Young adults in developed countries rent, we buy for good


While young adults all over the world are renting homes, Malaysias prefer to own homes as soon as they get their first pay cheque.Instead of blowing their cash on pricey gadgets, young Malaysians are saving up for their first home.

While most Gen Y shy away from owning property in developed countries and big cities, demand from millennials here is still holding, especially with parents assisting them with the downpayment, Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Datuk Seri F.D. Iskandar said.

(Gen Y, also known as millennials, are commonly referred to those who are born in the early 1980s to 2000s. They are sometimes referred to as the strawberry generation).

Demand from first-time buyers, including the younger generation, remains strong although housing affordability is a challenge, said Bank Negara.

The central bank added that they accounted for 75% of 1.47 million borrowers.

Owning and investing in a house remains a priority for many Malaysians.

This is reflected in the household borrowing trend where the buying of homes continues to be the fastest growing segment of household lending, with annual growth sustained at double-digit levels (11% as at end-March 2016), said Bank Negara in a statement.

Those who cannot afford it themselves, and do not have parents to help, turn to their friends.

In his 30s, Daryl Toh, and two of his college mates own a condominium in Penang; they pooled their resources to purchase the unit five years ago.

“It’s in a premium area and since we couldn’t afford a place on our own – at least not prime property, we became joint owners.”

Financial adviser Yap Ming Hui said it makes perfect sense to own.

“Of course the Gen Y here are still keen on buying. You pay the instalments and eventually own a home. Only those who can’t afford to buy are forced to rent.”

Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector of Malaysia adviser Wong Kok Soo said property prices in Hong Kong have escalated beyond the purchasing power of the Gen Y but the trend hasn’t caught on here – yet.

Wong, who is also a consultant with the National House Buyers Association, however, said there were signs that the Gen Y could no longer afford to live in big cities like Kuala Lumpur, Penang Island, Johor Baru and Sabah.

“Parents are chipping in for the downpayment. And, commuting from the suburbs to the city centre is still an option.

“But when prices get inflated far beyond their means, the same will happen here (as in Hong Kong),” said Wong, who, however, felt that even if demand dropped, it would not be substantial.

Iskandar agreed, saying that although the property market was slow now, the drop was manageable. “Like everything else, it’s cyclical. “The property market goes up for years and after some time, begins falling before rising again.”

He said the market would pick up with the completion of infrastructure development and public transportation facilities.

Rehda, he said, was working closely with the Government to find ways to facilitate home acquisition especially among first-time buyers.

“We proposed a review of the financing guidelines that have negatively impacted buyers’ ability to secure financing,” he said. – The Star/Asia News Network

Demand from first-time buyers still strong despite affordability challenge

PETALING JAYA: Instead of blowing their cash on pricey gadgets, young Malaysians are saving up for their first home.

While most Gen Y shy away from owning property in developed countries and big cities, demand from millennials here is still holding, especially with parents assisting them with the downpayment, Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Datuk Seri F.D. Iskandar said.

(Gen Y, also known as millennials, are commonly referred to those who are born in the early 1980s to 2000s. They are sometimes referred to as the strawberry generation).

Demand from first-time buyers, including the younger generation, remains strong although housing affordability is a challenge, said Bank Negara.

The central bank added that they accounted for 75% of 1.47 million borrowers.

Owning and investing in a house remains a priority for many Malay­sians.

This is reflected in the household borrowing trend where the buying of homes continues to be the fastest growing segment of household lending, with annual growth sustained at double-digit levels (11% as at end-March 2016), said Bank Negara in a statement.

Those who cannot afford it themselves, and do not have parents to help, turn to their friends.

In his 30s, Daryl Toh, and two of his college mates own a condominium in Penang; they pooled their resources to purchase the unit five years ago.

“It’s in a premium area and since we couldn’t afford a place on our own – at least not prime property, we became joint owners.”

Financial adviser Yap Ming Hui said it makes perfect sense to own.

“Of course the Gen Y here are still keen on buying. You pay the instalments and eventually own a home. Only those who can’t afford to buy are forced to rent.”

Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector of Malaysia adviser Wong Kok Soo said property prices in Hong Kong have escalated beyond the purchasing power of the Gen Y but the trend hasn’t caught on here – yet.

Wong, who is also a consultant with the National House Buyers Association, however, said there were signs that the Gen Y could no longer afford to live in big cities like Kuala Lumpur, Penang Island, Johor Baru and Sabah.

“Parents are chipping in for the downpayment. And, commuting from the suburbs to the city centre is still an option.

“But when prices get inflated far beyond their means, the same will happen here (as in Hong Kong),” said Wong, who, however, felt that even if demand dropped, it would not be substantial.

Iskandar agreed, saying that although the property market was slow now, the drop was manageable.

“Like everything else, it’s cyclical.

“The property market goes up for years and after some time, begins falling before rising again.”

He said the market would pick up with the completion of infrastructure development and public tran­sportation facilities.

Rehda, he said, was working closely with the Government to find ways to facilitate home acquisition especially among first-time buyers.

“We proposed a review of the financing guidelines that have negatively impacted buyers’ ability to secure financing,” he said. – By Christina Chin The Star

A pricey priority

 

Wary of big, life-changing purchases, the ‘Strawberry Generation’ – those ‘easily bruised’, coddled young people in their 30s – prefers to rent, global reports say. Malaysians, however, are bucking the trend despite steep property prices. Mainly thanks to supportive parents, it seems.

BEST friends Leh Mon Soo, 38, and Brandy Yu, 39, are finally buying their first home.

After months of serious scouting, the two managers found units that matched their budget and needs, coincidentally, in the same condominium in Petaling Jaya. Leh is getting a three-bedroom unit while Yu is happy with a 48sqm studio apartment.

Yu feels that the RM365,000 she’s paying is affordable as she can still save about RM1,700 monthly after paying the loan instalment.

“I’m only paying RM400 more a month than what I’ve been forking out for rent. And unlike the rental, this unit will be mine one day,” she says.

Leh ended up forking out a whopping RM690,000 even though she dreads the long-term commitment. While “not a bargain, and at the upper limit of what I can afford”, she says that it’s still a pretty good price, as other, smaller, units were going for higher prices.

“I was only willing to pay RM500,000 initially. Then I saw a two-bedroom in the same condominium going for RM680,000. So I bit the bullet and got this. Property prices won’t be dropping any time soon and our ringgit’s shrinking. It’s now or never. I’ll have to cough up even more later if I don’t get a place now,” she says pragmatically.

