Facebook delves into Cryptocurrency, the Libra coin plan


Cryptocurrency and Facebook logo are seen together in this photo. Photo: IC

Experts raise concerns over privacy and regulation

Facebook unveiled plans Tuesday for a new global cryptocurrency called Libra, pledging to deliver stable virtual money that lives on smartphones and could bring over a billion “unbanked” people into the financial system.

The Libra coin plan, backed by financial and nonprofit partners, represents an ambitious new initiative for the world’s biggest social network with the potential to bring crypto-money out of the shadows and into the mainstream.

Facebook and some two dozen partners released a prototype of Libra as an open source code for developers interested in weaving it into apps, services or businesses ahead of a rollout as global digital money next year.

The nonprofit Libra Association based in Geneva will oversee the blockchain-based coin, maintaining a real-world asset reserve to keep its value stable.

The Libra Association’s Dante Disparte said it could offer online commerce and financial services at minimal cost to more than a billion “unbanked” people – adults without bank accounts or those who use services outside the banking system such as payday loans to make ends meet.

“We believe if you give people access to money and opportunity at the lowest cost, the way the internet itself did in the past with information, you can create a lot more stability than we have had up until now,” Disparte, head of policy and communications, told AFP.

Facebook will be just one voice among many in the association, but is separately building a digital wallet called Calibra.

“We view this as a complement to Facebook’s mission to connect people wherever they are; that includes allowing them to exchange value,” Calibra vice president of operations Tomer Barel told AFP.

“Many people who use Facebook are in countries where there are barriers to banking or credit.”

But the move raised questions about how such a new money would be regulated, with one lawmaker calling for a pause on Libra.

“Given the company’s troubled past, I am requesting that Facebook agree to a moratorium on any movement forward on developing a cryptocurrency until Congress and regulators have the opportunity to examine these issues,” said Maxine Waters, chair of the financial services committee in the US House of Representatives.

Meanwhile French Finance Minister Bruno le Maire said such digital money could never replace sovereign currencies.

“The aspect of sovereignty must stay in the hands of states and not private companies which respond to private interests,” Le Maire told Europe 1 radio.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said Facebook’s new currency would have to withstand scrutiny of its operational resilience and not allow itself to be used for money laundering or terror financing.

ING economists Teunis Brosens and Carlo Cocuzzo said in a research note it was not clear what Libra was or how it might be overseen while US Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat and banking committee member, voiced concerns over Facebook’s checkered record on protecting users’ privacy.

Backed by real cash

Libra Association debuted with 28 members including Mastercard, Visa, Stripe, Kiva, PayPal, Lyft, Uber and Women’s World Banking.

Calibra is being built into Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp with a goal of letting users send Libra as easily as they might fire off a text message.

Libra learned from the many other cryptocurrencies that have preceded it such as bitcoin and is designed to avoid the roller-coaster valuations that have attracted speculation and caused ruin.

Real-world currency will go into a reserve backing the digital money, the value of which will mirror stable currencies such as the US dollar and the euro, according to its creators.

“It is backed by a reserve of assets that ensures utility and low volatility,” Barel said.

The Libra Association will be the only entity able to “mint or burn” the digital currency, maintaining supply in tune with demand and assets in reserve, according to Barel.

“It is not about trusting Facebook, it is effectively trust in the association’s founding organizations that this is independent and democratic,” Disparte said.

New directions

The launch comes with Facebook seeking to move past a series of lapses on privacy and data protection that have tarnished its image and sparked scrutiny from regulators around the world.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has promised a new direction for Facebook built around smaller groups, private messaging and payments.

The new Calibra digital wallet promises eventually to give Facebook opportunities to build financial services into its offerings, offer to expand its own commerce and let more small businesses buy ads on the social network.

“We certainly see long-term value for Facebook,” Barel said.

Facebook said it would not make any money through Libra or Calibra, but rather was seeking to “drive adoption and scale” before exploring ways to monetize the new system.

Financial information at Calibra will be kept strictly separate from social data on Facebook and won’t be used to target ads, Calibra vice president of product Kevin Weil told AFP.

Libra will be a regulated currency, subject to local laws in markets regarding fraud, guarding against money laundering and more, Weil said.

‘Watershed’ moment?

