South China Sea Conflicts won’t affect Asean Cooperation


http://player.cntv.cn/standard/cntvOutSidePlayer.swf http://english.cntv.cn/2015/07/30/VIDE1438206483278724.shtml

Challenges we face are temporary

TIANJIN: China is confident that the conflicts at the South China Sea will not affect cooperation with Asean, says Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin.

He said China had been insisting on negotiation and consultation with the countries that also claim sovereignty in the disputed waters, and emphasising on working with Asean to uphold safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

“The challenges we are facing now are only temporary. There are broad prospects in the cooperation between China and Asean,” he said.

Liu was speaking to reporters together with Thai Foreign Ministry deputy permanent secretary Noppadon Theppitak after co-chairing the China-Asean senior officials’ meeting on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC) here.

China and several countries in South-East Asia, including Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam, assert overlapping claims on the resource-rich South China Sea.

Disputes have erupted with the claimants blaming each other for building military and civil facilities on the contested reefs.

Anti-China riots broke out in Vietnam last year when China deployed an oil rig in a section of the South China Sea claimed by both countries.

The Philippines has sought international arbitration to resolve the dispute, a move criticised by China as a betrayal to the commitment to solve the issue through dialogue and negotiations.

As tension continued to flare over the disputed waters, China has openly warned Japan and the United States against meddling in the conflicts.

On Tuesday, China carried out a live-fire drill in the South China Sea to “improve its maritime combat ability”, Chinese national news agency Xinhua reported.

Citing navy sources, Xinhua said dozens of missiles and torpedoes, as well as thousands of shells and bombs, were fired during the drill.

Expressing confidence that the conflicts in the South China Sea were “manageable”, Liu said there was no need to worry.

Without naming any countries in particular, he reminded third parties not to intervene and condemn China on the issue.

“The South China Sea is not an issue between China and Asean, but China and some countries in the grouping.

“Over the years, through the formulation of the DoC and the efforts to draw up a Code of Conduct (CoC), China and Asean have worked together to maintain peace and stability as well as to uphold freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea.

“China is confident and determined to work with Asean to jointly manage the issue,” he said.

Meanwhile, Noppadon said China and Asean had agreed to begin a new phase of consultations on the CoC and work towards its early conclusion.

He added that Thailand would submit a draft possible outline of the CoC for the consideration of the next joint working group, which would meet in Chengdu, Sichuan province, in October.

The meeting yesterday also witnessed the agreement to establish hotline communications between the Asean and Chinese foreign ministries to respond to emergencies at sea.

Malaysia was represented by Wisma Putra secretary-general Datuk Othman Hashim and three other officers in the meeting.

When approached, Othman said the meeting was peaceful and constructive.

“We discussed extensively on what we have achieved so far, and what has to be done for the future.

“We are working together with other Asean members for the implementation of the DoC and the development of the CoC,” he said.

Malaysia, which is the chair of Asean this year, will host a series of meetings, including the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and Asean Plus Three Foreign Ministers Meeting, from Aug 1 to 6.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has confirmed his attendance.

BY THO XIN YI The Star/Asia News Network

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Ageing together: it takes a nation, family; more children if you can afford to


Chew mei funTHE Government cannot face the challenges of an ageing nation alone, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun says.The problem requires a joint effort involving the Government, local councils, developers, insurance companies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals, she says.

“Everybody must be responsible and do their part,” she insists.

Giving an example, she says developers should plan townships for senior citizens to grow old within the community “like one big family”.

She says local councils also play a very important role in ensuring that the roads and buildings are accessible to the elderly.

To encourage collaborations between the NGOs, the Government gives incentives to corporations to run corporate social responsibility projects, she says.

She says individuals have to plan for old age by keeping healthy and active and saving for their future needs.

On plans to build more homes to accommodate the growing number of seniors, she says the ministry hopes to de-institutionalise homes because a family environment is always better.

However, legislation forcing grown children to care for their parents, is “not the way”, she stressed.

She says cultivating values like filial piety by stressing on the importance of family bonds through education, is preferable.

“We have nine (registered) old folks homes nationwide with a total of 1,590 residents.

“And, there are an additional two homes housing more than 200 bedridden residents, 70% of whom are above age 60.

“If we accept residents too easily, some will just send them to us because it’s convenient,” she says, adding that five activity centres for seniors will be built in addition to the existing 45 nationwide. The number will be increased steadily.

She says ‘caring complexes’ housing both seniors and orphans are in the pipeline.

“The idea is for kids to cheer up the seniors while learning from their elders,” she says.

She says better health services have led to Malaysians living longer with couples now having to care for their children, parents and grandparents.

Acknowledging that it’s a huge financial burden, she says the ministry is trying to educate young couples on how to better plan for their family.

Explaining that family planning isn’t just about birth control, she says it entails managing family finances.

“We’re not asking couples to give birth blindly but if you can afford to, you should have more children,” she says.

On June 14, Sunday Star front paged how urban parents can expect to pay as much as the combined price of a luxury car and a semi-detached house to raise a child up to degree level. The report followed a remark by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim urging Malaysians to have more kids to address the projected shrinking population.

National Council of Senior Citizens Organisations Malaysia president Datuk Dr Soon Ting Kueh is “very disappointed” that the country’s seniors were left out of both the 10th and 11th Malaysia Plan, lamenting that the elderly are a neglected lot.

“There is no social security for the old,” he points out.

Calling for a national forum to be held fast, he cautions that the country may reach aged nation status even before 2030.

“Everyone will grow old. The only question is when.

“We must tackle these challenges together but the Government has to spearhead the solution with a detailed development plan.”

While supportive of the Government’s call for couples to have more kids, he feels that it won’t solve the problem.