The soon-to-be neighbours think property is still in demand, even among Gen Y-ers, aka Millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s, typically perceived as brought up and very familiar with digital and electronic technology).

But they’re more privileged because their parents have either already invested in property for them or are helping them buy it, Leh offers. Renting is not for the long-term, she says firmly, and even the younger ones know that.

The Malaysian mindset, Yu quips, is that everyone must own at least one property.

Gym owner Chip Ang, 26, agrees. He got the keys to his new 78sqm unit in Shah Alam last week.

Although it was his parents who suggested he get the RM168,000 place under the Selangor Government’s affordable housing scheme, Ang says property ownership is always a hot topic between him and his friends. Young professionals want to own property. The issue is affordability, he thinks.

“Many are unrealistic. They want their ideal home in the ideal place. Of course that’s unaffordable. Most affordable homes are in up and coming townships, not prime locations.”

The experience of getting his own place was a “blur” because it happened so fast, he says, though he does recall that, “because it’s affordable housing, I had to fulfil a number of requirements including proving that I’m a bachelor”. While the RM700 monthly mortgage payment is doable, he’s still nervous about being “tied down”.

Writer Teddy Gomez, 29, doesn’t think people have given up on owning property but sees a new trend emerging.

“Buying property is still big here but I see more renters because it’s cheaper and more flexible,” says Gomez, who got “a little help” from his dad buying a 83sqm apartment in Kuala Lumpur last year. Although the cosy RM400,000 unit is “not really affordable”, he says it’s time to leave the nest.

Like Gomez, a blogger who only wants to be known as Robyn, 24, thinks it’s nice to have your own space. She’s moving into an apartment in Petaling Jaya soon. The fresh graduate admits being lucky because her dad’s the owner. She’s getting the three-room unit for less than RM140,000 although it’s valued at over RM750,000.

“For the next three years, I’ll pay the RM3,800 monthly loan instalments. Now, I’m only contributing RM2,000 because I just started working. Dad’s helping until I can afford to take on the full amount myself.”

She knows she’s better off than most her age and is thankful for her family’s support – many of her friends are also looking for properties to buy but are resigned to living outside the city in places like Bangi and Kajang in Selangor. Still, with a RM200,000 budget, they’re willing to travel and own property rather than pay rent indefinitely.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj says it’s unfair to tell consumers to live on the outskirts of city centres because public transportation is still a problem in the Klang Valley. Unless the homes are accessible, living far away from the workplace isn’t practical.

National House Buyers Association (HBA) honorary secretary-general Chang Kim Loong sees a very strong demand for affordable properties in Malaysia because of our young population and urban migration.

For instance, the Government’s First House Deposit Financing (MyDeposit) scheme that was launched on April 6 received more than 6,000 online registrations within a week, a sure sign that Malaysians are still keen on owning property.

Fomca’s Selvaraj says property is a priority for most Malaysians because it’s a sound investment. They just can’t afford it in most urban areas.

“If you’re living on bread and water after paying your loan, then the house is unaffordable. For most young families, RM300,000-plus is affordable but it’s RM600,000 homes that are being built.”

Property is the best hedge against inflation so demand will always be strong, says HBA’s Chang. But there’s a “serious mismatch” between what’s classified as affordable by developers and the rakyat’s definition. To developers, an affordable property for first-time buyers is RM500,000. For upgraders, it’s up to RM1mil. Definitions on the ground are much lower. First-time buyers deem RM150,000 to RM300,000 affordable while those looking to upgrade can only pay between RM300,000 and RM600,000.

But if you can afford it – with family help, perhaps – M. Rajendran, 53, says invest early. The air traffic controller got his double-storey home in Kajang 21, Selangor, years ago for RM146,000. It’s worth at least RM600,000 now.

“If I hadn’t bought it then, I definitely wouldn’t be able to afford it now with the financial commitments I have. And at my age, no bank is going to give me a loan. Buy when you’re young because it’s cheaper and you can settle your loan faster.”

However, he warns that current economic challenges could result in a rise in the number of abandoned projects, so those looking at new properties should be cautious and do their homework.

“Scout around. Choose locations with infrastructure and amenities so that the potential for property prices to appreciate is higher.” – By Christina Chin The Star

Don’t bank on the banks

 Chang Kim LoongRELAXING lending conditions won’t help more people buy their own homes. It will only worsen the situation as developers increase prices further to match the lending surge, predicts Chang Kim Loong, honorary secretary-general of the National House Buyers Association (HBA).

Datuk Paul Selvaraj also doesn’t think it’s a good idea. The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association secretary-general says home ownership is a right, and it’s the Government’s responsibility to make it a reality. The Government, he stresses, must either build more affordable housing or force developers to cater to the neglected market. It’s wrong to force banks to take bigger lending risks by calling on them to relax lending conditions, he feels.

“Banks will only lend money if they can get it back. It’s unfair to expect them to do otherwise. Also, if the borrowers cannot pay, they themselves will end up with a big headache.”

Banks are rightly stringent as times are uncertain, says Wong Kok Soo, an adviser to the Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector of Malaysia and consultant to the HBA.

Lenient policies encourage purchases that are beyond one’s means and are not a good idea; instead, the margin of financing should be increased or the loan tenure extended, for first home buyers. For existing loans, there should be some flexibility in extending tenures and adjusting debt servicing ratio, he feels.

Last year, housing in Kelantan, Penang, Sabah, Sarawak and Selangor, as well as Kuala Lumpur, were listed as severely unaffordable by market experts. Nationwide, only Malacca made the affordable category with housing in the other states deemed either seriously or moderately unaffordable.

Bank Negara’s “Financial Stability and Payment Systems Report 2015” showed an increasing supply of homes above RM500,000 while those priced below RM250,000 accounted for less than 30% of the total launches in the first nine months of last year.

Deputy Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique has since called on developers to build more houses priced at RM300,000 for Malaysians.

The next generation won’t be able to own property without financial help from their parents unless concrete measures are taken to increase the supply of properties costing between RM150,000 and RM300,000 and to stem the steep rise in existing property prices due to excessive speculation, says HBA’s Chang.

A Khazanah Research Institute report reveals that Malaysia’s housing market is considered to be “seriously unaffordable”, with a median house price of more than four times the median annual household income. This problem, Chang notes, surfaced a little under a decade ago but if prices continue to soar, the situation could worsen.