According to Facebook and its partners, local currencies and Libra may be swapped at currency exchange houses or other businesses.

And the ubiquity of smartphones means digital wallets for Libra could make banking and credit card services and e-commerce available in places where they don’t now exist.

Analyst and cryptocurrency investor Lou Kerner said Facebook’s move has the potential to open the door for cryptocurrency to a wider public.

“What Facebook is really good at, is making things really simple to use,” Kerner told AFP.

“And that’s what is super exciting for the crypto industry, is somebody comes along who understands user experience and has billions of users that they can roll this out to.”

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Blockchain Festival & Conference Week, Kuala Lumpur 26~27 Sept 2018


BLOCFEST www.blocfest.asia

SOUTHEAST ASIA’S INTERNATIONAL BLOCKCHAIN EVENT

Blockchain and beyond

Brothers Hway (left) and Tze-Co say networking will be a big part of the Blocfest conference. — ART CHEN/The Star

Educate yourself on blockchain technology which is transforming businesses around the globe.

What began as an experiment in buying Bitcoin for a holiday led two brothers to explore blockchain technology and eventually organise a blockchain conference – Blocfest 2018 – which will feature more than 30 ­international speakers.

Gwei Tze-Co, 49, started investing in Bitcoin four years ago, ahead of a trip to Brazil to attend the 2014 World Cup.

“I was planning to go to Argentina after the World Cup and read that the currency situation was so bad there that you could use Bitcoin instead. I bought some but didn’t end up using it,” he says.

But that initial investment got him hooked on blockchain and cryptocurrency, especially Ethereum.

Meanwhile, Gwei Hway, 43, who is a ­programmer and has worked in tech firms for the last 20 years, was drawn to ­blockchain and cryptocurrency because of his brother’s fascination for them.

Tze-Co says in Malaysia blockchain is still an emerging technology though a few good projects by local founders have been launched.

“However, lots of people just use blockchain and cryptocurrency for hype. To put it bluntly, there’s a lot of scams and many Malaysians are falling for them,” he says.

He says that a conference with legitimate speakers sharing their experience could go a long way in educating people on how blockchain can make a difference in their businesses.

He adds that once a person better understands blockchain technology and especially how it’s used in business, it will be easier for him or her to identify the fake ones.

This is one of the reasons the brothers are organising Blocfest through their company, Blockchain Asia Sdn Bhd, which is scheduled to take place at the Shangri-La Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, on Sept 26 and 27.

The two-day conference will focus on the potential of blockchain technology in South-East Asia and feature speakers from various ­backgrounds, including ­blockchain entrepreneurs, developers, global investors, academics and ­enthusiasts.

Discussions at the conference will be divided into three streams – Regulatory, Academic and Enterprise.

Regulatory will help you understand the current regulatory landscape and what’s in store in the future for blockchain; Academy will tackle academic concepts and their impact on blockchain; and Enterprise will highlight technological aspects of blockchain and potential use-case scenarios.

Hway expects half the attendees to come from enterprises which aren’t too familiar with blockchain technology but are exploring how it could be relevant to them, while the remaining will be investors, academics and experts in the field.

“Networking is definitely a big part of the conference, and as many solution providers will be present in the exhibition halls, we expect a lot of companies to ink deals or find partnerships,” he says.

Joining the conversation will be ­regulators from countries that have begun to explore the issue, including Taiwanese Member of Parliament Jason Hsu, better known as the Crypto Congressman due to his staunch ­support for the technology, and a ­representative from the Philippines’ Cagayan Economic Zone Authority which spearheads the country’s financial ­technology efforts.

Tze-Co says there have been talks to get Malaysian regulators to ­participate and share their thoughts on the laws required to facilitate blockchain in Malaysia but the discussion is ongoing.

Other key speakers that will be at Blocfest are cryptofinance ­platform Fusion’s founder Dejun Qian, blockchain veteran and ProximaX Ltd founder Lon Wong, anti-counterfeit system Wabi’s CEO Alexander Busarov, and dating marketplace Viola.AI’s CEO Violet Lim.

In addition to Blocfest, ­attendees can also take part in several other events during the KL Blockchain Week, which will be held between Sept 24 and 27, including a ­hackathon.

