Get-rich-quick ‘Bitcoin Formula’ exposed: Vincent Tan denies investing US$250m



 

Vincent Tan denies investing US$250m in get-rich-quick ‘Formula’

PETALING JAYA: Berjaya Corp Bhd founder and executive chairman Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun (<<pic) has denied investing US$250 million in a project known as “The Formula” which allegedly promises huge profits and quick riches.

Tan said in a statement today said that the ‘The Formula’ is supposedly a share trading platform that allows trades executed through it to beat the stock market with an accuracy of 80% thereby allowing users to make huge profits.

“I refer to a current online media entitled ‘Vincent Tan gives back to the people with his latest project” wherein it is reported that I have invested US$250 million in a project known as “The Formula” with a wish to make Malaysians wealthy.

“I would like to categorically deny that I have made an investment in this project or that I am in any way involved in it and there is absolutely no truth in this report which I believe has been put out by unscrupulous persons to deceive the public,” Tan said.

Tan has reported the matter to the relevant authorities so that appropriate action can be taken and urged the public to take caution on promises of quick riches and not to fall prey to scams.

Tan said this is not the first time his name has been used in similar instances for the purpose of lending credibility to online investment scams.

On June 28 (see below), Tan exposed a dubious startup trading platform called “Bitcoin Formula” which used his name and doctored photos to promote its business.

An article claiming he had invested in and was promoting Bitcoin Formula, together with some photographs, was circulated on social media.

The article was accompanied by a few photographs, one showing Tan allegedly awarding a cheque for RM500,000 to Bitcoin Formula for winning the “Project of the Year” prize in a computer engineering “hackathon” in Kuala Lumpur, and another picture of him apparently speaking about Bitcoin Formula at a social media business summit.

Both pictures were in fact images altered with the use of photo-editing software and had originally been taken by theSun in March 2014 and January last year.

A check with the Companies Commission of Malaysia found that no company by the name of Bitcoin Formula exists.

Credit:  Kevin Deva newsdesk@thesundaily.com

‘Bitcoin Formula’ exposed

 

This picture of Tan Sri Vincent Tan speaking at the Social Economic Forum at the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan in the Philippines was doctored to appear as if he was promoting Bitcoin Formula

PETALING JAYA: Berjaya group founder and executive chairman Tan Sri Vincent Tan has blown the whistle on a dubious startup trading platform called “Bitcoin Formula”, which has used his name and doctored photos to promote its business.

It came to Tan’s attention that an article claiming he had invested in and was promoting Bitcoin Formula, together with some photographs, was being circulated on social media after a friend who saw it asked him if it would indeed be a good investment.

“How can it be a good investment when the operators have to resort to such dishonest ways like using my name in fake reports and doctored photographs to promote their business?” he said.

“I think anyone who invests in such a shady business will surely lose their money,” said Tan, who urged the public not to be deceived by such posts on social media.

The article about the company, that purports to promote blockchain and crypto technologies, claimed Tan had donated RM500,000 to Bitcoin Formula, a supposed financial startup by young computer engineers developing an efficient trading platform.

The article was accompanied by a few photographs, one showing Tan allegedly awarding a cheque for RM500,000 to Bitcoin Formula for winning the “Project of the Year” prize in a computer engineering “hackathon” in Kuala Lumpur, and another picture of him apparently speaking about Bitcoin Formula at a social business summit.

Both pictures were in fact images altered with the use of photo-editing software, and had originally been taken by theSun in March 2014 and January last year.

The cheque presentation photo was actually of Tan presenting a RM500,000 award to representatives of Dharma Master Cheng Yen of the Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation after she was named Better Malaysia Foundation’s Personality of the Year in 2015.

The other image was taken when Tan was speaking at the Social Economic Forum that was held at the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan, in the Philippines.

A check with the Companies Commission of Malaysia found that no company by the name of Bitcoin Formula exists.

Tan is apparently the latest prominent person whose name had been used by get-rich-quick scheme operators to scam unsuspecting people, and prominent tycoons like AirAsia founder Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and “Sugar King” Robert Kuok were among people whose names have been used by these scammers.

