Financial planning is all about investing


LOTS of people shy away from financial planning because they think they may be pressured into investing. And when you think investing, what comes to mind are horror stories of people who lost their life savings during the Asian financial crisis and Dot Com Bubble.

We hear tales of greed and chasing the hottest sexiest investment themes that has led them down the path of poverty and for some great debt due to leverage.

Admittedly, in the wealth management business, investments do form a large part of conversations that happen between ourselves and our clients.

For the most part, people speak to financial planners or wealth managers about how to make their money grow faster so they can meet their goals.

How much return can I get?
What can I get if I invest in equities?
How about properties?
How can I start investing in currencies?

When people engage in a conversation about investments, inevitably, we get seduced by the quest to find the highest yielding asset. We steer into instruments we are not familiar with, drawn by the allure of high headline returns.

Think dotcoms. Think gold investments. Think land investments. Think bitcoin. Not necessarily bad investments but the basic concept of risk and diversification fall by the wayside as we chase returns.

But, step back for a moment.

Are you asking the right question?
Is financial planning only about finding the next best investment?

While investing will likely play a key role in your financial plan, there are a lot more questions that need to be answered before you can choose the right investment, or if you even need to invest aggressively.

First question, how much do you need?
Second question, when will you need it?
Third question, how much have you set aside or are prepared to set aside?
Last question, what returns are you going to get?

So say, I would like to buy a property in five years, of which I plan to make a downpayment of RM50,000. I have currently set aside RM10,000. I can currently save RM500 monthly.

Investing_coin_hands Investing_house

Let’s assume I have no experience investing and decide to place it in fixed deposit at 3% per annum. Doing my maths, after five years, with interest compounded, all this adds up to only RM43,000. You are RM7,000 short.

In such an example, most people approach an adviser to find out what could yield them higher returns. In the above example, any misadventures in your investments could possibly set you back in your acquisition of your next property.

What if this was your children’s education? You may not want to risk your child entering university two years late. These are things your adviser needs to know as there other alternatives.

Financial management is very much about balancing between these four requirements. While getting higher returns so you can meet your goal is one way, it’s not the only way! You have other options. So, let’s go back to the four questions.

Firstly, you could buy a cheaper property with RM43,000.
Alternatively, you could wait another year to purchase that property, giving you more time to save up.
Or, you could increase your monthly savings to RM600 at 3% per annum.
Lastly, consider investing in something that yields you 7% per annum.
So, really, out of four options, only one is about investing.

For the most part, investing plays quite an essential role in most people’s portfolio. However, before you even have that discussion, think about the goals you want to achieve and whether investing is required and what kind of investment performance is needed.

By Ong Shi Jie

For the most part, investing plays quite an essential role in most people’s portfolio. However, before you even have that discussion, think about the goals you want to achieve and whether investing is required and what kind of investment performance is needed, says Ong.

Ong Shi Jie (CJ) is head of wealth management, OCBC Bank (M) Bhd.

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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
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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.

Asia Pacific Economic Leadership Shifting from the US to China for Free Trade framework


Apec 2014 China_FTAAP roadmap

All together now: Apec leaders posing for a family picture at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing. Front row from left, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, US President Barack Obama, Xi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, (backrow from left) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Najib and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. — EPA

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit that just concluded in Beijing was no doubt China’s show. Beijing came out looking very much what it is touted to be — the world’s second-largest economy now leading the charge towards a free-trade region known as the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). For a once-closed economy that was not even part of the global trading system, this is one giant leap. In doing so, China overshadowed and reduced a rival initiative by the United States — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which excludes Beijing — to what is a subsidiary platform

Chinese President Xi Jinping has shown that the agenda of liberalising trade in the Asia-Pacific region cannot but take China into account; indeed, this agenda will be dictated by China from now on. To show how serious it is, the Beijing APEC Declaration came complete with a road map towards the realisation of the FTAAP, though a clear deadline was shelved for now.

With the US outmanoeuvred, the economic power game entered a second stage in Myanmar this week, where the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) hosted the East Asia Summit, in which both China and the US are members (with Beijing represented by Prime Minister Li Keqiang).

Interestingly, Beijing saw the revival of APEC as a major platform for regional economic integration — led by China. APEC has actually been the vehicle for trade liberalisation in the Asia-Pacific region since it was formed in 1989. Indeed, the FTAAP is not a Chinese idea, as Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made clear, but an APEC vision conceived in 2004 with its end-goal being a huge Asia-Pacific free-trade area.