Those interested in attending Blocfest can get 40% off VIP ­tickets priced at US$450 (RM1,860) or normal ­tickets priced at US$375 (RM1,550) by keying in the promo code BLOC40D ­during checkout but this offer is only ­available for a limited time. Visit www.blocfest.asia for more ­information.

Credit:Qishin Tariq The Star online

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Malaysia to end cronyism?


https://youtu.be/vmqElJnDURI

//players.brightcove.net/4405352761001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5717349859001

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has vowed to end “crony capitalists” whose wealth came at the cost of ordinary Malaysians, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Prime Minister said lessons had been learnt from past mistakes in planning Malaysia’s economic transformation, after confronting many “legacy issues” along the way.

“Some of the country’s development under a former leader came with an unnecessary price tag, in the form of a class of crony capitalists,” he said in his keynote address at Invest Malaysia 2018 yesterday.

Citing public transport as an example, Najib said massive overhauls had to be done to rectify the issue.

“For decades, public transport was neglected. It was incoherent, with different owners, different systems and certainly no integration

“One man’s obsession with the idea of a national car – which is now being turned around under international joint ownership – led to Malaysia lacking an efficient public transport system.

“This was a serious obstacle to achieve high-income status and for Kuala Lumpur to be a world-class capital,” he said.

Although no name was mentioned throughout his speech, it was an apparent dig at former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib also said that during this time, the Government had signed independent power producer concessions that were lopsided.

“Consumers had to pay far more for energy than they should have, even for energy they were not using.

“This was a real burden to the people, so we renegotiated these concessions – and determined that in the future, we would not allow private companies to earn excessively at the expense of ordinary Malaysians,” he said.

Najib also pointed out that the ringgit had been pegged against the US dollar for “far too long”.

“Investors and global markets lost confidence in us, and it took a long time to win that back. That was a very heavy cost to the country,” he said, stressing that the Government would never repeat that measure.

He also spoke on the challenges at state-owned institutions, such as 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which were amplified and used as a tool to suggest that Malaysia’s economy was collapsing.

“I’m not going to brush over this issue. There were indeed failings at the company, there were lapses of governance. There was a valid cause for concern.

“This is why I ordered one of the most comprehensive and detailed investigations in Malaysia’s corporate history, one that involved multiple lawful authorities, including a bipartisan parliamentary body.

“Their findings were taken on board and the company’s board was dissolved, its management team changed and its operations reviewed,” he said.

On another note, Najib rubbished claims that Malaysia was welcoming foreign direct investments (FDIs) by selling out the nation’s sovereignty.

“My Government will never sacrifice an inch of our sovereignty,” he said, adding that while RM63bil in FDI stock came from China and Hong Kong, there was more from Japan at RM70bil.

“You don’t hear anyone warning that we are selling our country to the Japanese.

“Of course not. They are most welcome here. So are investors from Africa, the Americas, China, the European Union, India, Saudi Arabia and around the world,” he said.

Malaysia continues to improve in three key areas

Moving forward: Najib attending the Invest Malaysia 2018 launch together with (from left) Bursa Malaysia Bhd CEO Datuk Seri Tajuddin Atan, Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah, Chief Secretary Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, Finance Minister II Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani, Bursa Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Amirsham Abdul Aziz and Malayan Banking Bhd chairman Datuk Mohaiyani Shamsudin in Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will continue to develop three key areas – transparency, accountability and efficiency – to attract more investments, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Prime Minister observed that the country’s excellent economic and financial fundamentals had greatly benefitted local and foreign investors, providing them with stability, strength and certainty.

“We will continue to make our country even more business- and market-friendly, which means we are always working to improve transparency, accountability and efficiency.

“The Securities Commission, Bursa Malaysia, Bank Negara Malaysia and the Finance Ministry have continuously introduced and supported measures to increase the dynamism of our capital market.

“Towards this objective, I can assure you that we can expect further measures in the near future,” he said in his keynote address at Invest Malaysia 2018 here yesterday.

The two-day annual event is jointly organised by Bursa Malaysia Bhd and Maybank. A total of 61 local companies, with a combined market capitalisation of RM767.6bil were featured in the event.

The Prime Minister also cited figures that justified the confidence in Malaysia shown by investors and global institutions.

“Our total trade grew strongly by 20.8% between January and November last year, while in November alone, gross exports reached double-digit growth of 14.4%, with the highest receipts ever recorded, at RM83.5bil.

