It’s not news if it’s good, the Western news


The success story of regional integration in Latin America today is seldom heard elsewhere in the world, even as people there experience it daily.

LATIN America has been experiencing a progressive, historic but silent revolution for 10 years now. However, few people in the rest of the world seem aware of it.

The silence is not because these countries had sought to avoid world attention. Rather, the international media dominated by Western news agencies seem to have other priorities.

Often enough significant events and key issues are neglected, bypassed by the saucy, the sensational and the scandalous – all that glitters is not gold, much that matters may never be told.
CNBC
Without exception, Western news agencies have doggedly promoted the so-called Arab Spring to the point of tedium.

The standard bogeymen of Western storytelling – Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad – are going or gone, so jubilation in Occidental newsrooms may be expected. But there should be limits and other (news) priorities too.

Elsewhere, countries that succeed outside Western norms, dictates and development models may seem unimportant or “politically incorrect”. So they are routinely ignored or underrated.

Worse, the changes said to be wrought by “Arab Spring” uprisings are said to be positive when the exact opposite is happening.

In virtually all these countries, living conditions have deteriorated rather than improved.

But the nine countries of Latin America and the Caribbean that came together in 2004 as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alba) have been making great strides in every critical area of national development.

Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela have raised standards of living for their people in social, economic and political terms.

Standards in housing, health care, education and employment have risen. These countries have also scored a high 0.721 in the UN Human Development Index, which measures national achievements beyond economic growth and material development.

On Dec 14, 2004, Venezuela and Cuba signed the joint declaration for the establishment of Alba. The alliance is based on humanist principles that place the citizen rather than the state or the corporation at the centre of national policymaking.

This people-centred alliance soon attracted the interest of other countries. Next to join were Bolivia, then Nicaragua, and Dominica, with Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda as well as St Vincent and the Grenadines joining together – followed by St Lucia.

Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis will be the next members. Other countries attending Alba summits as Participants are Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, St Kitts and Nevis, and Uruguay.

With a proud record of a decade’s achievements under its belt, Alba marked the passage of its first decade at a forum in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

Ambassador Lourdes Puma Puma of Ecuador explained Alba’s background and objectives, including the use of the Sucre (Unified System for Regional Compensation) as a virtual currency in trade among member nations.

There is also a Bank of Alba with regional integration as its core purpose. The bank encourages and offers financial support for projects that promote the social development of all the peoples of the continent regardless of race, religion, politics or other background.

The areas that Alba covers in promoting regional integration are comprehensive and ambitious. There are medical schools and a health sciences university with scholarships, and a pharmaceutical company and a drugs regulatory centre with free access to medication.

There are plans for a new financial architecture and an emphasis on science and technology, without neglecting the arts.

There are also awards and scholarships for literature, culture, research and cinematography.

Alba is also working with the People’s Trade Agreement that lobbies for the social, cultural and environmental rights of the region’s peoples. It also works with Petrocaribe, an alliance of nations over oil purchases, as well as Mercosur, a regional customs union for advancing free trade and the movement of goods, people and currency.

The guest speaker at the Kuala Lumpur forum was Dr Chandra Muzaffar, president of the Interna­tional Movement for a Just World.

Dr Chandra identified the significant distinction between Alba and other regional organisations in the way it places priority on the human being, the individual person, in public policymaking.

This humanist aspect of a caring regional society that Alba seeks to build is widely cherished by the national leaders of its member countries. And despite a priority on economic development, Alba is also conscious of environmental needs and emphasises sustainable development.

In pursuing technology, Alba also seeks independence of telecommunications content in programming. Telecoms and broadcasting community services will also be provided to rural and other marginal areas.

Despite their achievements, Alba countries are still developing nations with much to do to achieve full development status. In the meantime basic needs have not been forgotten, with a food fund that has cut malnourishment to under 5% in four Alba countries and eliminated illiteracy in five countries.

More broadly, Alba seeks a more multipolar world that avoids war as a matter of policy. It much prefers human development that addresses the real needs of real people, particularly the most disadvantaged members of society.

Alba is named after the great 18th-19th century Venezuelan leader and liberator Simon Bolivar, hailed as a Latin American independence hero and a regional beacon of progress and development.

Bolivar is the only person in history to have two countries named after him: Bolivia, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Bolivar’s goals for Venezuela and its neighbouring countries labouring under the Spanish colonial yoke may be summed up in four basic priorities: a popular and participatory democracy for the people, economic independence for real development, fairer wealth distribution and elimination of corruption.

In the Latin America of his time, Bolivar led territories that included Bolivia, Colombia (then including Panama), Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. As a political and military leader he fought many private and public battles against slavery and for the liberation of his people.

Bolivar died in 1830 at the age of 47. He had paved the way for democracy in many countries in Latin America, but much else remains to be done.

After an era of cruel dictatorships, Latin America is again ready to embrace its history of decency and human achievement. But obstacles remain in the way of Alba countries, particularly when they seek their own way to development.

They prefer a more direct way that impacts positively on the people, particularly the most vulnerable in society such as the poor and the weak. Thus they avoid the customary assistance from powerful transnational institutions that comes with strings, cables and levers attached.