Not that there aren’t affordable schemes and funding plans in place to help – in the last 50 years, scores have been introduced but information on them is scarce, he observes. Details of projects by developers, state agencies and federal bodies must be available in a public database, he suggests. And a single umbrella body under the Federal Government must coordinate the distribution and availability of such units.

Chang stresses also that there’s no place for racial profiling when it comes to housing. Whoever deserves a house must get a house, he insists.

There’s never a wrong time to buy property but one must balance the risk of buying with renting, he advices. Owning a house is riskier as buyers take on enormous debts, sign multi-year loan agreements and become responsible for homeowner costs, he cautions.

“Flip through the newspapers – you’ll see many proclamations of sales of units for public auction that are below RM50,000. Some even dip below RM10,000. On bank websites, you’ll find property foreclosure cases.”

A list of properties put up for auction by CIMB bank showed 35 units in Selangor at reserved prices of less than RM42,000 – that’s the price of a new low-cost unit, notes Chang.

Low-cost units auctioned off for half of the purchase price is an alarming trend, he says. Unfortunately, there aren’t any official statistics on how many low income earners have lost their homes or are struggling with their monthly loan commitment. Where do these homeowners and their families end up living, Chang wonders.

Foreclosures can devastate a family’s economic and social standing, possibly leaving them poorer than before they bought the property. Financiers, local authorities and communities benefit from homeowners being better informed of their rights and responsibilities as borrowers. Ensuring that lower income households have sufficient personal financial management skills and support is crucial.

It’s not enough just to provide homes for the low- and medium-income group. Chang recommends that a homeownership education programme be set up to raise financial literacy and prepare households for the responsibilities of owning a home.

“Manuals, advice or information given via telephone, workshops or counselling to help households maintain their homes and manage their finances must be given before first-time buyers sign the sale and purchase agreement. Public housing schemes are only successful if buyers can hold on to their property.”

Specifically, Chang says education should cover:

> Pre-purchase period – understanding the various types of available housing, the process of buying a house, loan process, and financial preparation needed; and evaluating household needs.

> Post-purchase period – budgeting monthly expenses; making payments promptly; avoiding loan defaults; living within a community; social responsibility; property taxes, assessments, insurance, service charges and sinking fund; home maintenance; and handling problems with the property.

Educate yourself and learn from the mistakes of others to avoid being disappointed or, worse, becoming “house poor” (when most of your income goes towards home ownership), Chang advises. Aspiring buyers must get something that’s within their budget. It could be an older or smaller unit but start small and slowly increase your property portfolio, he says.

“Don’t let friends or family influence you into getting something that’s above your budget, as home ownership is a long term investment. You must be able to service the loan while maintaining an acceptable standard of living.”

The majority may prefer to rent while waiting for the market to soften but it’s better to have your own shelter, says HBA consultant Wong.

The average Malaysian, he insists, can still own property. Consider buying at auctions. Research is a must, though, as inspections aren’t allowed at auctions. It’s an “as is, where is” bid, he stresses. Find out about the surrounding units and the neighbourhood, he suggests.

Better to own but…

PROPERTY investment helps maintain our socioeconomic well-being and must be encouraged, says Datuk Seri F.D. Iskandar, president of the Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Malaysia (Rehda).

Property – a wealth-creation instrument without the volatility of stock markets – has consistently out-performed traditional investment options like bonds, he points out.

But to invest, one must study the property and its market potential. With the right location and strategy, property can be a very profitable investment. The value will appreciate over time, he says.

To many, the most important aspect of owning property is to secure a home. In current conditions, most developers are coming up with attractive packages to close the deal, so it’s a good time to buy. Securing a bank loan now, though, is one of the biggest barriers, he says.

Rehda’s recommendations to the Government and Bank Negara are:

> Encourage innovative home financing packages like the developers interest bearing scheme (better known as DIBS).

> Allow flexible or accelerated tiered payments (longer loan tenure so you pay less now but more later when your salary has increased).

> Relax loan approval criteria with higher financing margins (up to 100%).

Also, banks, he says, shouldn’t just focus on a loan applicant’s current net income; future prospects of higher salaries and other incomes and bonuses must be taken into account.

He dismisses talk that the average Malaysian has been priced out of owning his or her first home.

There’s still a range of prices and options in both the primary and secondary property markets, he says.

With new launches, developers usually offer special incentives, rebates or discounts that will help buyers reduce their initial payment. In the secondary market, however, what you see is what you get. Depending on what you’re looking for, factors like location, surroundings, facilities, transportation and infrastructure will help you decide.

“Property prices in city centres are high because of land value but there are many cheaper options in less-urbanised areas. There are many affordable houses, including those by PR1MA (the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme). The average Malaysian can definitely afford these.

“With an improving transportation system and connectivity, these places are now easily accessible from city centres.”

We are paid enough

Property price and value to Income per country in SEA 20014

WAGES are rising in tandem with the country’s consumer price index (CPI), which is a broad measure of inflation and our productivity.

Both criteria are used to determine wages here, says Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, executive director of the Malaysian Employers Federation.

While Malaysians lament how their salaries aren’t enough to cope with soaring costs of products and services, their grouses aren’t reflected in the low CPI numbers, he says.

“Measured against the CPI, our average salary growth isn’t lagging. In the region, our salaries are second only to Singapore. Of course, you must consider the currency exchange. Singaporeans earn an average of S$3,000 (RM9,000) while Malaysians take home RM2,800 monthly.

“But bear in mind that the productivity of Singaporeans is 3.8 times higher than ours. Their per unit cost of production per employee is lower than us. In the United States, the productivity level is seven times higher than ours. So when you say we aren’t earning enough, you have to consider our productivity level too,” he states, pointing to how in some of our neighbouring countries, the average salary is less than US$100 (RM400).

However, he acknowledges that houses are beyond the reach of most – and fresh graduates in particular – and adds that even when both husband and wife work, they still may not have enough for the down payment and are forced to rent.

It’s tough, he admits, even for those who have already been working for a decade, to own a house now without financial support from parents.

Related: Renting is OK too

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Brexit boosts bitcoin price, Is bitcoin a safe haven?


‘Brexit’ Boosts Bitcoin Price, But Too Early to Call it a Safe Haven

Despite the increase in the price of bitcoin amid the UK’s recent EU referendum, a new research note from Needham & Company asserts it might be too early to call the digital currency a “safe haven” asset.

