The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, June 04, 2010

Public transport in Malaysia and subsidy reductions.

Below is a letter I sent to the editor of a newspaper in Malaysia. Now, I have had two other letters to the editor published in the past few months, so I thought that it would be no problem to publish this one. However, they have decided not to publish it. I am left to wonder what elements of my proposal or suggestion they thought worthy of censoring. There are other writers to the letters pages here, who are published regularly. They are, however, local (both the ones I know are, in fact, Indian). It is possible that they don't wish to publish my work, too often, because I am a foreigner. Or perhaps, my ideas this time, impinge too much on what should be policy in Malaysia. Whatever the case, I think the letter I have written is of importance, for Malaysians, for the fact is that real incomes here, are quite low and the coming subsidy changes will affect many here, badly.

I agree, however, that the subsidies need to be phased out, for the sake of the nation's finances. However, I suggest, below, a painless way to do so with reference to the fuel subsidies. Without my proposal being taken up, it would be very hard on many people, to suddenly forego the fuel subsidy.

Please read the letter below, then link to it, from your own sites and tell your friends about it. That is the only way I can get these views out since the news organizations here, don't want these views known - otherwise they would publish it.

Thank you, in advance, for your help in spreading the word.

Don't forget public transport

Malaysia is a nation in love with the car. The question is: is this love affair one of passionate choice, or one enforced by circumstances? Would Malaysians still love the car, if they had an alternative?

It is timely to ask these questions, for soon the fuel subsidies that have made car ownership and usage so affordable in Malaysia, may be at an end. The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) has proposed that this and other subsidies, would be better spent on education. Were this change enacted, many Malaysians would soon face a stark reality: they would be unable to afford the petrol for their cars.

It is a probable truth that car ownership in Malaysia is so prevalent for two reasons: the first is that public transport is so relatively underdeveloped – and the second is that subsidies have made the per kilometre cost of driving modest, by global standards.

However, should the price of petrol rise to normal global prices, many fewer Malaysians would be able to afford such casual use of cars, as is now customary. They would be stuck in their own driveways, reluctant to drive on all but the most important journeys. Thus, we can see that the admirable intention to support education, through shifting the subsidies to it, would create an undesirable problem: many people wouldn’t be able to afford to travel.

There is a clear solution to this dilemma. As the subsidy on fuel is diminished, investment in public transport should rise. Thus, as cars became more expensive to run, public transport would become more widespread, more available, and more effective. People would still be able to travel but in a bus or on a train, and not in their own car.

The benefits for Malaysia would be considerable. The present car-clogged streets would run smoothly, as the number of cars on the roads, fell. Malaysia’s environmental impact would be reduced, too, since public transport is immensely greener than any car could be. Malaysia would become a more pleasant place to live – and all because people would have a choice that they don’t presently have: to travel other than by car.

I am a foreigner. Thus, I, along with, I suppose, more widely travelled Malaysians, see Malaysia with eyes informed by how other places, all over the world, are. I see a country of great potential that is, however, hampering itself and stymieing its own development. An effective transport system is key to a country that actually works, as an integrated nation. Malaysia is not really at that stage, yet. The reason is simple and clear: there is too much reliance on cars and so there are too many cars. Thus, the car becomes less useful than it should be, since traffic jams are so common. Ironically, fewer cars, would make each car much more effective. What Malaysia needs, as much as any improvements it might need in the education system, is a better public transport system. One of my first thoughts, on seeing Kuala Lumpur, was “Where are all the buses?” Every other major city I have lived in, has plentiful buses. It seemed strange to see a major city essentially without them. That has to change, if Malaysia is to reach its full potential.

The first use of any subsidy money saved, should be to establish a comprehensive bus network in all major cities of Malaysia – and between those cities. The buses should be affordable to all, regular, reliable, clean and safe. They should also be family and child friendly and be accessible by the elderly and infirm. It is important that everyone should be able to use them.

In the longer term, the train network should be expanded, first with more trains, to relieve overcrowding and increase capacity – and secondly with more lines, to connect more places to the network.

Were Malaysia to do this, no-one would suffer from a lack of means to travel, once cars become too expensive, for many.

If Malaysia is ever to be a fully developed nation it needs an effective public transport system, since all developed nations I am aware of, have very good ones. Malaysia should set about developing one, too. That would be a life-changing – and nation changing – use of subsidies saved. Who knows, perhaps one day, Malaysians will come to love their buses and trains, as much as they do their cars, today.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

My Internet Movie Database listing is at:
Ainan's IMDB listing is at
Syahidah's IMDB listing is at

Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Use only with permission. Thank you.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:27 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The US public transport system is poor (for a developed country) + they love their cars. And yet, they're still doing just fine, or at least better than the EU.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said... The US public transport system is MUCH, MUCH better than Malaysia's. Furthermore, salaries in the US are considerably higher in real terms (spending power and absolute dollars) than in Malaysia. Many people in Malaysia are quite poor by global standards. By Western standards, Malaysian salaries are very, very low (how about a few hundred pounds a month, or less being quite common?)