And yet when the UN established the Bretton Woods aid organisations the World Bank and the IMF, they were also supposed to help the poorest without encumbering them. But a problem with institutions is that their practices become institutionalised and worse.

Alba has been established with much goodwill and its achievements have been impressive.

Alba countries deserve support and admiration for their record so far, and encouragement on their promise.

Alba emerged from Venezuela’s rejection of the proposed Free Trade Area for the Americas, which would heighten inequality by enhancing the power of transnational corporations at the expense of the poor.

Neither the World Bank nor the IMF may want to call Alba’s achievements a “miracle”, but they are miraculous nonetheless.

Holding court: Chinese President Xi Jinping's (centre, right) meeting with members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Some have argued that anxieties about China's dominance of the new bank would be dispelled with more founding members. - EPARelated article:

Sound policies require maturity – The Star Online

 Oct 26, 2014 – When major international policies are based on short-sighted self-interests and emotive impulses, problems are never far away.

Behind The Headlines By Bunn Narara

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Related posts:

Financing required as Asia remains with
looming infrastructure needs Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (C-R)
meeting with the members of …

Crude oil prices fall: subsidy needless, ringgit weaken, fiscal health affected


Oil_Petronas

Malaysia’s iconic Twin Towers are seen in the background of the Malaysian oil and gas company Petronas logo at a petrol station in Kuala Lumpur

DESPITE the geopolitical uncertainties in recent months – Islamic State of Iraq terrorism, Russian-Ukraine tension,Israel-Gaza conflict – Brent crude oil price has fallen to a new four-year low on Nov 13 at US$77.9 per barrel.

This is a significant drop from the average price of US$112 per barrel in June 2014. The floor price support is still not yet in sight and the downward spiral of prices seems likely to persist into 2015.

The key factors contributing to the recent drop in prices are large crude oil supply from American shale oil production, weakening demand from a subdued global economic growth outlook and also a stronger US dollar in the recent months.

Malaysia’s economy is very much dependent on the oil and gas sector. From the federal government budget revenue to the country’s exports of crude oil and petroleum products, the issue of falling crude oil prices warrants a closer inspection.

Government estimates gone awry

The Government’s projection of its fiscal position and overall economy in Budget 2015 is based on the assumption that the average Brent crude oil price would be US$105 per barrel in 2014 and US$100 per barrel in 2015. Given the substantial differences from the current market prices, the Government’s projections may no longer be in sync with the economic reality.

Budget net loss from oil prices downtrend

One notable impact of falling crude oil prices is on the government’s budget finances. On one hand, the oil and gas sector has been contributing a third to the government’s budget revenue since 2005. At the same time, the Government spends a substantial amount of its operating expenditure on fuel subsidies – an estimated of 8.5% of budget operating expenditure in 2014. Therefore, sliding crude oil prices is a double-edge sword to the country’s fiscal health.

To put the issue in perspective, the estimated budget revenue contribution from the oil and gas sector is around 6% of gross domestic product (GDP)in recent years while fuel subsidy costs the government around 1.7% of GDP in 2014. As such, the impact of lower budget revenue will outweigh expenditure savings from lower fuel subsidy cost.

Therefore, if the current blanket fuel subsidy mechanism is left status quo in light of falling crude oil prices, the circumstances would risk our nation’s fiscal deficit targets. Keep in mind that the government has committed to reduce the current fiscal deficit to GDP estimate of 3.5% in 2014 to 3% in 2015 and ultimately achieve a balanced budget by 2020.

Timely goods and services tax

No doubt the heavy dependency on the volatile oil and gas sector for budget revenue is beginning to show signs of cracks. The issue is even more pressing now that budget revenue is squeezed from falling crude oil prices.

Therefore, the broad-based goods and services tax (GST), which will enhance tax revenue collection, is considered timely at this juncture. However, the implementation of GST is only part of the long term solution to fiscal sustainability. The government must also look into the expenditure side of the budget finance to manage its fiscal prudence.

New subsidy mechanism or market prices?
Based on the current crude oil prices, the government is only subsidising RM0.13 per litre for RON95 and RM0.12 per litre for diesel in November, compared to RM0.47 per litre subsidy for RON95 and RM0.59 per litre subsidy for diesel in September – before the October RM0.20 per litre fuel price hike.

According to the Finance Ministry, if global crude oil prices fall to a low of between US$70 and US$75 per barrel, the Government would not be providing any subsidy for fuel at the current fixed price of RM2.30 per litre for RON95 and RM2.20 per litre for diesel.

Since the market pump prices are approaching a level that would require no subsidy at all, there is an urgent concern to review the sustainability of the current blanket fuel subsidy approach.Although the government has proposed to initiate a new targeted fuel subsidy rationalisation programme based on individual income thresholds, the circumstances demand a review of subsidy provisions.

Ultimately, fuel subsidy is not sustainable in the long run. Whether the government initiates a tiered fuel subsidy provision or not, the reality is that fuel subsidy should not be entrenched indefinitely.

To plan ahead for fiscal prudence, the government’s initiative to move towards a managed float pump prices is appropriate at this juncture.