Tan also dismissed a Facebook article claiming that he will be donating RM525 million to Tabung Harapan Malaysia.

“There is absolutely no truth to either of these reports, that I believe have been put out by unscrupulous persons to deceive the public. I hope the public do not get fooled by these fake reports,” he added.


Credit:  Amar Shah Mohsen newsdesk@thesundaily.com

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BLOCFEST www.blocfest.asia SOUTHEAST ASIA’S INTERNATIONAL BLOCKCHAIN EVENT Blockchain and beyond Brothers Hway (left) and Tze-…

 

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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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Opportunities in e-commerce


Talk on trade: (from left) Interbase Resouces Sdn Bhd MD and Lelong.com.my co-founder Richard Tan, Chong and SME Association of Malaysia national deputy president Ong Chee Tat during a panel discussion on Global is the New Local: The Changing International Trade Patterns of Small Businesses in Asia Pacific, organised by FedEx.
Talk on trade: (from left) Interbase Resouces Sdn Bhd MD and Lelong.com.my co-founder Richard Tan, Chong and SME Association of Malaysia national deputy president Ong Chee Tat during a panel discussion on Global is the New Local: The Changing International Trade Patterns of Small Businesses in Asia Pacific, organised by FedEx.

 

More SME seen to be embracing technology

WHILE its been a constant lament that local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are not embracing digital technology, a new survey seems to suggest otherwise.

A recent FedEx-commissioned study on trends being adopted by SMEs in Asia Pacific (Apac) has revealed a high adoption of new technologies among local SMEs.

According to the study, Malaysia ranks fourth (among nine Apac countries surveyed) in digital platform implementation and third in adopting Industry 4.0 technologies.

Entitled “Global is the New Local: The Changing International Trade Patterns of Small Businesses in Asia Pacific”, the research revealed that an average of 88% of Malaysian SMEs are adopting digital economy platforms, such as e-commerce, mobile-commerce and social-commerce platforms.

FedEx Malaysia managing director S.C. Chong says it is critical for SMEs to take advantage of technological advancements as a catalyst to enter into new markets, improve customer service support and experience, and provide a more efficient end-to-end customer journey.

“SMEs are the engine of growth and form the backbone of Malaysia’s economy,” he says during a briefing on the survey, last week.

Chong adds that it is encouraging to see SMEs taking the initiative to grow their business through the adoption of new technologies, infrastructure-building, and expansion into international markets.

Citing the survey, he says that 61% of local SMEs are optimistic that the e-commerce platforms will help contribute to increased revenue growth in the next 12 months.

“The study also found that 69% of Malaysian SMEs have incorporated Industry 4.0 technologies into their operations such as mobile payments, automation software and big data / analytics in particular.”

Industrial Revolution 4.0 refers to the paradigm that machines are now able to autonomously adapt and coordinate their tasks to meet human needs.

The survey also shows a significantly high adoption rate of mobile payments among Malaysian SMEs at 90% (higher than the Apac SME average of 73%), with automation software and big data / analytics among the top Industry 4.0 technologies being used by SMEs at 84% and 77% respectively.

In addition, the survey also showed that 78% of respondents agreed that Industry 4.0 technologies have enhanced efficiencies in the supply chain and distribution channels, while helping reduce challenges brought by cross-border payments.

The results of the survey were based on interviews with 4,543 senior executives of SMEs in nine markets in Apac between March and April 2018. The markets included in the research were China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

The interviews were split equally by market with a representative mix of company sizes: micro (one to nine full-time employees), small (10 to 49 full-time employees) and medium (50 to 249 full-time employees).

Each market had an average of 500 respondents.

SME Association of Malaysia national deputy president Ong Chee Tat says SMEs and Industry 4.0 are key components towards the growth of the nation, as Malaysia works towards achieving a high-income economy.