But APEC lost its shine over time when no clear big-power champion emerged with the visionary leadership and commitment of then US President Bill Clinton, who hosted the first summit in Seattle in 1993.

During APEC’s downtime years, ASEAN fell back on its own trade liberalisation process, the Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA), and preached the message of trade liberalisation to the wider region. Two major platforms then emerged: One was the TPP, for which the US took leadership, with the exclusion of China. The other was the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), an outgrowth of the Asean Plus Three Summit comprising the association’s three North-east Asian trading partners, China, Japan and South Korea, as well as Australia, India and New Zealand.

China easily dominates the RCEP and insists that it be an East Asian platform — meaning it has no room for the US. This is partly the reason the US is eager to have the TPP as the key pathway to reach the FTAAP.

While the RCEP and the TPP evolve as competing platforms, both China and the US have, of late, downplayed this rivalry. This is just as well for Asean, whose members are divided between support for the RCEP and for the TPP. Only four of the 10 Asean members — Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam — are currently involved in the TPP negotiations, which demand a higher standard of trade liberalisation. The RCEP, on the other hand, sits better with many Asean members, virtually all of which benefit from huge trade with China.

The Asean dilemma

Apec 2014 China_ASEAN NUMBERSBut while Asean as a whole values China as a close economic partner, the group is also wary about Beijing as a security threat. This has resulted in a two-dimensional relationship — a duality, as some have called it — that Asean has with China: A growing economic relationship paradoxically matched by increasing political tension caused by Beijing’s aggressive claims to parts of the South China Sea.

How this two-dimensional relationship could be managed provided the backdrop for the Asean Summit this week in Myanmar and the East Asia Summit.

By stepping on the accelerator towards the FTAAP, China has virtually also quickened the pace of Asean’s own economic and political integration. The goal of an Asean Community — including a fully-integrated Asean Economic Community by December 31 next year — cannot be further delayed. At the moment, 80 per cent of its integration targets have been realised, with the remaining “hard part” set to be tackled after 2015.

But surely, the next lap cannot be only about tackling the unfinished business. If Asean Community 2015 is yet another pathway to the FTAAP, what is the vision of Asean after next year? This is where the group’s leaders must put on their thinking caps and collectively forge a road map to a new Asean that is a global player firmly situated in the 21st century.

This new vision must take into account the rapidly evolving economic and security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region. As displayed in Beijing this week, it will be a future in which China will not be shy to assert its economic leadership — in the same way it has staked its political dominance in the region.

As Asean leaders were convening for their summit in Naypyidaw, US President Barack Obama and Mr Xi in Beijing attempted to reforge the strategic relationship between the US and China, probing each other for a new calculus. Their major bilateral agreement on climate change was achieved in this context. But Mr Obama is a lame-duck President on his way out, while Mr Xi, who is only two years in office, will be around for a full decade to lead a rising superpower.

Asean’s dilemma is this: It appreciates the increasingly prosperous relationship that is blossoming with China under Mr Xi. Yet, Asean knows it is also entering a potentially tense future with Beijing under a leader who is prepared to flex China’s muscles — as seen in the resulting volatility regarding the South China Sea. Curiously, the tensions over the territorial disputes cooled down somewhat during the busy summit period.

Will Asean remain a mere bystander, watching from the wings as the power game continues to unfold between the two giants? Or will Asean do something to secure its pivotal position so it can shape the future regional balance in its favour? This key question must have preoccupied Asean leaders in Naypyidaw. ― Today

By Yang Razali Kassim, a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University.

Apec leaders all for free trade framework

BEIJING: The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting hosted by China endorsed the Beijing Roadmap for Apec to promote and realise the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

The roadmap details actions to be taken to achieve FTAAP – a trade liberalisation framework that China had pushed for – and includes undertaking a collective strategic study with results to be reported by 2016.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, during the summit held by the Yanqi Lake in the Huairou district, expressed Malaysia’s support on the roadmap.

“Malaysia sees the FTAAP as a natural progression for an overall trade arrangement across all economies in the region.

“What we have on the table now, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and Pacific Alliance, are building blocks towards the larger FTAAP,” he said.

Najib also called on Apec members to find a way out of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) impasse and place the Bali decisions back on track.