“Last year, foreign net fund inflow recorded a positive RM10.8bil, the highest since 2012, while corporate bond and new sukuk issuance reached RM111.2bil for 11 months of the year, close to 30% higher than the whole of 2016,” he said.

Najib also observed that Malaysia has enjoyed years of strong growth, with figures that most developed economies “could only dream of”, even during times of economic uncertainty.

“In fact, last year Malaysia exceeded all expectations, with the World Bank having to revise its estimate for our growth upwards not once, not twice, but three times – to 5.8%,” he said.

Najib added the World Economic Global Competitiveness index for 2017 and 2018 rate Malaysia very highly out of 137 countries.

The country is ranked third for Strength of Investor Protection, fifth for Pay and Productivity, fifth for the low Burden of Government Regulation and 14th for the Quality of Education System.

“The International Monetary Fund has also praised our sound macroeconomic policy responses in the face of significant headwinds and risks.

“The World Bank also recently confirmed that it believes Malaysia is on track, and that we are expected to achieve high-income status in the next few years,” he said.

Source: The Staronline

 

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The Asian financial crisis – 20 years later




East Asian Economies Remain Diverse

 

It is useful to reflect on whether lessons have been learnt and if the countries are vulnerable to new crises.

IT’S been 20 years since the Asian financial crisis struck in July 1997. Since then, there has been an even bigger global financial crisis, starting in 2008. Will there be another crisis?

The Asian crisis began when speculators brought down the Thai baht. Within months, the currencies of Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia were also affected. The East Asian Miracle turned into an Asian Financial Nightmare.

Despite the affected countries receiving only praise before the crisis, weaknesses had built up, including current account deficits, low foreign reserves and high external debt.

In particular, the countries had recently liberalised their financial system in line with international advice. This enabled local private companies to freely borrow from abroad, mainly in US dollars. Companies and banks in Korea, Indonesia and Thailand had in each country rapidly accumulated over a hundred billion dollars of external loans. This was the Achilles heel that led their countries to crisis.

These weaknesses made the countries ripe for speculators to bet against their currencies. When the governments used up their reserves in a vain attempt to stem the currency fall, three of the countries ran out of foreign exchange.

They went to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for bailout loans that carried draconian conditions that worsened their economic situation.

Malaysia was fortunate. It did not seek IMF loans. The foreign reserves had become dangerously low but were just about adequate. If the ringgit had fallen a bit further, the danger line would have been breached.

After a year of self-imposed austerity measures, Malaysia dramatically switched course and introduced a set of unorthodox policies.

These included pegging the ringgit to the dollar, selective capital controls to prevent short-term funds from exiting, lowering interest rates, increasing government spending and rescuing failing companies and banks.

This was the opposite of orthodoxy and the IMF policies. The global establishment predicted the sure collapse of the Malaysian economy.

But surprisingly, the economy recovered even faster and with fewer losses than the other countries. Today, the Malaysian measures are often cited as a successful anti-crisis strategy.

The IMF itself has changed a little. It now includes some capital controls as part of legitimate policy measures.

The Asian countries, vowing never to go to the IMF again, built up strong current account surpluses and foreign reserves to protect against bad years and keep off speculators. The economies recovered, but never back to the spectacular 7% to 10% pre-crisis growth rates.

Then in 2008, the global financial crisis erupted with the United States as its epicentre. The tip of the iceberg was the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the massive loans given out to non-credit-worthy house-buyers.

The underlying cause was the deregulation of US finance and the freedom with which financial institutions could devise all kinds of manipulative schemes and “financial products” to draw in unsuspecting customers. They made billions of dollars but the house of cards came tumbling down.

To fight the crisis, the US, under President Barack Obama, embarked first on expanding government spending and then on financial policies of near-zero interest rates and “quantitative easing”, with the Federal Reserve pumping trillions of dollars into the US banks.

It was hoped the cheap credit would get consumers and businesses to spend and lift the economy. But instead, a significant portion of the trillions went via investors into speculative activities, including abroad to emerging economies.

Europe, on the verge of recession, followed the US with near zero interest rates and large quantitative easing, with limited results.