Suggesting a private pension fund be set up, he says it will ease the financial burden on families caring for their old parents while giving the seniors a sense of independence.

Seniors who are poor and without family must be cared for by the Government, he insists.

“There aren’t enough government old folk homes nationwide,” he says.

“We need at least 90 but we don’t even have one per state.”

Those who can afford private nursing homes are also suffering, he says.

He estimates there are some 4,000 private centres nationwide but only slightly more than 200 are regulated.

“Some pay between RM500 and RM600 to live in very poor conditions where seniors are hosed down instead of getting a proper bath.

“These unlicensed homes are stinky and the living conditions very undignified,” he says.

He feels that country’s healthcare system also needs to be improved.

“The waiting time is too long and there are not many geriatric doctors.

“The seniors will be dead by the time they get treatment,” he says, only half-in-jest.

But, he stresses, the seniors themselves must grow old with dignity by keeping active.

Soon’s deputy, Susan Suah, says there’s a need for aged-friendly housing.

The interior designer is working to come up with building guidelines. Some problems in current housing include the lack of bathrooms on the ground floor, switches that are too high up and poor lighting, she says.

“We have rooms for maids but not for old parents?,”she says adding that aged-friendly homes must be made mandatory.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (School of Social Sciences) associate professor Dr Saidatulakmal Mohd notes that while some supermarkets and shopping centres have started becoming aged-friendly, none of the new housing developments are.It’s worse when residential houses are converted into nursing homes for the elderly as it has been proven to be non-conducive to their wellbeing.

“We don’t need to wait until Malaysia becomes an aged society. Many of the elderly are already being abandoned and abused, she says.

“While it’s easy to point to the Government for a solution, it’s important to note that welfare aid for seniors has risen over the years.”

To cover rising public healthcare costs, she anticipates higher taxes for the future generation.

But unlike their parents, youngsters today don’t expect their children to care for them in their old age.

“This is because they are facing financial hardship providing for their family while supporting their aged parents and don’t want their children to go through the same thing,” she explains.

She calls on the Ministry of Women, Family and Community to bring back the ‘elderly in the community’ initiative to promote active ageing.

To be a developed nation by 2020, we need active seniors who can contribute to the nation but this is only possible if aged-friendly infrastructure is ready and the elderly are financially supported.

“In the UK, I saw seniors shopping for groceries, paying their own bills and eating out – which is rare here.

“In Malaysia, seniors are seen as ‘abandoned’ if they do these things themselves.

“The perception needs to change.” – The Star/Asian News Network

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Japan security bills, Abe fans anti-China flames with defense paper


By Li Feng

Abe fans anti-China flames with defense paper

People hold placards during a rally against Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration and his security-related legislation in front of the parliament building in Tokyo July 15, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

The Japanese Cabinet on Tuesday approved its annual defense white paper, in which it accuses China of raising regional tensions in the East China Sea and South China Sea. China’s Ministry of Defense expressed strong dissatisfaction and opposition toward the 429-page document later the same day, saying it “tarnishes the image of China’s military” and deliberately plays up the “China threat” theory. Comments:

By defaming China as a regional security threat in its defense white paper, the Japanese administration led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is clearly aiming to add necessity and legitimacy to the new security bills, which breach Japan’s pacifist Constitution, and complicate Asia-Pacific security issues such as the South China Sea disputes. It will be unfortunate for both Japan and East Asia if Abe remains adamant on challenging China.

Xinhua News Agency, July 21

Japan’s defense white paper for 2015 is not conducive to safeguarding peace and stability in East Asia. The so-called threat is not from China but Japan itself.

Kamakura Takao, an emeritus professor of Saitama University, Japan, July 21

Two new implications in Japan’s latest defense white paper should be noted. First, the document is in line with the new security bills that Abe is trying to muscle through, offering excuses for the country’s overseas military deployment. Second, as a non-stakeholder in the South China Sea issues, Tokyo may propose to participate in the US patrols in the area to expand its regional presence, and, of course, conduct more overseas military operations. It is a dangerous move that other regional powers should pay close attention to.

Qian Feng, vice-president of Asia Times, July 22

In the past, Japan used to see the Soviet Union and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as the top threats. Now China has become the No 1 “threat”. Confronted with the “unexpected” opposition to his security bills in Japan, Abe has resorted to the defense white paper to defuse public rage and convince peace-loving Japanese that the bills’ passage is necessary.

Ny Huang Dahui, director of the East Asia Research Center of Renmin University of China, July 21

Source: Asia News Network/China Daily

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Penang property in steady demand, will the housing market facing a glut?


Investment-friendly: A file picture shows visitors at the recent Star Property Fair in Penang. Affin Hwang believes that property developers with land bank and established presence in Penang will benefit from rising property demand.

PETALING JAYA: An increasing population in Penang coupled withlong-term property demand will be supported by major projects driven by public-private partnerships (PPPs), according to Affin Hwang Capital Research.

Among the PPP projects, the largest being the RM27bil Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), could be awarded by September. Singapore’s Temasek Holdings also has a proposed joint venture with Penang Development Corp (PDC) to develop an RM11.3bil business process outsourcing centre and an international technology park.

The research house said in a report that its top stock picks for infrastructure and property exposure to Penang were Gamuda Bhd, IJM Corp Bhd, and Eastern & Oriental Bhd (E&O).

It said the Penang government had pushed for the economy to move up the value chain by encouraging knowledge-intensive and innovation-led manufacturing and services.

“Property development companies such as E&O, Eco World Development Group Bhd and Ewein Bhd are embarking on new large-scale mixed development projects in the state with total gross development value (GDV) of RM60bil,” it added.

E&O has the highest exposure to Penang with property development projects in the state comprising 77% of GDV totalling RM34bil.