“While technology may have reduced the gap between SMEs and larger industry players, SMEs still face various challenges in the adoption of the latest trends or tools in technology. Most SMEs may find that they lack sufficient finances, knowledge or workforce talent to adopt these new technologies.

“As such, we (the SME Association) are cognisant of the barriers to technology-adoption and continue to guide, empower and support SMEs by providing strategic advice or counsel and initiating networking platforms to facilitate knowledge exchange.”

Ong says that the SME Association is currently looking to set up an SME Academy to help provide training for local start-ups.

“We hope to be able to launch this academy by this year,” he says.

The survey also revealed that 95% of Apac SMEs have made use of digital platforms such as e-commerce (82%), mobile-commerce (72%) or social-commerce (74%) in their business operations.

“In Malaysia, the top social media platforms are Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram,” says Ong.

According to the survey, the top social media platform used in Apac markets is Facebook, with the exception of China (WeChat) and Taiwan (Line).

In comparison, Malaysia has an overall higher adoption rate of e-commerce (90%), mobile-commerce (87%) and social-commerce (86%) compared to other markets in Apac.

Also, the survey says 61% of Malaysian SMEs expressed confidence that the digital economy will help reduce barriers to finding global customers beyond Apac.

Chong says the finding is strongly supported by Malaysia having 146% mobile penetration, 22 million internet users, 18 million active social media users, and seven million online shoppers, leading to Malaysia ranking 31st among the most tech-ready countries around the world.

Meanwhile, Interbase Resouces Sdn Bhd managing director and Lelong.com.my co-founder Richard Tan says that by educating SMEs and raising their awareness on the digital economy, there will be a rise in brick-and-mortar SMEs having an online presence to augment and complement their business.

“At Lelong.my, our integrated online platform which comes with services such as e-payment solutions and digital storefronts, has allowed us to extend our reach to capture the younger generation of increasingly digital savvy customers and merchants.

“As an online retail platform, we continuously evolve and transform ourselves to ensure that we fully understand the consumer journey and experiences to make it a seamless, pleasant one.”

He also says that the rise in digital platforms will not result in brick-and-mortar outlets becoming obsolete.

“I believe they will complement each other,” he says, adding that this is why it’s important for companies to have both a physical and online presence.

“I might see a product at a store somewhere, but may decide to purchase the item off of the company’s website. On the flipside, I might see something online that I might like, but would want to physically see it first, before deciding to buy.”

Tan emphasises that it is in a situation like this that SMEs need to have a presence online.

“You need to have your content displayed on the Internet. If people can’t find your product on the web, they may just decide not to buy it at all. That’s the behaviour of the new group of consumers today.

“You have to digitize your content.”

Chong admits that having products and services accessible via the web nowadays is a given.

“However, there are still products and services that you can’t get online. But it’s important to be able to have your product on the web, so that people can learn about it and either buy it or choose to view it physically at your store.”

Growth opportunities

In conjunction with the recent “Take E-Commerce to the Next Level” conference by DHL Express Malaysia, the logistics firm said in a statement last week that there is great potential for Malaysian SMEs to grow their business overseas through e-commerce.

“By 2020, it is expected that one out of five e-commerce dollars will be generated through cross-border trade. Business to consumer (B2C) e-commerce has grown at a faster pace than most other industry sectors in recent years, with premium cross-border shipments growing from 10% to more than 20% of the volumes of DHL Express.

“This is further boosted by various incentives the government has provided to ensure that the local e-commerce sector has the potential to lift Malaysia’s total trade to RM2 trillion this year.”

Over 100 local SMEs attended the conference.

Its speakers included those from Amazon Global Selling, Payoneer, Everpeaks, Malaysia Digital Economy Corp (MDEC) and Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade), who shared their insights on the importance of logistics, digital marketing, payment options and sales methodologies as part of the entire B2C ecosystem.

“These takeaways are meant to better equip local SMEs to meet the increasing demand of customers who seek faster fulfilment and more variety at cost-effective prices,” says DHL Express.
In the same statement, e-commerce conglomerate Amazon encouraged more Malaysian SMEs to expand their business by tapping Amazon’s global reach.