The US-Europe financial crisis affected Asian countries in a limited way through declines in export growth and commodity prices. The large foreign reserves built up after the Asian crisis, plus the current account surplus situation, acted as buffers against external debt problems and kept speculators at bay.

Just as important, hundreds of billions of funds from the US and Europe poured into Asia yearly in search of higher yields. These massive capital inflows helped to boost Asian countries’ growth, but could cause their own problems.

First, they led to asset bubbles or rapid price increases of houses and the stock markets, and the bubbles may burst when they are over-ripe.

Second, many of the portfolio investors are short-term funds looking for quick profit, and they can be expected to leave when conditions change.

Third, the countries receiving capital inflows become vulnerable to financial volatility and economic instability.

If and when investors pull some or a lot of their money out, there may be price declines, inadequate replenishment of bonds, and a fall in the levels of currency and foreign reserves.

A few countries may face a new financial crisis.

A new vulnerability in many emerging economies is the rapid build-up of external debt in the form of bonds denominated in the local currency.

The Asian crisis two decades ago taught that over-borrowing in foreign currency can create difficulties in debt repayment should the local currency level fall.

To avoid this, many countries sold bonds denominated in the local currency to foreign investors.

However, if the bonds held by foreigners are large in value, the country will still be vulnerable to the effects of a withdrawal.

As an example, almost half of Malaysian government securities, denominated in ringgit, are held by foreigners.

Though the country does not face the risk of having to pay more in ringgit if there is a fall in the local currency, it may have other difficulties if foreigners withdraw their bonds.

What is the state of the world economy, what are the chances of a new financial crisis, and how would the Asian countries like Malaysia fare?

These are big and relevant questions to ponder 20 years after the start of the Asian crisis and nine years after the global crisis.

But we will have to consider them in another article.

By Martin Khor Global Trend

Martin Khor (director@southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
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Money game scourge


Easier option: Poor experience with regulated investment product providers may be the reason for investors to go for ‘alternative’

Poor wealth management experiences fuel money games

OVER the past 2 months, it was virtually impossible to pick up any newspaper and not read reports about the money game phenomenon that has taken the media by storm.

It is as if the Pandora’s Box had been suddenly flung open by the exposé of JJPTR, leading to other similar schemes coming to light.

The victim profile ranges from white-collared professionals and savvy businessmen to senior citizens and housewives. It would appear as if just about anyone from different walks of life could be susceptible to these money schemes.

It is easy for observers and bystanders to pin the blame on the investors for getting themselves in a sticky situation. After all, if we apply the caveat emptor (buyer beware) principle to other types of goods and services, the investors should have clearly known the risks of subscribing to these money games and therefore should have been aware of the possibility of losing their investments.

So, what caused groups of people to lose their common sense when it comes to money games?

Scams come in many shapes, sizes and forms but look closely and you will see that they all have many things in common in terms of the modus operandi and the people they seem to attract. From JJPTR and MBI International right at our doorstep to China’s Nanning investment scheme and the most notorious Ponzi scheme of all times – the Madoff scandal, all these scams preyed on innate human weaknesses and appealed to investors’ desire to grow their wealth.

Many would be quick to label these investors as greedy or gullible, but I beg to differ. I see nothing wrong with wanting to achieve financial freedom and get higher investment returns. The people who invested and lost in these scams are not multi-millionaires with ample financial resources. They are average Malaysians who have worked hard and saved their money for a rainy day, only to see their nest egg disappear into thin air. What drove them to place the precious results of their blood, sweat and tears into unregulated investment schemes?

I am convinced that the reason stems from the investors’ poor experience with regulated investment product providers.

The so-called ‘push’ factor

There is a mismatch of what consumers need and what financial institutions are trying to sell. Consumers want guidance on how to use regulated investments as a means to grow their wealth with high certainty and achieve financial freedom.

The general public sees banks as an easy, accessible channel to obtain advice on personal finance and investment matters via wealth management services. There is no issue with legitimacy as the array of financial products and services available through banks are duly approved by the regulatory authorities.

The problem arises when investors are not getting what they need, which is advisory support, from their current wealth management providers. More often than not, investors feel overwhelmed by the choices available in the market. Worse still, investors do not know what action to take when their investments lose money. It is not uncommon to find that the wealth management providers are very attentive and proactive in recommending options; but once the sales is concluded, the investor is basically left to his or her own devices.