It was reported that an impasse over a global pact hammered out in Bali last December to streamline Customs procedures had paralysed all negotiations in the WTO.

“If we do not find a way out of the impasse, it means that the WTO can no longer hold sway as a rule-making entity,” said Najib yesterday.

The Apec summit, attended by heads of states from 21 Pacific Rim economies, also adopted a Connec­tivity Blueprint to promote integration through physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity.

Najib told Malaysian reporters here that Malaysia could play a role in enhancing connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region, citing bilateral projects such as the Malaysia-Singapore high-speed rail project as an example.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had reportedly expressed China’s interest to help build the rail link during his meeting with Najib on Monday.

Commenting on this, Najib said it was a bilateral project between Malaysia and Singapore and both countries would call for international tenders.

Najib also said Malaysia welcomed the blueprint on connectivity and commended China for initiating the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

He left Beijing yesterday evening.

Commenting on the visit, Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, who is the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to China, said mutual trust between China and Malaysia was growing stronger, judging from Najib’s bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Li in the Chinese capital.

“Najib was given special treatment. At China’s initiatives, he met both Xi and Li on the sidelines of the Apec summit,” Ong noted.

He added that Xi called for mutual support as China strived to realise the Chinese Dream and Malaysia the goal of becoming a high-income nation by 2020.

By Tho Xin Yin The Star/Asia News Network

 

ASEAN SUMMIT: China pushes for code at South China Sea

 

Asean 214 plus Three

Standing united: Najib (fifth from right) posing for photographs with Thein Sein (centre) and other Asean leaders during the closing of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre.

Beijing pledges US$20b in loans to boost Southeast Asian connectivity

China will push for the implementation of a code of conduct for the South China Sea – a document that will lessen the risk of escalating tensions in the area-but experts said such an agreement faces obstacles, at least in the short term.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reaffirmed China’s resolve to safeguard territorial sovereignty at a series of three regional meetings in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, on Thursday, saying the country is willing to adhere to the code, which has been under discussion for more than a decade.

Leaders from the Philippines and Vietnam, countries that have seen maritime tensions with China rise, also attended the meetings.

“China and Southeast Asian countries are close neighbours with common interests and diversified concerns. It is inevitable-not strange at all-that differences emerge among us, but those differences will not affect the general stability in the South China Sea,” Li said at the East Asia summit.

“I believe that as long as we treat each other with sincerity and seek common ground while acknowledging differences, there will be no insurmountable obstacles that will stand in our way,” Li said.

Li said China’s policy of building partnerships with its neighbours is sincere and consistent, and the situation in the South China Sea has been stable as freedom and safety of navigation is ensured.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last year that the code should reflect “consensus through negotiations” and “elimination of interference”, indicating that maritime issues should be left to the parties directly involved to sort out through dialogue.

The declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea was signed in 2002, in which all signatories agreed to work out a code of conduct to guide future activities in the region. But limited progress has been made in drafting the code since then.

In a bid to reach long-lasting peace in the region, Li pledged to speed up negotiations on a cooperation treaty.

China also agreed to establish a hotline for joint search and rescue efforts at sea as well as a hotline for senior officials.

Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said the negotiation of the code has gone on for more than 10 years because of different opinions regarding how the document will be drafted and whether it will allow third-party intervention.

Lu Jianren, the chief researcher of Sino-Asean relations at Guangxi University, said the importance of the code lies in the fact that it rules out the use of military force as a means to resolve issues and that no party is allowed to take further action to escalate tension.

Economic ties

Also at Thursday’s summit, China promised more loans and economic aid to Southeast Asia.

China will provide $10 billion in preferential loans to Asean countries and another development loan of $10 billion specifically for infrastructure.

China also started on projects for the second phase of the China-Asean Investment Cooperation Fund, which totals $3 billion.

Engineers have begun preliminary work on a rail network, which will start in Kunming, Yunnan province, and connect Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Kavi Chongkittavorn, senior fellow at the Institute of Security and International Study in Thailand, said China and Asean were forging ever closer ties and despite differences there are areas of growing cooperation.

“Economic opportunities exist for each party,” he said.

8 million more houses needed in Malaysia


Houses needed_alantongtoonPDF

MY attention was captured by a news entitled “The only place where housing is easily affordable” when reading The Times, a UK paper recently.