Thus, many Malaysians would not be able to afford full priced fuel. Anyone can see that, just by looking at salaries, here. They would have NO transport option at all, if fuel subsidies are eliminated, and public transport is not improved. It is a terrible social disaster waiting to happen...and it will happen, if nothing serious is done to offset the changes (by bringing in public transport).

I don't think the US is doing better than the EU. I have lived in both. Life in the EU is much more civilized than in the US. The US is a very ugly country in many ways. I mean socially ugly...the crime there is horrible and so is the social divide. It is not a good place to bring up a family.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Mark C said...

What do you mean, exactly, by "The crime is horrible"? The "social divide" is between whom, exactly? Finally, "it is not a good place to bring up a family"? Sir, surely there are places in the United States you could say that about, but it is unreasonable and unfair to make such sweeping claims.

I've grown up in the United States, Russia, Latvia, and Germany, and travelled to England and Poland (more often than to other countries e.g. FRA, NED, SWE, SUI). In brief, the apparent lack of a social divide (as I think you mean it) in a given place is due to a social welfare system (which does come at a cost), and more importantly a mostly self-contained or homogeneous society (e.g. Sweden, Denmark) where there is little immigration.

Actually, I just realized one divide is going up in Sweden. I remember learning from a recent stay in Sweden that there is a growing Turkish immigrant population. Essentially, I expect there is little difference between the situation there and the decades-old one in Germany. There is a great social divide between the typical German and the typical Turk, although the young people may mingle. The Turks generally live in "their" part of town, associate mainly with one another, have an entirely different culture. The fact that a large number of Germans (in the north, especially) are hardly open to one another, let alone anything new, does nothing to ease integration. You can see the same thing with the repatriated Germans from eastern Europe and central Asia (Kazakhstan). They and their forefathers were (sometimes?) despised for their German heritage in the Soviet Union, and now they are despised for a poor background (farmers invited by Catherine, cf. history tomes), their Russian culture and difficulty with learning the language.

Finally, Berlin, as an example, is one of the last places I would want to raise children. I don't want to raise children in an environment where people live for themselves and for pleasure, don't care to know a single one of their neighbors (despite living in same apartment for 10 years, as a true example!), and live in isolation from the rest of the world (even as close as the nearest border, or their next-door neighbor). Moreover, despite some admirable qualities of the people, there is a morally bankrupt atmosphere in many places, an atmosphere much more degraded than a so-called "liberal" cities like Austin, where I've also lived. You will see ads on the street that would never be placed in the US (until recently perhaps, and only in a few darkest places). I had considered the situation in Sweden to be exaggerated until that recent visit, when I discovered that some Christian friends' son was deciding to get married---after living for some years with a girl.

While I certainly agree some aspects of America are "socially ugly", it is a subjective term that needs argument and exposition. I am interested in where your experiences come from.

7:04 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Well, I have spent enough time in Washington, D.C, New York and Los Angeles, to conclude that the bulk of the USA (i.e major cities), has real problems.

In my first days in Los Angeles, there was a double murder in the hotel opposite, which set me thinking. Two bodies were found full of bullet holes, in the bathroom of a suite.

In my first days in Washington, D.C, where I was working at a Univerity there, a Doctor from the University cut up a taxi driver on the way to the work. The driver, incensed, followed him all the way to work, and then got out of his car, in the University medical centre car park - and shot him five times. He was paralyzed for life, but survived owing to emergency surgery.

Also where I lived in Washington, a few houses away, an orphan (both parents died in a car crash, I understand), was murdered for his money, by his "friends". They had tied him up and tortured him to find out where the insurance money on his dead parents was!

I could go on. However, I was left to conclude after these and numerous other experiences, that the USA was a truly ugly place. The number, intensity and range of horrific crimes, is just astonishing compared to what I heard when I was growing up.

Then, again, there is the poverty I saw. There is a big social divide in the US...I will finish up with another story.

I was visiting a friend in D.C. and I was studying the street from his front room. I observed that quite a few girls were going into a house a few doors down, after school. I asked my host why. "OH that. That is a crack house. They are going there to sell themselves in exchange for drugs."

That was the most shocking thing about the place. Even more shocking than the sound of occasional gunfire I heard, whilst we were having a barbecue in his garden.

Lovely stuff. That is what you call a civilized country. (No doubt, not everywhere in the US is as bad...but it is this bad in enough of it, to make me seriously sure I don't want my kids to grow up there).

I could write more, but you should get the drift, by now.

Which would you say was your best country for growing up Mark?

9:32 AM  
Blogger Mark C said...

I'll have to write back when I have more time--I'm leaving town and need to get ready.

5:36 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks. Have a good trip, Mark.

6:36 PM  

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