The multi-billion ringgit PTMP has seen keen interest, with six consortiums submitting bids to be the project delivery partner (PDP) while Affin Hwang Capital understands that discussions for the joint venture with PDC were in the final stages.

“The joint development agreement is expected to be inked in July or August. Work on the BPO Prime is expected to start in the first quarter of 2016.” The entry of Temasek would also attract more Singapore companies and other foreign investors to Penang.

“We believe Gamuda will likely be appointed the PDP for the project. Also, being one of the largest contractors in Penang, IJM Corp is expected to win a substantial portion of construction work for the PTMP,” it said.

“The Penang government also managed to convince Hewlett-Packard to choose Penang as the location to set up its new RM1bil manufacturing facility instead of Iskandar Malaysia.”

The plant would produce high-speed inkjet printer heads for the global market.

A ready pool of skilled workers out of a total workforce of 797,700, developed infrastructure, established information technology eco-system, and consistent and investment-friendly state government policies could be the reasons why Penang continue to be attractive compared with Iskandar Malaysia.

The island’s popularity with tourists, diverse culture, historical attractions, beautiful coasts and famous cuisine were added attractions.

“We believe property developers with land bank and established presence in Penang will benefit from rising property demand in the long run.

“Job creation from rising investments in industrial and service sectors should support population growth from organic expansion and inbound migration,” said Affin Hwang Capital Research.- The Star/Asian News Network

The housing market in Penang today

With an abundance of newly built high-rise condominiums, is Penang facing a property glut?

Malaysia’s population crossed the 30 million mark in February 2014. According to the Population and Housing Census 2010, about three in 10 people fall in the 20-40 years old age group – the one most likely to be firsttime home buyers. By 2020, that group is projected to grow to 11.3 million. In Penang, the current estimate for this age group is at 0.6 million, or 36% of the state population. The average property price in Penang currently stands at RM336,521. Even with the 50% stamp duty cut, middle-income earners with two dependents can only afford houses priced at RM300,000 and below [1], and looking at the current national average price for all types of properties, RM300,000 is well below the average (Figure 1).

Besides increasing prices, public concern is on whether or not the property market is overheated; many suspect that currently there is an oversupply of properties, especially in Penang. The current existing stock of residential properties can house more than six people per household (Table 1), and as smaller households are the global trend for developed and developing countries, statistics indicate that there is still a growing demand for housing.

Source: The Malaysian House Price Index Q1-Q2 2014, National Property Information Centre (NAPIC).

To meet market demands and expectations, a steady addition of incoming and planned supply to the existing property stock in Penang is still expected in the near future. Based on the population projection given by the Department of Statistics for Penang (1.75 million in year 2020), Malaysia Property Incorporated found that there is an oversupply of about 45,000 units this year and 22,000 units by 2020 [2], assuming that the average household size stays at 3.98 people and housing supply stops after 2015.

A growing demand for housing with a potential oversupply of properties sounds contradictory enough, begging the question: will the potential glut be for a certain type of residential property, and are the right kinds of properties being built in the right areas?

Whither the low-medium cost housing?

On Penang Island, the most densely populated district is in the north-east; the area encompassing George Town, Jelutong, Air Itam, Gelugor, Tanjung Tokong and Tanjung Bungah still remains one of the most sought-after places for property. Despite limited land spaces, incoming and planned unit supply to this district has seen no sign of abating.

However, in recent years, the south-west of the island, where the airport and the industrial area are located, has become the hottest investment spot for bigname developers. The highest growth of property supply on the island is expected to be in this area, with the likely addition of 17,518 incoming units (33.3%) and 17,058 planned units (32.4%).

Source: Property Market Report First Half 2014, NAPIC and own calculation
Source: Property Market Report First Half 2014, NAPIC and own calculation.

On the mainland, the more populated central Seberang Perai (SP) is expected to see more new housing units in coming years, compared to north and south SP. The opening of the Second Penang Bridge and the announcement of a series of development projects in Batu Kawan, including IKEA and branch campuses of University of Hull and KDU University College, certainly give south SP a huge appeal for future housing development. So far, the housing demand there has not
jumped markedly. However, as a prelude, following the announcement of the projects, land prices in south SP skyrocketed to between RM50 and RM60 per sqft, compared to previous prices of RM8 to RM9 per sqft
[3].

Within the high-rise category, there is a trend of developers preferring to build higher value condominiums (Table 3). In coming years, especially on Penang Island, a higher proportion of new highrise units will come from condominiums. Although the construction of low cost flats is emphasised by both the federal government and the Penang state government, the supply of such units is slow and short in coming – at just half the number of the future supply for condominiums. The future supply of medium cost flats also cannot catch up with the supply rate and units of condominium, indicating that
condominium sales seem more profitable for developers and that there may be an oversupply of higher value high-rise units in the near future.

Probably as the result of an influx of affluent local or foreign buyers, the supply for bungalows (detached) units has increased significantly. Service apartments have also become a new niche in the property market; the number of service apartment units is expected to double.

Source: Property Market Report First Half 2014, NAPIC and own calculation
Source: Property Market Report First Half 2014, NAPIC and own calculation.

The island factor

Penang Island’s attractiveness as a place to invest or settle in can be seen from its property prices; one condominium unit on the island normally costs more than twice or thrice that on the mainland. The same goes for the price of landed properties (Table 3).

Although this tendency is likely to persist for some time, the number of residential property transactions slowed down on the island for the first three quarters of last year whereas property sales in SP were generally unaffected (Table 4). Due to market-cooling measures – i.e. the introduction of more stringent real property gains tax (RPGT) and maximum  loan-to-value ratio for individual and non-individual borrowers – laid by the federal government and Bank Negara to curb property speculating, the upward price index trend for both landed properties and high-rise units slowed down significantly for the first half of 2014. Given that the number of sales was also at a lower level in the third quarter compared to the previous year, property prices on the island for the latter half of 2014 were probably stagnant.