While I had expected some light on affordable housing solutions, I was surprised to find out that Copeland is the only area in England where house prices are less than three times the average annual salary of its residents.

According to the same article that quoted a research by UK Trade Union Congress (TUC), the number of “easily affordable” local authority areas across England has fallen from 72 to just one over the last 16 years. In prime areas, house prices reach as high as 32 times the average earnings of their residents.

Frances O’ Grady, the General Secretary of TUC which represents 6.2 million working people in the UK, called for an “ambitious programme” to bring the prices of homebuilding under control.

This resonates with the earlier comments made by the governor of the Bank of England (BoE) Mark Carney who said in May that the only long-term way to effectively bring down home prices is to build more homes.

In the UK, 63.8 million people lived in 26.4 million homes in 2012. This works out to about 2.4 persons per house.

There were calls for more homes even with such healthy ratio. Australia, which has a population of 21.5 million in 2013, has 9.1 million occupied houses or 2.4 persons per house.

At the recent World Class Sustainable Cities 2014 Conference, Kerry Doss from Brisbane City Council showed a slide presentation of persons per household over the past century.

As far back as 1927, Australia was already four persons per household. These made me reflect on the situation of our home country, especially since we too aspire to be a developed nation.

According to National Property Information Centre (NAPIC), we have a total of 4.7 million homes in the fourth quarter of 2013. As NAPIC does not track rural homes, we assume that only urbanites were taken into account in the survey.

This accounts for 70% of our 30 million population or 21 million people. Therefore, on average, there are 4.4 to 6.4 persons per household in our country.

This is a poorer ratio compared with Australia in 1927. This means we need to build four million to 7.8 million more houses to match the same ratio as the UK or Australia.

While we are aware that the Government aims to build one million affordable homes over a five-year timeline since last year, we still have quite a fair bit to catch up.

This is because we have only managed to build about 73,000 residential units per year for the last three years.

Under Budget 2015, it is encouraging to note that the Government plans to build 80,000 units under PR1MA and 63,000 units under another housing programme. This will bring the total planned units to 143,000. This figure is still way too low and the Government should consider building at least 200,000 units a year to meet the vision of one million affordable homes.

There should be a constant effort to track the progress of home-building. It is important to realise the goal of housing the nation by ensuring yearly targets are met.

Some of the measures that the Government can consider were recommended in my earlier articles.

They included freeing up state land for housing, purchasing agriculture land for development, building houses in rural areas and connecting them to the cities via public transports, as well as expediting the approval process to supply more houses to the market.

In addition to supplying more affordable homes to bring down prices of homes, there are also other factors to ensure that the rakyat have a roof over their heads.

In the same-mentioned article in The Times, Frances O’ Grady commented that, “Housing affordability isn’t just about house prices; decent wages are just as important.” I think it makes good sense and generates more food for thought for our nation.

By DATUK ALAN TONG

FIABCI Asia-Pacific regional secretariat chairman Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com


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Yes, right to comment on Perkasa Chief Ibrahim Ali, selective non-prosecution by A-G!


The Star CEO Wong: I have right to comment on bible-burning issue

PETALING JAYA: Star Publications Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai has hit out at detractors who criticised him for questioning the decision not to prosecute Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali over the Bible-burning remark.

Wong said he was entitled to comment on the decision made by the Attorney-General’s Chambers “just like other Malaysians who have the right to comment on contemporary issues”.

“It is not the monopoly of politicians and non-governmental organisations,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Wong said he was not the only one who had commented on the issue.

“Many other Malaysians, including Cabinet ministers, have expressed their sentiments. We have the right to comment on the decision of the A-G.

“As responsible and moderate Malaysians, we should focus our energy on bringing people together, not making statements that cause disunity,” he said.

Negri Sembilan Perkasa chief Ruslan Kassim. in a statement on Monday, urged Wong to stop “all the provocations” against Ibrahim and said that Wong need not teach the Attorney-General how to do his work.

Global Movement of Moderates chief executive officer Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah defended Wong, saying that Malaysians have the right to comment on the decision by the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

“The Attorney-General is not immune. One can always criticise people who commented on the Attorney-General’s decision, but the criticism should be on their statement.

“You can criticise a comment but to stop a person from commenting only shows that you do not understand democracy.

“Ruslan Kassim should argue against Wong’s reasoning, not stop him from commenting,” said Saifuddin.