When global crude oil prices are depressed, consumers would certainly rejoice. However, when there is a reversal of crude oil prices, the government could then step in to provide targeted assistance to the low-income households. As the government would be sensitive to the impact of rising cost to the low-income group, savings from fuel subsidy expenditure could be channelled to the targeted needy households.

The Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) provisions for eligible households and single individuals amount to around RM4.9bil in 2015, benefitting around 7 million recipients. Therefore, the low-income group has already been identified through the BR1M database. The government can consider to top up on BR1M with a supplementary monetary provisions equivalent to a cost of living allowance to compensate for the upside volatility of market fuel prices.

If the government would consider providing an additional RM250 to its BR1M provision for each eligible households and single individuals as the supplementary allowance, total BR1M payment for eligible recipients in 2015 would amount to around RM6.7bil.

Therefore, from the perspective of fiscal management, doing away with fuel subsidies would greatly assist the government to meet its fiscal objectives. From Budget 2015, the Government has allocated around RM37.7bil for subsidy expenditures. Based on historical trend, around 55% of total subsidy allocated is for fuel subsidies.

If the government considers abolishing subsidies for fuel in 2015, it could save up to RM20.7bil from the operating expenditure. Given that the projected fiscal deficit is around RM35.7bil for 2015, the savings from fuel subsidy will assist the government to meet its fiscal deficit targets. Furthermore, the government can also save billions of ringgit for money not spent on upgrading petrol pumps to accommodate the proposed tiered fuel subsidy mechanism.

As long as the provision for the additional supplementary allowance to BR1M does not exceed the savings from fuel subsidy expenditure, subsidies would be channelled to the targeted group while narrowing the fiscal deficit along the way.The cost of living allowance can be claimed through the BR1M distribution channel. This will assist the government to meet its fiscal deficit to GDP targets.

One way or another, it is still monetary subsidy provisions by the government. However, a more targeted approach to distributing provisions and also doing away with the heavy dependency on subsidies are the right approach moving forward not only for the fiscal health but also to the fundamental competitiveness of the economy.

By Manokaran Mottain, chief economist at Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd.

Ringgit Falls for Sixth Week in Longest Stretch This Year on Oil

Malaysia’s ringgit fell for a sixth week, the longest losing streak this year, as a slump in crude oil prices threatens to crimp government revenue in a nation that’s a net exporter of the fuel.

The ringgit is Southeast Asia’s worst-performing currency in the second half as Brent crude lost 29 percent since the end of June. Oil-related industries account for 30 percent of government revenue. While a weaker exchange rate helps lower export prices it makes imports more expensive. A report today showed inflation quickened to 2.8 percent in October from a year earlier, compared with 2.6 percent the previous month.

“The drop in commodity prices, especially crude oil, is to be blamed for the ringgit weakness,” said Wong Chee Seng, a foreign-exchange strategist at AmBank Group in Kuala Lumpur. “The fact that the ringgit is a high-beta currency also didn’t help,” he said, referring to a measure of volatility.

The ringgit depreciated 0.3 percent from Nov. 14 to 3.3555 per dollar in Kuala Lumpur, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It touched 3.3681 yesterday, the weakest level since March 2010, and has lost 4.3 percent since June 30.

One-month implied volatility, a measure of expected moves in the exchange rate used to price options and a gauge of risk, increased 16 basis points, or 0.16 percentage point, to 7.15 percent this week.

Subsidy Announcement

The ringgit led gains among Asian currencies today, rising 0.3 percent, after the government said in a statement that it will remove subsidies for fuel and diesel from Dec. 1 and as Brent rebounded.

“The ringgit strengthened today because of the increase in crude oil prices,” said Saktiandi Supaat, the Singapore-based head of foreign-exchange research at Malayan Banking Bhd. “The announcement on the subsidy removal gave further support.”

Malaysia’s 10-year government notes fell for a second week. The yield on the 4.181 percent securities maturing in July 2024 rose three basis points to 3.9 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The yield dropped three basis points today. – Bloomberg
Related posts

 Malaysia’s petrol price hike when global crude oil prices declined to 3 years low, a reflection of poor financial management.

 
Najib, who is Finance Minister, had presented his budget speech at
4pm in the Dewan Rakyat on October 10, 2014  Here are highlights: …

Xiangshan Defence Forum: Regional military chiefs hail Beijing’s security proposal


Photo taken on Nov. 21, 2014 shows the scene of the plenary meeting of the 5th Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, capital of China. The two-day Xiangshan Forum focuses on security in the Asia-Pacific region. The biennial event, organized by China Society of Military Sciences, has been held since 2006. It will be held annually starting this year. (Xinhua/Shen Dongdong) 

http://player.cntv.cn/standard/cntvOutSidePlayer.swf

 

 Regional military chiefs hail Beijing’s security proposal
Xiangshan Defence Forum_DM speaks
Chinese military academic delegate Wang Yisheng talks to British delegate John Kingwell (center) and Observer Simon Levey during the Xiangshan Forum attended by senior officials and academics from Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region in Beijing on Friday. PETAR KUJUNDZIC / REUTERS

At a glance
• Xiangshan Forum, first held in 2006, and initially staged every two years. Upgraded to an annual event this year.