Global bitcoin prices have risen nearly 6% over the day’s trading to reach a high of $680, a figure up more than $100 from a low of $561.46 on 23rd June. Market observers were quick to assert the increase, which occurred as sentiment in the ‘Brexit’ vote shifted, was a sign this uncertainty had encouraged new investment in the digital currency markets.

However, Needham said its researchers are “hesitant” to call bitcoin a safe haven alongside gold, US Treasurys, yen and USD.

The note reads:

“For one, calling it such obfuscates the fact that bitcoin is a high-risk and volatile investment and, second, bitcoin’s correlation to other traditional safe-haven assets has fluctuated significantly.”

Still, Needham called the ‘Brexit’ a positive for the digital currency market, as it shows that bitcoin has the potential to rally around marcoeconomic uncertainty and on developments within its own technical ecosystem.

“On the one hand, bitcoin is performing like a safe-haven asset but, on the other hand, its newness and dynamism do not resemble US Treasurys or gold,” the note reads.

Ultimately, the note concludes bitcoin might not fit into any existing asset definitions, concluding:

“We believe that bitcoin is something entirely different that does not fit into the normal buckets that investments are typically bracketed into.” – http://www.coindesk.com

Is bitcoin a safe haven against mainstream money mayhem?

We unlock the mystery of the digital currency with a cult following

bitcoin/ n. A type of digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.

Eh? No wonder so many people are confused about bitcoin. What you see above is the Oxford Online Dictionary definition of what is probably the most fashionable currency in the world. I realise that’s not saying much: currencies don’t usually have cult followings. But if the euro is the nerd no one wants to be seen with, bitcoin is the coolest kid in the class.

Perhaps part of the attraction of bitcoin for techie types is the very fact that it’s such a mystery to everyone else, accustomed as we are to traditional currencies. That makes the bitcoin club very exclusive.

So what is a ‘digital currency’ anyway? How can any kind of real money exist only in a digital form? Well, the two things that enable it to work are a) the fact that there are a finite number of bitcoins in existence, and b) the clever bit of technology that underpins it: the blockchain.

The blockchain is, in a way, the best thing about bitcoin. Safe to say that whatever may happen to bitcoin in the ephemeral world of digital fads, blockchains have a serious future in the technology of payments and money transmission: central banks are already working on what that future might be. Essentially, a blockchain is a record of digital events: in the case of bitcoin, any change in ownership of any one ‘coin’. This record is impossible to change, so it can’t be edited after it has been confirmed. The only way of altering the blockchain is by adding to it, rather than erasing previous entries. And the record is not stored in just one place, but shared across hundreds or thousands of networked computers, making it harder to hack.

The other interesting thing is that the system is anonymous. Unlike a bank or Paypal, which request all sorts of personal details from you, bitcoin doesn’t care who you are. That makes it popular with people who don’t want their financial activities traced, whether because they are extreme libertarians or because they have something to hide. Many users feel a political affinity with the bitcoin concept of a currency that functions independently of any bank, government or institution full of men in suits. As one user told me: ‘Bitcoin doesn’t have a CEO; it has no ability to care either way about who uses it or why.’

But beyond those who want to hide, is bitcoin flourishing among everyday consumers? Well, it’s certainly a growth market. Plenty of people have given it a shot to see what the fuss is about, but it’s the drug-dealing and cybercrime fraternities that allegedly make up a large proportion of bitcoin turnover.

When, for example, the first Silk Road online market-place (a site which mostly sold drugs on the ‘dark web’, the part of the internet inaccessible through normal search engines) was shut down in 2013 by the FBI, the price of bitcoin saw a short-term crash because so many coins had been seized by the US authorities.

But one aficionado who has lived off bitcoin trading for the last two years told me: ‘It’s very convenient to paint the whole [bitcoin user] group as one homogenous entity. But I’ve met people from all sides of the political spectrum in bitcoin forums on the internet.’

What else is bitcoin good for? Charities are keen to use it, especially when transferring money to, say, Africa, because the transaction costs are much smaller than with services such as Western Union. A number of places and websites also accept bitcoin payment (full list at http://www.wheretospendbitcoins.co.uk), including the Pembury Tavern in Hackney, which was the first British pub to join this new marketplace.

But bitcoin, as with any other currency, is still at the mercy of exchange-rate fluctuations. Even the most dedicated bitcoin users agree on this point: it’s no more reliable than any other currency, and possibly less so. In the past, bitcoin prices against US dollars have fluctuated massively in short spaces of time — and with no central authority in control, its market is vulnerable to manipulation.

The same applies to bitcoin as an investment: will it stand the test of time? One benefit — so it is said — is that once 21 million bitcoins have been released, production will stop, meaning that your virtual cash could hold its value, on grounds of scarcity, more than a traditional currency. But some devotees have already raised the question of removing or raising that cap.

Meanwhile, Wall Street has also been showing more interest in the currency, with a bitcoin index introduced on the New York Stock Exchange last year. It also has been gaining traction in countries with unstable currencies or weak banking systems. If the mainstream financiers who brought the world to its knees in 2008 decide to embrace bitcoin, who knows what will happen to it.

So how about bitcoin as a hedge against the Brexit result, or a safe haven in the current round of financial turmoil? Whichever way the EU vote goes, it looks like sterling is in for a torrid time in the short to medium term, and shares have already gone into a bear market. So if you’re looking for somewhere safer to keep your cash, is bitcoin an option?

It’s certainly a volatile proposition: you might make money if your timing is exactly right but if there’s a sudden panic over bitcoin’s future, the bottom could fall out of this market very quickly indeed. There’s always a risk of cyberattack too, especially given that so many bitcoin users tend to be high-level techies.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that this is the first digital currency to go large — and just look at the fate of other web firsts. Few of the earliest social media networks are still going today; everyone in the digital arena is always looking for the new, new thing.

Bitcoin is an intriguing phenomenon, for sure, but its fate hangs in the balance. Would I risk putting my savings into such a mysterious thing? No, probably not. But a small punt? Well, in an uncertain world, it’s got to be worth a try.

Source: By Camilla Swift The Spectator

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Britain steps backward as EU faces decline: chaos but no negative impact, a windfall for children studying in UK


Britain steps backward as EU faces decline

The UK voted to leave the EU, with the Leave supporters beating Remain by 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent. The slight victory is likely to have opened a Pandora’s box in Europe, pushing the continent into chaos.