Similar views were shared by unity advocate and author Anas Zubedy, who said Malaysians should be encouraged to speak up and comment when something was not right.

“We must not forget a very popular tradition by the first Caliph of Islam, Sayyidina Abu Bakar.

“He said that when he is right, follow him, but when he is wrong, correct him.

“If Malaysians feel that someone did wrong, we should be able to speak up and correct him,” said Anas.

In his On The Beat column on Sunday (see below: A mind-bloggling spin), Wong said the Attorney-General would set a dangerous precedent with his decision not to file charges against Ibrahim based on “context” and “intention”, which are matters that should be decided by the court.

“In future, any extremist, of whatever faith, can call for the burning of any holy book and then cite the same pathetic reason that he or she is merely defending the sanctity of his or her religion,” Wong said.

Last week, the Attorney-General’s Chambers said that no legal action was taken against Ibrahim because he was “defending the sanctity of Islam” and had no intention to create religious disharmony when he called for the burning of Bibles containing the word “Allah”.

Politicians from both sides of the divide have urged the Attorney-General to review the case against Ibrahim.

The Star/Asia News Network Nov 5 2014

A mind-boggling spin 

Perkasa Chief Ibrahim Ali

IT smacks of double standards and no one can fault moderate-minded Malaysians, who have some sense of justice and fairness, to feel that the statement from the Attorney-General’s Chambers lacks any conviction.

The ordinary Malaysians are finding it difficult to be convinced by the legal arguments put up by the Attorney-General on why Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali, who had called for the burning of the Bahasa Malaysia Bible, has not breached sedition laws.

We are now told that Ibrahim was merely defending the sanctity of Islam. No one can accept this mind-boggling spin, more so when it comes from the principal legal adviser to the government.

It is appropriate that former Court of Appeal judge Datuk K.C. Vohrah and the former head of the prosecution division of the AGC, Datuk Stanley Isaacs, have put forth their views (The Star, Oct 23, Oct 31 and Nov 1) on why the A-G’s legal reasoning cannot stand. Vohrah had also served in the AGC and is fully aware of how the system works.

The A-G’s decision not to file charges against Ibrahim based on “context” and “intention”, which are actually matters for the court to decide under the Sedition Act, is a dangerous precedent.

In future, any extremist, of whatever faith, can call for the burning of any holy book, and then cite the same pathetic reason that he or she was merely defending the sanctity of his or her religion.

It is simply unacceptable for anyone to belittle another religion, and worse still, in this particular case, even calling for the burning of a holy book.

We were already shocked by the reply from the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri in Parliament and the A-G’s statement justifying Ibrahim’s action certainly made matters worse.

We are now told that we must read Ibrahim’s remarks “in the entire context”. Going by the same argument, how then does the A-G justify the other recent sedition cases?

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has also weighed in with a comment that Ibrahim “was giving an opinion that could be accepted by Muslims as it was not seditious”.

Those of us who have followed closely the political career of the former prime minister would know that he has always stood by his supporters, in this case, Ibrahim. But with due respect to Dr Mahathir, we believe he should and would also stand by the side of justice and fairness, as we are sure he would oppose any form of extremism.

But the statements from the A-G and Dr Mahathir are unacceptable because what they are saying, in short and simple layman’s language, is that Ibrahim has done no wrong and they wonder what the fuss is all about.

Ibrahim can actually now say that he can carry on with what he has said. After all, the A-G, who is the sole authority in deciding who to prosecute, has not only let him off, but given us reasons that basically open the door for similar actions in the future. And it certainly does not help that Dr Mahathir, with his own way of reasoning over the burning of holy books, has stood by him.

The A-G’s argument on “context” and “intention” sounds more like what the defence counsel for Ibrahim would say if he had been charged. And even then, going by the provisions of the Sedition Act, such a defence would probably be struck down.

So we are to believe that Ibrahim is merely expressing an opinion which is not seditious. How convenient.

My fellow columnist in The Star and Universiti Malaya law professor Azmi Sharom has been charged with sedition for expressing an opinion which is not even about religion or race.

Many Malaysians are still wondering how Azmi’s opinion could have caused offence or threatened national security, while a number of high-profile and consistently recalcitrant extremists continue to get away with their offensive statements.

Who can blame Malaysians if they deem that the authorities are being selective in who they haul up for sedition.

If anyone dares to call for the burning of the Quran, I am confident that all rational-minded Malaysians will rise up and ask for the person to be arrested immediately and be charged with sedition.