Amazon Singapore’s Amazon global selling head Gijae Seong says: “South-East Asia has quickly grown to be one of the most important regions for Amazon Global Selling.

“In the US alone, Amazon has over 150 million monthly unique visitors. We hope that more local SMEs will consider expanding their business globally on Amazon in the future.”

In addressing the challenges of SMEs to expand its presence on a global level, Matrade transformation and digital trade division director Noraslan Hadi Abdul Kadir points out that Matrade is Malaysia’s national trade promotion agency, and therefore has the mandate to promote local SMEs overseas.

“Our eTRADE Programme offers financial incentive valued at RM5,000 per company, which can be utilised to partially cover the on-boarding cost to be listed on world’s renowned e-Commerce platforms the likes of Amazon.com.

“We hope more SMEs can capitalise on the programme to kick-start their cross-border e-commerce business.”

Boost to property sector

The e-commerce boom is also set to be a boost to the local property market, with the industrial sub-sector being its biggest beneficiary.

According to the Valuation and Property Services Department’s (JPPH) Property Market Report 2017, the industrial sub-sector, though contributed the least to the overall property market last year , plays a significant role generating investments and employment opportunities.

“As Malaysia embraces Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the digital economy, a different ball game is expected of the industrial property sub-sector,” it says.

One initiative that is expected to support the sector’s performance, says JPPH, is the setting up of a Special Border Economic Zone in Bukit Kayu Hitam, which will be the new attraction for both domestic and foreign investors on the northern zone of Malaysia.

“Another is the establishment of a Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ), which will see KLIA as the regional gateway. The first phase of DFTZ is foreseen to have 1,500 small and medium enterprises participate in the digital economy and is expected to attract RM700mil worth of investment and create 2,500 job opportunities.

“On the same note, Cyberjaya will be transformed into a global technology hub and a smart city.”

In November, CIMB Research in a report said the industrial segment has a strong growth trajectory through acquisitions and organic growth, given the tight industrial space supply.

“Demand for new high-quality industrial assets will transform the segment, which has led to several new mega-distribution centres that carry high price tags as retailers start turning to logistics.

“Notably, UK-based retailer Marks & Spencer is building a 900,000-sq-ft distribution centre with one million products processing capability per day and will consolidate its 110 warehouses into just four.”

The sector is also expected to be bolstered by the growth of the e-commerce segment.

The growth in e-commerce, which in turn is spurring the online retailers sector, will lead to demand for larger warehouse spaces.

According to JPPH’s Property Market Report 2017, the industrial property sub-sector recorded 5,725 transactions worth RM11.64bil in 017.

“Compared with last year, the market volume increased by a marginal 2.1% but value declined by 3.1%. Most states recorded contractions in market activity but the commendable growth in Selangor and Johor at 19.5% and 9.5% respectively helped support the overall marginal growth.

“These two states accounted for 34.2% and 14% of the total market activity respectively. By type, vacant plots formed 31% of the total transactions, followed by terraced factory with 28.7% market share.”

JPPH says the industrial overhang remained minimal though the volume kept growing since 2016.

“There were 999 units worth RM1.51bil in 2017, showing an increase of 11.4% and 27.1% in volume and value respectively. Johor also took the lead in the industrial overhang with 40.7% (407 units) of the national total.”

JPPH adds that the industrial development front was less active as shown by the marginal increase of 0.4% in completion to record 1,851 units, whilst starts and new planned supply decreased by 20.7% and 34.3% respectively to 850 units and 710 units.

“As at year-end, there were 113,173 existing industrial units, with another 5,675 units in the incoming supply and 7,513 units in the planned supply.

“Prices of industrial property were stable across the board. One and a-half storey semi-detached factories in the Petaling District fetched between RM4.1mil to RM5.7mil. In Johor Bahru, similar factories in Taman Perindustrian Cemerlang ranged from RM2.3mil to RM2.7mil.”