• About 300 delegates from 47 countries and four international organizations attending this year.

• This year’s theme is “Cooperation and Win-Win Build an Asian Community of Common Destiny”.

• Held from Thursday to Saturday, the forum discusses regional and maritime security and anti-terrorism cooperation.

China proposed on Friday that disputes in the Asia-Pacific region be tackled by an efficient crisis management and control mechanisms.

The proposal, put forward at a major defense policy forum in Beijing, won widespread acclaim from military chiefs and leading defense specialists in the region.

They said a liaison system has yet to be established to help the economically dynamic region tackle looming geopolitical concerns, and the proposal will help to resolve this.

In an address to the fifth Xiangshan Forum, State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan said that China held 2,000 talks or meetings last year with neighbors on border issues.

China seeks to further enhance dispute management procedures, boost defense cooperation and “strengthen the regional security architecture”, Chang said in a three-point proposal.

Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen endorsed Chang’s proposal and underscored the need to build an Asian security framework to set up meetings and cool any potential tension.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein also backed Chang’s proposal.

Yin Zhuo, director of the PLA navy’s Expert Consultation Committee, said Asia-Pacific is “the only region in the world that still suffers
from the wounds of the Cold War”, and a security mechanism, like that established in Europe, has yet to be set up.

The forum provides a platform that “transcends different ideologies and involves all regional stakeholders”, Yin added.

Some Western analysts have speculated that the China-led forum was upgraded from an event held every two years to an annual one earlier this year to steal the thunder from the Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore.

Singaporean Defense Minister Ng told Friday’s plenary session that more opportunities for dialogue should be given to high-ranking military
officials in the region, and meetings such as the Xiangshan Forum help to keep areas of tension from spiraling out of control.

Zhang Tuosheng, director of the Department of Research at the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies, said China is a major player in the region, and “such platforms do not conflict with each other because they are working in concert to shape a safer region”.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said changing mindsets is important, adding that, “It may take quite a long time to shape a strong and popular belief of win-win cooperation.”

Chang dismissed any connection between China’s “justified” defense budget growth and allegations of “growing assertiveness” by China.

Military modernization “serves China’s practical need to secure its own borders” Chang said.

He told the forum, “To defend our own security is a most direct contribution to security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Andrei Kokoshin, director of the Institute for International Security Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences and former secretary of the Russian Security Council, said the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army is playing a positive role in boosting regional security and stability.

By Zhangyunbi China Daily, News Network

 

 Chinese DM addresses Fifth Xiangshan Forum

Gen. Chang Wanquan, state councilor and minister of national defense of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is delivering a speech on the topic of China’s armed forces and Asia-Pacific security at the Fifth Xiangshan Forum in Beijing on the morning of November 21, 2014. (Chinamil.com.cn/Sun Xiaoxu)
Keynote Speech at the Fifth Xiangshan Forum
by General Chang Wanquan, State Councilor and Minister of National Defense, 21st November 21, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, good morning! I am very glad to meet all of you here at Xiangshan. Let me begin by welcoming you all to the Fifth Xiangshan Forum on behalf of China’s Ministry of National Defense and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). I wish to take this opportunity to share with you my views on this topic—China’s armed
forces and Asia-Pacific security.

The remarkable growth of China’s comprehensive national power, and the continued progress in national defense modernization, have become a focus of international attention in recent years. First of all, I would like to explain, from both historical and contemporary perspectives, why China has accelerated the modernization drive of its national defense and armed forces.

First, China has learned a bitter lesson from its wretched modern history. The Chinese civilization is one of the oldest in the world. As we
entered the modern era, however, Chinese people suffered grievously in a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society because of the corruption and incompetence of their feudal rulers, coupled with unrelenting aggressions of foreign powers. Our people did not become masters of their own destiny until a century later, after a protracted struggle. When it comes to national sovereignty and security, the Chinese give great credence to the adage, “We should not rely on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him.” Therefore, China is firmly determined to promote the modernization of its national defense and armed forces and effectively safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests.

Second, military modernization serves China’s practical need to secure its own territory. China has a vast territory and a large population. Its land borders,
mainland and island coastlines are very long indeed. In particular, China has not yet fully realized national reunification. These are all factors which place the Chinese military under heavy pressure in securing the country and its border areas. There is therefore a pressing need for China to strengthen its national defense and armed forces. It should also be noted that to defend our own security is a most direct contribution to the security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Third, China has to adapt to the revolution in military affairs. As the revolution in military affairs gains momentum worldwide, every country is dedicating efforts to modernizing its armed forces or conducting various degrees of military reforms. At present, the Chinese military has yet to become fully mechanized and its application of information technology is still at an early stage. It lags far behind those advanced military forces elsewhere in the world. A decision to strengthen the reform of China’s national defense and armed forces was adopted at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Mindful of the goal of building a strong military, we are now exerting ourselves to develop a system of modern military force with Chinese characteristics. This is a sure choice that China has made in keeping with the times.