As a result of the lack of hand-holding or after-sales service, some investors may find that rather than growing money, they end up losing 20%-30% of their capital. The sheer irony of it is that because of the experience of losing money, they now perceive regulated investments as highly volatile and uncertain, and ultimately lose faith. I have personally encountered clients who harbour such misgivings about unit trusts, that they would bluntly tell me right from the initial meeting, not to propose such options to them.

I realised then the extent to which poor experiences with wealth management providers can lead to misplaced biases against certain investment vehicles even though investors could benefit from the right ones. When disillusioned investors turn their heads elsewhere, this is when they discover “alternative” investment options. And many end up falling for money games because they are sold on the idea of fixed return investments perceived to be low risk, coupled with the promise of better returns.

In this instance, the “push” factor, i.e. the unmet financial needs of consumers, which contributed to investors subscribing to shady schemes, has equal bearing to the “pull” factor (attraction) of these money scams.

“I am like any other man. All I do is supply a demand.” – Al Capone, American mobster

As with most goods and services that are detrimental to our well-being (e.g. junk food, cigarettes, gambling, etc), it is consumers’ demand for them that drives their industry and makes them thrive. Without customers, these shady businesses would naturally die off.

The ability of the money games to proliferate boils down to the “smart” business acumen of the operators to “fill the gap” so to speak. By offering an alternative investment scheme at a time when the market is slow and when many investors are experiencing losses, these money games are seen as a sudden golden ticket towards becoming rich. However, as we have seen, the golden ticket eventually loses its shine and the investors are left holding nothing but a worthless scrap of paper.

Therefore, there would be fewer victims of money games if the wealth management industry as a whole were to step up and reinvent themselves into a genuine one-stop financial centre to help their clients address all financial and investment issues at various points of their lives.

When the grass on one side is always greener, the rest will not matter

In order to ensure that they are seen by clients as the “go-to” person for all financial and investment related concerns, wealth management providers will need to exceed expectations and to a certain degree, over-deliver on their current role.

Wealth managers could assist clients to evaluate various investment proposals to determine its suitability and guide clients to use regulated investment vehicles to invest in various asset classes such as equities, bonds, REITs and foreign investments to grow their money effectively. They could also play the role of a financial bodyguard to help investors fend off scams and illegitimate investments.

In an ideal world, wealth managers will set aside sufficient time and effort to understand the client’s financial position in a holistic manner. They will prepare a tailored and dynamic plan with milestones and checkpoints to help monitor and review progress.

To my peers in the wealth management industry, I would say, cut the lip service and let’s get serious about managing and growing wealth for our clients.

When more and more investors realise that they are able to count on their wealth management providers for all the required support they need to achieve their financial end game, then money games will no longer have room to take root.

Money & You Yap Ming Hui

Yap Ming Hui (ymh@whitman.com.my) is a bestselling author, TV personality, columnist, coach and host of Yap’s Money Live Show online. He feels that the financial world is getting too complicated for everyone, and initiated a weekly online show to address the issues.For more information, please visit his website at www.whitman.com.my
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On Mcoin, Bitcoin and points of investment


MCOIN is still very much a talking point, especially in Penang. To the uninitiated, it is the “digital currency” of MBI International, a company involved in a myriad of activities and hogging the limelight for the wrong reasons after being flagged as one of the entities not recognised by Bank Negara.

Since Bank Negara’s warning two weeks ago, the company’s accounts amounting to some RM177mil have been frozen. The cash in question is significantly much more than the previous major scheme that came under probe by Bank Negara and other agencies.

In 2012, the authorities froze RM99.8mil in bank accounts of Genneva Malaysia Sdn Bhd. Also, 126kg of gold were carted away from the office. It has been five years and the investors, most of them ordinary wage earners looking to earn an extra buck from their savings, have yet to receive their money.

One of the reasons is likely that the liabilities of Genneva Malaysia are 10 times more than the assets recovered.

MBI International, which is primarily based in Penang, has a network stretching up to China. According to reports, it has come under pressure from some investors wanting a return of their money.

However, outlets in M Mall in Penang are still accepting Mcoin for the purchase of goods and services. There is no rush to cash out, as one would have expected, considering that the accounts of MBI International have been frozen.