As for the other property sub-sectors, the residential property market recorded 194,684 transactions worth RM68.47bil in 2017, which were 4.1% lower in volume compared with 2016, but they increased by a marginal 4.4% in value.

By price range, demand continued to be in the RM200,000 and below price points, accounting for nearly 45% of the residential market volume.

Last year saw 77,570 units of new launches, higher than those recorded in 2015 (58,411 units) and 2016 (52,713 units).

Kuala Lumpur recorded the highest number of launches in the country with more than 22,000 units. Its sales performance was at a low 19.5%, followed by Selangor with 13,522 units and Johor, 7,926 units.

The commercial property segment, meanwhile, continued to decline but at a modest rate, says JPPH. There were 22,162 transactions recorded worth RM25.44bil in 2017, down by 6.7% in volume and 29.2% in value compared with 2016.

The retail sub-segment’s performance was stable at 81.3% in 2017 compared with 81.4% in 2016, recording an annual take-up of more than 6.78 million sq ft.

Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Johor and Penang saw a significant take-up rate as their newly completed shopping complexes secured commendable occupancy.

Johor was leading with nearly 2.82 million sq ft followed by Selangor (1.17 million sq ft), Kuala Lumpur (1.01 million sq ft) and Penang (778,833 sq ft).

Credit: Eugene Mahalingam Star SMEBIZ

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Go-ahead likely for Penang LRT


GEORGE TOWN: The approvals from the federal authorities for the RM8.4bil Bayan Lepas light rail transit (LRT) and the massive Penang South Reclamation (PSR) scheme on the southern coast of the island are expected to be obtained before the end of the year.

Sources told The Star that the approvals would be from the Department of Environment, the federal regulator overseeing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and the Transport Ministry.

The sources said if everything goes on as scheduled, the reclamation project for the three man-made islands would start early next year.

“The LRT project might begin in January 2020,” they said.

The LRT, together with a monorail, cable cars and water taxis, is part of the state government’s RM46bil Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

It will begin from Komtar in the northeast corner of the island and pass through Jelutong, Gelugor, Bayan Lepas and Penang International Airport before ending at the proposed PSR development comprising three man-made islands totalling 1,800ha near Teluk Kumbar.

It is expected to provide a fast route to the airport and will traverse densely populated residential, commercial and industrial areas.

There are 27 LRT stations along the alignment, with the maintenance depot located on the first island that is to be reclaimed on the island’s south coast.

The alignment also factors in interchanges with future LRT, Sky Cab and monorail lines that are being planned, including one that will cross the channel to connect Gelugor on the island with the Penang Sentral transport hub in mainland Butterworth. The success of the PTMP depends on funding from property development on the PSR scheme.

The Pan Island Link (PIL) 1 is another component which came to light recently as its Detailed EIA was on display at 10 locations in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur and Penang until yesterday.

The proposed 19.5km highway links Gurney Drive to the Penang International Airport.

SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd, the Project Delivery Partner (PDP), will call for the tender of the LRT and PSR via a Request for Proposal (RFP) exercise early next year, the sources said.

SRS’s role is to supervise the projects until their completion and scale down the cost.

It is learnt that there are currently six or seven companies interested in carrying out the LRT project and the reclamation work for the islands.

“SRS will scale down the cost of the urban rail transport link connecting Komtar and Bayan Lepas, and also consider alternative proposals such as a monorail,” said sources.

It is learnt that Scomi Engineering has recently proposed a monorail project costing about RM6bil, to the state government.

A China company has also proposed to build a LRT link costing less than RM6bil.

On the three man-made islands, it is said that more than RM4bil would be spent on the reclamation.

“The cost is estimated to be over RM4bil because there will be a need to construct a dam and three power plants for the islands.

“One of the islands will be used for indus­trial activities. There will be industrial lots developed for sale to overseas and local investors to generate funds for the urban rail transport link.

“The other two islands will be used for building commercial and residential properties,” sources explained, adding that about RM17bil, which includes the cost for the LRT and PIL 1, has been approved.