Fourth, military modernization serves the overall interests of China’s reform, opening up and development. China initiated the historic process of reform and opening up in the late 1970s. The Chinese military, committed to serving the larger goals of reform and development, has made a unique contribution to China’s economic takeoff. Since the beginning of the new century, China’s armed forces have benefited from the country’s economic growth and stepped up their efforts to pursue modernization. The move is mainly intended to ensure the balanced development of national defense and the economy, and provide a more effective safeguard to China’s economic and social development as well as its expanding overseas interests. It should be noted that China has not changed the basic state policy of taking economic development as the central task. Its military growth has always been kept at a reasonable level.

Fifth, China is under an obligation to work together with other countries to cope with non-traditional security threats.
In recent years, the threats of terrorism, separatism and extremism have mounted, in addition to frequent and major natural disasters and new challenges to the security of sea lines of communication. Such non-traditional security issues have become the common concern of all countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Against this backdrop, we have attached greater importance to the employment of armed forces in peacetime. It has shouldered increasing international obligations in areas such as UN peacekeeping, international anti-terrorism, commercial vessel protection, international disaster relief, and humanitarian assistance. Accelerating the modernization of national defense and armed forces will also enable China to come up with a better response to the various security challenges in collaboration with other countries and live up to its role as a responsible major country.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, the world today is undergoing major developments, changes and adjustments. The global trends toward multipolarity and economic globalization are deepening. Cultural diversity is increasing, and an information-based society is fast emerging. The security landscape in the Asia-Pacific region is largely stable. As they depend on each other for security and development, countries in the region have formed a community of common destiny in which they will prosper or decline together.

Last May, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward an Asian security concept that calls for common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. While expressing hope that Asian countries advance common security in the spirit of inclusiveness and cooperation, he welcomed the participation of other countries concerned. The concept offered a new vision for Asia-Pacific countries to cope jointly with security challenges. The Chinese military will uphold this concept as a participant and promoter of international security cooperation. It is willing to develop an approach to Asian security alongside the armed forces of other countries that features joint efforts, shared benefits
and win-win results.

First, for the sake of common security, China has dealt with sensitive disputes in an appropriate fashion. It is to be expected that disputes will arise between nations. The key is to strengthen management and effectively prevent and resolve crises. Along its land borders, the Chinese military has set up 64 border defense force meeting venues, where in 2013 alone more than 2,000 meetings were held with neighboring countries. China and India have jointly implemented their Border Defense Cooperation Agreement to maintain border peace and stability. As far as naval cooperation is concerned, the Chinese Navy has conducted 16 joint patrols in the Beibu Gulf with the Vietnamese Navy. China is also exploring the possibility of opening a defense hotline with the ASEAN countries. Only recently, China’s Ministry of National Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense signed two memorandums of understanding on Notification of Major Military Activities Confidence-building Measures Mechanism and The Rules of Behavior for Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters. With these practical moves and more, we have contributed to regional peace and stability and done our utmost to create a positive environment for the development of all countries in the region.

Second, China has engaged in regional security dialogue to promote cooperative security. We are committed to candid and in-depth talks with other parties in a bid to expand the common ground for Asia-Pacific defense and security cooperation. To date, China has established defense and security consultation and dialogue mechanisms with 26 countries. In recent years, China has held more than 80 joint military exercises and training sessions focusing on areas such as anti-terrorism and disaster relief with more than 50 countries. China’s defense authorities and armed forces have taken an active part in regional multilateral security cooperation. They have played an important role in multilateral security mechanisms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus. This Xiangshan Forum where we are gathered is an example of the efforts of the Chinese military to promote security dialogue and cooperation.

Third, China has been active in providing public security goods in pursuit of comprehensive security. As security challenges become increasingly interconnected, transnational and comprehensive, there has been a rising demand for public goods in the global security filed. Since 2002, the Chinese military has carried out 39 international emergency humanitarian assistance operations. It has shipped more than 1.3 billion yuan ($212 million) in aid materials to 30 disaster-ridden countries. Since the end of 2008, China has dispatched 18 naval task forces to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia. These have provided an escort to almost 6,000 Chinese and foreign ships. China has contributed more peacekeeping troops than any other permanent member of the UN Security Council – a total of more than 27,000. Currently, 2, 027 Chinese peacekeepers are working with nine UN peacekeeping missions. In order to cope with the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa, the Chinese military has sent almost 300 doctors and nurses to epidemic-affected areas. It has built an Ebola holding-center in Sierra Leone and will soon complete the construction of a 100-bed Ebola treatment center in Liberia. This represents a humble contribution to the fight against the deadly virus.

Fourth, China has reinforced results-oriented defense cooperation to boost sustainable security. The armed forces constitute the cornerstone of national security. Whether a country is secure and whether its security is sustainable hinge on its ability to protect itself. The Chinese military has, to the best of its abilities, helped other countries, especially developing countries, to strengthen their armed forces. While taking into account the long-term development of these countries’ armed forces, it focuses on improving their overall capability to safeguard national security.Since 2003, China has trained more than 30,000 military personnel for over 130 countries. It also assists other developing countries every year by providing military aid with no political strings attached. Much of this material is used for the construction of such infrastructure as military academies and hospitals.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, while Asia-Pacific security cooperation looks promising, we still have a long way to go to secure our region. All countries should work in concert for its peace, stability and enduring prosperity.