Nonetheless, it is only a matter of time before the value of Mcoin and the ability of MBI International to return money to its investors is put to the test.

Based on previous events that led to companies having their bank accounts seized by the central bank, it would be a long time before the investors are able to retrieve their cash.

There are some who are completely ignorant of the new global order of currencies and money, making comparisons between Mcoin and the rise of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

If anybody is harbouring any hope that the value of Mcoin would rise just like the phenomenal bull run seen in the world of cryptocurrency, they had better stop dreaming.

There are fundamental differences between instruments such as Mcoin, which in essence is a token to redeem goods at a few outlets, compared to cryptocurrency that is fast gaining traction as an alternative currency around the world.

Mcoin has unlimited supply and its value is controlled by one entity. How the value is derived is not clear.

In contrast, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have a limited supply. And the supply is decentralised – meaning no one entity controls the supply. There is a ledger that tracks all transactions and measures the amount of supply and how much more is available.

The objective of the people behind cryptocurrency is to come up with a currency that is not controlled by central banks. New supply can only come about after hours of a process called `mining’.

The mining process is a complicated one. It involves many hours of programming and utilising high computing skills to predict the next chain in the block of coins. The data used is based on historical transactions and it is said that one block is created every 10 minutes.

Only one successful miner is rewarded with a slice of the cryptocurrency at any one time. He or she can then transact it in an exchange.

The first cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, which began operating in January 2009.

Bitcoin is only one of the hundreds of cryptocurrencies in existence. There are many more new coins coming up, improving on the technology pioneered by Satoshi Nakamoto.

Nobody knows who is Satoshi or if he really exists. However, the legend is that he wanted a currency that is not under the control of central banks, hence the birth of Bitcoin, the first decentralised currency.

The market capitalisation of all cryptocurrency was US$27bil as of April this year – four times more than what the value was in January this year.

Much of the rise is attributed to the volatile US dollar. A few years ago, if anybody had said that cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin would be used to hedge against the US dollar, many would have laughed it off.

Today, however, it is the reality.

The cryptocurrency fever has picked up in China, which has the largest number of “miners” in the world. One reason is said to be because some see it as one way to take capital out of the country.

In India, when the government decided to demonetise the popular 1,000 and 500 rupee notes, there was a 50% increase in the trading of Bitcoin, as people saw it as one way to legalise their black money.

Bitcoin soared past the US$2,500 mark last week, which is a four-fold increase since January this year. There are many other cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum, that are all seeing a bull run.

The world of cryptocurrency has taken a life of its own. Computer geeks with “blockchain” expertise, the technology that drives the decentralisation settlements of cryptocurrency, are commanding more than US$250,000 per annum.

It is said to be more than what a consultant or a software engineer can earn.

Those who have put their money into cryptocurrency would be laughing all the way to the bank now. But dynamics and fundamentals are complicated. The strength of the cryptocurrency is not based on historical numbers. It does not have an asset backing it.

It is based on future expectations of what the designer of the cryptocurrency offers. It is a complicated investment not meant for the unsophisticated investor.

Only fools will go for investment schemes that are unregulated and offer promises of returns that are unsustainable. They will lose all the time.

The smart investor will rely on traditional stocks and shares with earnings that are visible. Those who are not greedy will surely gain.

The super-smart geeks are banking on the world of cryptocurrency that has a volatile history. Their fate is uncertain.

Source: The Star by M. Shanmugam

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Get-rich-quick schemes thriving in Penang: many losers in the money game!


CALL them pyramid, Ponzi or get-rich-quick schemes and people might shy away. But call them money games, and suddenly they are just games, is that right?

What can be so diabolical about that?

Penang lang (people) are very much into money games. That’s what Ben, a Penangite who now lives in Australia, found out when he came back for a holiday three weeks ago.

Ben’s friends and relatives tried to rope him into money games. They themselves had “invested” in a few “games”.

He was astounded by their obsession. It does seem as if money games are on the minds of many Penangites now.

I hear about them at the coffee shops and watering holes. And yes, many of my buddies are into them too.

You will likely be the odd one out if you are not into such schemes these days.

JJPTR is a now household acronym after almost two years in the market. It stands for JJ Poor-to-Rich and the very name resonated well with middle-class families.