On the viability of trams as an alternative to LRT, the sources said the move would require relocating underground sewage infrastructure, power and telecommunications cables.

“They have to be relocated because laying the rails for trams involves a lot of costly road digging. The LRT is constructed on an elevated platform and does not involve digging into the ground.

“Furthermore, the roads in Penang are narrow, so using trams with other vehicles on the same road could cause accidents,” a source added.

SRS Consortium, a 60:20:20 joint venture involving Gamuda Bhd, Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd and Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd, was appointed by the Penang government as the PDP for the implementation of the PTMP.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said he has written a letter to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on June 29 to seek funds for the LRT project.

“We have yet to receive a reply.

“If the South island reclamation projects are not carried out, the state has no choice but to seek federal funds for the LRT,” he said during his speech at the state assembly yesterday.

Chow had earlier said the major components of PTMP would be fully funded by revenues generated from the sale of reclaimed land of the PSR project.

He said the fully funded nature of the components – the LRT and the PIL 1 – was unlike any other mega infrastructure projects currently being critically reviewed by the Council of Eminent Persons.

The SRS Consortium was concluded to have the best overall proposal among six local and international bidders, which were evaluated based on qualities such as transport master plan proposal, delivery track record, financial standing and funding/business models.

By David Tan The Star

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Penang undersea tunnel developer CZC ‘duped into paying RM22mil’ at gun point?


GEORGE TOWN: The developer of the Penang undersea tunnel project claims it was duped into paying two individuals RM22mil to stop graft investigations.

Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZC) senior executive director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli (pic) said they were told that action would be taken against them if they did not pay.

“They (the duo) claimed to be the powers that be. Eventually, we found out it was not true. We were conned,” he said.

He said the company had previously followed all the rules.

“But at that particular period of time, we didn’t know what was the rule of law. It’s not bribery but the act was akin to putting a gun to my head,” he said.

Zarul Ahmad said he could not disclose the details because the case was still being investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

“I believe soon they will come out with something pertaining to those issues,” he said.

Zarul Ahmad said things were different now after the outcome of GE14 on May 9.

“On May 10, I opened my window and I took a nice breath of fresh air and it was wonderful.

“Last time, I couldn’t answer certain things but now, I can because there is freedom of speech. I know I won’t get into trouble for making statements that I want to make,” he said at a hotel here yesterday.

In March, a 37-year-old Datuk Seri was picked up by MACC for allegedly receiving RM19mil from CZC to “help settle” investigations into the controversial RM6.3bil mega project comprising an undersea tunnel and three highways.

Former chief minister Lim Guan Eng said the state government was shocked at the news that CZC allegedly paid RM19mil to an unnamed businessman and RM3mil to an MP.

Zarul Ahmad said they had provided an explanation about the incident which was accepted by the Penang government two weeks ago.

CZC, the special purpose vehicle of the Penang project, had come under the spotlight after its two senior directors were picked up to assist in MACC investigations over alleged corruption claims.

MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong had raised numerous concerns about the project, including why the special pur­pose vehicle did not meet the RM381mil minimum paid-up capital requirement during the tender process.

Zarul Ahmad said they were adopting the just-in-time (JiT) philosophy, meaning the paid-up capital would only be increased when necessary.

He said 90% of the financing was done through the banks and they did not want to incur interests for nothing.

“That is the only way to reduce our cost and maximise returns.

“Why should we increase our paid-up capital to RM300mil or 400mil when we are only using a certain amount,” he said.

By Tan Sin Chow and Saran Yeoh The Star
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Revise transport master plan because circumstances have changed

” A new public transport design has to be integrated to encourage walking, cycling and bus uise – Penang Forum”

THE Penang Forum steering committee, a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups, has called on the Pakatan Harapan Penang government to review the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) estimated to cost RM46bil.

It said the Penang government should bear in mind its election manifesto of balancing economic growth with environmental protection and a commitment to improve public transport.

“Given the scale of the funding for this mega project, the state must ensure government procurement produces the best value for taxpayers’ money.