We call for further strengthening of dispute management procedures to improve our ability to cope with crises. We believe that peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region should be put at the top of the agenda. Disputes should be resolved through negotiations with full respect to historical facts and the international law. The parties concerned should establish accessible and efficient dispute management and control mechanisms, refine their capacity to deal with crises, and prevent disputes from escalating. The Chinese military stands ready to seek appropriate solutions to relevant issues in collaboration with other parties by sharing information in a timely manner through a variety of liaison mechanisms at different levels.

We call for further strengthening of defense exchanges and cooperation to bolster strategic mutual trust. All countries should promote regular, open and inclusive contacts between their respective defense authorities and armed forces. They should put in place regular defense and security consultation mechanisms, reinforce bilateral and multilateral exchanges, forge a growing consensus, and enhance strategic mutual trust. We are willing to work together with other parties to promote the growth of positive military-to-military relations in the Asia-Pacific region by strengthening wide-ranging, multi-tiered and all-round cooperation.

We call for further strengthening of the regional security architecture to foster a stronger sense of belonging to a community of common destiny. We advocate that countries should transcend Cold War thinking and base their decisions on the reality of the Asia-Pacific region. They should take all parties’ security concerns into consideration. They should also accommodate each other’s comfort levels as they build an open, transparent, equal and inclusive Asia-Pacific security architecture.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, President Xi Jinping said at a recent APEC event, “Those who share the same ideal and follow the same path can be partner. Those who seek common ground while shelving differences can also be partners. More friends, more opportunities.” Let us commit ourselves to the goal of forging an Asia-Pacific partnership
featuring mutual trust, inclusiveness, cooperation and win-win results, and join hands to create a bright future for our region.

Thank you!

Editor :  Zhang Tao

China’s revival of 600-year-old links in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas


 Malaysia and China have great plans for a 21st century version of an ancient trade route from China that reached as far as Europe and the Americas

China Maritine Silk Road_ Asean

Maritime trade between China and other countries dates back to the Qin and Han dynasties.

Merchant ships that departed from China sailed into the South China Sea carrying silk, porcelain ware, tea and other commodities.

The ancient trade route reached as far as Europe and the Americas, forging friendships and exchanges.

Today, China has a grand vision: to revive a 21st century version of this ancient maritime corridor by inviting countries from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe to come on board the present-day route.

According to an article in the Asia Weekly of China Daily, an English-language newspaper, the proposed 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) begins in Quanzhou in Fujian province, moves on to Guangzhou in Guangdong province and Beihai in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, and then heads south to Hanoi, Vietnam.

Continuing south to Kuala Lumpur on the Strait of Malacca, the MSR joins Jakarta, Indonesia, crosses the Indian Ocean to Nairobi, Kenya, and then links with Colombo, Sri Lanka and Male, the Maldives.

China has taken many initiatives to promote the 21st century MSR since its president Xi Jinping first brought up the idea during his visit to Indonesia in October last year.

One of the most recent efforts was the Guangdong 21st Century Maritime Silk Road International Expo, which brought together more than 40 countries and regions to seek cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, tourism and culture.

Guangdong party secretary Hu Chunhua, during the opening ­ceremony of the expo in Dongguan, touted the 21st century MSR as a road of peace and friendship that brings about mutual cooperation and benefits.

He said Guangdong is a convenient transportation hub linking China with countries along the MSR.

“The inland provinces join the MSR and venture out to the world through Guangdong, while Guangdong is also the entry point for resources to come into China from the outside world,” he said of the strategic location of Guangdong.

In the past, Guangzhou, the capital of the southern province, was a major stop on the ancient trade route. Records show that close to 90 per cent of the merchant ships from the West docked at its Huangpu Port from 1685 to 1757.

The glory remains today, with Guangdong ranking first among all provinces in China in terms of economic output, trade volume and population.

Last year, both its gross domestic product and total imports and exports exceeded US$1 trillion.

Trade between Guangdong and Malaysia, China’s largest trading partner in Asean, stood at US$26.81 billion.

Tourism Malaysia chairman Dr Ng Yen Yen said Malaysia’s participation at the expo, the ­largest among all countries, reflected our readiness for greater collaboration and cooperation with countries along the MSR.

In her speech at a forum held ­during the expo, she said ties between both countries can be traced back to 600 years ago when Admiral Cheng Ho visited Malacca during his seven naval expeditions to the Western Ocean.

On the tourism front, Dr Ng proposed a multiple-destination cruise route along the 21st-MSR that will provide vast opportunities for multi­lateral economic cooperation.

Meanwhile, an Institute of Maritime Silk Road Tourism and Culture was established during the expo.

A collaboration between the Guangdong Tourism Board and the South China Normal University, the institute will be a platform for academic research and exchange on topics related to the Maritime Silk Road, such as tourism, culture, education and regional development.

