Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Singaporeans should not be alarmed in JB?

The New Paper, 10 APRIL 2006


It was interesting that on 2 Apr, The Sunday Times and The New Paper on Sunday simultaneously carried lengthy reports and an editorial (The Sunday Times) on car thefts in Johor.

It was unfortunate that these reports over-exaggerated the actual situation on the ground and at the same time portrayed four major shopping malls in Johor Bahru (Holiday Plaza, Plaza Pelangi, Aeon Tebrau City and Giant Plentong) in a rather bad light.

The immediate and strong reaction to these reports could certainly have been anticipated.

The Johor State Government, the Johor Police authorities, the Johor Bahru Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Malaysia Shopping Complex Management Association (Southern Region), among others, were swift in their response.

State Tourism and Environment Committee Chairman, Mr Freddie Long, in a press conference convened on 3 Apr, clearly articulated the serious concerns of the state, including the repercussions that such adverse reports might have on the state's economy, tourism flows from Singapore to Johor, as well as on the image of the State.

Questions were also raised on whether there was a 'hidden agenda' behind these reports. It would be useful first to establish the facts. From statistics compiled by the Johor Police authorities, in recent years car thefts involving Singapore-registered cars have been negligible.

In 2004, of the 1,381 cars reported stolen in Johor, only 33 (2.39 per cent) were Singapore-registered cars. In 2005, of the 1,394 cars reported stolen, 52 (3.7 per cent) were Singapore-registered cars. In January and February 2006, of the 264 car thefts reported, only 3 were from Singapore.

Looking at these statistics, the outcry in the Singapore media that Singapore cars are targets of car thieves in Johor really does not make sense. It only serves to fuel unnecessary speculation that there is more to these reports than meets the eye.

Singaporeans should rest assured that the Johor state government is constantly taking steps to reduce criminal activities, including car thefts, and improve public safety, both for its people as well as for visitors to the state, including our neighbours from Singapore.

To deter robberies and car thefts, the police authorities in Johor have just announced that an additional 100 men and 45 patrol cars would be deployed. Closed-circuit TV cameras linked to the state police headquarters are also being installed at strategic locations. The Johor state government would also soon hold discussions with the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Bakri Omar, to look into measures to further improve security in the state.

Johor-bashing should stop. The sooner, the better. We should not stand in the way of forging more and even closer interactions between Johor and Singapore in the days ahead.

Dato' N Parameswaran
High Commissioner of Malaysia to Singapore


I have just read an excellent book titled Freakonomics. It basically shows how available data can be used to logically disprove commonly-held assumptions. Let me try to apply some of its precepts to a current bilateral bone of contention -- how Malaysian car thieves appear to be targeting Singapore-registered cars.

It was alleged in a Singapore media article that Singapore cars were preferred targets because of their comparatively low mileage and generally better condition. The Malaysian High Commissioner, has rebutted that the outcry does not make sense, citing (probably official) statistics that only 3.7% (or 52) of the cars reported stolen in Johor last year were from Singapore.

To put things into proper perspective, we would need to know (or guess) what proportion of cars in Johor (at any given hour) were from Singapore. A NST article dated 5 Apr 2006 quotes traffic consultant Dr Tai Tuck Leong as saying that about 20,000 foreign cars drive into Johor each day. I think we can assume that almost all the non-Malaysian cars in Johor would be from Singapore -- the number from Thailand is probably not significant. Let's further assume that each Singapore car would typically remain for about 6 hours on average. If so, we can induce that at any given time, the number of Singapore cars somewhere on Johor roads (or car parks) would be about 5,000.

I couldn't find any direct reference to the number of cars in Johor, but various sources suggest that Malaysians have 1 car for every 2 people, Johor's population of 2.8 million would suggest that there are about 1,400,000 cars in the state (not too surprising given that Johor covers an areas of almost 20,000 sq km).

Based on these assumptions, there are about Singapore cars 5,000 cars sharing Johor's roads with 1.4 million local cars at any given time. In other words, Singapore cars make up just under 0.36% of Johor's car population.

Since 3.7% of the cars stolen in Johor were from Singapore, this indicates that a Singapore car is about 10 times as likely to be a target of a car thief in Johor as compared to a Johor/Msian car.

Perhaps someone (like Dr Tai perhaps?) would like to do a more rigorous study to support or dispute this?


Anonymous said...

I think everyone has lost the real issue in trying to justify what is actually wrong. From what I read, it seems to me that it's normal for cars to be stolen in Johor ... or for Malaysians to have their cars stolen from them. Hopefully, my impression is dead wrong.

I do not have the statistics but I believe Singaporeans do not have much experinces with their cars getting stolen or robbed. The few incidents are alreay one too many.

The Singapore press is just reporting to caution ignorant tourists to be careful when in Johor. Each Singaporean has to make their own decision whether they still want to go over in light of what is happening?? The choice is up to each individual ... and not the press.

Therefore, the Johor politicans, policemen and people should do something constructive to make the place safe and not just talk and do nothing.

Anonymous said...

What's new, Msian Politicians are famous for all talk and no action. And most Msians live each day wondering when will be the day, their cars get stolen. I go to Msia quite often, and have close relatives there too, and all I can say is there is something seriously with their police force, when everybody has to take the necessary precaution to ensure their cars are well protected and locked, even to a "Mr Bean" proportion, if you know what i mean. Whatever happened to the taxpayers money. Aren't the police suppose to protect the ordinary citizen from such losses?