“The awarding process used was based on a Request for Proposal, rather than a true open tender, which did not allow for any meaningful comparison of bid documents as the scope of work was not fixed.

“Hence the award process must also be reviewed and revisited,” the statement read.

The committee also pointed out that the present PTMP was based on the assumption that buses, ferries and a cross-channel bridge were under federal control and there was nothing much the state could do.

“So it did not focus on how these could be improved or expanded. But now that circumstances have changed, the plan needs to be revised,” it said.

The committee also said the planning for equitable public transport should take into consideration the following criteria:

  • Fiscal prudence that should consider cost-effectiveness in construction, operation and maintenance.Detailed financial analysis of different public transport systems must be done and compared. The most cost-effective system should be selected.
  • Other important considerations are efficiency of operation, predictable schedules and systems compatibility.
  • The different components of the transport system must be well connected and integrated, socially inclusive, with a low impact on the built and natural environment.
  • Extensive public consultation at every stage, with plans available for online viewing and download so that more people can view and comment. It must be carried out and the exercise must be open to scrutiny.
  • Independent consultants who are at the forefront of designing equitable, sustainable transport must be engaged to do the review of the plans. They must not be associated with or employed by parties involved in tendering for the project.

The statement also read that the 2016 transport proposal was a mega project put forward by SRS Consortium, the project delivery partner of PTMP, to the Penang government.

“The design and planning fails to meet most of the above criteria.

“The overpriced package includes many components of mega road building that will discourage people from using public transport and undermine the stated goal of increasing public modal share of transport.

“Although public consultations have been held about impacts in specific localities, open scrutiny of the whole design was strongly discouraged,” the statement said.

The committee also said the original PTMP by Halcrow involved public consultation, but the state pressured the consultants to add the undersea tunnel and three highways costing a total of RM6.3bil just before it adopted the plan in 2013.

The SRS proposal costing RM46bil includes a proposal to reclaim 4,500 acres of land (comprising three islands). It departs drastically from the officially adopted 2013 Halcrow masterplan.

“Thus, a thorough, proper and independent review should be carried out to ascertain its suitability, viability and sustainability.

“The massive proposed reclamation will destroy fishing grounds and jeopardise fishing livelihoods and a vital local source of seafood.

“It will be environmentally unsustainable due to expensive maintenance costs required for dredging in the future.

“Promise 10 of the Pakatan manifesto talks of ensuring food security and protecting the welfare of farmers and fishermen.

“Last but not the least, with rapid changes in public transport technology and new trends in info-mobility, it is imperative that any existing plan for public transport should be re-examined.

“A new public transport design has to be integrated to encourage walking, cycling and bus use,” it said.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow was earlier reported saying that the state government would leave the decision to review the components of the PTMP to the Federal Government.

He said this was because the proposal was at the Federal level right now, adding that if there was any need to review the project, the Federal Government could make a decision.

He also said the SRS Consortium would be happy to supply the Federal agencies with additional details. – Starmetro

 

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From Industrial 4.0 to Finance 4.0


 

MOST people are somewhat aware about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The first industrial revolution occurred with the rise of steam power and manufacturing using iron and steel. The second revolution started with the assembly line which allowed specialisation of skills, represented by the Ford motor assembly line at the turn of the 20th century.

The third industrial revolution came with Japanese quality controls and use of telecommunication technology.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or first called by the Europeans Industry 4.0, is all about the use of artificial intelligence, robotics, genomics and process, creative design and high speed computing capability to revolutionise production, distribution and consumption. Finance is a derivative of the real economy – its purpose is to serve real production. Early finance was all about the finance of trade and governments to engage in war.
It is no coincidence that the first central banks (Sweden and England) were established in the 17th century at the start of the First Industrial Revolution. Industrialisation became much more sophisticated as Finance 2.0 brought the rise of credit and equity markets in the 18th and 19th centuries. Industrialisation and colonisation came about at the same time as the globalisation of banks, stocks and bond markets.