By Tho XIn Yi The Star/Asia News Network

Related:

  •  Maritime Silk Road expo inaugurated, brings businesses...
  • along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road were mostly regions with abundant…said China could strengthen the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road concept by shortening the expression to “MSR,” and promote organized structure…

Related posts: 

 Building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road 

All together now: Apec leaders posing for a family picture at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing. Front row from…
The leaders of Asean have succeeded in persuading their top trading partners to start negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic …

Startups vying for the attention of Venture capitalists (VCs) – part 4


OOI Boon Sheng, founder and chief executive officer of Web Bytes Sdn Bhd, was fortunate to have found a good match in Chok Kwee Bee, managing director of venture capital firm Teak Capital, when he set out to look for a partner to help his retail management services company grow to the next level.

Venture capitalists (VCs) play a unique role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.Magic Logo_Small

They provide startups with funding in exchange for equity in the company. In addition, VCs are often given a say in how the company will operate and grow.

Ultimately, the goal of such partnerships is for VCs to make a profitable exit at a later date either through the sale of their stakes or an initial public offering.

Chok, who sits on the board of Web Bytes following Teak Capital’s investment in the startup, takes an active interest in helping Ooi develop the company’s product.

As Web Bytes grow with the guidance of Chok, so does its value, allowing Teak Capital the chance to make a profitable exit in the future.

Somewhat like angel investors, VCs have a wealth of resources, expertise and network that startups can tap into.

However, VCs tend to fund early-stage startups that have already gained some traction in user base and revenue, but are still new enough to be considered a risky investment for traditional banks and debt funding.

In identifying suitable startups to invest in, VCs are naturally drawn to early-stage companies with technologies that have the potential to generate high returns. Ideally, products developed by these startups are not in overly saturated markets.

VCs also analyse the market to ensure that it is robust enough to support the entry and growth of a startup.

The startup’s management team is also taken into consideration as VCs typically look for a team that is passionate, persistent, experienced, dedicated and organised.

According to Chok, having the right people is as important as having the right idea as the right people would be needed to make the ideas work.

“We have seen more than 1,000 companies since our formation in 2008 and only invested in less than 10, with an average investment of RM2mil to RM3mil.

We look at the team, the product and the market potential,” she said.

Startups are encouraged to build a good working relationship with VCs, not just for the funding element but also because investee companies will be spending a lot of time with mentors from their VC partners.

Many startups, like Web Bytes, have indeed benefited from the active participation of their VC investors. Among Teak Capital’s portfolio of startups, Web Bytes has seen tremendous growth after a year of active mentoring.

But the venture capitalism in Malaysia is still in its early days.

Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap) chief executive officer Jamaludin Bujang noted that while there is an increase in demand for capital, there are only a handful of VCs in the market.

Currently, about 60% of VC funds come from Government sources, with only nine private VC firms in the country.

Jamaludin says VC firms should look at pushing out more Series-A funding. Series-A is the first significant round of funding for startups that have progressed beyond the seed-funding stage and have started generating revenue of between RM200,000 and RM1mil. With things heating up in the local startup scene, both Jamaludin and Chok agree that more needs to be done to encourage more entrants into the field of venture capitalism.

“The startup scene is picking up. And a lot of them are actually going to Singapore for funding. So I think we need more Malaysian VCs in the market,” said Chok.

By Lim Wing Hooi
Related posts:

China once again boasts world’s fastest supercomputer


£¨¿Æ¼¼£©£¨2£©Öйú¡°ÌìºÓ¶þºÅ¡±»ñÈ«Çò³¬¼¶¼ÆËã»ú500Ç¿ÈýÁ¬¹Ú

The Tianhe-2, a supercomputer developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology, was named the world’s top supercomputer for the fourth consecutive time by the TOP500 project. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Tianhe-2, a supercomputer developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology, was named the world’s top supercomputer for the fourth consecutive time by the TOP500 project.

The Tianhe-2 relegated the US-developed Titan to second spot with a performance of 33.86 petaflop (quadrillions of calculations per second) in a standardized test designed to measure computer performance.

IBM’s Sequoia rounded out the top 3 in the TOP500 list.

The TOP500 project, started in 1993, issues a list twice a year that ranks supercomputers based on their performance.

There was little change in the top 10 in the latest list and the only new entry was at number 10 – the Cray CS-Storm, developed by Cray Inc, which also developed the Titan.

The United States was home to six of the top 10 supercomputers, while China, Japan, Switzerland and Germany had one entrant each.

The United States remained the top country in terms of overall systems with 231, down from 233 in June and falling near its historical low.

The number of Chinese systems on the list also dropped to 61 from 76 in June, while Japan increased its number of systems from 30 to 32.

– China Daily/ Asia News Nework

 Related:

Who is responsible: developer, contractor, local council or house-owner for the damages?


Slope management

Who is responsible for slope management? Does the responsibility come with the property bought by the purchaser?
IJM_BJ Cove Side_20141112_154129


THE collapse of a slope deep in the jungle does not concern house-owners, nor do landslides along our highways or roads. They just cause a bit of inconvenience to road users.

The Government deploys men, machinery and money to get the road cleared as quickly as possible so traffic can flow again.

It is different with the slope, which is (usually) at the back of a house. The house-owner did not build it. It came when he bought the house, designed by the developer with the approval of the local council. Because it is in his compound – or because he will be affected by it in the event of a collapse – the house-owner is responsible.

