exemption of Public-Private Partnership from fair government procurement measures. Despite these carve-outs weakening the deal, it must be looked at as a whole, and overall it is clear the agreement would be a net benefit.

On Saturday Julian and I visited the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia. This was an eye opening experience and I learnt a great deal about the history of Islam in a variety of countries. The models of the major mosques of the world were particularly impressive!

Julian Coleman – Week 10

Julian Coleman, 8 February 2016

This week sat in between two public holidays. I returned from a wonderful trip in Langkawi and ended the week with a visit to the Islamic Art Museum Malaysia.

Langkawi was beautiful and I had a wonderful time island hopping, going up the cable car and watching the sunset on the beach every evening. The Islamic Art Museum Malaysia gave me an opportunity to explore centuries of Islamic calligraphy, artifacts, and architecture.

At The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) I continued my research on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The TPPA has passed parliament but the debate is not over. In the past I have thought of trade deals as the overwhelmingly large complicated documents. The TPPA is thousands of pages but some of the most disputed parts are only a few paragraphs long. It takes only a moments search on the internet to disprove many of the charges levied against it here in Malaysia. For example, opponents have claimed that once signed, Malaysia would not be able to withdraw from the agreement. Article 30.6 clearly states that ‘any Party may withdraw from this Agreement by providing written notice of withdrawal to the Depositary.’

It has become clear to me that opponents of the TPPA are willing to exploit the public’s lack of understanding of international trade in order to stoke fears and further their own political aims. The only other nation that stands to gain more from the TPPA relative to the size of their economy is Vietnam as shown by multiple independent reviews including one by PWC. Opponents will quote whole values and say that the U.S. will gain more in dollar terms ignoring the fact that the U.S. economy is some fifty times larger than the Malaysian economy.

When I arrived here in Kuala Lumpur ten weeks ago I knew little about the Malaysian economy and political environment but I am now enjoying being a part of the debate. I have two weeks left I so I am looking forward to seeing events play out and to finishing up my time here at the Asia Liberty Forum.