Its 20% monthly payouts were always on time, until the recent hacking job.

Then came Richway Global Venture, Change Your Life (CYL) and BTC I-system, but they too are said to be in troubled waters these days.

Attempts by many journalists to contact them have been unsuccessful.

The money game list is quite long, and Penang has the dubious honour of being the home base for many.

Another friend, Robert, had a jolt when a doctor he knew told patients to put their money into such a scheme. A doctor!

From the cleaners at his office to the hawkers and professionals he met, everyone, it seems, was convinced. None questioned how the high returns could come to fruition in such a short time.

But Robert is a harsh critic of these games and would not go anywhere near them. He didn’t believe in their economic “principles”.

He even got into a big fight with his father, who put money into JJPTR.

And now, Robert has been proven right. Fortunately, his father was one of the lucky ones because he managed to recoup his principal sum, on top of the thousands more he had received over the past few months.

Billy, a man well-versed in such operations, said operators would always use forex trading or investment in foreign projects as cover stories to woo new members.

They paint vivid pictures of those joining becoming part of big-time developments in Third World countries like Cambodia and Vietnam.

Once you get closer to them, they will tell you outright it is a money game and that you are among the pioneers, sure to make a profit before the scheme bursts.

Things tend to be smooth sailing for the first few months. You see money coming back in and pride yourself in taking the risk.

But soon the saturation point is reached as new members to the pyramid slow to a trickle.

Then you can expect the scheme to collapse.

Billy pointed out that the higher the return on investment, the faster the scheme bursts.

That’s because the operator cannot get enough new members to keep the scheme sustainable. At the same time, he has to deal with huge monthly payouts.

Some in Penang may remember the chance to invest in a cafe chain known as Island Red Cafe around 10 years ago. Then there was that company that sold gold bars and coins. There was also a Swiss cash scheme which took the country by storm.

As long as there is greed, such schemes will always re-emerge. As they say, a fool and his money are soon parted.

Honestly, the quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.

Please bless the money game

Still very much alive: Investors of Mama Captain are allowed to continue trading their virtual money at any outlet displaying the ‘Barrel2U’ banner.

GEORGE TOWN: Some investors are seeking “divine intervention” for money games to last.

A 10-second video clip of a man praying aloud before a temple shrine is fast circula­ting on social media and phone chat groups.

His prayer goes: “Datuk Gong (deity), I pray to you. Please bless money games. Please help them stay afloat for a few more months.”

His prayer is in Penang Hokkien and he mentions “money game” in English.

It is believed to be a satirical meme on money games, and there are several more spreading.

Memes on the Penang-based JJPTR, or Jie Jiu Pu Tong Ren in Mandarin (salvation for the common people), have also gone viral online.

One of them, titled “Life without JJ” in Chinese, is accompanied by a picture of a plate of plain rice topped with a few strands of fried vegetable.

Another similarly titled meme shows grubby, tattered underwear and is captioned: “Don’t ask me how my life is lately. The underwear explains everything!”

Meanwhile, a man known as Bingyen has cynically adapted the lyrics of a popular Mandarin song Zui Jin Bi Jiao Fan (Troubled Recently) to relate to JJPTR.

Interestingly, the Chinese name of JJPTR founder Johnson Lee rhymes with one of the song’s singers, veteran Taiwanese musician Jonathan Lee. Both their names are similar in pinyin – Li Zong Sheng.

Bingyen, in his lyrics, also advised the people to stay away from money games.

According to speculation online and media reports, JJPTR investors, said to number in the tens of thousands locally and internationally, including Canada, the United States and China, stand to lose RM500mil.

Lee, who has blamed the company’s losses on hackers, however, put the figure at US$400mil (RM1.75bil) in a widely-circulated video recording later.

The 28-year-old founder, in a video posted on the JJPTR Malaysia Facebook page last week, made a promise to repay its members by May 20. Also on the same day, the company is supposed to hold a dinner gathering at Berjaya Times Square in Kuala Lumpur.

The forex trading company, along with its associate entities JJ Poor to Rich and JJ Global Network under http://www.jjptr.com, is among the 288 entities and individuals listed on Bank Negara’s Financial Con­sumer Alert as of Feb 24.

Source: Pinang points by Tan Sin Chow

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