A lose-lose situation is already emerging. The British pound fell 10 percent at one stage on Friday. The euro fell 3 percent.

David Cameron announced he would quit as British prime minister. Scotland may start a new independence referendum.

There are also calls in the Netherlands and France for a similar exit referendum.

The UK is just over 300 years old. In its heyday it was known as an empire on which the sun never set, with colonies all over the world (Britain was the former imperial power – whose military forces repeatedly invaded China in the 19th century – and the rising Asian giant, now the world’s second-largest economy)

Now it is stepping back to where it was.

Britons are already showing a losing mind-set. They may become citizens of a nation that prefers to shut itself from the outside world.

The Leave advocates had been calculating whether their pensions were guaranteed or migrants were encroaching on their neighborhood. Bigger topics such as the country’s aspirations or its global strategy were overlooked.

Britain has been a special member of the EU. It has not joined the eurozone, nor adopted the Schengen agreement. France and Germany have been resentful of Britain’s half-hearted presence in the EU. In a sense, Britain’s exit may be a relief for both sides.

However, such relief is in effect a major setback for European integration. Such setbacks don’t happen in good times. Britain’s exit reflects the general decline of Europe.

The world’s center used to lie on the two sides of the Atlantic. Now the focus has shifted to the Pacific. East Asia has witnessed decades of high-speed growth and prosperity. Europe stays where it was, becoming the world’s center of museums and tourist destinations. Unfortunately, Europe is also close to the chaotic Middle East. Waves of refugees flood into Europe, coinciding with increasing terrorist attacks.

Europe is not able to resolve the problems it is facing. The public are confused and disappointed and extremism is steading.

The Leave grouping beat out the Remain supporters by only 4 percentage points, which could have resulted from some temporary reasons. Is it really fair to decide Britain’s future this way?

Such changes will benefit the US, which will lose a strong rival in terms of the dominance of its currency. Politically it will be easier for the US to influence Europe.

There is no direct political impact on Russia and China. For the Chinese people, who are at a critical time to learn about globalization and democracy, they will continue to watch the consequence of Britain’s embracing of a “democratic” referendum. – Global Times.

No negative impact from UK vote for Malaysia

 

Britain is still a hugely important economy in Europe, says Liew

KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysian property firms with developments in the United Kingdom say that their ventures will not be negatively impacted as a result of the June 23 referendum whereby British citizens voted to exit the European Union.

Eco World International Bhd executive vice-chairman Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin said that while the decisive win by the Brexit camp was unexpected, the group is optimistic that the results hold a silver lining going forward.

“Now that the results of the EU referendum are known, the long uncertainty which has caused many investors to hold back on decision making is finally over. Britain is still a hugely important economy in Europe with highly principled, professional and competent leaders,” he said in a statement.

Liew added that he has every confidence that the British government will do their utmost to take proactive measures to assuage post-Brexit concerns and move the UK forward on every front.

London’s position as a prime destination for global real estate investment is unlikely to change given that many of the fundamental drivers of demand are still intact. Chief among them are transparency of laws, sesurity and ease of ownership, and shortage of supply, among others, Liew noted.

EWI, which is en route to listing on Bursa Malaysia, has three projects in London, namely the London City Island Phase 2 in East London, Embassy Gardens in Nine Elms, and Wardian London facing the Canary Wharf. All three were launched last year.

“For EWI specifically, it should be noted that through our proposed initial public offering we will be raising equity in ringgit. Now that the sterling has dropped it means that the cost we have to inject into the UK to pay for the developments there will be lower,” he points out.

Meanwhile, in a statement reacting to the results of the UK referendum, Sime Darby Bhd, which is undertaking the Battersea Power Station project has reiterated its long term commitment to the venture.

“The results of the referendum is not expected to impact the viability of the project.

“We are confident the iconic development will continue to generate interest in the longer term and that London will continue to remain a key investment destination and financial centre,” it said.

Sime Darby has a 40% stake in Battersea. The other joint venture partners are SP Setia Bhd and the Employees Provident Fund with 40% and 20% respectively.

A research note by MIDF Research said global capital markets may take some time to adjust to the Brexit vote which could have adverse repercussions on businesses.

Its group managing director Datuk Mohd Najib Abdullah said that as a result of Brexit, the world is moving into a period of elevated uncertainty, with risk appetite plunging in a flight to safety and security.

As the UK is an important market for Malaysian exporters and an important source of foreign direct investments, any economic malaise from Europe will inevitably affect Malaysia in the longer term, Aboth directly and indirectly, MIDF said. – By afiq Isa The Star

Windfall for Malaysian parents of children studying in Britain 

Parents with children studying in Britain are heaving a sigh of relief because the pound has weakened following Brexit.

The ringgit closed at RM5.66 to the pound yesterday, a drop of 4.67% compared to a month ago when it was RM6.03.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahman said tuition fees would be more affordable.

“For parents who couldn’t afford it initially, they may change their minds now,” she said when contacted.

She added that one should look at the positive instead of focusing on the negative implications.

A parent, who asked to be identified only as Auntie Chris, has a son studying biotechnology at Imperial College London, and said: “We are liquidating our accounts to take advantage of the drop in the pound, which is great news.”

She said her son, who is in his second year, planned to pursue his master’s in Britain after graduation but had put his plan on hold due to the strong pound.

“We asked him to work first, after graduating, due to the financial constraints but with the pound dropping significantly, going for his master’s may be back on the table,” she said.

Another parent, Azura Abdullah, said she did not expect her son’s tuition fees to increase any time soon.

Her son is a second-year law student at University of Exeter.

Some parents were fearful of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Despite the weakened pound, Azura felt the price of goods may increase in the short term because Britain could no longer leverage on EU trade deals, which could increase the cost of living there for her son.

“But we hope to offset this with the lower currency rate as the pound will devalue in the short to middle term,” Azura added.

Auntie Chris said she was worried that Britain’s decision may affect job prospects for Malaysians over there.

“If Britain goes into recession, it will affect job prospects for new graduates,” she said, adding that immigration controls may also be tightened following Brexit.

Chief executive officer and provost of the University of Nottingham Malaysia campus Prof Christine Ennew said parents should expect cheaper education.

“Students should be able to do more with their money in the UK, at least in the short term, say over the next couple of years,” she said.

Prof Ennew admitted that there could be some concerns over the issuing of student visas.

“However, Boris Johnson, one of the leading figures in the Brexit camp, has always been very supportive of international students and this should give some reassurance that the visa regime will not necessarily become harder for students from outside the EU,” she said.

She added that it was likely that EU students would be more affected than those from outside the union. – The Star

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Penang property prices move sideways in Q1 2016


THE Penang housing market moved sideways on both the primary and secondary markets in the first quarter of the year, says Michael Geh (pictured), director at Raine & Horne International Zaki + Partners.

“I noted active transactions on the secondary market with prices staying flat,” he says in presenting the 1Q2016 Penang Housing Property Monitor.

Banks, he adds, only provide loans of up to 70% to 80% of a property’s value and serious first-time homebuyers have to make up the difference in order to sign the sales and purchase agreement.

Michael Geh“A few primary market projects have obtained the Advertising Permit and Developer Licence (APDL) and moved into the stage of processing loans from commercial banks and signing the S&P.” These projects include I-Santorini, SummerSkye and ForestVille, all under Ideal Group.

Will the prices of Penang houses, considered expensive, drop because of the soft market conditions? Geh says prices have come down to more realistic levels, especially with the government pushing the developers to build properties priced from RM300,000 to RM400,000 in the last two years, specifically for owner-occupiers.

Some of these properties, in areas such as Sungai Ara, Patani Road and Relau, have been taken up and are currently under construction, he adds.

Elsewhere in the country, some developers are pushing sales by providing financial assistance to the purchasers. Will those in Penang follow suit?

Geh says such a practice is not widespread for now. “Besides Sunway Bhd and S P Setia Bhd, I don’t see any other developer providing financial packages at the moment. I believe there are plans for such assistance but so far, nothing has been announced.”

Image result for Penang Transport Master PlanHe believes a catalyst for the state’s housing market would be the much-talked-about RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (TMP). The ambitious plan will not only benefit the people but also bring about a more equitable housing situation and help retain local talent.

The TMP, he feels, will lead to equitable home property prices as areas that are not in prime locations will become more accessible, boosting demand for homes and resulting in higher prices. Properties in prime areas, which normally fetch higher prices, should see some price correction as demand is more evenly distributed across the state.

Image result for Penang Transport Master Plan

Apart from that, Geh opines that the TMP will help retain talent, which will subsequently impact the property market as the pool of workers seek to rent or own residential properties.

Image result for Penang Transport Master Plan“Penang needs the TMP to grow in the next 10 years. We need to stem the migration of youths to the Klang Valley, Iskandar Malaysia and Singapore in search of better job opportunities. We need to create jobs and make conditions more liveable for our youth to prosper,” he says.
Penang LRT map route masterplan

At present, two light rail transit lines have been approved under the TMP — one from Prangin Canal to Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas and the other from Prangin Canal to Straits Quay.

 As for creating jobs, the state government is making a concerted effort

to develop new business sectors so that Penang can stay relevant to the
global economy.

“An industry that has been highlighted by the state is the knowledge economy, such as apps and animation,” Geh says. This has been identified as a key economic sector for the next decade.

There is a proposal for three reclaimed islands in the southern part of Penang island to locate businesses for this sector, he says, and for the islands to be connected by an LRT line that extends from Penang International Airport.

However, it has not been plain sailing for the TMP because one of its components — the Sky Cab or cable car system — has been rejected by the federal government. The 4.8km cable car system, according to the Penang government’s TMP website, was to have connected Butterworth on the mainland to Jelutong on the island. While this is a blow to the state government’s plans, Geh does not believe it will affect property prices.

“Cable car systems are generally more for tourists and not meant to move high volumes of people. I don’t think there will be a large negative impact on the property market. High-volume, high-frequency vessels that travel on water may be a better solution,” he says.

Another component of the TMP is an undersea tunnel linking the island with the mainland. However, further details are not forthcoming at present.

A development that will have an indirect impact on the Penang housing market is the much-debated Gurney Wharf. This 3km-long reclamation project lies just off the shores of popular tourist spot, Gurney Drive.

Geh believes this project has great potential to benefit the island. “I believe Gurney Wharf is an exciting development because it creates recreational activities for Gurney Drive. I think it is a boost to the area.”

Terraced houses

The prices of landed properties did not rise much compared with those of high rises, the data compiled for the monitor reveals. This is due to “stagnation” as there were very few transactions during the quarter under review, compared with the high-rise sector where there was much more activity, Geh explains.

Nevertheless, property values have increased compared with a year ago.

For 1-storey terraced houses, some areas surveyed showed activity year on year but little movement quarter on quarter.

On the island, properties in Jelutong showed the highest price growth, rising 5.88% to RM900,000 from a year ago, followed by houses in Tanjung Bungah (up 5.26% to RM800,000). Houses in Sungai Dua, Sungai Ara and Bandar Bayan Baru saw slight price increases of 2.56%, 2.04% and 1.96% respectively while those in Green Lane and on the mainland saw no changes.

For 2-storey terraced houses, there was no activity q-o-q but prices rose y-o-y in some of the areas surveyed.

The prices of houses in Pulau Tikus rose 6.67% to RM1.6 million, followed by those in Sungai Ara (5.26% to RM1 million) and Sungai Nibong (4.55% to RM1.15 million). Prices remained unchanged in Green Lane and the mainland.

Semi-detached and detached houses

The 2-storey semidees in some areas saw more activity in 1Q2016 than in the previous quarter and last year. Prices in Sungai Dua and Minden Heights rose 6.67% to RM1.6 million q-o-q, followed by those in Sungai Nibong (up 5.71% to RM1.85 million) and Island Park (up 2.27% to RM2.25 million). Prices in Sungai Ara remained unchanged.

There was no q-o-q increase for 2-storey detached houses but 50% of the units surveyed in the monitor saw y-o-y activity.

Island Glades bungalows saw a 3.57% increase to RM2.9 million y-o-y , the prices of Green Lane houses rose 2.86% to RM3.6 million and Pulai Tikus houses were up 2% to RM5.1 million. House prices in Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bungah and Minden Heights remained unchanged.

Flats and condominiums

Three-bedroom flats in Green Lane and Bandar Baru Air Itam showed price increases q-o-q as well as y-o-y .

In Green Lane, prices rose 5.26% to RM400,000 q-o-q and 17.65% y-o-y. Units in Bandar Baru Air Itam rose 4.35% to RM240,000 q-o-q and 20% y-o-y.

Compared with a year ago, the prices of flats in Paya Terubong were up 12.5% to RM180,000, followed by Sungai Dua and Lip Sin Garden (6.06% to RM350,000) and Relau (3.45% to RM300,000).

Among the 3-bedroom condos, the biggest gainers were properties in Pulau Tikus, which rose 4.62% q-o-q and 9.68% y-o-y to RM680,000.

In Island Park and Island Glades, prices rose 4.17% q-o-q and 6.38% y-o-y to RM500,000 while condos in Batu Ferringhi rose 2.22% to RM460,000 q-o-q and y-o-y.

Batu Uban condos rose 5% to RM420,000 from the previous year but there was no activity q-o-q. The prices of Tanjung Bungah units remained unchanged.

The Edge Property

Soaring house prices worry Penangites below 30

GEORGE TOWN (June 21): Despite the affordable housing programme by the state government, Penangites, especially those below the age of 30, are worried that they are unable to own a house in the future.

This is because housing prices in Penang island have risen by about 50% for the last five years and even for houses that was built under the affordable housing project.

A Bernama survey showed that several affordable housing projects that were completed less than 10 years ago in Bandar Baru Air Itam was originally priced at about RM175,000 but currently being resold at RM300,000 and above.

State Housing, Local and Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo, said the state government had no power to control the price of houses being sold by house owners.

At present the state government had set a moratorium of five years for affordable housing and 10 years for low cost housing before it could be sold in the open market.

“There’s nothing that can be done by the state government to control the price but, what we can do is to provide more affordable housing so that the people can buy at a lower price,” he said.

Muhamad Amir Amin, 26, who worked as a graphic designer, said he earned about RM2,300 per month and could not even able to buy a low cost house with that wage.

“A low cost house costs RM42,000, which I cannot even afford to buy and from my observation, there is no low cost housing in Penang any more.

“All are either low medium cost or affordable housing which cost RM75,000 and above,” he said.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Social Science senior academician, Zainab Wahidin said that building more houses to tackle the increase of property price was not a solution given that Penang’s land was limited, especially on the island.

“If the state keeps building houses as an effort to provide affordable housing there will be more empty houses than those being occupied.

“There must be a regulation to control the housing price as a house is a basic necessity. Everybody needs a house to live in,” she added.

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BDS, the Beidou Navigation Satellite System from China


https://www.youtube.com/embed/4cjicmbU138

https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ra3X5ukQmNw

China launches 23rd BeiDou satellite into space – CCTV News – CCTV.com English

http://t.cn/R5SsGFc


China eyes Silk Road countries for its Beidou satellite system

18 satellites to launch for BDS by 2018

China on Thursday vowed national efforts to complete its Beidou satellite navigation system to serve global users by 2020, with priority going to countries involved in the new Silk Road initiative.

The current goal of developing China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) is to “provide basic services to countries along the land and maritime Silk Roads and in neighboring regions by 2018, and to complete the constellation deployment of 35 satellites by 2020 to provide services to global users,” said a white paper released Thursday by the State Council Information Office.

A “globalized” BDS would have “positive and practical significance” in terms of connectivity around the globe, especially the interconnection between China and Southeast Asian countries under the Silk Road plan, known as the Belt and Road initiative, Huang Jun, a professor at the School of Aeronautic Science and Engineering at Beihang University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

In line with the Belt and Road initiative, China will jointly build satellite navigation augmentation systems with relevant nations and promote international applications of navigation technologies, the white paper states.

To fulfill the 2018 goal, the country plans to launch some 18 satellites for the BDS by 2018, Ran Chengqi, BDS spokesperson, told a press conference on Thursday.

“In priority Chinese cities such as Beijing and Urumqi in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, as well as low latitude countries like Thailand, the BDS is capable of offering a positioning accuracy of better than five meters,” said Ran, who is also director of China’s Satellite Navigation System Management Office.

Since 2015, the country has sent up seven more satellites into space in support of the BDS, including five navigation satellites and two backup satellites, Ran added, citing Sunday’s launch of the BDS’ 23rd satellite – a backup satellite – as an example.

In 2020, the BDS might offer different positioning accuracy choices and could provide centimeter-level accuracy under certain requirements, said Lu Weijun, a BDS expert at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.

Unique features

Despite being a late starter compared with the US-developed GPS, China’s BDS has unique features, Huang said, citing the BDS short-message communication service as an example.

“The short-message communication service is mainly useful in places with insufficient ground and mobile communication capabilities, such as deserts, seas and disaster areas where communication facilities have been destroyed,” Lu told the Global Times.

More than 40,000 fishing vessels along China’s coastline have been equipped with the BDS application terminals, Ran said, adding that they also provided better communication for islands near the coastline.

The BDS short-message communication service is mainly handled by five Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellites, Lu said. Located above China, the five GEO satellites mainly serve a coverage area of Chinese territories and the Asia-Pacific region” and “could be used to locally enhance the signal in wartime, when other satellites might have been closed.”

An independently designed global navigation and positioning network would also contribute to national security, Huang said.

Industrial chain

China is developing chips, modules and other basic products based on the BDS and other compatible systems, and fostering an independent BDS industrial chain, the white paper noted.

“By the end of April, the BDS technology has been applied to more than 24 million terminals and over 18 million mobile phones,” Ran said.

It is expected that by the end of this year, up to 50 million mobile phones will have been installed with domestic chips that will be compatible with three satellite navigation systems, namely the BDS, GPS and Russia’s GLONASS, Wang Hansheng, vice president of Olink Star, a Beijing-based company that makes navigation satellite system products, told the Global Times.

By Ding Xuezhen Source:Global Times

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Dealing with the new abnormal negative interest rate policies with exceptional high debt


Negative rates: ECB president Mario Draghi at the Brussels Economic Forum on Thursday. The ECB and Bank of Japan are already experimenting with negative interest rate policies. – Reuters
HOW can this be normal?

Twenty-nine countries with roughly 60% of the world’s GDP have monetary policy rates of less than 1% per annum. The world is awash with debt, with sovereign, corporate and household debt of over US$230 trillion or roughly three times world GDP.

To finance their large debt and deal with deflation, both the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of Japan are already experimenting with negative interest rate policies (NIRP). If these do not work, look out for helicopter money, which means central bank funding of even larger fiscal deficits.

Either way, at near zero interest rates, the business model of banks, insurers and fund managers are broken. Deutschebank’s CEO has recently warned that European bank profits will struggle more as negative interest rates play into deposit rates. No wonder bank shares are trading below book value.

The problem with the current economic analysis is that no one can ascertain whether exceptionally low interest is a symptom or a cause of deep chronic malaise. Exceptionally high debt burden can only be financed by exceptionally low interest rates. The Fed now feels confident enough to raise interest rates, which means that the US asset bubbles will begin to deflate, spelling trouble to those who borrow too much in US dollars, which would include a number of emerging markets.

As Nomura chief economist Richard Koo asserts, the world has followed Japan into a balance sheet recession, with the corporate sector refusing to invest and consumer/savers too worried about outcomes to spend. The solution to a balance sheet (imbalanced) story is to re-write the balance sheet, which most democratic government cannot do without a financial crisis. 

Like Japan, China’s dilemma is an internal debt issue of left hand owing the right hand, since both countries are net lenders to the world. This means that foreigners cannot trigger a crisis by withdrawing funds. The Chinese national balance sheet is also almost unique because the financial system is largely state-owned lending mostly (about two thirds) to state-owned enterprises or local governments. The Chinese household sector is also lowly geared, with most debt in residential mortgages and even these were bought (until recently) with relatively high equity cushions.

Unlike the US federal government which had a net liability of US$11 trillion or 67% of GDP at the end of 2013, the Chinese central government had net assets of US$4 trillion or 42% of GDP. Chinese local governments had net assets of a further US$11 trillion or 123% of GDP, compared to US local government net assets of 45% of GDP. Local governments hold more assets than central or federal government because most state land and buildings belong to provincial or local authorities.

Thus, unlike the US where households own 95% of net assets in the country, Chinese households own roughly half of national net assets, with the corporate sector (at least half of which is state-owned) owning roughly 30% and the state the balance. In total, the Chinese state owns roughly one-third of the net assets within the country, compared to net 4% for the US federal and state governments.

Sceptics would argue that Chinese statistics are overstated, but even if the Chinese state net assets are halved in value (because land valuation is complicated), there would be at least US$7.5 trillion of state net assets (net of liabilities) or 82% of GDP to deal with any contingencies.

Furthermore, unlike the Fed, ECB or Bank of Japan, the People’s Bank of China derives its monetary power mostly from very high levels of statutory reserves on the banking system, which is equivalent to forced savings to finance its foreign exchange reserves of US$3.2 trillion. Thus, the central bank has more room than other central banks to deal with domestic liquidity issues.

What can be done with this high level of state net assets, which is in essence public wealth? My crude estimate is that if the rate of return on such assets can be improved by 1% under professional management, GDP could be increased by at least 1.5 percentage points (1% on 165% of GDP of net state assets).

How can this re-writing of the balance sheet be achieved? There are two possibilities. One is to allow local governments to use their net assets to deleverage their own local government debt and their own state-owned enterprise debt. This could be achieved through professionally managed provincial level asset management/debt restructuring companies.

The second method is inject some of the state net assets into the national and provincial social security funds as a form of returning state assets to the public. People tend to forget that other than the painful restructuring of state-owned enterprises in the late 1990s, which led to the creation of China’s global supply chain, the single largest measure to create Chinese household wealth was the selling of residential property at below market prices to civil servants.

The size of the wealth transfer was never officially calculated, but it paved the way for boosting of domestic consumption by giving many households the beginnings of household security.

The injection of state assets into national and social security funds was not achieved in the 1990s, because the state of provincial social security fund accounting was not ready. But if China wants to boost domestic consumption and improve healthcare and social security, now is the time to use state assets to inject into such funds.

At the end of 2014, Chinese social security fund assets amounted to 4 trillion yuan, compared with central government net assets of 27 trillion yuan (Chinese Academy of Social Science data, 2015). Hence, the injection of state assets (including injection by provincial and local government) into social security funds as a form of stimulus to domestic consumption and more professional management of public wealth is clearly an affordable policy option.

In sum, at the individual borrower level, there is no doubt an ever increasing leverage ratio in China is not sustainable. But the big picture situation is manageable. If the policy objective is to improve overall productivity (and GDP growth) by improving the output of public assets, the timing is now.

By Tan Sri Andrew Sheng who is Distinguished Fellow, Asia Global Institute, University of Hong Kong.

 

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Paedophiles’ predators using apps in phone to find and groom potential victims


https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/nu_WnaEzw-E

Hunters hunted: R.AGE journalists went undercover as 15-year-old girls to meet up with online sex predators who target teenagers. Watch the videos at rage.com.my/predator:

This was among the material gathered by The Star’s R.AGE journalists who went undercover for these meetings.

Six months before paedophile Huckle made global headlines, the R.AGE team had already started its undercover sting operation against sex predators.

During the period, R.AGE compiled material that included obscene images, inappropriate messages and hidden camera footage of the undercover journalists at work.

Malaysia does not have laws against “sexual grooming”, which refers to the process of gaining a child’s trust for future sexual exploitation, even though statistics show it has been on the rise.

Mobile chat apps (WhatsApp, WeChat, BeeTalk, Facebook Messenger, etc.) seem to
have become the most popular tools for sex predators in Malaysia, based on Bukit Aman’s statistics.

Since 2015, a whopping 80% of reported rape cases involved sex predators who started out online.

During a sting, R.AGE confronted one such predator, who was propositioning the undercover journalist on WeChat and sending photos of his penis.

“It’s a numbers game,” said the 28-year-old postgraduate student who is a self-confessed sex addict.

“On WeChat and BeeTalk, you can search for people nearby, and filter them based on gender. After I filter out all the men, I just send messages to as many girls as possible.”

The predators then start grooming those who reply to them. They would earn the trust of these children and gradually introduce sex into the conversations.

Another man claimed he is “an expert in massages” and that he had done it on at least two other girls below 15.

The situation has long weighed on Assistant Commissioner Ong Chin Lan, the Bukit Aman Sexual, Women and Child Investigation Division (D11) assistant principal director.

“If we had grooming laws, the authorities might be able to arrest predators like Huckle early on,” said Ong.

“We need to empower our law enforcement agencies.”

Sources: The Star http://rage.com.my/Predator/; http://rage.com.my/catching-sex-predators/

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