Source: Residential Property Stock Table Q2 2014, NAPIC
Source: Residential Property Stock Table Q2 2014, NAPIC.

With the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) on April 1, firsttime home buyers may rush to make property purchases in the first quarter of 2015 to avoid paying the incremental cost. Although residential properties fall under the “Exempt Rated” basket of goods, property prices look set to increase due to the inflation cost of construction materials. According to a market survey, developers are facing ever higher compliance costs. Therefore, it is unlikely that house prices will drop this year when higher inflation is expected. Meanwhile, the “Youth Housing Scheme” announced in Budget 2015 may encourage young families from lower and middle income groups to make their first home purchase. Under the scheme, those who qualify and are selected will be given RM200 monthly financial assistance by the federal government to pay the loan instalments, 50% stamp duty exemption on loan and transfer agreements as well as 100% loan financing.

Source: Residential Property Stock Table Q2 2014, NAPIC
Source: Residential Property Stock Table Q2 2014, NAPIC.

Old is gold

Interest from investors in George Town’s pre-war heritage properties has never been greater since the city was inscribed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008. Under the draft of the George Town Special Area Plan, there is a total of 4,665 buildings located within the core (50.2%) and buffer (49.8%) zones. Given the immense potential for capital appreciation or gain from investments, these heritage properties are in red-hot demand. With the booming tourism in George Town, many investors have transformed old, neglected heritage shop houses into boutique hotels or commercial premises.

Before the repeal of the Rent Control Act in 1999, there were very few transactions and the price index did not move much for properties situated within the conservation zones. Since then, the compound annual growth rate for such properties from 1999 to 2013 was at 12.7% [4]. For the first half of last year, the average price for pre-war properties in George Town registered a new highest record at RM1,300 per sqft.

Source: Henry Butcher Malaysia (Penang) and NAPIC
Source: Henry Butcher Malaysia (Penang) and NAPIC.

Similarly, the number of pre-war property transactions also soared especially after 2008 (Figure 2). However, despite the new highest record of average transaction price, there were fewer property transactions last year; the Penang Real Estate Market Research Report on pre-war properties published by Henry Butcher Malaysia (Penang) [5] suggests that the prewar heritage property market has more buyers than it has sellers due to a limited supply of good listings. Because of this, the pre-war property market price could be very much distorted. For example, in March 2012, a 2,000sqft shop house
along Lebuh Pantai (considered a prime heritage area) was sold at RM4mil (or RM2,000 per sqft) [6] – an isolated case but way above the average market price nonetheless.

Since the number of pre-war heritage buildings in the historic George Town is fixed and more than a thousand of such properties were transacted since 2008, the proportion of “sellable” properties in the market will shrink by year while market demand for such properties remains high. Hence, it is reasonably expected to see even steeper transaction prices and fewer transacted pre-war property units in years to come.

 By Lim Chee Han
Lim Chee Han received his PhD in Infection Biology from Hannover Medical School, Germany. He is a senior analyst in the economics section of Penang Institute.

Malaysian currency hardest hit in Asia by Greek crisis and political conerns, Fitch boost short-lived!


PETALING JAYA: The simmering economic crisis in Greece and weakness in China continued to roil financial markets across the region, with the ringgit being the hardest hit among Asian currencies.

Sentiment on the ringgit was further compounded by rising domestic political risk, lingering concerns about 1Malaysia Development Bhd’s massive debt problems and lower oil revenue.

The local unit fell to a 16-year low yesterday at 3.809 against the US dollar – a level last seen before the exchange rate was pegged in 1998.

It was down 8.1% year-to-date and is currently the worst performing currency in Asia.

Independent economist Lee Heng Guie said Greece might be a small economy but the contagious implications on other weaker links in the eurozone could spook investors if Greece were to be forced out of the bloc.

“Recovery in the eurozone is still weak and people are worried that a possible fallout from Greece may impact the region’s economy,” he said.

Another economist said the depleting international reserves indicated that Bank Negara had carried out some currency stabilising activities.

A source suggested that Bank Negara may have sold more than US$1bil yesterday to shore up the ringgit, which had dropped to an intra-day low of 3.814 in early trade.

The country’s international reserves stood at US$106.38bil as at end-May, slightly higher than US$105.95bil at end-April.

“Our current account is still in surplus mode, so a twin deficit is unlikely.” the economist said, adding that the reserves level should be sustainable at above US$100bil.

“Bonds and the Malaysia Government Securities (MGS) have continued to thrive. Foreigners still believe in the country’s long-term outlook, as they remain the biggest bondholders,” she said.

Foreign investors had been increasing their holding of MGS up until the end of May this year, according to a recent estimate by Standard Chartered Global Research.

As at end-May, foreign ownership of MGS stood at 47%, or US$43bil of the total outstanding of US$92bil.

But May marked a significant turning point, both for the ringgit and the stock market.

MIDF Research, in a recent note, observed that foreign investors had been net sellers of local equities in the past two months. It said, June was the worst month for Bursa Malaysia since 2014, as foreign outflows totalled more than RM3bil.

This increased the cumulative net foreign outflow for the year to RM9bil, significantly higher than the RM6.9bil that had left the market in the whole of 2014.

“The Greece NO vote means uncertainties ahead and there will likely be a global sell-off in equities in the immediate term,” MIDF Research said.

“However, the Greece outcome should have been expected and priced in,” it added.

But the worst, however, may not yet be over for the ringgit.

“Fitch’s revision of Malaysia’s outlook seemed to be short-lived because of the negative sentiments. Investors don’t like uncertainties,” one analyst said.