But in reality, is it as simple as that? It is more than a matter of money, it may also involve lives.

The Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) in collaboration with the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry organised a seminar some months ago. Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, adviser to SlopeWatch, a community-based organisation, highlighted his personal and distressing experience with the slope in his house compound. He needed to have it repaired and he was driven from pillar to post by government officers, the contractor was dilatory and the cost was high.

But who is responsible?

House-purchaser dilemma

When a house-purchaser takes his house from the developer, the latter does not certify that the slope is safe in terms of design, and “as built”, except that it is understood to have been approved.

Victim: “It had been built at the bottom of a nearly-vertical slope formed by excising the toe of a hill. Though he had no need for it, the developer would not sell the house without a part of the bottom of the slope; not only did it add to the cost of the house, it made him responsible for the upkeep of the slope.

As expected the slope collapsed, not once but twice. You see the rubble-wall collapsed with the soil when the pressure became too strong. This time, a strong wall was built together with weep holes to remove rain water that seeped into the soil so that it did not become too heavy. It held up for us but the same slope running into the neighbour’s side, collapsed.

“Are they lucky compared with the buyers of houses built on top of Bukit Setiawangsa, while they were at the bottom of the slope? The developer had apparently removed the earth from it to form the bed of the highway, the Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway (Duke). With the entire slope removed, the houses are perched precariously at the top, as the cliché goes, like a disaster waiting to happen.

So who is responsible? Is it the developer? Where will he be after six years or if available, will he argue that the purchaser bought the house fully aware of the risks? What are the rights of a subsequent owner? Does he has any recourse against the first owner? What about the local council and professionals who approved the slope – which to an untrained eye – seems to be an unsafe construction?”

House-owners are not only innocent victims of a developer’s recklessness or the developer’s appointed professionals, be it an architect or engineer.

They may also be liable through no fault of theirs because of the way developers have disturbed the lie of the land and left it in an unsafe state for the house–owner to take care of it.

The most enduring memory is the Highland Towers episode about 20 years ago, of which there is still no satisfactory closure. The disaster should have been a wake-up call on the process of approvals and accountability.

Only a draughtsman was convicted for the design of the drainage which caused water to flow un-channelled into the ground under the condominiums causing it to turn into mud which, of course, flowed against the piles causing them to move and knocking the building off its supports. The Ampang Municipal Council (MPAJ), which approved the diversion of the drainage, was excused because of the statutory immunity it enjoyed under the law.

So, should it be more careful and conscientious? Have we not learned the right lessons from it?

There are many questions for which there are no answers.

Slope management – overcoming challenges

The question with regard to slope management brings to mind a slope management seminar held earlier this year which attracted about 400 participants. The speakers held top posts in the Public Works Department, Urban WellBeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry, SlopeWatch, head of hillslope development in MPAJ and geotechnical engineer Datuk Dr Gue See Sew. Participants attentively asked the panelists pertinent questions.

As we forge ahead, we ask ourselves, have we done enough? If not, what can we do more? What are some of the issues and challenges we are facing as residents, owners, consultants, planners, financiers and enforcers of the guidelines, managers of slopes and public safety?

And whose responsibility is it anyway? There were proposals, suggestions and recommendations for an action plan that will be adopted for its intended implementation. Some were for immediate application, while some were medium and long term in nature. Unanimous resolutions were made at the end of the seminar.

Resolutions

Some of the pertinent resolutions were:

> Improve and simplify the current guidelines on hill-site development with safety enhancement.

> Increase awareness of contractors on good slope construction practices

> Strengthen the enforcement of authorities to penalise errant slope owners

> Review the planning policies and determine the height and density of buildings to blend with the environment

> To immediately do an inventory and to gazette all remaining hill-slopes, including those that are still on state land under the Land Conservation Act, National Land Code and the Town and Country Planning Act.

> Review slope-related designs not only confined within the boundaries of the project, but within the surrounding areas.

> Make it compulsory under the law for a geotechnical accredited checker, as an independent checker, to check and verify that slope design and construction are safe and done to the best engineering practices.

> Major earthworks and slope strengthening need to be done first before construction of any buildings and structures in the development takes place

> Local authorities to collaborate with community monitoring groups (to be the eyes and ears)

> To make it compulsory for slope owners to appoint professional engineers to inspect slopes on a regular basis on high-risk slopes and to rectify any defects for slopes of certain categories

> New engineered slopes to have a maintenance schedule and manual, including drainage systems. Old slopes, in particular, should be under a maintenance programme by the local authorities

> Introduce a fund to cover long-term infrastructure maintenance of certain slopes that require high maintenance and are handed over to local authorities

But the most important of them is to set up a centralised body to support the 154 local authorities on new hillside developments. It should be modelled after the geotechnical engineering office in Hong Kong.

The Government and public will be hearing more of this proposed “centralised body” in due course from the Expert Standing Committee on Slope Safety initiated under CIDB.

HBA

By CHANG KIM LOONG – Buyers Beware The Star Nov 15 2014

Chang Kim Loong is the honorary secretary-general of the National House Buyers Association.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,253 other followers

%d bloggers like this: