Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Eurocopter deal suspended
Giam Say Khoon 

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 28, 2008):
 Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today announced the suspension of the RM1.7 billion Eurocopter helicopter deal with the allocation to be redistributed to projects that directly benefit the people.

"We had decided during the National Economic Council meeting on Oct 13 not to purchase the helicopters at the moment because we need the allocation

for other projects and saving is very important for us now, to face an economic situation caused by the world economic crisis," he told reporters after attending a Hari Raya celebration at the Defence Ministry.

"We need to relocate the allocation for certain projects… because we cannot just borrow the money when we need it. The best thing to do is to relocate, we will do the projects that can be implemented now."

Abdullah, who is also Defence Minister, said the government had decided that only projects that will benefit the people will be given the allocation and that all ministries are required to lower their expenditure by deferring some of their projects.

"Suspending the purchase (of the helicopters) does not mean that we will stop buying any helicopters, as we will do it when the financial status allows us to do so. The Nuri (military) helicopters we have now are old and they often involved in accidents that killed not only the soldiers but also civilians. Therefore the old helicopters must be replaced," he said.

Abdullah added that a decision to replace the 28 Nuris must be made by 2011 and the government would want to make the purchase earlier if possible as new helicopters will need three years to be delivered.

He said as a result, the ministry had studied the models of helicopters to be purchased and Eurocopter was chosen in the open tender as it fulfilled the requirements and specifications set by the ministry.

He denied the helicopter deal will cost RM2.3 billion as claimed by the Opposition, saying that the price for 12 Cougar EC725 helicopters from the European firm is only around RM1.67 billion.

Asked when the government will resume the deal, Abdullah said the government will first access its financial situation.

On the scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which will be conducted today (Wednesday), he said since the deputy prime minister had agreed to a scrutiny by the committee, it will go on as it will also give the committee the opportunity to examine the deal with the officers involved in the purchase.

"It is a good thing for them (the PAC) to learn about the procedure used by the ministry and why the deal cost so much.

"The helicopters (are expensive as they) come with high specifications for combat, search and rescue as well as troop lifting purposes," he said.

Abdullah also explained that the Brazilian deal with Eurocopter was cheaper, which involved the purchase of 50 Super Cougar helicopters at a price

consideration of US$1.2 billion, because the helicopters bought by that country were ordinary helicopters and they did not have the same specifications like those Malaysia intended to buy.

On the allegations that the deal lacked transparency, Abdullah said it was done through tender and he did not believe that there were any irregularities.

To a question, he said the government will decide whether Eurocopter will still be given the deal when the situation allows the purchase or whether another open tender will be called. He also said the government has yet to inform Eurocopter formally of the decision to suspend the deal.


Saturday, October 18, 2008


Coupe with the looks
by Y.S. Khong

Hyundai Coupe is a two-door sporty-looking coupe that seats up to four adults, and is an eye-catcher, especially in red. Priced at RM128k, it is one of the most affordable two-door coupes that you can get in Malaysia, and it comes with airbags, ABS and ESP (Electronic Stability Programme).

Local distributor Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors Sdn Bhd is importing only the 2.0-litre model although there is a 2.7-litre model available.

A few units of the 2.7-litre model were brought in but it seems the current distributor has decided to focus more on the 2.0 model, which is a more viable value-for-money package for the Malaysian motoring public.

In terms of looks, the Hyundai Coupe is indeed attractive and eye-pleasing.

The 2.0-litre engine is a 16-valve, four-cylinder unit with CVVT, the Hyundai equivalent of variable valve timing. It produces 143PS at 6,000rpm, and has a maximum torque of 186Nm at 4,500rpm.

This is a respectable figure insofar as 2.0-litre engines are concerned, but not one of the higher figures.

Mated to a four-speed automatic transmission that delivers power to the front wheels, the performance is adequate, but not exhilarating.

Of course, if you really like the Hyundai Coupe shape and want something better, you could always ask for the 2.7-litre model, which has 167PS from the V6 engine.

We had one test unit courtesy of Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors, and we drove it around Petaling Jaya for a couple of days to get a feel of it.

As far as the power delivery was concerned, the Hyundai Coupe does drive quite well, due to its relatively low final drive ratio of 4.407:1.

The four-speed automatic is, like all current four-speed automatics, a little short in performance, especially when it comes to the gaps in-between gears.

But gear changes are smooth enough, thanks to the excellent electronic controls.

A five-speed gearbox would be better, although it means one would probably have to pay a little more for it.

As it was, we managed a top speed of around 180kph on a short stretch of open highway before traffic conditions made it necessary to slow down.

On the road, the Hyundai Coupe is quiet enough when driven at normal road speeds of between 80kph and 120kph.

After that, the engine has to work a little harder, and under hard acceleration, the gears drop down, sometimes to second, and that is when you will notice the engine noise building up as the revolutions climb.

Due to the low ratios, the revolutions will hold right up to the red line at 6,500rpm before the gears change, unless you lift off and release the pressure in the gearbox.

Overall handling is decent, from the four-wheel independent suspension made up of MacPherson struts in the front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear.

The suspension is set to be on the firm side of comfortable, and driven in anger, the Hyundai Coupe will be able to give a reasonably good account of itself.

However, once the speed builds up, it cruises easily, and you can keep it at around 160 to 180kph the whole day if you so wish to.

Overall, the Hyundai Coupe does offer a viable option for those who want a sporty-looking yet affordable car, and are not looking for brute performance.