A foreign report last Friday had alleged that there was investigative evidence of money from state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd being channelled to what was believed to be Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s personal accounts. Najib has denied the allegations and is looking at legal options against the publisher.

Meanwhile, the economy is still absorbing the impact of the goods and services tax while the country’s biggest trade partner, China, shows signs of slowing down.

“We expect a worse third quarter, as we foresee weaker economic numbers,” the analyst said.

By Ng Bei Shan The Star/Asia News Network

Ringgit hit by Greek crisis

Currency hit by Greek crisis

Currency plunges to 16-year low against US dollar

PETALING JAYA: Uncertainties in Greece have hit Asian stock markets and currencies, with the ringgit taking the brunt of it amid renewed political concerns within the country.

The ringgit hit a 16-year low of 3.8142 against the US dollar during intra-day trade before settling at 3.809 against the greenback at 5pm.

It broke the crucial 3.80 level for the first time since the US dollar peg was removed 10 years ago.

The ringgit had been pegged at 3.80 against the dollar since 1998 at the height of the Asian Financial Crisis to 2005. Closing lower by 0.78% against the dollar yesterday, the ringgit was the biggest loser among Asian currencies.

Malaysia’s stock market took a heavy beating, with the benchmark FBM Kuala Lumpur Composite Index falling 17.19 points, or 1%, to close at 1,717.05 points.

Other Asian currencies and equity markets also closed lower yesterday due to capital outflow after Greece on Sunday voted against further austerity to qualify for new bailouts to help its ailing economy.

Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis resigned and the country is now at risk of exiting the single-currency eurozone, raising questions about the future of the 17-nation region.

Greek voters overwhelmingly rejected the bailout terms demanded by international creditors, with official figures from Sunday’s referendum in that country showing 61.31% voting “no” and 38.69% voting “yes”.

In Malaysia, the impact of capital outflow was worsened by renewed political uncertainties after The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) report on July 3 alleging that about US$700mil (RM2.6bil) from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) had ended up in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s personal bank account .

The allegations had resulted in some quarters calling for Najib to take leave and be investigated.

1MDB is being ­investigated by the Public Accounts Committee while a special task force involving Bank Negara, MACC and the police are looking into WSJ’s claims.- The Star

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Sue or don’t sue WSJ’s report: RM2.6bil was moved to PM Najib Tun Razak’s bank accounts?


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Malaysian investigators scrutinizing a controversial government investment fund have traced nearly $700 million of deposits into what they believe are the personal bank accounts of Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, according to documents from a government probe.

The investigation documents mark the first time Mr. Najib has been directly connected to the probes into state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB.

Mr. Najib, who founded 1MDB and heads its board of advisors, has been under growing political pressure over the fund, which amassed $11 billion in debt it is struggling to repay.

The government probe documents what investigators believe to be the movement of cash among government agencies, banks and companies linked to 1MDB before it ended up in Mr. Najib’s personal accounts. Documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal include bank transfer forms and flow charts put together by government investigators that reflect their understanding of the path of the cash.

The original source of the money is unclear and the government investigation doesn’t detail what happened to the money that went into Mr. Najib’s personal accounts.

“The prime minister has not taken any funds for personal use,” said a Malaysian government spokesman. “The prime minister’s political opponents, unwilling to accept his record or the facts, continue to try to undermine him with baseless smears and rumours for pure political gain.”

Mr. Najib has previously denied wrongdoing in relation to 1MDB and has urged critics to wait for the conclusion of four official investigations that are ongoing into 1MDB’s activities.

Investigators have identified five separate deposits into Mr. Najib’s accounts that came from two sources, according to the documents viewed by the Journal.

By far the largest transactions were two deposits of $620 million and $61 million in March 2013, during a heated election campaign in Malaysia, the documents show. The cash came from a company registered in the British Virgin Islands via a Swiss bank owned by an Abu Dhabi state fund. The fund, International Petroleum Investment Co., or IPIC, has guaranteed billions of dollars of 1MDB’s bonds and in May injected $1 billion in capital into the fund to help meet looming debt repayments. A spokeswoman for IPIC couldn’t be reached for comment. The British Virgin Islands company, Tanore Finance Corp., couldn’t be reached.

Another set of transfers, totaling 42 million ringgit ($11.1 million), originated within the Malaysian government, according to the investigation. Investigators believe the money came from an entity known as SRC International Sdn. Bhd., an energy company that originally was controlled by 1MDB but was transferred to the Finance Ministry in 2012. Mr. Najib is also the finance minister.

The money moved through another company owned by SRC International and then to a company that works exclusively for 1MDB, and finally to Mr. Najib’s personal accounts in three separate deposits, the government documents show.

Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, a director of SRC International, declined to comment. Mr. Kamil had power of attorney over Mr. Najib’s accounts, according to documents that were part of the government investigation.

A 1MDB spokesman said, referring to the transfers into Mr. Najib’s account: “1MDB is not aware of any such transactions, nor has it seen any documents to this effect.” The spokesman cautioned that doctored documents have been used in the past to discredit 1MDB and the government.

For months, concerns about 1MDB’s debt and lack of transparency have dominated political discussion in Malaysia, a close ally of the U.S. and a counterweight to China in Southeast Asia.

When he founded 1MDB in 2009, Mr. Najib promised it would kick-start new industries and turn Kuala Lumpur into a global financial center. Instead, the fund bought power plants overseas and invested in energy joint ventures that failed to get off the ground. The fund this year has rescheduled debt payments.

The Journal last month detailed how 1MDB had been used to indirectly help Mr. Najib’s election campaign in 2013. The fund appeared to overpay for a power plant from a Malaysian company. The company then donated money to a Najib-linked charity that made donations, including to local schools, which Mr. Najib was able to tout as he campaigned.