If there is any non-Muslim stupid enough to make such a call, then all the non-Muslims in this country must speak out. No non-Muslim should remain silent if such an offensive remark is made to cause offence to their fellow citizens who are Muslims.

Likewise, I think Malaysians expect the same response from non-Christians when someone calls for the destruction of the Bible.

And the ordinary people’s response must be supported by the politicians and the leaders. It is very sad for Malaysia when politicians keep a deafening silence when gross injustice is done.

We expect our politicians to be the leaders of all Malaysians, regardless of their race and faith, and not to merely represent the interests of their own race.

No one should have the suspicion or perception that only the feelings of one race matters in Malaysia.

All it takes is for one individual or one NGO to express a negative view on the activities of another community, be it with regard to Oktoberfest, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, a concert or whatever, and suddenly the whole nation is engulfed in a major debate which takes up so much valuable time and resources, especially from the authorities who have more serious matters to deal with.

In a maturing democracy, we cannot prevent anyone from articulating their views and beliefs, even those that we find most objectionable.

Our challenge is to remind ourselves that while they do not represent the majority view, they must not be allowed to gain ground because the majority has chosen to remain silent. The voices of moderation must ring out loud and clear, all the time.

In a plural society like ours, everyone has the right to practise and celebrate any occasion. It is certainly far-fetched and even laughable to suggest that there are atheists and non-Muslims who want to weaken the faith of their fellow Malaysians.

Events like Halloween and Valentine’s Day do not even have any religious significance. In fact, they are nothing more than commercially driven opportunities for the entertainment and food outlets.

We should be thankful that we are a nation where religion is paramount. The first principle of our Rukunegara espouses our “Belief in God”.

But our faith is not just about religious rulings and paraphernalia. It is in the way we live our lives – how we exhibit compassion, mercy, justice for fellow human beings, and in our concerns over what is wrong and unjustifiable in our country, be it with regard to corruption, intolerance, violence, and the growing divide between the rich and the poor.

These should be the concerns of all religious leaders in their sermons and statements, instead of dwelling on petty issues. They should focus on common values shared by all Malaysians instead of dividing us further.

The Kelantan PAS state government is now determined to go ahead with the implementation of hudud law and again, non-Muslims are expected to believe that they would not be affected by these Islamic laws.

Whatever our faith, we are all closely linked in our daily lives. The laws peculiar to one faith, if implemented in a plural society, will have implications for everyone. To even suggest non-Muslims are not affected is laughable but there will be non-Muslims, because of their anger towards the federal government, who would actually want to believe so and even vote for PAS, which has never hidden its Islamist plans and ambition.

Let’s get our priorities and bearings right.

Malaysia is at the crossroads. We can, as a united people, go straight and take the middle path, and be sure we are on the correct track where we support one another.

Or we can allow ourselves to be divided and take different roads, which will mean we no longer believe in a common destiny.

Our choice is simple – we must all fight to keep Malaysia moderate and inclusive, and fully embrace the vision of our founding fathers.

On The Beat by Wong Chun Wai The Star/Asia News Network Sun Nov 2, 2014

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published.  In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

A case of selective non-prosecution

Untouchable?: Many felt that the A-G’s decision not to prosecute Ibrahim was faulty and untenable.

The case of Datuk Ibrahim Ali not being charged with sedition over his Bible-burning remarks remains a perplexing one for Malaysians seeking an answer to what they feel is an example of ‘selective non-prosecution’.

THE Attorney-General decided last week not to charge Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali with sedition for uttering words to the effect that Malay Bibles should be burned.

It is the same law under which nearly a dozen activists had been charged.

Although the Federal Constitution gives the A-G sole discretion whether to charge a person or not, that decision not to charge Ibrahim has invited considerable criticisms not only from retired judges and prosecutors but also from former and serving political leaders, priests and laymen.

They felt that the A-G’s decision was faulty, untenable and even smacks of double standards.

The legal arguments notwithstanding, the damage to inter-ethnic relations and to inter-religious harmony is incalculable.

Christians are upset because they felt there is a clear case of sedition but Ibrahim “escaped” being charged because the A-G stated that “he had no intention to create religious disharmony” when he called for the burning of those Bibles.

While judges and lawyers will argue over intention and context, the A-G decided that he would not lay charges because he thinks the “intention” was absent.