Again, with the invention of first the fax machine, then Internet that speeded up information storage and transmission in the 1980s, finance and industry took a quantum leap into the age of information technology. Finance 3.0 was the age of financial derivatives, in which very complex (and highly leveraged) derivatives became so opaque that investors and regulators realised they became what Warren Buffett called “weapons of mass destruction”. Finance 3.0 stalled in 2007 with the Global Financial Crisis and was only propped up with massive central bank intervention in terms of unconventional monetary policy with historically unprecedented interest rates.

We are now on the verge of Finance 4.0 and it may be useful to explore what it really means.

The common definition of Industry 4.0 is the rise of the Internet of Things, in which cloud computing, artificial intelligence and global connectivity means that cyber-physical systems can interact with each other to produce, distribute and trade across the world in a massively distributed system of production.

But what does Finance 4.0 really mean?

What truly differentiates Finance 4.0 from the earlier version is the arrival of Blockchain or distributed ledger technology. The best way to think about the difference is the architecture of the two different systems.

Finance 3.0 and earlier versions were all about a top-down or hierarchical ledger system, like a pyramid, in which trade and settlements between two parties are settled across a higher ledger.

A simple example is payment from Joe in bank A to Jim in bank B is finally settled across the books of the central bank in local currency. But in international trade and payments, the final settlements (at least more than 60%) are settled in US dollar finally across the ledgers of the Federal Reserve bank system.

Finance 3.0 was not perfect and those who wanted to avoid regulation, taxation or any official oversight basically moved trading and transactions off-balance sheet and also off-shore. This was the “shadow banking” system that financial regulators and central banks conveniently blamed on their failure to see or stop the last global financial crisis.

Although technically the shadow banking system is the non-bank financial system, which would include bond, stock and commodity markets, the bulk of illegal, illicit transactions traditionally was done in cash.

Welcome to the technical innovation called cyber-currencies, which was made possible for peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions across a distributed ledger system (commonly known as blockchain). In architectural terms, this is a bottom-up system which technically can avoid any official oversight. Indeed, cyber-currencies or tokens were invented precisely because the users do not trust the official system.

As the populist philosopher Stephen Bannon said, “central banks are in the business of debasing the currency”. Hence, those who want to avoid the debasement of their savings prefer to deal with either cash or cyber-tokens like bitcoin (pic).

What is happening in the rapidly evolving Finance 4.0 is that as the world moves from a unipolar order to a multi-polar world in which other reserve currencies also contend for trade and store of value, the top-down architecture is fusing (or merging) with a bottom-up architecture in which trade, transactions and stores of value are shifting towards the P2P shadow system.

Why this is taking place is not hard to understand. Post-global financial crisis, the amount of financial regulations have tripled in terms of number of rules and complexity on what the official sector can regulate, which is mostly the banking system. It is therefore not surprising that all the innovation, talent and money are moving to outside the banking system into the asset management industry, which is much more lightly regulated.

No talented banker, however dedicated to the values of banking probity, can resist the temptations of working in asset management, away from the heavily regulated environment where he or she is 24×7 under regulatory internal and external oversight.

Another reason why the cyber-P2P business is flourishing is because the official sector is worried that further regulation would hinder innovation. But those who want to increase the complexity of regulation must remember that for every 50 foot wall, someone will invent a 51 foot ladder.

So competition in the 21st century has already moved from the physical and financial space into cyber-space.

If there is one thing I learnt as a former regulator, it is that if the banks are behind the curve in terms of technology, the regulators are even further behind, since they learn mostly from those whom they regulate. But if financial regulators deal with financial innovation through “regulatory sandboxes” where they allow their regulated banks to experiment in sandboxes, they are treating their regulated institutions as kids in an adult game of ruthless technology.

Time for the official sector to make their stand clear or else Finance 4.0 promises to be very different from the orderly world that they are used to imaging. Nothing says this clearer than a recent survey by the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, which showed that 54% of institutional investors surveyed and 38% of retail believe that a financial crisis in the next one-three years is likely or very likely.

You have been warned.

– Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

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