“We only acquire assets when we are convinced that they represent long-term value, and to suggest that any of our acquisitions were driven by political considerations is simply false,” 1MDB said last month.

The four probes into 1MDB are being conducted by the nation’s central bank, a parliamentary committee, the auditor general and police. A spokeswoman for Bank Negara Malaysia, the central bank, declined to comment. Malaysia’s police chief and a member of the parliamentary committee also had no comment. The auditor general said this week it had completed an interim report on 1MDB’s accounts and would hand it to the parliament on July 9.

The prime minister is facing increasing pressure over 1MDB. The country’s longest-serving prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, who left office in 2003, publicly has urged Mr. Najib to resign.

This week, Malaysia’s home minister threatened to withdraw publishing licenses from a local media group, citing what he said were inaccurate reports on 1MDB.

The $11.1 million of transfers to Mr. Najib’s bank account occurred at the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, according to the government investigation. Among the companies that investigators say it passed through was Ihsan Perdana Sdn. Bhd., which provides corporate social responsibility programs for 1MDB’s charitable foundation, according to company registration documents. Attempts to reach the managing director of Ihsan Perdana weren’t successful.

Documents tied to the transfer said its purpose was for “CSR,” or corporate social responsibility, programs. The Wall Street Journal examination of the use of funds tied to 1MDB for Mr. Najib’s election campaign showed that the money was slated to be used for corporate social responsibility programs as well.

The government probe documents detail how investigators believe SRC International transferred 40 million ringgit on Dec. 24 last year to a wholly owned subsidiary. This company on the same day wired the money to Ihsan Perdana, according to the documents. Two days after receiving the money, Ihsan Perdana wired 27 million ringgit and five million ringgit in two separate transfers to two different bank accounts owned by Mr. Najib, the government documents show.

In February, 10 million ringgit entered the prime minister’s account, also from SRC International via Ihsan Perdana, the documents show.

The remittance documents don’t name Mr. Najib as the beneficiary but detail account numbers at a branch of AmIslamic Bank Bhd. in Kuala Lumpur. Two flow charts from the government investigation name the owner of these accounts as “Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Bin Hj Abd Razak,” the prime minister’s official name. A spokesman for AmIslamic Bank declined to comment.

In another transaction, Tanore Finance, the British Virgin Islands-based company, transferred $681 million in two tranches to a different account at another Kuala Lumpur branch of AmIslamic Bank. The government probe said the account was owned by Mr. Najib, according to the documents.

The transfers came from an account held by Tanore Finance at a Singapore branch of Falcon Private Bank, a Swiss bank which is owned by IPIC, the Abu Dhabi fund, according to the documents. A spokesman for Falcon Private Bank declined to comment.

The $681 million was transferred to Mr. Najib’s accounts on March 21 and March 25, 2013, the government documents show.

By Tom Wright at tom.wright@wsj.com and Simon Clark at simon.clark@wsj.com

Attorney General says task force uncovered documents during probe of investment fund 1MDB

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Malaysia’s attorney general said an official investigation into a troubled state investment fund has uncovered documents related to allegations that money was transferred into the personal bank accounts of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

A task force comprising the central bank, the national police and the nation’s anticorruption agency uncovered the documents during a probe of 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB, Abdul Gani Patail, the attorney general, said Saturday.

Mr. Abdul Gani said that on Friday the task force had raided the offices of three Malaysian companies linked to 1MDB that allegedly were involved in the transfer of funds to Mr. Najib’s accounts.

“I confirm that I have received documents from the special task force related to 1MDB, including documents related to the allegations of channeling of funds to accounts owned by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak,” Mr. Abdul Gani said.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Malaysian government investigators looking into 1MDB’s activities had traced almost $700 million in deposits into what they believe are Mr. Najib’s personal accounts. The investigation documents, reviewed by the Journal, didn’t provide the original source of the money or what happened to the cash after it allegedly entered Mr. Najib’s accounts.

Mr. Najib on Friday said the allegations were an attempt by his political adversaries to smear his name. His office declined to comment on specific allegations referring to the alleged money transfers.

The government investigation, reported first by the Journal, marks the first time Mr. Najib has been directly connected to probes into 1MDB, which owes over $11 billion to banks and bondholders. A person familiar with the government investigation said the documents had been given to the attorney general several weeks ago.

In response to the Journal report, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Saturday that authorities must investigate the allegations made against Mr. Najib, in a statement given to local media.

“These allegations are serious because they can affect the credibility and integrity of Najib as PM and the leader of the government,” said Mr. Muhyiddin, who is from Mr. Najib’s ruling party.

The raids of the three companies netted documents which will be examined as the investigations continue, Mr. Abdul Gani said.

The Journal reported how government investigators had traced the movement of a total $11.1 million from a unit of the country’s finance ministry through a subsidiary of the unit to a third company, which carries out corporate social responsibility work, exclusively for 1MDB. According to the government investigators, the money then went into Mr. Najib’s accounts.

SRC International is the unit of the Finance Ministry, which also is headed by Mr. Najib. The company originally was part of 1MDB but was transferred to the Finance Ministry in 2012.

1MDB has denied any involvement in transferring money to Mr. Najib’s accounts. The corporate social responsibility company, Ihsan Perdana, said to local media Friday that the firm didn’t send any money to the prime minister’s accounts. Attempts to reach the three companies weren’t successful.

By far, the largest alleged transfers into Mr. Najib’s accounts were two deposits of $620 million and $61 million in March 2013, during a heated election campaign in Malaysia, the government investigation documents show. The cash came from a company registered in the British Virgin Islands via a Swiss bank owned by an Abu Dhabi state fund according to documents obtained by investigators.