The A-G has usurped the powers of the courts.

“It is for the courts to decide “intention”, not him.

His decision means that Ibrahim got away scot-free.

And that is unacceptable to those who feel that Ibrahim has crossed the line and deserves to be punished.

They find it difficult to buy the A-G’s reasoning.

“It smacks of double standards,” said a well-known lawyer who declined to be named. “You can’t fault ordinary Malaysians for thinking otherwise.”

“This decision by the A-G is simply mind-blowing.

“His decision not to charge Ibrahim Ali is not only bad in law but he also walks a political minefield,” he said.

“His job is to lay the charges as he had on a dozen other activists who were charged with sedition.

“Let the court decide whether any of them had any ill-intention,” he said.

“Is Ibrahim Ali so influential that he is untouchable?” he asked.

There has been all sorts of speculation in the aftermath of the A-G’s decision, which was perceived to be bending backwards to accommodate right wing forces.

Another lawyer pointed out former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s support for Ibrahim.

Dr Mahathir made a big mistake by standing by Ibrahim and supporting him with his convoluted thoughts, the lawyer said.

“He should have stood behind moderate Malaysians in the country who are aghast at the way things are becoming,” she said.

Who can blame Malaysians for thinking that the authorities are being selective in deciding who to haul up in court when it comes to laying sedition charges?

Ordinary Malaysians are speaking up in the ways they know, in social media, on Twitter and Facebook.

These critics posted nasty comments on how Ibrahim is walking free and how the A-G, instead of laying charges, is acting like a defence lawyer.

Why is the reaction to “burning Malay Bibles” as uttered by Ibrahim so muted?

Why is it so defensive? Why is Dr Mahathir defending Ibrahim? Why is the A-G giving excuses for Ibrahim?

These are questions which ordinary Malaysians find perplexing.

The A-G should also use wisely the discretions allowed to him.

He should always have an ear on the ground on what the public feels is the right thing to do.

You can’t go wrong because this is a participatory democracy and not a dictatorship of a few over many.

>The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

By Baradan Kuppusamy The Star/Asia News Network Nov 4 2014

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US’s Quantitative Easing (QE) ended, but not financial supremacy


QE End

By Luo Jie

The Federal Reserve has officially announced an end to the third round of its quantitative easing bond-buying program. To deal with the financial crisis and make up for the failure of the US government to adequately stimulate the economy, the Federal Reserve has generated trillions of dollars for the American economy in the past six years. It shifted its own financial burden to the rest of the world to some extent.

Europe and Japan also adopted the policy of quantitative easing, albeit with little result. But the US achieved its goal. The fundamental reason is that it is the dollar, rather than the euro or the yen, which is the world’s currency for clearance and reserve. The US dominance of the world’s financial system has remained quite solid.

When the US pushed forward this policy of quantitative easing, the world complained because the US was dragging down countries and institutions that hold US dollars. Now that the US government and the Federal Reserve have gained some confidence, quantitative easing was abandoned. But Washington has shown indifference to the world’s reactions.

In the past six years, there has been much discussion of US decline. The situation in Iraq and Afghanistan enables people to see the limitation of US influence, but the capabilities of US systems still surpass those of other countries. These capabilities are more than enough to maintain the US as a global superpower when it is at the center of a global crisis.

Some media recently speculated that on the purchasing-power basis, China is overtaking the US and becoming the world’s biggest economy. China’s GDP has been supported by low-end economic activities. It has a long way to go to build up its high-end economic capabilities and build financial systems. Besides the economy, China lags behind the US in terms of national defense, soft power and diplomatic partnerships.

To put it more precisely, China cannot compare with the US. But comparing the two has been popular both within and outside China. Chasing or passing the US can hardly become a China policy. China needs to undergo a tough process to make it stronger.

Both China and the US should keep a sober mind to discuss the possibilities of big power relationship patterns in the 21st century. US financial dominance indeed makes China uneasy, while China takes the initiative to establish an Asian infrastructure investment bank, the US is highly alert and tries to exclude its allies such as Australia and South Korea.

China is clear about its gap with the US. How to narrow it is not only an issue for China, but also for both. The US will not be able to monopolize the world’s development opportunities. Its material decline is real, and only when it adds flexibility to the current world order, can its interests be maximized. In the international community, when the strength of a superpower is declining, its morality will be tested.

Souce: Global Time

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