The fund, International Petroleum Investment Co., or IPIC, has guaranteed billions of dollars of 1MDB’s bonds and in May injected $1 billion in capital into the fund to help meet looming debt repayments. A spokeswoman for IPIC couldn’t be reached for comment. The British Virgin Islands company, Tanore Finance Corp., couldn’t be reached.

Mr. Najib set up 1MDB in 2009 to develop new industries. But the fund’s overseas energy ventures have failed to take off and it has been forced to reschedule debt repayments. Critics, including opposition politicians and some members of the ruling party, are worried about its heavy borrowings and lack of transparency.

The Journal last month reported how 1MDB indirectly had supported Mr. Najib’s election campaign in 2013. The fund appeared to pay an inflated price for a power asset from a Malaysian company, according to financial statements. That firm then contributed millions of dollars to a Najib-led charity that spent on schools and other projects that Mr. Najib was able to tout as he campaigned.

“We only acquire assets when we are convinced that they represent long-term value, and to suggest that any of our acquisitions were driven by political considerations is simply false,” 1MDB said last month.

A number of agencies are probing 1MDB. They include the national police, the auditor general, a parliamentary committee and the central bank. The attorney general didn’t say whether his office would launch its own investigation. The auditor general last week completed its probe into 1MDB’s finances, and plans to hand its report to Parliament on Thursday.

By Tom Wright And Celine Fernandez The Wall Street

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The center of world economic gravity moving east as AIIB shows


Chinese President Xi Jinping (C, front) poses for a group photo with the delegates attending the signing ceremony for the Articles of Agreement of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing June 29, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

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Financial leaders of 57 states gathered in Beijing on June 29 to sign the agreement for establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), expected to become the region’s largest investment bank in the 21st century.

Seventy years ago, the World Bank was established, led by the US and its close western economic and political allies, as the first global financial institution. Along with the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, the western powers have commanded world financial and trade order for more than half a century. Even the Asian Development Bank (ADB), established 20 years later after the World Bank, has been largely controlled by Japan, backed by the US and other western economic powers.

China benefited from the global and regional development and financial institutions in the initial stage of economic reform and openness. As China expanded its economic strength it has aggressively contributed to financing them. However, despite its financial contribution to these institutions rising significantly China still has limited influence over management and operation.

China’s desire to influence world financial order and its inability to do so have been due to the governance structure of these institutions where China is not only a minority shareholder but its voting rights are marginalized.

Since the world financial crisis, triggered by the US subprime mortgage crisis and the EU’s debt problem, China’s relative importance in the world economy has risen rapidly. By 2010, it surpassed Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, and by 2012 it overtook the US to become the world largest trading nation as well as the largest producer and consumer of motor vehicles.

Apart from China’s second-to-none manufacturing capability, it holds the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves which have to be used effectively so they can generate a financial return and make appropriate contributions to infrastructural development in Asia, the largest and fastest growing region among all continents.

In addition, China, India, Russia and other initial AIIB member states have the financial strength and managerial confidence to create a new financial institution similar to the World Bank and ADB. For the initial $100 billion fund to be pledged, China has agreed to contribute 29.7 percent, India 8.3 percent, Russia 6.5 percent, Germany 4.4 percent and South Korea 3.75 percent. Other major contributors include the UK, Australia and Indonesia.

Both the US and Japan have not expressed their intention to join AIIB although many US political and economic allies have come to Beijing to sign the agreement, particularly the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Australia. The diversion of these countries’ attention away from the US to China and Asia not only reflects ever rising business opportunities in Asia, but also the relative decline of the US-led western influence on the global economy and financial order.

The apparent shift of economic gravity from the West to the East reminds me of my personal experience in the past. Thirty year ago, I was awarded a World Bank scholarship from a university in Hainan to study in the UK in 1985. At that time, the salary of a Chinese university lecturer was less than 1 percent of his UK counterpart. Today, all the top Chinese universities are able to pay significantly more than the equivalent UK or US salaries to attract overseas talents to work in China. In addition, numerous university teachers in China can easily apply for more research funding than their western counterparts.

Although China is still a developing economy by definition, it has exceeded many western powers in a number of areas such as equipment manufacturing, high-speed railways, nuclear power, construction, infrastructure engineering and space technology. In 2014, Chinese scientists produced the second largest number of high-impact academic journal papers in the world.

China started the first high speed railway 30 years later than Europe, but by 2014, has built 16,000 km of high-speed tracks, twice as long as the total length of all the EU countries put together. BYD, one of China’s private auto makers, has marched to California to build electric buses for the local market.

India is racing to follow in China’s footsteps. Its economy was growing as fast as China in 2014 and is set to overtake China’s growth in 2015. However, India’s transportation systems are so poor that they are evident constraints on the country’s development. It is expected that India will require $1 trillion to improve its transportation systems, and the establishment of AIIB will be helpful to its development needs. Other Asian countries face similar problems of investment for roads, railways, airports, seaports, telecommunications and internet.

AIIB will become a potent propeller to accelerate economic and social development in Asia. Along with the Silk Road Fund and the Brics Bank, China will use AIIB to implement its “one- belt and one-road” regional and global development strategies.

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Sea Silk Road will cover more than 60 countries surrounding China, and many will benefit from China’s outward-looking investment and development strategies. Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has gained increased support from neighbouring countries in Asia and many others in Latin America, Europe and Africa, thanks to its persistent foreign policy of peaceful cooperation, mutual benefit and common prosperity.

The future operation of the AIIB may face many challenges and uncertainty, but the AIIB has signified the rapid emergence of China, India and other developing and transitional economies. The determination and confidence for success through the AIIB and other newly created financial institutions suggest that the world financial and political order will be different from now, as the overwhelming dominance of the World Bank and ADB in Asia and the world financial systems will inevitably decline in the future.

By Shujie Yao (chinadaily

The author is a professor of economics, Chongqing University and the University of Nottingham.

Through AIIB, China can learn to lead

Representatives of 57 prospective founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) gathered in Beijing on Monday for the signing ceremony, with 50 of them endorsing the AIIB agreement. As the largest shareholder, China takes a 30.34 percent stake and correspondingly has a voting share of 26.06 percent, which actually enables China to wield a veto on major issues, such as electing the bank’s president. This is a moment that our nation could never have imagined just 10 years ago.

The move forward in the AIIB, however, seemed to have no bearing on people’s feeble confidence in China’s stock market, as shares plunged amid a flurry of automatic sell orders on this remarkable day.

However, the country’s fundamental confidence has been elevated to a new stage. This is the first time ever that China is leading an international multilateral bank. Its influence is prominent and far-reaching, and it carries more profound significance than successfully hosting an Olympic Games.

It took China less than six months to complete the signing of the AIIB agreement and this efficiency shocked the world.

Although China barely has any experience in this regard, it is proof of its excellent capacity to learn and of its eager pursuit of fairness and equity. The first batch of 50 signatories is far more than the number of founding members of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

China’s attempt to lead the international financial institution may have been forced by unfair treatment in other institutions or China may want to test experiences with the AIIB as we are still a developing country. But from now on, we must shoulder our responsibilities.

Of these responsibilities, the foremost is to bear criticism as numerous Western observers are waiting to find faults with and go bearish about China. But regardless of what they say, China must stick to its current trajectory.

In recent years there have been fewer protests by China, but frequent ones against Beijing overseas. China needs to stick to its major principles, but it does not need to be entangled in minor issues.

US allies that have joined the AIIB do not mean to flatter China, but they see the benefits will outweigh their relations with Washington. With GDP at the $10-trillion level, can China build more platforms of common interest and convince the outside world that working with China always means a win? This serves as the key to China’s further rise without encountering strong resistance from the outside.

Compared with the IMF, World Bank and the ADB, the AIIB indicates that the environment where China is rising may not be as terrible as we conceive. We must grasp the opportunities.

Source: Global Times Editorial



50 nations sign AIIB deals – China wields veto powers, enjoys 26% voting rights

China’s role as the largest shareholder with significant voting rights in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will make the country shoulder more responsibility in turning the bank into a high-quality financial institution to complement existing multilateral development banks, experts said Monday.

A total of 50 prospective founding members of the AIIB on Monday signed the bank’s articles of agreement (AOA) in Beijing, which outlines the bank’s objectives, operating principles, governance structure and decision-making mechanisms.

Seven members, including Denmark, Thailand and the Philippines, failed to sign the AOA on Monday. China’s Ministry of Finance said they can sign the agreement anytime this year.

“The signing of the AOA is a milestone in the establishment of the bank,” Vice Minister of Finance Zhu Guangyao told the Global Times Monday on the sidelines of a forum in Beijing.

The bank was proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013 during his visit to Indonesia.

Xi said on Monday that China’s development would not have been possible without Asia and the world.

“As China grows stronger, we are willing to make our due contribution to world development,” he said.

Zhu said the AIIB’s establishment process has outpaced other multilateral development banks, and its objectives have won support from members within and outside Asia.

“We hope AIIB members’ legislatures will approve their AOA membership as soon as possible and get the bank’s operations going by the end of the year,” he added.


Voting shares

The AIIB will have an authorized capital of $100 billion, and Asian members are required to contribute up to 75 percent of the total capital, leaving the rest to non-Asian members, according to the AOA.

China is the bank’s largest shareholder with a 30.34 percent stake. This gives China 26.06 percent of the voting shares, also the largest, within the multilateral financial institution.

“It is within expectations given China’s huge economy, and it also means China needs to shoulder more responsibility in building the AIIB into a high-quality bank,” Ruan Zongze, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times Monday.

According to the AOA decision-making mechanism, China has effective veto powers over major decisions because it has voting shares of over 25 percent.

China does not seek veto powers in the AIIB, Vice Finance Minister Shi Yaobin told the Xinhua News Agency Monday. He said the country’s stake and voting shares in the initial stage are natural results of current rules, and may be diluted as more members join.

“Being a major Asian economy, Japan’s entry will dilute China’s stake and voting shares more than any other country, but so far we have not seen such a sign,” Ruan said.

He said he believes the AIIB is not likely to approve a large number of new members in its initial stage. Instead, it will focus on rolling out investment projects.

Owning veto powers does not mean that China will use these powers in AIIB’s future operation, Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, told the Global Times Monday.

Jia said China might use the powers only if the projects would seriously hurt China’s interests or are not in keeping with the bank’s objectives, adding that the possibility for such conditions is low.

After the signing of the AOA, the bank’s senior management will be appointed before it starts operations.

The bank’s headquarters will be located in Beijing, and its president will be selected through an open, transparent and merit-based process, according to the AOA.

The AIIB’s future investments will focus on Asian infrastructure projects in the energy, power, transport and agricultural sectors that also meet environmentally friendly and energy-saving standards, Jin Liqun, secretary-general of the AIIB’s interim multilateral secretariat, said at a forum held in Beijing over the weekend.

The Asian Development Bank said it believes Asia would need infrastructure investments worth over $8 trillion between 2010 and 2020.

“The AIIB will complement existing multilateral development banks to promote sustained and stable growth in Asia,” Zhu said.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim welcomed the signing of the AOA.

“More funding for infrastructure will help the poor, and we are pleased to be working with China and others to help the AIIB hit the ground running,” he said in a statement on Monday.

– Song Shengxia contributed to this story

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